Stefano Pioli said the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has "raised the level of training" at Milan, who are unbeaten in three Serie A matches with the 38-year-old striker involved.

The Rossoneri on Sunday beat Udinese 3-2 in an entertaining encounter at San Siro, where an error by Gianluigi Donnarumma allowed the visitors to take the lead after six minutes through Jens Stryger Larsen.

Second-half strikes from Ante Rebic and Theo Hernandez turned the game on its head before Kevin Lasagna's 85th-minute equaliser.

There was one final twist, though, as Rebic won it deep into stoppage time and Pioli revelled in a third successive victory, but warned Milan have plenty of room for improvement.

"I have to congratulate my players on their performance against the team that caused us a lot of problems," the Milan boss told DAZN.

"We still have to work a lot, because today we showed our quality but there were also moments of relaxation where we exposed to rival blows."

He added: "I asked my players that this week would be perfect and we succeeded, although it was hard.

"This should teach us that the match never ends. We will still work on efficiency."

Ante Rebić's first Rossonero brace and Theo's stunner clinch the win against Udinese Read more https://t.co/eo7djPvp3V

La prima doppietta rossonera di Rebić e la magia di Theo decidono #MilanUdinese  Scopri di più https://t.co/iY1DYC4enn#SempreMilan pic.twitter.com/B2LleqOJ2y

— AC Milan (@acmilan) January 19, 2020

Ibrahimovic played the full 90 minutes and Pioli was full of praise for the veteran striker's performance, as well as that of Rebic after he scored three minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute and struck again at the death.

"Ibra is an added value in our daily work," Pioli said of Ibrahimovic. "He raised the level of training.

"Rebic has been hoping for more opportunities, he always trains well, and after Christmas he returned very determined and willing.

"Everyone who wants to help the team will be given chances."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic helped Milan to a 3-2 victory over Udinese on Sunday to break yet another record.

Milan's success in Ibrahimovic's 222nd Serie A appearance made the veteran striker the fastest player to 150 wins in the Italian top flight in the three-points-for-a-win era - which started in 1994-95.

The 38-year-old was making only his third appearance since arriving at San Siro for his second spell at the club, as two goals from Ante Rebic and one from Theo Hernandez steered Milan to a third consecutive victory in all competitions.

Ibrahimovic has played for Juventus, Inter and Milan across the course of two decades in which he has won seven Scudettos, two of which were revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal.

He has achieved 150 wins in eight fewer matches than former Inter team-mate Esteban Cambiasso, and 10 fewer than Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne.

Substitute Ante Rebic completed a match-turning second-half double in the 93rd minute to earn Milan a rollercoaster 3-2 victory over Udinese in Serie A on Sunday.

The Croatian winger struck moments after his half-time introduction to cancel out Jens Stryger Larsen's early opener before Theo Hernandez volleyed in a brilliant second, only for Kevin Lasagna to head the visitors level in the 85th minute.

However, the Rossoneri were not to be denied a thrilling come-from-behind win and they had Rebic to thank for a second successive league victory, the 26-year-old keeping his cool to convert in a crowded box deep into added time.

The result at least momentarily lifts Milan up to eighth and gives Stefano Pioli increased hope of leading the team to Europa League qualification.

Manchester United will reportedly need to improve their offer to Sporting CP if they are to land Bruno Fernandes.

Fernandes, 25, is linked with a January move to Old Trafford, but it seems talks are ongoing between the clubs.

The Premier League outfit will need to raise their offer to land Fernandes, with some distance seemingly still between the sides.

 

TOP STORY – SPORTING WANT €65M FROM MAN UTD FOR FERNANDES

Sporting want £55.4million (€65m) from Manchester United for Fernandes, according to TVI 24.

The report says United are offering £42.6m (€50m) plus bonuses for the midfielder.

With Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba injured, United are desperate to strengthen in midfield this month.

 

ROUND-UP

- Christian Eriksen could be nearing a move to Inter. The Tottenham midfielder's agent Martin Schoots had dinner with Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta on Thursday, according to CalcioMercato.

- Tottenham must continue their search if they are to replace the injured Harry Kane this month. The Sun reports a possible move from Milan to Spurs for Krzysztof Piatek appears over and Tottenham are now looking at Porto forward Ze Luis or Napoli's Fernando Llorente, who left the club at the end of last season.

- Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare is deciding between Manchester United and Chelsea, according to Sky Sports, although no move is expected until after the Ligue 1 club face Paris Saint-Germain on January 26.

- Staying at Old Trafford and Manchester United will be offered Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani for free at season's end, according to the Manchester Evening News.

