Nicolo Zaniolo was taken off on a cart after suffering a serious-looking injury in front of Italy coach Roberto Mancini during Roma's Serie A clash with Juventus on Sunday.

The 20-year-old had his head in his hands as he was withdrawn 36 minutes in after injuring his left leg when Juve defender Matthijs de Ligt halted his progress with a foul on the edge of the penalty area.

Zaniolo had beaten four Juve players during a brilliant run which started near his own penalty area, but De Ligt - himself on for the injured Merih Demiral - stepped out and brought him down with a body check that earned the centre-back a caution.

The Roma midfielder writhed in pain on the edge of the box and needed a cart to be helped off the field, with Mancini, watching on from the stands, wearing a concerned expression.

Zaniolo has scored twice for Italy in his five appearances and had been expected to be a key figure for Mancini during Euro 2020.

Roma were 2-0 down to Juve at the time of Zaniolo's injury having conceded twice in the opening 10 minutes.

Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri has urged midfielders Aaron Ramsey, Sami Khedira and Adrien Rabiot to offer more in attack ahead of their Serie A trip to Roma.

The Bianconeri remain second in the table after their 4-0 win over Cagliari on Monday, when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick.

Of Juve's 35 Serie A goals this season, 23 have been scored by strikers Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain, while Miralem Pjanic, with three, is the only midfielder to have scored more than once.

With Higuain still struggling with a hamstring injury, Sarri wants to see those behind Ronaldo and Dybala carry a greater attacking threat.

"Given the quality of the players I have at my disposal, the rotations don't change the philosophy of the game much," he said at a news conference.

"We can be better at exploiting the spaces created by Ronaldo and Dybala; Ramsey, Khedira and Rabiot all have the characteristics to do it.

"Dybala starts his runs a little deeper and Ronaldo off centre. Higuain therefore resolves an issue of getting bodies in the box."

Roma lost at home to Juventus' neighbours Torino on Sunday, ending a seven-match unbeaten run in all competitions.

They drew at league leaders Inter during that sequence, and beat Milan and Napoli at home earlier in the season, with Sarri acutely aware of the threat posed by Paulo Fonseca's side.

"I expect Fonseca's team to make a good impression; he's working well, he's a great coach," Sarri added. 

"He has a lot of technical players and he knows how to snatch the game when Roma regain the ball, but they also know how to recapture the ball after lost possession. They can be very dangerous."

Defender Matthijs de Ligt was once again an unused substitute against Cagliari, though Sarri insisted he is close to returning to full fitness.

"De Ligt is starting to improve," Sarri said.

"He still has a shoulder injury, but we hope he will return as soon as possible."

One story is dominating the sporting agenda in Spain on Saturday: Xavi's potential return to Barcelona.

The Catalan giants have reportedly earmarked the club great to take over from the under-pressure Ernesto Valverde at the end of the season, and held informal discussions with him on Friday in Doha.

Xavi, 39, is currently coach at Al Sadd but would likely relish a return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during a glittering playing career.

A strong affinity with a club is not a guarantee of success, however, and we have taken a look at eight other examples of players returning to manage teams they starred for.

 

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job. He is now back in Serie A and thriving with the Old Lady's bitter rivals Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Like Lampard, Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for AC Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league finish in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Erling Haaland said an immediate good feeling about Borussia Dortmund persuaded him to join the Bundesliga club instead of Manchester United.

Premier League giants United and Serie A champions Juventus – along with Dortmund's Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig – were interested in the 19-year-old.

However, the striker, who scored 28 goals in 22 appearances across all competitions for Salzburg in the first half of 2019-20, decided to sign for Dortmund, who had activated a release clause in his contract.

Presented to the media at Dortmund's training camp in Marbella on Friday, Haaland outlined the reasons for his decision, adding his belief that the Bundesliga is a perfect league for him to continue his development.

"It's been good, great guys, great staff. A good first week," Haaland told a news conference.

Asked why he picked Dortmund above United, Haaland said: "I chose Dortmund because my feeling was best here. It's a massive club. I've always liked this club.

