Speculation has mounted over the future of Cristiano Ronaldo over the past few days.

Ronaldo was demoted to the bench for Juventus' opening Serie A fixture on Sunday.

Juve head coach Massimiliano Allegri insisted there was nothing sinister at play but rumours have swirled since.

TOP STORY - RONALDO TO MAKE PREMIER LEAGUE PUSH

Ronaldo wants to push for a Premier League move in the final week before the transfer window closes, according to L'Equipe.

The Portuguese former Manchester United forward wants to join English champions Manchester City, with the report mentioning Aymeric Laporte or Bernardo Silva being used in any deal.

Ronaldo is reportedly not keen to see out the final year of his Juventus contract, with speculation over a move intensifying this week.

Sky Sport Italia claims that Ronaldo has communicated his intentions to players at both Juve and City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have submitted a €160million bid to sign Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, according to The Mail. The Parisians have rejected the offer for Mbappe, whose PSG contract runs out at the end of the 2021-22 season and he has refused to re-sign with the club.

- PSG will turn to Everton's Brazil international Richarlison as they look to replace Mbappe should he depart, claims Eurosport.

- Inter will complete a move for Joaquin Correa from Lazio on Thursday, with a deal to sign him on loan with an option to buy for €31m including bonuses, reports Sky Sport Italia.

- Sky Sports reports that Tottenham have held informal talks with Houssem Aouar's representatives as they look to sign the Lyon forward.

- Thomas Delaney's potential move from Borussia Dortmund to Sevilla looks to be on, with a breakthrough in negotiations and the player to fly to Spain, according to Sport1.

Could the Kylian Mbappe transfer saga be nearing a conclusion?

Long linked with Real Madrid, Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain's attempts to re-sign Mbappe have been fruitless up until this point and the Ligue 1 giants are reportedly willing to cash in.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE NEARING MADRID?

Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to accept an offer for Kylian Mbappe should one arrive from Real Madrid before the end of the transfer window, according to RMC.

PSG have been fighting to re-sign Mbappe, who is in the final year of his current deal in the French capital.

However, PSG have reportedly accepted defeat in their efforts to retain Mbappe beyond the 2021-22 season as Madrid look to lure the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Premier League pair Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror writes United are prepared to offer cash plus a player-swap – believed to be Jesse Lingard – to sign West Ham's Declan Rice.

- Atletico Madrid are closing in on a deal to sign Hertha Berlin's Matheus Cunha, says Fabrizio Romano. LaLiga champions Atletico had been linked with Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic – also wanted by the likes of Manchester City, Tottenham, Inter and Arsenal – but have so far failed to reach an agreement.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Tottenham are preparing a £40million bid to reunite Nuno Espirito Santo with Wolves star Adama Traore.

Napoli are eyeing unwanted Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic, per Correire dello Sport. Pjanic had looked set to return to Juventus.

- Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira will move to Fiorentina after turning down Eintracht Frankfurt, according to Romano.

Chelsea are continuing to eye Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, claims Romano. The Frenchman is ready to swap Seville for London after agreeing personal terms on a deal until June 2026.

- Inter are monitoring Torino star Andrea Belotti as they seek to replace Romelu Lukaku, says Calciomercato. The Serie A champions have also been linked to Lazio forward Joaquin Correa.

The 2021-22 Serie A campaign commences on Saturday following a busy close season that saw more than half of the 20 teams change head coach.

Antonio Conte departed Inter after guiding the club to their first Scudetto in more than a decade, with Simone Inzaghi being plucked from Lazio, who in turn turned to Maurizio Sarri.

Sarri's former club Juventus decided to end the Andrea Pirlo experiment after just a year and opted for a familiar face in six-time title winner Massimiliano Allegri as his replacement.

Luciano Spalletti is back in Serie A with Napoli, meanwhile, and Jose Mourinho has returned to Italy with Roma some 11 years on from his hugely successful stint with Inter.

There will be just as much focus on the dugouts as the field when the new season gets up and running this weekend, then, and some coaches are facing a tougher challenge than others.

Stats Perform looks at what the managerial changes could mean for some of Serie A's biggest clubs.


Inter 

In: Simone Inzaghi

Out: Antonio Conte

Conte will go down in Inter folklore as the man who ended the club's 11-year wait to return to the top of Italian football.

In an ideal world, one in which the Nerazzurri were not in a position whereby they had to sell star players to balance the books, Conte would still be in charge at San Siro.

