Manchester United's forwards have their "mojo" back after leading Tuesday's remarkable 9-0 demolition of nine-man Southampton at Old Trafford.

It was only the third instance of a team winning a Premier League match by nine goals and the first time United have won by that margin since March 1995, when they beat Ipswich Town by the same score.

While Andy Cole was the five-goal inspiration in that 1995 win, this time United shared the goals around – seven players netted on Tuesday, making it only the second occasion so many different individuals have netted for the same team in a single Premier League match.

Among them were Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani, providing the perfect response to Solskjaer's pre-match comments maligning the loss of his forwards' "mojo".

"Yeah, of course they have," Solskjaer said with a laugh to BT Sport when asked if they had recovered that "mojo".

"You get lots of confidence from a performance like this and the result, scoring goals is always good for forwards and the team."

He added: "We have been waiting for them to show their magic and tonight was a night they could go and enjoy.

"We haven't had too many of those where you can sit down in the second half and enjoy the football, so they enjoyed it. There were some good performances."

Alexandre Jankewitz's red card for a shocking second-minute tackle on Scott McTominay – who was also among the scorers – left Saints with an uphill battle, and Jan Bednarek followed him down the tunnel in the second half in rather more controversial circumstances.

But the focus will be on United's scoring prowess in the contest, as they put Saints to the sword.

Rashford's goal saw him move on to 83 for the club, overtaking Eric Cantona, and Solskjaer took the moment to praise the England international as he has occasionally had to contend with critics urging him to concentrate on his football amid his charitable efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

"That's not bad," Solskjaer said of Rashford surpassing Cantona. "Eric was a fantastic player to play with and Marcus has a great career ahead of him.

"What he's done this season, this year, it just shows he can still focus on his football as well."

Antonio Conte muttered to himself and looked rather resigned as Arturo Vidal angrily gestured towards him while being replaced by Christian Eriksen on Tuesday. Perhaps he realised his errors had already done irreparable damage.

Juventus went on to put one foot in the Coppa Italia final with a 2-1 win at Inter in their semi-final first leg, with Conte seemingly made to rue a tactical set-up that invited pressure in the absence of talisman Romelu Lukaku.

While Inter's second-half display in San Siro showed evidence of Conte wising up to his team's problems, it was too little, too late as the Nerazzurri were unable to rescue a game lost in the first half.

A chief component of Inter's struggles here was rooted in last week's quarter-final win over bitter rivals Milan, as Lukaku's much-discussed altercation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic resulted in a yellow card for the Belgian.

The pair went head-to-head in ugly scenes that were accentuated by the lack of a crowd, every word of Ibrahimovic's questionable antagonising audible thanks to the television cameras and microphones.

Whether Lukaku's reaction was justified is a discussion for another day, but beyond doubt is the fact he was sorely missed by Conte's men, whose lack of an out-ball left them without options.

Alexis Sanchez, who ultimately remained with Inter at the end of the transfer window despite links to Roma, was the man chosen to partner Lautaro Martinez and the Chilean initially showed reason for optimism.

After holding the ball up admirably and working space on the break in the ninth minute, Sanchez fed Nicolo Barella up the right flank and his low cross was turned home by Martinez – his shot creeping under the hand of Gianluigi Buffon's hand.

It wasn't the ideal way to celebrate the 43-year-old's 1,100th professional game, but the Inter defence ensured the spotlight wouldn't be on Buffon's error for long.

First, Ashley Young took centre stage a little over 15 minutes later, bizarrely opting to haul back Juan Cuadrado in the box despite Federico Bernardeschi's cross always looking incapable of doing any damage, and Ronaldo slammed the resulting penalty right down the middle.

Ronaldo then capitalised on a mix-up between Alessandro Bastoni and Samir Handanovic, robbing the defender and slotting in from a tight angle outside of the box with the goalkeeper stranded.

Inter dug their own hole with their poor decision-making, and without Lukaku they were without the means to haul themselves out.

Neither Young nor Matteo Darmian on the flanks – the latter in for the absent Achraf Hakimi – could offer any kind of attacking support in the first half, with both failing to deliver a single cross before the interval.

Then, with Sanchez and Martinez largely unable to impose themselves against the physically dominant Merih Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt, Inter's options when looking to move out from the back were minimal.

