Juventus and Inter could well wage a title battle this season but Gianluigi Buffon holds no animosity towards former boss Antonio Conte for crossing the Derby d'Italia divide.

Conte took charge of Inter in May and guided the Nerazzurri to six straight victories in a blistering start to the new Serie A season.

The winning streak came to an end in a sobering 2-1 defeat to Juve, the team the former Italy boss captained and coached with distinction for a combined period of more than 15 years.

Ahead of the meeting, Conte hit out at the "ignorant" Juve fans who campaigned for his star on the club's Walk of Fame to be removed as a result of his switch to their bitter rivals.

"He was my team-mate and my captain at Juventus and then he was my manager for Juve and Italy," Buffon said at the Festival dello Sport.

"I know what type of person and professional he is, that's why I cannot blame him for any decision he takes in his career.

"He is an extremely passionate professional and he is always fair to the team and the players he works with.

"He is an extraordinary football teacher and puts all of himself into what he does. He cannot sleep at night if his team doesn't perform as well as he wants them to."

Juve's victory over Conte's side at San Siro saw the champions reclaim top spot going into the international break.

The match was billed as a test of Inter's title credentials and while Maurizio Sarri's men succeeded in restating their authority, veteran goalkeeper Buffon believes the manner of the win was worth more than three points.

"I don't think the victory over Inter had a huge importance [in terms of the title race] but I believe instead it was massively significant for the way we got the result," he said.

"In this case, we can say the way we played to win the game was more important than the victory itself."

Juve have attempted to cultivate a more fluid, positive approach since Sarri replaced Massimiliano Allegri, resulting in six wins and a draw from their opening seven Serie A matches.

Cristiano Ronaldo's humility and attitude towards his Juventus team-mates have impressed Gianluigi Buffon as much as his evident skill.

Ronaldo joined Serie A giants Juve in 2018, bringing to an end a hugely successful nine years at Real Madrid, and won the Scudetto in his first campaign in Italy.

Club icon Buffon has returned to Turin for the 2019-20 season, too, and has immediately been struck by the humble approach of one of the sport's great names.

"When I met Cristiano in Turin for training, I discovered a very humble guy," Buffon told reporters at the Festival dello Sport.

"I like his attitude and his relationship with our team-mates a lot. Very often, after training, we spend a couple of minutes talking in deep about some aspects of the game.

"I discovered a very nice person besides the footballer."

Ronaldo joined Juve just months after extending their painful wait for a Champions League triumph with three goals across the two legs of Madrid's quarter-final win.

The tie included one of the competition's great goals in Italy as Ronaldo executed a stunning overhead kick, beating Buffon for a strike the goalkeeper now acknowledges he could only admire.

"This is one of those moments that shows that I don't hate anyone," Buffon said. "After the first 25 seconds, when I felt really frustrated, I thought about the beauty of his goal.

"Despite being scored against us, I could not fail to recognise he just did something extraordinary.

"So when he walked beside him, I just asked him, 'Cristiano, how old are you?' He, smiling, replied, 'I'm 33... not bad, right?' And we both started laughing."

Alexis Sanchez will leave international duty to have an assessment on a potentially serious ankle injury, the Football Federation of Chile (ANFP) has confirmed.

Sanchez was substituted late in Chile's goalless draw with Colombia in an international friendly on Saturday.

The forward, who is on loan at Inter from Manchester United, will travel back to Milan for tests on an injury that may require surgery.

Sanchez has suffered a "dislocation of left ankle peroneal tendons", according to the ANFP, and will miss Tuesday's game against Guinea.

"Tests with magnetic resonance imaging and dynamic echotomography will be carried out to make the best therapeutic decision," said an ANFP statement.

Sanchez has scored one Serie A goal since leaving United for Inter, his sole strike coming in a win away to Sampdoria, during which he was sent off.

The 30-year-old may be a doubt for an upcoming Champions League double-header against Borussia Dortmund.

