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.

As a kid, Dejan Kulusevski always appeared to have something special about him.

This quality didn't lend itself to a brash, arrogant personality, rather his self-belief reflected a quiet confidence, a humble attitude.

While the young Swedish winger might have started the 2019-20 season as something of an unknown quantity for many as he began a loan spell with Parma, to those who know him best he has been on the path to excellence for a long time.

A product of Brommapojkarna's academy, Kulusevski's ambition – and ability – had seen him stand out way before he secured a move to Atalanta soon after his 16th birthday in July 2016.

Four years on, Kulusevski is a Juventus player, having cost an initial €35million, and preparing for his first competitive match with the Bianconeri on Sunday, as Sampdoria visit Turin.

A lot has changed in such a short period, but those who have been key to his development are adamant Kulusevski has the character to cope.

A quest for personal improvement

Roland Nilsson, now Sweden's Under-21 coach, has worked with Kulusevski since he was just 15. "I worked with him with the Under-16s and I could see he was a very good player," he told Stats Perform News. "We knew straight away that clubs from abroad had been there watching and I could understand why.

"It was one of those where it was always decided [moving abroad early]. When he talked about moving to Italy, that was his thing, to progress as a footballer and educate himself in the long run, not the short term. He needed to go somewhere to educate himself, he knew it would be hard and he knew the work that needed to be put in was his own."

Kulusevski moved to Bergamo alone to live in club-arranged accommodation, taking him completely out of his comfort zone and away from everything he knew – but his mentality had already set him apart from others.

"It was going to be tough but his mind was set to do the job and being focused on it, which has been a strength of his through the years," Nilsson continued. "You're always surprised when it goes that quickly [for a player], but at the same time, with the skills he has, his mental strength as well and the awareness of what he needs to be doing, those are the key things for him, and the work rate he puts in on the pitch shows he's serious about what he's doing."

Andreas Engelmark, first-team assistant and technical director at Brommapojkarna, has known Kulusevski even longer, first coaching him in 2012 when the tricky winger – then just 12 – played in the year above his age group. The pair even trained together during the coronavirus pandemic.

"He's an easy guy to work with because he's always going to give you everything," Engelmark told Stats Perform News. "His mindset is very strong, he was confident he was going to make it back then and I think he's confident he's going to do well now. All players have doubt in themselves at times, but his mindset – he believes in himself but at the same time is humble."

'He has everything necessary to be a success'

There was never any doubt about Kulusevski's ability – technically gifted and a fine dribbler, but he wasn't without fault, as Engelmark explained: "The first time I coached him I was like, 'this guy has a great skill set but he's not working hard enough, not defending, he needs to use his team-mates more'."

Engelmark found a player receptive to such feedback and always willing to learn, taking criticism on board and using it to further himself, which subsequently improved him individually and the team.

"His work rate got higher and higher, but when we played good opponents he worked even harder," Engelmark continued. "In the last six months to a year with me, I think something happened – he started working harder than everyone else. He was our best player offensively, but he was also the guy who worked the most."

Nilsson also noticed that improvement. "He knows that has been a bit of his weakness before, but he's taken that along with everything else and that's what he shows today – he does everything up and down [the wing]."

 

Such observations are backed up by the fact Kulusevski managed 5.25 ball recoveries and 4.22 dribbles per 90 minutes last term, both well above the respective averages for his position (4.1 and 0.92).

Kulusevski has just a single full season of Serie A experience under hit belt, though there was a maturity to his performances while on loan at Parma last term that belies his fledgling status.

With 10 goals and eight assists in Serie A, he was the youngest player across Europe's top five leagues to reach at least eight in both metrics and the first foreign under-21 talent to net 10 times in Italy's top flight since 2012-13.

Similarly, of all players in Europe's top five leagues to accumulate 15 goal involvements in 2019-20, only Erling Haaland was younger – by three months – than Kulusevski.

Nevertheless, Engelmark feels Kulusevski will be challenged by transitioning – both mentality and performance-wise – from the expectations he has previously experienced, to those at perennial-winners Juventus.