And that was another issue – in the first half, Inter were very deep and endured great difficulty trying to play through Juve's press. It might have been effective with players potentially trying to get in behind the visitors' defence, but Andrea Pirlo's side subjugated their hosts virtually throughout the opening half.

Conte's tweaks at the break saw Inter's backline move further up the pitch and that certainly seemed to improve their standing in the match – Juve's share of the possession going from 63 per cent in the first half to just 40 in the second.

Similarly, Inter's shot count rocketed from two at half-time to 11 at the end, and, to be fair, Sanchez should have taken one of those when his goal-bound effort was stopped on the line by Demiral.

Additionally, Buffon made amends for his first-half error by making a crucial stop to deny Darmian, but otherwise there were few moments when Juve looked especially worried defensively.

On another day perhaps Inter would have done enough to at least keep themselves on level terms ahead of the second leg, but Conte's negative set-up left them at a disadvantage right from the off.

Lukaku will return for the next game, but Juve's away goals advantage gives them a significant edge – Conte has much work to do.

Mikel Arteta questioned the decision to send off David Luiz after the defender was one of two Arsenal players to be dismissed in a 2-1 defeat at Wolves.

Arsenal appeared set to go in at half-time deservedly ahead following Nicolas Pepe's opener, only for David Luiz to concede a penalty following a challenge on Willian Jose.

The Brazilian centre-back was shown a red card by referee Craig Pawson following a VAR check, though Arteta insisted he could not see any contact after studying replays of the incident.

Ruben Neves converted from the spot before Joao Moutinho's long-range strike put the hosts ahead shortly after the break, with any hopes of a fightback disappearing for Arsenal when goalkeeper Bernd Leno was given his marching orders for handling the ball outside the area.

For Arteta, though, it was the David Luiz call that left him frustrated, particularly after his side had played so well up until that crucial moment in the contest.

"First of all, I have to say that I'm proud of my team, the way we played and the way we dominated the first half," Arteta told the media.

"We should have been 3-0 or 4-0 up. We didn't do that, though, and we put ourselves in a really difficult position by conceding the goal and going a man down. 

"I have seen the replay 10 times from five different angles and I cannot see any contact. I would like to see if VAR has a different angle. I'm expecting to see something and I'm not seeing anything. 

"We were really animated at half-time because we really wanted to win the game. The boys were so convinced to go out there and have a real go. 

"We didn't concede any chances but Moutinho scores a worldie and it's 2-1. Then, when Bernd comes out and hits the ball with his hand, we're down to nine men and almost impossible to win the game."

Since making his league debut for Arsenal in August 2019, David Luiz has picked up three red cards and conceded six penalties, more than any other player in the competition in both categories.

Arteta - who has seen his team shown nine Premier League red cards since taking charge, six more than any other top-flight team - admitted the result was tough to take.

"The way we lost the game really hurts. It's painful," he said. 

"I have to take the positives as well, which is the way we played against this team that is very difficult to attack, the amount of chances we created. But we leave the ground and have zero points and have lost two important players. 

"It's hard enough to win football games in this league. There's nothing we can change. It was a big decision, if they got it right and can justify they got it right, I'll put my hand up and apologise. 

"The only thing I'm saying is that I’m sitting here and I cannot see any contact. That's really, really frustrating, because it's a big, big moment in the game."

Asked if Arsenal may issue an appeal against the red card for David Luiz, Arteta replied: "Where I’m standing now, I'd say yes – let's go straight away. But I don't know, we will have to speak to the legal team at the club and decide if it is the best thing."

Runar Alex Runarsson came on to take over from Leno in goal, with recent recruit Mat Ryan ruled out with a muscle issue. Arteta revealed he is hopeful the Australia international can be fit in time for Saturday's trip to Aston Villa.

Cristiano Ronaldo's first-half brace saw Juventus come from behind to claim a 2-1 first-leg win against Inter in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia.

Lautaro Martinez put speculation of a new contract aside to fire Inter in front before Ronaldo emphatically dispatched a 26th-minute penalty.

There was still plenty for Ronaldo to do 10 minutes before the interval when Samir Handanovic charged out to leave his goal unguarded, yet the 35-year-old clipped home with aplomb.

