Barcelona chief executive Oscar Grau has confirmed Ernesto Valverde asked the club to buy Neymar, as the Spanish champions consider whether to make any future bids to Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar was strongly linked with a return to Camp Nou, with PSG sporting director Leonardo confirming the Brazilian was for sale having asked to leave the French capital.

But despite Barca reportedly making a series of cash-plus-players offers to PSG, no deal could be completed before September 2's European transfer deadline.

Neymar scored on his first Ligue 1 appearance this term after failing to get his desired move, but PSG ultras have indicated he will not be welcomed back to the fray quickly.

Real Madrid have also long been linked with a move for Neymar, with Grau unwilling to say whether Barcelona will continue to pursue a deal for the Brazil forward.

"Neymar was a request from the sports area and the coach and the club did everything in order to get him, albeit in a financially sustainable way," Grau said on Thursday.

"We made many proposals to PSG. They always rejected them. I don't know if we are going to target him again next summer. Planning for next season will be done in the future.

"We would have been delighted to have the chance to bring Neymar back, but the terms always had to be reasonable.

"If some parameters had been accomplished, it would have been possible, but PSG were not happy about losing him."

Barca also missed out on Matthijs de Ligt, who opted not to follow his Netherlands team-mate Frenkie de Jong from Ajax to Camp Nou.

"We made him an offer, but he preferred to go to Juve, where Italian taxation allows him to earn a higher net salary," Grau added.

Marco Giampaolo and AC Milan are bringing back the Rossoneri identity as they eye a long-awaited return to the Champions League, according to former goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac.

Milan have not featured in the Champions League since 2013-14 after narrowly missing out on qualification by a single point under Gennaro Gattuso last season.

The Italian giants – seven-time winners of the European Cup/Champions League – have since turned to former Sampdoria head coach Giampaolo in their pursuit of a return to the premier club competition.

Milan great Zvonimir Boban, who won the Champions League and four Serie A titles during his time at the club, has also returned to San Siro as chief football officer, while legendary former captain Paolo Maldini is technical director.

Kalac – winner of the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup during his four years at Milan – believes the 18-time Serie A champions can build on Gattuso's work with Giampaolo's entertaining brand of football.

"They've appointed a very good manager," ex-Australia international Kalac told Omnisport ahead of Saturday's derby against Inter. "The way I think they'll play and the way Giampaolo will get them to play, it will be very good for Milan.

"Milan have always been known as a footballing team. All the success we've had and in the Champions League, it's because of the way they play football – it's a brand.

"They want to bring that back. With Maldini being back and Boban too, you're bringing back legends. The culture of the club. You can't forget what Gattuso done, he brought back the Milan culture. They'll just go forward from that."

"If they can get into the top four and qualify for the Champions League, that's a very big success," Kalac continued, with Giampaolo's side collecting six points from their opening three games. "They were close under Rino, it was a good push. It's where they belong, a club of Milan."

Milan were active again in the transfer market – Giampaolo trying to shape his squad with the deadline-day signing of Croatia star Ante Rebic after bringing Theo Hernandez, Rafael Leao, Ismael Bennacer, Leo Duarte and Rade Krunic to the club.

Rebic – who scored 10 goals across all competitions during a memorable run to the Europa League semi-finals last season – was linked to Inter before joining Milan from Bundesliga outfit Eintracht Frankfurt.

The 25-year-old returns to Italy, having previously struggled after moving to Fiorentina from RNK Split in 2013, before being loaned out to RB Leipzig and Hellas Verona.

"I don't see why not. We all have our ups and downs in football," Kalac said when asked if Rebic can be a success in his second stint in Serie A. "The one thing at Milan that people don't realise, the expectations are so high. It doesn't matter who you play against, they expect you to win. You need to win and supporters expect it. The club is built to win.

"Once these players play and train regularly, they work out things together and combinations form. I've seen many great players come to Milan and not be successful because it's a different expectation. When you're the main man or focal point at a smaller club, it's easier because the team works for you. Whereas at Milan, you need to be part of the parcel in the big cog, but he can be a success."

Rebic will have his first taste of a Milan derby against a high-flying Inter side looking to make it four wins from four Serie A matches under coach Antonio Conte.

