Juventus were on track for the treble in early February. Now, their very superiority in Italy is under threat.

Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat to Napoli might only have come on penalties, but few could argue the Bianconeri deserved better, save for goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Napoli, missing the suspended semi-final hero David Ospina, were the only team with a clear game plan in the eerily quiet Stadio Olimpico. They had 15 shots to Juve's 13 and seven on target to the Serie A leaders' three, despite slightly less possession.

Theirs was an obvious ploy, one they have followed rigidly since Gennaro Gattuso took charge in December: a defiance off the ball, a commitment to counter-attacking but only at the right moment. Catenaccio for the 21st century.

The concern for Juve is that, a year after Maurizio Sarri became head coach, it's hard to know what their plan is.

Their chances were scarce throughout, the best a snapshot from Cristiano Ronaldo five minutes in. At the other end, they were indebted to Buffon, the 42-year-old flying across his line to keep out Diego Demme, Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Matteo Politano and, somehow, Nikola Maksimovic and Eljif Elmas with a spectacular double-save in second-half injury time.

He was largely helpless in the shoot-out as Napoli scored all four from the spot, after Paulo Dybala's effort was saved by Alex Meret and Danilo stalled, stuttered and smashed his over the crossbar.

Juve have never looked settled under Sarri, but results have been mostly sufficient. They are top of Serie A by one point ahead of the return of Italy's top flight this week, but they have won only four of their past 10 games in all competitions, a run that includes a 1-0 loss at Lyon that leaves their Champions League hopes under threat for another season.

Sarri, having lost the Supercoppa Italiana to Lazio already this season, was upset this week by suggestions he has not been a successful coach in Italy, referring to his eight promotions from the lower leagues.

That's not enough in Turin. Sarri was hired after reaching two finals (winning one) in his sole season with Chelsea, a man revered by sections of Italian football for a stylistic way of winning not least at old club Napoli, brought to Juve to marry domestic dominance with European success in a manner to make fans proud. Right now, they are far from that.

Napoli fully deserved their first trophy since 2014, none more so than Gattuso, who lost his sister only weeks ago. His appointment was a gamble after a tricky spell in charge of Milan, but one that has been rewarded. It's not all his fault, but Sarri's own season is at risk of unravelling.

Napoli lifted the Coppa Italia with a 4-2 penalty shootout triumph over Juventus and former coach Maurizio Sarri on Wednesday following a dire goalless draw.

The Partenopei deserved their sixth cup triumph after passing up some big chances in the 90 minutes as Juve's star attackers failed to show at the Stadio Olimpico.

Gianluigi Buffon made a succession of vital stops and the stage appeared set for the veteran to lead the Bianconeri to glory in the shootout, yet two team-mates failed from the spot as Napoli kept their nerve.

Alex Meret - only playing due to David Ospina's suspension - saved from Paulo Dybala, before Danilo missed the target entirely, extending Sarri's wait for a first major domestic honour.

Dries Mertens has signed a new contract with Napoli to tie him to the club until 2022 and end transfer speculation.

The Belgium international was seemingly set to depart Stadio San Paolo with his previous deal set to expire at the end of the season.

His contractual situation led to reports of apparent discussions with Chelsea and Inter, the latter of whom were said to be offering a significantly better wage than the package put together by Napoli.

But the 33-year-old is claimed to have reached an agreement to remain at Napoli in May, with the club making the official announcement just four days after Mertens overtook Marek Hamsik as their all-time leading goalscorer.

A Napoli statement read: "Napoli is pleased to announce that it has agreed terms with Dries Mertens over a new contract with the club.

"Mertens has signed for a further two years with the option to extend for a third."

Club president Aurelio De Laurentiis added on his official Twitter account: "Pleased to be together for a long time to come – long live Dries!"

Mertens moved to Napoli in 2013 after an eye-catching two-year spell with PSV and has since scored 122 goals in all competitions, including 90 in Serie A.

His most prolific single league campaign was with Napoli in 2016-17, when the forward netted 28 times in Serie A.

Maurizio Sarri has expressed frustration at the way his record in Italy can be perceived ahead of Juventus' Coppa Italia final clash against Napoli.