Inter had the better of the second half but were unable to find a response as top scorer Romelu Lukaku served a suspension.

Gianluigi Buffon endured a moment to forget on his 1,100th career appearance as Inter took a ninth-minute lead.

Alexis Sanchez held up play shrewdly for Nicolo Barella, whose measured cross was struck first time by Martinez. Buffon got down in awkward fashion and his touch could not prevent the ball from spinning into his goal.

A VAR review gave Juventus the chance to get back on terms, with referee Gianpaolo Calvarese deciding Ashley Young had impeded Juan Cuadrado enough to award a penalty.

Ronaldo made no mistake, lashing his spot-kick high into the net.

While Handanovic had no chance on that occasion, his inexplicable decision to charge out as Alessandro Bastoni tried to shepherd a hopeful ball away from Ronaldo left the five-time Ballon d'Or winner to slot calmly into an unguarded net.

Young had a drive pushed over by Buffon early in the second half when Juve partially cleared a set-piece, while Handanovic recovered his poise to cleverly keep out a deflected Bernardeschi shot from inside the box.

This was a game where errors continued to enhance the entertainment value. In the 58th minute, a horrible touch from Rodrigo Bentancur coughed up possession to Inter on the edge of the Juve box.

Sanchez looked certain to score, with Buffon stranded, but Merih Demiral made an astonishing goal-line clearance.

Buffon rolled back the years to thwart Matteo Darmian at close quarters following fine work from Sanchez and Martinez, and the latter duo could not fashion an equaliser in Lukaku's absence.

Harry Kane paid tribute to "inspirational" Captain Tom Moore after the former British Army officer died at the age of 100.

England skipper Kane was joined by manager Gareth Southgate in remembering the impact the veteran made on the country during the coronavirus crisis.

Southgate said the man who became affectionately known as Captain Tom had "demonstrated the very best of England".

In a fundraising effort, when he was 99 years old, he raised close to £33million for NHS charities by walking 100 laps of his garden.

Kane wrote on Twitter: "Very sad to hear this news as he was an inspirational man who did so much for others. My thoughts are with his family and friends."

Captain Moore was made an honorary colonel to mark his 100th birthday, which was honoured with a Royal Air Force flypast, and he was later knighted by the Queen.

He died in Bedford Hospital with COVID-19 after being admitted on Sunday, having previously been ill with pneumonia.

Southgate said: "Captain Sir Tom Moore demonstrated the very best of England during an extremely difficult time for the nation.

"It is no exaggeration to say he helped bring the country together in a way that few ever could, and he leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten.

"I was especially struck by his dedication to going above and beyond with his personal challenge, his relentless positivity and his good humour."

In a statement issued by the Football Association, Southgate added: "It was a wonderful moment to see him chosen to lead England's Lionhearts squad celebrating 23 individuals who had done so much to help others this past year – one of many deserved honours that came his way.

"He will be missed, but we will remember him."

Premier League champions Liverpool used the words of their famous club anthem to pay tribute, declaring: "An inspiration and a true hero. You'll Never Walk Alone."

Andre Villas-Boas has been suspended by Marseille after the club accused the head coach of remarks that "seriously harmed" their reputation.

On Tuesday, the former Chelsea and Tottenham boss claimed he had offered to resign due to his frustrations with the running of the club, which came to a head with the signing of Olivier Ntcham, a player he did not ask to be brought in.

"I submitted my resignation saying that I did not agree with the sporting policy. I don't want anything from OM. I don't want money," he told a news conference.

"I'm waiting for an answer, it could be no and then we would continue. I don't want any money, I just want to leave."

Villas-Boas said he learned of the deal to sign midfielder Ntcham from Celtic "this morning from the press", adding: "He is a player that I had said no to. He was not on our list."

Those comments appear to have incensed Marseille bosses, who are now pursuing disciplinary action, which is likely to lead to Villas-Boas' dismissal. The Portuguese had previously stated he would not extend his contract, which expires at the end of the season.

"Olympique de Marseille announces the pending disciplinary proceedings of Andre Villas-Boas," the club said in a statement. "This decision has become unavoidable given the recent and repetitive actions and attitudes that have seriously harmed Olympique de Marseille and its employees who devote themselves to it on a daily basis.

