Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations campaign unravelled in disastrous fashion in Rome as they crashed to a first defeat against Italy since 2015.

Gregor Townsend’s side looked set to tighten their grip on second place – and keep themselves on course for a first top-two finish this century – when they held 14-3 and 22-10 leads in the first half following tries from props Zander Fagerson and Pierre Schoeman either side of a score from Kyle Steyn.

However, the Scots completely lost their way after the interval as they fell to a 31-29 loss against an Italian side who – despite several encouraging displays that helped draw a capacity crowd to the Stadio Olimpico – had not won a Six Nations match since victory in Wales two years ago.

This chastening defeat in the Eternal City is sure to crank up the heat on head coach Townsend five months after exiting the World Cup at the group-stage.

Italy got the chance to get the scoreboard ticking over just seconds into the match when Scotland were penalised on their own 22 immediately from the kick-off. Paolo Garbisi saw the ball fall off the tee while the clock was running but the fly-half kept his composure to re-tee and send his kick between the posts.

Scotland soon gained a foothold, however, and they got themselves in front in the sixth minute when Fagerson powered his way over from close range after a sustained spell of pressure inside the Italian 22. Finn Russell converted.

The visitors crossed the whitewash again five minutes later when they worked the ball out to the right and Blair Kinghorn fed Steyn, who bundled his way past two Italians to cross the line. Russell converted again.

The Azzurri summoned a swift response as scrum-half Martin Page-Relo lobbed a clever kick over the top and centre Juan Ignacio Brex ran gleefully over just to the left of the posts in the 15th minute. Garbisi converted.

Shortly after Russell kicked a close-range penalty, Scotland scored their third try of the match in the 28th minute as Schoeman finished things off after being fed by George Turner in a driving maul. Russell’s conversion drifted wide.

Italy finished the first half strongly and reduced their interval deficit to 22-16 with a couple of penalties kicked by Garbisi and then Page-Relo, who was on target from close to the half-way line.

Scotland thought they had extended their advantage two minutes into the second period when scrum-half George Horne – on his first start since the 2019 World Cup – bolted over after excellent play by Huw Jones to release him but it was subsequently chalked off after Schoeman was adjudged to have committed a foul in the build-up.

The prop’s needless indiscretion was to prove hugely pivotal. Just two minutes later, Italy closed to within a point when debutant Louis Lynagh – son of former Australia international Michael – ran on to Garbisi’s kick-through and darted over the line. Garbisi – with the chance to edge his team in front – saw his conversion attempt come back off the post.

The Scots found themselves in trouble in the 57th minute when the Italians got themselves in front as replacement scrum-half Stephen Varney found a gap between Andy Christie and Jack Dempsey to nudge his way over. This time Garbisi was on target.

Garbisi then scored a huge penalty from distance to put the hosts nine points ahead with seven minutes to play, placing the Scots in a state of desperation.

Replacement lock Sam Skinner – denied a match-winning try against France a month previously – pushed over with two minutes left and Russell converted to bring the Scots back to within two points and set up a tense finish.

Townsend’s team were unable to find another score, however, and – as the Azzurri celebrated a rare and deserved victory – the Scotland players slumped to their knees in abject despair as a campaign had that promised so much was reduced to rubble in Rome.

Rory Darge feels Italy’s Stadio Olimpico would be “a nice place” for Duhan van der Merwe to become Scotland’s record try-scorer – but the co-captain stressed that his team’s focus is solely on leaving Rome with another Guinness Six Nations victory.

The Scots have won two of their three championship matches so far to sit second in the table – albeit six points adrift of Grand Slam-chasing Ireland – going into the penultimate round of fixtures.

While the priority for Gregor Townsend’s side is to get the points that will keep them on course for a first top-two finish in the Six Nations era, the fixture has added spice because Van der Merwe goes into it with 26 international tries to his name – one shy of the county’s record-holder Stuart Hogg.

A score or two by the South Africa-born wing on Saturday would see him join or overtake the former full-back, who will be at the Stadio Olimpico to support his old colleagues after completing a charity cycle to the Eternal City in aid of the My Name’5 Doddie foundation.

Back-rower Darge said: “I know one of Duhi’s tries in particular (his second one against England) was off our defensive efforts and then the turnover attack, so if we do get ourselves right, then we can put guys like that in.