"When I mention it, I start to smile because I like the club and how it is, so that's why. I like everything [the fans, the style of play], all of it.

"[The Bundesliga] is a good league with a lot of good players. It's a great league, the teams play nice football and I think it'll fit me."

Haaland is set to make his debut for Dortmund in a friendly match on Saturday. His competitive bow will not come until at least January 18, when Lucien Favre's side take on Augsburg.

Tottenham appear close to landing a replacement for Harry Kane, while Thomas Lemar could also be set for the Premier League.

Kane needs surgery on his left hamstring and is not expected to return to training for Spurs until April.

It seems the Premier League club are nearing a move for Milan forward Krzysztof Piatek, although there are contrasting reports over the status of the deal.

And, Atletico Madrid midfielder Lemar could also be heading to London.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS CLOSE TO LANDING PIATEK AS KANE REPLACEMENT

Tottenham have agreed a deal worth £28million (€32.95m) for Piatek, according to The Sun.

However, the Mirror reports Spurs have had a loan bid for the 24-year-old Poland international rejected, although talks are continuing.

After netting 11 times in 21 games for Milan last season following a January move from Genoa, Piatek has four goals in 18 this campaign.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea and Tottenham are both trying to sign Atletico's Lemar on loan until the end of the season, according to The Telegraph. Lemar is linked with an Atletico exit after just nine LaLiga starts this season.

- While Christian Eriksen's possible Spurs exit will dominate headlines this month, it appears the midfielder will not be heading to Old Trafford. Sky Sports reports Manchester United have ruled out making a bid for the Denmark international this month.

- Searching for a right-back, Tottenham are keen on signing Barcelona's Nelson Semedo, according to the Mirror. The position has been a problem for Spurs since Kieran Trippier's off-season move to Atletico.

- Javier Hernandez's stay at Sevilla could be coming to an end. Marca reports the club could let the forward, who has one goal in nine LaLiga games this season, leave amid apparent interest from LA Galaxy.

- Leicester City are trying to sign Juventus defender Merih Demiral, according to the Mirror. Manchester City and Everton are also reportedly interested in the Turkey international.

- Piatek aside, there may be other moves at Milan. La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira says Roma are interested in Suso and Cengiz Under could be heading to San Siro, while Milan are still eyeing Inter's Matteo Politano.

- Could David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini reunite for a third time? Sky Sports reports Moyes' West Ham are interested in signing the Shandong Luneng midfielder, who played under the Scot at Everton and Manchester United.

A fit and firing Cristiano Ronaldo is "really happy" now his knee problem is behind him, according to Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri.

Portugal international Ronaldo started 2020 with a bang on Monday as he netted a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over Cagliari to take his tally to eight goals in his past five Serie A appearances.

The 34-year-old appears to have rediscovered his mojo having gone three games without scoring at the start of November, when he was twice substituted by Sarri as he battled a minor knee problem.

There has been no sign of that issue affecting Ronaldo of late, though, with Sarri delighted the five-time Ballon d'Or winner is back to his best.

"Ronaldo has not any more problems with his knee and now he is enjoying his great physical and mental condition," the Juventus head coach told a news conference.

"Finally I can see him really happy because his knee is fine now. He can play at his best now."

Another Bianconeri player who has been troubled by injury issues is defender Matthijs de Ligt.

The former Ajax captain was an unused substitute in the victory against Cagliari having not started a league game in a month due to shoulder and adductor problems.

De Ligt has yet to replicate the type of form which earned him the move to Turin ahead of this season, yet Sarri is convinced he can fulfil his promise.

"The situation of De Ligt is very clear: I'm sure he'll become one of the best - or the best maybe - defenders in the world," Sarri added.

"We need to understand that he was just 19 coming to a club like Juventus and forced to play 23 games in a row.

"He needs to learn a new language and new training technique. In Italy he had to change his way to play and his lifestyle. He had a lot of work to do in the last months.

"He improved a lot, then he had some little injuries. But that's normal."

