Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a "phenomenon" and will have the final say on whether to extend his stay at Milan, says director of sport Ricky Massara.

Veteran striker Ibrahimovic returned to the Rossoneri in January on a deal that runs until June with the option to extend his stay by a further 12 months.

Ibrahimovic, who won Serie A during his first stint with Milan, has scored three goals in six games across all competitions since re-joining and was in the starting line-up for Thursday's Coppa Italia semi-final first leg against Juventus.

Massara hailed Ibrahimovic's quality and said the Swede will be the one to decide his future.

Speaking to Rai Sport, Massaro said: "It'll ultimately be up to him, how he feels and how long he wants to continue.

"He truly is a phenomenon, and we are very happy with his performance."

Milan are 10th in Serie A after 23 games, 10 points adrift of the top four but only two away from Hellas Verona in sixth.

Erling Haaland already had his heart set on a move to Borussia Dortmund by the time Manchester United made a move for his services.

Dortmund signed Haaland after agreeing to meet his €22.5million release clause at Salzburg in late December, and the 19-year-old has made a flying start to life in Germany, with eight goals in five appearances.

A host of leading European clubs were linked to the striker, including United – led by his former Molde coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – but Haaland told Viasport his mind was made up by the time their interest was declared.

"Ole Gunnar has been very important for me in getting to where I am today," he said.

"But we concluded that Dortmund was the best option for me. That was what I felt best about and therefore it became Dortmund."

Indeed, Dortmund as a next stop in his career was put forward by Haaland himself as his father – former Leeds United and Manchester City utility man Alf-Inge Haaland – surveyed other options.

"The thing is, when the season was over, my father and I started talking

"At that point he didn’t mention Dortmund. Then I asked him, 'What about this club? That would have been nice'. Then he said, 'We'll see'.

"Suddenly it became an option and then that was what I felt all along.

"The process was pretty simple on my end. I really just played football and wasn't very involved until the first half of the season was over.

"So, I didn't have that much to do with it, to be honest. The process was to find the best possible club for me."

Haaland made light of suggestions his move to Dortmund was primarily motivated by money and praised agent Mino Raiola for his role in making the transfer happen.

"It's kind of comical if I were to get that label [being greedy]," he said.

"All the people close to me know that's not the kind of person I am. It's really been kind of comical."

On Raiola, Haaland added: "He's the best in the world at what he does. As simple as that.

"He's the best agent. He gets a lot of negativity and that's probably because he's doing such a great job for those he's working for

"He has helped a lot and he's a good guy to have around."

Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech will join Chelsea at the end of this season in a deal that could be worth up to €44million (£36.7m), the Eredivisie champions have confirmed.

Chelsea will pay an initial €40m for the Morocco international, with the remainder of the fee dependent upon unspecified "variables".

The Premier League club announced the deal remains subject to the agreement of personal terms with Ziyech, who will remain with Ajax until the conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign.

Ziyech joined Ajax from Twente in August 2016 and was a star performer as Erik ten Hag's men reached the semi-finals of the Champions League and secured a domestic double last term.

Since moving to Amsterdam, the 26-year-old leads the Eredivisie in goal involvements thanks to a haul of 38 goals and 51 assists.

He scored five goals over the course of their 2018-19 Champions League run, concluding with the strike that put Ajax 2-0 up at home to Tottenham, preceding their heart-breaking collapse as the final beckoned.

Ziyech's performances during that run only heightened purported interest from a number of Europe's heavyweight clubs, with Chelsea emerging from the pack over recent days.

"Ziyech to Chelsea? A transfer was coming, we expected it to happen," Ten Hag told Fox Sports after Wednesday's KNVB Beker win over Vitesse.

"I actually already expected this one or two years earlier. And each time it was: 'Wow, he stayed again.'

"We are just happy that we will still have him until the end of the season."

Ziyech becomes Chelsea's first major signing since their player registration ban from FIFA was halved on appeal.