“He’s obviously a great finisher. Sometimes you only need to give him half a chance and he comes away with a chance, so it (the record) could happen.

“It would be a nice place for him to do it but I don’t think he’ll have too much of his mind set on that.

“He’ll just be focused on his role, and he might come away with a couple, but we’ll have to wait and see. I’m sure Italy will put us under a lot of pressure.”

Darge insisted Edinburgh wing Van der Merwe has remained as humble as ever in the wake of the Calcutta Cup hat-trick a fortnight ago that put him on the cusp of Hogg’s record.

“Duhi’s always the same,” said the Glasgow forward. “Around training and around camp, he’s always quite laidback but when he gets out there he’s a Test-match animal, and it’s class to be able to play with him.”

Darge’s only previous experience of playing at Stadio Olimpico was a 33-22 victory two years ago in front of a crowd of 41,214.

This time, the famous arena in north-west Rome – used predominantly for football – is set to be full to capacity, with 70,000 tickets having been sold on the back of encouraging championship performances from the Azzurri against England and France.

“Italy are a really good side,” said Darge. “We saw that against France, and they’re obviously playing at home where they’ll have a really good atmosphere and good backing.

“The Stadio Olimpico is different (to other Six Nations venues) but the Scotland fans always travel well for this one, so that will be massive for us.

“It’s a long walk from the changing room but it’s a cool stadium. Inside the changing room, on the walk in, with all the jerseys on the wall and stuff like that, there’s a lot of history behind it, so it’s a cool place to be playing rugby.”

Scotland face Italy in their penultimate Guinness Six Nations match at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some key talking points ahead of the showdown in Rome.

History beckons for Duhan

There is every chance of Scottish history being made in Rome this weekend. Duhan Van Der Merwe moved within one of Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg when he scored a match-defining hat-trick against England at Murrayfield last time out. A single score will be enough to take the South Africa-born wing level with Hogg on 27, but in his current form – five tries in his last three Six Nations matches – few would bet against him doing enough at the Stadio Olimpico to break the record outright. Hogg, incidentally, is set to be watching on from the stand after completing a fundraising cycle to the Italian capital in aid of the My Name’5 Doddie charity.

Scots in hunt for rare top-two finish

Scotland have not finished in the top two of the championship since winning the last staging of the Five Nations in 1999. They arrive in Rome knowing a victory will keep them on course to do so for the first time in the 21st century. Gregor Townsend’s team are currently second in the table – a point ahead of England and three above France – with two matches to play. While they still have an outside chance of pipping Ireland to the title, finishing second appears to be a more realistic target.

Chance for Scots trio to shine

There is an element of freshness to the Scotland team this weekend as Townsend has handed opportunities to three players who have been regular squad members in recent seasons but who are not accustomed to starting in the dark blue. Burgeoning Bath centre Cam Redpath makes his fourth Scotland start in place of the injured Sione Tuipulotu, Glasgow scrum-half George Horne has been handed his first start since the 2019 World Cup as Toulon’s Ben White gets the weekend off to rest, while in-form Saracens back-rower Andy Christie has finally been rewarded with first international start two years after making his debut at home to France.

Italy a sticky opponent

Italy have bounced back well from a chastening World Cup and have proved particularly testing opponents for England and France under recently-installed head coach Gonzalo Quesada. The Azzurri lost by just three points to the Red Rose on match-day one and drew away to France in their last outing, with a last-gasp penalty miss costing them what would have been a famous victory in Lille. The Italians have lost their last 13 meetings with the Scots but they gave Townsend’s team a good game at Murrayfield a year ago and have every reason to be confident of doing so again on home soil this weekend.

Full house at the Olimpico

The Stadio Olimpico regularly hosts capacity crowds for football matches, such as Thursday’s Europa League showdown between Roma and Brighton, but it is far more unusual for the iconic bowl in the north-west of the Eternal City to sell out for rugby matches. It is a sign of the relative buoyancy of both of these nations, therefore, that almost 70,000 tickets have been sold for Saturday’s match.

Scrum-half George Horne has been handed a surprise start for Scotland’s Guinness Six Nations showdown with Italy in Rome on Saturday, with Gregor Townsend making three changes to his starting XV.