"The remarks made today during a press conference in regard to Pablo Longoria, general manager in charge of football, are unacceptable.

"His exceptional achievements should not be questioned and, on the contrary, were welcomed by all during this winter transfer window which was affected by an unprecedented crisis. Possible sanctions may be taken against Andre Villas-Boas following disciplinary proceedings."

Marseille, who are ninth in Ligue 1, have won just one of their past eight top-flight matches and lost each of their previous three, a run that prompted angry fans to stage an attack on the training ground last weekend in protest against the club's running.

They were also knocked out of the Champions League group stage with just three points from their six games.

Villas-Boas had previously stated he would prepare the team for Wednesday's trip to Lens.

Zinedine Zidane led a Real Madrid training session for the first time since contracting coronavirus, while club president Florentino Perez has tested positive for COVID-19.

Madrid head coach Zidane was forced to undergo a period of self-isolation and has not been in the dugout since the shock 2-1 defeat to Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey two weeks ago.

Since then, Los Blancos have beaten Deportivo Alaves 4-1 and suffered a surprise 2-1 loss against Levante in LaLiga.

Madrid have slipped to third and sit 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid, who still have a game in hand, but Zidane has a full week to prepare for their next outing against Huesca on Saturday.

Although Zidane was back on the training pitch, Sergio Ramos, Lucas Vazquez, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde were only with the group for part of the session.

Dani Carvajal trained indoors while Nacho Fernandez remained at home after testing positive for COVID-19, a fate shared by Madrid president Perez.

A brief club statement read: "Real Madrid would like to inform that our president Florentino Perez has tested positive in the COVID-19 tests that he periodically undergoes, although he is not showing any symptoms."

Andre Villas-Boas has offered his resignation at Marseille after the Ligue 1 club went against his wishes by signing Olivier Ntcham. 

Ntcham joined on loan until the end of the season from Celtic on deadline day despite Villas-Boas saying he did not want the player. 

The former Tottenham and Chelsea boss consequently felt his position was no longer tenable and offered to leave, citing a disagreement with Marseille’s sporting policy. 

Villas-Boas said the training ground being attacked by angry fans at the weekend "had nothing to do with it" and that he was awaiting a response from the club. 

"I submitted my resignation saying that I did not agree with the sporting policy. I don't want anything from OM. I don't want money," he told a news conference on Tuesday. 

"I'm waiting for an answer, it could be no and then we would continue. I don't want any money, I just want to leave. 

"[Signing Ntcham was] a decision that was not taken by me, I learned of it this morning from the press. He is a player that I had said no to. He was not on our list. 

"The results – it's my fault. I'm very upset. But if there's something you cannot touch, it's my professionalism. I cannot accept this. This club has already been through a couple of messy years in terms of transfers."

Marseille have won just one of their past eight Ligue 1 matches, with a 3-1 loss at Monaco last time out their third straight defeat. 

Their meeting with Rennes on Saturday was called off after fans stormed the training ground in protest. 

Villas-Boas accepted the club's request for time before making a decision on his resignation and he was still preparing the team for Wednesday's trip to Lens. 

"I'm focused on Lens. We continue until the board lets me go," he added. 

Antoine Griezmann being a Barcelona success is important to head coach Ronald Koeman.

Barca are preparing to face Granada in an away Copa del Rey quarter-final on Wednesday.

They are favourites to win the competition after Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid crashed out against lower-league opposition.

Griezmann scored twice and set up another as Barca won 4-0 at Los Carmenes in LaLiga last month.

Ahead of their latest meeting in the cup, Koeman praised the World Cup winner for his turnaround in form, which was partly sparked by that outing.

He has five goals in his last seven games, including the winner in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

"All season Antoine is working well," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference.

"[He has done] what a player has to do, which is help the team to the maximum. 

"With Antoine there have been moments when he has been scoring and those when he hasn't scored, but they are phases that any footballer goes through, we have all experienced it. 

"Now he is very good and that is important to me. We want to get the most out of each player in the squad."

Griezmann has seven goal involvements in his last six games at Los Carmenes and, prior to his star showing in the last meeting, had netted just three times in his first 16 LaLiga appearances this season.

