Milan head coach Stefano Pioli dismissed growing speculation he could be replaced by Ralf Rangnick at the end of the season after overseeing a 4-1 rout of Lecce.

Samu Castillejo, Giacomo Bonaventura, Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao were on target as Milan marked their Serie A return with a demolition away to Lecce on Monday.

Milan are only adrift of the final Europa League spot – occupied by sixth-placed Napoli – on goal difference through 27 games, but Pioli could still be axed at season's end.

Rangnick, who is now head of sport and development for Red Bull – the group which owns RB Leipzig, is tipped to combine the jobs of head coach and sporting director at Milan in 2020-21.

Asked about the rumours, Milan boss Pioli told Sky Sport Italia post-match: "I am not interested in what is being said.

"I am happy with the team, I worked from the start with passion and competence, then the future will be decided at the end of the season."

Milan played their first Serie A match since the coronavirus-enforced break, having returned to the pitch for the Coppa Italia semi-final against Juventus on June 12.

Castillejo put Milan ahead in the 26th minute but Lecce equalised through Marco Mancosu's penalty after Matteo Gabbia fouled fellow substitute Khouma Babacar.

Giacomo Bonaventura and Ante Rebic, who was sent off against Juve in the Coppa Italia, struck in the next three minutes to put Milan out of reach.

Milan substitute Leao put the result beyond doubt in the 72nd minute as the Rossoneri returned to seventh after Hellas Verona and Parma moved above them at the weekend.

"We played well against an opponent that preferred to sit back and wait for us to come forward, so we needed the spaces to open up," Pioli said.

"Lecce had an opportunity to get back into it with the equaliser, but we managed to get straight back out in front. It's an important victory, we needed the points and this boost.

"The objective has to be European qualification and catching up to those in front of us in the table. Roma seem quite far away, but then there is the head-to-head on Sunday. There are many points up for grabs in 11 rounds and we've got to try."

Juventus director Fabio Paratici said Arthur has to be "convinced" about swapping Barcelona for Turin after confirming negotiations with the LaLiga champions.

Arthur has been at the centre of a possible swap deal involving Juve midfielder Miralem Pjanic, though the Barca star is reportedly unwilling to leave Camp Nou.

Paratici provided an update on the situation prior to Juve's 2-0 victory over Bologna in Serie A on Monday.

"We have spoken frequently with Barcelona, but at this moment all the teams are playing important games, so we preferred to bypass this period," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

"It's not about June 30, before or after, but about finding an agreement between the various parties, and both players have to be convinced. Therefore, it's not an issue about dates."

Arthur joined Spanish giants Barca from boyhood Brazilian club Gremio in 2018.

The 23-year-old, who impressed in his maiden campaign, has made 26 appearances and scored four goals in all competitions this season.

Juve's Pjanic – in Turin since leaving rivals Roma in 2016 – has featured in 35 matches in 2019-20.

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri said criticism of the Serie A champions was "excessive" after his team resumed their league campaign in winning fashion.

Juve marked their return to Serie A action following the coronavirus-enforced break with a 2-0 victory over Bologna at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on Monday.

The spotlight had been on Juve after their penalty shoot-out defeat to Napoli in the Coppa Italia final last week – pressure building on Sarri and the Italian giants.

But first-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala ensured Juve bounced back to move four points clear of second-placed Lazio, who have a game in hand against Atalanta on Wednesday.

"In football and in life there are opinions and there are facts," Sarri told Sky Sport Italia following Juve's first top-flight fixture since March 8.

"If you listened to the opinions, you'd think this team was falling to pieces. If you look at the facts, we're top of the table.

"The criticism was excessive and that can act as motivation for us to get back in shape mentally even more than physically, which might take a little longer."

"Having top level individual players means they can resolve the game for you at times," said Sarri, who had substitute full-back Danilo sent off in stoppage time.

"But we need to put the whole team in a situation where they can give their best, but also that we can continue working when the star names are either absent or off form.

"It's inevitable they will have some days when they're not as sharp, we need other options."

Sarri added: "We were sharper physically tonight, as we kept up the tempo and intensity for 70 minutes, whereas in the Coppa we fell away after 20-30 minutes."

Juve welcome lowly Lecce to Turin on Friday.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo overtook Rui Costa to become the leading Portuguese scorer in Serie A history on Monday.

Ronaldo slotted a first-half penalty down the middle in Juve's 2-0 win over Bologna, a result that saw the Bianconeri move four points clear at the top of the table.

The goal was Ronaldo's 22nd in Serie A this season, one more than the 21 he managed in his debut campaign in Turin following his move from Real Madrid in 2018.