"He has everything necessary to be a success at that level, but what will be interesting is his consistency," he mused. "At Parma obviously his team-mates were good, but not top-level like at Juve now. At Parma they were defending a lot and they get out on the counter, so obviously he can go in and out of the game and it doesn't really matter.

"For them, dominating isn't so important, it's about being smart and taking your chances, but at Juventus obviously they dominate teams, so it'll be important to be consistent for 90 minutes and be involved more."

Kulu the craftsman

With Parma, Kulusevski was one of the revelations of the 2019-20 season, his creative talents earmarking him as among the best.

His 78 key passes worked out at 2.17 per match, more than double the average for players in his position (1.02). In turn, he averaged 0.22 assists every 90 minutes, but the norm for others in similar roles was 0.09.

One of Kulusevski's most obvious strengths is his ability on the ball, with his close control aided by the fact he is strong on both feet (four goals came with his weaker right foot).

He completed 77 dribbles last season, 2.14 every 90 minutes, which is also a major increase on the 0.92 average for Kulusevksi's position.

Similarly, the young Swede proved himself a notable threat in front of goal. While players in comparable roles would expect 0.35 shots on target every game, Kulusevski's record was 0.72.

As Engelmark noted, one of the main differences for Kulusevski this term will be the change from playing in a team used to being on the back foot to one generally in the ascendancy.

He appears to have the all-round capabilities to be a real asset, particularly given his attacking output was excellent for a middling team, but maintaining that and producing consistently under greater pressure will be a new challenge.

For players of a certain age and skill set, there can be a tendency to go overboard when attempting to establish themselves, and Nilsson's advice is to take belief in what has gone before.

"I would say, go out and play the way as you've done before, not 'over-proving' for everyone else that he's a good player. They know he is good, but you need to show everyone else that you are, and when you move to a team like Juve you need to show up."

The special attributes he has shown since he was a kid will stand Kulusevski in good stead, but arguably the vital element will be his mentality – Nilsson and Engelmark appear in no doubt this all-action winger will leave no stone unturned in his quest to reach the top.

Liverpool's transfer activity is ramping up.

After securing the services of Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota is reportedly next on the list.

Could there be more arrivals?

 

TOP STORY – JOTA LIVERPOOL BOUND

Premier League champions Liverpool are set to complete the signing of Wolves star Diogo Jota, according to Goal.

Liverpool announced the arrival of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich on Friday as they look to retain their Premier League crown in 2020-21.

Now, Jurgen Klopp's men are poised to bring former Atletico Madrid forward Jota to Anfield amid widespread speculation.

 

ROUND-UP

- RMC claims Porto full-back Alex Telles has agreed terms with Manchester United over a five-year deal. However, Paris Saint-Germain are also considering a move for the 27-year-old Brazilian following Juan Bernat's knee injury.

- Liverpool have enquired about Schalke star Ozan Kabak, reports Chris Williams. Bundesliga strugglers Schalke are reluctant to sell the 20-year-old centre-back.

Atletico Madrid are finalising a deal for Bayern Munich utility Javier Martinez, says Marca. Martinez played for Athletic Bilbao before joining Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern in 2012.

- The Daily Mail claims Manchester City are eyeing Sevilla defender Jules Kounde as an alternative to Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly. Pep Guardiola's City have been tipped to sign Koulibaly, though they have struggled to find an agreement with Napoli as PSG reportedly circle.

Milan have overtaken Barcelona in the race to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Sky Italia. Tipped to reunite with former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman at Barca, Depay could now join Milan in a swap deal involving Lucas Paqueta.

- The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo says Barca are looking to sell Nelson Semedo to fund new arrivals, with Ajax sensation and Bayern target Sergino Dest, City defender Eric Garcia and Depay wanted.

- Goal confirmed Juventus are working to bring Everton forward Moise Kean back to Turin in addition to signing Roma's Edin Dzeko. Juve are interested in a loan deal, though Everton are asking for a permanent transfer or loan with an obligation to buy.

Juventus' faltering end to their Serie A campaign saw Inter finish just one point behind the Bianconeri in 2019-20.

Antonio Conte's side had looked like genuine title challengers in the first half of the season, yet a poor run pre-lockdown saw them all but fall out of contention before a late charge – combined with Juve's inconsistencies – made things tight after the title was already wrapped up.