The 28-year-old Glasgow back has been given the nod to wear the number nine jersey for the first time since the 2019 World Cup. Regular starter Ben White is rested and drops out of the squad altogether, with Ali Price – who has played no part in the tournament – promoted to the bench.

Saracens flanker Andy Christie is handed his first international start in place of Jamie Ritchie, who is among the substitutes.

Bath centre Cam Redpath made a positive impact off the bench in the 30-21 victory over England and replaces Glasgow’s Sione Tuipulotu, who will miss the remainder of the championship with a knee injury.

Back-rower Matt Fagerson, who dropped out of the 23 altogether for the last match, returns to the bench, with Townsend switching from a 5/3 split to a 6/2.

The Scots are currently second in the table and need a win to keep alive their slim championship hopes.

Italy were within the width of a post of the biggest upset in Six Nations history as they drew 13-13 against 14-man France in Lille.

Paolo Garbisi had a last-gasp penalty attempt from 38 metres to register Italy’s first-ever Championship win in France.

But the ball toppled off its tee and, with just a few seconds left on the shot clock after it had been replaced, Garbisi rushed his kick and struck the right-hand post.

France – who had won 45 of their previous 48 Test matches against Italy, including the past 14 in a row – had lost Jonathan Danty to a red card on the stroke of half-time for a high shot on opposite centre Ignacio Brex.

Les Bleus thrashed Italy 60-7 at last year’s World Cup but a repeat of that one-sided encounter did not materialise as the Azzurri underlined their improvement under new head coach Gonzalo Quesada.

Italy remain bottom of the Guinness Six Nations, level on points with Wales, while France stay in fourth place, with their title dream over.

France started at breakneck pace and were rewarded with a seventh-minute try.

Italy were unable to stop a series of pick-and-go’s through the middle of their defence and skipper Charles Ollivon got the ball down under a pile of Azzurri bodies.

Thomas Ramos dispatched a simple conversion and swiftly added a penalty as France suggested the game could be effectively over by half-time.

Italy spent most of the first half hanging on by their fingernails, and were not helped by a risky strategy of trying to escape their 22 with ball in hand.

Fly-half Matthieu Jalibert was stopped near to the line and 19-year-old lock Posolo Tuilagi almost celebrated his first Test start with a try.

But Tuilagi was held up over the line and the contest took a dramatic turn in the final play of the first half as Italy launched a rare attack.

There was clear head-on-head contact between Danty and Brex, and English referee Christophe Ridley reduced France to 14 men with a yellow card.

Martin Page-Relo provided further punishment to France from long range, and Ridley confirmed after the interval that the bunker review system had upgraded Danty’s yellow to red.

France made light of their numerical disadvantage as their forwards rallied for Ramos to land his second penalty.

Tommaso Menoncello went close to an Azzurri try, kicking ahead before running out of ground, but Garbisi cut the gap to seven points again with a straightforward penalty.

Italy drew level 10 minutes from time after building through the phases for Leonardo Marin to find Ange Capuozzo with a superb offload.

Garbisi converted but then failed to top it as Italy, with only two Six Nations wins over France since joining the Championship in 2000, fell agonisingly short of a second success in 45 matches.

England head coach Sarina Wiegman believes her side have “moved on” from the heartbreak of missing out on Olympic qualification.

The Lionesses face Austria on Friday and Italy next Tuesday in a pair of friendlies which have replaced what they hoped would be Nations League semi-finals.

A 6-0 thrashing of Scotland looked to have secured top spot in Group A1 in December, only for the Netherlands to score twice in added time against Belgium to pip England on goal difference and end Team GB’s hopes of qualifying for Paris 2024.

“This is really the start of our Euros campaign and after the very disappointing result of not qualifying for the play-offs to qualify for the Olympics we moved on,” said Wiegman, whose side will bid to defend their European title in Switzerland next year.

“This is the start, with two friendlies which is really good for us because we can try out some things.

“We are also very close to the Under-23s [also training in Spain] so we can see them, we can connect with them and we get a lot of players that we can see where they are at this moment.

“This is a great start because in April the Nations League starts which are the qualifiers for the Euros.”

Euro 2022-winning captain Leah Williamson had been named in Wiegman’s squad for the first time since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament rupture, but the Arsenal defender withdrew with a hamstring injury on Sunday.