- West Ham's bid to sign Ross Barkley is not over yet. The Mirror reports the club will not give up on trying to land the Chelsea midfielder, who has made just seven Premier League appearances this season.

- Arda Turan remains contracted to Barcelona, but the midfielder knows where he wants to go next. The Turkey international is interested in signing with Boca Juniors, according to Sport, after terminating his loan agreement with Istanbul Basaksehir earlier this month.

West Ham have reportedly set an ambitious transfer window target by eyeing an England international.

Whether Chelsea can be tempted to let Ross Barkley leave Stamford Bridge remains to be seen.

According to reports, the Blues are reluctant to let David Moyes be reunited with his former Everton protege.

 

TOP STORY – MOYES TO MOVE FOR ENGLAND STAR BARKLEY?

New  West Ham  manager David Moyes is said to be targeting Chelsea's England midfielder Ross Barkley for a transfer-window switch across London. 

The Mirror reports the Hammers want to take Barkley on loan, but that Chelsea have given them no encouragement as yet. 

Barkley, who began his career playing for Moyes at Everton, started Chelsea's last match, the Premier League win over Burnley.

ROUND-UP

Atletico Madrid still want to bring Edinson Cavani to LaLiga, but negotiations with Paris Saint-Germain look complicated given each club's valuation of the Uruguayan striker. Marca reports Atletico have offered €10million and that PSG are seeking €30million for a player who is in the final six months of his contract.

- Dinamo Zagreb's rising star Dani Olmo could be on his way to Milan, according to Croatian newspaper Sportske Novosti, which claims a €30m offer has been lodged. Spanish winger Olmo has impressed in the Champions League this year and won a first international cap. He was also linked with Barcelona earlier this month, but that interest has reportedly waned.

- Former Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez  looks set to join MLS outfit LA Galaxy in the coming days. The LA Times reports talks between the Galaxy and Hernandez have taken place this week, with a view to bringing in the Mexican forward from LaLiga side Sevilla. The deal could see the Galaxy break their transfer record, which currently stands at a reported $7m for the signing of Giovani dos Santos four-and-a-half years ago.

- Gianluca Di Marzio claims Roma and Milan have opened talks over a swap deal involving Cengiz Under and Suso.

Sevilla look to have the ideal replacement for 'Chicarito' on the way, with 22-year-old Moroccan forward Youssef En-Nesyri reported to have agreed to join from Leganes. AS reports Sevilla will pay his €20m release clause, with a medical due to take place on Thursday before a possible debut against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Inter are still waiting on possible deals for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, with sporting director Piero Ausilio quoted by Corriere dello Sport as saying there was "no news" to report as he arrived back in Italy on Wednesday evening. "There are no updates," Ausilio said. "We trust the work we are doing with our coach and our players. If there is the possibility of improving the team even more, we will do it."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli said the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been "really important" for the Serie A side.

Ibrahimovic is back at Milan for a second time after returning to the Rossoneri – where he won the Scudetto in 2010-11 – at the end of his LA Galaxy contract.

The 38-year-old star has made an immediate impact, scoring in Milan's 2-0 Serie A victory away to Cagliari last week – only his second appearance.

Ibrahimovic was an unused substitute as Milan eased past SPAL 3-0 in the Coppa Italia last 16 on Wednesday, ahead of Udinese's league visit on Sunday, and Pioli hailed the striker amid the club's struggles.

"Signing Ibrahimovic has been really important," Pioli told reporters. "Absolutely, it's been really important for what he does every day during the training, for what he did at Cagliari and for what he will do.

"Ibra will improve giving us great satisfaction. He is so professional, he is so driven in all the things he does. It is unbelievable seeing a great champion like him working hard. It's important for a young team like us.

"After Cagliari he said to work hard and with passion so we can get a reward. This is the most important thing."

Without a Scudetto since Ibrahimovic's first spell, Milan are 10th in Serie A and 10 points adrift of fourth-placed Atalanta, while they are 23 points behind leaders Juventus.

Krzysztof Piatek provided a reminder of his talent amid transfer rumours with a goal and an assist as Milan beat SPAL 3-0 to set up a Coppa Italia quarter-final against Torino.

Poland international Piatek has endured a difficult second season in San Siro, having scored just four times in Serie A, but on Wednesday the reported Tottenham target looked more like his old self.

Perhaps SPAL are not the most suitable team to use as a barometer of Piatek's abilities, as they never looked a threat, but the 24-year-old showed good composure to open the scoring, before then teeing up Samu Castillejo for his glorious effort to increase the lead.

Milan continued to dominate after the break and added a third goal just past the hour – Theo Hernandez drilling home in style, sealing a comfortable victory.

