Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said Lautaro Martinez is a "great player" as the Inter star continues to be linked with the LaLiga champions.

Inter forward Martinez has reportedly emerged as a top target for Barca, who are looking to identify a long-term heir for the aging Luis Suarez.

Martinez has scored 13 goals across all competitions this season, including a goal away to Barca in the Champions League on October 2.

The 22-year-old Argentina international will come up against Barca again when Inter welcome the Spanish giants to Milan on Tuesday, in a battle of first against second in Group F on the final matchday.

Asked about Martinez on the eve of the clash, Valverde – whose Barca have already qualified for the last 16 – told reporters: "He is a great player and he's having a great season. He is quick and strong.

"He scored a great goal in the first game at the Camp Nou. I know he is comfortable with [Romelu] Lukaku, they’ve found the right mechanism to help Inter.

"As for Lautaro being similar to Luis Suarez, they are a little different but both are born goalscorers.

"But Inter have so many good players, Lautaro, Lukaku, [Milan] Skriniar…"

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be joining Bologna, according to the club's director Walter Sabatini.

Ibrahimovic had been linked with a return to Serie A via Bologna after leaving MLS outfit LA Galaxy at the end of his contract.

But the 38-year-old striker will not be moving to Bologna amid speculation over a switch to either Napoli or former club Milan.

"Ibrahimovic will not be coming to Bologna. He has made other choices," Sabatini told Tuttomercatoweb.

A return to Milan has been mooted for Ibrahimovic, who won the 2011 Scudetto during his two years at San Siro.

Italian rivals Napoli, however, have reportedly offered the ex-Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain star an 18-month contract.

Asked about Ibrahimovic on the eve of Napoli's Champions League clash with Genk, head coach Carlo Ancelotti told reporters on Monday: "I haven't spoken to Ibra today but I did yesterday [Sunday] evening."

"He told me he is in Los Angeles at the moment," added Ancelotti. "He feels really good and weather conditions are just perfect there."

Carlo Ancelotti says he is "not scared" by the thought of being sacked as Napoli coach amid claims Gennaro Gattuso has already been lined up to replace him.

Napoli have endured a turbulent campaign and are on a nine-match run without a victory since beating Salzburg on October 23, drawing seven of those games.

Reports in Italy suggest former Milan head coach Gattuso – who played under Ancelotti with the Rossoneri – could be appointed as early as Wednesday, with Napoli chiefs running out of patience in the experienced tactician.

The 60-year-old accepts questions will be asked on the back of a poor run of form and is "ready" for his bosses to pull the trigger.

"The suitcase of a coach is always ready, you can never unpack it," he said at his pre-match news conference on Monday ahead of the Champions League clash with Genk.

"I think that for a coach to be questioned in this kind of situation is completely normal. I'm ready. It's an experience I've already experienced in the past.

"It doesn't scare me and it doesn't worry me that the club could sack me or that I could leave."

Napoli are seventh in Serie A, eight points adrift of the top four, but can guarantee a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with a point at home to Genk on Tuesday.

They are unbeaten in five Group E matches, taking four points off reigning European champions Liverpool along the way, and Ancelotti wants his side to carry that form into domestic matches.

"I can't pretend - the team doesn't give what it could give," he added.

"In Europe, we have seen another Napoli, the one I would like to see in the league as well. I am looking for solutions to get out of this difficult period.

"The team is worried because of what they cannot do. They gave the best of themselves against Liverpool, when the weight of responsibility was less.

"I have the feeling that tomorrow [Tuesday] we will have a great game and we will go into the next round and hopefully in first place."

Saif Rubie, the agent of former Liverpool forward Bobby Duncan, has been banned by the Football Association (FA) from acting as an intermediary for six weeks and fined £10,000 for messages posted on Twitter.

Duncan completed a permanent move to Fiorentina on September 2 following a turbulent few days that saw Rubie take to social media to accuse Liverpool of attempting to block a transfer.

Rubie singled out Reds sporting director Michael Edwards for criticism and alleged the treatment of the 18-year-old – who is Steven Gerrard's cousin – showed "zero consideration" for the player's mental health.

Liverpool described the allegations as "inaccurate" and "inflammatory", while club legend Jamie Carragher and supporters rounded on Rubie, who later deleted his Twitter account.

The FA has now taken action against the agent by suspending him from December 4 until January 15, handing him a hefty fine and sending him on an Educational Programme for improper use of social media.

Rubie has been accused on bringing the game into disrepute with his social media messages, although the FA has not specified which posts the punishment is for.

Barcelona "cannot afford" to let unsettled midfielder Arturo Vidal leave the club in January, according to president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Vidal has started just four of Barca's 20 matches this season and last month vowed to quit the Spanish champions next year if he is not made to "feel important".