Inter host the Bundesliga side on October 23 then travel to Dortmund for the reverse fixture in Group F two weeks later.

Either through injuries or dips in form, Luis Suarez has started to show signs of regression at Barcelona and they are planning for a future without him.

The Uruguayan striker has been a remarkable player for Barca, but at 32 he is approaching the twilight of his career and the Blaugrana have been considering who they might want to replace him with when the time comes.

Meanwhile, one player recently heavily linked with Barca could be signing a new contract with his current employers.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DRAW UP STRIKERS SHORTLIST

Barca have significantly strengthened several areas of their team in recent transfer windows, with Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Neto bolstering their options.

They are now beginning to turn their attentions to the central striker role, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The publication reports Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is the ideal target, though Barca are said to be hopeful of getting him on a cut-price deal in 2021 after he has entered the final year of his contract, assuming he does not sign an extension in the meantime.

England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane is also said to be high up their list, despite their being acknowledgement that his wages would be more of an issue than the transfer fee.

The other two reportedly being considered are Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Inter's Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca missed out on securing the return of Neymar in the most recent transfer window and, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, PSG are now planning to offer the Brazilian a new bumper contract.

- The LaLiga champions are also looking at midfield reinforcements with potential. Napoli's Fabian RuizEduardo Camavinga of Rennes and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz are all being considered, though Mundo Deportivo say Real Madrid are also tracking the trio with intent.

Christian Eriksen's future has been a hot topic for the last few months, with the Tottenham midfielder's contract ending next year. Sport1 in Germany claim Bayern Munich have already been in touch with him.

Liverpool are hoping to sign Brighton and Hove Albion-owned centre-back Ben White, 21, according to the Sun. The defender is impressing on loan at Leeds United and the Reds see him as a replacement for Dejan Lovren, who is said to be eager for a move to get first-team football.

- Despite languishing 12th in the Premier League after a wretched start to the season, the Daily Mail say Manchester United will not be splashing the cash in the January transfer window.

- But the Daily Express report United have reached a "verbal agreement" with Mario Mandzukic of Juventus, who are said to be demanding £10million for the Croatian forward.

Sampdoria have appointed Claudio Ranieri as head coach on a contract until June 2021.

Ranieri guided Roma to sixth in Serie A last season after three months in charge and his first game as Samp boss comes against the Giallorossi on October 20.

The 67-year-old takes charge of a team rooted to the foot of the table after seven matches, with the Blucerchiati having won one and lost six.

That run of form this week resulted in the dismissal of Eusebio Di Francesco, who Ranieri also replaced at Roma.

A statement on Samp's official website said: "President Massimo Ferrero and Sampdoria welcome Claudio Ranieri, who has joined the club as head coach responsible for the first team until June 30, 2021.

"The president wishes the coach, his staff and the team a good job based on commitment and passion."

Lorenzo Insigne says he does not always see eye-to-eye with Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti but has underlined his commitment to delivering success this season.

Ancelotti guided Napoli to a second-placed Serie A finish in his first season in charge at Stadio San Paolo last time out, with Insigne scoring 10 goals in 28 league appearances.

But Napoli are fourth in the table after seven matches in 2019-20 – already six points behind leaders Juventus - while one goal in Insigne's past five league games represents a disappointing run of form.

The Italy international admits his relationship with Ancelotti is unusual but has denied suggestions the coach has played him out of position.

"My rapport with Ancelotti is a bit odd, as at times we have had rows, but that's all down to our respective personalities," Insigne told Rai Sport.

"There is a difference of character between us. We happen to squabble, but Carlo remains a great coach and I hope to win with him.

"He has not imposed a role on me I did not want since he took over at Napoli.

"Sometimes, when I get over-tired or anxious at training, it can happen that I respond to his observations, but these are things that end there. I often joke with the coach."

Insigne also sent a message to any Napoli fans doubting his commitment to his hometown club.