In reaching 43 goals, the 35-year-old also moved beyond Rui Costa as the Portuguese player with the most goals in Italy's top flight.

Rui Costa spent eight years in Serie A, playing for Fiorentina and then Milan between 1994 and 2006.

Former Manchester United star Ronaldo remains the top Portuguese scorer in Premier League history having scored 84 times in 196 appearances.

He is the also the leading Portuguese scorer in LaLiga history having registered 311 goals in 292 appearances for Real Madrid, where he is the all-time leading scorer.

Only Ronaldo's great personal rival Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has scored more LaLiga goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo was on target as Juventus marked their return to Serie A action with a 2-0 win over Bologna at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara on Monday.

Maurizio Sarri's side shrugged off the disappointment of their Coppa Italia final defeat to Napoli last week, Ronaldo setting them on their way from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute in their first top-flight game since March 8.

Dybala added a superb second before half-time, whipping into the top corner from outside the penalty area, while Ronaldo and Federico Bernardeschi came close to adding further goals after the interval before Danilo was sent off in stoppage time.

The result moves the reigning champions four points clear of Lazio at the Serie A summit, although Simone Inzaghi's side will have the chance to cut the gap back to one point when they travel to Atalanta on Wednesday.

Juve started on the front foot, with Ronaldo forcing Lukasz Skorupski into a smart stop inside the opening 10 minutes.

The forward got the better of the Bologna goalkeeper midway through the opening period, though, slotting down the middle from the penalty spot after a VAR review deemed that Stefano Denswil pulled Matthijs de Ligt's shirt from a corner.

The visitors doubled their advantage in sumptuous style nine minutes before the break, Dybala sweeping into the top corner from 20 yards after a superb backheeled flick by Bernardeschi.

Ronaldo prodded wide shortly after the restart when clean through, while Bernardeschi crashed a 20-yard effort against the post moments later.

Juve were content to play out the second half at a pedestrian pace, though a Ronaldo effort fizzed past the post.

Ronaldo then saw a late strike ruled out for offside, while substitute Danilo received his marching orders in stoppage time after picking up a second booking for a foul on Musa Juwara.

 

What does it mean? Bianconeri back to their best

Juve had failed to score in both of their Coppa Italia matches since returning to action following the lengthy absence caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

They were back to their ruthless best against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side, however, putting the game to bed by half-time thanks to Ronaldo and a sublime strike from Dybala.

Dybala too hot to handle

The Argentina international was a handful for the Bologna defence throughout, bamboozling them with incisive movement and an array of smart touches. His eighth league goal of the season was one to savour.

Bologna rue Denswil's lapse

The hosts' hard work keeping Juve at bay was undone by a moment of madness from Denswil. His tug on De Ligt's shirt was unnecessary and proved costly when Ronaldo put away the penalty.

What's next?

Sarri's side host struggling Lecce on Friday, while Bologna travel to Sampdoria on Sunday.

Milan marked their return to Serie A action with an eventually comfortable 4-1 win over Lecce at the Via del Mare on Monday.

Samu Castillejo put the Rossoneri ahead in the 26th minute but Lecce equalised through Marco Mancosu's penalty after Matteo Gabbia fouled fellow substitute Khouma Babacar.

However, Giacomo Bonaventura and Ante Rebic, who was sent off in the Coppa Italia semi-final exit at the hands of Juventus on June 12, struck in the next three minutes to put Milan out of reach.

Substitute Rafael Leao put the result beyond doubt in the 72nd minute as the Rossoneri returned to seventh after Hellas Verona and Parma moved above them at the weekend.

Milan found Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel in good form during the opening 25 minutes, the Brazilian denying Bonaventura, Castillejo and Theo Hernandez.

There was little Gabriel could do when Castillejo instinctively steered Hakan Calhanoglu's drilled, low cross into the bottom-left corner for his first Serie A goal since April 2019, though.

Lecce were allowed back into the game and Biagio Meccariello had a goal ruled out for a narrow offside.

Babacar replaced Gianluca Lapadula for the second half and he won a penalty off Gabbia - a first-half replacement for the injured Simon Kjaer - that Mancosu coolly converted in the 54th minute.

Milan regained their advantage just 63 seconds later when Gabriel parried Calhanoglu's shot straight to Bonaventura, who slotted home on the follow-up.

The Rossoneri increased their lead with a swift break from a Lecce corner in the 57th minute, Rebic latching onto Calhanoglu's pass and beating Gabriel.

Leao was sent on for Rebic in the 68th minute and headed home a cross from Andrea Conti to cap a resounding win for Milan.