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde has opened the door for the Chile international to find a new team, with Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta recently hinting his side are interested.

However, Bartomeu is expecting Vidal - a reported €18million signing from Bayern Munich in August 2018 - to remain at Camp Nou until at least the end of the season.

"No movement is expected in January," he told La Repubblica. "We have a balanced squad - we don't lack anything, but we also cannot afford to lose someone. 

"Several times before a player has showed a willingness to leave, but never in January. In some cases we have let them go, on other occasions we have convinced them to stay."

Barcelona travel to Inter in the Champions League on Tuesday with top spot already assured in Group F, while the Italians need to match Borussia Dortmund's result against Slavia Prague.

Lautaro Martinez has been in fine form for the Serie A leaders this season, leading to reports he is on Barca's radar, but Bartomeu was unwilling to comment on the speculation.

"This is a trap question," he said. "What I can say is that Inter are playing very well and he is not the only player who has impressed me. It is no coincidence that Inter are top of Serie A."

Erling Haaland is sought after across Europe and it seems Juventus have made the first move.

Haaland, 19, has already scored 28 goals in 21 games for Salzburg this season, including eight in the Champions League.

The Norway forward is attracting interest from the world's biggest clubs and Juventus are not prepared to wait around.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS OFFER HAALAND €3M PER SEASON

Juventus have offered Haaland €3million per season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Haaland has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund among others.

Juve may be looking to add some youth to their attack, with Cristiano Ronaldo (34) and Gonzalo Higuain (31) in their 30s and Mario Mandzukic (33) out of favour.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal are still looking for a replacement for Unai Emery. Former Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac wants the job, according to Goal, while the Daily Express reports there is a tug of war between the Premier League club and Manchester City over Mikel Arteta, who is an assistant at the Etihad Stadium.

- A 1-1 draw at Udinese on Saturday left Napoli winless in nine matches, further increasing the pressure on coach Carlo Ancelotti. CalcioMercato reports a lack of good options to replace Ancelotti have bought the Italian more time, but Napoli must beat Genk in the Champions League on Tuesday.

- At Everton, Shanghai SIPG coach Vitor Pereira is the favourite to be named Marco Silva's successor, according to the Daily Mail. David Moyes and Eddie Howe are reportedly the other leading candidates.

- Chris Smalling has impressed while on loan at Roma. Now, Inter and Juventus have joined Roma in wanting to sign the defender permanently from Manchester United, according to Sport Witness.

- Seemingly no longer in Chelsea's plans, Pedro could be set to leave Stamford Bridge. The Daily Mail reports Aston Villa are ready to offer the Spanish forward a way out of the club.

- Inter are interested in Parma midfielder Dejan Kulusevski, who is on loan from Atalanta, according to CalcioMercato.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli said he was so overcome with emotion following Sinisa Mihajlovic's return to the Bologna bench on Sunday that he just wanted to hug his opposite number.

Mihajlovic was back on the touchline for the first time since a bone marrow transplant last month, having been diagnosed with leukaemia earlier in the year.

Bologna were unable to make Mihajlovic's return a victorious one, however, as Milan claimed a slender 3-2 win despite Nicola Sansone's late penalty leading to a tense finish.

But Pioli spoke with more enthusiasm about Mihajlovic than he did Milan's performance.

"It was a real pleasure to see him," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia. "I wanted to hug him, but he said it was better not to [due to his condition]. But it was still exciting, a nice moment.

"I hope he is on the way to full recovery now. Having that moment together touched me, it really did."

Krzysztof Piatek wore an expression of relief after he ended a goal drought that stretched back almost two months, opening the scoring with an early penalty after he had been tripped, and Pioli hopes that will help the Poland international's state of mind.

"He was a fundamental point of reference for us today," Pioli said of Piatek. "He won many duels and made an important impact for the team.

"We predicted Bologna would press high up the pitch, so we thought we'd have to play direct and he held the play up very well. He too will come out of this with more confidence."

Theo Hernandez endured a mixed match, becoming the first player since Opta records began to score a goal, an own goal and concede a penalty in the same Serie A game, with Giacomo Bonaventura's strike ultimately proving crucial as Milan took home the points.

Despite there being more negatives than positives about the defender's display, Pioli was mostly pleased.

"Especially in the offensive phase, Theo is very strong," Pioli remarked. "He has great timing of his forward runs, is strong physically and has a great left foot.

"He is the sort of player that can disrupt defensive balance in the opposition if he's got space to run into ahead of him."

Milan secured successive Serie A wins for only the second time this season as they won 3-2 away to Bologna, who had coach Sinisa Mihajlovic back on the bench for the first time since his bone marrow transplant last month.

