Juventus will be without midfielder Sami Khedira for around three months after he underwent successful knee surgery on Wednesday, the Serie A club announced.

The Bianconeri had earlier said Khedira would travel to Augsburg for the arthroscopic cleaning procedure in his left knee after missing Sunday's 2-2 draw against Sassuolo.

Juve reported the operation was "perfectly successful" and Germany international Khedira could immediately begin rehabilitation.

The 32-year-old, who has made 17 appearances in all competitions for Maurizio Sarri's team this season, is set to return in March.

Khedira had the same surgery on his right knee at the end of last season.

Lautaro Martinez is delighted to be delivering success for Inter and says the arrivals of Antonio Conte, Romelu Lukaku and a new system have inspired his outstanding form.

Argentina international Martinez has scored 13 goals in 19 games across all competitions for the Nerazzurri this season, already trumping his tally of nine strikes in his debut 2018-19 campaign.

The 22-year-old's goals have fired Inter to the top of Serie A, a point clear of Juventus after 14 matches.

Martinez came into the campaign full of confidence after netting twice at the Copa America, yet he suggests life back at Inter would still have been tough had Luciano Spalletti remained at the helm, preferring a formation with a lone striker.

Instead, Spalletti and captain Mauro Icardi departed, seeing new coach Conte install a 3-5-2 line-up that brings the best out of both Martinez and Lukaku, who has 11 goals in 18 games.

"Last year, I played in a team with a coach who played with only one striker in attack," Martinez told Sky Sport Italia.

"I knew that in front of me there was the captain, Icardi, the most important player for Inter, and obviously it was very complicated for me to play.

"I always trained to the maximum, but I knew it was like that. I had the chance to play a few minutes but not like I would play now.

"This year, I had a great Copa America, then I met Conte, who works at high intensity and treats all players in the same way. This makes everyone train to the maximum.

"Then there is Romelu, who is a great person on and off the pitch. We are working hard to follow the coach's instructions and take Inter to the top."

Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Manchester City in recent weeks but described his happiness at San Siro.

"Inter is my home. That's something very important for me," he said.

"I try to work hard and prove with humility on the pitch that I deserve to wear this shirt. I want to bring as much joy as possible to the Nerazzurri fans and my family."

Cristiano Ronaldo is "coming back stronger than before", according to Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici, who scoffed at suggestions the veteran forward is "finished" after missing out on the Ballon d'Or.

Ronaldo opted not to attend the Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris, where Lionel Messi collected the top prize for the sixth time, choosing instead to appear at the Gran Gala del Calcio in Milan, where the Juve star picked up awards for his achievements in Serie A.

Paratici was asked whether Ronaldo's recent form is a sign the 34-year-old's powers are in decline, following a run of one goal in his past five games for the Bianconeri.

The Juve chief dismissed the suggestion, telling Tuttosport: "Cristiano finished? Don't make me laugh.

"Ronaldo had a knee problem that didn't allow him to perform at his best, but now he's coming back stronger than before."

On the Ballon d'Or, Paratici added: "For me, Ronaldo also deserved it last season, where he scored [13] goals in the Champions League, many of which were decisive.

"Ronaldo also deserved the Ballon d'Or this season. He is a competitive animal. We have made a good investment with him, he has improved all of us.

"We must accept his hunger, it is what distinguishes him from others. Will he remain with Juventus? Of course."

Paratici also took the opportunity to lavish praise on Matthijs de Ligt after he won the Kopa trophy, awarded to the best player under the age of 21.

De Ligt joined Juventus in July in a €75million move from Ajax, and Paratici dubbed the deal one of the club's best.

"The more I see of him, the more I think he is a monster. He's in another category," Paratici said.

"Do you realise what it means to be a starter at a big club at 20 years old? He was immediately thrown into the fray because of the injury to [Giorgio] Chiellini. He immediately took on great responsibilities, it's crazy.

"He's our best young purchase. He will define an era, I'm sure of it."

Paul Pogba remains on the sidelines but his club future is at the centre of the rumour mill.

According to a new report, Zinedine Zidane wants the Manchester United midfielder "at all costs".

Links between Pogba and Real Madrid have long been established, but it seems not all in the Spanish capital are keen on the move.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE WANTS TO POACH POGBA

Zidane views compatriot Pogba as "the final piece of the puzzle" for Madrid and has implored the club to secure his signature, reports Marca.

