Matthijs de Ligt feels a degree of regret about choosing Juventus over Barcelona, according to the Catalan club's director of youth football Patrick Kluivert.

Juve beat out strong competition to sign Netherlands international De Ligt from Ajax in June.

The defender had been heavily linked to LaLiga champions Barca but opted to sign a five-year deal in Turin after Ajax accepted an offer worth an initial €75million.

De Ligt was thrust into the starting XI after Giorgio Chiellini suffered a serious knee injury and has faced criticism for conceding two penalties – both for handball – in his nine Serie A appearances.

Former Netherlands striker Kluivert believes the 20-year-old may now be second-guessing his transfer choice.

"I would not say I tried to convince him, I could only tell him very good things about both Barcelona the city, as well as the club," Kluivert told Mundo Deportivo when asked about talks he held with De Ligt.

"But in the end it is the player and his agent who decide. Of course De Ligt is a great defender, but in the end he made a choice. I think he is a little sorry, but it is what it is.

"In life you make choices and sometimes you do it well and sometimes badly. You have to learn from your decisions."

Frenkie de Jong, De Ligt's former Ajax team-mate, did make the move to Barca in the close season and has flourished, with Kluivert praising the "very high quality" midfielder.

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman coaches both players at international level and has called the Barca job a "possibility" beyond Euro 2020, after which a clause in his contract would allow him to leave for Camp Nou.

When asked whether Koeman could return to the club as head coach, Kluivert told SPORT: "I don't know, maybe, but I insist, out of respect for Valverde, I don't want to talk about other coaches when there's one in a job at this club."

He added: "I know Ronald very well. Out of respect for Valverde, I don't want to position myself.

"[Koeman] is a very good coach, he's doing really well with the Dutch national team."

Paul Pogba has decided where he wants his next move to be, while Mauricio Pochettino is nearing a Tottenham exit.

Pogba, 26, was linked with a Manchester United departure during the close season but ended up staying at Old Trafford.

However, the France midfielder's future remains a talking point.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA PREFERS JUVENTUS RETURN OVER MADRID MOVE

Pogba would prefer to return to Juventus but would not say no to Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

The Serie A champions and LaLiga giants were the two clubs most heavily linked with a move for Pogba – who is contracted until 2021 – during the close season.

A potential Juve deal for Pogba could see Mario Mandzukic head to Manchester United, the report says.

ROUND-UP

- Pochettino has held "crisis talks" with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy as he nears an exit, according to The Telegraph. Spurs have struggled this season and sit 14th in the Premier League table through 12 games.

- While Mandzukic is wanted by United, Borussia Dortmund are ready to compete for the striker, according to Kicker. Mandzukic starred during two seasons with Bayern Munich before leaving the Bundesliga in 2014.

- Spain have offered Luis Enrique a chance to lead the nation at Euro 2020, according to AS. The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have called a news conference for Tuesday, with Luis Enrique reportedly set to replace Robert Moreno at the helm.

- Manchester United are preparing to try to sign both Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and RB Salzburg's Erling Haaland in January, according to Goal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to try and strengthen his squad with United nine points adrift of the top four in the Premier League.

- Chelsea attacker Willian and Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz have slowed contract talks with their respective clubs amid interest from Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. Willian is out of contract at season's end, while Fabian's deal runs until 2023.

- Manchester City are considering making a move for RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, according to the Mirror. The Premier League champions lost Aymeric Laporte to a knee injury in September and may look to strengthen, although the Frenchman is expected to be back in early 2020.

AC Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek wants to be worth as much as €70million by the time he eventually leaves the club. 

Piatek signed for Milan in January after enjoying an extraordinary start to life in Serie A at Genoa.

The Poland striker scored 13 league goals in 19 appearances during the first half of the 2018-19 season, leading to a big-money move for a reported fee of €35m.

He had no trouble maintaining his form following his switch to San Siro - scoring a further nine league goals - but has failed to recapture those levels so far this campaign, netting just three times.