As it is, though, Inzaghi will be at the helm this coming season and is in a rather unenviable position of having to pick up where Conte left off, minus the goals of Romelu Lukaku.

Inzaghi has his own vision but does not differ too much from Conte in terms of tactics, both coaches favouring a 3-5-2 formation of sorts throughout their careers.

Moving the ball forward quickly will be the aim, with Milan (90) the only side in Serie A last term to register more direct attacks than Inzaghi's former side Lazio (89). By comparison, Inter were third on that list with 80.

While the structure will remain largely the same, losing Lukaku and influential wing-back Achraf Hakimi – albeit with Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries arriving – means Inzaghi will need to get more out of others if Inter are to retain their crown.

 

Lazio

In: Maurizio Sarri

Out: Simone Inzaghi

The man tasked with replacing Inzaghi at Lazio is Sarri, who endured mixed fortunes during his most recent two stints in Serie A with Napoli and Juventus.

Having come so close to ending Juve's stranglehold on the title in 2017-18 while at Napoli, the 62-year-old won the Europa League in his solitary season at Chelsea and was then given just 14 months at the Allianz Stadium.

His stint in Turin came to an early end despite leading Juve to top spot, his style of play – coined 'Sarriball' – deemed too distant from what Juventus typically expect from a head coach (more on that later!).

At the Stadio Olimpico, Sarri will have more freedom to put his spin on things as he looks to build or improve upon last season's sixth-placed finish. A back four, rather than the three-man defence Inzaghi favoured, can be expected.

Sarri teams are known for their verticality, meaning they like to move the ball forwards. Lazio, as already touched upon, are a good fit in that regard.

They ranked lowest in the top eight last season for build-up attacks (83), which is defined as the number of open play sequences that contain 10 or more passes and either ends in a shot or has at least one touch in the opposition box.

The big question, though, is whether Sarri has the personnel to turn Lazio into top-four regulars in the same way he did at Napoli. With Immobile taking on the Gonzalo Higuain role up top, it might just be a possibility.

Juventus

In: Massimiliano Allegri

Out: Andrea Pirlo

While a lot of clubs mentioned are entering the unknown with their managerial appointments, Juve know exactly what they are getting in Allegri.

The 54-year-old guided Juve to five straight Serie A titles and two Champions League finals between 2014 and 2019, having also previously lifted the Scudetto at Milan.

Only one coach in the Bianconeri's history, Giovanni Trapattoni, has overseen more league games than Allegri's 190, while Juve's two highest-scoring seasons dating back as far as 1930 have both come under the stewardship of the returning favourite.

This Juve side has changed since Allegri's first stint, though, and it may take him time to make this team his own again following the aforementioned reigns of Sarri and Pirlo.

Whereas Sarri and Pirlo were a little complex with their tactics and what they expected from players, Allegri will take a different approach. That is not to say Juve will not be able to chop and change things under Allegri, as they did in his previous spell.

One aspect that will surely differ from last season is the number of goals Juve score. They found the net an underwhelming 56 times from open play last season from an expected goals return (xG) of 54.3.

By comparison, champions Inter scored 65 open play goals from a near identical xG as Juve of 54.6. With the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo set to stay at the club for at least one more season, there is hope of reclaiming the title this time around.

 

Roma

In: Jose Mourinho

Out: Paulo Fonseca

The highest-profile of the incoming coaches in Serie A this season, Mourinho arrives with his 'Special One' status still intact in Italy thanks to his success at Inter a little over a decade ago.

Mourinho won as many league titles in two seasons at San Siro (two) as he has in the 11 years since (one), while also lifting the second of his Champions League crowns, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana during that trophy-laden stay.

The Portuguese won 62 per cent of his matches at Inter but that win rate has steadily declined and he won just 51.2 per cent of his games with Tottenham, leaving the club in April after just 17 months in charge.

Mourinho's sides were so often hard to beat, but Spurs lost 13 times in 2020-21 under him, making it his worst ever season in that regard and he did not even see it all the way through.

But could his career take a turn in the right direction in Rome? Mourinho's tactics have remained largely consistent throughout his career, no matter the club or country he is coaching in.

The back three largely favoured by Paulo Fonseca will become a back four and there will be particular emphasis on Bryan Cristante, a typical Mourinho player in many ways, to shield the defence and get the ball forward.