He will provide another exciting wide attacking option for head coach Frank Lampard, alongside Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi, while Willian might join Pedro in heading from the Stamford Bridge exit door.

Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech will join Chelsea at the end of this season in a deal that could be worth up to €44million (£36.7m), the Eredivisie champions have confirmed.

Jadon Sancho is a player in demand.

The former Manchester City youth player is a man in demand due to exploits with Borussia Dortmund.

The Premier League's elite are circling…

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL WANT SANCHO AMID UNITED LINKS

Liverpool want to sign Borussia Dortmund star and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho, according to the Daily Mail.

United are reportedly confident of luring the 19-year-old England international to Old Trafford, ahead of Premier League rivals Chelsea.

However, a fresh report claims Premier League leaders Liverpool have joined the race for the teenager as Jurgen Klopp hopes to take advantage of the relationship with former club Dortmund. Sky Germany also says Sancho will leave Dortmund at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are preparing to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, reports El Confidencial. Neymar, who left Barca for a world-record €222m fee in 2017, has been heavily linked with a return to Camp Nou. After missing out on an off-season move, Neymar could be on his way back to the LaLiga giants – who are reportedly willing to sell one or two players to finance the blockbuster transfer.

- According to The Sun, Chelsea are battling United for the signature of 16-year-old Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham, who could cost up to £50million. The teenager has also attracted interest from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

- United recruit Odion Ighalo has been barred from the club's training ground due to ongoing coronavirus precautions, says The Mirror. Ighalo arrived from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua on deadline day, moving to United on loan until the end of the season. The Nigeria international, however, has not been allowed to train at Carrington.

Barca have ruled out signing Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose, reports Marca. With Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez sidelined, Barca are set to receive permission to sign an emergency forward within Spain. Real Betis' Loren Moron now reportedly tops the list of targets.

- Sandro Tonali has been valued at €55m and €60m by Brescia amid interest from Serie A champions Juventus and Inter, according to Calciomercato.

- Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich are eyeing Arsenal teenager Bukayo Saka, reports the Daily Mail.

- AS claims Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu is at the centre of a transfer tug-of-war between Madrid, United and Atletico Madrid.

Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag confirmed Hakim Ziyech is set to join Chelsea at the end of the season, admitting he expected the star forward to leave "one or two years earlier".

Reports on Wednesday emerged that Eredivisie champions Ajax and Premier League giants Chelsea reached a verbal agreement on a €45million (£38m) transfer for Ziyech.

Ziyech came off the bench during Wednesday's 3-0 KNVB Beker victory at Vitesse and Ten Hag provided an update on the 26-year-old Morocco international.

"Ziyech to Chelsea? A transfer was coming, we expected it to happen," Ten Hag told Fox Sports post-game.

"I actually already expected this one or two years earlier. And each time it was: 'Wow, he stayed again'.

"We are just happy that we will still have him until the end of the season."

Ziyech has been directly involved in 166 goals since his Eredivisie debut in 2012-13, contributing 79 goals and 87 assists.

Since joining Ajax from Twente in 2016, Ziyech has scored 38 league goals and 48 across all competitions.

Ziyech's sensational tally of 51 Eredivisie assists from the beginning of the 2016-17 campaign is 16 better than the 35 of Steven Berghuis, the next highest during that period, while his 421 chances created since September 2016 is a whopping 134 more than his nearest rival.

Ten Hag added: "I am not surprised by the news about Ziyech. I know that our players are very popular with the big clubs in Europe. That is just great.

"I have known for a long time what Hakim wants. He has a picture in mind. He knows exactly which clubs he finds interesting and which ones are not. 

"Chelsea are a fantastic club. When it is final, I am very happy for Hakim, and I am very proud of him."

Manchester United or Chelsea?

The two Premier League giants are reportedly going head-to-head in the race to sign Borussia Dortmund teenager and England international Jadon Sancho.

And the Manchester club feel they can prise the 19-year-old to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BELIEVE THEY CAN PIP CHELSEA TO SANCHO

Manchester United are confident they will beat rivals Chelsea to the signing of in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, claims The Mirror.