Mihajlovic, who was diagnosed with leukaemia earlier in the year, received a huge ovation as he walked out pre-match, though his presence was not enough to inspire Bologna to a first league win over Milan since January 2016.

Milan's opening goal will have come as a relief to Krzysztof Piatek as the Poland international scored his first club goal for almost two months from the spot, before Theo Hernandez netted one at either end to put Bologna back in contention.

They were soon trailing by two once again in the second half thanks to Giacomo Bonaventura's sumptuous strike and that proved decisive, giving Bologna too much to do despite Nicola Sansone's late penalty restoring a modicum of hope.

Piatek ended his goal drought from the spot in the 15th minute, converting after being sent tumbling by Bologna defender Mattia Bani.

The hosts failed to mount much of a response and found their task made even trickier just past the half-hour mark, Hernandez beating the goalkeeper from close range after collecting Suso's wonderful disguised pass.

Hernandez found the wrong net late in the half, however, directing a corner past Gianluigi Donnarumma after Stefano Denswil had ducked under the ball.

But any hope of a Bologna comeback was effectively ended within a minute of the second half starting, as Bonaventura curled a fine effort into the left side of the goal from 20 yards.

Sansone's penalty – given after a VAR review – in the 84th minute following Hernandez' clumsy foul on Riccardo Orsolini ensured it was a nervous ending for Milan, but the visitors held on.

Rumoured Milan, Napoli and Bologna target Zlatan Ibrahimovic would "increase the appeal" of Serie A, according to Mino Raiola, though his agent insisted a return to Italy is not a foregone conclusion.

Ibrahimovic is a free agent after leaving LA Galaxy following two seasons in MLS, and the former Juventus, Inter and Milan striker hinted he was heading back to Serie A when he said "see you soon in Italy" earlier this week.

However, Ibrahimovic's agent stressed his client could still join a club in another country

"It's not been said that he will necessarily return to Italy," Raiola told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Which of the three interested clubs will he choose? Who knows, we're all free men.

"Could he retire? I'm not going to exclude anything but it is very unlikely. Ibra is still very well."

I came, I saw, I conquered. Thank you @lagalaxy for making me feel alive again. To the Galaxy fans - you wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome. The story continues...Now go back to watch baseball pic.twitter.com/kkL6B6dJBr

— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 13, 2019

The 38-year-old Swede certainly helped enhance MLS during his two years Stateside, and Raiola feels he would have a similar impact in Italy, should that be his chosen destination.

"Certainly if he returned, the appeal of Serie A would increase, both technically and on television," Raiola added.

"How many countries would turn on the TV every weekend?"

Ibrahimovic spent two seasons with Juventus, three campaigns with Inter and two years with Milan, scoring a combined 122 goals across 219 appearances.

He was part of title-winning teams with all three clubs, though Juventus' two championships in that time were later revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal.

Juan Cuadrado was wrongly sent off as Juventus lost 3-1 away to Lazio in Serie A on Saturday, according to Maurizio Sarri.

The Bianconeri coach saw his side lose for the first time since his arrival despite Cristiano Ronaldo's goal putting the champions in front at the Stadio Olimpico.

Luiz Felipe headed Lazio's equaliser before the turning point of the match, Cuadrado seeing red after bringing down Manuel Lazzari as he ran through on goal.

Referee Michael Fabbri initially opted to book Cuadrado but then changed the yellow card to red after consulting pitchside monitors, and Lazio made the most of their man advantage.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic brilliantly scored from Luis Alberto's lofted pass, and Felipe Caicedo struck deep in added time to secure Lazio's first home league win over Juve since 2003.

"We didn't respect our duties, because players were in the wrong position," Sarri told DAZN of the incident leading to Cuadrado's dismissal. "It was a distraction and you pay for that.

"We had decided before the game on certain positions and we didn't cover them.

"I do not entirely agree that it was a clear scoring opportunity, as the ball was going wide. I thought a yellow card was the right ruling, but the fact remains that is out of our control and we made a mistake to create the situation."

Sarri, who said Rodrigo Bentancur needs tests on a ligament injury, felt there were positives to take from Juve's performance despite a second straight league game without a win.

"In the second half, when the game seemed to be in a more balanced state, the red card changed everything," he said. "We lost the match, but, to be honest, I saw improvements in my team."

Lazio have won seven games in a row in Serie A and are only five points behind leaders Inter, prompting suggestions they could be in the title race.

They last won the league 20 years ago, and coach Simone Inzaghi feels topping the table may be a realistic target for his impressive side.

"We are in a great period of form," he told DAZN. "We should be ambitious, knowing also that six weeks ago people said we weren't getting results but I remained calm.

"The club was always close to me, even when we lost, reassuring me there were no problems.

