Zlatan Ibrahimovic joked he is like Benjamin Button after he got his Serie A season started with a double in Milan's 2-0 victory over Bologna.

Ibrahimovic scored a superb header and a fantastic penalty to secure a winning start for Milan, and take his tally of goals for the season to three from two games in all competitions.

The 38-year-old went close to netting a perfect hat-trick with a left-footed effort from a tight angle, though had to settle for a brace which took his total of goal involvements in opening-day fixtures across Europe's top five leagues to 16 in as many appearances.

In typical Ibrahimovic fashion, the former Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United star boasted he would have scored more if he was younger, comparing himself to Benjamin Button, the fictional creation of F. Scott Fitzgerald who ages backwards.

"I am in good shape, I am working, this is the second competitive game of the season," Ibrahimovic told Sky Italia.

"We won and I could've scored more. If I was 20 years old, I'd have scored another two. I am not old, I am like Benjamin Button, I start old and die young!

"Kidding aside, the team worked well, we are not at 100 per cent and therefore made some mistakes we usually avoid, but it bodes well.

"I like having responsibility. The biggest pressure is what I put on myself. I don't want people to talk about my age, I want to be treated at the same level as everyone else. It doesn’t matter if I am 38, I want to be treated like someone aged 20 and do the same work."

Ibrahimovic scored 10 Serie A goals after re-joining Milan in January last season, helping Stefano Pioli's side secure European football, and he said the Rossoneri's target for this campaign is simple.

"The objective is to do better than last season," he added. "The young players are working hard, they listen, they have discipline and after the last six months know what they need to do in order to do well, stay concentrated every day.

"This year, we have to take it one game at a time, play with confidence and treat every match like a cup final."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as Milan started their Serie A campaign with a convincing 2-0 victory over Bologna, who ended Monday's clash at San Siro with 10 men.

Having finished 2019-20 in excellent form, Milan picked up where they left off with Ibrahimovic's double securing their first opening-day win since 2017-18.

The 38-year-old netted in the Europa League against Shamrock Rovers on Thursday and broke the deadlock with an excellent header 35 minutes in.

His second came from the spot six minutes into the second half after Riccardo Orsolini fell foul of VAR and Bologna finished the game with 10 men after Mitchell Dijks saw red in the 88th minute.

Milan played themselves into trouble inside the opening two minutes and were fortunate Roberto Soriano's effort was deflected wide.

Ibrahimovic was inches away from getting off the mark 10 minutes later, before the veteran set up a great chance that Ismael Bennacer blazed over from close range.

Yet Ibrahimovic made no mistake with the next opportunity, directing a brilliant header into the bottom-right corner from Theo Hernandez's cross.

Half-time substitute Alexis Saelemaekers made an immediate impact as he teed up Ibrahimovic, but Lukasz Skorupski made a solid save.

Milan were quickly handed a chance for their second, though, when VAR spotted Orsolini's foul on Bennacer, which had been given as a free-kick, actually took place in the box and Ibrahimovic slammed the penalty high into the right corner.

A perfect hat-trick looked a certainty when Ibrahimovic rounded Skorupski, but the Swede sliced his effort over.

Milan settled for the two-goal cushion and Bologna's frustration was compounded when Dijks received a second booking for a foul on Saelemaekers.


What does it mean? Milan back among the big guns

It has been a difficult string of seasons for Milan but, under Stefano Pioli, they finally look to have rediscovered their verve. With Atalanta (47) not in action until Saturday due to their Champions League exploits at the end of the last term, the Rossoneri – on a 13-match unbeaten run in the top flight – have picked up more points (48) than any other Serie A side in 2020.

Ibrahimovic's opening-day run rolls on

In opening games of a season within the top five European leagues, Ibrahimovic has now been involved in 16 goals in as many appearances, scoring 12 times and providing four assists.

Leaky defence leaves Bologna in bother

After Monday's defeat, Bologna have not kept a clean sheet in any of their past 34 Serie A matches - the longest such run for any team in the competition's history.