Asked if club coaches had requested a limit on player minutes amid a three-way Women’s Super League title race and a spate of high-profile injuries, Wiegman said: “Not this time.

“We are in contact with each other all the time, we update each other and of course we know how important the Women’s Super League is too but also the German League for Georgia [Stanway] and the Spanish league for the players who play in Spain at the moment.

“Of course, we want to take care of the players but we want to do lots of things. We play to win but we also have the opportunity now to try out things and also manage minutes. With a busy calendar I think that’s something to be aware of.

“The issue of injuries is a bigger picture and it’s about the load on the players. The calendar we talk about a lot, that we really have to address the calendar. I spoke up about that last week – we really ask FIFA and UEFA to change things.

“But we are doing a job as good as possible with all the expertise we have in our team and staff. We have a programme and we monitor the players really well.

“You’re in an environment where an injury can happen because it’s a physical sport, but if you can diminish the risk of injuries as much as possible, that’s also what we try to do.”

England boss Sarina Wiegman is happy to have Leah Williamson back in her squad.

Williamson has been named in a 23-player group for friendlies against Austria and Italy in Spain later this month.

It marks a first return to the Lionnesses’ camp for the 26-year-old since she suffered an ACL injury last April, which ruled her out of last summer’s World Cup.

Wiegman said: “It is really nice, especially for her, she is back, she is gaining minutes at Arsenal, doing well, she is happy at Arsenal and they are of course happy too.

“It is really nice to have her back because she is a very good player, even though she has been out for months, now she has come back her decision-making is still really good.

“She is still building. The team picked up very well, players stepped up but it is still really nice to have her back.”

Williamson captained her country to Euro 2022 success, but Wiegman did not say whether she will still have the armband.

“I have to talk to the players first about that,” she said.

“We come in and we have to start again, we will revisit that and have a conversation with the players first.”

There was no room in the squad for in-form Manchester United forward Nikita Parris, who has been overlooked despite scoring 15 goals in the last 16 matches for her club.

Wiegman spoke to the 29-year-old to explain her decision but says she has tough choices to make.

“The competition up front is really high, in the autumn she didn’t play much,” Wiegman said. “Since the new year she has played in the nine position and has done really well, of course we have noticed that too.

“We have had a little chat and I hope she shows consistency because we are talking about her again but I made some other choices now for this camp.

“With the players we have, they have done well so it was a hard decision.

“I had conversations with her in the autumn, that was a different situation. I had a short conversation with her yesterday and I explained a little bit and that is now just the way it is.

“We have many players up front, it is so competitive that I have to make choices and some players who are doing really well will be kept out. She is available and she knows we are watching her closely.”

The Lionesses take on Austria on February 23 and Italy four days later.

Fly-half Paolo Garbisi believes Italy are ready for the “most difficult match in world rugby” and expects facing Ireland to be twice as tough as taking on England.

The Azzurri meet the reigning Guinness Six Nations champions in Dublin on Sunday after beginning their campaign with a narrow 27-24 loss to Steve Borthwick’s side in Rome.

Ireland are overwhelming favourites for victory at a sold-out Aviva Stadium to keep themselves on course for back-to-back Grand Slam titles following a five-try demolition of France.

Montpellier man Garbisi, who acknowledges his country have been underdogs in almost every match since joining the championship in 2000, is braced for the ultimate test.

“Of course we were pretty proud of our performance (against England),” he told the PA news agency.

“We knew that that wasn’t perfect, otherwise probably we would have won that game, so a lot of points to improve on and to work on.

“But we know that this week is going to be probably twice harder. We know what’s coming and I think we’re ready.

“I think it’s the most difficult match in world rugby right now. We play one of the best sides at their place.

“It’s the first time they play at home in this Six Nations so it’s probably the most difficult thing to do in rugby this time.”

Italy have never won a Six Nations match on Irish soil, with their only championship success in the fixture a 22-15 Stadio Olimpico victory in 2013.

Pundits and bookmakers give the Azzurri, who endured a miserable World Cup campaign before Gonzalo Quesada replaced Kieran Crowley as head coach, little chance of changing that statistic this weekend.

“We try not to put that much attention on those things,” said Garbisi.

“I think it’s 20 years that people don’t give us chances so we don’t really care about that. We try to prepare as well as we can so we can perform as well as we can.