The addition of Tammy Abraham from Chelsea is clearly a Mourinho signing, helping the fill the void left by Edin Dzeko, but Mou's pragmatic approach is surely a concern for a Roma side that looked better offensively than defensively last season. 

Finding the correct balance will be key, and that ultimately depends on whether Roma have hired the pre-2015 Mourinho or post.

Napoli

In: Luciano Spalletti

Out: Gennaro Gattuso

With spells at seven different Italian clubs under his belt, including two years at Inter, Spalletti certainly does not lack of experience. After two years out of the game, however, the 62-year-old has to quickly prove he is not yesterday's man.

Spalletti made clear when he took over from Gennaro Gattuso that he will look to operate with a 4-3-3, though on the basis of pre-season it may well be a more familiar 4-2-3-1 come the opening day.

He inherits a talented squad that includes the likes of Piotr Zielinski, Victor Osimhen, Dries Mertens, Hirving Lozano and Lorenzo Insigne – for now – in attack.

Napoli had no problems scoring goals last time out, with no team managing more shots from open play than their 493 and only Atalanta (77) and Inter (65) scoring more from non-set-piece situations than their 64.

Pressing is a big part of Spalletti's game and that makes Napoli a good fit as they ranked joint-second in Serie A last season for goals scored from high turnovers (nine), behind only Atalanta (10).

There are already a few rumblings of discontent behind the scenes with regards to transfer activity, but a kind fixture list ensures that Spalletti can hit the ground running in his quest to guide Napoli back into the Champions League.

Barely a month has passed since Giorgio Chiellini lifted the European Championship trophy at Wembley, and it would seem logical to expect Serie A to begin amid high fanfare.

This may prove to be the case, as the opening weekend of the season arrives, but a major talent drain from the Italian league since last term cannot be ignored.

Romelu Lukaku, Cristian Romero and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all moved on, swapping Inter, Atalanta and Milan respectively for Chelsea, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain.

To put those losses into greater context, of the 2020-21 Serie A end-of-season award winners, that is the MVP, the top defender and the leading goalkeeper all exiting the league.

Sweeping changes on the coaching benches also add to uncertainty as the new campaign begins, with a much-changed Inter hoping to successfully defend their title.


JUVE ON A SCUDETTO MISSION

After the folly of handing dugout rookie Andrea Pirlo the reins before last season, Juventus look to be on firmer ground this time with Massimiliano Allegri back as head coach.

They have brought in Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo, primed to play a Pirlo-like role on the pitch, and it seems Cristiano Ronaldo will hang around for the final year of his contract.

Rumours continue to encircle the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, but Allegri can likely count on his reliable flow of goals, just as he did for the 2018-19 season – Ronaldo's debut campaign in Turin and the end of the line for Allegri in his first stint as coach.

A six-time Scudetto winner, Allegri will look to get the best out of wingers Dejan Kulusevski and Federico Chiesa as they enter their second seasons with the Bianconeri, while it remains to be seen how Paulo Dybala performs as he enters the final year of his deal.

Plagued by injury last season, Dybala started just 14 Serie A games, but results were often perkier when he played. Of those 14 games, Juventus won 10, drew three and lost one, with a points-per-game average of 2.4 when he played from the off, compared to 1.9 when he was absent or a substitute. The win percentage of 71.4 per cent when Dybala was in the starting XI (compared to 54.2 per cent when he was not) is in the ball park that Allegri will be eyeing.

 


INZAGHI STEPS INTO CONTE SHOES

Social media tells us Antonio Conte has been thoroughly enjoying his summer, topping up his tan and seemingly showing no regret over his Inter exit, which came in May, just weeks after he guided the Nerazzurri to title glory.

Conte reportedly left amid concern the club planned to raise funds with sales that have duly come to fruition. The loss of striker Lukaku feels like a body blow, given his influence, and persistent rumours suggest Lautaro Martinez could also move on. Achraf Hakimi is another big loss, but, as with Lukaku, a big fee was banked as the right-back proved a one-season wonder in Italy.

In have come coach Simone Inzaghi, who impressed at Lazio, while Edin Dzeko will be a straight swap for Lukaku in the forward line, albeit unlikely to carry quite the same threat. Former PSV star Denzel Dumfries can replace Hakimi in the attacking right full-back role, and Inter will hope his Euro 2020 form transfers to Serie A duty.