What's next?

Norwegian side Bodo/Glimt are Milan's opponents in a Europa League qualifier on Thursday, while Bologna face Parma in Serie A in seven days.

Will Manchester City finally land Kalidou Koulibaly?

Pep Guardiola's City want defensive reinforcements and Napoli centre-back Koulibaly is reportedly at the top of the list.

If they are unsuccessful, Sevilla's Jules Kounde is next on the list.

 

TOP STORY – CITY NOT GIVING UP KOULIBALY

Manchester City are still in talks with Napoli to sign star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

City have been tipped to sign Koulibaly, who has also been linked to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

However, City are yet to reach an agreement with Napoli and Sevilla's Jules Kounde is the "backup option" but a bid has already been turned down.

 

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- Romano says Wolves will complete the signing of Barcelona full-back Nelson Semedo on Monday. It comes as Barca eye Ajax defender Sergino Dest or Real Betis' Emerson to replace Semedo. Norwich City's Max Aarons has also been linked.

Milan have made Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic their number one defensive target ahead of Celtic centre-back Kristoffer Ajer, reports the Daily Record.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are eyeing Real Madrid full-back Marcelo. The Brazilian has been repeatedly linked with a Cristiano Ronaldo reunion in Turin.

- The Telegraph says PSG are interested in Tottenham's Dele Alli. Out of favour under Jose Mourinho, Spurs are reportedly targeting Manchester United's Jesse Lingard as a replacement.

Roma remain interested in Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik but Madrid outcast Luka Jovic has emerged as 'Plan B', according to Calciomercato.

Leeds United are out of the race to sign Dinamo Zagreb sensation Josko Gvardiol, reports Romano. Wanted by Marcelo Bielsa, the Croatian teenager is now set for Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig.

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici confirmed Barcelona star Luis Suarez will not be joining the Serie A champions, while insisting the club are not only eyeing Roma striker Edin Dzeko.

Reportedly told he can leave embattled LaLiga giants Barca, veteran forward Suarez had been heavily linked with Cristiano Ronaldo's Juve following Gonzalo Higuain's move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS.

But a delay in securing an Italian passport for the 33-year-old Uruguay international has scuppered those plans, Paratici confirmed prior to Sunday's season-opening 3-0 win over Sampdoria.

"Suarez can be removed from that list, because the time it takes to get the passport is longer than the transfer deadline or the moment we can hand in the Champions League lists," said Paratici, whose Juve have already filled their non-European quota.

"We evaluated the Suarez option when it was proposed to us. He was in the process of getting Italian citizenship, so we evaluated the possibility of registering him in time.

"It is not possible, so he was never really close."

While Suarez is off the list, Juve – led by rookie head coach Andrea Pirlo – continue to be linked with Roma's Dzeko.

Dzeko's proposed move to Juve is reportedly tied to Roma signing Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik as a replacement in the Italian capital.

Amid uncertainty over this future, Dzeko was an unused substitute in Roma's goalless draw at Hellas Verona on Saturday.

"Let's say there isn't a Dzeko situation, it's a striker situation, as Juventus need a centre-forward," Paratici said as Juve reportedly try to re-sign Moise Kean from Everton. "We know what we want and are working towards that calmly, there are 15 days to go in the transfer window and we're in no rush.

"There are other situations, not just Dzeko. We know what we want. We're working for a striker who can work with Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala.

"At this moment, we are seeking one striker, we have our objectives and will try to pursue them calmly, regardless of the names."

Napoli head coach Gennaro Gattuso acknowledged Kalidou Koulibaly is likely to leave the Serie A club but he would be happy to keep the star defender.

Koulibaly has been strongly linked with Premier League giants Manchester City and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain as Napoli look to raise funds following the club-record signing of Victor Osimhen.

The 29-year-old Koulibaly played as Napoli opened their 2020-21 Serie A season with a 2-0 win at Parma on Sunday and Gattuso hailed the in-demand centre-back, who has also reportedly attracted interest from Manchester United.

