Gennaro Gattuso insists Gonzalo Higuain started AC Milan's Supercoppa Italiana defeat to Juventus on the bench due to a fever, as speculation on the striker's future continues to mount.

Higuain has been tipped to link up with his former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea during the transfer window.

Those rumours were exacerbated when he did not partake in a team photo with Saudi prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal ahead of the Supercoppa contest in Jeddah, which Juve won 1-0 thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo's header.

Argentina striker Higuain came off the bench with just under 20 minutes remaining and Milan head coach Gattuso is adamant that illness, and not a potential departure, was behind his thinking.

"He's unlucky at the moment. He had a fever last night," Gattuso told Rai Sport. 

"We did everything to get him better, but he didn't play much, so I preferred a fresher player.

"It might seem like a joke, but honestly, it's true. Higuain wasn't in the picture when the Saudi Prince came to visit because I was afraid the virus would spread among the other players, so that was my decision."

Pressed on the issue, Gattuso added: "I've got a burning inside me, we have 25 players, so let's not talk about this now.

"We lick our wounds and will see what happens tomorrow."

On the match itself, which saw Milan finish with 10 men following a red card for Franck Kessie, Gattuso felt his team battled well.

"The team showed character and fought hard against a great opponent," he said. 

"The performance remains, but there are always regrets when losing a final."

Massimiliano Allegri says Cristiano Ronaldo was signed exactly for the kind of match-winning impact he made for Juventus against AC Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana.

In a contest that lacked fast tempo for large parts, Ronaldo headed home the decisive goal in the 61st minute to seal a 1-0 triumph in Jeddah.

Franck Kessie was later sent off for Milan, as Ronaldo was able to celebrate a first trophy since joining from Real Madrid in a €112million deal from Real Madrid.

Juve boss Allegri hailed Ronaldo's impact and performance of the team on the whole, even though he felt his side could have been a bit more clinical.

"We signed Cristiano Ronaldo because he is decisive and scores big goals," he told Rai Sport.

"He scored a great goal and moved very well, but the whole team put in a good performance.

"There were a few too many counter-attacks - we should've had more moves like the [Paulo] Dybala disallowed goal. 

"Instead, we kept trying to move it around too quickly and allowed Milan some counters, forcing us to sprint back."

Douglas Costa left the pitch in a gingerly fashion late in the game, but Allegri moved to allay any injury fears.

"It was just cramp, he played a good game," Allegri added. "These players know what it means to sacrifice.

"I admire above all the spirit and professionalism of this team, as those who came off the bench even if only for a few minutes had the right attitude and determination to make a difference.

"That's what we need going forward this season."

Massimiliano Allegri says Cristiano Ronaldo was signed exactly for the kind of match-winning impact he made for Juventus against AC Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana.

Cristiano Ronaldo insists Juventus are only just getting started after his header was enough to win the Supercoppa Italiana in a 1-0 triumph over AC Milan.

The prolific forward made the breakthrough just after the hour in Jeddah, with Milan's task made even more difficult by a late sending off for Franck Kessie.

It marks the first medal Ronaldo has won as a Juve player since he joined from Real Madrid in a €112million deal in the close season and the Portugal star hopes this is the beginning of bigger and better things.

Speaking to Rai Sport, he said: "It was a very difficult match, it's very warm and hard to play in these conditions.

"We played well, created a lot of chances and obviously I am happy to have scored the winning goal.

"It was my intention to start 2019 with a trophy, I have my first title with Juve and I am very happy.

"But it is only the start, we will take it one step at a time. We've got this trophy, now we must keep working hard to achieve the next one."

Even though Serie A is only at its halfway stage it seems inevitable that Ronaldo will add Italy's top-flight title to his medal haul with Juve unbeaten and nine points clear of second-place Napoli.

But Ronaldo is refusing to rest on his laurels in his bid to win major honours with Juve.

"Serie A is always Juve's main objective," he added. 

"We are top of the table, but it's a very long tournament and it's going to be tough, so we need to keep working."

Cristiano Ronaldo's goal proved decisive as Juventus defeated 10-man AC Milan 1-0 to win the Supercoppa Italiana in Jeddah.

Gonzalo Higuain was named on the bench for Wednesday's Supercoppa Italiana clash between AC Milan and Juventus amid reports he will leave the Rossoneri during the transfer window.

Higuain's future at San Siro has been subject to intense speculation with a reunion with former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea said to be in the offing.

Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso insisted the striker had not asked to leave during January, but he did not name the 31-year-old in his starting line-up in Saudi Arabia.

Instead, Milan opted for Patrick Cutrone in attack with Lucas Paqueta handed only his second appearance since arriving from Flamengo.

Cristiano Ronaldo starts up front for Juve, with Paulo Dybala and Douglas Costa in support after Mario Mandzukic was ruled out for four months with a knee injury.

Rodrigo Bentancur is preferred to Sami Khedira in midfield, while Joao Cancelo returns from a knee injury at full-back.

