issa-sbf-white-logo.png
ssflogo2.png

Leonardo Bonucci backed Juventus team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo following his unsuccessful penalty against Milan en route to the Coppa Italia final, insisting "even the greatest miss".

Ronaldo hit the post with a 16th-minute penalty as Juve drew 0-0 at home to 10-man Milan in Turin – the Serie A champions reaching the final on away goals after the 1-1 first-leg stalemate.

Juve's Ronaldo scored a penalty to salvage a draw away to Milan in February's opening leg prior to the coronavirus pandemic but he was unable to repeat the feat behind closed doors at Allianz Stadium.

Bonucci leapt to the defence of five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo – who has scored 25 goals in all competitions this season – post-match.

"Even the greatest miss," Juventus centre-back Bonucci told Rai Sport. "Cristiano is always important for us.

"He increases the pressure on opponents' defenders. "He was unfortunate today and [Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi] Donnarumma did well.

"We'll see a great Juventus and a great Ronaldo again."

Juve will face either Napoli or Inter in the Coppa Italia final in Rome on June 17, before Maurizio Sarri's men restart their Serie A campaign away to Bologna on June 22.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Serie A leaders Juve were a point clear of Lazio through 26 matches.

"The important thing was to qualify so we could play in Rome for our first objective of the season," said Bonucci, whose Juve played against 10 men after Milan's Ante Rebic was sent off in the 16th minute.

"It was strange and difficult at the start, an empty stadium after 90 days. We got a bit stretched out and Milan did very well with 10 men against 11. It was a draw, but we must look at the glass half-full, as our objective was to reach the final on Wednesday."

Bonucci added: "We've shaken off a dark moment for the whole world and hope being back will give a bit of hope and joy to the fans at home. We want to dedicate something more to them on Wednesday."

Jadon Sancho's future could be resolved sooner rather than later.

The England international is tipped to return to his homeland after leaving Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Premier League leaders Liverpool are reportedly at the front of the queue for the 20-year-old attacker.

 

TOP STORY – REDS IN POLE POSITION FOR SANCHO

Liverpool are leading the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to Le10 Sport.

Sancho is a player in demand, the former Manchester City youngster linked with a return to England via Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested, but Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool appear to be favourites to land the England international if Sadio Mane leaves Anfield.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims United are considering a move for Lazio striker Ciro Immobile. The Italy international has scored a Serie A-high 27 goals this season amid links to Liverpool and Napoli.

Chelsea are not close to reaching an agreement over Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, says The Athletic. Chelsea have emerged as favourites to sign Havertz, who is also reportedly wanted by United, Liverpool, Madrid and Barcelona. But Chelsea – who are set to bring RB Leipzig's Timo Werner to Stamford Bridge – are apparently nowhere near matching Leverkusen's asking price.

- The Independent reports Dortmund are set to beat United to Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old is coveted by Dortmund and United, however, the Bundesliga side are viewed as the more attractive option to give the wonderkid game time.

- Could Dries Mertens leave Napoli for Barcelona? Mertens' contract is set to expire, though the Belgium forward has been tipped to sign an extension. Het Nieuwsblad says Barca could turn to the Napoli star if they are unable to prise Lautaro Martinez from Inter.

Chelsea believe Champions League football will convince Leicester City's Ben Chilwell to snub Manchester City for the London club, according to the Daily Mail. Chelsea have been linked to another full-back – France Football claims the Blues are eyeing Paris Saint-Germain's Layvin Kurzawa, who is available on a free transfer and wanted by the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Inter.

- Tuttosport says Inter are targeting Nice centre-back Malang Sarr. The 21-year-old has also been linked to Pep Guardiola's City.

- According to The Telegraph, Barca are prepared to pay a portion of Philippe Coutinho's wage to help the Brazilian leave Camp Nou. Tottenham and Newcastle United are possible destinations.

Liverpool are eyeing a double transfer raid on Wolves for stars Ruben Neves and Adama Traore, says The Sun.

Juventus are confident of renewing Paulo Dybala's contract, according to chief football officer Fabio Paratici.

Dybala is contracted to the Serie A champions until June 2022 and said in an interview with CNN this week he was waiting for the club to initiate talks.