Inter are two points clear atop the table following the arrivals of Conte, club-record signing Romelu Lukaku, Diego Godin, Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Alexis Sanchez and Cristiano Biraghi.

"They've recruited really well," Kalac, who predicted a draw in the first Milan derby of the season, said. "It all starts with the recruiting of the head coach – Conte is fantastic. They've brought in some really good players who will be successful.

"But I think it will still take time. They won't have instant success but they will go very close. I think [eight-time reigning champions] Juventus this season, if there's any season to win it off them, it's this term."

Manchester United will not give up on extending Paul Pogba's stay at Old Trafford.

Pogba, 26, was heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid during the close season, despite being contracted at United until 2021, with the club also reportedly holding the option for a further 12 months.

The LaLiga giants are reportedly still interested in the France midfielder, but United have plans of their own.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA CONTRACT A PRIORITY FOR MAN UNITED

Manchester United are looking to sign Pogba on a long-term deal, according to the Evening Standard.

New contracts for Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Mason Greenwood are priorities for the Premier League giants, the report says.

It comes after United re-signed goalkeeper David de Gea and defender Victor Lindelof.

ROUND-UP

- Amid tension with fellow goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Manuel Neuer is considering his Germany future. Bild reports Neuer, 33, could end his international career after Euro 2020.

- Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati is set to get a Spanish passport next Friday, according to AS. Portugal have reportedly made advances for the talented 16-year-old forward, but Fati looks set to be ready to feature for Spain at the Under-17 World Cup beginning in October.

- Luca Pellegrini may be on loan at Cagliari, but his future appears to be at Juventus. The Serie A champions are keen to keep the 20-year-old defender for the long-term, according to Calciomercato.

- Chelsea have received some good news on the injury front. The Sun and the Mirror report midfielder Mason Mount could face Liverpool on Sunday despite suffering an ankle sprain in Tuesday's Champions League loss to Valencia.

- Bayer Leverkusen decided to reward midfielder Kai Havertz in the close season. According to Bild, the Bundesliga club handed the five-time Germany international a wage increase from €2m to more than €5m per season.

- Paul Mitchell has opted against returning to the Premier League. Sky Sports News reports Mitchell will leave his role as head of recruitment and development at RB Leipzig at the end of the month to become technical director of Red Bull's global soccer division. The report says as many as four Premier League clubs were after the former Tottenham and Southampton recruitment chief.

Maurizio Sarri accepted Juventus must work on defending set-pieces after surrendering a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 away to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Sarri's first European game in charge of the Serie A champions seemed set to end in three Group D points after Juan Cuadrado's stunner was followed by Blaise Matuidi's header.

Atletico, though, earned a measure of revenge for their Champions League exit at the hands of Juve last term by fighting back in the last 20 minutes on Wednesday at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Stefan Savic nodded home after a free-kick to reduce the deficit and Hector Herrera brilliantly steered in a headed equaliser from Kieran Trippier's corner in the 90th minute.

Cristiano Ronaldo, whose hat-trick knocked Atleti out last term, almost won it for Juve at the death when he fired just wide, but Sarri was in no doubt where his focus must be on the training ground.

"I think we played well but we have a bitter taste in our mouth now because we felt we had the game in our hands," Sarri said.

"We need more attention and focus on set-pieces. We will work on that.

"I opted to start with Cuadrado because I thought it could have been an open game with spaces for him to use his pace.

"I think we are working well and I could finally see the things we are trying in training."

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci agreed with Sarri's assessment.

"We played a great game but we must be more careful to defend against set-pieces," he said.

"It's a pity because it cost us two points. At this level, our attention must be high for 90 minutes."

Hector Herrera came off the bench to score a 90th-minute equaliser as Atletico Madrid fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Juventus in the Champions League.

Juan Cuadrado's stunning strike and a Blaise Matuidi header looked to have earned Maurizio Sarri's side victory in Group D on Wednesday.

However, Atletico produced a wonderful fightback as set pieces proved Juve's undoing, Stefan Savic nodding home from close range to set up a grandstand finish at the Wanda Metropolitano.

With injury time beckoning, substitute Herrera rose highest in the box to superbly flick home a header from Kieran Trippier's left-wing corner, leaving the spoils shared.

