A season is a long time in football.

Rewind to 2018-19 and Inter pipped Milan to the fourth and final Champions League spot by a solitary point.

Fast forward to this season and Milan find themselves ninth and 19 points adrift of their title-chasing Serie A neighbours in February.

As Milan and Inter prepare for Sunday's latest instalment of the Derby della Madonnina, we look at why the Rossoneri have fallen so far behind the Nerazzurri this term.

 

COACHING APPOINTMENTS

Inter brought in a winner. The Suning Holdings Group were determined to sign former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and they got their man. 

Milan were linked to Conte, but Paolo Maldini and the red half of the city were never able to provide the funds necessary for his arrival. Instead, Milan turned to Marco Giampaolo as the replacement for Gennaro Gattuso. There were high hopes for Giampaolo, given the brand of football on show during his time at Sampdoria. However, cracks quickly appeared and he was sacked after just seven games, which included a 2-0 loss to Inter.

That led to Stefano Pioli. An unpopular choice having previously coached Inter, Maldini and the board found themselves under pressure. Despite hardly being an exciting appointment following spells at Fiorentina, Lazio, Bologna and Palermo, Pioli has overseen some improvement. Milan have gone seven games without defeat, though the jury is still out.

 

SIGNINGS

Finances help but recruitment could not be further apart. Boosted by the income of Champions League football and the demands of Conte, Inter have splashed the cash in 2019-20. It took a club-record transfer to prise Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United. Stefano Sensi, Nicolo Barella, Christian Eriksen, Alexis Sanchez, Diego Godin, Ashley Young, Victor Moses and Cristiano Biraghi have all joined the blue half of Milan and made impacts. Valentino Lazaro also arrived but has since moved to Newcastle United on loan.

The additions of Gonzalo Higuain and Leonardo Bonucci were supposed to awaken sleeping giants Milan in 2017, helping to restore their glory days, but the transfer market has not been kind to the Rossoneri. Milan's recent woes can be traced back to the signing of Krzysztof Piatek last term. The Poland striker had taken Italy by storm just six months into his move to Genoa with 19 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions. It prompted Milan to spend big and while there were glimpses of his talent, Piatek's January switch to Hertha Berlin proves they were hasty in their decision to entrust him with the iconic number nine shirt.

The purchase of Theo Hernandez has proven to be a bargain, while Rafael Leao and Ismael Bennacer are some of Maldini and Zvonimir Boban's better deals when you compare them to the likes of Rade Krunic, Leo Duarte and Ante Rebic – who up until the turn of the year was virtually non-existent.

Then there is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His return in January raised some eyebrows, given his age at 38, but the superstar striker has provided leadership and character to the dressing room, helping the team on a seven-match unbeaten run. A rare tick for Milan in recent transfer windows.

 

OFF THE FIELD

Inter are a club thriving on and off the pitch. Conte and CEO Giuseppe Marotta – his trusted friend at Juventus – have the Nerazzurri dreaming of the Scudetto. Milan, on the other hand, could not be further away from ending a title drought dating back to 2011.

A lot of Milan's problems stem from ownership and numerous changes at the top. The last time Milan claimed the Scudetto, Silvio Berlusconi was in charge and Ibrahimovic was playing alongside Ronaldinho, Gattuso and Alessandro Nesta. Since then, a Chinese consortium pledged to lead Milan back to the promised land in 2017. It turned out the new owners did not have the funds required and it led to Elliott Management taking over. The change in ownership sparked upheaval – CEO Marco Fassone and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli were replaced, while Leonardo came and went.

While doubts remain over Maldini and Boban, Milan need a period of stability – especially off the field – to help get back to challenging for domestic and European honours.

Eric Abidal's interview tipped Lionel Messi over the edge.

Normally quiet, especially on social media, Messi used Instagram to hit out at Barcelona director of football Abidal, who had earlier suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Barca superstar Messi is reportedly unhappy with how things are unfolding at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TIRED OF BEING BARCA SCAPEGOAT

Lionel Messi is tired of being held responsible for everything that happens at Barcelona amid doubts over his future, according to COPE and Marca.

Contracted until 2021, captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi snapped back at Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players at the club as he discussed Ernesto Valverde's exit.

It comes amid discontent towards the board and Barca's struggles on the pitch.

Clubs in China, the United States and the Middle East would all be interested should the Argentine opt for a change of scenery.