 

What does it mean? Milan find goals from multiple men

Stefano Pioli's side were not at their best but four goals from as many scorers will be pleasing for the coach, more so in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

It was the first time Milan have scored four in a single league game this season and they will hope to build on that with a run of tricky fixtures in the coming weeks.

Calhanoglu the creative hub

Despite playing primarily from the left, Calhanoglu was central to some of Milan's brightest moments. He assisted two goals and played an important role in the other, creating a total of five chances for his team-mates.

Gabbia struggles at the back

Milan looked shakier in defence following the introduction of Gabbia and his foul on Babacar gave Lecce a route back into the game.

What's next?

Milan host Roma on Sunday in a game that could prove pivotal in their quest for European qualification, while Lecce continue their battle against relegation with a trip to Juventus on Friday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's future will not be decided until the end of the season, according to AC Milan's director of football Frederic Massara.

Ibrahimovic, who signed on a free transfer from LA Galaxy in January, has scored four goals in 10 games in all competitions since returning to Milan for a second spell.

He sustained a calf injury in training last month but is expected to recover in time to play some part in the Rossoneri's run-in.

The 38-year-old's contract runs out at the end of the campaign, with Massara revealing no decision has been made on whether he will remain at San Siro for another year.

"Ibrahimovic is a champion," he told Sky Sport Italia. "The team improved a great deal with his arrival but, come the end of the season, we need to sit down and discuss the situation, including his own state of mind.

"He wanted to help Milan during a difficult time for the club. It goes without saying that any team is improved by having Ibrahimovic in it as he is a phenomenal player."

Reports of Thiago Silva being approached by Fiorentina are just rumours, according to club director Joe Barone.

Experienced centre-back Silva will leave Paris Saint-Germain, where he won 21 trophies across eight seasons, when his contract expires at the end of June.

The Brazil international has been linked with a return to Italy, having spent three years at Milan from 2009 and won the Scudetto in 2010-11.

It has been claimed Fiorentina have made an approach for Silva but could struggle to meet his wage demands.

Speaking to Sky Sport Italia ahead of Fiorentina's return to Serie A action against Brescia on Monday, Barone said: "We read it in the newspapers. For now, they are just rumours.

"We work with [sporting director Daniele] Prade every day to evaluate the names that come to our desk, some are expensive.

"But at the moment we have many games to play. We'll see what the market will bring us and if there will be opportunities to seize.

"He is certainly a very well-known player of the highest level, and that remains the case."

Fiorentina have also been linked with a move for Silva's former PSG and Milan team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Mario Pasalic has joined Atalanta from Chelsea on a permanent deal after the Serie A club exercised an option in the terms of his loan.

The 25-year-old midfielder moved to Gian Piero Gasperini's side on a season-long loan in July 2018 and that deal was extended for another campaign last year.

Atalanta have reportedly paid €15million to sign the Croatia international on a permanent basis.

Pasalic joined Chelsea from Hajduk Split in 2014 but did not make a senior appearance for the Blues in six years.

He was loaned to Elche, Monaco, Milan and Spartak Moscow before joining Atalanta, where he has enjoyed the best football of his career.

"We thank Mario for his service to the club and wish him the best of luck for the next chapter of his career," Chelsea said in a statement.

Pasalic has scored seven goals in 33 appearances in all competitions in 2019-20, helping Atalanta challenge for the top four in Serie A and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

For so long, Real Madrid have been tipped to sign Kylian Mbappe.

Zinedine Zidane has made no secret of his admiration for the Paris Saint-Germain sensation.

But, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool could throw a spanner in the works, especially if Sadio Mane departs Merseyside.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL EYEING MBAPPE AMID MANE FEARS

Liverpool are plotting a move for Real Madrid target Kylian Mbappe amid fears over Sadio Mane's future at Anfield, according to The Sun.

Mane is contracted until 2023 but Liverpool are reportedly growing anxious as Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain monitor the situation.

As a result, Liverpool are eyeing PSG star Mbappe and Mane could figure in a swap deal plus £200million (€221m), which could disrupt Madrid's grand plans for the French forward.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport Bild claims Bayern Munich have offered €40m (£36m) for Manchester City star Leroy Sane, who is set to leave the Premier League giants at the end of the season. Meanwhile, the Bundesliga champions are targeting Ajax sensation Sergino Dest. Sport Bild reports the United States international will arrive if they satisfy Ajax's demands, though Bayern are only thinking of a loan deal at the moment.

- It is a race against time for Miralem Pjanic to move to Barcelona. Sport says Barca and Juventus want to reach a deal by the end of June so it can be counted as part of the current season. The proposed deal would likely see Pjanic and Mattia De Sciglio join Barca, with Arthur moving in the opposite direction. However, Arthur is reluctant to swap Barcelona for Turin.