The 28-year-old, four times a Serie A runner-up with the Partenopei, said: "Some Napoli fans haven't understood me, as they consider me arrogant, as if they have a different image of how I am in reality.

"I hope that they can change their minds and stand by me, because I'd get myself killed for the Napoli jersey.

"The time has come for Napoli to win. We’ve been waiting too long now."

Edin Dzeko is set to miss Roma's trip to Sampdoria with a double fracture of the cheekbone, according to facial surgeon Professor Bruno Pesucci.

Dzeko sustained the injury in Roma's 1-1 draw at home against Cagliari on October 6, ruling him out of international duty for Bosnia-Herzegovina in their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Finland and Greece.

Pesucci revealed that the 33-year-old's injury is worse than first thought and would not be able to return until October 24 when Roma face Borussia Monchengladbach.

He advised Dzeko should be among the substitutes for that Europa League clash, ready to make a full return to first-team action three days later against AC Milan

"It was a bad break," Pesucci told Corriere dello Sport.

"Initially, only the zygomatic arch seemed broken, but then we also found a fracture at the lower edge of the right eye's orbit.

"Osteosynthesis was necessary, with the use of a plate fixed by screws to stabilise the orbit. Only in this way could the fracture of the zygomatic arch be contained.

"In other cases, I have worked on isolated fractures. Edin's is more complex, because it is a double and therefore the stabilisation will take longer."

Dzeko will be missed by Bosnia, having scored two goals in two games as they beat Liechtenstein and lost to Armenia in September.

He has also scored four of Roma's 12 Serie A goals this season as they sit fifth.

Pesucci added: "He must not be in a hurry. Edin still has pain. He had the operation on Monday, and he must feel comfortable for a week."

Edwin van der Sar has compared Matthijs de Ligt to Cristiano Ronaldo, claiming they share a similar mentality to be among the world's best.

De Ligt starred in the youthful Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals last season before joining Ronaldo at Serie A giants Juventus.

Van der Sar played a pivotal part in developing Erik ten Hag's team in his role as Ajax CEO, with prospects such as Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek graduating through the club's famous youth system.

Netherlands international De Ligt has turned in some indifferent performances since moving to Turin and was at fault for Northern Ireland's goal against the Oranje in a Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday, but Van der Sar has no concerns over the defender's ability to adapt.

"He had been at Ajax all his life," Van der Sar told ESPN. "So to step away, move with your girlfriend and the family to a different city in Italy, he must learn a new language and get to know his team-mates.

"His mentality, that of someone who always tries to improve, makes him want to be the best defender in the world. And I've seen that with a few players, one of them is playing for his team, Cristiano Ronaldo.

"He has the same desire and hunger as De Ligt. Matthijs is only [20 years old]. He was fantastic for us at Ajax, our rock and our captain."

Despite De Ligt's error, Netherlands went on to beat Northern Ireland 3-1 to move top of Group C.

Their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign continues on Sunday as the Nations League runners-up travel to Belarus.

Roma defender Chris Smalling believes harsher sanctions are required from football's governing bodies to change the attitude towards racism.

The English centre-back joined Roma on loan from Manchester United after limited opportunities at Old Trafford last season.

Smalling has only made three appearances for the Giallorossi after missing the start of the season with a muscle injury but is settling in well at the Serie A club.

The 29-year-old is aware of the issues surrounding racism in football, but says while it is difficult to know what the right approach is, he hopes harsher penalties will deter supporters from racist behaviour.

"In an ideal scenario it wouldn't happen, but in a second scenario I think the authorities need to have the type of sanctions that make people think twice or three times about it," Smalling told his club's website.

"But until those are in place, if something was to happen to myself or a team-mate, then you could walk off.

"I know it's difficult because it's disappointing for 99 per cent of fans who are at the stadium to enjoy the spectacle and are not involved. But I feel like at some point it is going to happen – and it probably should happen. Maybe that then speeds up the authorities to change things.