"I had no doubts, he is one of the strongest champions in the world in his role," Gattuso said via Sky Sport.

"He has always given me great availability and always trains well. I would be sorry to lose him, both for the man and for the player.

"But you know that numbers are important for clubs and at this moment something needs to be done for numbers, but I'd be happy to keep him."

Osimhen made his debut for Napoli, coming off the bench to inspire the visitors as Dries Mertens and captain Lorenzo Insigne scored against Parma.

Gattuso added: "It's not about numbers, but the principles of football. We know Osimhen is an added bonus, but we need to run before we have quality, because quality is not enough on its own.

"We must set out the team with the right concepts and protect the defence, but we knew that Osimhen could give us another gear in the final 20-25 minutes today.

"Osimhen is a lad who, in the 25 days I've been working with, I can tell doesn't forget where he started from, who made sacrifices, lost his family very young and has the head of a 40-year-old on 21-year-old shoulders.

"I am confident he won't change, as he has a great attitude and at this moment is a better player than he's so far shown on the pitch."

Andrea Pirlo has unleashed the shackles and given Juventus' players a lot more freedom to attack opponents, according to veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci.

Juve replaced Maurizio Sarri with first-time coach Pirlo last month and the legendary midfielder kicked off his tenure with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria in Juve's 2020-21 Serie A opener on Sunday.

Reigning champions Juve registered 20 shots at Allianz Stadium and scored from three of them, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bonucci and debutant Dejan Kulusevski finding the back of the net.

And after a largely disappointing campaign last time out under Sarri, Bonucci believes that Pirlo has already made big changes during his short time in the dugout.

"We saw some new ideas proposed by the coach and his staff, a new way of interpreting the game, a lot of enthusiasm both in possession and off the ball," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"The big difference is the way we are attacking the game and taking the initiative, trying to bring home the result. Seeing the work of the last few weeks and this game, I think it is better.

"There are different movements, as with Sarri we moved far more as a group in defence, whereas with Pirlo we are more one-on-one, giving us more freedom to be aggressive and win back the ball more often.

"We have four central midfielders with the right characteristics to play like this. They are aggressive and also good at passing the ball. That way, we have more quality in possession, which I see as a difference from last season."

Sarri was reportedly sacked by Juventus after failing to win over the dressing room with his style of play, which won him plenty of admirers at Serie A rivals Napoli.

However, Bonucci insisted rumours that the club's old guard forced Sarri out of the door are wide of the mark.

"We accepted any changes made by the club," he said. "This season, the new coach is Pirlo, who changed the way of understanding football that we had last year. 

"It's early to say if it is right or not, but it is different, with a very precise mentality of being aggressive and not wanting to concede goals.

"We had that same attitude last year, because you don't win nine Scudetti in a row without it.

"We're old enough to behave like real professionals. Pirlo is now our coach and we have the utmost respect for all our coaches, just as we try to help all our coaches from within the locker room.

"Fortunately, this is a squad full of great men who are accustomed to working with great champions. That makes it easier for everyone concerned."

Asked if Pirlo reminded him more of Sarri or Massimiliano Allegri – another of his former bosses in Turin – Bonucci said: "Much more similar to Allegri, that is obvious. 

"Pirlo has much the same impact he had as a player - you knew that you could give him the ball and trust he wouldn't lose it. Now it's the same as a coach. There is that same trust."

Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo is aware of the importance of keeping Cristiano Ronaldo fresh and says the superstar forward will decide which games he sits out.

The Portugal international scored late on in Juve's 3-0 victory over Sampdoria at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday as Pirlo's managerial reign got off to a winning start.

He had earlier hit the crossbar and came close from a couple of his other nine efforts prior to finally finding a way past Emil Audero in the 88th minute.

And with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner having recently picked up a toe injury on international duty, Pirlo is keen to closely manage his star player's fitness.

"We are thinking about it and we have talked about it together," he told Sky Sport Italia. "He is not tired at the moment because we have just started the season. But when we come up to less important games, we'll try to give him a rest. 