It is hard to see Inter repeating last season's success, and the comedown could be painful. They exceeded their expected goals total last season, scoring 84 goals against an xG of 75.3, and Inzaghi will look for more of the same.

They possess plenty of quality still, but they have likely lost Christian Eriksen for the long term too after his cardiac arrest on Denmark duty at Euro 2020. His survival was everything in June, and now his recovery is all-important. The knock-on effect is that Inter have lost a player who became important over the second half of the season.

So much has changed since that title was secured. Landing Hakan Calhanoglu on a free from Milan looks like great business, but consolidation with a top-four finish may be their limit in the new campaign. That, and being sure to secure city bragging rights again.

 


MOURINHO'S BACK AMID MERRY-GO-ROUND

Never mind Inzaghi and Allegri at Inter and Juve, now is the time to get used to the sound of Maurizio Sarri's Lazio, Vincenzo Italiano's Fiorentina, Luciano Spalletti's Napoli ... and Jose Mourinho's Roma. Milan rather feel like the odd ones out, keeping faith with Stefano Pioli.

A whirlwind of change has swept through Serie A, and it will be worth watching to see quite what impact Mourinho can have on a side who finished 16 points short of the Champions League places last term.

His 'Special One' reputation was enhanced the last time he coached in Italy, guiding Inter to a treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League in the 2009-10 campaign.

Spells at Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham have followed, but Mourinho's cachet has diminished over the past decade.

Tammy Abraham has followed him in swapping London for Rome, with the Chelsea striker arriving, along with Eldor Shomurodov from Genoa, to pep up an attack depleted by the loss of Dzeko. Rui Patricio has joined fellow Portuguese Mourinho, and the goalkeeper's arrival from Wolves could prove a fine signing.

Roma won just five Serie A away games last term, and have only had fewer once in a season beginning in the 20th century (4 in 2002-03), while their shot conversion rate of 41.35 per cent can be improved upon, given they topped 50 per cent twice in the 2010s.

Most important for Mourinho, perhaps, will be to build on Roma's poor duel success rate (48.97 per cent) and cutting out the errors leading to goals (10 in 2020-21 in Serie A).

The duel figures are important and were the worst Roma had managed in at least 15 years, while the error count will be simply intolerable to the new boss. Only Bologna committed so many costly errors (also 10). Mourinho has his work cut out.

Lazio have completed the signing of Pedro from arch-rivals Roma.

The former Spain winger will remain in the Eternal City in a new era for Lazio under Maurizio Sarri.

Lazio did not state whether they had paid a fee for Pedro or the length of contract he has signed.

The 34-year-old was not part of Jose Mourinho's plans and has now been reunited with Sarri, who he played under at Chelsea.

Pedro has been given the number nine shirt after passing a medical on Thursday.

The former Barcelona wideman made 27 appearances for Roma in Serie A last season, scoring five goals and providing two assists.

Pedro created 29 chances and had a dribble success rate of 64.44.

Lazio travel to Empoli for their first game of the 2021-22 Serie A season on Saturday.

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and no closer to re-signing in the French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly holding onto hope of securing his services before the end of the transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STILL DREAMING OF MBAPPE

Real Madrid have not given up on signing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Mbappe is into the final year of his PSG contract and while he has been tipped to make the move to Madrid, he has reportedly told friends he will remain in Paris.

However, LaLiga powerhouses Madrid – also linked with Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland – believe it is a strategy to secure a friendly exit from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are interested in Monaco defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, say reporters Sacha Tavolieri and Jonathan Shrager. United have also been linked with Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, who is reportedly wanted by PSG and Madrid.

- RB Leipzig star Marcel Sabitzer is interested in a move to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich, claims Bild.

- Goal and widespread reports say Arsenal are close to signing Martin Odegaard from Madrid. Odegaard spent six months on loan at Arsenal last season.

Duvan Zapata is Inter's priority signing, according to Calciomercato. Despite signing Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries after Romelu Lukaku's, the Serie A champions are eyeing the Atlanta forward. Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram, Joaquin Correa of Lazio, Torino forward Andrea Belotti and Wolfsburg's Wout Weghorst are other options.

- Italian journalist Sara Meini reports Manchester City are stepping up their pursuit of Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic amid their struggle to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham. Atletico Madrid and Spurs have also been linked with Vlahovic.

Juventus are nearing a deal to re-sign Miralem Pjanic from Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. Juve, according to Di Marzio, are also listening to offers for Weston McKennie.