The Argentina international has struggled for form since Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival at Juve, scoring 23 goals in all competitions since the start of 2018-19, fewer than he managed in 2017-18 alone.

Maurizio Sarri has acknowledged it is difficult for Dybala, who was linked with a move to Manchester United in the previous close season and has expressed an interest in playing for Barcelona, and Ronaldo to "coexist" in the same team.

However, Paratici is optimistic about Dybala's long-term future in Turin.

Ahead of the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against Milan on Friday, Paratici told Rai Sport: "We are not worried, as we started discussing the situation with Dybala and his entourage, so we are absolutely optimistic and confident.

"Everyone who goes to negotiate a contract wants an improvement, so that's entirely logical."

Asked about Juve's reported interest in Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo, he added: "This is not the time to talk about the transfer market, it's already been done when there was no football being played, but we want to fully enjoy this moment when Italian football returns."

Juve's clash with Milan is their first game in over three months, after football was suspended across most of the globe in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien has held discussions with Arthur over the midfielder's future, but is counting on him for the remainder of the season.

Arthur has made 23 appearances in all competitions during a campaign that has seen him sidelined due to injury, though that has not stopped speculation that he could be on the move.

The Brazil international has been linked with a switch to Juventus, potentially with Miralem Pjanic moving in the opposite direction.

Setien refused to discuss rumours over the 23-year-old's long-term future at Camp Nou, instead making clear he remains part of his plans ahead of a return to LaLiga action.

Barca face Real Mallorca on Saturday following a lengthy break caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is also set to have an impact on the transfer market as clubs deal with the financial ramifications of the health crisis.

"It is true that we have talked about something, but not too much," Setien said when asked about Arthur at his pre-match media conference on Friday.

"The current circumstances are different from the usual ones and will affect the market.

"As for the players, I am clear that all those who are currently in the squad, I count on them and I need everyone because there are going to be many games.

"On outside speculation, I choose not to speak."

Arthur made clear his desire to remain with Barcelona back in April; he was previously suggested as a transfer target for Inter.

In a statement sent to Mundo Deportivo, he said: "There will always be speculation but, sincerely, my idea is very clear. The only option that interests me is to continue at Barcelona.

"I'm very secure and relaxed. I feel really well here and, plus, I'm grateful to the club and technical staff for their confidence. This is yet another reason to be totally clear that my only desire is to continue."

Virgil van Dijk is set to extend his deal at Liverpool, while Lautaro Martinez could reportedly push for his move to Barcelona.

Van Dijk, 28, is widely regarded as one of the world's best defenders and he seems primed to stay put after starring at Anfield.

Meanwhile, Barca's pursuit of Martinez continues.

 

TOP STORY – VAN DIJK TO SIGN FIVE-YEAR LIVERPOOL CONTRACT

Van Dijk will sign a five-year deal worth £57million at Liverpool, according to The Sun.

The report says the Netherlands international will become the highest-paid player in the club's history.

Van Dijk finished second to Barcelona star Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d'Or and is on track to help Liverpool win their first league title in 30 years.

ROUND-UP

- Talk around Martinez's future continues. Sport reports Barcelona will press Inter and the forward will also push for a move to Camp Nou.

- Inter could be looking for a replacement if Martinez decides to leave. CalcioMercato reports they are considering Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa as the Argentina international's replacement.

- Another forward Inter have been linked to is Edinson Cavani, who is coming out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain. But La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Cavani wants €12m per year, which it says it €3m more than Inter are willing to pay.

- There is also uncertainty over Arturo Vidal's future at Barcelona. The midfielder has been linked with an exit as his contract expires next year, but Mundo Deportivo reports the Chile international has no interest in discussing his future until August.

- Hector Bellerin has a deal at Arsenal until 2023, but there is some talk about his future. The Mirror reports the 25-year-old is a target for Inter this close season.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is apparently attracting some interest. According to the Daily Express, Everton want to sign the 25-year-old, who has also been linked to Tottenham.

Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch has signed a new contract to keep him at the Eredivisie giants until 2023.