The Los Blancos boss reportedly made Pogba's arrival his only demand when he returned to the Santiago Bernabeu in March for a second stint as head coach.

However, Madrid executives are said to be sceptical about splashing at least €120million for a player who would potentially take a first-team spot from the improving Federico Valverde.

Zidane and Pogba had a "chance" encounter in Dubai in October, where the 26-year-old was undergoing warm-weather rehabilitation on his injured ankle.

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain have been impressed with Mauro Icardi and will look to tie the on-loan striker to a permanent deal, claims CalcioMercato. The Ligue 1 champions can reportedly land the Inter outcast for €70m.

- Arsenal, West Ham and any other Premier League teams aiming to appoint Rafael Benitez would have to pay £20m to release him from his Dalian Yifang contract, says the Daily Mail.

- Copa Libertadores champions Flamengo could pull the plug on a bid for Gabriel Barbosa after growing frustrated with the forward's reluctance to finalise the arrangement, according to Fox Sports Brazil. 'Gabigol' is on loan from Inter and reportedly coverts a second chance in Europe.

- CalcioMercato reports Milan are plotting to sign PSG left-back Layvin Kurzawa when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- Jose Mourinho's Tottenham hope to capture Norwich City centre-back Ben Godfrey in January for around £25m, reports Football Insider.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has indicated he will return to Serie A, saying he will join a club that "has to win again".

Ibrahimovic, 38, has been heavily linked with a return to former club Milan after confirming his departure from MLS side LA Galaxy last month.

The star striker is set to be back in Serie A and he could end up at San Siro, where he has played for Milan and Inter previously.

"I will go to a club that has to win again, that has to renew its history, which is looking for a challenge against everyone," Ibrahimovic told GQ Italia.

"See you soon in Italy."

Ibrahimovic scored 59 goals in 89 games for Milan between 2010 and 2012, winning a Serie A title and Supercoppa Italiana.

Milan desperately need to add firepower after netting just 13 times in 14 league games this season to sit 11th in the table.

Ibrahimovic, who struck 53 goals in 58 games for the Galaxy, said there were multiple factors when it came to deciding his next club.

"Only in this way will I be able to find the necessary stimuli to surprise you again," he said.

"As a footballer it is not just a matter of choosing a team. There are other factors that must fit in, even in the interests of my family."

Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira will undergo surgery on Wednesday in a bid to resolve a knee injury.

The Germany international missed the 2-2 draw with Sassuolo on Sunday, with Juve now confirming he will visit a doctor in Augsburg for arthroscopic cleaning of his left knee.

He underwent the same procedure on his right knee in April.

The 32-year-old has been an important player for Maurizio Sarri this season, making 17 appearances across all competitions.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has insisted his organisation is not blind to the scourge of racism and will implement stronger sanctions on clubs and countries.

European football has been marred by a string of ugly episodes this season, from the monkey noises aimed at Inter striker Romelu Lukaku in a Serie A game against Cagliari to the racist abuse England players suffered during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria.

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli and Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Taison both resorted to kicking balls into the stands in separate incidents in Italy and Ukraine last month.

Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out characterised the €75,000 fine handed out to the Bulgarian Football Union as symptomatic of UEFA's weak deterrents and Ceferin admitted more must be done.

He told The Mirror: "I understand that the players are desperate because of the punishments and the incidents that are happening again and again.

"Of course you want say [to UEFA]: 'Go to hell!' I know. But I am not so naive to think that we've done all we can and now everything is finished. We haven't.

"We are trying and we care. We are not just some guys in Nyon sitting eating fancy food and driving Ferraris.

"We are ready to listen to criticism. Every week there is something - not just since Bulgaria, not since England, not since Cagliari. We've been listening.

"Every week we hear about some s*** happening around Europe. And we speak.

"I went recently to the European Union. We speak with governments. We are trying to do something."

Ceferin pledged to investigate avenues for tougher penalties and said UEFA will address its own imbalances.

"Our disciplinary committee and other committees should be more and more diverse," he said.

"We have to bring black members in and we have to bring in more women.

"I agree that sanctions will have to be harsher and harsher. And I'm sure we will. I cannot tell you more but we will rethink all the disciplinary regulation and diversity in the disciplinarian gravity.

"In the future, one of the governing bodies where this happens will have to have severe sanctions, I know."

But the Slovenian administrator stopped short of agreeing to competition bans, saying: "I know we have to do more. But tell me which club was thrown out of the Premier League? And you have incidents almost every week. Also in Italy.