Is Kylian Mbappe's future nearing a resolution?

Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season and the Paris Saint-Germain forward is no closer to extending his contract in the
French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly poised to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID NEARING MBAPPE DEAL?

Real Madrid are closing in on Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Monday's Marca.

Mbappe is in the final year of his PSG contract and he has reportedly made it clear he has no intention of re-signing in Paris.

Long touted to join Madrid, the LaLiga giants' pursuit of Mbappe is set to enter a decisive phase this week.

The Transfer Window podcast, however, claims Liverpool will attempt to sign Mbappe on a free transfer at the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Barcelona are monitoring Arsenal pair Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as they look to rebuild following Lionel Messi's departure to PSG.

- Inter are eyeing Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne but want a discount on the Italy star, claims Sky Sport Italia. Napoli value Insigne at around €25-30million with one year remaining on his contract. Lazio's Joaquin Correa, Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata and Fiorentina sensation Dusan Vlahovic have also been linked to Inter.

- Sport Italia says Tottenham are in talks with Fiorentina for centre-back Nikola Milenkovic, who has been linked with West Ham. Spurs are also keen on Fiorentina star Vlahovic, according to Sport Italia.

- According to Cadena SER, Antoine Griezmann is open to returning to Atletico Madrid this off-season. Griezmann swapped Atletico for Barca in 2019.

Luka Jovic has decided he wants to join Inter on loan, per Nerazzurri Siamo Noi. The Madrid outcast has also been linked with Eintracht Frankfurt, Sampdoria and Genoa.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are tracking Metz's 18-year-old midfielder Pape Matar Sarr, claims the Daily Mail.

Where will Lionel Messi land?

Barcelona's shock announcement of his departure set rumours flying.

Will it be Paris, Manchester or somewhere else?

 

TOP STORY - MESSI ON THE MARKET

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are rumoured to be the top suitors for Lionel Messi.

The French giants have already made contact with Messi's representatives, according to Fabrizio Romano, and are seen in many quarters as the favourites to land the Argentine forward.

It remains to be seen wherher PSG can take on Messi after making several major moves during the transfer window, while City may be in a similarly difficult situation after finalising their £100million deal for Jack Grealish on Thursday.

A reunion with Pep Guardiola may still be a possibility, though, especially if Tottenham refuse to engage in talks around a Harry Kane deal.

Major League Soccer could also be a possibility, though Messi is expected to remain in Europe for at least a few more years.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United have not given up on a move for Kieran Trippier, though they have not come close to Atletico Madrid's £34million demands for the England international, The Sun says.

- West Ham are in talks with Fiorentina for centre-back Nikola Milenkovic, Fabrizio Romano reports, with the Serie A side eyeing Matija Nastasic of Schalke as a replacement.

- Arsenal have bid £17m for Lazio striker Joaquin Correa, claims Corriere dello Sport.

- Juventus are interested in bringing back Barcelona's Miralem Pjanic on either a loan or a permanent deal, says Calciomercato.

- Roma are lining up a £21m bid for Fulham midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, says Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Crystal Palace are among multiple clubs hoping to lure Adam Armstrong from Blackburn, with the Daily Mail saying they are favoured ahead of Norwich City and Southampton.

Kieran Trippier has one year remaining on his Atletico Madrid contract.

The England international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

It has been reported that Trippier wants to return to England, having left Tottenham for LaLiga in 2019.

 

TOP STORY - TRIPPIER TO WAIT ON UNITED MOVE

Manchester United target Kieran Trippier is willing to wait until late in the transfer window to secure his move, reports the Telegraph.

Atletico Madrid full-back Trippier is said to have set his sights on a move to United, who have already been busy in the transfer market by launching moves for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

The report claims Trippier is prepared to sit tight and wait for United to raise the funds required to put together a move for the 30-year-old former Manchester City junior.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa are ready to restart talks with Jack Grealish about a new deal next week as Manchester City begin to ramp up their interest, according to the Express and Star.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is being lined up by West Ham,  with a proposed £20m bid set to be tabled, according to the Daily Mail. It had been reported Zouma may be used in a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

- Barcelona are lining up a second bid to sign Juventus defender Cristian Romero after having had a player-plus-cash deal turned down, reports SportItalia. Tottenham are also keen on Romero.

- Celtic could make a move for ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is currently on Tottenham's books, says BBC Sport.