Serie A leaders Juve face Napoli in Rome on Wednesday after the two sides emerged triumphant from their semi-final ties against Milan and Inter respectively.

Juve were runners-up in the Supercoppa Italiana earlier in the season, so a Coppa triumph would be a first trophy with the club for head coach Sarri.

Prior to his year at Chelsea, when he won last season's Europa League, Sarri spent three successful campaigns with Napoli, though silverware eluded him.

That stint came after a long managerial run in Italy that included spells with Empoli, Perugia and Sorrento.

"I get a bit annoyed when I hear that I didn't win anything in Italy, because I won eight promotions," Sarri told reporters ahead of the final.

"That is perhaps a small thing compared to the Champions League and the Scudetto, but it is not easy.

"It's always an important incentive to win important trophies and there is a desire to lift the cup. I am happy that we are in the final."

The 61-year-old urged his players to seize the moment after the coronavirus crisis left them wondering if their hard work earlier in the season would come to nothing.

Sarri added: "We had seven months of play but then three months of lockdown before we could play these games.

"Now we have to bring out that little bit extra to take home as many trophies as possible.

"We have worked hard to get to this position to play games like this, so it is time to give everything we have.

"Winning is never a foregone conclusion, but it will be important to do it for the players, for the club and for the fans."

Maurizio Sarri has praised his opposite number Gennaro Gattuso ahead of the Coppa Italia final while urging his Juventus players to turn their fine season into something "concrete".

Napoli and Juve saw off Inter and Milan respectively in the semi-finals at the weekend.

Juve boss Sarri will now battle it out against his former club for the trophy in Rome on Wednesday.

Sarri is under no illusions over the quality of Napoli, now led by Gattuso after he coached them between 2015 and 2018.

The Partenopei have only lost once in 10 matches and are bidding to win their first trophy since 2014, while Juve are top of Serie A and still in the Champions League as they target multiple trophies. 

"Napoli are a difficult team to face," Sarri said.

"They are solid when they close the spaces and dangerous on the counter. They won against us, against Inter and drew with Barcelona, they know how to play at a high level.

"Napoli are a team of dribblers, on Wednesday we must remain compact and not allow easy counter-attacking situations. 

"I like Gattuso a lot, he is straightforward and direct. I'm not surprised by what he's achieving."

Sarri believes his approach has changed during the lockdown enforced by the coronavirus crisis.

He added: "From a mental point of view it's been a difficult period for everyone but I've seen the guys at their best: open, smiling and ready to play. 

"Maybe I've also improved too, I'm more patient and less uncompromising. I am completely focused on the final and on our team, with the right concentration and conviction.

"We've played for seven months, and then have had a long break in order to play these remaining matches. 

"Therefore, we'll have to give everything that we have and give that little bit more to win as many trophies as possible. 

"Apart from a few games that haven't gone our way the results have been good so far. 

"We have an excellent points average so we can be pleased with that, but now we want to transform it into something concrete."

Cristiano Ronaldo would have his ideal partner at Juventus if they signed Arkadiusz Milik, according to Marco Borriello.

Poland international Milik's contract with Napoli, who face Juve in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday, is due to expire at the end of next season.

The 26-year-old has scored 26 goals in Serie A since the start of 2018-19, with his first two seasons at Napoli heavily disrupted by a pair of anterior cruciate ligament tears – one in either knee.

With speculation over Paulo Dybala's future at Juve ongoing, Borriello, who was part of the Bianconeri side that lost the 2012 Coppa final to Napoli, believes Milik could provide the perfect foil for Ronaldo in Turin.

Asked how he thought the pair would work together, Borriello told Tuttosport: "Very well. Milik is a complete number nine and, if he hadn't suffered those bad injuries, he would be one of the strongest with [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Edin] Dzeko.

"Arek is not just a penalty-box striker, he is one of those who scores more with shots from outside the area.

"For CR7, he could be a bit like what [Karim] Benzema was in his time at Real Madrid.

"But, trust me, these transfer rumours do not exist on the pitch. Now Milik is only thinking of Napoli."

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis says an offer of €100million could tempt him to sell Fabian Ruiz or Kalidou Koulibaly.