There could be a fight to prise Fabian Ruiz from Napoli.

Fabian has established himself as one of Europe's premier midfielders and the Spaniard is reportedly attracting interest.

Two LaLiga giants and the Champions League holders are said to be eyeing Fabian.

 

TOP STORY - THREE-WAY BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Liverpool are chasing Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to the Daily Mail.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and the Spain international has quickly become one of Europe's most sought-after midfielders.

Now three of the biggest clubs in the world are reportedly eyeing the 23-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports Manchester United are preparing a January move for Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson. The Red Devils have limited options up front following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez. Wilson, who has already scored three goals this season, fits the bill at Old Trafford as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer eyes talented English players.

Juventus, Liverpool and Manchester City are all interested in Real Madrid playmaker Isco, claims Calciomercato.

Barcelona are set to offer 16-year-old sensation Ansu Fati a new five-year deal to fend off interest from European rivals, claims the Daily Mail.

- League One side Southend United want to hire former Celtic, Barca and Manchester United striker Henrik Larsson as their manager, says the Daily Mail. Southend are second bottom in the league after eight games, while Larsson was last in charge of Helsingborg before quitting in August.

- According to Globo Esporte, Flamengo are negotiating to bring Fredy Guarin to the club. The 33-year-old former Inter midfielder is a free agent after leaving Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.

Juventus and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo opened up on the sadness he feels that his alcoholic father never saw his greatest football achievements.

Ronaldo, 34, has enjoyed a glittering trophy-laden career with club and country, while he is the recipient of five Ballon d'Or awards.

However, his father Dinis Aveiro passed away when Ronaldo was aged 20 after liver failure from excessive drinking and did not see Real Madrid's all-time leading scorer reach the zenith of his career.

"My family see, my mum, my brothers, even my old son, but my father, he didn't see nothing, and it was - he died young," Ronaldo said in an interview on ITV with Piers Morgan.

"I have to have these images to show my family. But I really don't know my father 100 per cent.

"He was a drunk person. I never spoke with him, like a normal conversation. It was hard.

"Sadness? To be the number one, and he don't see nothing, and he don't see me receive awards."

Ronaldo – a five-time Champions League winner – also admitted he has banned his mother from attending big matches for her own health.

Maria Dolores dos Santos Aveiro, 64, has collapsed on a few occasions at tense games which prompted the Juve forward to step in.

"She gets so nervous, I don't understand. She is not allowed now to watch big games," he added.

"I get friends to stay with her and she goes for walks around the house. She fainted two times in the stadium. She is nervous.

"It is impossible, I don't have a father anymore and I don't want to lose my mum, so I told her 'you will not watch semi-finals or finals anymore'."

Maurizio Sarri has warned Juventus must escape the "illogical phobia" of previous Champions League campaigns if they are to prosper in it this season.

Juve travel to face another side Sarri believes can win the Champions League this season, Atletico Madrid, in Wednesday's Group D opener.

The Italian giants have won eight Serie A titles in succession but have not triumphed in Europe's elite competition since 1996.

They strengthened again in the close season, adding the likes of Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot to an all-star squad already including Cristiano Ronaldo as they attempt to end that wait for Champions League glory.

“We don’t feel this pressure," Sarri, who confirmed Miralem Pjanic is available, told a news conference.

"We are Juventus, every time we step on to the pitch, the objective is to win, but we also know full well there are 10-12 other teams who feel the same way and have the same resources as we do.

"At this moment, I don't see Italian football as the favourites going into the Champions League, as over the last 20 years we've lost ground. The fault for that goes to everyone, from presidents to journalists, everything that surrounds the sport.

"I think we need to face this competition with exceptional determination, but also a relaxed mind. We've got to get back to enjoying our football, without this illogical phobia.

"Atletico Madrid are one of the teams who can win the Champions League. It's difficult to fight against the Premier League sides, as they have so much money in the sport.

"Atletico lost an extraordinary player in Antoine Griezmann, but brought in one just as extraordinary in Joao Felix. Saul Niguez has made huge leaps forward and I consider him one of the best in Europe right now.

"Atleti have the players to beat anyone, but unfortunately at this level, you need mental strength, technique, tactics and a bit of luck."