"He's a very intelligent lad who knows his body very well, so he is aware of when it's time to rest or step it up. When he will play depends on him."

Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici confirmed ahead of kick-off that Barcelona's Luis Suarez is no longer an option in the club's search for a new striker.

With Paulo Dybala missing the opening game through injury and Gonzalo Higuain finalising a move to Inter Miami on Friday, Pirlo is after a particular type of player to bolster his side.

"We'll give it our best. It's about finding the right balance," he said. "Quality players are always welcome, as long as they have the characteristics to bring balance to the team. But we want to use as much of our talent as possible."

Debutant midfielder Dejan Kulusevski netted the first goal of Pirlo's tenure and Leonardo Bonucci was also on target in Turin prior to Ronaldo's clinical finish late on.

Weston McKennie is another who impressed on his first appearance since joining, while Gianluca Frabotta – a surprise starter at left wing-back – also caught the eye.

"Frabotta had a good game. Alex Sandro picked up an injury, so I chose the under-23 lad who is training with us very well," Pirlo said. "I didn't consider it a risk at all to use him.

"McKennie arrived having started pre-season training in Germany, so was in better shape than some others. He made a few errors in his passing, but it was the first game, we can forgive him for that."

Pirlo has worked under some of the game's most influential coaches but vowed to do things his own way in his first managerial job.

"It will take time to get all the various ways of playing together. I don't want to just copy and paste anyone's ideas," he said. "I have my own ideas and want to adapt from the teams that inspired me.

"We haven't had much time, as the pre-season started late and then they were away for international duty. We had only one friendly too, but it was a good debut and we'll keep working on it."

Lionel Messi posted a message to departing Barcelona team-mate Arturo Vidal as the midfielder prepared to join Inter.

Vidal is set to be confirmed as a Nerazzurri player on Monday after the buying club posted updates on his arrival in Italy this weekend.

The 33-year-old, who previously played in Serie A for Juventus, is set for a €1million move after two years at Barca.

Vidal and Luis Suarez are close friends of Blaugrana captain Messi and were reportedly each told they could leave the club by new head coach Ronald Koeman.

Former Bayern Munich man Vidal has secured his exit, while Suarez's situation remains unclear, after Messi failed in his attempts to force through a transfer of his own.

As well as Manchester City, Messi – who wanted to be released from his contract – was linked with Vidal's new employers Inter.

He wrote to the Chilean on Instagram on Sunday: "I only knew you from facing each other and you always seemed like a phenomenon to me, but later I was lucky to meet you personally and you surprised me even more.

"They were two years sharing many things and you made yourself noticed. The dressing room is going to miss you.

"I wish you all the best in this new stage at your new club. We will cross paths again, for sure."

Vidal commented: "Thanks alien! I am proud to have played with the greatest in history and thank you very much for your friendship. I miss you. See you soon."

Vidal was part of the 2018-19 LaLiga title-winning team at Camp Nou and scored 11 goals in 66 league games in total.

A debut goal from Dejan Kulusevski and strikes from Leonardo Bonucci and Cristiano Ronaldo earned Juventus a 3-0 win over Sampdoria in Andrea Pirlo's first game in charge. 

Legendary player Pirlo, appointed in August following the sacking of Maurizio Sarri, saw his reign get off to an impressive start at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday. 

Young midfielder Kulusevski found the net inside 13 minutes and Bonucci added a deserved second for Juve with 12 minutes to play, following up after Weston McKennie's shot was saved. 

Ronaldo, who had earlier hit the crossbar, rounded out the scoring late on after being teed up by Aaron Ramsey, helping the hosts make a bright start to their latest title defence in Serie A.

Arturo Vidal has arrived in Milan ahead of his proposed switch from Barcelona to Inter.

The Chile international, who previously worked with Inter head coach Antonio Conte at Juventus, has spent the past two seasons at Camp Nou.

Vidal featured 43 times for Barca last term but has been deemed surplus to requirements by new Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman and is the third midfielder to depart this window, along with Ivan Rakitic and Arthur.

