Napoli have firmly denied they rejected the chance to sign talented Salzburg striker Erling Haaland for a modest €5million in 2018.

In an interview published in Italian newspaper Il Mattino, footballer turned scout Loris Boni claimed the Norwegian teenager was offered to Napoli and Juventus before his move to Austria was agreed in August of last year.

Former Molde youngster Haaland arrived at Salzburg in January and has been starring for his new side, with 20 goals in all competitions to his name this season.

Napoli witnessed his ability in the Champions League on Wednesday, the 19-year-old netting twice against them in a 3-2 defeat for Salzburg, but the Serie A side insist they did not previously pass on him.

"We have read that Il Mattino has interviewed a talent scout who claims Haaland was offered to Napoli for €5million," read a Napoli statement on social media.

"This is fake news and it is astonishing that the journalist did not contact the club to receive confirmation or denial before writing this."

Manchester United and Real Madrid are reportedly among the clubs now interested in the two-cap Norway international.

Kylian Mbappe is long admired by Real Madrid and they are again intent on adding the 20-year-old to their front line, it seems.

Mbappe was linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu before opting to stay in Ligue 1 when joining Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco in the 2017-18 season.

The Spanish giants have not forgotten about the France international, though, and are planning to move two superstars on in order to get their man, according to reports.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE BACK ON MADRID'S RADAR WITH BALE AND JAMES TO MAKE WAY

Real Madrid were unable to land Kylian Mbappe a couple of seasons ago, but they are keen to sign him over the next few transfer windows, according to Calciomercato.

Mbappe is one of world football's star names and would fit into the old Galactico culture at Madrid, although Los Blancos would need to offload two star names in order to raise finances and complete a deal with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

One of those names is Gareth Bale, who is still reportedly unhappy at Madrid, while Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez could also move on having struggled at times to find form this season following a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

It remains to be seen whether any club is willing to pay the substantial transfer fee and wages required to secure either of the duo, but if they do make way then it could pave the way for Mbappe's move.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying in Madrid and ElDesmarque believe Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba could be heading to Real Madrid in exchange for Gareth Bale and €90million.

- Bleacher Report claim Mesut Ozil's advisors are trying to convince the Arsenal playmaker to make a switch to MLS.

- Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is the number one transfer target for Manchester City, according to Calciomercato.

- Manchester Evening News are reporting City may also take up their option to buy back Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa.

- Frank Lampard is hopefully of securing Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham to new contracts at Chelsea, Goal have said.

- Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Nunez is a January transfer target for Bayern Munich, say Spox.

- Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez's contract talks with Inter have been put on ice as Barcelona and United circle for the 22-year-old's signature, according to Calciomercato.

Former Sunderland manager Dick Advocaat claims Jack Rodwell has the potential to make an impact in Serie A as rumours of a surprise switch to Roma surface.

The 28-year-old is a free agent after being released from Blackburn Rovers at the end of last season and, with Roma suffering from midfield injuries, he could join compatriot Chris Smalling in the Italian capital with speculation a medical could happen this weekend.

Rodwell earned a move to Manchester City in 2012, having come through Everton's youth ranks, but injuries have impacted the Englishman's career to date.

The Englishman would later spend five years at Sunderland, working under Advocaat during his brief spell as manager and the Dutchman says he's not surprised by Roma's interest in Rodwell.

"He was one of the brightest prospects in English football and this is confirmed by the fact he was signed by Manchester City," he said to Teleradiostereo.

"After that, several injuries held back his growth but he's a player who, if fit, can show his full potential.

"I was at the helm of Sunderland for only a few months, but he's undoubtedly an excellent player and I don't think he will struggle to adapt in Italy. He has the potential to do well in Serie A.

"His heavy contract slowed him down a bit, but he can be an important player again."

Cristiano Ronaldo will sit out Juventus' Serie A trip to Lecce on Saturday.

Speaking ahead of the game, head coach Maurizio Sarri said he would need to rest his star forward, who has already played the full 90 minutes in 10 of Juve's 11 matches in all competitions this season.

That opportunity to recuperate comes immediately, with Juventus announcing later on Friday that Ronaldo is not part of their travelling party for the game at Stadio Via del Mare.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has scored four times in Italy's top flight this season and was also on target during Juventus' 3-0 Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen earlier this month.

Right-back Mattia De Sciglio is in line for his first action since the end of August after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Antonio Conte is reluctant to compare Marcelo Brozovic to Italy great Andrea Pirlo but believes the Inter midfielder has world-class potential.

Brozovic has been an ever-present during Conte's Inter reign to date, scoring twice in eight Serie A appearances.