Centre-back Koulibaly has been heavily linked with Manchester United, while Manchester City have also been credited with an interest.

Midfielder Fabian has also been tipped to move to one of Europe's elite clubs, including Real Madrid, City and Paris Saint-Germain.

De Laurentiis is not prepared to sell any of Napoli's top assets on the cheap, but he will not stand in their way if a suitable offer is made.

"If City, or United, or PSG showed up with 100million euros, I would think about it and it is probable they would leave, assuming their desire was to leave," he told Corriere dello Sport.

"I don't even consider an offer of 60 [million]. If I'd wanted to win the title at any cost, today I would find myself three, four hundred million in debt."

De Laurentiis also confirmed Napoli have extended the contract of forward Dries Mertens, whose deal was close to expiring.

The 71-year-old admits he has made something of an exception to offer a player of Mertens' age renewed terms.

He said of the Belgium international, who broke Napoli's goalscoring record with his 122nd for the club against Inter in the Coppa Italia: "He's a rascal.

"We met for breakfast six months ago. It was a revelation. I met a special man, intelligent, mentally quick, a badass.

"Renewing the contract of a 33-year-old footballer is not a habit of ours, [but] with Mertens it was simple, natural.

"I'll say more: when he has stopped playing, I'd like to find him a role to continue our collaboration."

Jose Callejon's contract also runs out soon, but De Laurentiis appears uncertain whether the forward will agree to a new deal or leave on a free transfer.

"In September, or maybe October, I don't remember well, we talked to each other and clarified our intentions," he added. "I must have changed up the contract by 100,000, 200,000 euros. His manager never let us know anything. That's that. He knows the conditions."

Gennaro Gattuso thanked his Napoli players for their "extraordinary" dedication after they drew with Inter to reach the Coppa Italia final.

Dries Mertens became the Serie A club's outright all-time leading goalscorer, cancelling out Christian Eriksen's opener in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Stadio San Paolo.

The result was enough to send Napoli through to the final against Juventus thanks to a 2-1 aggregate win in the semi-final.

Gattuso's sister Francesca died aged 37 earlier this month and the Napoli coach dedicated his side's progression to her, while hailing his players.

"I dedicate this result to my sister and my family," he said, via the club's website.

"The guys were extraordinary for the dedication they put on the pitch. I thank them because they played for me and they were close.

"I have a team that has great quality, but there was [a will] to suffer because not all the mechanisms went in the right direction. After the first very naive goal conceded it was not easy to go back up.

"We showed character and I have to say that in terms of intensity we started from where we left off. We went through a very hard period, it wasn't even easy to train for the health emergency."

Mertens' 122nd goal for Napoli saw him pass Marek Hamsik (121) as the club's outright all-time leading goalscorer.

Gattuso was pleased with the way his side performed after the Belgian's 41st-minute strike.

"After Mertens' goal we had a sort of liberation and we expressed ourselves better," he said.

"The boys are giving everything both in terms of commitment and availability. Now we will play the final with our weapons. If we continue on this path we can take great satisfaction from ourselves."

Napoli will face Juventus in the final in Rome on Wednesday.

Antonio Conte felt Inter deserved to reach the Coppa Italia final after a second-leg draw away to Napoli saw them knocked out 2-1 on aggregate.

Inter had lost the home leg of the semi-final 1-0 at San Siro back in March, prior to the Italian season being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Playing for the first time since the suspension, the Nerazzurri quickly erased the deficit as Christian Eriksen scored straight from a corner inside the opening two minutes at the San Paolo.

However, Dries Mertens' equaliser just before half-time – his 122nd goal for the club, making him Napoli's all-time leading scorer – proved crucial in deciding who would progress to face Juventus in Wednesday's final.

Conte was pleased with how his team performed overall, pointing to an inspired performance from Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina – as well as a lack of a ruthless streak in the final third – as the reasons behind them missing out on a trip to Rome.

"Looking at both matches, we deserved much more," the Inter boss said in his post-match interview with Rai Sport.

"In terms of the performance, I have very little to reproach the boys about. This is the football we want to play; we created a lot and were aggressive. Maybe we should have been more clinical in front of goal, but Ospina performed miracles.