Gravenberch made his first-team debut for Ajax at 16 years and 130 days old in September 2018, breaking Clarence Seedorf's record to become the club's youngest Eredivisie player.

The Netherlands youth international has now made 14 senior appearances at club level in total.

Gravenberch turned 18 last month, although Ajax reportedly initially struggled to tie him down as agent Mino Raiola was said to be offering his client to top Serie A clubs.

However, Ajax confirmed on Thursday they had agreed terms, with Gravenberch - who would have been out of contract in 2021 - penning a three-year deal.

Jadon Sancho's future has dominated headlines for months, tipped to return to England.

Sancho, who left Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017, has been heavily linked to Manchester United, as well as Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid.

Dortmund are reportedly preparing for life without the England star.

 

TOP STORY – BVB BRACED FOR SANCHO DEPARTURE

Borussia Dortmund believe Jadon Sancho's exit at the end of the season is inevitable, according to The Evening Standard.

Dortmund star Sancho has been tipped to join Manchester United, who are determined to boost their attacking stocks.

Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid have also been linked as Bundesliga outfit Dortmund hold out for €129million (£116m).

Dortmund are also running out of patience with Sancho's off-field issues, after the England international was fined for flouting social-distancing guidelines following a haircut.

ROUND-UP

Juventus could raid Italian rivals Roma for Italy star Nicolo Zaniolo. Calciomercato says Roma could be forced to sell their best players due to the club's financial situation, giving Juve the chance to bring the 20-year-old to Turin.

- Mundo Deportivo claims Inter want €80m for Madrid target Milan Skriniar. The Inter defender is seen as a replacement for veteran Los Blancos captain Sergio Ramos.

United and Inter are battling to sign Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, reports RMC Sport. The Frenchman moved to Munich from Lyon in 2017.

Madrid are ready to join the chase for Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, according to The Sun. The Germany international is wanted by United, Liverpool and Chelsea and the Premier League reportedly appeals to the 20-year-old.

- Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Gianluigi Donnarumma, however, Tuttosport says Serie A champions Juventus are eyeing a move for the Milan and Italy goalkeeper.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Roma are trying to lock down Lorenzo Pellegrini to a new contract amid interest from Inter, PSG and Dortmund.

Madrid's path to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga could become complicated. With the Ligue 1 transfer window already open, RMC Sport suggests PSG could try to trump Madrid for the 17-year-old.

- Sport reports Barcelona are willing to lower their asking price to accelerate Philippe Coutinho's departure. The out-of-favour Brazilian has been linked to Tottenham, Newcastle United and Chelsea.

Former Barcelona and Inter forward Samuel Eto'o praised Lautaro Martinez, but said Luis Suarez deserved more respect for his contributions.

Martinez, 22, has been heavily linked with a move to the LaLiga giants, with the Inter forward regarded as a long-term replacement for Suarez.

Now 33, Suarez arrived at Camp Nou from Liverpool in 2014, and has won four LaLiga titles and a Champions League with the club.

Eto'o, who spent five seasons at Barca and two at Inter during his playing career, said while Martinez was talented, Suarez's efforts could not be ignored.

"I love Suarez, he's one of the best in the world in his position," the former Cameroon international told Catalunya Radio on Wednesday.

"Barca always have to strengthen, but they don't need to stand down a general like Luis Suarez. In his position, he's a general and you cannot compare him with anyone.

"Lautaro is doing really well with Inter and has a future, but people have a tendency to forget recent history and Luis is writing history, not just at Barca, but in football. That has to be recognised.

"That doesn't impede bringing in another player to add competition to the group, knowing how many games Barca have, but a little respect for those that have written history."

Suarez had scored 14 goals and provided 10 assists in 23 games before this season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martinez, meanwhile, had 16 goals in 31 games for Inter, while providing two assists.

Papu Gomez believes Atalanta can win the coronavirus-hit Champions League, with the possibility of one-off matches leading into the decider.

Atalanta dazzled before the COVID-19 pandemic halted football in March, the Serie A side seeing off Valencia 8-4 on aggregate to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

UEFA wants to complete both the Champions League and Europa League once domestic leagues have been concluded, meaning the remaining fixtures could potentially resume in August.