However, Piatek remains confident in his ability to succeed with the Rossoneri.

"When I moved to Milan it all happened so fast that I didn't even ask questions," the 24-year-old, who scored in Poland's 2-1 win over Israel on Saturday, told television channel TVP Sport.

"I was focused on work, in football yes, it's always about setting new goals. Now I'm worth €38m, the next time I change clubs, I'd like to be worth €60-70m.

"I have to be ambitious, I'll work for it, I'm at the beginning of my career, it's only my second season in Serie A, one of the top five leagues [in Europe]."

Piatek also believes the reaction of the Italian press to his loss of form has made matters more difficult at Milan, who sacked coach Marco Giampaolo earlier in the season and currently languish down in 14th place in the table.

"I look in the mirror and look for the blame inside of me. At the beginning, as a team, we didn't create so many opportunities. We're improving, I'm going to score again," he said during the interview.

"For Italian journalists, one day you're the soccer pope and the next day you're the worst player.

"I accept it. Nobody put themselves in my shoes, the covers of the newspapers don't impact me."

Emre Can has reaffirmed his frustration with the limited playing time on offer at Juventus.

The midfielder started a 1-1 draw at Lecce in October but has had to settle for just three further substitute appearances in Serie A.

Maurizio Sarri left Can out of his squad for the Champions League, a development the 25-year-old described as "extremely shocking", and the Bianconeri boss is reportedly willing to let him leave in January.

Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund are said to have expressed interest in recent days.

"I'm just an ambitious guy who always wants to compete at the highest level," Can told Kicker.

"But I'm also learning from this tough time when things are not going the way I was hoping.

"I'm not playing games from the start, so I'm not happy, but I will stay strong and keep working on myself. I'm often in the gym before or after training, doing extra shifts. I want to be ready.

"A lot can always happen in football."

Can, who began his career at Bundesliga giants Bayern, joined Juve from Liverpool on a free transfer in 2018.

The scarcity of first-team opportunities is not his only concern in Turin, with the Germany international also exasperated over a perceived lack of commitment from young footballers.

"They have the chance of a lifetime if they are allowed to practice with the professionals," he said.

"However, some of them sometimes have a body language that almost makes me angry. I often go to these players at Juventus, talk to them, try to show them what they can do when they try hard and show themselves. But some don't understand it."

Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria will not be leaving the Bundesliga leaders in January, according to his agent.

Zakaria has been linked with Premier League giants Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as Serie A side Inter and German champions Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

But the 22-year-old defensive midfielder has no plans to leave Gladbach before the end of the season.

"Denis will not leave Borussia in the winter, a change is 100 per cent excluded," Mathieu Beda told Sport BILD.

"Denis is in very good shape in Gladbach and has been playing really well for weeks, but he still has more potential and he wants to show that in Gladbach now instead of dealing with a change."

Switzerland international Zakaria swapped Young Boys for Monchengladbach in 2017.

Zakaria has scored two goals in 11 matches as Gladbach top the Bundesliga table by four points during the international break.

Cristiano Ronaldo insists there was nothing controversial about his recent substitutions for Juventus because he has been playing through the pain of a knee complaint.

Ronaldo appeared disgruntled when he was removed early in the second half of Juve's Serie A match against AC Milan last weekend, with replacement Paulo Dybala going on to score the only goal in a 1-0 win.

Head coach Maurizio Sarri explained afterwards that a bruised knee had hindered Ronaldo, who was also withdrawn during a preceding 2-1 Champions League triumph at Lokomotiv Moscow – another match where the five-time Ballon d'Or winner witnessed the winning goal from the sidelines.

Ronaldo retained his typically prolific form for Portugal during the international break, hitting a hat-trick in a 6-0 demolition of Lithuania before capping a 2-0 win in Luxembourg on Sunday that sealed qualification for Euro 2020 and moved him on to 99 goals for his country.

"For the last three weeks, I have been playing limited. There was no controversy, you create controversy," Ronaldo told reporters after the match at Stade Josy Barthel.