 

Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo has developed into the "perfect machine", according to AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso.

Gennaro Gattuso insists Gonzalo Higuain has not asked to leave AC Milan but would not feel let down if the striker did move elsewhere.

Higuain joined Milan on loan from Juventus in August for a fee of €18million with an option to buy him outright at the end of the season.

However, the move has not panned out as expected, with Higuain scoring only six times in 15 Serie A appearances for Gattuso's men.

He ended a run of nine games without a goal, which featured a missed penalty and a red card against Juve in November, last month but has been heavily linked with a reunion with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea.

There have been reports Higuain could be dropped for Wednesday's Supercoppa Italiana clash with Juve ahead of a move to Stamford Bridge.

But Gattuso told a media conference: "I base my decisions on how players train during the week and how they work with the staff and their team-mates.

"At this moment, I have to repeat the same words: there are many rumours, but Higuain is training well, working with everyone just fine and is at our disposal.

"We'll see tomorrow whether he plays or not. He has to decide what to do, how to resolve this issue, but right now he is training with great professionalism. We'll see.

"If he plays, it's because I see him in good shape and relaxed. Either he's a great actor or he's really within the team, is always chatting and kidding with his team-mates.

"I agree that after the missed penalty and red card against Juventus, something happened in his head. We'll see tomorrow. As I said, it's not easy for a coach to change the idea of a player, so I have to concentrate on putting out the best line-up for the situation and getting the best out of every player.

"I want to reiterate that Higuain has never told me he wants to leave. I am waiting for that.

"I want to be honest, I didn't even want to talk about Higuain, as we're here for the Supercoppa. That seemed the fair thing to do for a team.

"I am not upset. I too was a player for many years, I realise there are moments when we all see things differently and cannot judge how someone else thinks.

"If the glass is half-full or half-empty, it remains the same glass. We'll see what happens. I want to see this Supercoppa, I hope it is a great game for us, but I won't be upset or let down if he goes."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri believes their Supercoppa Italiana clash with AC Milan will serve as practice for the knockout rounds of the Champions League as they bid to avoid a repeat of recent disappointment in the annual showpiece. 

The Bianconeri, again runaway leaders in the Scudetto race, take on the team they beat 4-0 in last season's Coppa Italia final in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Despite having won both Serie A and the Coppa Italia in each of the previous three seasons, Juve have failed to triumph in the Supercoppa in three of the last four years and lost to Milan on penalties in 2016. 

"It's difficult to figure out why, as we lost both on penalties to Napoli and Milan. I hope tomorrow will be different and that we can be more concentrated," Allegri said on Tuesday.

"There are 22 points separating the teams in Serie A, but those don't matter here and it'll be an important test for us. We must learn that playing a one-off match is different to a league situation.

"The main hope is that we don't go to extra time, as we want to get it done within 90 minutes. This is good practice to prepare for elimination rounds."

Juve will face Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League as they bid to win the competition for the first time since 1996.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who joined from Real Madrid in a €112million move in July, has lifted that trophy five times in his glittering career.

Asked if Ronaldo has brought a winning mentality to Juve, Allegri replied: "He'd have to win something first to prove that. Cristiano is accustomed to winning, he has won four of the last five Champions Leagues and many more trophies.

"Ronaldo is the best player in the world and an added bonus for us. The situation has certainly improved with his presence, although Juve already had great strikers.

"However, let's not forget that Juve have played two Champions League finals in the last four years and they were against what at the time were the best teams in the world. When it comes to that tournament, you need good luck too.

"The Scudetto is one of our objectives, as are the Coppa Italia, the Supercoppa and the Champions League. We want to reach the end of the season with as many trophies as possible."

Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey is reportedly poised to agree a deal to join Juve at the end of the season. However, Allegri refused to talk about the Wales international.

"I won't talk about the transfer market, because Ramsey is an Arsenal player and I cannot discuss him at all," he said. "The Juventus squad is fine as it is."

Cristiano Ronaldo's absence is still keenly felt at Real Madrid, according to William Carvalho, who would not have sold him even for €200million.

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri saluted Leonardo Spinazzola for a commendable debut in Saturday's 2-0 Coppa Italia win over Bologna.

Left-back Spinazzola returned to Juve in pre-season following a spate of loan spells away from the Italian champions.

Spinazzola's most recent loan assignment with Atalanta over the previous two seasons saw the Italian impress, and it was decided he would be brought back to the club to offer competition for Alex Sandro.

But the 25-year-old had injury problems in the second half of last season and was out between May and October after surgery on a serious knee issue.

The win at Bologna was his first official game for Juve and Allegri was impressed.

"He had an excellent match," Allegri told reporters. "It was good for his first game back.

"He's an important player for us, so he's still at Juventus, also because of the injury to Juan Cuadrado, we have to have four full-backs.

"At the moment, we have evaluated it is the best solution for him to stay with us."