The Croatia international's playmaking skills were again to the fore during impressive wins over Sassuolo and Borussia Dortmund over the past week.

It meant Conte fielding a question at his pre-match news conference for Saturday's meeting with Parma that mentioned the 26-year-old alongside the magisterial Pirlo – a comparison the former Juventus head coach was keen to defuse.

"Brozo can get better. He can get better with his passes to the attack, he can set up more goals," he said.

"We are working on this. I think he needs to also work on his defensive game. A holding midfielder must be good in defence too. He can become world class.

"As for Pirlo, I do not want to make a comparison with Brozo. Pirlo is someone who is a genius. He made history in this game.

"Brozo has different traits, he is training well and I am pleased with him. I want him to become a world-class player."

Back-to-back wins on the resumption from the latest international break have seen Inter bounce back impressively from the reverses to Barcelona and Juve at the start of this month.

That absorbing loss to Maurizio Sarri's reigning champions at San Siro remains the difference in the Serie A table, with Inter a point shy of Juventus thanks to seven wins from eight matches.

"We have started on our journey, we need to focus on ourselves," Conte replied when asked whether Inter's unexpectedly close proximity to Juventus was bringing extra pressure.

"Inter cannot worry about the others, we need to look ahead.

"This is a new cycle for us. It is not easy. We are close to the league leaders. That is very satisfying, but let's stay focused.

"Each game is a test of our ambitions. We need to give our all. That is the only way to get three points."

Conte added: "We have started a new journey together. These things take time and patience.

"We are on the right track, let us continue this way. Then we will see where we are at the end of the season.

"As I have said, we always need to give 100 per cent. I want us to have no regrets come the final whistle."

Cristiano Ronaldo may be rested for Juventus' Serie A encounter with Lecce on Saturday as head coach Maurizio Sarri weighs up the possibility of tinkering with his line-up.

Superstar forward Ronaldo has started all but one game for Juve this season and has five goals in 10 appearances across all competitions.

Juve travel to Lecce just four days on from completing a late revival against Lokomotiv Moscow, where Paulo Dybala's double earned a 2-1 win in the Champions League fixture.

Ahead of a busy run of games, Sarri is contemplating giving Ronaldo a break.

"With Cristiano, we speak often," he told a pre-match news conference.

"Even for him there will be need for rest. We'll see based on how he's feeling. I don't know when, we will decide.

"Right now we don't have a lot of options in order to completely rotate the squad. We'll change things with regards to the conditions of the players."

Centre-back Leonardo Bonucci is another who Sarri is planning on resting in the coming days.

"Leonardo Bonucci has played a lot this season and he's needed to. We'll see if we can give him a rest over the next few games," he added.

Dybala's future at the Bianconeri was in doubt during the previous transfer window, with Manchester United, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain having been linked with a move.

But Sarri was not surprised by the Argentina forward's contribution against Lokomotiv, where goals in the 77th and 79th minute proved crucial.

"If we talk about an explosion with the one-two it is fine, but from the performance point of view Dybala has always played well this season, so I expected a good performance from him. I had no doubts," Sarri said.

"I expected a high-performance level because I know he has the qualities to provide it."

Diego Maradona congratulated Dries Mertens for overtaking him on Napoli's list of all-time leading scorers and urged his former club to do all they can to keep hold of the Belgium forward.

Mertens scored twice in Wednesday's 3-2 Champions League win over Salzburg to move onto 116 goals for the Serie A club, one more than Argentine great Maradona.

The 32-year-old is now second only to Marek Hamsik (121) among Napoli's leading scorers, but is out of contract at the end of the season and recently talked up a lucrative move to China.

However, Maradona warned Mertens to think twice before leaving the Italian club, where he has spent the past seven seasons.

"For me, it wasn't a disappointment that he surpassed my tally," Maradona told Corriere dello Sport. "In fact, I applauded Mertens. When he scored, I thought about Napoli and certainly not myself.

"Mertens was born to be a striker, but he didn't know. All his goals couldn't be scored by someone who isn't a striker at heart.

"I'd like to do something so that Mertens doesn't leave.

"It's right and sacrosanct for a professional to always look for a better salary, but it's also true that in no other corner of the world would he feel loved, respected, pampered and important like he does in Naples.

"Therefore, dear president, don't let him get away. He's over 30 years old, I know, but he runs, plays and scores goals with the freshness and enthusiasm of a young lad."

Maradona is now in charge of Argentine club Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata and would gladly welcome Mertens if the former PSV attacker is after a new challenge.