 

ROUND-UP

- Has Paul Pogba played his last game for Manchester United? The Red Devils are resigned to losing Pogba at the end of the season, reports The Mirror. Linked to Real Madrid and former club Juventus, Pogba has not featured since December due to an ongoing ankle problem.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United will prioritise signing Aston Villa star Jack Grealish as fellow midfield target James Maddison nears a new deal with Leicester City.

Atletico Madrid will consider Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach if they move on from Diego Simeone, reports the Telegraph. Pochettino continues to be linked with United, who are struggling under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- Standard Sport claims Chelsea will sign Lyon striker Moussa Dembele at the end of the season after failing to land the Frenchman in January.

- Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Arsenal, reports The Sun. Arsenal enquired about the 22-year-old Brazilian's availability last month.

Milan snubbed the chance to sign Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic in January, says Calciomercato. Matic is out of contract at season's end but is open to extending his time in Manchester.

Milan will be forever grateful to Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he had "nothing to prove" and "everything to lose" by returning to the struggling Serie A giants, according to chief football officer Zvonimir Boban.

Ibrahimovic re-joined Milan last month after leaving the Rossoneri in 2012, and the 38-year-old striker has made an immediate impact at San Siro.

Since arriving on a free transfer from MLS outfit LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic has lifted the spirit in the dressing room and scored twice in five appearances.

Milan have not lost since Ibrahimovic's comeback – a run of seven matches – and Boban praised the former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain star.

"Ibra is a very charismatic player and he is super professional," said Boban, whose Milan are eighth in Serie A. 

"He joined the team with a very humble approach despite he is a player with a great strength under many aspects.

"He had a real impact on his young team-mates and his arrival was a huge boost to their confidence. It was not easy, but he just found the perfect way to understand the delicate moment our players were going through.

"We will be grateful to him for this forever because he had nothing to prove coming to Milan and everything to lose."

Gianluigi Donnarumma also continues to play a key role for Milan this season – the Italy international goalkeeper an ever-present in 2019-20 with eight clean sheets.

Former Milan keeper Dida, who won two Champions League titles and the Serie A among other honours during his time with the club, lauded the 20-year-old star.

"Donnarumma doesn't need any advice," Dida said. "He grown up in the last year and now he is very mature for his age. In the past he had some misunderstanding with Milan fans but now you can see he is very focused and is doing great things for Milan.

"He made some great saves this season, he always approach the game with the right attitude. You can see he is matured. He just need to keep working as he is doing."

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic could make a surprise move to Atletico Madrid ahead of next season.

The Croatia international is reportedly unhappy at Camp Nou and has been linked with a move away since the off-season.

Now, a stay in LaLiga could eventuate, but away from Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO BEGIN TALKS WITH BARCELONA'S RAKITIC

Atletico Madrid are already negotiating with Rakitic about a possible move at the end of the season, according to Cadena SER.

The 31-year-old is contracted at Barcelona, where he arrived from Sevilla in 2014, until 2021.

Rakitic admitted on Sunday he considered leaving the club in January, and it seems a move is likely come season's end.

ROUND-UP

- Amid reported interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, James Maddison is close to agreeing a new contract with Leicester City, according to The Telegraph. Maddison has starred for the Premier League club this season and is poised to sign a lucrative long-term deal.

- Frank Lampard is set to face a battle at Chelsea. The Mirror reports the head coach wants to sell Kepa Arrizabalaga – who became the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he arrived at Stamford Bridge from Athletic Bilbao for a reported £71.6million (€80m) in 2018 – but is set to face resistance from the board.

- Atletico Madrid and Roma are interested in Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard, according to ESPN. Lingard is coming out of contract in 2021 but also holds a one-year extension option at Old Trafford.

- Are Milan set for another coaching change? Bild reports Red Bull's head of international relations and scouting, Ralf Rangnick, is in advanced talks to become the Serie A club's head coach and sporting director once the season is over. Stefano Pioli only took charge of Milan in October, replacing Marco Giampaolo.

- Inter almost signed Islam Slimani, who is on loan at Monaco from Leicester City, last month, according to CalcioMercato, which reports the Serie A club's move came late in January before collapsing.

Milan lack the personality required to play for the club when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is absent, according to Fabio Capello.