Barca have five straight away wins in LaLiga, four of which have come with clean sheets. It is their best run under Koeman, who hopes they can carry that form into the cup.

"It is a different game because it is the cup and they are always different games from the championship," said the Dutchman.

"Also I think that both they [Granada] and we have played many games – they have had even more. 

"Do not forget that at the start of the other game we had quite a few complications in playing our game. We expect a difficult game in which we have to be very focused."

Koeman would not go as far as saying the Copa del Rey was now his top priority over LaLiga.

But he concedes it is the most likely route to domestic silverware with Atletico Madrid sitting 10 points clear with a game in hand atop the table.

Koeman added: "The cup is not more important than the league, but it is true that it is closer [to being won] because there are fewer games left. 

"It is not normal for Atletico Madrid to get so many points, they are very strong. In the league we can only wait for them to fail. We have lost many points at home that cannot be dropped.

"I don't give more importance to Wednesdays game than to the weekend [against Real Betis], but we want to keep winning and get through this tie to be in the semi-final. 

"Squad rotation depends on the physical condition of the players. It is a vital match, but if there is a player who is not physically well, he will not play."

Virgil van Dijk will not play again for Liverpool this season barring "a miracle", according to manager Jurgen Klopp.

It had been reported that Van Dijk could return in April from an anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in the Merseyside derby last October.

The 29-year-old has been undertaking his rehabilitation in Dubai and was said to be closing in on a return to the pitch, but Klopp does not consider that to be a realistic possibility.

"Whatever happens I think we have space for Virgil on the Champions League list, I think he was on the Premier League list – nobody told me I have to change something with that. If we have space in the Champions League list, Virgil will be on the list," he told a news conference.

"No doctor told me there's a chance for Virgil to play again this season. I don't want to say it's impossible, but it's not likely.

"If we have space we will put them all on even when the medical people tell them there's no chance because we believe in miracles from time to time.

"But if there's no place then we have to consider these things and say the chance is not too big so we have to make a decision. But if they're on the list then it's only because we hope for nearly a miracle and that's it."

With Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and makeshift centre-back Fabinho also out injured, Liverpool brought in Ben Davies from Preston North End and Ozan Kabak from Schalke on deadline day.

Klopp was pleased to have bolstered his defensive options and intends to let Rhys Williams return to the Under-23 squad in order to get more game time.

Liverpool take on Brighton and Hove Albion on Wednesday and Klopp is hopeful he will not have to throw Davies and Kabak straight into action against Graham Potter's men at Anfield.

"The good thing is it is football and they play football in Germany and the Championship, so that's not the problem," said Klopp.

"[There have been] 12 or 13 different centre-half pairings and then that makes it more difficult for example Neco [Williams] and Kostas [Tsimikas] too.

"You search for stability in the team when you change that often, but we don't live in an idle world and that means we have to be smart and quick and try different things.

"We play differently to Preston and Schalke so they'll need time but we don't have a lot, so we'll use the time we have in our hands and try our best.

"If they had to start Wednesday together I think that would be not too cool, but we will give them a few more days."

Ronald Koeman believes it is "absurd" that a report over Lionel Messi's contract is still dominating headlines but has been delighted with the way his captain has responded.

The build-up to Barcelona's Copa del Rey quarter-final at Granada has been overshadowed by an apparent leak of Messi's deal at Camp Nou, which was signed in 2017.

A report by El Mundo on Sunday claimed the contract, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

It was already believed that Messi was on an extraordinary salary at Barcelona, given he is recognised by many as the greatest active player of the world's most popular sport.

But the leaking of the exact sums payable to Messi has caused a stir, coming at a time when the embattled LaLiga giants are in financial trouble.

Koeman has previously rejected any suggestion that Messi's contract was connected to Barcelona facing a financial hurdle.

He was unhappy that it remained the central story prior to Wednesday's last-eight tie, with Barca favourites to win the cup due to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid already being eliminated.

"It is something absurd that you [the media] have been on with this issue for three or four days," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference.

"The team and Leo have responded in the way that I like, which is to try to leave the things from the press aside and concentrate on the game.

"I am happy with the team and how he [Messi] is currently working."

Koeman has previously said anyone inside Barca who is found to have leaked sensitive details would be fired.