Lionel Messi lifted the Copa America on Saturday in Brazil.

But back in Europe, rumours continue to swirl about his future.

The 34-year-old forward is out of contract though the latest development suggests a resolution is in sight.

 

TOP STORY - NEW BARCELONA DEAL LOOMS FOR MESSI

AS reports that LaLiga have authorized Barcelona to register Lionel Messi despite the club's financial concerns.

Messi became a free agent last week with Barcelona working on a new deal, pending their financial constraints having been impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paris Saint-Germain had been linked with a swoop for Messi but the approval of the authorities to register Messi is a strong indication he will stay.

 

ROUND-UP

- Highly sought-after Saul Niguez is being considered in a swap deal between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, which would include Antoine Griezmann, claims Football Espana. Liverpool were linked with Niguez earlier this week.

- Chelsea have joined the race for Rennes teenage talent Eduardo Camavinga, alongside Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid, according to Le Parisien.

- Manchester United are ready to spend £17m to sign Napoli's right-back Giovanni di Lorenzo following the Euro 2020 final, reports Il Napolista.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that veteran Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini will sign a new one-year extension with Juventus after the completion of Euro 2020.

- Newly promoted Watford are keen on Udinese's Danish star Jens Stryger Larsen after he impressed during Euro 2020, reports 90min.

- Newly promoted Brentford are preparing a £10m bid for Liverpool's Harry Wilson claims The Sun.

Liverpool are reportedly leading the race to sign Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez.

Saul has five years remaining on his contract with the LaLiga champions, but could be on the move ahead of the 2020-21 season.

Jurgen Klopp may have competition to land the 26-year-old, with Barcelona said to be interested in a stunning swap deal which would see Antoine Griezmann return to the capital.

 

TOP STORY - SAUL IN DEMAND

Liverpool have lined up a move for Saul Niguez and are willing to fork out £35million to get their man, according to AS.

The Reds are in the market for a central midfielder after losing Georginio Wijnaldum, who moved to Paris Saint-Germain after his contract expired.

Saul is thought to be the man Jurgen Klopp has identified to fill the void left by Wijnaldum, although Football Espana claim Atletico Madrid and Barcelona could be open to a swap deal, with Antoine Griezmann returning to his former club and Saul joining the Catalan giants.

 

ROUND-UP

- Juventus will step up their attempts to sign Manuel Locatelli are are will to pay €40m for the Sassuolo and Italy midfielder (La Gazzetta dello Sport).

- Arsenal have raised their offer for Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White to an initial £48m plus a possible additional £6m in add-ons, according to The Star.

- Chelsea outcast Emerson Palmieri is a target for Napoli and Roma, but Calciomercato say the Serie A clubs are not willing to pay the €20m asking price.

Felipe Anderson is poised to rejoin Lazio from West Ham and will undergo a medical on Saturday. (Sky Sport Italia, Sportitalia and Tuttomercatoweb).

- Former Argentina striker Carlos Tevez has received three offers to finish his career in the MLS following his Boca Juniors exit. (ESPN Deportes) 

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta says the decision to sell full-back Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain was "painful".

The Morocco international signed for the Ligue 1 giants on Tuesday after the Nerazzurri accepted an offer reportedly worth an initial €68million with a further €3m possible through bonuses.

Hakimi shone in Serie A after joining from Real Madrid, contributing seven goals and nine assists last season as Inter were crowned champions for the first time in a decade.

Indeed, in Europe's top-five leagues last season, only four defenders were directly involved in more goals than Hakimi (16 – seven scored, nine assisted).

Although difficult, Hakimi's sale was believed to be necessary by Inter, who are attempting to recoup close to €100m in the transfer window while reducing costs, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Further departures are expected, with Joao Mario and Radja Nainggolan the most likely to leave, with Hakan Calhanoglu and Alex Cordaz their only signings to date.

Speaking at a media conference to unveil new head coach Simeone Inzaghi, Marotta confirmed Hakimi's departure was largely due to the financial situation the club finds itself in following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

"We begin a season that will be difficult, as usual," Marotta said.

"We are going through a difficult and in some ways disturbing time after the pandemic, also as a result of the world economy. As a reflection, football is now looking for a sustainable model.

"Surely, Inter want to continue on the same path as last season, looking at the economic and financial aspects. The owners want to build a competitive team, they've invested over €700million and football is paying the consequences of what has just happened.