Cagliari will not be punished for racist abuse aimed at Inter striker Romelu Lukaku, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has confirmed.

Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants as he prepared to take a penalty in the Serie A meeting between the sides earlier this month.

Cagliari subsequently vowed to ban the supporters responsible but rejected "silly stereotypes" about the behaviour of their fans, while Lukaku called on football authorities and players to "unify" in the fight against racism.

The FIGC said it would investigate the incident but on Tuesday its Giudice Sportivo panel ruled Cagliari would not be punished over the abuse aimed at the Belgium international.

"The head of the public order stated that police of Cagliari had spotted that in the phases preceding the penalty kick, and only on that occasion, from the sector "Curva Nord", usually occupied by the home supporters, there were chants, shouts and arguments against the athlete Lukaku, who was preparing for the penalty," said a statement. 

But it was concluded the club would not be punished due to the "size" of the chanting and the perception that there was too much shouting and whistling to identify its "discriminatory" nature.

Cagliari, however, were fined €5,000 after fans launched plastic bottles on to the pitch against Inter.

The abuse aimed at Lukaku is the fourth high-profile occasion Cagliari have been involved in such incidents in just over two years.

In May 2017, Pescara's Sulley Muntari was booked for complaining to the referee about racism and was later given a one-match ban for walking off the pitch, while Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi claimed in January 2018 he was abused.

Last season Matuidi's then club-mate Moise Kean was targeted with the Sardinia club escaping punishment as Serie A felt the chants "had an objectively limited relevance to race".

Meanwhile, Italian sports pundit Luciano Passirani, who was suspended by television channel TopCalcio24 after saying the only way to stop Lukaku was to give him "10 bananas", has denied being racist.

He told Corriere dello Sport: "I have been in the world of football for 40 years and have never received a suspension for behaviour in any of the roles I have held, but I accept the decision made against me.

"I would not like to pass for a racist. My partner who has lived with me for 17 years is black, I have two black grand-daughters. I am not a racist and I believe I am an educated person in every respect.

"In my career I met so many black players and I never had any problems."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer appears set on his determination to bring young British talent to Manchester United.

There are four English names on the United manager's radar, apparently, as he looks to rebuild the team into a title-winning force once more.

The end of the season could potentially see a spend of a similar magnitude to the £150million, more or less, that he spent on Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James this year.

 

TOP STORY - MADDISON AND SANCHO TOP SOLSKJAER'S WISH LIST

As per ESPN, Manchester United will pursue deals for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho and Leicester City's James Maddison in 2020.

Manager Solskjaer is set on his policy of recruiting young, hungry British talent and remains keen on signing Sancho, who was reportedly a target this year.

United believe Leicester could sell Maddison for around £70m and are also interested in Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff, Bournemouth striker Callum Wilson and Stoke City's Nathan Collins.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona have been ordered by a judge to pay a €300 fine or play a match behind closed doors as part of Atletico Madrid's complaint against the transfer of Antoine Griezmann, Marca say. Atleti believe they are owed more than the €120m Barca paid to activate his release clause.

- The Daily Mail report Napoli are interested in Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard, a player they value at around €34m (£30.1m). 

- A handful of reports in Italy suggest Bernard Arnault, the billionaire owner of Louis Vuitton, is interested in buying Serie A giants AC Milan

- Back with Manchester United, and Calciomercato say JuventusInter, Milan and Borussia Dortmund are all keeping an eye on Nemanja Matic, who has grown frustrated at his reduced role in Solskjaer's plans.

Miralem Pjanic has been passed fit for Juventus' Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid, but Douglas Costa is set to be sidelined for at least two weeks.

Both players hobbled out of the 0-0 Serie A draw with Fiorentina on Saturday, Costa managing only eight minutes and Pjanic forced to depart shortly before half-time.

The Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder had tests at J Medical on Monday and no muscle damage was detected, meaning he should be clear to play in his side's Champions League group-stage opener away to Atletico on Wednesday.

However, Costa has been diagnosed with a thigh injury and it will be 15 days before a definitive time frame on his recovery can be put in place.

It means the Brazil winger will sit out the Atletico clash and potentially Juve's second Group D match at home to Bayer Leverkusen on October 1.