“We know that they’re very good in everything they do: attack, defence, kicking game. But I think what impressed me the most are the rucks, how they can reach the rucks to slow the ball down for the opposition – that’s something they’re really good at.

“If we can keep the pace of our breakdowns quick, we could manage to put them in trouble.”

Garbisi will be pitted against rival number 10 Jack Crowley this weekend after former Ireland captain Johnny Sexton retired following the World Cup.

The 23-year-old feels the departure of the influential Sexton has left a void but thinks 24-year-old Crowley has a “very, very bright future”.

“It’s quite a difference because the leadership that Sexton could provide to their team was amazing,” said Garbisi.

“I think it was a different team when he was playing and when he was not.

“Crowley is a very good number 10 and he’s quite young – I think he’s my age – so I think he has a very, very bright future to lead Ireland forward.”

Italy have lost back-row forwards Sebastian Negri and Lorenzo Cannone to injury but mercurial full-back Ange Capuozzo is back from illness.

“We hope he’s going to make a big difference for us,” Garbisi said of Capuozzo.

“But it’s not only on him, it’s on us as well to try to give him good balls to attack and to put him in good spaces where he can have one on ones against defenders so he can use his feet and his quickness.”

Ireland are hopeful centre Garry Ringrose will be available for Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations match against Italy in Dublin.

Leinster co-captain Ringrose is “progressing nicely” in his recovery from the shoulder injury which caused him to miss his country’s 38-17 round-one win over France.

The 29-year-old was again absent from training on Wednesday but Ireland’s coaching staff expect to have a fully-fit squad in contention for the Azzurri’s visit to the Aviva Stadium.

“We are pretty confident that everyone will be fit to train fully tomorrow,” assistant coach Mike Catt told reporters, according to RTE.

“There are a few guys obviously with a few bumps and bruises from Friday night. There are a couple that are still rumbling around.

“Calvin (Nash), Hugo (Keenan), Ringer is coming through nicely. He obviously didn’t train today, but he is progressing nicely.

“We will see how they pull up over the next couple of days.”

With Ringrose sidelined, Robbie Henshaw partnered Bundee Aki in midfield for Friday evening’s impressive bonus-point triumph in Marseille.

The statement success over the pre-tournament favourites fuelled talk of Andy Farrell’s Ireland becoming the first team to win back-to-back Grand Slams in the Six Nations era.

Attack coach Catt urged players to ignore the “external noise” and focus on immediate challenges.

“There’s no need to (get ahead of ourselves), is there,” he said.

“Andy has always spoken about the next performance, that’s been the key thing.

“From the players’ point of view, too, the Grand Slam will take care of itself if we perform to a level we are capable of performing.

“It’s making sure we put our focus on that and don’t worry about the external noise.”

Head coach Farrell is contemplating changes for the clash with Gonzalo Quesada’s side.

Italy have only once beaten Ireland in the Six Nations – 22-15 in Rome in 2013 – but pushed England close in a 27-24 defeat on the opening weekend.

“What I liked about the Italy performance (against England) was, they didn’t have a great World Cup,” said Catt, who was part of the Azzurri’s coaching staff between 2016 and 2019.

“I think they put their hands up to that as a group of players.

“And for them to turn around and put in a performance like that against a good England side was very impressive.

“They are obviously trying to impress the new coach as well and I just thought the way they played, they didn’t go away from their DNA in terms of (how) they’ve played over the last couple of years.

“I think with Quesada, they’ll tighten things up a little bit but when they get going, they caused some serious problems by scoring some very, very good tries.”

Ireland are hopeful centre Garry Ringrose will be available for Sunday’s Guinness Six Nations match against Italy in Dublin.

Leinster co-captain Ringrose is “progressing nicely” in his recovery from the shoulder injury which caused him to miss his country’s 38-17 round-one win over France.

The 29-year-old was again absent from training on Wednesday but Ireland’s coaching staff expect to have a fully-fit squad in contention for the Azzurri’s visit to the Aviva Stadium.

“We are pretty confident that everyone will be fit to train fully tomorrow,” assistant coach Mike Catt told reporters, according to RTE.

“Ringer (Ringrose) is coming through nicely, he didn’t train today, but progressing nicely.

“(There are) a few guys with bumps and bruises, a couple that are still rumbling around.”