Sancho is reportedly keen on returning to England, where the 19-year-old played for Manchester City's youth team before joining Bundesliga outfit Dortmund in 2017.

Dortmund are apparently willing to offload Sancho at the right price and Premier League giants United believe they can prise the England international to Old Trafford in a deal worth £120million (€142.5m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Will Mauricio Pochettino land at Old Trafford? According to journalist Duncan Castles, the former Tottenham manager is determined to take charge of United . His representatives are reportedly confident of convincing United's hierarchy that Pochettino is the right man for the job as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer struggles, with the Red Devils eighth in the Premier League.

- The Sun reports United are set for a double swoop to sign Aston Villa star Jack Grealish and Leicester City attacker James Maddison . Grealish has reportedly given the go-ahead for a move to Old Trafford, while Maddison has apparently been in talks over a contract extension with Leicester.

Marcelo Brozovic to Real Madrid? Mundo Deportivo says the Inter and Croatia international midfielder is wanted by the LaLiga giants. Madrid have also been linked to United's Paul Pogba and Ajax star Donny van de Beek

Barcelona have been told it will take €35m to sign Willian Jose from Real Sociedad, reports Marca. Barca are looking to strengthen their attack following long-term injuries to Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez.

- According to The Express, Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho is plotting a £120m transfer spree at the end of the season. Benfica defender Ruben Dias is a target, as well as Norwich City's Max Aarons, Bournemouth centre-back Nathan Ake and Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell.

Stefano Pioli is contracted to Milan until 2021 but the head coach – who replaced Marco Giampaolo at the start of the campaign – is no certainty to continue beyond this season. According to Calciomercato, Elliott Management want Ralf Rangnick but Paolo Maldini is reportedly pushing for former Milan striker and current Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko.

- Football Insider claims Liverpool are set to offer star defender Virgil van Dijk a new £50m deal amid reported interest from Serie A champions Juventus.

Former Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre said Neymar can forget about birthday parties in Brazil if the Paris Saint-Germain star returns to Camp Nou.

Neymar has been heavily linked with a Barca reunion after leaving the LaLiga champions for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017.

The Brazil forward wanted a Barca return in the off-season, but a move away from the Ligue 1 giants did not materialise.

Asked about Neymar, Mestre – who resigned in July – told Mundo Deportivo: "The players asked for him, but didn't pressurise the club. I came off badly in that.

"If he had come back and the club had benefitted because of it, I wouldn't have a problem with that. I'm not that proud.

"On sporting terms he could come back but on a series of conditions. Firstly, PSG have to agree, then he would have to withdraw his lawsuit and acknowledge that he was in the wrong and after that, all the birthday parties in Brazil would have to stop.

"There were players from the first team squad who were at a wedding with him but had no idea that he wanted to leave."

On his own exit from Barca, Mestre said: "I felt I'd been fighting an uphill battle for some time. I had a different ideas about things to other board members but it wasn't important.

"I realised that I was the only one who thought in a certain way. The football committee which comprised [Josep Maria] Bartomeu, [Javier] Bordas, [Jaume] Elias and [Xavier] Vilajoana were not in agreement with me or with Pep Segura in his role as general manager. I was the only one who defended him and I felt alone."

It has been a turbulent period for Barca – who are three points behind LaLiga leaders Real Madrid – after head coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked, while superstar captain Lionel Messi was involved in a public row with director of football Eric Abidal.

"You have to recognise the merits of everything they have achieved in recent years," Mestre said. "The least they deserve is some respect and gratitude but you also have to be aware that nothing lasts forever. We are going through a transition and so you have to give people time and be patient."

Barcelona expect Ousmane Dembele to be sidelined for six months, meaning a new signing could be imminent at Camp Nou.

Under LaLiga regulations, teams can look to the transfer market outside the window if they lose a player to injury for more than five months.