Inter will reportedly pay €1million plus add-ons for the 33-year-old, who is into the final year of his Barca contract.

The transfer is expected to be formally completed on Monday.

Stefano Pioli has challenged Milan to hit the ground running at the start of the new Serie A season as they aim for a top-four finish.

The Rossoneri finished the 2019-20 campaign impressively, producing a 12-game unbeaten run in the league to rise up to sixth spot, enough to secure Europa League qualification.

Their fine form during the run-in also led to a new contract for Pioli, who acknowledges there will now be added pressure this term.

While a title tilt may be a tall order, the Milan boss revealed his determination to avoid losing ground on their main rivals ahead of Monday's opening fixture against Bologna.

"If we want to finish in the top four, we need to start well," Pioli told the media. "We can't be chasing the whole time.

"Starting with a win is vital, which is why we're focusing on tomorrow's match. The Scudetto? I don't know. It's difficult to give a response at this time."

Milan, who last ended a season in the top four in 2012-13, have added Brahim Diaz and Sandro Tonali to their squad, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic has also signed a new contract to remain at San Siro.

Asked about the rise in expectations following such a strong finish to the previous campaign, Pioli replied: "Being under pressure is a privilege, it means that we've reached a high standard.

"Our objective is to improve on our position last year - we need to be ambitious, we're AC Milan."

Pioli saw his side triumph 2-0 in a Europa League qualifying tie against Shamrock Rovers in midweek, Hakan Calhanoglu playing a starring role.

The Turkey international scored his team's second goal and has built up a strong partnership with Ibrahimovic, who was also on target.

"Calhanoglu is someone who knows how to play on the pitch," Pioli said. "He's developed an important understanding with Ibra, they know how to attack the lines and the space in behind.

"Calhanoglu has lots of quality and is also a selfless player. He has all the cards at his disposal to do well and continue to be a point of reference."

Leicester City have completed the signing of winger Cengiz Under on a season-long loan from Roma.

It is reported Brendan Rodgers' team have paid an initial £2.7million loan fee and hold an option to buy the Turkey international for around £22m.

Under has spent three years with Roma after joining them in 2017 from Istanbul Basaksehir, though he only started 42 Serie A games over that period.

"I can't wait to go to Leicester and start training," Under told his new club's website.

"I've always wanted to play in England and this is a great opportunity to play in the Premier League.

"I will try to help my team-mates on the pitch and off the pitch and I believe that I can improve my performance every day. I think I am fast and can create lots of chances for my colleagues. 

"I feel very good because my best friend plays for Leicester City. I am very happy to be able to play with [Turkey team-mate] Caglar [Soyuncu] and I always watched Leicester's games because of him."

Rodgers had discussed the impending arrival of Under on Friday, stating his belief the 23-year-old will offer something different due to his creativity.

"He's a very good player," Rodgers said. "We need a different type of attacking player. Having watched him, he's clearly a talented player.

"We have pace and power at the top end, but we also need some more football in there.

"We need someone who can beat someone in a one-v-one, we need someone who can break down defences who are organised, when it's tight."

Leicester beat West Brom in their opening Premier League match of the new season and host Burnley on Sunday looking to make it two wins from two.

Liverpool and Wolves could be involved in another deal, while Arsenal's shortlist reportedly includes four players.

Premier League champions Liverpool confirmed the signing of Diogo Jota from Wolves on Saturday, with Ki-Jana Hoever heading in the opposite direction.

But the business between the clubs may not end there.

 

TOP STORY – WOLVES TARGET OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN

Wolves are eyeing a move for Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, according to the Mirror.

The report comes after Liverpool signed star midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich earlier this week.

Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at Anfield from Arsenal in 2017, and made 43 appearances in all competitions in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal could strengthen further. The Express reports the Premier League club have Lyon star Houssem Aouar, Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, Dijon goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson and Brentford shot-stopper David Raya on their shortlist.