Eighteen-year-old striker Moise Kean got the clinching goal on Saturday, his first of the season since returning from his loan spell at Hellas Verona.

The young striker burst on to the scene at Juve the season before last, but is yet to really explode in a Bianconeri shirt – Allegri urged patience.

"Kean is a young boy who has to be allowed to grow up," Allegri said. "Unfortunately, in Italy everything is wanted right away, then they burn, we lose him years.

"He's a Juventus first-team player, he's a guy who can help us. [On Saturday] he scored, but he's a guy who always has goals when he plays, so it's his quality."

Defending champions Juventus sailed into the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia thanks to a straightforward 2-0 win at Bologna on Saturday, Federico Bernardeschi and Moise Kean getting the goals.

Massimiliano Allegri rested several first-team regulars, such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, but still Juve were a class above and in complete control throughout, sealing victory without truly exerting themselves.

A goalkeeping howler allowed Bernardeschi to give the visitors the upper hand with just nine minutes on the clock and it looked a long way back from there even so early on for Bologna.

Kean, 18, wrapped things up soon after the break thanks to a poacher's finish, his first goal of the season, and Juve eased into the last eight in pursuit of a fifth consecutive Coppa title. 

Relegation-threatened Bologna gifted the Serie A leaders an early breakthrough – goalkeeper Angelo Da Costa colliding with Arturo Calabresi and dropping the ball for Bernardeschi on the edge of the box, with the winger subsequently converting.

Leonardo Bonucci was the next to go close, meeting Bernardeschi's corner with a header in the 29th minute, but on this occasion Da Costa managed to hold on to the ball.

Juve increased their advantage just after the interval as Kean reacted quickest after Douglas Costa's shot had been blocked, the young forward coolly prodding into the bottom-right corner from eight yards.

Kean was then withdrawn for Ronaldo just past the hour, though the Portugal star was unable to make the score even more comfortable, with Bologna limiting the damage in the latter stages.

 

What does it mean? Kean takes his chance

After being loaned out to Hellas Verona last season, first-team opportunities have been hard to come by for Kean, who has made only one top-flight appearance. He was not exactly a constant threat to the Bologna defence, but he had one clear-cut opportunity and took it. You cannot ask for much more than that.

Bernardeschi a nuisance in attack

No one was truly spectacular for Juve, but Bernardeschi put in a strong shift in attack, working hard off the ball while creating a few chances and getting himself a goal.

Da Costa error costly

Bologna's goalkeeper Da Costa made that woeful mistake for the opening goal and never really made amends, looking shaky on other occasions as well. A day to forget for him.

What's next?

Juve face a trip to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday for their Supercoppa Italiana clash with AC Milan, before returning to Serie A action five days later at home to Chievo. Bologna, who sit 18th, travel to SPAL next Sunday.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri believes a fear of making decisions is to blame for Italy's failure to stamp out racism in football.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insists Cristiano Ronaldo is "serene" despite a warrant for his DNA amid the ongoing investigation into a rape allegation.

American Kathryn Mayorga has accused Ronaldo of sexually assaulting her in a hotel in Las Vegas in 2009, something the Portugal captain has strenuously refuted.

German publication Der Spiegel first reported the claims, which also included the suggestion Ronaldo paid Ms Mayorga $375,000 in 2010 as part of a privacy agreement, preventing her from going public with the allegations. Ms Mayorga filed a lawsuit in an attempt to quash that agreement, while Las Vegas police have re-opened an investigation.

Ronaldo's lawyer Peter Christiansen confirmed the payment was made to Ms Mayorga, but said some documents presented as evidence had been "stolen" and "completely fabricated", while the Juventus forward described rape as an "abominable crime" in an October statement he issued to "firmly deny" the accusations.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Las Vegas police had requested a sample of Ronaldo's DNA, and after Christiansen insisted this was a "very standard request", Allegri believes his key player is calm.

"It's his personal question, I talk about football," Allegri told reporters ahead of Saturday's Coppa Italia clash with Bologna.

"I can tell you that I saw him very serene, he is training well. It has been a very tight four months, now we need to work to play better in the 36 potential games we have left.

"I see Cristiano peaceful and calm, I go on that. For the rest, it is not for me to answer because they are private affairs."

Saturday's trip to Bologna is Juve's first game back after the mid-season break and it was put to Allegri that he might opt to carefully "manage" Ronaldo's playing time in the second half of the campaign.

"Until now, he has never gone to the national team [while at Juve]," Allegri said. "The six games that he spared with Portugal he has then played them in the league with us, so he played more or less the same matches last year.

"As we move forward, I will manage the condition of all in order to try to arrive at the end of all the objectives well. He [Ronaldo] will play on Saturday, but let's see how and when."

Cristiano Ronaldo's lawyer Peter Christiansen insisted a warrant for the Juventus superstar's DNA is a "very standard request" amid the ongoing investigation into a rape allegation.

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