However, they can only sign individuals from the top two tiers in Spain, or those who are available as free agents.

With Luis Suarez also ruled out until May, we look at the options Barca could go for in order to bolster their attack.

 

Willian Jose (Real Sociedad)

The former Real Madrid striker was heavily linked with a move to Tottenham during the January transfer window but a move did not come to fruition. However, Barca reportedly only have a budget of €12million, which could prove to be insufficient to sign Willian Jose, who has fallen behind Alexander Isak in the pecking order at the Reale Arena.

Angel Rodriguez (Getafe)

A more realistic option appears to be Getafe's Rodriguez, who is believed to have €10m release clause. The 32-year-old has scored nine LaLiga goals for Jose Bordalas' Champions League-chasing side this season but has started just six top-flight matches.

Lucas Perez

After failing to make his mark in the Premier League at Arsenal and West Ham, at Deportivo Alaves Perez has rediscovered the sort of form that encouraged the Gunners to sign him from Deportivo La Coruna in 2016. He has scored nine LaLiga goals and laid on four more for Alaves this season and strike partner Joselu, formerly of Real Madrid, this week revealed he has urged Perez not to join Barca.

Loren Moron

Head coach Quique Setien coached Moron for two seasons at Real Betis and he is the club's leading goalscorer in LaLiga this season, finding the net eight times and supplying two assists. Betis president Angel Haro said at the weekend there has been no official contact from Barca, and Moron's release clause is understood to stand at €40m.

Emmanuel Adebayor has reunited with former Manchester City team-mate Roque Santa Cruz at OIlimpia, and Yaya Toure is also being linked with a switch to South America.

The ex-Real Madrid, Arsenal and Tottenham attacker, 35, has joined the reigning Primera Division champions for the 2020 campaign, having played alongside Santa Cruz at the Etihad Stadium between 2009 and 2010.

Olimpia president Marco Trovato last Friday said he wanted 20,000 new members to sign up in order to announce the arrival of Adebayor on Monday, though the deadline was extended by 24 hours.

Shortly after revealing that 14,922 people had signed up with the club, Olimpia made the former Togo international's arrival official.

Toure could be the next big-name veteran to arrive in South America, with Rodrigo Codas, an agent who played a role in Adebayor's move to Olimpia, claiming the Ivorian's representative has asked him to help evaluate the market.

Toure, who arrived at City from Barcelona in 2010 and won three Premier League titles, spent 2019 playing in China's second tier with Qingdao Huanghai and is reportedly a target for Olimpia's rivals Libertad, though a switch to Brazil appears more likely.

"I want to be cautious about Yaya," Codas told Fox Sports Argentina. "He is a player that is willing to come to South America.

"He is very friendly with Adebayor, the same with Roque or Carlos Tevez in South America.

"I think that Yaya would be going, if all goes well, to Brazil. Because of the country and the finances, and because of the power of Brazilian football.

"The coronavirus scares many players who are in China and want to leave."

Juventus are reportedly lining up an incredible move for Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Guardiola has been in charge of City since 2016 and is contracted to remain at the helm of the Premier League champions until the end of next season.

However, Juve seemingly have other ideas.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS PLAN TO MAKE MOVE FOR GUARDIOLA

Juventus will give Guardiola whatever it takes to join them ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, according to The Sun.

The Serie A giants were linked with a stunning move for the Spaniard last year, but did not get their man.

Guardiola apparently intends to honour his contract at City, but Juve are prepared to give him whatever he wants.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho has no plans to return to Barcelona and wants to make his move to Bayern Munich permanent, according to Catalunya Radio. The Bundesliga club hold an option to buy the attacker, but are reportedly yet to make a decision over whether they will make the move permanent.

- Barcelona are not yet giving up on signing Willian Jose from Real Sociedad. Marca reports the LaLiga giants are still considering the attacker amid a negotiable price despite Willian Jose's buyout clause being set at €70million.