Ibrahimovic was ruled out of the Serie A meeting with Hellas Verona on Sunday due to illness and Milan were held to a 1-1 draw at San Siro.

Verona played the last 22 minutes with 10 men after Sofyan Amrabat was shown a red card following a VAR review of his lunge on Samu Castillejo, but the Rossoneri were unable to score a winner.

Capello - who won the Scudetto with the club as a player in 1979 and in the 1990s coached them to four league titles and Champions League success - feels Ibrahimovic is the only player with sufficient character for the club.

"He is an important player, the point of reference for the whole team. When he's there, two defenders are focused on him," he told Radio Anch'Io Sport.

"I saw a timid Milan again at San Siro. When Ibrahimovic is there instead, he does different things.

"But it's not [coach Stefano] Pioli's fault. The players go out with fear and this means they don't have the personality to play for Milan."

Juventus have a three-point lead over Inter at the summit as they seek to win Serie A for the ninth straight season.

Lazio are two points behind Inter, but Capello believes they lack the depth required to compete with Juve and Inter in the long term.

"Inter have added many players to the squad who do not make a difference like the two strikers, but who can help Conte keep things fresh until the end of the season," he said.

"Lazio don't have that. They are two teams that want to try to win and this is a very important thing. Juventus must be very careful."

Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic is set to miss the Milan derby this weekend after fracturing a finger.

Handanovic sat out the 2-0 victory over Udinese on Sunday after hurting his finger in training, with Daniele Padelli making his Serie A debut for Inter in his stead.

While no time frame was provided for the Slovenia international's return to action, he seems unlikely to recover in time to face Milan at San Siro on Sunday.

"Samir Handanovic has undergone an X-ray examination following an injury to his left hand suffered in training," a statement published by Inter on Monday read.

"Results showed a hairline fracture to his little finger. His condition will be reassessed on a daily basis."

Before confirmation of the injury was provided by the club, reports in the Italian media suggested Handanovic could be facing up to four weeks on the sidelines.

In the week after the derby against Milan, Inter face Napoli in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final and fellow Scudetto challengers Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.

Antonio Conte's men also have a Europa League last-32 tie against Ludogorets to come before taking on reigning Serie A champions Juventus on March 1.

Milan poked fun at the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl victory, inspired by star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Chiefs clinched their first Super Bowl title in 50 years with a 31-20 comeback victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

When Ibrahimovic left the LA Galaxy late last year before agreeing a return to Milan, part of his message on Twitter read: "Now go back to watch baseball."

Inspired by that, the Serie A club congratulated the Chiefs on Twitter and a graphic read: "Now let's go back to watching AC Milan."

Ibrahimovic has scored two goals in five games since returning to Milan, who are eighth in Serie A.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli is hopeful the Maldini 'dynasty' will continue with Daniel after the 18-year-old made his first-team debut in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Hellas Verona.

The attacking midfielder emulated his father Paolo and grandfather Cesare in representing the Milan first team when replacing Samu Castillejo in stoppage time, though he has big boots to fill with respect to the legacy left behind by his relatives.

Cesare was a key player for Milan in the 1950s and 60s, later going on to manage them in two spells almost 30 years apart.

Paolo is widely regarded as the most important player in the club's history, starring for and captaining Milan during a trophy-laden era across the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s.

With 902 appearances for Milan, Paolo boasts the record for most matches at the club, while he now holds a crucial position on the board as technical director.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact Daniel has at San Siro but, after already succeeding where his brother Christian – who never played for the senior side – could not, Pioli is optimistic.

"I hope that the dynasty continues with Daniel," Pioli told Sky Sport Italia.

"The boy has quality and talent. Talent alone is not enough, but he is working well. I hoped that maybe he could have found the right ball.

"I told him the position he had to hold – but I was not a good viewer!"

Milan coach Stefano Pioli applauded the "team spirit" shown by his players even though they only claimed a 1-1 draw at home to a Hellas Verona side that had a man sent off.

A lacklustre start contributed to Milan falling behind early on, with Marco Davide Faraoni converting from close range after a left-wing cross.

Hakan Calhanoglu's 29th-minute free-kick deflected in off Valerio Verre to restore parity, though Verona looked the more threatening in the initial stages of the second period.

That was until Sofyan Amrabat was shown a straight red for a high tackle on Samu Castillejo. Yet, although they piled the pressure on towards the end, Milan – who were without the ill Zlatan Ibrahimovic – had to settle for a point.