With Manchester City's Premier League title defence in tatters and a mounting injury list in defence, Pep Guardiola's side need reinforcements.

Aymeric Laporte and John Stones have been struck down by injuries this season, leaving City with limited options in defence.

As Liverpool run away with the title, City are eyeing an Inter star to rebuild their central defence.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TARGETING SKRINIAR

Manchester City have set their sights on Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, according to The Mirror.

Premier League champions City have struggled with injuries in defence this season as rivals Liverpool charge towards the title.

City are reportedly ready to buy in January and Skriniar – also a target for LaLiga champions Barcelona and Real Madrid – is on the list.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic says MLS outfit DC United want to sign Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric after Wayne Rooney's exit.

Juventus are "still hopeful" of signing Paris Saint-Germain loanee Mauro Icardi, reports Calciomercato. Icardi left Inter for PSG at the start of the season, having been linked to Juve and Napoli.

- Sky Sports claims Manchester United are interested in Leicester City star James Maddison, but are aware a January transfer will be difficult. Sky Sports also says the Red Devils are chasing Lille's Boubakary Soumare, along with Arsenal, Chelsea, Madrid and Valencia.

Mario Gotze will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of the season, according to Bild. Gotze's contract is set to expire and he has been unable to agree a new deal.

- TZ says Bayern Munich are interested in Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo, with the Bundesliga champions distancing themselves from RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann.

Antonio Conte hit back at critics of Inter and star forward Romelu Lukaku after his high-flying side stayed level on points with Juventus atop Serie A.

Lukaku scored twice as Inter defeated Napoli 3-1 away from home on Monday, following Juve's 4-0 rout of Cagliari earlier in the day.

After celebrating his 100th Serie A victory as a coach, Conte responded to comments about Inter's counter-attacking strength.

"I don't think Inter defended and went on the counter, as we tried to press Napoli right on the edge of their own area for the whole game," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"I hear people always saying we play counter-attacking football, but this is a side that knows what it has to do every time it is in possession.

"We play knowing full well everything we have to do at any moment of the match. Fortunately, our opponents respect us more than the media seem to. People say we win away because we defend deep and go on the counter, but that is certainly not our approach."

Inter's record signing Lukaku took his Serie A tally to 14 goals this season thanks to his brace at the San Paolo, where Lautaro Martinez was also on target.

Lukaku has starred since arriving from Manchester United, where he only managed 12 Premier League goals in 32 appearances last season.

"I heard people say Lukaku was a donkey. I heard all sorts not even that long ago! It's easy to speak highly of Lukaku now, but if we look back to a few weeks ago…" Conte said.

"I always said Romelu was a rough diamond that needed work to smooth him out. Lautaro Martinez is the same. These lads are 26 and 22 years old, they are still young.

"I wanted Romelu very strongly when I was at Chelsea, even back at Juventus. I wanted him, now I can get to work on polishing the diamond."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first Serie A hat-trick as Juventus overcame Cagliari and he was pleased to put the pressure on Inter, who topped the league during the mid-season break.

After a goalless first half at Allianz Stadium, Ronaldo showed great anticipation to beat Sebastian Walukiewicz to Ragnar Klavan's loose pass and round Robin Olsen for the opener.

The 34-year-old added a second from the penalty spot following Marko Rog's foul on Paulo Dybala.

Gonzalo Higuain extended Juve's lead further in the 81st minute and five seconds after Cagliari restarted the match Ronaldo slotted in his third.

The victory sent Maurizio Sarri's men three points clear of Inter ahead of the Nerazzurri's trip to Napoli later on Monday.

"The year has started very well. The most important thing despite the hat-trick is that the team wins," Ronaldo told Sky Sport Italia.

"We played well and created a lot of chances. I am pleased with the hat-trick, but the most important thing was to win and put pressure on Inter.

"The team is getting better, not just in defence but in all areas. We must improve in all aspects, not just one. We are a complete squad and have to work together in every move."

On whether he will watch Inter's game against Napoli, Ronaldo added: "I don't know, but obviously I hope Inter lose, because that would help us.