"If he really should leave, Mertens should know that in La Plata, there will always be a place for him at my Gimnasia," he said.

Giorgio Chiellini only intends to play for "a couple more years" and will then turn his focus to a directorial role, with the Juventus defender not interested in coaching.

Chiellini, 35, has been out of action since damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in August and underwent surgery that was expected to keep him out until March.

However, the centre-back is confident of recovering in good time to lead Italy at Euro 2020, which could be his final international tournament after expressing a desire to retire in two years.

Chiellini is keen to stay in football but does not see himself coaching, although the former Livorno man is happy to stay patient.

"[I will play] a couple of years - not more," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I would like to have a managerial career as a director.

"[I am approaching it] with great calm because I think that the biggest mistake us footballers make once our careers are over is to think of being immediately ready.

"When you retire, for the luckiest between 35 and 40, you think you know everything about football. But then you enter the world of work where those of your age have done at least 15 years at a good level.

"And even if you go one step below, you find people who are 10 years younger than you but 10 years more experienced. So you have a gap to compensate and you have to be humbly aware of it.

"You have an important know-how from a footballing point of view, but you have to put in the other pieces. It's like a puzzle. You don't have to be in a hurry. One step a day."

Asked about coaching, Chiellini replied: "It is nice to pick a squad or train players for 30 minutes, but I do not like the life of a coach.

"Choosing a system is no longer enough, coaches have to be psychologists and motivational leaders too.

"Directors can be like an administrator of a company that has to manage at least 50 or 60 people. It is an all-encompassing life, accepting pressure and sacrifices of all kinds. It's not a kind of responsibility that I feel inside me now."

Discussing his Euro 2020 prospects, he added: "Yes, [I will be there] if nothing happens. I will arrive nice and fresh.

"[Italy coach Roberto] Mancini called me the night I got hurt, and I said to him, 'Coach, I will be back in the spring. When June comes, I will be as fresh as a rose.'

"Playing as captain of Juve and the national team, with 500 games for Juve and 100 for the national team, it gives you a different serenity. I would like to enjoy the Euros like I am enjoying the final wonderful years as a footballer."

The future of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is once again in the headlines.

Lazio star Milinkovic-Savic has been linked with Manchester United, Juventus, Real Madrid, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.

Now another club are reportedly in the mix for the Serbia international midfielder.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Chelsea sent scouts to watch Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in the Europa League, reports TuttoMercato.

One of the most in-demand midfielders in Europe, Milinkovic-Savic has attracted interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

Milinkovic-Savic – who was reportedly set to join United if Paul Pogba left Old Trafford – was watched as Lazio lost 2-1 to Celtic in Glasgow on Thursday.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and The Sun claims Chelsea are interested in Bournemouth forward Callum Wilson and RB Leipzig star Timo Werner.

Manchester United have rekindled their interest in Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller, according to Sport BILD. Muller was wanted by former United boss Louis van Gaal before the Dutchman's departure in 2016. Now with Muller seeking a Bayern exit, United and Inter are in the mix for the Germany international.

- The prospect of Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining Antonio Conte's Inter has hit a snag. According to CalcioMercato, the presence of agent Mino Raiola could cause an issue in talks. Ibrahimovic's LA Galaxy contract is coming to an end and the veteran has been linked to Napoli and Bologna.

- Sky Sport Italia says free agent Jack Rodwell is set for a shock move to Serie A outfit Roma. The former Manchester City midfielder, who spent time at Blackburn Rovers last season, is poised to undergo a medical.

Aurelio De Laurentiis is convinced Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be a "driving force" for Napoli should the striker sign for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Ibrahimovic's contract with LA Galaxy expires in December, and the 38-year-old - who starred in Serie A with Juventus, AC Milan and Inter - has suggested he would be happy to return to Italy's top flight.

Napoli president De Laurentiis confirmed on Wednesday he had met Ibrahimovic by chance in Los Angeles and stated the former Sweden forward - who scored 30 MLS goals in the 2019 regular season - would be welcomed with open arms at Stadio San Paolo.

De Laurentiis expanded on those comments on Thursday, telling ESPN: "Ibrahimovic is a beautiful person, regardless of my Napoli team.

"He can still do a lot and he can be a driving force for the team. I'm convinced that any coach would love to have him at their disposal.

"Maybe even as a kind of reference point. He could be one for any team."

Napoli spent big in the recent transfer window to bolster their forward ranks, splashing out a club-record fee on Hirving Lozano from PSV.

The Mexico international so far has just one goal to his name in Serie A, which came on his debut against Juventus, but De Laurentiis is not concerned.