Pioli acknowledged it was frustrating, but he opted to focus on the team's attitude and the positives.

"We conceded six shots on goal and we were not very careful because they were all dangerous occasions," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"Verona attacked us so much. The regret is having not won after the equaliser and having not taken advantage of the numerical superiority.

"There was a lot of time to put things right, instead it seemed that there were five minutes left. We had some opportunities, and we could've won even in a moment of difficulty given the many absences.

"I believe that even now the team spirit has been seen and it is making a difference. We are building something, the next four games are important, so we are recovering energy and players to be able to make the right choices in view of the next matches."

Up next for Milan is the Derby della Madonnina against bitter rivals Inter and Pioli is hopeful Ibrahimovic will be back in contention, with their central striking options somewhat limited following the departure of Krzysztof Piatek.

"I hope he [Ibrahimovic] is available in the derby," Pioli said. "He suffered a little with fatigue and flu, but there is a good chance [he can face Inter]."

Milan failed to extend their recent resurgence with a fourth successive Serie A win as they slumped to a 1-1 draw at home against 10-man Hellas Verona.

With Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing due to illness and Krzysztof Piatek sold to Hertha Berlin, Milan were short of options in attack and that was telling on Sunday, as they created significantly fewer clear-cut opportunities than Verona with Ante Rebic and Rafael Leao the pair leading the line.

Perhaps suffering from a hint of over-confidence after their recent form, Milan lacked lustre early on and fell behind to Marco Davide Faraoni's neat finish, though the Rossoneri did manage to recover to equalise through Hakan Calhanoglu's fortuitous free-kick.

Milan were second best for much of the second half and only remained on level terms due to the frame of the goal sparing Milan twice, and they were then unable to make the most of Sofyan Amrabat's dismissal, passing up the chance to go sixth.

Milan's desperation led to a first-team debut for Paolo Maldini's 18-year-old son Daniel, but the visitors dug deep and just about did enough to earn a draw, despite Samu Castillejo hitting the post in stoppage time.

Verona were rewarded for a purposeful start as they opened the scoring in the 13th minute – Faraoni turning in Mattia Zaccagni's teasing left-wing delivery after proving more alert than the Milan defence.

But they could only keep Milan at bay for another 16 minutes, as Calhanoglu's free-kick took a significant deflection off Valerio Verre and beat Marco Silvestri.

Milan should have got a second soon after, Rebic ultimately trying too much after a devastating counter-attack left the hosts with a one-man advantage on the edge of Verona's box.

Fortune smiled on Milan at the back just after the break, though, as Darko Lazovic floated an inviting cross in from the left and Matteo Pessina's glancing header struck the right-hand post.

The opposing upright came to Milan's rescue just past the hour – Zaccagni the one denied this time after goalmouth scramble.

Verona's chances took a massive hit 22 minutes from time as key midfielder Amrabat was shown a straight red card after a VAR review for a high challenge on Castillejo.

 

What does it mean? Milan short in attack

It is fair to say that Milan's January transfer dealings have raised a few eyebrows. The departure of Piatek leaves them with a single natural striker in Ibrahimovic – who is 38 years old – and they were hardly blessed with creative options on the bench after seeing Suso leave as well.

They were lucky to come out of this with a point in the end, with Rebic and Leao often struggling to impose themselves in central positions.

Castillejo continues to improve

In recent weeks, the former Villarreal winger has showed glimpses of the form that had him so highly rated in LaLiga. On Sunday he was a creative force, laying on a match-high five key passes. They may have failed to get the three points, but he cannot be accused of not trying to inspire Milan.

Amrabat almost costs Verona

If there was one player Verona would have wanted on the pitch for the entire game, it would have been Amrabat. Until his sending-off, the Fiorentina-bound midfielder was everywhere, but a moment of recklessness left the visitors hanging on towards the end.

What's next?

There is the small matter of the Derby della Madonnina in a week's time for Milan, as they face bitter rivals Inter. Verona go to high-flying Lazio on Wednesday, with Simone Inzaghi's men aiming to go second.

Liverpool might be cruising towards the title but the runaway Premier League leaders could still face a crucial fight in the near future.

According to a new report, star centre-back Virgil van Dijk has become a top target for Italian giants Juventus.