"I don't like to be replaced, but I have been playing limited for the last three weeks. I tried to help Juventus, even playing injured. 

"No one likes to be replaced, but I understand why – I was not well. I'm still not 100 per cent, but when it comes to sacrificing for the club or team I do it with pride because I know there were a lot of games up for grabs."

Ronaldo went on to outline the high stakes that persuade him to put his 34-year-old body on the line.

"At Juventus, Inter are putting on a lot of pressure [in Serie A]. We are two points ahead, but we can't go easy because if we draw or lose, they pass us and I sacrificed myself," he said.

"In the national team, if we didn't win one of our two games, we could be out. I also sacrificed myself for the national team. 

"I never had major injuries. I play 50 or 60 games a year, but at one time or another there may be an unforeseen event – it's a pain that keeps me from being 100 per cent. 

"I always try to help. They put a lot of controversy on this subject, but you know I don't talk much in the press. 

"We won. Juventus are in first place, we qualified and I will be 100 per cent as fast as possible."

Portugal endured a tougher outing than expected in Luxembourg, with Ronaldo's close-range strike sealing the points four minutes from time after a dismal playing surface served to compromise Fernando Santos' side.

"It is difficult to play on these pitches, a potato field," Ronaldo added witheringly.

"I don't know how it is possible for teams of this level to play on pitches of this quality. The game was not beautiful. 

"We did our job, it was the pitch where we had to play, we won 2-0 and that was the priority."

Alexis Sanchez's recovery from ankle surgery is on track and the Inter forward could return ahead of schedule. 

Sanchez suffered a dislocated ankle and tendon damage while playing for Chile against Colombia in October.

The need to have an operation meant three months on the sidelines, curtailing the early stages of his loan stay at San Siro from Manchester United.

Inter's head of medical services Piero Volpi told La Cuarta he is optimistic about Sanchez's speed of recovery, with the 30-year-old aiming to resume work with a ball in the near future.

"It is a delicate injury, but the recovery is going very well, the deadlines are being met," he said.

"Mid-January [is the return date] but we'll see. Alexis could even come back a little earlier if all goes well.

"He has not yet done work with the ball, but we hope that in the next few days we will have news about it. Everything is going well."

Sanchez scored on his only Serie A start for Inter, a 3-1 win at Sampdoria where he was later sent off, and has made four appearances overall for Antonio Conte's side.

Inter's first game of 2020 is away to Napoli in the league on January 5, while they host Atalanta a week later.

Marco Giampaolo needed more time to have a genuine chance of implementing his plans for AC Milan, according to assistant coach Daniele Bonera.

Milan sacked Giampaolo following a 2-1 win over Genoa in October, his seventh match in charge.

The former Sampdoria boss presided over three victories and four defeats before the Rossoneri rushed to appoint Stefano Pioli – a move that, so far, has failed to lead to an upturn in the team's fortunes.

Pioli has led the team to four points from five games since his arrival, with their solitary triumph coming at home to lowly SPAL.

"In a few months, two coaches arrived with different working methods, two ways of thinking on a defensive level," Bonera, an assistant under both coaches, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"With Giampaolo, we thought more about the ball. With Pioli, we are more practical and we work on the positioning of players.

"Giampaolo did not have the time he needed, but at a club like Milan there is never much time."

Asked about the players, Bonera said: "I see guys who are very committed. Many are really young, in their twenties. It takes time.

"We need patience, which is a rare commodity in football. We are trying to do better every day. I've never seen any of the players holding back because of fatigue."

Milan's problems could grow further if Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain launch a January bid to sign goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, as has been rumoured in recent days.

Bonera, who made over 150 Serie A appearances for Milan during his nine-year spell with the club as a player, recommends the 20-year-old Donnarumma remains with his boyhood club.

"As a fan and someone in love with Milan, I would recommend he stay with us," Bonera said.

"But he has staff and family who advise him."

Kalidou Koulibaly reaffirmed his affection for Napoli amid ongoing links to Premier League giants Manchester United.