"In any case, we've done what we needed to do and can only wait now."

Cristiano Ronaldo got his 2020 up and running with a hat-trick as Ragnar Klavan's error helped gift Juventus a 4-0 win over Cagliari, sending the champions back above Inter at the Serie A summit.

Despite a dominant first-half display, Juve - who were defeated by Lazio in the Supercoppa Italiana in their final match of 2019 - were unable to find a way through before Klavan's calamity.

But once presented with a clear chance, Ronaldo made no mistake, keeping his composure to beat Robin Olsen, who was beaten again by the former Real Madrid star from the spot in the 67th minute.

Ronaldo's penalty came after Giovanni Simeone almost snatched an equaliser against the run of play, but a strike from substitute Gonzalo Higuain and a composed third from Ronaldo comfortably ensured Juve made it 30 consecutive home league matches without defeat.

 

Juventus are unlikely to allow either Adrien Rabiot or Emre Can to leave the club in the January transfer window, according to chief executive officer Fabio Paratici.

Both Rabiot - signed on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in the close season - and Can have struggled to cement themselves as regular starters under Maurizio Sarri so far this season.

Rabiot has featured 10 times in total in Serie A, while Can, who was left out of Juve's Champions League squad, has played seven league matches so far, and the pair have both been linked with moves away from Turin.

However, Paratici is adamant neither player will leave this month, though confirmed there has been interest. 

"I can exclude Emre Can leaving, as he will certainly remain with us," Paratici told Sky Italia prior to Juve's encounter with Cagliari on Monday.

"On an international level, he is one of the most wanted players, but I think he can be important for our project.

"Rabiot arrived here after not playing for eight months. It's only natural on a physical level he should take time to adapt. He paid the price for that, but he has done well when used.

"We are confident, he is an important player and a guarantee for Juve, not a question mark or a doubt. We have an important squad, with a lot of competition for places, and that's how it should be at this level."

Juve have already secured their first signing for next season, agreeing a deal to bring in Atalanta midfielder Dejan Kulusevski, who is on loan at Parma this term, and at a reported €35million plus add ons, Paratici believes Juve have got a bargain.

"We would've liked to bring him to Juve straight away, but there was already a clear agreement from the start of the negotiations," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

"We are happy and knew full well he'd remain at Parma. He is an important player for the future of Juve and we are very happy with this deal."

Wolves star Adama Traore is reportedly attracting interest from Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester City.

Traore, formerly of Barcelona, has continued to impress this season, helping Wolves sit seventh in the Premier League.

Now, the former Spain youth international is reportedly being targeted by three of Europe's biggest clubs.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, BARCELONA & MAN CITY EYE TRAORE

Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester City are interested in signing Traore, according to 90min.

Traore has scored four goals and provided four assists in the Premier League this season.

The report says Wolves want at least £70million for Traore.

 

ROUND-UP

- Dani Olmo is expected to leave Dinamo Zagreb and is being eyed by several European giants. Goal reports Barcelona lead Chelsea and Manchester United in the race for the 21-year-old Spain international.

- Arturo Vidal is linked with a move to Inter, but he may be going nowhere. The cover of Sport reads 'You stay', with the report saying Barcelona have told the midfielder he will remain with the LaLiga giants due to his importance to the club.

- Chelsea have identified their top January transfer target. The Daily Express reports the Premier League side want Inter forward Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa this month to ease the pressure on Tammy Abraham.

- Inter are considering reinforcements on the left-hand side. CalcioMercato says Chelsea's Marcos Alonso and Parma's Matteo Darmian are both being considered by the Serie A high-flyers.

- It seems Edinson Cavani's time at Paris Saint-Germain is just about over. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Atletico Madrid and Cavani have an agreement in place and the LaLiga club want the forward to arrive in January.

- Wojciech Szczesny is set to extend his stay at Juventus. The goalkeeper will re-sign with the Serie A giants until 2024, according to CalcioMercato.

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri would not confirm whether he will continue to use Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain as a front three against Cagliari, but he warned of the threat of the opposition midfield.