"Unfortunately it takes for things to get worse before real change happens – that happens in all walks of life – but I do think that until those sanctions are strong enough we might not be far off a point where players do walk off.

"If one player is abused then the whole team should be together, and I'm sure they would be."

Earlier this season Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants during Inter's Serie A fixture against Cagliari, but Smalling is yet to experience it himself since arriving in Italy.

He said: "Honestly, I have not noticed anything – although I'm still picking up the language!

"I've not experienced it directly, but obviously you do see what's in the news. I don't think it is just a problem in Italy, I think we are getting more cases in England too. It seems to be very much a generational thing that I think definitely needs to be clamped down on.

"I think we are getting closer to the type of sanctions that there need to be, and they need to be harsh.

"But hopefully they can single out the ones that are unwilling to change, and then hopefully the new generation – like my boy, and other younger kids – don't grow up seeing it and thinking it's right."

Gervinho has signed a new contract with Parma, keeping him with the Serie A club until 2022.

The Ivory Coast international joined Parma in August 2018 and still had two years to run on his previous deal.

He impressed in his debut campaign at Stadio Ennio Tardini with 11 league goals, earning links with a move to Fiorentina and Inter.

However, the 32-year-old former Arsenal and Roma forward remained at Parma and has now committed his future to the club by agreeing fresh terms.

Gervinho has started the 2019-20 season with three goals in his first eight outings in all competitions.

Manchester United are in crisis - and the Red Devils might try to spend their way out of trouble.

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side 12th in the Premier League and only two points off the relegation zone, additions to the squad seem inevitable in January.

The latest transfer rumours suggest a raft of players could be heading to Old Trafford in a bid to stop the rot.


TOP STORY – FOXES DUO ON UNITED'S RADAR

Harry Maguire has already made the move from Leicester City to Manchester United and, according to the Sun, the Red Devils want to raid the club again in January. The UK newspaper claims a £130million double swoop is being lined up for Ben Chilwell and James Maddison.

Goal reports West Ham midfielder Declan Rice and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly are also targets for United, regardless of Solskjaer's future. United also continue to be linked with striker Mario Mandzukic, who is struggling for minutes under new Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri.


ROUND-UP

- United are struggling but Everton have been even worse, with the Toffees in the relegation zone after eight games of the new season. According to a report in UK tabloid the Daily Star, Marco Silva has been given three games to save his job. Unfortunately for Silva, the third game of that run is against his old club Watford in the EFL Cup. The Hornets surely would love to push Silva towards the sack.

- England boss Gareth Southgate will hand Chelsea starlet Mason Mount his first international start when the Three Lions take on the Czech Republic in Prague on Friday, reports Sky Sports. Mount has impressed for the Blues this season, scoring four goals in eight Premier League starts.

- The forward has spent his whole career at Bayern Munich, but Thomas Muller could be moving on. The ex-Germany international has slipped out of favour under Niko Kovac and is not content to play a back-up role. According to Bild, Muller will seek a move in January.

- Sampdoria are closing in on an agreement with Claudio Ranieri to become their new coach. Bottom of Serie A, Samp are seeking a replacement for the sacked Eusebio Di Francesco. According to various Italian outlets including Sky Sport Italia and La Gazzetta dello Sport, Samp could pay Ranieri - who led Leicester City to the Premier League title - €1million a year. Ranieri also replaced Di Francesco after he was sacked by Roma last season.

- Right-back Elseid Hysaj could leave Napoli during the January transfer window, his agent Mario Giuffredi has told Rete Sport. Hysaj was previously linked with Manchester United and Juventus, but Giuffredi indicated Roma would be his client's preferred destination. A fee of around €30m has been mooted for the Albania international.

Emre Can said he is unhappy at Serie A champions Juventus as the Germany international struggles for game time in Turin.

Can has only made three substitute Serie A appearances for Juventus after being left out of the club's Champions League squad this season.