"Their goal was disappointing because it was a careless situation that we could have avoided. But I'm satisfied because we're on the right path, we controlled the game against a strong Napoli team.

"My glass is half-full. We created numerous opportunities and had 18 efforts at goal. Ospina was the best player on the pitch.

"Obviously, we can improve, and we need to be more ruthless in the future, but I don't have anything to complain about in terms of desire and determination.

"We did what we'd worked on in training. It's disappointing for the lads not to qualify for the final because, based on what we did over the 180 minutes, we deserved to do so."

Inter now focus on a resumption of the Serie A season. Their first league fixture back is at home to Sampdoria next Sunday.

Napoli set up a Coppa Italia final against former coach Maurizio Sarri and Juventus after a record-breaking goal from Dries Mertens saw them draw 1-1 with Inter on Saturday, enough for a 2-1 triumph on aggregate.

Mertens converted Lorenzo Insigne's square pass to score his 122nd goal for the club, in the process moving him clear of Marek Hamsik to sit alone in top spot as their all-time leading goalscorer.

Fabian Ruiz's goal at San Siro in the first leg prior to the coronavirus outbreak had put Napoli in control of the semi-final tie at the halfway stage, only for Inter to erase the deficit inside two minutes of the return meeting.

Christian Eriksen's curling corner slipped beyond the players gathered at the front post and also David Ospina, quickly levelling the tie.

However, Napoli’s goalkeeper overcame the early embarrassment to play a key role in helping his side progress in the competition.

Ospina made key saves to deny Romelu Lukaku and Antonio Candreva before setting up the equaliser late in the first half, his well-directed clearance triggering a swift counter-attacking move that caught Inter cold.

His precise kick picked out the run of Insigne, who unselfishly passed the ball across for the advancing Mertens to make history four minutes before half-time.

Not done there, Ospina produced a superb save late in the second half to deny Inter a second goal that would have seen them, rather than Napoli, seal a trip to Rome.

Dries Mertens moved clear of Marek Hamsik at the top of Napoli's all-time scoring list with his 122nd goal for the club on Saturday.

The Belgium international clinically finished a swift counter-attacking move to bring his side level at 1-1 in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter.

His equaliser in the 41st minute, set up by Lorenzo Insigne's square pass, cancelled out Christian Eriksen's early opener at the San Paolo.

Mertens matched Hamsik's career tally of 121 for the Italian club with the only goal in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Barcelona on February 25.

The 32-year-old, who joined from PSV in 2013, is out of contract at the end of the season but is expected to sign a new deal to continue his career with Napoli.

Mertens passed Diego Maradona (115) to move into second spot on the list last year. His effort against Inter takes his tally for the season in all competitions to 13.

Jadon Sancho's future could be resolved sooner rather than later.

The England international is tipped to return to his homeland after leaving Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Premier League leaders Liverpool are reportedly at the front of the queue for the 20-year-old attacker.

 

TOP STORY – REDS IN POLE POSITION FOR SANCHO

Liverpool are leading the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to Le10 Sport.

Sancho is a player in demand, the former Manchester City youngster linked with a return to England via Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested, but Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool appear to be favourites to land the England international if Sadio Mane leaves Anfield.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims United are considering a move for Lazio striker Ciro Immobile. The Italy international has scored a Serie A-high 27 goals this season amid links to Liverpool and Napoli.

Chelsea are not close to reaching an agreement over Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, says The Athletic. Chelsea have emerged as favourites to sign Havertz, who is also reportedly wanted by United, Liverpool, Madrid and Barcelona. But Chelsea – who are set to bring RB Leipzig's Timo Werner to Stamford Bridge – are apparently nowhere near matching Leverkusen's asking price.

- The Independent reports Dortmund are set to beat United to Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old is coveted by Dortmund and United, however, the Bundesliga side are viewed as the more attractive option to give the wonderkid game time.

- Could Dries Mertens leave Napoli for Barcelona? Mertens' contract is set to expire, though the Belgium forward has been tipped to sign an extension. Het Nieuwsblad says Barca could turn to the Napoli star if they are unable to prise Lautaro Martinez from Inter.