- Sport Bild reports Borussia Dortmund see no reason to sell Manchester United target Jadon Sancho in the off-season unless a club offers over €100m.

Mario Gotze remains in the sights of Milan, reports Calciomercato. Gotze will not renew his expiring contract at Dortmund and is set to leave Signal Iduna Park. Lazio have been linked but Milan are eyeing the German, with Ralf Rangnick reportedly in line to take over in the dugout.

- Napoli have turned down Liverpool's bid for star centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Tuttosport says Juve want Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik to partner superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. Juve are willing to offer Federico Bernardeschi as a makeweight in the deal.

- FC Inter News says Inter have rejected an offer from Marseille for midfielder Joao Mario. The Portuguese has spent the season on loan in Russia via Lokomotiv Moscow.

Christian Eriksen said he has not produced his best form since joining Inter but is eyeing further improvement after impressing in the 2-1 Serie A win over Sampdoria.

Eriksen was in the thick of the action on Sunday, setting up the opening goal as Inter returned to league action with victory at home to Sampdoria in Milan.

The former Tottenham star has struggled since leaving the Premier League club for Inter in January, however, Eriksen has looked better since the coronavirus-enforced break.

After scoring in the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Napoli last time out, Eriksen set up Romelu Lukaku's 10th-minute goal in a scintillating team move before Lautaro Martinez doubled the lead 23 minutes later at San Siro.

Reflecting on his display as Inter moved within six points of Serie A leaders Juventus, the Denmark international told Sky: "I don't think that you've seen the true Eriksen.

"I can improve further and I hope to score more, I did so against Napoli but it didn't help the team so it doesn't matter for me and it was just a lucky effort.

"I had a few chances tonight and perhaps I rushed the strikes too much and I'll look to do better in the future."

Eriksen, who had a game-high five shots and four key passes against Sampdoria, added: "Things keep getting better, I think it was the right decision to come here. I've been welcomed very well with a lot of warmth from both the fans and my team-mates.

"I'm proud to be here and of the fact that Inter wanted me. I'm disappointed to not experience the atmosphere put on by the fans at the stadium but things are going very well with everyone.

"In the first half, there was lots of space and I benefited from that before Sampdoria closed up in the second and I wasn't able to have the impact that I'd have liked."

Antonio Conte wants to see Christian Eriksen become "more decisive" after the midfielder helped Inter to a 2-1 win over Sampdoria.

Eriksen set up Romelu Lukaku's opener and Lautaro Martinez also scored as Inter moved within six points of Serie A leaders Juventus with their victory at San Siro on Sunday.

Morten Thorsby pulled a goal back for Sampdoria during the second half, but Inter secured three points.

Eriksen had a game-high five shots and four key passes and Inter head coach Conte wants more from the midfielder.

"We had the chance to work with him. We had the time to improve from both physical and tactical point of view," Conte told a news conference.

"Nowadays he fits our project but he needs to be more decisive because he had many chances to score and he must score.

"But I am pleased the way he played, as the team, because we are going to play again in three days and those three points will be decisive for us."

Eriksen has scored two goals and provided as many assists in 10 games for Inter this season, having arrived from Tottenham in January.

Inter host Sassuolo in Serie A action on Wednesday.

Antonio Conte said Inter are still in the hunt for the scudetto, insisting his side hope to "achieve something extraordinary" in Serie A.

Inter – third in the standings – returned to league action following the coronavirus-enforced break with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were on target in a brilliant first half, both players capping fine team moves as Inter regrouped from their Coppa Italia semi-final exit at the hands of Napoli.

Conte's Inter are six points behind leaders Juventus through 26 games, and five adrift of Lazio in the race for silverware in Italy.

"This evening, we had no choice but to get the victory so we could close the gap to six points," head coach Conte said in a news conference.

"We fuel the hope that we can achieve something extraordinary. It's true that we could've sealed it earlier by making more of our chances, but instead we conceded at the first Samp attempt and got a little anxious. It was a good performance, anyway.

"I repeat, it's not a fitness issue, but when we have scoring opportunities and do not take them, which also happened in the Coppa Italia with Napoli, all it takes is one lucky ricochet and it's all up for grabs again.

"I hope these games will help us realise we must kill – in a sporting sense – the opponent and kill the game when we have the chance."

Inter next meet Sassuolo on Wednesday and Conte added: "We're six points off the top with 12 rounds to go. There's no margin for error, whereas Lazio and Juventus can have the odd mistake and get away with it.