The 25-year-old midfielder was a 71st-minute substitute against Inter last week, taking his tally to just 78 league minutes in 2019-20 under head coach Maurizio Sarri.

Can did manage to complete the full match in Germany's 2-2 friendly draw with Argentina on Wednesday and he told reporters: "I'm not happy [at Juventus] right now. I don't play much at the moment.

"Last season I played a lot. Especially in important games for Juventus. And I also played well there.

"I haven't had a chance this season. But now I think, when I come back to the club, I will get chances again.

"I am definitely grateful to Joachim Low. Because I didn't play much in the club and he invited me anyway.

"Nevertheless, he gave me the chance. That's why I was simply happy that I played again."

Can and Germany are back in action on Sunday, when they travel to Estonia for their Euro 2020 qualifier.

 

 

Stefano Pioli says AC Milan fans who are protesting against his appointment as head coach are only making him more determined to succeed.

The 53-year-old was announced as the new Rossoneri boss on a two-year deal on Wednesday, the day after Marco Giampaolo's sacking was confirmed.

Some fans have already made their displeasure at the news known, with "#PioliOut" trending on social media given the coach's links with city rivals Inter.

Pioli, Inter boss in 2016-17 and said to have been a Nerazzurri fan as a child, says supporters are entitled to their view - but he is eager to prove them wrong.

"I have respect for the fans and they have the right to criticise, but this is an extra stimulus for me," he told reporters.

"I don't have social media and I'm not on there. If you find some profiles, they're not mine. I prefer people to criticise you while looking you in the eyes.

"The past is the past. I'm a man and a professional, who wants to do well. The judgements will be from what happens on the pitch, not from what I was as a child."

Pioli takes over a Milan side who have lost four of their opening seven Serie A matches of the season and are already four points adrift of the top four.

However, his goal is to instil some bravery into his players in order to get them back into the fight for a Champions League place.

"We'll be working on the players' heads as well as the set-up on the pitch. We've got 10 important days [in the international break] and I'll try to make the most of every moment," he said.

"[Giampaolo] is a good coach but he has different ideas. We start from a good level: I know this is a professional group, with top guys not only from a technical point of view but also a moral one.

"I'd like to make the team play in a positive way. I just have to give them all the courage possible.

"We have to fight to get into the Champions League."

Pioli's first game in charge will be at home to Lecce on October 20.

Stefano Pioli has become the latest head coach to lead both Inter and city rivals AC Milan. 

Former Inter boss Pioli joins an exclusive club after replacing Marco Giampaolo at Milan, who finally lost faith just seven Serie A games into his tenure.

Pioli is no stranger to San Siro, having spent a season on the blue side of Milan in 2016-17.

Inter had won 12 of their first 16 Serie A matches under Pioli before a run of five losses and two draws prior to his sacking in May two years ago.

As Pioli prepares to take the reins amid backlash from Milan fans and the hashtag "#PioliOut", we look at the coaches to have worked on both sides of the divide in a fierce rivalry dating back to 1909.

 

JOZSEF VIOLA

Viola was the first man to coach both Inter and Milan. Inter, then known as Societa Sportiva Ambrosiana, appointed the 32-year-old Hungarian for the 1928-29 season.

After three years at Atalanta, Viola made a switch to Milan for a brief stint in 1933-34. Known for his work as a player and a coach with Juventus, the one-cap Hungary international returned to the Rossoneri from 1939 to 1940.

GIUSEPPE BIGOGNO

A stalwart at Fiorentina, Bigogno left Florence for the red side of Milan in 1946. The Italian led Milan to a second-placed finish in 1947-48 prior to leaving a year later.

Bigogno's coaching career took him to Torino, Lazio and Udinese before ending up at Inter, where he only lasted half a season in 1958.