"It's unthinkable to ask for the same efforts. We made painful choices like the one of selling Hakimi but always trying to give continuity."

 

Inzaghi was appointed last month after Antonio Conte left the club by mutual consent.

The former Italy international had departed Lazio a week earlier following five years in charge at the Stadio Olimpico.

Inzaghi won 134, drew 45 and lost 72 of his 251 matches in all competitions while at Lazio, the only club where he has worked during his coaching career so far.

"I spent 22 incredible years at Lazio, I felt well there, I was lucky to win as a footballer and as a coach, but it was time to change," the 45-year-old said.

"I had received many requests, but it was never the right moment to change. It's a moment that arrives sooner or later, I didn't think about it for too long."

Asked what fans can expect from his side, Inzaghi said: "I want my team to have intensity, stay in the game and react to what can happen.

"I coached [Stefan] de Vrij and I had played with [Aleksandar] Kolarov and [Samir] Handanovic. It's great to reunite with them, I will have a great relationship with them and the others.

"I like the daily pressure, otherwise I would not have accepted the Inter job. I have a great relationship with the directors, we must be able to handle the difficulties well when we face them."

Maurizio Sarri says he found Cristiano Ronaldo difficult to manage and winning Serie A was "taken for granted" when he guided Juventus to the title.

Ronaldo vented his fury at Sarri when he was substituted during a game against Milan in November 2019.

Sarri stated that the Portugal captain had lacked sharpness during his tenure in Turin, but denied talk of a rift between the pair.

The new Lazio head coach, who was sacked by Juve last August after only one season in charge, revealed managing the five-time Ballon d'Or winner was a challenge despite his tally of 31 goals in 33 Serie A games.

He told Sportitalia: "The management of Ronaldo is not easy, he is a multinational that has personal interests to match those of the team. It is certainly a difficult situation to manage.

"Honestly, I think I am better at being a coach and not a manager, which I don't like, it bores me and I enjoy it more on the pitch.

"It's a difficult management, there are many positive aspects because at the end of the year Ronaldo brings important results.

"It is clear that he represents something that can go beyond the club and the team, with so many followers it is clear that it goes beyond normality.

"It is the product of our club, in recent years I hear a lot about individuals and little about teams, which are the ones that go on the pitch. And the value of the team is not the sum of the value of individuals."

 

Sarri masterminded Juve's ninth successive Serie A triumph in the 2019-20 campaign, but the Bianconeri's dominance was ended when they finished fourth as Inter won the title last season.

Former Napoli and Chelsea boss Sarri feels he may have been in charge at the wrong time given expectations appeared to have changed.

"It was taken for granted. On the outside, but I have to say also on the inside. We won a Scudetto without celebrating it, everyone dined on their own," he added.

"Probably the right year would have been this, after a fourth place and I saw that they celebrated, the ideal conditions are probably there."

Sven-Goran Eriksson believes new Roma head coach Jose Mourinho will do well "for the first and second year" as he highlighted the Portuguese's third-season woes, while warning of the demands in the Italian capital.

Former Inter coach Mourinho will return to Serie A in 2021-22 after being appointed by Roma following his Tottenham sacking in April.

Mourinho, who guided Inter to an unprecedented treble in 2009-10, replaces Paulo Fonseca in Rome, where Roma have not won the Serie A since 2001.

Eriksson knows the Giallorossi well, having spent three years in charge – winning the 1986 Coppa Italia, and the former England boss discussed life in Rome as Mourinho prepares to lead Roma.

"It was a surprise for me… I wasn't expecting him to go to Roma," Eriksson told Stats Perform. "However, Mourinho usually does well in his first and second season. Wherever he goes. It is after that, sometimes, problems start happening. I don't know why and I'm not interested in going into it that much; however, it looks like this is the rule. First year, great; the following year, good; third year, problems.

"However, it's clear that Mourinho, as a coach, can't be questioned. He's a great coach, I know him personally, I knew him when I was coaching England. He was very easy to work with, because he was at Chelsea and had many players playing for England, the national team. And he was always available, perfect, he never complained about me taking his players, etc.

"It's a surprise and it's clear that if you win in Rome, with Lazio or with Roma, your life becomes beautiful. But if it goes bad, your life starts to become hard. Because in Rome there are three, four, five private radio stations where everyone talks about football. Four hours of Lazio, four hours of Roma, it becomes football 24 hours a day, always. However, it's beautiful. Living in Rome is the best thing in life, I think. And about Mourinho, for the first and the second year he will do well, I think."