England have revealed Marcus Smith could miss the entire Guinness Six Nations because of the calf injury that has ruled him of at least Saturday’s opener against Italy and Wales a week later.

A clearer picture over Smith’s fitness will emerge next week, but in the meantime veteran George Ford has been installed at fly-half for the Stadio Olimpico showdown with Fin Smith deputising from the bench.

Fin Smith is one of five uncapped players in the matchday 23 and should all of them get time on the field, it will be the highest number of new caps awarded in a single match since Stuart Lancaster’s first game in charge in 2012.

Centre Fraser Dingwall and flanker Ethan Roots are included in the starting XV while Smith, back row Chandler Cunningham-South and wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso feature on the bench.

In a boost to England, Alex Mitchell has recovered from a leg wound to take his place at scrum-half, but the player who was expected to partner him at half-back faces an anxious wait to see if he will be involved at all over the coming weeks.

“Marcus will go back to England today (Thursday) and have further investigations later this week. He won’t be available next week,” Borthwick said.

“We’re not sure exactly when. Hopefully he will play in the latter part of the Six Nations, but it will be a number of weeks. We’ll know more next week.”

Mitchell’s immediate prospects of building on becoming first-choice scrum-half at the World Cup were thrown into doubt when he felt unwell as a result of the infected wound he took into England’s camp in Girona, preventing him from training fully until Thursday morning.

“Our medical team took great care of him over the weekend and at start of the week to get the infection under control and he looks brilliant,” Borthwick said.

“He played a lot of minutes for us during the World Cup and has played a lot of time for his club, so he is match sharp and ready to go. He looked fantastic in training today (Thursday).”

Experienced faces such as Ford, Joe Marler and Maro Itoje are present throughout the 23, but the rare inclusion of five debutants indicated the post-2023 World Cup rebuilding phase is under way, even if some of the picks were forced on Borthwick.

Dingwall starts at inside centre having been included in nine previous England squads without winning a cap, giving him the opportunity to prove he is the solution to the team’s problem position.

Although lacking the raw power of the injured Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence, the 24-year-old is a classy runner who is comfortable at 12 or 13.

Roots, a former jiu-jitsu champion who qualifies for England through his father, represented the Maori All Blacks but having left New Zealand in 2021 he has proved a hit at the Ospreys and now Exeter.

If Finn Smith, Cunningham-South and Immanuel Feyi-Waboso join them on the field, it will be an injection of fresh faces not seen for 12 years.

“Each one of those guys has earned his place in the matchday 23. Each one of them is an exciting young player,” Borthwick said.

“I didn’t think I’d be naming a 23 with five debutants. I’ve asked when the last time was England named a 23 with five new caps in it!”

England will play matches against Austria and Italy during a training camp in Spain next month, the Football Association has announced.

Both games will take place at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador in Algeciras, with the Lionesses facing Austria on February 23 before taking on Italy four days later.

Sarina Wiegman’s side were last in action in December when they saw their bid to reach the Nations League semi-finals – and secure a Paris Olympics place for Great Britain – end despite winning 6-0 against Scotland at Hampden Park.

The February double-header of friendlies comes ahead of the Euro 2025 qualifying draw taking place on March 5, and that campaign getting under way in April.

Wiegman, who earlier this month signed a contract extension running to the 2027 World Cup, said in a statement from the FA: “This will be our kick-off to get ready for the Euro qualifying campaign beginning in April, so there’s no time to waste in February.

“Heading to Spain with hopefully warmer weather and great facilities will allow us to maximise every minute together. Playing two games against good opposition in Austria and Italy, should be excellent preparation for another big year ahead.

“They are two good and different opponents who will want to start the year strong too, so it will be important to come together again as a team and use these games to prepare for the qualification matches starting in April.”

Reigning European champions and World Cup runners-up England will be joined in Marbella by Emma Coates’ Under-23s, who are set to play matches against Spain and the Netherlands.

Former Napoli midfielder Antonio Juliano has died at the age of 80, the Serie A side have announced.

Juliano made more than 500 appearances in all competitions for the Partenopei from 1962 to 1978, helping the club win the Coppa delle Alpi, the Coppa Italia and the Anglo-Italian League Cup.

He retired in 1979 after a season with Bologna and returned to Napoli as sporting director, a role in which he played a key part in the signing of Diego Maradona in 1984.