"Lozano's looked good. You need to be patient with new players who haven't played in Italian football before," he added.

"He must settle in a different city, with a new coach and team-mates. Lozano's a great player. As soon as he came on against Juve, he scored a goal.

"You can't have everything right away and you can't expect these players to fix problems right away. It's necessary to give them time and also the coach, who must find their best position.

"In the past 18 months, we've bought 13 players, so it's normal that it takes time for everyone to adapt and perform at their best."

Ryan Giggs described Lionel Messi as a "once in a lifetime player" after being asked for his verdict on the eternal debate over who is better between the Barcelona forward and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The superstar duo dominated the Ballon d'Or voting for more than a decade, winning it five times apiece before Luka Modric broke their stranglehold in 2018.

Messi has spent his entire senior career with Barcelona while Ronaldo has starred for Manchester United, Real Madrid and now Juventus.

Giggs played alongside Ronaldo at Old Trafford and said he will always back his former team-mate but could not hide away from the fact a player of Messi's quality is a one-off.

"Obviously I lean towards Ronaldo a little bit because I played with him and saw him develop as a player," he told DAZN. "But Messi is a genius, a once-in-a-lifetime player. It's as simple as that."

Giggs is now in charge of the Wales senior side, where he coaches Ronaldo's ex-team mate Gareth Bale, who is in his seventh season at Madrid. 

Bale came close to leaving the Santiago Bernabeu in the last transfer window, but a move to China collapsed and he has been used seven times in all competitions this season.

Giggs found Bale's situation in the Spanish capital unusual given what he has achieved at the club.

"It's strange. From the outside, it looks strange," he said. "For the quality he possesses and what he's won there: four Champions Leagues.

"I'm his coach for Wales, he's recently been my captain, and is a good professional. He's a player that can turn a game on its head like he did against Liverpool for Madrid."

Andrea Agnelli wishes to reinforce Juventus' position among Europe's elite, suggesting the club must continue to look beyond Serie A dominance, while adding Cristiano Ronaldo is worthy of winning this year's Ballon d'Or.

Juve have won Serie A in each of the past eight seasons, while reaching the Champions League final in 2014-15 and 2016-17 under Massimiliano Allegri.

The Italian giants signed Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo in 2018, reportedly paying €100million for the Portugal forward.

But Juve, while maintaining their control of Serie A last term, failed to make it past the quarter-finals in the Champions League, with Allegri subsequently replaced by Maurizio Sarri, who has taken 22 points from 24 on offer in the league so far.

Now, club president Agnelli has insisted the aim is for Juve to keep pace with Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Europe's other heavyweights at the pinnacle of the game.

After asking Juve's shareholders to approve a €300m capital increase, Agnelli said  "These numbers seem enormous when compared to the Italian reality, but our point of reference is the great European clubs.

"We can affirm that Juventus are the biggest club in Italian football, but also one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

"Our growth is confirmed by our UEFA ranking - we are currently fifth but have reasonable grounds to think about finishing fourth.

"When we look at the main clubs in Germany, England and Spain, we see that their turnover ranges from €489m at Borussia Dortmund to almost a €1billion made this year by Barcelona. These realities must be our benchmark.

"Our current level of turnover, excluding the transfer of players, is about the level of turnover that Real Madrid had when I took over the presidency of Juventus in 2010.

"It is clear that the growth rates we have developed have been higher than those of Real Madrid but there is still a gap, which we must obviously fill."

Ronaldo scored 28 goals across all competitions during his first season at Juve and has five to his name this term.

The 34-year-old was this week included in France Football's 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or, an award Agnelli believes he should win for a record sixth time.

"I hope that Cristiano can win the Ballon d’Or because he deserves it," Agnelli added.

Meanwhile, Juve vice-president Pavel Nedved confirmed the club - who spent big on Ajax youngster Matthijs de Ligt in the off-season - will be ready to capitalise on another Ronaldo-sized opening should one present itself.

"We're always ready to seize every opportunity," Nedved told reporters.

"We've talked about development and we want to develop on all fronts, above all the sporting one because it's a leading part of the club."

Dries Mertens has turned his attention to becoming Napoli's all-time leading goalscorer after leapfrogging Diego Maradona into second place.

Mertens, 32, scored twice to help Napoli achieve a valuable 3-2 victory over Salzburg in a Champions League encounter in Austria.

The double took his tally to 116 goals for the Italian club in all competitions, one more than Argentine great Maradona.

Marek Hamsik, now at Dalian Yifang in China, remains out in front on 121 but his lead will not last if Belgium international Mertens gets his way.