"The media attention is their oxygen."

Criticism of veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon irritates Juventus, the club's sporting director Fabio Paratici has admitted.

Buffon was at fault for the concession of Francesco Caputo's goal in Juve's 2-2 draw with Sassuolo on Sunday.

The 41-year-old, who was making his fifth Serie A start of the season, let a tame shot squirm through his grasp following Matthijs de Ligt's panicked clearance.

Maurizio Sarri later absolved Buffon of blame and Paratici felt the Italy legend was deserving of more respect than he has received in some quarters.

"The criticism of Buffon bothers us a lot," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

"I always say that Buffon, [Leonardo] Bonucci, [Andrea] Barzagli and [Giorgio] Chiellini are the heroes we have had over the years. They are great people first and then great players. If they have bad days, which happens very rarely, it is proof they are human.

"Buffon is a great goalkeeper, the greatest in the history of football, and above all a great person."

The glaring mistake left Juve trailing early in the second half and a largely poor team performance did not improve until Paulo Dybala's introduction in the 53rd minute.

The Argentina international has been in excellent form in recent weeks and won the penalty from which Cristiano Ronaldo equalised.

Having seemingly been up for sale in the close season, Dybala is now making a case to be granted an improved deal at the Allianz Stadium.

"He is a great player, our number 10 and not by chance," Paratici said. "We are not talking about a renewal, but we will address the matter in due course."

Paratici confirmed outcast attacker Mario Mandzukic could leave the club in January but offered no insights into the futures of Merih Demiral, Daniele Rugani and Emre Can, who have also been linked with moves elsewhere.

Real Madrid have made Fabian Ruiz their top transfer target.

According to reports, "negotiations have accelerated" as the Spanish heavyweights aim to take advantage of the disarray at Napoli.

But the midfielder also has high-profile admirers in England and France.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEP UP FABIAN INTEREST

Napoli midfielder Fabian is a man in demand.

Madrid appear to be in pole position, with Cadena SER claiming the Spanish giants are "very serious" about taking the 23-year-old to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Negotiations over a contract extension at Napoli are said to have stopped and the Spain international is reportedly warm to the idea of joining up with Zinedine Zidane's side.

However, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain could look to force a three-way bidding war for the Spain international, who has previously been linked to Barcelona.

ROUND-UP

- Ex-Valencia head coach Marcelino has emerged as a left-field managerial candidate for Arsenal and Everton, according to the Daily Mail. The 54-year-old lost his job at the Mestalla in September following a reported falling out with owner Peter Lim.

- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fears he will be sacked if Manchester United lose their next two games against Tottenham and bitter rivals City, says The Sun.

- Former Premier League striker-turned-reporter Jan Aage Fjortoft claims Liverpool are favourites to land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho – but the winger will cost the Premier League leaders €130million.

- Chelsea have offered little-used striker Olivier Giroud to Serie A sides Milan and Inter, according to CalcioMercato.

Barcelona are keeping tabs on 16-year-old PSG midfielder Edouard Michut, reports Le Parisien.

Matthijs de Ligt set his sights on team success with Juventus after claiming a prestigious individual prize at the Ballon d'Or ceremony on Monday.

The Netherlands international was named the 2019 winner of the Kopa Trophy, given annually to the best player in the world aged under 21.

De Ligt described the award as an "honour" and hoped it would not be his last taste of silverware for the season.

Juve, the club he joined from Ajax in July, have long harboured ambitions to win the Champions League and are locked in a Serie A title race with Antonio Conte's Inter.

"Inter will be a difficult challenge because they are a great team with great players," De Ligt told reporters in Paris.

"But the season is long and for us it is all about winning.

"In the league or in the cup? I don't make distinctions, it's all important. We want to win everything.

"At Juve there are world-class defenders who will help me grow and become even stronger."

De Ligt was part of the Juve side that drew 2-2 at home to Sassuolo over the weekend, which allowed Inter to take a one-point lead at the top.

The Bianconeri will look to bounce back away to in-form Lazio on Saturday.

Giorgio Chiellini was happy for Lionel Messi to win this year's Ballon d'Or, but the Juventus defender blasted the "theft" that meant Cristiano Ronaldo missed out in 2018.

Barcelona star Messi claimed the prize for a record sixth time on Monday, beating Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and Ronaldo.