- Jose Mourinho is planning for next season at Tottenham. The Daily Express reports the Spurs head coach is looking to spend £120m on defenders ahead of 2020-21, with Benfica's Ruben Dias and Bournemouth's Nathan Ake leading the list of targets.

- Liverpool tried to sign Villarreal attacker Samuel Chukwueze during January, according to France Football, which reports the European champions offered £29.6m (€35m) for the Nigeria international. Staying at Anfield and the Daily Express says Liverpool are set to offer 18-year-old full-back Neco Williams a new contract.

- Amid surprise reports Barcelona tried to bring Andres Iniesta back to Camp Nou in January, Marca says the LaLiga club's sporting management never considered a return to the club for the Vissel Kobe midfielder.

- Inter are set to decide in the next 48 hours whether to sign goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano after the 34-year-old completed medicals at the Serie A high-flyers, according to CalcioMercato. Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic suffered a finger injury last week.

Riccardo Orsolini is worth at least €70million amid reported interest from Juventus, according to Bologna sporting director Walter Sabatini.

Orsolini, 23, joined Bologna on loan from Juve in January 2018 before that move was made permanent ahead of this season.

The attacker has scored seven goals and provided four assists in 23 Serie A games this season, leading to reports Juve may be interested in bringing him back to Turin.

Amid talk Orsolini could return to Juve for €25m, Sabatini insisted there was no buy-back clause and said the one-time Italy international was worth almost triple that.

"I give Orsolini a value of not less than €70m," he told Etv on Monday.

"I repeat that he will not leave. He is followed by the national team like so many others and I think good news is coming to Coverciano [Italy's headquarters].

"I hope he can go to the European Championship, but [Italy coach Roberto] Mancini doesn't need my advice."

Bologna are seventh in Serie A and host Genoa on Saturday.

Ed Woodward believes the next transfer window will be an "important opportunity" for Manchester United as he accepts the club are "not yet where we want to be".

United have undergone an extensive resetting of the playing squad and transfer strategy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who admitted this month he had to "tear the house down" after inheriting a disjointed and unhappy dressing room.

Solskjaer has focused on encouraging more opportunities for United academy players while prioritising the signings of younger, hungrier talent, as highlighted by last year's arrivals of Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, now club captain.

United also spent an initial fee of roughly £47million to sign Bruno Fernandes in January, and brought in Odion Ighalo on loan, to strengthen the squad ahead of the final months of the season.

However, United and Woodward have still come in for heavy criticism, with Solskjaer's side underwhelming on the pitch and facing a battle to qualify for the Champions League.

The Red Devils are eighth in the Premier League and could be nine points off the top four if they lose to Chelsea on February 17.

Woodward insists they can still have a positive season, though, as he looks ahead to a potentially vital next stage of their rebuild.

The United executive vice-chairman told a fans forum: "The signing this week of Bruno Fernandes and return of key players from injury will be a boost to Ole and the squad as we head into the second half of the season. We remain in contention in the Europa League and the FA Cup, as well as for Champions League qualification, so there is still lots to play for.

"However, as a club and a board, we do recognise that we are not yet where we want to be. It is the overwhelming priority of everyone at the club to get us back to regularly challenging for Premier League and Champions League titles. Although progress may not always be smooth, everyone across the club is focused and committed on playing their part in helping achieve those aims.

"Significant work has already been done – and investments made – to strengthen the academy and we're pleased with the progress being made behind the scenes to ensure we have the right players, the right infrastructure, and the right culture to sustain long-term success.

"Similarly, there has been extensive work on our recruitment process, with considerable investment in scouting, data and analytics. The recruitment department is working to a clear plan and philosophy, along with Ole and his coaching staff. Our focus is on bringing in a combination of experience and the best young players with potential to develop further, fusing graduates from our academy with high-quality acquisitions.

"Our recruitment process focuses on analysis and selection of players over the course of a season, with a view to the following summer transfer window. As part of the rebuild, we see this coming summer as an important opportunity."