But he reiterated his comments made after Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao – where Messi scored his 650th club goal – that the leak could well have come from outside.

Koeman added: "It can come from many places, because there is always competition between the big clubs and there are people from outside with friends inside.

"As a coach I defend the players and the club. Leaks like these are not good and have bad intentions.

"When things come out it is important to be more united in the dressing room."

Sami Khedira is not intending to make himself "the big boss and the big saviour" of Hertha Berlin following his arrival from Juventus.

World Cup-winning midfielder Khedira joined Hertha on deadline day after being frozen out at Juve – he did not make a single appearance in a matchday squad under Andrea Pirlo.

Hertha sit 15th in the Bundesliga and are only outside the relegation play-off spot on goal difference, with Pal Dardai replacing Bruno Labbadia as head coach last week.

Khedira hopes to use his experience to steer the club away from the bottom three, though he has no intention of being an overbearing presence in the dressing room.

He told reporters: "I'm not coming here and saying, 'I'm the big boss.' I'm a normal man on the team.

"There are players who have more to say, that's in my nature a bit. But I'm a normal footballer who wants to do my part here.

"I want to bring in my experience and make clear statements. But I haven't come here to portray myself as the big boss and the big saviour. I'm part of the team."

Despite having played just 30 minutes of football since the 2019-20 season was suspended in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, Khedira assured he is ready to get straight down to work.

"I'm 100 per cent fit," said Khedira. "When you train with world-class players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Giorgio Chiellini and Alex Sandro, you are always challenged.

"I left [Juventus] as I arrived: with a laugh. I spent five and a half fantastic years there. But now it's Hertha."

Khedira has an agreement with Hertha until the end of the season but is not ruling out staying beyond that.

"We've come to an agreement to work together until the end of the season. That doesn't mean that it will definitely end there, though," he said.

"There's huge trust between me and [sporting director] Arne Friedrich, so we don't need a piece of paper binding us together."

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman remains hopeful Lionel Messi will opt to stay at Camp Nou, but is "not confident" about that outcome.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 33-year-old wanted to leave last season after the club finished without a trophy and he fell out with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Messi agreed to stay for the last year of his contract when Barca refused his request and has impressed under Koeman, scoring nine goals in his last 10 games.

But Koeman is not convinced a happier Messi this season will result in him remaining with the club for the long term.

"I'm not confident about that," Koeman said to The Athletic.

"I'm hopeful, yes, about this because he's still a great player and he's still winning matches for us, for the team. 

"I'm enjoying being his coach, if you look at his qualities every day in the training sessions, it's incredible. 

"Of course, he came as a young kid to Barcelona. And I still don't see Leo Messi in another shirt other than the Barca shirt."

Messi reached 650 Barca goals in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

After the match, Koeman said Barcelona "can't aspire to much" without Messi as he reflected on a leak by El Mundo which claimed the deal his captain signed in 2017 is worth more than €555million.

Koeman was thrilled to get the Barcelona job ahead of 2020-21 but reflected on how tough it had been to immediately handle the Messi saga, which was already under way and has raged on since.

"It was a difficult time because he's still the best player, but he was angry about some situations in the club," added Koeman. 

"And he was not happy that he was in a team who lost 8-2 against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League. 

"Of course, he was angry, he had to leave, he wanted to leave the team.

"First of all, what I said to the club was, 'OK, it's not my problem. It's a problem between the club and Leo Messi. And you have to resolve that'. 

"Finally, the club said, 'We don’t make a transfer for him. He needs to stay'. It was a difficult time for Leo but he finally accepted it."

Koeman has not had any issues with Messi's attitude.

The former Netherlands head coach added: "I spoke to him in his house before we started the season and I made plans with him and he was really enthusiastic.

"I knew that he had some problems with the club and I was out of that.

"I said to Leo, 'I'm really happy if you stay. If you don't stay, it's your decision and it's what you have to handle with the club. If you stay, you will be part of the team and this will be your position to get all the best out of yourself'. 

"Little by little, he accepted that situation. And look how he is playing in the last few weeks, he is really involved in the club, in the team. 

"But nobody knows what will happen in the future."