Could a record-breaking transfer to Turin appeal to the Netherlands international?

 

TOP STORY – JUVE SET SIGHTS ON VAN DIJK

Maurizio Sarri's Juve have identified Reds defender Van Dijk as the man to help achieve their Champions League dream, according to The Sun.

The Bianconeri are said to be preparing a €178.5million (£150m) offer that could force Liverpool to consider parting company with the 28-year-old, who swapped Southampton for Merseyside in a £75m move in January 2018.

The report claims Van Dijk "may be open to a move abroad" if he wins the Premier League this term, which now appears a mere formality.

The proposed fee would eclipse the £80m that saw Harry Maguire leave Leicester City for Manchester United and again make Van Dijk the world's most expensive player in his position.

 

ROUND-UP 

- After signing Maguire, the Red Devils appear to be pining for another expensive defender. The Daily Star suggests the club will ramp up their attempts to capture Kalidou Koulibaly in the close season - although the Napoli centre-back could cost up to £90m.

- Arsenal rejected a deadline-day approach for Mesut Ozil from an unnamed Qatar club, the Mirror states. Ozil, 31, reportedly "would have been willing to listen" to an offer, but the contact came too late for the Gunners to arrange a replacement.

- LaLiga leaders Real Madrid considered signing teenage attacker Amine Gouiri and contacted Lyon before deciding against lodging a formal January bid, according to L'Equipe.

- Their title rivals Barcelona are close to agreeing a deal that will see Chelsea winger Willian arrive on a free at season's end, reports Marca.

- Gouiri is not the only Lyon youngster attracting interest. Milan, already planning for next season, are monitoring the Ligue 1 club's promising right-back Pierre Kalulu, claims CalcioMercato.

Milan are set to be without Zlatan Ibrahimovic when they face Hellas Verona on Sunday, Stefano Pioli has confirmed.

Ibrahimovic's return to San Siro has coincided with a marked upturn in form from Milan, who have won five of their past six matches in all competitions.

But the 38-year-old – who has scored two goals since his move to Milan, including one in extra-time in the 4-2 Coppa Italia win over Torino last time out – is unlikely to feature in Sunday's encounter after coming down with an illness.

"Over the last two-three days, Ibrahimovic and [Simon] Kjaer have been suffering from flu and I doubt we're going to be able to call them up," Pioli told a news conference.

"There are muscular problems for [Rade] Krunic too, so yes, we have more than a few problems.

"Hellas Verona are in good shape, doing great work this season and will arrive at San Siro very determined. They run hard and it has been a difficult week for us."

Ibrahimovic's absence means Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic are Milan's forward options, with the club having sold Krzysztof Piatek to Hertha Berlin late in the January transfer window.

Milan did not get a deal for Wigan Athletic defender Antonee Robinson over the line but recalled Diego Laxalt to fill the void left by Ricardo Rodriguez, who departed on loan to PSV.

Suso also left for Sevilla, with Alexis Saelemaekers joining Milan on Friday to add to the signings of Ibrahimovic, Kjaer and Asmir Begovic.

"We brought in players of quality and experience, but also interesting young prospects," Pioli said of Milan's business. 

"Whoever plays instead of Ibrahimovic, he will do well, and it's not the system that decides victory.

"We've turned a corner lately because the team understood that only with the spirit of sacrifice can we achieve a win. It was a good January, but that is behind us now and we have new important games to play."

Manchester United left it very, very late, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was given the extra striker he wanted in the form of Odion Ighalo.

With a move for Bournemouth's Joshua King dead in the water, the Red Devils focused their efforts on a loan deal for the 30-year-old, who has been playing for Shanghai Shenhua since last February.

Ighalo's deal, which Omnisport understands does not include a purchase option, will give Solskjaer another option up front during the injury absence of Marcus Rashford.

He is expected to travel to England in the coming days before United publicly announce the signing.

Ighalo was far from the only major deal to be concluded late in the transfer window, though, as West Ham just managed to finalise the signing of Jarrod Bowen from Hull City for a reported initial fee of £22million.

Aston Villa also announced a new striker signing about 10 minutes before the window closed, Borja Baston joining on a free transfer from Swansea City.

Elsewhere in England, Tariq Lamptey took the decision to leave Chelsea and sign for Brighton and Hove Albion on a contract until 2023. The Seagulls have also brought back Alexis Mac Allister from Boca Juniors, where he was on loan.