Sarri bowed to pressure by using Ronaldo, Dybala and Higuain together in attack ahead of the mid-season break.

Although the star trio initially impressed in wins over Udinese and Sampdoria, they then started the 3-1 Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Lazio.

Sarri insisted at the time that loss was not due to his front line, yet speaking ahead of a return to Serie A action against Cagliari, he would not commit to sticking with the system.

A talented Cagliari side boasting the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Nahitan Nandez and Marko Rog could see Sarri select Aaron Ramsey instead.

"We'll see tomorrow," he told a Sunday news conference of his line-up. "Ramsey also seems to be growing, so we will have to decide.

"We will need to take a lot of care. The Cagliari midfielders can start strong attacks, so we will need great balance on our part, especially in midfield.

"When you concede a lot of goals [before Christmas], you often place the blame on the defenders. But that's not always the case.

"In my opinion, the right protection has not been given to the defence. That's why we have been working on the movements of the midfielders."

Douglas Costa is still regaining fitness, but centre-back Matthijs de Ligt could be handed a recall, having not started since a league defeat to Lazio on December 7.

"He had a complicated period, with shoulder and adductor problems," Sarri added of the Dutchman. "He is very young, he rested because he had small problems, and [Merih] Demiral has grown a lot.

"He seems to be recovering, so we'll see for tomorrow."

Juventus this week completed the signing of Dejan Kulusevski from Atalanta for an initial €35million, although he remains on loan at Parma.

Sarri said: "[Kulusevski] is a great prospect and it is important that the club is attentive to these young players and gets there first.

"There were no conditions [possible] where he could be available now."

Raphael Varane recounted the occasion he snapped at Cristiano Ronaldo in Real Madrid training for not calling him by his first name, though he insists he was not disrespectful to the Portugal great.

France international Varane has been at Madrid for almost nine years, having joined from Lens as a highly rated teenager.

As such, the centre-back was a long-time team-mate of Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu, before the former Manchester United forward left for Juventus in 2018.

Ronaldo is known for his often-intense personality and commitment in training, and Varane reminisced about the time he bit back at Los Blancos' then-talisman.

"'Varane, go into the middle,'" Ronaldo is said to have barked, to which Varane claims he replied: "I'm not Varane, I'm Rapha!"

But the 26-year-old says he was not showing Ronaldo a lack of respect, rather showing a bit of character.

"It was not disrespectful," Varane told Onze Mondial. "I am super nice, I am great, even in the dressing room. I am also quite shy.

"But when there are difficult times or when you have to show your character, you can count on me. The players who have known me for a while know this.

"Of course, it's not the aspect of my character that you see the most or that you see first. It was not a matter of respect or disrespect, it was just a matter of, 'If I'm not seen, I'm not considered much.'

"After that it was more like: 'Oh, I am also here, I also have a name.' It was more like that."

Any issues with Ronaldo start and end there, however, with Varane lavishing his former colleague with praise for his achievements.

"He's great, great, on a human level - and on a footballing level, I don't even have words anymore," Varane said.

"He's accomplished something extraordinary: he made his incredible achievements seem banal.

"And to do that… there are no words to explain it, it's huge, it's extraordinary. He taught me a lot and also surprised me. How many times have I said to myself: 'Wow, this is incredible.'"

Juventus have completed the signing of Dejan Kulusevski from Atalanta for an initial €35million and allowed him to remain on loan at Parma.

Sweden international Kulusevski has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract and the fee for his arrival could increase by a further €9m in bonuses.

The 19-year-old midfielder joined Atalanta from Brommapojkarna in 2016 and made three first-team appearances before being sent on loan to Parma for the 2019-20 season.

Kulusevski has impressed at the Ennio Tardini, scoring four goals and supplying seven assists in 17 league appearances, and he will remain there until the end of the campaign, as per a fresh agreement with Juve.

The arrival of Kulusevski may pave the way for Emre Can to leave the Bianconeri at the end of the season, should he not depart in January.

Germany international Can has only featured seven times for Juve this season and has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

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