One proposal has been for the quarter-finals and semi-finals to be condensed into one-off fixtures instead of two-legged ties at a neutral venue until the final, which could be held in Lisbon.

Atalanta star Gomez told Tyc Sports: "We touched the sky, experiencing a unique and historic moment for the club and city.

"It's incredible that it all ground to a halt. Now we're going to be in the Champions League quarter-finals and it would frankly suit us to play one-off games, because anything can happen in 90 minutes. It's going to be spectacular."

Asked who he would like to face in a Champions League final, Argentine attacker Gomez picked out a meeting with countryman Lionel Messi.

"Maybe a Spanish side, hopefully I'd play against Leo Messi for Barcelona," the 32-year-old said.

"Considering our playing style, I'd say we would have a better chance against a Spanish team rather than English or German."

The 2019-20 Serie A season is set to resume on June 20 following the coronavirus crisis.

Atalanta, who are fourth in the table through 25 games, will host Sassuolo on June 21.

Gian Piero Gasperini's Atalanta had won six consecutive matches in all competitions prior to the postponement.

Getting Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala to "coexist" in the same team is difficult, Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri has acknowledged.

Following the €112million signing of five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, Dybala saw a significant dip in his form for the Bianconeri in 2018-19.

He went from scoring 26 goals in all competitions in 2017-18 to just 10 the following campaign and was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United in the close season.

The Argentina international is yet to rediscover his best form under Sarri, while Ronaldo has scored 21 Serie A goals for the second successive season.

Sarri conceded it is tough to make Juve function efficiently when the duo are in the line-up, though he relishes the challenge.

"Dybala is a phenomenal player. The point is to make him and Cristiano coexist on the field, because it is not easy to make them play together," Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.

"But when two players with this type of quality are available, the rest of the squad has to adapt, both when attacking and defending.

"There is the risk that the opposition penalty area can seem a little empty, but all this is a very pleasant problem to have."

Miralem Pjanic has also struggled for form, though Barcelona are reported to be interested in his signature.

Sarri feels Pjanic suffers from a lack of self-belief but backed the Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder to find his feet again.

"I spoke a great deal to Miralem, he is an extraordinary player and cannot afford to have four or five games below his standards, which is what happened lately," said Sarri.

"He agreed with me, and struggled at first to find the strength to react, but he must convince himself that he's a great player.

"He can get one match wrong but has to lift his head up and react. It's been a positive mental journey for him and he can get back on his feet."

With Italian football soon returning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Juve will play their first match in over three months in a Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Milan on Friday.

Sarri's men sit one point clear of Lazio at the top of Serie A with 12 games remaining and have a 1-0 deficit to overturn in their Champions League last-16 tie against Lyon.

Lega Serie A has altered the rules for the remaining Coppa Italia fixtures, meaning there will be no extra time in the semi-finals or final.

After a three-month absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, football in Italy will resume on Friday when Juventus take on Milan in the second leg of their semi-final. The first match finished 1-1 in February.

Napoli will host Inter in the other last-four clash on Saturday, with Gennaro Gattuso's side leading 1-0 from the first leg.

The final will be held on June 17, three days prior to the resumption of Serie A.

To ensure players are not overworked on their return to action and reduce the risk of injury, Coppa matches will go straight to penalties if teams cannot be separated at the end of 90 minutes.

However, the away goals rule will remain in use for the semi-finals.

Manchester City and Bayern Munich are seemingly a long way apart when it comes to Leroy Sane.

Sane has been heavily linked with a move to the Bundesliga giants, although it seems City's valuation of the attacker is proving problematic for Bayern.

And, they are reportedly not getting much closer to a deal for the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY, BAYERN STILL FAR APART OVER SANE

Manchester City are remaining tough with Bayern Munich over the transfer fee for Sane, according to Sky Sport.

Reports says City are hoping for €70million (£62.4m) for Sane, but Bayern are offering just €40m (£35.6m).

Sane, 24, left Schalke for City in 2016 and has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two EFL Cups with the club.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United may be considering their options. Tuttosport reports the Premier League giants are ready to make an offer for Juventus midfielder Federico Bernardeschi if they do not land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

- Out of contract next year, Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool future has been questioned. However, The Guardian reports the Premier League leaders held positive talks with the midfielder and hope to extend the Netherlands international's deal for at least three years.