LOANS GALORE

Sheffield United had a busy end to the window, securing the arrival of Panos Retsos - initially on loan but with the option of a permanent deal - from Bayer Leverkusen, while Ravel Morrison has been sent on loan to Middlesbrough, having made one Premier League appearance this season.

Leicester City have loaned Ryan Bennett from Wolves, with Filip Benkovic allowed to leave for Bristol City for the remainder of the campaign with a view to earning regular game time.

Everton have sent Jonas Lossl back to Huddersfield Town on loan, while Connor Wickham is also heading to the Championship, the Crystal Palace striker moving to Sheffield Wednesday on loan.

Wolves have secured the signing of Luke Matheson, who famously scored at Old Trafford in September as a 16-year-old, and loaned him back to Rochdale for the remainder of the season.

Leverkusen have also brought in a signing for the future, with Edmond Tapsoba arriving from Vitoria SC for a fee said to be between €16m and €18m.
 

SERIE A FLURRY

Italy's window closed a little earlier than some others and there was a flurry of deals around the deadline.

Marko Pjaca will get the chance to kick-start his career with Anderlecht, Juventus having allowed the winger to leave on loan for the remainder of the season as he looks to earn regular first-team football.

Milan have signed Alexis Saelemaekers, a highly rated 20-year-old from Anderlecht who arrives on loan with the option of a permanent move.

Fiorentina have had a busy end to the window. Kevin Agudelo has joined the Viola from Genoa on an 18-month loan deal, while Valentin Eysseric has been sent to Hellas Verona until June.

Maya Yoshida secured a switch to Sampdoria from Southampton, while Gaston Pereiro's move from PSV to Cagliari was ratified. He will be joined in Sardinia by Alberto Paloschi, with Alberto Cerri heading the other way to SPAL.

Gervinho, meanwhile, has taken another step in his nomadic career by moving to Al Sadd from Parma, who brought in Vasco Regini on loan from Samp.
 

BUSY BARCA

Barcelona will give new €10m signing Matheus Fernandes for time to acclimatise to LaLiga, spending the rest of 2019-20 with Real Valladolid.

Barca have also sent Moussa Wague on loan to Nice, who have the option of a €10m permanent deal, while Ligue 1 rivals Lyon have signed Camilo Reijers de Oliveira for €2m.

Kevin-Prince Boateng was a shock signing for Barca 12 months ago and the experienced forward is on the move again, this time heading to Besiktas on loan from Fiorentina.

Leganes bolstered their attacking depth with two loan deals, bringing in Roger Assale from Young Boys and former player Miguel Angel Guerrero from Olympiacos.

Getafe have landed Erick Cabaco on a permanent deal, the defender joining from Levante, Granada have signed Gil Dias on loan from Monaco, and Real Sociedad have sold Ruben Pardo to Bordeaux.

Celta Vigo, meanwhile, have loaned Emre Mor to Olympiacos, while a late, late deal that saw Nicolas Gaitan sign for Lille for the rest of the season was completed in time.

The January transfer window is over, meaning the top clubs in Europe have to go with what they have got for the remainder of the season.

There have been some huge deals across the continent, with much of the major action was completed early on in the window.

Namely, Erling Haaland joined Borussia Dortmund, and the Norwegian sensation has already made a flying start in the Bundesliga.

Haaland's former Salzburg team-mate Takumi Minamino has joined runaway Premier League leaders, while there was also the small matter of Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Milan.

Here, we take a look at the best deals that went through.

Erling Haaland: Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund (€22.5m)

Haaland was arguably the most sought-after player in the January transfer window, with Dortmund reportedly beating RB Leipzig, Juventus and Manchester United to his signature. It already looks like the striker will take the Bundesliga by storm, having scored five goals in two substitute appearances that have lasted a cumulative 59 minutes.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: LA Galaxy to Milan (free transfer)

At 38, not many players would have their pick of clubs, but Ibrahimovic certainly did. He took his time in deciding his next move after leaving LA Galaxy but, amid links to Bologna and Napoli, the Swede plumped to join his former club Milan. His impact at San Siro has been instant, with Milan unbeaten since his return, winning five of their six games in all competitions.