It came a year after Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric ended the 10-year dominance of Messi and Ronaldo, but it was that decision that upset Chiellini.

"It's OK the Ballon d'Or for Messi this year," the Juve captain told Sky Sport Italia at the Gran Gala del Calcio awards in Milan on Monday.

"The real theft was last year. Real Madrid decided that Cristiano should not win the Ballon d'Or. It was really strange."

Chiellini added: "Real didn't want him to win because he was no longer one of their players."

Ronaldo joined Juventus from Madrid in July last year, and was on Monday named the Serie A player of the year for 2018-19.

Juve and Ronaldo are yet to get to their best this season, now sitting a point adrift of leaders Inter through 14 Serie A games.

"I said that the real Juve will be seen at least from January. We need time," Chiellini said.

"We started very well with a great month and a half, then we suffered a bit of physiological decline, but the results weren't missed.

"Without the draw against Sassuolo [on Sunday], we would talk about super Juve."

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo has officially been named the best player in Serie A last season, a few hours after Lionel Messi beat him to a record sixth Ballon d'Or crown.

Ronaldo dodged the glitzy Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris on Monday to instead attend the annual Gran Gala del Calcio in Milan, where he was honoured for his successful maiden campaign with Juve.

He scored 21 league goals in 2018-19 to help the Bianconeri to an eighth successive Scudetto and has six goals in 11 starts this term, despite injury issues curtailing his playing time over the past month.

"It is a proud moment to win this award," Ronaldo said upon collecting the award, which was won by Mauro Icardi, then of Inter, 12 months ago.

"I want to thank my Juventus team-mates. It was my first year in Serie A, a difficult league, and I am very happy. Thank you for voting for me.

"I will now try to repeat what I've done over the next year."

Ronaldo has been struggling with a knee injury in recent weeks and reacted angrily to being hauled off in wins over Lokomotiv Moscow and Milan last month.

However, Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici insisted the Portugal international – who finished third in the Ballon d'Or running behind Messi and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk – will remain in Turin beyond the end of the campaign.

"This talk makes me smile because there are other problems," Paratici told Sky Sport Italia.

"Ronaldo is ambitious and came to Juventus to prove he is the best here too. We thought he should have won the Ballon d'Or – the rankings are always questionable.

"He will be a Juventus player next season, without a doubt. 

"We must thank him for making himself available to [Maurizio] Sarri, even though he has not been in optimal condition. Having not been able to train properly for a while, it is normal that he is not at his best."

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson has been crowned the first ever winner of the Yachine Trophy at 2019 Ballon d'Or ceremony in Paris.

The 27-year-old beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Ederson to be crowned the best keeper in the world.

Alisson played a crucial role in Liverpool's Champions League success and started six times for Brazil in their triumphant Copa America campaign.

He also won the Golden Glove in the Premier League last season with 21 clean sheets as the Reds fell just short of Manchester City in the title race.

Barcelona keeper Ter Stegen finished second in the voting, while Alisson's compatriot Ederson was third.

Kepa Arrizabalaga, Hugo Lloris, Jan Oblak, Samir Handanovic, Manuel Neuer, Andre Onana and Wojciech Szczesny were also in the running for the inaugural award.

Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt has been named as the winner of the 2019 Kopa Trophy at this year's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

Awarded to the best player in the world under the age of 21, De Ligt inherits the award from France and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

De Ligt has enjoyed a sensational 2019, guiding Ajax to the Eredivise title and the semi-final of the Champions League, where they ultimately suffered a last-gasp defeat to Tottenham.

His stunning form for the Dutch side led to a reported €75million move to Juventus in July, with the Serie A champions seeing off competition from a number of European rivals for his signature.

The 20-year-old has made 15 appearances across all competitions for Maurizio Sarri's side this season, scoring one goal.

Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt has been named as the winner of the 2019 Kopa Trophy at this year's Ballon d'Or ceremony.

Awarded to the best player in the world under the age of 21, De Ligt inherits the award from France and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

De Ligt has enjoyed a sensational 2019, guiding Ajax to the Eredivise title and the semi-final of the Champions League, where they ultimately suffered a last-gasp defeat to Tottenham.

His stunning form for the Dutch side led to a reported €75million move to Juventus in July, with the Serie A champions seeing off competition from a number of European rivals for his signature.

The 20-year-old has made 15 appearances across all competitions for Maurizio Sarri's side this season, scoring one goal.

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