SPAL struggled to contend with Milan during the early exchanges, with Ismael Bennacer driving just wide before Castillejo spurned a pair of presentable opportunities.

But Piatek made no mistake in the 20th minute, latching on to Bennacer's throughball and coolly slotting past the approaching Etrit Berisha.

The lively Castillejo deservedly made it 2-0 just before the break, curling a wonderful left-footed effort into the top-left corner after Piatek spotted him in space in the penalty area.

Hernandez got in on the act in the 66th minute, charging forward in typical fashion before hammering a left-footed drive into the bottom-right corner from 25 yards.

SPAL thought they would have the chance to pull one back from the penalty spot after substitute Lucas Paqueta was penalised for blocking the ball with his arm, but following a lengthy VAR review the decision was reversed, preserving Milan's clean sheet.

What does it mean? Milan sensing a chance for silverware

Given how poorly Milan's Serie A campaign is going, the Coppa Italia looks their only realistic chance of silverware this term. Only Torino now stand between them and the semis, and by that time they might have built up the form and confidence to challenge Juventus and Inter.

Castillejo takes his chance

It is fair to say Castillejo has not lived up to expectations since his move from Villarreal in 2018, but in this contest he showed flashes of the youngster who became so highly rated in LaLiga. A lively presence out wide, he produced four key passes and a stunning goal.

Bonaventura offers little

Milan were generally impressive, but Giacomo Bonaventura was one of few to have little impact, failing to create a single chance.

What's next?

Milan are at home again this weekend, hosting Udinese in Serie A. SPAL go to in-form Atalanta as they aim to move off the foot of the table.

Christian Eriksen appears set to get his move away from Tottenham.

Out of contract at the end of the season, Eriksen has been keen to test himself elsewhere after moving to Spurs in 2013.

Inter look poised to bring the Denmark playmaker to Milan…

 

TOP STORY – INTER IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH SPURS OVER ERIKSEN

Inter have offered €10million (£8.5m) plus bonuses to Tottenham after agreeing personal terms with Spurs star Eriksen, claims Sky Sport Italia.

With Inter head coach Antonio Conte keen for midfield reinforcements and soon-to-be free agent Eriksen eyeing a new club, a transfer is reportedly on the horizon.

However, The Mirror reports that Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are ready to rival Inter for Eriksen.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Sky Sports Germany, Paul Pogba is likely to leave Manchester United at the end of the season. Recovering from ankle surgery, Pogba continues to be linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid and former club Juventus.

Manchester City will reject any bids for centre-back John Stones as Premier League rivals Arsenal circle, says the Daily Mail.

- Corriere dello Sport reports Matteo Politano and Leonardo Spinazzola are set to swap clubs. Inter winger Politano will join Roma, while full-back Spinazzola will move to the Nerazzurri.

- According to Gianluca Di Marzio and Tuttomercatoweb, PSV are prepared to pay €6m for Milan full-back Ricardo Rodriguez.

- Globoesporte says LaLiga champions Barcelona are close to signing Palmeiras midfielder Matheus Fernandes.

Sevilla defender Simon Kjaer has joined Milan on loan with a view to a permanent move after cutting short his spell with Atalanta.

The Denmark international made five Serie A appearances and enjoyed one Champions League outing with Atalanta, but has now joined their Italian rivals.

Sevilla, the club Kjaer moved to from Fenerbahce in 2017, confirmed the switch in a brief statement on Monday, revealing a purchase option that will come into force at the end of the season.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli will hope Kjaer can provide a boost to his flagging side, who sit 10th in the table.

The San Siro club have been buoyed by the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Cagliari to snap a three-game winless streak.

Barcelona appear ready to turn to their next coaching target as the LaLiga giants eye Mauricio Pochettino.

Ernesto Valverde is under enormous pressure after the Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid, but Xavi has reportedly turned down the job – for now.

Amid contrasting reports over Barca's next decision, they may be lining up a move for Pochettino.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA CONTACT POCHETTINO OVER COACHING JOB

Barcelona contacted former Tottenham manager Pochettino to be their next boss, according to RAC1.

It comes as widespread reports in Spain say Al Sadd boss and former Barcelona star Xavi turned down the position.

Meanwhile, Catalunya Radio reported Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman also rejected the opportunity.

After a meeting on Sunday, Barca decided to stick with Valverde for now, according to Sport.

ROUND-UP

- Amid reports Manchester United had agreed to terms with Bruno Fernandes, the Mirror says the Premier League club are set to bid £65million (€76.1m) for the Sporting CP midfielder this week.