Former Napoli owner Corrado Ferlaino recalled how the deal was secured in an interview with CBS Sports last year.

“Before my arrival I had sent two of my men to Barcelona to talk with Maradona, his agent and the club,” Ferlaino said.

“Antonio Juliano, a former Napoli player who at the time was a member of our board and with him I sent a businessman as well, Dino Celentano, a friend of mine and a person I could trust for the negotiations.

“The two of them had the task to find an agreement with both Barcelona and the player. We arrived late in the evening and the final signature on the contracts arrived around midnight.”

During his playing career Juliano won 18 caps for Italy and was part of the winning side in the European Championship in 1968, but made just one World Cup appearance as a substitute in the 1970 final defeat to Brazil.

“Today is one of the saddest days in Napoli’s history and for our supporters,” a statement on Napoli’s official account on X – formerly known as Twitter – read.

“Antonio Juliano, who was Mr Napoli for two decades, has passed away. If you are not familiar with him, it is worth finding out more about him and what he represented in our city. Rest in peace, Totonno.”

Lionel Messi's arrival at Inter Miami has brought more attention to MLS, with Giorgio Chiellini hailing the impact of the World Cup winner and likening his move to when David Beckham arrived.

Former Manchester United, Real Madrid and England star Beckham left the Spanish capital for LA Galaxy in 2007 as the dazzling midfielder's move captured the imaginations of many in the United States.

Beckham has since retired and created his own MLS franchise in the USA, bringing the likes of Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba to his newly established Miami side.

Juventus great Chiellini also joined MLS, signing for Los Angeles FC, winning the MLS Cup Final last year before defeat in this season's edition on Saturday to Columbus Crew.

And he vouched for the impact of Messi's move to Miami.

"I think that when Messi joined it was comparable to when Beckham joined," Chiellini told Stats Perform.

"And it's something that the league, but also the players, are very happy about because there is a lot of possibility for the future.

"What Messi did was huge for everyone and now there is much more consideration for the league, much more attention and it helps everyone."

Former Italy centre-back Chiellini announced his retirement on Monday, with reports suggesting the 39-year-old will move back to Juventus to take up a boardroom role.

The European Championship-winning defender will at least be thankful he does not have to face Beckham's Miami again next season.

A Messi-inspired Miami powered to a Leagues Cup triumph, with the Argentina captain scoring 10 goals.

"I don't know how every team could face and beat Miami next year," Chiellini added on Miami, who are reportedly close to signing former Barcelona and Liverpool forward Luis Suarez.

"Fortunately this year I met with Messi when they were at the bottom of the table and then he had one month out.

"They were still a really good team, it was one of the best nights and atmospheres. That's very good for the league, very good for the future of the league."

Former Italy and Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini has announced his retirement.

The 39-year-old has called time on his career following the end of the MLS season, where his side Los Angeles FC lost the MLS Cup to Columbus Crew at the weekend.

Chiellini, who won Euro 2020 with Italy, says it is time to “start new chapters” in his life.

“You have been the most beautiful and intense journey of my life,” he wrote on social media.

“You have been my everything. With you I have travelled a unique and unforgettable path. But now it is time to start new chapters, face new challenges and write further important and exciting pages of life.”

The centre-half made over 700 career appearances after making his debut for Livorno in 2000.

He spent the mainstay of his career at Juventus, winning nine Serie A titles, before heading to LA to see out his career in America.

Juventus said in a statement on their official website: “You were always by our side, like a superhero ready to intervene if necessary. In your case, however, there was no shield, red cloak or bat-mobile: a blow to the head was enough – you took a lot of them – and off you went, all bandaged up.

“Once you wore that, there was no escape for our opponents: it was Kryptonite for any Superman who tried to challenge us, from the “Romeo Neri” of Rimini to the “Santiago Bernabeu” of Madrid.

“Even in the MLS, where you’ve brought to an end your stellar 23-season career, they had a little taste of what you could still do, at 39 years of age. On the slopes of Hollywood Hill they know how to tell the deeds of heroes from other times, of apparently normal men who later turn out to be extraordinary.

“Should they ask us which is our favourite, we have no doubt: with Giorgio from Livorno by our side, complete with that iconic bandage around his head, no one ever scared us. Wishing you all the best, captain!”

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