United continue to be linked with a move for highly rated Napoli defender Koulibaly, despite the world-record signing of Harry Maguire at the start of the season.

The Red Devils are reportedly keen to bolster their backline, which has been problematic in recent seasons, even after the arrivals of Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly.

However, star centre-back and Senegal international Koulibaly said he is happy in Naples.

"This is where my children were born," Koulibaly wrote via Twitter. "This is where I grew up as a man and a player.

"This is where my family and I feel at home #Napoli."

Koulibaly has established himself as one of the world's best defenders since swapping Genk for Napoli in 2014.

The 28-year-old has made 10 Serie A appearances this season and 14 across all competitions for Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli.

Napoli have warned Eljif Elmas he could be punished for breaching a club media blackout after giving an interview while on international duty.

Twenty-year-old midfielder Elmas could face a costly rap after being quoted by various outlets during his time away with Macedonia, despite telling reporters Napoli could still vie for the Serie A title.

The Naples club appear to be in disarray after first-team players rebelled en masse and quit a training retreat earlier this month.

That getaway to nearby Castel Volturno was ordered by club president Aurelio De Laurentiis, following a run of disappointing results, but it was dramatically cut short after a Champions League match against Salzburg.

Napoli hinted at taking legal action against their own squad, saying on November 6 the club would "do everything in its power to protect its economic interests, assets, image rights and disciplinary interests", and ruling there would be no media communication "for the foreseeable future".

A goalless draw at home to Genoa followed for Carlo Ancelotti's team, leaving Napoli, who finished runners-up to Juventus last season, sitting seventh in Serie A.

In the latest twist, a statement attributed to head of communications Nicola Lombardo was posted by Napoli on Twitter, saying: "SSC Napoli can confirm that Eljif Elmas spoke to the press without the club's authorisation during the current media blackout.

"SSC Napoli therefore reserves the right to take action against the player."

Napoli's statement was issued barely half an hour before Elmas took to the pitch for Macedonia in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Austria.

In his interview, widely reported in Italy, Elmas said Juventus were well placed to win another Serie A title but added: "There are so many teams in the fight: Inter, Napoli and Roma. The battle will be uncertain until the end."

Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic suffered a thigh injury against Italy on Friday, Bosnia-Herzegovina have confirmed.

Pjanic has been in impressive form for Juve in Serie A this season but pulled up in a 1-1 draw against Lecce in October, returning in the Turin derby at the start of this month.

He looks to have suffered another setback after being substituted with 13 minutes remaining of a 3-0 home Euro 2020 qualifying defeat to Italy.

Bosnia confirmed on Saturday the 29-year-old would miss their trip to Liechtenstein on Monday, leaving Juve with a fitness concern ahead of a tough test against Atalanta next weekend.

"National team players Miralem Pjanic and Luka Menalo will miss the team's next match against Liechtenstein due to injuries," Bosnia's statement read.

"Pjanic has an adductor injury, while Menalo has an ankle injury."

Romelu Lukaku claimed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted to keep him at Manchester United, contradicting the Red Devils manager's claim he was happy to let the Belgian international join Inter in August.

Solskjaer told Sky Sports that starting the season a striker short due to Lukaku's departure was "the decision that I made and I made it happily", but Lukaku said there was a time when the move did not have the United boss' approval.

Inter paid United £74million on the final day of the Premier League transfer window in August, ending months of speculation over the striker's future.

But in an interview with Het Belang van Limburg, Lukaku said his departure was decided as early as March.

"Solskjaer has my eternal respect," said Lukaku.

"He understood me when I said in March that it was time for me to leave.

"I had been in the Premier League as an 18-year-old boy and now I am 26. Solskjaer wanted to keep me, but I was ready for something new."

I called game pic.twitter.com/cvxaifdV3w

— R.Lukaku Bolingoli9 (@RomeluLukaku9) November 2, 2019

Lukaku has scored nine goals in 12 Serie A appearances for Inter, but was subjected to racist abuse by Cagliari fans in September.