Andrea Pirlo exudes composure and shows little emotion on the sidelines but that is only half the story according to Christian Vieri, who believes the "fun" first-year head coach can lead Juventus to a clean sweep of silverware in Turin.

Eyebrows were raised when nine-time reigning Serie A champions Juve turned to club great but unproven coach Pirlo following the dismissal of Maurizio Sarri at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Pirlo had only re-joined Juve as Under-23s head coach a week earlier before the Bianconeri gave the 41-year-old his first senior coaching role at the Italian powerhouse, where he won four Scudetto titles among other honours during an illustrious playing career.

While there have been teething issues and a stuttering start, World Cup winner Pirlo has already tasted success for the first time as a coach in the Supercoppa Italiana, while Juve are seven points off the pace in Serie A, through to the Champions League last 16 and preparing for Tuesday's mouth-watering Coppa Italia semi-final against Inter.

Vieri spent time with Pirlo at Inter and within the Italy national team and he talked up the playful side of his former team-mate – who remains in the hunt for a Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia treble in his maiden season at the helm.

"Listen, Juventus can win anything every year. They have a fantastic side," Vieri, who won the 1997 Scudetto with Juve before later joining Inter for a then-world record fee in 1999, told Stats Perform News. "When you have Cristiano Ronaldo with you, you always start 1-0.

"Pirlo is a fun guy. He is the opposite of what everyone sees. He is a fun dude, he takes the p*** out of you the whole day.

"Of course, everyone is different on TV, right? He is calmer. You never see him go crazy. He is the opposite of [Antonio] Conte. You see Conte, it's like he is playing.

"It's his first experience. He is having a good time. He won a trophy already. You win games and lose games, it's part of coaching. Maybe lose more games than win, some coaches do that. But he is happy coaching, that's what he wanted to do.

"He has an amazing team. He can everything this season. Let's see what happens. Nine years in a row winning the Scudetto, of course, sooner or later you will lose it because motivation-wise, you can't have that motivation every year."

Inter will host Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final at San Siro on Tuesday.

It will be a chance for Juve to avenge their previous Derby d'Italia loss to Inter, who outclassed Pirlo's men 2-0 in Serie A action on January 17.

Inter – boasting the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Achraf Hakimi and Nicolo Barella – are widely viewed as the favourites to put an end to Juve's domestic dominance, which dates back to 2011.

The Nerazzurri, where Vieri spent six successful years, are second and only two points behind leaders Milan through 20 Serie A matchdays.

But Italian great Vieri believes Juve remain the "strongest team in Italy" due to their depth.

"They have 23 fantastic players," the 47-year-old added. "They have a big, long bench. [Paulo] Dybala stays on the bench, [Juan] Cuadrado stays on the bench, Arthur stays on the bench… they're fantastic players.

"I don't think the other benches are as strong as Juve's. I think Juve are still the strongest. But motivation wise, you can't win forever.

"Inter have a fantastic team this season. Hakimi, [Arturo] Vidal, [Ashley] Young, [Alessandro] Bastoni, they're all good players. They're solid, more solid defensively than three-four months ago. Up front they're fantastic. Anyone can win.

"Against Juve, Inter played fantastically [in Serie A]. Technical wise, physically. Let's see what happens in the semi-final."

Achraf Hakimi only moved to Inter from Real Madrid at the start of the 2020-21 season.

But the future of the Morocco international is already making headlines.

Will Hakimi still be an Inter player at the end of the campaign?

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI WANTED IN ENGLAND

Manchester City are interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Calciomercato.

Hakimi has established himself as a key player for Antonio Conte's Inter after arriving from Real Madrid.

But Inter – in the spotlight amid reported financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic – are facing a battle to keep Hakimi, with Chelsea and Arsenal also chasing the Morocco international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Napoli want to bring back former head coach Maurizio Sarri. Gennaro Gattuso is under pressure and Sky Sport Italia claims the two parties will part in June. Sarri left Napoli for Chelsea in 2018. Former boss Rafael Benitez has also been linked.

Lionel Messi could help bitter rivals Madrid. According to El Chiringuito, Messi's proposed switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain could aid Madrid in their quest to prise Kylian Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu. Mbappe has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are interested in Erling Haaland, but Borussia Dortmund have no intention of losing both the Norwegian and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho at the end of the season.

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