Yet heading into Conte's second season, there should be genuine optimism at San Siro.

Inter may have failed to win the Europa League – going down to serial champions Sevilla in the final – but with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, along with some promising new additions, they look all set for a strong title tilt this time around.

Juve, under the tutelage of Andrea Pirlo in the wake of Maurizio Sarri's sacking, still have the Cristiano Ronaldo factor, though there is a feeling the club's dominance of Serie A may finally be waning. 

Using Opta data, we take a look at what Inter need to improve on if they are to seriously challenge in 2020-21.

CONTE'S SECOND-SEASON SYNDROME

Despite Inter's second-placed finish in Serie A, there was some doubt that Conte would in fact remain their head coach heading into this season.

Indeed, in early August – prior to the final stages of the Europa League taking place in Germany – Conte told DAZN: "There's no recognition of the work I've done, and I've found very little protection from the club. None whatsoever. There will be things to discuss with the president, but he's in China right now..."

However, Conte has stayed, and will look to build on a promising first campaign.

Inter's haul of 82 points last season was their best tally in Serie A since 2009-10. It also meant Inter were the eighth side since 1994-95 to not win the Scudetto after managing 82 points or more.

Yet with the last two club teams Conte has coached, there has been a decline in his second campaign.

In Conte's first season at Juve in 2011-12, his side won the Serie A title without losing a game – Ilario Castagner and Fabio Capello were the only coaches to have previously managed this in Italy's top flight.

Juve lost five times in Serie A in 2012-13 but still won the title, and there was a similar story at Chelsea. The Blues won the Premier League with 93 points in 2016-17, losing only five games, but in Conte's second term, Chelsea finished fifth, losing on 10 occasions.

If Inter truly are to go one step further than last season, then Conte will need to avoid any noticeable dip.

THE STAR STRIKERS

Ronaldo's 31 Serie A goals ultimately proved the difference for Juve last season, with the 35-year-old turning in more match-winning moments.

Valuable support also came from Juve's other main forward, Paulo Dybala, who netted 11 goals and provided six assists.

Conte, on the other hand, often complained over a lack of clinical finishing from his side at times last term, though Lukaku and Martinez more than did their fair share.

They scored a combined 37 goals – Lukaku netting 23 and Martinez 14 – providing two and three assists respectively.

It was still five fewer goals than Ronaldo and Dybala accumulated, though, while Juve's strike partners also boasted better link-up statistics.

In total, Dybala found Ronaldo 121 times across the campaign, crafting 31 chances for his team-mate – compare that with Martinez creating just 11 for Lukaku.

Ronaldo did not fully return the favour, with only nine chances created for Dybala by the former Real Madrid star, while Lukaku provided 14 chances for Martinez.

MORE CLEAN SHEETS REQUIRED

Inter ended the 2019-20 season with the best defence in Serie A, conceding only 36 goals, but that does not tell the whole story.

Conte's side managed just 14 clean sheets across the campaign – since 2004-05, only Juve, in 2019-20, have won Serie A with fewer than 15 shut outs.

In Milan Skriniar, Conte has a commanding centre-half who is not yet near his prime, while Diego Godin - if he stays - is a reliable older head and Stefan de Vrij has impressed, but as a unit they were sometimes liable to defensive lapses which, in matches where Inter's strike force failed to make the most of their opportunities, ultimately cost the Nerazzurri.

Under the guidance of Conte from 2011 to 2014, Juve kept 21, 19 and 22 clean sheets respectively in those three seasons.

SAN SIRO TROUBLES?

Inter were outstanding away from home in Serie A last season, collecting more points on the road than any other side (43), winning 13 matches, drawing four times and losing just twice.

They were only the second club with 13 or more away wins in a single campaign to not win the title, after Napoli, who did so in both 2016-17 and 2017-18.

However, it was a different story at home, where the Nerazzurri picked up just 39 points – 11 less than Juve's total of 50.

Inter must improve their efficiency at San Siro if they are to end Juve's dominance of Italian football, as no Scudetto-winning side has ever claimed the title with fewer than 13 wins at home since 20 teams have been in the top flight.

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