- Tottenham are set to sign Benfica's Gedson Fernandes as further details about a possible move emerge. Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano reports Spurs will sign the Portugal international on loan with an option to buy for between £42.7m (€50m) and £51.2m (€60m) in 2021.

- Jerome Boateng continues to be linked with a Bayern Munich exit. Milan are ready to challenge Arsenal for the defender, according to Sky Germany.

- Coming out of contract at season's end, it appears Layvin Kurzawa's future is away from Paris Saint-Germain. L'Equipe reports the left-back – who has made just five Ligue 1 starts this campaign – recently rejected Inter but the Serie A club remain hopeful of signing the 27-year-old this month.

- Juventus are looking to the future. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A champions are keeping an eye on teenage Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch and AZ forward Calvin Stengs.

Mattia Caldara has completed a return to Atalanta from Milan on an initial 18-month loan deal.

Atalanta also have the option to make the move permanent, with reports suggesting the Rossoneri would be due a €15million fee to do so.

Much was expected of Atalanta academy product Caldara when he moved to San Siro in a €35million move from Juventus, which saw Leonardo Bonucci transferred back to the Bianconeri in a similar deal in August 2018.

However, the centre-back has made just two competitive appearances for the Rossoneri, largely due to two serious injuries.

Caldara sustained an Achilles tendon rupture in September 2018, before rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in April.

A statement from Milan read: "AC Milan announces the agreement for the player Mattia Caldara to join Atalanta on an 18-month loan deal with right to buy.

"AC Milan wishes Mattia the best of luck in his future sporting career."

Atalanta, who defeated Milan 5-0 last month, drew 1-1 with the Rossoneri's city rivals Inter on Saturday and are fifth in the Serie A table.

Milan are eighth after a 2-0 win at Cagliari.

Manchester United or Real Madrid?

Ajax star Donny van de Beek is a wanted man following his exploits for the Eredivisie champions.

But the LaLiga giants are reportedly poised to get their target at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – VAN DE BEEK SET FOR MADRID

Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek is on the verge of joining Real Madrid instead of Manchester United, claims The Mirror.

United have reportedly emerged as a suitor for Van de Beek in January due to injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

But a transfer to Madrid at the end of the season "is more than 80 per cent certain", according to the report.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Metro says Premier League champions Manchester City have joined the race to sign Aston Villa's Jack Grealish. Rivals United have been heavily linked to the midfielder.

Tottenham are nearing a deal to bring Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes to London on an 18-month loan contract, reports Sky Sports. West Ham have also been looking to sign the 21-year-old.

- United midfielder Nemanja Matic is in talks to swap Old Trafford for MLS outfit Chicago Fire, according to The Sun. Linked to Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan, the Fire want to bring in the veteran as a replacement for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Arsenal are considering a loan deal for Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, reports The Mirror.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter have reached an agreement with Christian Eriksen for a contract until 2024. Now, Inter must strike a deal with Tottenham for the soon-to-be free agent. Spurs reportedly want €20million (£17m) for the Dane.

- Sporting CP captain Bruno Fernandes has agreed personal terms with United for a contract until 2025 with yearly wages of €6m, according to Italian journalist Nicolo Schira.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic plans to "celebrate like a God" when he scores at San Siro having opted to strike a calm pose after netting in his first start since returning to Milan against Cagliari.

Milan ended a miserable run of three straight games without a goal with a 2-0 away win on Saturday, Ibrahimovic scoring his side's second midway through the second half with an excellent first-time finish. 

A deflected strike from Rafael Leao had given Stefano Pioli's men the lead just after half-time.

Ibrahimovic, who came off the bench in the 0-0 San Siro draw with Sampdoria, is saving his biggest celebration until he scores on home soil.

"I'll celebrate like a God at San Siro, not here," the 38-year-old told Sky Sport Italia. 

"I celebrate God every time I score, that way I feel alive! It's important for a striker to try and be there, then sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn't. 

"I got a few balls wrong at the start of the game, but I need a few matches to get into shape."

Of Pioli checking on Ibrahimovic in the second half, the striker added: "I feel good, the coach just wanted to think about my age and see if I needed a rest, but there's no problem. My mind is still sharp and the body has to follow.

"We played with two strikers and two wingers to push the whole team further forward, and it went well."

Pioli felt Ibrahimovic's presence was already being felt, adding: "This was certainly a different performance to recent outings. 

"We were more effective, more solid. Zlatan's presence clearly gives us a reference point to build around and it will take us a while to really get to know each other.

"Ibrahimovic probably won't run into space that much, so we need someone around him who can do the running, as we saw Leao, Samu Castillejo and Hakan Calhanoglu, then Giacomo Bonaventura do. 