"This is why need that ferocity in front of goal, because with a strong lead, we can then relax on the ball."

Romelu Lukaku issued a rallying cry to his Inter team-mates after Sunday's 2-1 win over Sampdoria saw them move six points behind Serie A leaders Juventus.

Both Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were on target in the first half at San Siro as Inter bounced back from their Coppa Italia aggregate defeat to Napoli in the semi-finals.

Antonio Conte's side were slick in the opening 45 minutes, but they took their foot off the gas after the interval and Morten Thorsby pulled one back for struggling Sampdoria.

However, the win saw Inter remain in touching distance of Juve and second-placed Lazio, who are five points above the Nerazzurri with 12 games remaining.

"It was very important to win, as from now to the end of the season it's 12 finals, they are all life or death," Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Wednesday's clash with mid-table Sassuolo.

"Now we have to focus and get fired up for Wednesday.

"Every game is tough from now and they will not be easy for anybody. We worked really well in training, the team is in good shape physically, but we have to keep going and get even stronger, because it's going to be a game every three days."

Lukaku's 10th-minute opener took his tally to 18 goals in his first season in Serie A since 1990, a total that only Ruben Sosa, Ronaldo and Diego Milito have previously managed in their debut campaigns with Inter.

However, he was guilty of spurning two other opportunities when Inter were well on top, and Conte was frustrated that his team did not put the game to bed earlier.

"When you have the opportunity, you have to kill the opponent," added Conte, who was still frustrated with Inter's second-leg draw against Napoli eight days earlier.

"Just look at the game with Napoli: you have the opportunity to win it, it ends 1-1 and you are criticised.

"Today you had to be bad, determined, cynical ... otherwise you get in trouble. It's not that you suffer, but you go from the possible 3-0 to 2-1, knowing that the game is as vital as they will all be from here to the end."

Lautaro Martinez ended his mini goal drought as Inter moved six points behind Serie A leaders Juventus with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria at San Siro. 

First-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Martinez saw Antonio Conte's side bounce back in style from their Coppa Italia semi-final aggregate defeat to Napoli. 

Lukaku netted after just 10 minutes following a one-two with Christian Eriksen, while Martinez - a rumoured target for Barcelona - swept home 12 minutes before half-time to register his first goal since January. 

Morten Thorsby pulled one back for Samp after the break, but Claudio Ranieri's men were unable to conjure up a leveller.

While this was Sampdoria's first game since March, Inter were back in action after their Coppa Italia clash last weekend and they unsurprisingly looked a slicker, sharper outfit. 

They had the ball in the net within two minutes but Antonio Candreva was adjudged offside before squaring for Eriksen to finish, not that they had to wait too much longer for a legitimate goal. 

Martinez's clever backheel found Lukaku and the Belgian coolly converted after a one-two with Eriksen for his 18th goal in Serie A this term. 

Lukaku celebrated by dropping to his knee and raising his fist to recognise the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Inter went into the break 2-0 up as Lukaku picked out Candreva, whose first-time ball across the six-yard box was tucked away by Martinez. 

After the break, Lukaku could only sweep a good chance wide following more good work from Eriksen and Inter went from coasting to concerned when Samp pulled one back in the 52nd minute. 

Omar Colley's initial header came back off the crossbar and Thorsby instinctively stuck his left leg out to poke the rebound back past Samir Handanovic. 

Inter's goalkeeper would not be beaten again, though, as the home side closed out the win. 

 

What does it mean? Impressive Inter still alive in title race 

Conte's men began the restart nine points adrift of leaders Juventus, and eight behind second-placed Lazio, so they cannot afford many, if any, slip-ups. 

A relatively routine victory, with both of their strikers getting goals, bodes well for the final dozen fixtures. 

Martinez lives up to the hype 

The three-month hiatus has only intensified transfer talk surrounding Martinez and Barcelona, and this was a display that showed both why the Blaugrana may be interested and why Inter are so keen to keep him. 

The 22-year-old came into this game having not scored in his previous six appearances but, having played a big part in Lukaku's opener before finding the net himself, he showed all the Barca talk is not affecting him. 

Gaston goes missing 

When facing an opponent like Inter, you expect your captain to step up. However, the game passed Sampdoria skipper Gaston Ramirez by. 

The playmaker had only four successful passes in his 69 minutes on the field and won just 21.1 per cent of his 19 duels, failing to hold the ball up when Samp needed a release from the first-half pressure.  

What's next? 

A home encounter with mid-table Sassuolo on Wednesday is next on the agenda for Inter. The tough fixtures continue for Sampdoria, though, as they visit Roma on the same day. 

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