Mourinho won only 51.2 per cent of his matches at Tottenham and left without lifting a single trophy, albeit he was sacked just days before the 2021 EFL Cup final.

His record in the English top flight before 2015-16 saw him boast a success rate of 69.4 per cent – since then it is just 48.5 per cent.

The 95 points won by Spurs during Mourinho's time at the club was the fourth highest in the Premier League. However, that was 21 fewer than former team Manchester United – Liverpool had 117 and Manchester City were out in front on 130.

Mourinho's teams are supposed to be hard to beat, yet Spurs lost 13 times in 2020-21 under him – it was the worst season he has ever had in that regard.

It has been 20 years since Roma were last crowned champions of Italy and Eriksson added: "It is not easy. If you win the Scudetto with a team that is not Juventus, Milan, Inter, it's always an incredible thing because it happens, but rarely. Very few times.

"These are the three historically great clubs that win 90-95 per cent. That is why, if the city of Rome wins a Scudetto, it's like winning a World Cup. Or even more."   

There is also a new face on the blue side of Rome, with ex-Juventus, Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri replacing Simone Inzaghi at Lazio as he and Mourinho vie for supremacy in the capital.

Sarri boasts a win percentage of over 60 in each of his three previous roles and will be hoping to continue Inzaghi's fine work at Lazio.

The Biancocelesti, who were sixth in 2020-21, finished lower than sixth only once under Inzaghi – though the sole campaign where they finished eighth, Lazio were able to console themselves with Coppa Italia success.

Eriksson was coach when Lazio last claimed the Scudetto in 2000 and the veteran Swede said: "Sarri represents a very positive, very beautiful kind of football.

"I don't know him personally, but he did well at Napoli. Then he went to Chelsea, and perhaps he didn't do great, but he's always playing great football. And then where did he go? At Juve, yes, clear. It's interesting, he's a great coach I think.

"Seeing his teams always playing a positive kind of football, good, organised I think... replacing Inzaghi wasn't easy, because he had become very popular and loved. He did many years at Lazio, and he did well."  

Is Lionel Messi's future on the verge of being resolved at Camp Nou?

Messi's contract with LaLiga powerhouse Barcelona expires this week and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with a move.

But, if reports are to be believed, the superstar is poised to extend his long stay at Barca.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA READYING MESSI ANNOUNCEMENT

Barcelona are preparing to officially announce an agreement has been reached with Messi, according to Football Espana and Fabrizio Romano.

The superstar captain has been linked with Premier League champions Manchester City and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain.

But Messi is now set to renew for a further two years at Barca, where the 34-year-old has spent his entire senior career.

 

ROUND-UP

City will renew their attempts to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham after Euro 2020, claims Romano. City are among a host of clubs interested in Kane, who is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United, Chelsea, Barca, Real Madrid and PSG. Spurs, however, are unwilling to sell the England star. City have also been linked with Inter's Romelu Lukaku and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Brahim Diaz will join Milan from Madrid on loan with an option to buy, reports Sky Sport. The Spaniard spent the 2020-21 season on loan at San Siro. Milan are also interested in Alvaro Odriozola if they are unable to bring Diogo Dalot back from United.

- Gianluca Di Marzio says Arsenal are trying to sign Benfica full-back Nuno Tavares, who has also been linked with Napoli and Lazio.

- Serie A champions Inter are eyeing Franck Kessie amid his contract stalemate with neighbours Milan, according to Tuttosport.

- Tuttosport reports Arsenal are pressing to bring Italy forward Andrea Belotti to London from Torino. Roma have long been linked with Belotti, as well as Milan.

Juventus are ready to make a bid for Lille and Portugal star Renato Sanches, per Calciomercato. Milan are also interested as Juve look to prise Manuel Locatelli from Sassuolo.

- Mundo Deportivo says Atletico Madrid are interested in former Barca midfielder Paulinho. The Brazilian is a free agent after leaving Chinese outfit Guangzhou FC.

- There are two clubs trying to sign Luka Jovic from Madrid, claims Diario AS. Jovic, who returned to former club Eintracht Frankfurt on loan in 2020-21, has been linked with Milan.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Achraf Hakimi will complete his move to PSG from Inter, who are eyeing Arsenal's Hector Bellerin as a replacement.

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