"We have only just started working on this system, but the early signs are positive."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired Milan to victory on his first start since returning to the club, netting in a 2-0 Serie A win at Cagliari.

With Milan having gone three straight games without scoring, the 38-year-old netted the decisive second goal with an excellent finish after 64 minutes.

The visitors had moved ahead on Saturday through Rafael Leao's deflected effort, his first goal since September, which arrived just 32 seconds after the restart.

Cagliari remain sixth in the table but have lost four straight Serie A matches and are on their worst run since October 2017.

The only chance in a quiet first half hour was Theo Hernandez's shot from a tight angle that was saved by the legs of Robin Olsen.

Milan almost broke through when Ibrahimovic's header was touched onto the upright by Olsen and they came close again from the resulting corner, which was flicked on by Alessio Romagnoli to a stretching Leao, who could not convert at the far post.

Cagliari rarely threatened but an audacious Nahitan Nandez lob from the right touchline had to be saved by a back-tracking Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Milan made an ideal start to the second half when Samu Castillejo's lofted pass found Leao, who controlled neatly before seeing his shot deflect off defender Fabio Pisacane and loop in over a helpless Olsen.

Midway through the half, Ibrahimovic sealed victory as he swept a first-time, left-footed effort into the far corner from 12 yards after latching on to Hernandez's delivery from the left.

Ibrahimovic thought he had a second late on but was denied by an offside flag having headed in a cross from Ismael Bennacer, Donnarumma not having a save to make in the closing stages as Milan held on comfortably.
 

What does it mean? Ibra gives Milan much needed boost

Coming into the game, Milan were on their lowest Serie A goal total after playing 18 games since 1985.

Enter Ibrahimovic, whose fine finish sealed victory after he went the closest of anyone to scoring in a quiet first half. His return and Milan's seventh top-flight win of the season gives them something to build on in the second half of the season.


Castillejo creativity boosts Milan

Castillejo was handed a rare start and made the most of it, setting up Leao's opener and finishing with three chances created, level with Hakan Calhanoglu for the best on the pitch.


Simeone struggles for hosts

Ahead of the match, Giovanni Simeone revealed he used to wear an Ibrahimovic shirt when he grew up as a Milan fan, but the striker could not match the former Sweden international on the pitch, substituted after 69 minutes having struggled to make an impact.


What's next?

Milan have the chance to continue their momentum when they host a poor SPAL side in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday, a day after Cagliari have a challenging trip to Inter in the same competition.

Tottenham appear close to landing a replacement for Harry Kane, while Thomas Lemar could also be set for the Premier League.

Kane needs surgery on his left hamstring and is not expected to return to training for Spurs until April.

It seems the Premier League club are nearing a move for Milan forward Krzysztof Piatek, although there are contrasting reports over the status of the deal.

And, Atletico Madrid midfielder Lemar could also be heading to London.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS CLOSE TO LANDING PIATEK AS KANE REPLACEMENT

Tottenham have agreed a deal worth £28million (€32.95m) for Piatek, according to The Sun.

However, the Mirror reports Spurs have had a loan bid for the 24-year-old Poland international rejected, although talks are continuing.

After netting 11 times in 21 games for Milan last season following a January move from Genoa, Piatek has four goals in 18 this campaign.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea and Tottenham are both trying to sign Atletico's Lemar on loan until the end of the season, according to The Telegraph. Lemar is linked with an Atletico exit after just nine LaLiga starts this season.

- While Christian Eriksen's possible Spurs exit will dominate headlines this month, it appears the midfielder will not be heading to Old Trafford. Sky Sports reports Manchester United have ruled out making a bid for the Denmark international this month.

- Searching for a right-back, Tottenham are keen on signing Barcelona's Nelson Semedo, according to the Mirror. The position has been a problem for Spurs since Kieran Trippier's off-season move to Atletico.

- Javier Hernandez's stay at Sevilla could be coming to an end. Marca reports the club could let the forward, who has one goal in nine LaLiga games this season, leave amid apparent interest from LA Galaxy.

- Leicester City are trying to sign Juventus defender Merih Demiral, according to the Mirror. Manchester City and Everton are also reportedly interested in the Turkey international.

- Piatek aside, there may be other moves at Milan. La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira says Roma are interested in Suso and Cengiz Under could be heading to San Siro, while Milan are still eyeing Inter's Matteo Politano.

- Could David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini reunite for a third time? Sky Sports reports Moyes' West Ham are interested in signing the Shandong Luneng midfielder, who played under the Scot at Everton and Manchester United.

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