He will also miss league matches against Hellas Verona, Brescia and SPAL over the coming 10 days.

Hellas Verona have insisted they will always condemn incidents of racism, with the club adamant they were not made aware of any abuse allegedly aimed at AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

The Serie A side issued a tweet on Monday distancing themselves from reports that Kessie was targeted during Milan's 1-0 win at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

Kessie is alleged to have been subjected to monkey chants from a small section of home fans, but Hellas have reiterated in a statement on their official website that the suggestions are "baseless".

"Hellas Verona FC, in reference to what was put out today by the club's Twitter account, specify that it was not at all a final position to understate any discriminatory behaviour, which has taken place on various playing fields," the statement read.

"That's because we've always condemned these incidents, committing ourselves directly to various initiatives so as to confront them and fight them as much as possible and within our competence.

"That said, we therefore believe it was simply our duty to emphasise that, in the face of some baseless news, except for the sound of whistles and general disappointment from fans regarding some debatable incidents during the game, we weren't made aware of any chants against the opposing player Kessie, nor did we hear any.

"Nevertheless, we reiterate once more that we'll always be firm in condemning any misconduct which should occur in the future, with a collaborative spirit and sensitivity."

Antonio Conte is committed to building a "special" Inter side but has called for patience from fans and media alike ahead of the Nerazzurri's Champions League meeting with Slavia Prague.

Inter have won all three of their opening Serie A fixtures under Conte and sit top of the table.

Head coach Conte, though, has insisted patience will be required throughout the campaign, conceding the Champions League will make it more difficult for him to pin down Inter's new style of play.

"It will be hard to play on more than one front. The more time you have the easier it is for the coach and also for the players to recover," Conte told a news conference.

"The Champions League is a great source of motivation, we all want to do well and go far for the fans too, but it is not easy for me in my goal of creating a side with an identity.

"There is real desire to create something special, we are laying solid foundations for something important.

"It is vital we keep our feet on the ground, but the enthusiasm must come from the results, from our hard work and our aims, so time and patience is needed.

"I played in three Champions League finals and coached Juventus in the Champions League too, my record there was good.

"At Chelsea too, I coached in the Champions League, this is my fourth season as a coach in the Champions League, but it takes time to win it, you need experience, you need to create a side with an identity.

"In the past I have coached sides still being built. It has not been easy for me."

The arrival of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez have boosted Inter's attack, while Conte's side have scored seven and conceded just once in their three league matches so far.

Lukaku has scored twice so far, though had to be taken off with an injury midway through the second half against Udinese on Saturday.

"Lukaku will train today," Conte said when asked if the forward was fit.

"He had a back injury against Udinese but we will see and evaluate his fitness."

Italian police have arrested 12 leading Juventus 'ultra' members as part of an investigation headed by the Turin Public Prosecutor's office.

The suspects are accused of a range of crimes, including the use of extortion and violence to obtain tickets to matches that they could later sell on.

Police confirmed fans also threatened to carry out racist chanting at games, which would result in the club being fined and potentially docked points, leading to a clampdown from Juventus.

"We found proof that many things were obtained through violence or the retaliation through racist chants, with a ban and expensive fines as a consequence [for the club]," deputy prosecutor of Turin, Patrizia Caputo, told a press conference on Monday, as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport

"The club have had the courage to sue and that was very important. But even the other tifosi [fans] were victims of threats and couldn't go to the stadium anymore because they can't stand menaces, the environment and the racist behaviour."

Hellas Verona have denied their supporters racially abused AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie and demanded more respect for their fans.

Kessie was allegedly targeted during Milan's 1-0 Serie A win at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

Monkey chants are reported to have been aimed at the Ivory Coast international, but Hellas have issued a statement on Twitter to refute those suggestions.

"Racist chants against Kessie? Insults against [Gianluigi] Donnarumma? Maybe someone was baffled by the decibel of the Gialloblu supporters," the club tweeted. 

"[We heard] unavoidable whistles against the referee's decisions which still leave us very perplexed today. 

"And then, lots of cheers for our gladiators at the end of the match. Let's not stumble on cliches and old labels. Respect for Verona and its people."

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