- Staying in the Premier League and Goal reports Atletico Madrid attacker Thomas Lemar has interest from two clubs in England's top flight. Arsenal, Wolves and Everton have been linked with Lemar previously.

- Manchester City are reportedly close to signing a centre-back. AS reports the Premier League giants are close to sealing a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde, a 21-year-old who is a France youth international.

- Arturo Vidal is finally set to get his move to Inter. Fabrizio Romano reports Inter have agreed a €1million fee with Barcelona for the midfielder, while he also says veteran defender Diego Godin will join Cagliari next week.

- After almost signing Daniel James in 2019, Leeds United could be set for another move for the attacker. The Sun reports Leeds are planning a move for James, who joined Manchester United in 2019.

- Staying at Old Trafford and another exit is expected. The Sun says the Red Devils are looking for a new club for Sergio Romero with the goalkeeper upset about missing last month's Europa League semi-final loss to Sevilla.

Andrea Pirlo has vowed to prove his doubters wrong at Juventus, demanding "desire and ferocity" from the Italian champions in his first Serie A match in charge. 

The former midfield maestro knows there are questions over his credentials for such a first major coaching job, which he was surprisingly handed when Maurizio Sarri was sacked in August. 

But Pirlo was a prince of a ball-player with Milan, Juventus and Italy, and the 41-year-old says past playing experiences will be reflected in how he now leads a team from pitchside. 

On Sunday, his first test comes when Juve go up against Sampdoria, a team led by the vastly experienced Claudio Ranieri. 

"Doubts? I don't have any," Pirlo said. "Certainties? I'm at Juve, I coach a team of champions, it was easy for me to fit in and I'm fine. 

"I don't have to show the differences with Sarri's Juve: we have the same goals." 

He added: "I carry on my idea of football, which must be aggressive and based on mastery of the game. 

"This period has not changed me; like I was a footballer, I'll be a coach. There are those who speak well of me and those who have doubts, but for me nothing changes: I am sure of what I am doing."

He is clearly talking a good game already, demanding his team show their hunger from day one, but nothing less than another Scudetto will suffice as Juve chase a 10th successive league title. 

New recruit Dejan Kulusevski and veteran Cristiano Ronaldo are set for roving attacking roles as Juventus target a flying start. 

"A new season is beginning, we start from scratch and we'll have to face it with desire and ferocity," Pirlo said. "This is what I'm going to tell the lads tomorrow. We have to start well." 

Pirlo said it was "easy to settle back in" at Juventus, five years after he left for a playing stint with New York City FC. 

Experienced former team-mates Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Gianluigi Buffon are "behaving very professionally", Pirlo said. 

"They call me 'Coach', out of respect for their team-mates as well," Pirlo said, speaking in Saturday's pre-match news conference. 

Swedish winger Kulusevski, so impressive for Parma last season, is primed for his Juventus debut and the 20-year-old will be expected to show flexibility within the team. 

Pirlo said: "Kulusevski is an intelligent player. He finds space by himself and is showing a lot of openness to play in different roles. 

"We are inventing something. Neither Ronaldo nor Kulusevski will start central, they will move and rotate."

Davide Zappacosta and Marko Pjaca have joined Genoa on loan from Chelsea and Juventus respectively.

Zappacosta, 28, spent last term in Serie A with Roma but made only nine league appearances, having suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury while in the capital.

The right-back joined the Blues in 2017, yet, having featured regularly across his debut campaign, he earned just one Premier League start in his second term.

He appears to have fallen down the pecking order under Frank Lampard following the emergence of Reece James, but is under contract until 2022.

Winger Pjaca, 25, has been at Juventus since 2016 after signing on a five-year deal from Dinamo Zagreb.

However, the Croatian has failed to establish himself in the Bianconeri's first team – for whom he last played a Serie A game in March 2017 – and his spell at Genoa will be his latest loan away from the club after stints with Schalke, Fiorentina and Anderlecht.

Genoa, who finished 17th in Serie A last season and narrowly avoided relegation, begin the new campaign at home to Crotone on Sunday.

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