Chelsea believe Champions League football will convince Leicester City's Ben Chilwell to snub Manchester City for the London club, according to the Daily Mail. Chelsea have been linked to another full-back – France Football claims the Blues are eyeing Paris Saint-Germain's Layvin Kurzawa, who is available on a free transfer and wanted by the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Inter.

- Tuttosport says Inter are targeting Nice centre-back Malang Sarr. The 21-year-old has also been linked to Pep Guardiola's City.

- According to The Telegraph, Barca are prepared to pay a portion of Philippe Coutinho's wage to help the Brazilian leave Camp Nou. Tottenham and Newcastle United are possible destinations.

Liverpool are eyeing a double transfer raid on Wolves for stars Ruben Neves and Adama Traore, says The Sun.

Lega Serie A has altered the rules for the remaining Coppa Italia fixtures, meaning there will be no extra time in the semi-finals or final.

After a three-month absence due to the coronavirus pandemic, football in Italy will resume on Friday when Juventus take on Milan in the second leg of their semi-final. The first match finished 1-1 in February.

Napoli will host Inter in the other last-four clash on Saturday, with Gennaro Gattuso's side leading 1-0 from the first leg.

The final will be held on June 17, three days prior to the resumption of Serie A.

To ensure players are not overworked on their return to action and reduce the risk of injury, Coppa matches will go straight to penalties if teams cannot be separated at the end of 90 minutes.

However, the away goals rule will remain in use for the semi-finals.

Manchester City and Bayern Munich are seemingly a long way apart when it comes to Leroy Sane.

Sane has been heavily linked with a move to the Bundesliga giants, although it seems City's valuation of the attacker is proving problematic for Bayern.

And, they are reportedly not getting much closer to a deal for the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY, BAYERN STILL FAR APART OVER SANE

Manchester City are remaining tough with Bayern Munich over the transfer fee for Sane, according to Sky Sport.

Reports says City are hoping for €70million (£62.4m) for Sane, but Bayern are offering just €40m (£35.6m).

Sane, 24, left Schalke for City in 2016 and has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two EFL Cups with the club.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United may be considering their options. Tuttosport reports the Premier League giants are ready to make an offer for Juventus midfielder Federico Bernardeschi if they do not land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

- Out of contract next year, Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool future has been questioned. However, The Guardian reports the Premier League leaders held positive talks with the midfielder and hope to extend the Netherlands international's deal for at least three years.

- Sergio Ramos is set to stay at Real Madrid. AS reports the club captain has agreed a one-year extension, taking his deal through until 2022.

- With his deal expiring at season's end, Thiago Silva looks likely to leave Paris Saint-Germain. ESPN reports the defender wants to stay in Europe and play for another top club for at least two more seasons.

- Jose Callejon appears happy at Napoli. CalcioMercato reports the attacker, out of contract at the end of the campaign, would like to stay at the Serie A club for at least another year.

- Valencia attacker Ferran Torres has drawn plenty of interest. According to Radio Valencia, Napoli have spoken to the LaLiga club about the 20-year-old, who has also been linked to Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

Napoli have warned they will not allow Kalidou Koulibaly to leave in a cut-price deal, insisting the defender's value has not budged during the coronavirus crisis.

The Senegalese centre-back, who turns 29 later this month, has frequently been linked with a move, including to Premier League duo Manchester United and Liverpool.

Clubs across Europe have been hit by the impact of the pandemic, with the financial toll leading to suggestions it could have a major effect on the transfer market.

Yet Napoli have no intention of allowing players to leave below their full value, and sporting director Cristiano Giuntoli said it will take top dollar to prise away any of the club's stars.

Addressing the future of Koulibaly, Giuntoli told Italian broadcaster Sky Sport 24: "He is a great footballer and the club has the right to ask for the price it wants."

Giuntoli does not buy into the theory that the best players will suddenly be available for lower prices than before COVID-19 hit.

"They say negotiations will change, but in my opinion this is an alibi. I don't think the coronavirus issue can change the price of Koulibaly or other top players," Giuntoli said.

"Certainly, however, we'll come to appreciate the contractual formula such as the loan with an option to buy, which help to postpone the guarantees and ease the balance immediately. Football can adapt quickly."

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