Takumi Minamino: Salzburg to Liverpool (£7.25m)

Haaland may have been the Salzburg player who drew the most attention, but Japan international Minamino should prove to be a bargain for Liverpool. The European champions moved quickly to bring in the 25-year-old for a measly fee of £7.25m. Able to play anywhere in the front three or even as an attacking midfielder, Minamino scored nine goals for Salzburg in all competitions this season before getting his big move and is a great back-up for Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Dani Olmo: Dinamo Zagreb to RB Leipzig (up to €35m)

A star of Spain’s triumphant side in the Under-21 European Championships, Olmo has carried on his sparkling form from last season to become one of the most in-demand youngsters in European football. Having scored five Champions League goals this term, the 21-year-old was linked with a return to Barcelona, but ultimately opted to join Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig – a team which would seem to be an ideal place for the playmaker to continue his development.

Raul de Tomas: Benfica to Espanyol (€20m)

Another club-record signing in LaLiga, De Tomas seems a gamble for such a fee, although one worth taking for an Espanyol side at serious risk of the drop. He might not have settled in Lisbon, but De Tomas was a persistent goalscorer at Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano and €20m will seem a snip if he keeps Espanyol in the top flight.

Paco Alcacer: Borussia Dortmund to Villarreal (€23m)

Ruthless in a Valencia shirt and too-often unused at Barcelona, Alcacer returns to LaLiga after scoring 23 goals in 37 Bundesliga appearances, despite problems with injury, after he was deemed surplus to requirements at Dortmund following Haaland's arrival. It might be a club-record purchase but, if he can fire Villarreal into top-four contention, it will be money well spent.

Julian Weigl: Borussia Dortmund to Benfica (€20m)

Weigl has had some of Europe's biggest clubs following his every move in recent seasons, with Manchester City said to be keen and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly prepared to pay up to €75m to reunite him with Thomas Tuchel. Having struggled for form and minutes under Lucien Favre, Weigl decided his best bet at this stage of his career was to pursue regular game time with Benfica. Still only 24, he will look an absolute bargain if he can recapture his early promise in Portugal.

Alvaro Odriozola: Real Madrid to Bayern Munich (loan)

It would be fair to say things have not quite worked out for Odriozola at Real Madrid, with the full-back having made just 18 LaLiga appearances in total for Los Blancos since his move from Real Sociedad. However, the 24-year-old has been handed the opportunity to prove he can cut it at the highest level at Bayern Munich, who were in desperate need of defensive reinforcements due to injuries to Lucas Hernandez and Niklas Sule.

Pablo Mari: Flamengo to Arsenal (loan with option to buy)

Mikel Arteta was desperate for a left-footed centre-back and in Mari he has found one that, after a string of loan spells away from Manchester City, made good on his potential at Flamengo, where he won the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores in the space of six months. He could be just what Arsenal needed and there is minimal risk involved in the deal.

Carles Perez: Barcelona to Roma (loan with option/obligation to buy)

After a bright start to the season, Perez found game time increasingly hard to come by at Camp Nou. The exciting winger will only cost an initial €11m if targets are met that turn Roma's option to buy into an obligation, which looks like it would be a snip. Given he is only 21, if Perez performs well there would be a good chance of significant profit further down the line.

Milan have signed Belgian midfielder Alexis Saelemaekers from Anderlecht in a "dream" move for the youngster.

The 20-year-old has moved to San Siro on loan until the end of the Serie A season, with Milan having secured an option to then sign Saelemaekers permanently.

Saelemaekers has caught the eye for Anderlecht and is an under-21 international who the Belgian club believe has a bright future.

Milan said on their website that Saelemaekers would meet his new team-mates on Saturday before being presented at a news conference on Tuesday.

Anderlecht sporting director Michael Verschueren said: "Alexis caught the eye of a great club this season. It's wonderful for him and it's also a good sign for our training of youngsters.

"At his age, it's a dream you couldn't help but want to experience.

"I understand that fans would have preferred him not to go. But that's football today. When the big clubs like AC Milan knock on the door, you have to do the right thing."

Milan, who welcomed Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the club in January, are on a high after winning their past three league games to climb to eighth in Serie A.

They also reached the Coppa Italia semi-finals with victory over Torino on Tuesday.

Verschueren told Anderlecht's website: "Milan conducted themselves very well in this matter with Anderlecht, so I think there are no losers.

"We obviously wish Alexis the best and we're proud to have coached him here."

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