LUIGI RADICE

A member of Italy's 1962 World Cup squad, former Milan full-back Radice took charge of his boyhood club in 1981 after stints with Monza, Treviso, Cesena, Fiorentina, Cagliari, Torino and Bologna. Radice, who survived a car accident in 1979 which killed two men before passing away in 2018, was replaced by Italo Galbiati halfway through the season as Milan were eventually relegated.

Radice then joined Inter in 1983 - the Nerazzurri finished fourth in his sole season.

ILARIO CASTAGNER

A rare exception, Castagner went straight from Milan to Inter. Castagner guided Milan to promotion at the end of the 1982-83 season, winning the Serie B title. However, he was sacked in March 1984.

Castagner quickly found his feet, crossing the divide to Inter, where he oversaw a third-placed finish in Serie A and runs to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia. He was surprisingly replaced by Mario Corso in November 1985.

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI

Having represented Milan as a player between 1959 and 71 - winning the Scudetto and European Cup twice, among other honours - Trapattoni began coaching the club at youth level. Considered the most successful club coach in Serie A history, he was named caretaker for a brief spell in 1974, later serving as first team coach.

After six Serie A titles with Juventus, Trapattoni controversially returned to San Siro but as Inter boss from 1986 to 1991. During his time at Inter, he won the Scudetto (1988-89), Supercoppa Italiana (1989) and UEFA Cup (1990-91).

ALBERTO ZACCHERONI

Milan went from Fabio Capello to Zaccheroni in 1998. The new man made an immediate impact, winning Serie A by one point ahead of Lazio in his first season at the helm. Almost two campaigns followed before Zaccheroni was sacked in March 2001.

Inter turned to him in the middle of the 2003-04 season following Hector Cuper's exit. Despite guiding Inter to fourth place and securing Champions League qualification, Zaccheroni's tenure was brief as president Massimo Moratti replaced him with Roberto Mancini.

LEONARDO

Now sporting director of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, Leonardo was the last coach to represent both Milan and Inter.

A member of the Milan squad that won the 1998-99 Scudetto, the Brazilian was tasked with following in the footsteps of successful coach Carlo Ancelotti, who left for Chelsea in 2009, despite lacking the required coaching badges. Stepping up from his role as technical director, Leonardo's start to life as coach was difficult following a shock 4-0 loss to Inter. Results showed signs of improvement but Leonardo eventually departed by mutual agreement at season's end.

In December 2010, Leonardo replaced Rafael Benitez at Inter on an 18-month contract. He set a Serie A record by collecting 33 points in 13 games and oversaw a memorable Champions League win over Bayern Munich. However, Leonardo - who ended his spell with Coppa Italia glory - eventually resigned in June after the club's failed title bid.

Stefano Pioli has been appointed as the new head coach of AC Milan, replacing the sacked Marco Giampaolo.

The Rossoneri severed ties with Giampaolo on Tuesday after just seven competitive games in charge, despite a thrilling 2-1 victory over Genoa on Saturday.

Milan confirmed Pioli's appointment in a statement on their official website on Wednesday.

"AC Milan announces the appointment with immediate effect of Mr Stefano Pioli as the new coach of the first team," the statement said.

Milan said 53-year-old Pioli has signed a two-year contract with them.

Former Inter boss Pioli had been out of working since resigning as head coach of Fiorentina in April.

Pioli spent barely six months in charge of Inter, joining in November 2016 and losing his job in May 2017, while he has also had a spell at Lazio.

Luciano Spalletti, sacked by Inter at the end of last term, had been linked, while Gennaro Gattuso was tipped with a swift return and Milan great Andriy Shevchenko was thought to have been under consideration.

Pioli's first aim will be to breathe life into a faltering Milan side, who are 10 points behind leaders Juventus after just seven matches and sit 13th in Serie A.

Gattuso led Milan to their highest placing since the 2012-13 campaign, but a failure to gain Champions League football and question marks over the team's style of play saw him replaced at the end of last season by Giampaolo, who spent three years at Sampdoria before taking the Milan job.

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