- Sergio Ramos is set to stay at Real Madrid. AS reports the club captain has agreed a one-year extension, taking his deal through until 2022.

- With his deal expiring at season's end, Thiago Silva looks likely to leave Paris Saint-Germain. ESPN reports the defender wants to stay in Europe and play for another top club for at least two more seasons.

- Jose Callejon appears happy at Napoli. CalcioMercato reports the attacker, out of contract at the end of the campaign, would like to stay at the Serie A club for at least another year.

- Valencia attacker Ferran Torres has drawn plenty of interest. According to Radio Valencia, Napoli have spoken to the LaLiga club about the 20-year-old, who has also been linked to Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

Serie A fans could be allowed to attend games by August following the coronavirus pandemic, according to Italy's minister for health Carlo Sibilia.

The 2019-20 Serie A season is set to resume behind closed doors on June 20 after the campaign was postponed in March due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The season will now conclude on August 2, with defending champions Juventus a point clear of Lazio atop the standings through 26 matches.

As restrictions and social-distancing measures slowly ease in Italy, supporters could return to stadiums sooner rather than later.

"We all recognise that football without fans is not the same thing," Sibilia told Radio Punto Nuovo.

"I dream of seeing crowds back in the stadium, but we have to be cautious. I hope it'll be possible to get fans in for August or September.

"Considering the rules for theatres and cinemas is for around 1,000 people with social distancing, July could be discussed, but it's more complicated to get 10,000 people through the turnstiles of the Stadio San Paolo.

"With the data we have today, we wouldn't be able to guarantee safety for people in the stadium, but I hope we can be in a position to talk about this by the end of August.

"I can assure you that getting Italian football back to normal, in safety, is a primary objective."

Fernando Morientes believes Inter star Lautaro Martinez could fit in at either Barcelona or Real Madrid.

Martinez, 22, has been heavily linked with a move to Barca after a fine season during which he has scored 16 goals in 31 games.

Madrid also reportedly have an interest in the Argentina international, who is said to have a release clause of €111million.

Former Madrid and Spain forward Morientes feels Martinez would have no trouble fitting in at either of the LaLiga giants.

"In Spain, we were lucky to enjoy great Argentine players and coaches. They have a competitive gene that is very difficult to find anywhere in the world," he said, via Sport.

"Barcelona is very interested in buying him, but there has also been talk of Real Madrid although I think more about Barca.

"He is a very interesting player for either team. He has a very good vision of the game.

"He is one of the best forwards in the world at the moment and I think he could fit into either team."

A move to Barcelona would see Martinez reunite with international team-mate Lionel Messi.

Messi is out of contract next year, but Morientes believes the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is destined to finish his career at Camp Nou.

"I don't imagine him outside Barcelona. He reminds me of [Paolo] Maldini, [Francesco] Totti, [Carles] Puyol, like them," he said.

"He is a club player, one of those who have started and finished his career in a very powerful club. I don't even think about it.

"I hope he reaches an agreement. He is the most important player in Barcelona and he will be until the end of his career."

Milan winger Samu Castillejo revealed he was robbed at gunpoint on Tuesday.

Castillejo, who was reportedly targeted at a traffic light and had his watch stolen, confirmed he was the victim of an armed robbery in Milan via Instagram.

The 25-year-old Spaniard wrote: "Is everything fine in Milan? Two guys have robbed me while pointing a gun at my face."

"But anyway all right, only took the watch. I'm fine thanks," Castillejo added.

Castillejo and Milan are preparing for the resumption of Italian football following the coronavirus pandemic.

After COVID-19 suspended the 2019-20 season in March, Milan are set to travel to Turin for the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final tie against Juventus on Friday.

Milan and Juventus played out a 1-1 first-leg draw at San Siro in February.

Stefano Pioli's Milan will return to Serie A action against Lecce on June 22, with the Rossoneri seventh in the standings through 26 rounds.

Castillejo, who arrived from Villarreal in 2018, has made 19 appearances in all competitions this season.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.