"I'm delighted with these two goals because it earns me a place in Napoli's record books, something I've very proud of," the forward said after Wednesday's win.

"I've overtaken Diego, who's the all-time idol of this city, and now I hope to catch Marek, who is five goals away. I haven't said anything to Marek but I hope to overtake him soon, maybe by Christmas.

"This achievement is obviously a personal joy for me but also for the team, because I always put Napoli's result before me.

"It was important for us to start winning on the road again as it's a great morale boost."

Mertens in his seventh season with Napoli, having joined the Serie A side from PSV in 2013.

His double and Lorenzo Insigne's 73rd-minute winner helped the Naples side stay top of Group E after three games.

Carlo Ancelotti's men resume their European campaign at home to Salzburg on November 5.

Juventus are set to have money to splash at the end of the season.

Eight-time reigning Serie A champions Juve are repeating the rewards of their domestic dominance.

And it could see some of Europe's elite join Cristiano Ronaldo in Turin.

 

TOP STORY - JUVENTUS REACH FOR THE STARS

Juventus are eyeing a blockbuster signing, with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Paul Pogba the targets, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Italian champions Juve are reportedly set to announce an increase of capital by €300million as they establish their position among Europe's elite clubs.

PSG's superstar pair Mbappe and Neymar fit the profile of a future eye-catching signing, as well as Manchester United's former Juve midfielder Pogba, Gazzetta says.

The report also mentions Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho, Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix and Tottenham forward Son Heung-min.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester Evening News reports Manchester United are confident about signing James Maddison from Leicester City. After splashing out a world-record fee for a defender to lure Harry Maguire from Leicester, United are said to have their eyes on another Foxes star as they look to add quality in the attacking third.

Real Madrid are considering a move for AC Milan full-back David Calabria, according to Fichajes.net. The alternatives would be RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann and Youcef Atal from Nice as Madrid reportedly look to replace Alvaro Odriozola.

West Ham and Wolves are eyeing January moves for Milan star Suso, says The Sun. The former Liverpool attacker was wanted by Roma during the previous window.

- Soccer Link says Paris Saint-Germain are monitoring Chelsea defender Tariq Lamptey and plan to sign him at the end of the season. The 19-year-old's contract expires at the end of the campaign.

Arsenal will have to spend £30.1million (€35m) if they want to make Dani Ceballos' loan deal from Real Madrid permanent, according to El Desmarque.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich rejected an offer from a Middle East-based consortium to buy the Premier League club, The Daily Telegraph reports.

- The Guardian says Manchester City are stepping up their pursuit to sign in-demand Napoli star Fabian Ruiz. Fabian is also being targeted by Barcelona and Madrid.

Antoine Griezmann scored his fourth goal in eight LaLiga appearances for Barcelona as the Spanish champions beat Eibar 3-0, and he leads the line in this week's FIFA 20 FUT Team of the Week.

The France World Cup winner is joined by an all-star cast in this week's line-up, including Paris Saint-Germain's in-form winger Angel Di Maria.

After scoring twice in his side's 4-1 victory at Nice in Ligue 1, Di Maria was in scintillating form as PSG beat Club Brugge 5-0 in the Champions League.

Not all of this week's selection are competing towards the top of their respective domestic leagues, with Watford's Abdoulaye Doucoure earning a place for his goal-scoring performance in the Premier League basement club's 1-1 draw with Tottenham.

Monaco are 14th in Ligue 1 and they will need more of the same from Wissam Ben Yedder if they are to turn their season around - he scored a brace in their 3-2 win over Rennes.

Find out who else made FIFA's Ultimate Team line-up below.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Stephane Ruffier (Saint-Etienne) - 86

CB: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund) - 88

CB: Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) - 84

CB: Yerry Mina (Everton) - 82

CM: Dani Parejo (Valencia) - 87

CAM: Taison (Shakhtar Donetsk) - 84

CM: Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford) - 84

RW: Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari) - 85

LW: Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona) - 90

RW: Angel Di Maria (PSG) - 87

ST: Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco) - 85

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Alfred Gomis (Dijon) - 81

CB: William Troost-Ekong (Udinese) - 81

CDM: Tomas Soucek (Slavia Prague) - 82

LM: Petros Mantalos (AEK Athens) - 81

ST: Lautaro Martinez (Inter) - 84

ST: Angel (Getafe) - 82

LW: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) - 81

RESERVES

LM: Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb) - 79

LM: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) - 78

ST: Andreas Cornelius (Parma) - 80

ST: Daniel Candeias (Genclerbirligi) - 79

ST: Henok Goitom (AIK) - 78

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