Woodward appeared keen to point out that Solskjaer has been backed substantially in the transfer market, despite some suggestions the United board have not made enough funds available.

"We had consistently taken the view that – because January is not an optimal time in terms of availability of players – we would only buy in January if players we had already targeted for the summer became available and we were pleased that this strategy played out with the signing of Bruno Fernandes this week," Woodward said.

"Bruno Fernandes and the players we brought last summer are evidence that our process is the right one. There has been no shortage of investment in players over the past few years, with over £200million spent since Ole became manager; our aim is to ensure that we continue to achieve consistency in quality of recruitment.

"Off the pitch, it is important to note that the commercial elements of the club are geared to ensuring we have a self-sustaining model, which supports investment in the playing side.

"Meanwhile we continuously look for ways to improve the experience of fans - from the £11million investment to transform facilities for disabled supporters at Old Trafford, improvements in security, engagement with fan groups around stadium atmosphere or a potential rail seating trial, to ongoing reviews of match-day catering and beverage provision."

Joshua King conceded it would have been "a dream come true" had his proposed move from Bournemouth to Manchester United gone through on transfer deadline day.

The Norway striker was linked with a return to United on the last day of the January transfer window, but talks broke down after Bournemouth reportedly put a £40million price-tag on the 28-year-old.

Cherries boss Eddie Howe explained King had endured a trying couple of days as the possibility of re-joining his former club emerged.

And while King has returned his focus to helping Bournemouth avoid relegation from the Premier League, he did not hide how much he would have loved to go back to Old Trafford.

"How close it was I have no complete answer to," King told reporters. "I have to watch what I say.

"I had some faith that it was going to happen and it was a bit sensitive for me considering that I moved to England as a 16-year-old to achieve my dream and wanted to reach that goal at Manchester United.

"When you hear that you are connected to United and a bid comes in, then the feelings you had as a 16-year-old come back to you.

"But why it did not happen, I do not know. I'm a Bournemouth player and I really enjoy it here. But it had been a dream come true, I will not lie.

"That didn't happen and I'm going to give everything to Bournemouth as long as I’m in this club."

King, who scored the winner against United in a November Premier League clash, was grateful to the support shown to him by Howe.

"The coach was absolutely fantastic with me during those days," he added.

"He was very helpful with me. I have respect for how he behaved with me during the little episode."

United ultimately signed former Watford striker Odion Ighalo on loan from Shanghai Shenhua.

Barcelona are prepared to take a loss on Philippe Coutinho, sparking apparent interest from the Premier League.

Coutinho is on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona, and the Bundesliga giants hold an option to buy the Brazil playmaker.

If Bayern opt against purchasing Coutinho, Barca may be willing to sell the 27-year-old and accept a loss.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA READY TO SELL COUTINHO FOR £77M AMID PREMIER LEAGUE INTEREST

Coutinho has been told he can leave Barcelona for £77million (€90.7m) at the end of the season, according to the Daily Express.

Barcelona paid Liverpool €120m (£105m) for Coutinho in 2018, but are preparing for change under Quique Setien.

The report says Coutinho has already attracted interest from Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Bayern hold an option to buy Coutinho for a reported €120m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could it be one Brazilian in and another out at Liverpool? The Sun reports Bayern Munich want Roberto Firmino to leave the Premier League giants and join the Bundesliga outfit at the end of the season.

- Staying at Anfield and the Daily Express reports Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz is Liverpool's top midfield target ahead of 2020-21.

- With James Maddison reportedly ready to extend his contract at Leicester City, Manchester United's interest in the attacker has cooled significantly, according to the Daily Express.

- Thiago Silva wants to stay in Paris. Paris United reports the Paris Saint-Germain captain could discuss a new contract with club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi amid uncertainty over his future, with his deal expiring at the end of the season.

- Manchester United have angered Roma. The Daily Express says the Premier League club have increased their asking price for Chris Smalling from €14.1m (£12m) to €20m (£17m), with the defender having impressed during his loan spell with the Serie A outfit.

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