"I also have a squad that is always at the disposal of my staff and I. Now we enjoy this victory, which we hadn't managed for 16 years here, a game I remember, because I was on the bench.

"We enjoy it for a few hours, but from Thursday we must get right back on track and aim to stay in the Europa League. We played well, created many chances and could have scored more goals, so I praise these lads for something extraordinary."

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Felipe Caicedo netted as Lazio came from behind to shock Juventus 3-1 at home and inflict Maurizio Sarri's first defeat as Bianconeri coach.

Juve, held 2-2 at Sassuolo last time out, took the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo but were pegged back before the break by Luiz Felipe's header in a gripping Serie A encounter.

Juan Cuadrado's red card opened the door for Lazio and they charged through it, Luis Alberto setting up Milinkovic-Savic for a superb strike to edge in front.

There was time for more drama, though, Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny saving Ciro Immobile's penalty, and Caicedo added a third deep in added time to leave Inter two points clear at the top.

Out-of-sorts striker Krzysztof Piatek is not the root of Milan's problems, according to head coach Stefano Pioli.

Piatek joined Milan 11 months ago from Genoa and made an instant impression, scoring seven times in his first six games.

The Polish star finished the 2018-19 campaign with 22 Serie A goals, but he has struggled to hit those heights this season, finding the net just three times and failing to score in six successive matches.

Milan, down in 11th in the table, have struggled as a result, but Pioli feels their issues are collective, rather than individual.

"There is no Piatek problem," he said at a news conference to preview Sunday's game against Bologna.

"There is a Milan that is playing well, that is working hard to climb out of this slump, a team that knows we need to do more."

Pioli feels he has no like-for-like replacements for Piatek in his squad as he considers talented 20-year-old Rafael Leao a different type of forward.

"If Piatek plays tomorrow that is because I've decided he is important for our team," Pioli added.

"If he plays like he did against Parma [in last week's 1-0 away win], it means he will have had a good game, like the rest of the team.

"Each player brings their own characteristics; Piatek is a striker, a poacher, Leao is a movement striker. There are many ways to play but the important thing is the characteristics on the field match up.

"The individual isn't important; we don't have anyone like [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo - that means we have to work as a team."

With Piatek unable to replicate last season's form, Milan have been linked with a reunion with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is available on a free as he leaves MLS side LA Galaxy.

Asked if he wanted Ibrahimovic to sign as an early Christmas present, Pioli replied: "Christmas comes on December 25 but you've been talking about these things from November.

"If I was to think about a present for now, I'd want the three points for tomorrow."

Italy international Fabio Quagliarella has signed a new contract with Sampdoria, the Serie A club have announced.

The veteran's deal runs until June 2021, by which point Quagliarella will be 38.

He joined Samp for a second spell in 2016 and has made a combined 184 appearances for the club across the two stints, scoring 78 times.

Former Torino, Napoli and Juventus striker Quagliarella was top scorer in Serie A last year for the first time in his career, beating Duvan Zapata, Krzysztof Piatek and Cristiano Ronaldo with his 26 goals.

That form led to him winning a recall to the Italy team in March, when he won his first cap in nine years.

He became Italy's oldest scorer later that month when he netted against Liechtenstein at the age of 36 years and 54 days.

Arsenal appear to be spiralling into a deeper mess as the days pass.

Just over a week on from sacking Unai Emery, the Gunners now reportedly have doubts over how long Freddie Ljungberg should be left in charge.

Misjudging the situation could have serious ramifications for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future.

 

TOP STORY – DOUBTS EMERGE OVER LJUNGBERG

Arsenal fear interim boss Ljungberg's lack of managerial experience will force them to make a full-time appointment before the end of the season, reports The Mirror.

Gunners chiefs seemed set to back the Swede when Emery was moved aside but a draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road and the 2-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion in midweek have cast doubt over his capabilities.

Action could be taken sooner rather than later as the club mull over a list of potential targets, particularly as there are "growing concerns" about star striker Aubameyang .

The 30-year-old has reportedly stalled on contract talks and the lack of clarity over the head coaching position could end with Arsenal being forced to sell one of their strongest assets.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell in their sights after their transfer ban was reduced on Friday, reports The Athletic.

- Juventus are considering a move for either Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic or Leandro Paredes of Paris Saint-Germain, claims Corriere Torino.

- Inter's interest in Arturo Vidal could aid Barca's bid to sign Lautaro Martinez from the Serie A side, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Steven Gerrard is on the verge of agreeing a new deal with Rangers that will see him remain as manager until 2024, says The Sun.

- Two Eredivisie stars could be headed for Portugal, reports A Bola. Belgian forward Cyriel Dessers of Heracles Almelo and exciting AZ prospect Myron Boadu are said to be in the sights of Primeira Liga heavyweights Sporting CP .

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