He said he knew what to expect when he arrived in Italy, and insisted he is enjoying his time in Milan.

"I knew it would happen," said Lukaku.

"I was prepared because I had spoken to other footballers about it.

"But I'm having a good time in Italy. The people on the street are very good to me and it's on that, that I want to focus."

Inter received a letter containing threats against head coach Antonio Conte and have informed the relevant authorities, the club confirmed in a widely distributed statement.

Reports claimed the letter, which arrived at Inter's headquarters in Milan, contained a bullet along with references to the former Chelsea boss.

Inter are second in Serie A following a five-game unbeaten run, including victories in their last three league matches.

The club's statement contradicted some reports that indicated the letter was sent directly to Conte.

"In relation to the news published today, Antonio Conte has not personally received any threatening letter," the statement said.

"Consequently, he did not go in person to file a complaint.

"It was the club that received a letter and, as per the practice in this kind of situation, proceeded to contact the competent authorities."

Inter's next fixture sees them travel to Torino for a Serie A clash on November 23.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has informed Bologna of his willingness to consider joining them in January, according to the Serie A side's sporting director Riccardo Bigon.

Ibrahimovic this week confirmed his departure from LA Galaxy after two seasons in MLS.

The 38-year-old intends to see out his career in Italy, Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto claimed, and will not be short on options given his free agent status.

AC Milan, Fiorentina and Napoli are among those to have been linked but Bologna could have the inside running thanks to Ibrahimovic's rapport with Rossoblu boss Sinisa Mihajlovic, who crossed paths with the Swede at Inter.

"There is a month and a half to go until to the transfer window opens," Bigon told Sky Sport Italia.

"As has been said, Ibrahimovic and the coach have a strong personal relationship.

"He expressed an openness to the idea of ​​coming to Bologna but now he will take time, after announcing the farewell to MLS, to evaluate all the possibilities for his future.

"We are very fascinated by this situation but it is clear that we do not control it 100 per cent.

"The choice is exclusively down to the player. We will wait in case [Ibrahimovic confirms his interest], then we will be ready and more than positive."

Manchester United have hatched a plan that could help bring Erling Haaland to Old Trafford.

The Premier League side are reportedly contemplating a compromise that will curry favour with Salzburg, the young star's present employers.

Considered the favourites in that chase, United also appear set to jump the queue for another of Europe's most admired teenage talents.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WILLING TO WAIT FOR HAALAND

Manchester United are prepared to consider loaning Erling Haaland straight back to Salzburg if a deal can be struck in January, such is their determination to land the sought-after striker.

According to ESPN, United could allow Haaland to stay in Austria until the end of the season in an attempt to defuse a potential bidding war.

Spanish newspaper AS suggest the Red Devils are "pushing the hardest" for the 19-year-old, who has been valued at €100million – a figure that might price even Real Madrid out of the market.

 

ROUND-UP

United are unlikely to stop at Haaland when the transfer window reopens. The club are weighing up whether to bring forward a planned end-of-season approach for Jadon Sancho in order to capitalise on uncertainty over the winger's Borussia Dortmund future, reports The Guardian.

Juventus are becoming concerned about the increasing level of interest from Spain and England in highly rated Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, according to Calciomercato. The Serie A champions could be forced to make a move sooner rather than later as his suitors gain in number and his price tag rises above €40m.

- That sum, Calciomercato claims, is the minimum Juve will demand for out-of-favour defenders Daniele Rugani and Merih Demiral. Both players have been linked to Arsenal.

Boca Juniors are eyeing another showpiece signing. Argentina-based football journalist Martin Castilla told CNN Deportes the South American giants are keen on luring Luis Suarez away from Barcelona. San Lorenzo vice-president Marcelo Tinelli expressed interest in the 32-year-old earlier in the week.

- Returning to Serie A and it looks like Wojciech Szczesny will be staying in Turin. Sky Sport Italia reporter Gianluca Di Marzio says the Polish goalkeeper has agreed a contract extension with Juve through to 2024.

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