Olivier Giroud was relieved to get back among the goals as Milan fought back to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 at San Siro on Saturday.

The Rossoneri looked to be heading for a first defeat in 30 home Serie A meetings with Verona when Gianluca Caprari and Antonin Barak put them 2-0 up before half-time.

Giroud headed in just before the hour mark to spark Milan's revival, with Franck Kessie levelling the scores from the penalty spot before a late decisive own goal from Koray Gunter.

The result put Stefano Pioli's men top of the table ahead of Napoli's clash with Torino on Sunday.

In scoring his third goal in his first two Serie A home games, Giroud matched a feat only previous reached by Oliver Bierhoff, Alexandre Pato, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Bacca since 1994-95.

The former Arsenal and Chelsea striker, who had missed four of Milan's previous five games, admitted it had been a long time coming to be back on the scoresheet.

"I've waited a long time for this moment. I missed the competition," Giroud, who last scored in the win over Cagliari in August, told DAZN.

"In the first half, we didn't do well but the reaction was important. I don't feel 100 per cent yet but I am growing and I feel more free.

"This victory is a joy. I can't wait to go and celebrate with my team-mates. In the first half, there was a lack of nastiness and quality. We could only do better in the second half, and that's what we did."

Pioli was left delighted with the endeavour shown by his side in the second half as they now prepare for a key Champions League group game with Porto on Tuesday.

"My team believe in what they do and put their soul into everything," he told DAZN.

"We tried to play from the back but they were very aggressive in the first half. They took away our space and often left us with just the long ball. We were not very dynamic and we suffered.

"The best thing about this group is to see everyone involved. The credit doesn't go to me, but it's the air we breathe. The boys put individuality aside to put themselves at the service of the team.

"We should enjoy this game but prepare for Porto. We've recovered some players and we've lost some. The more rotations there are, the better we can do." 

Milan roared back from 2-0 down to beat Hellas Verona 3-2 on Saturday and claim top spot in the Serie A table.

Unbeaten in their opening seven league games of the season, the Rossoneri were 2-0 down at the break against a side previously without an away win against them in 29 attempts.

Gianluca Caprari and a penalty from Antonin Barak had Verona heading for an unlikely three points before the home side produced a second-half turnaround.

After Olivier Giroud had headed home a third goal in three league games, Franck Kessie equalised from the penalty spot before Koray Gunter's own goal settled a gripping contest.

Milan had not conceded two first-half goals in Serie A since last November – against these opponents – but they paid the price for a lifeless start to the contest.

Ciprian Tatarusanu, in for the injured Mike Maignan, was powerless to keep out Caprari's precise finish seven minutes in after Miguel Veloso had kept Verona's attack alive.

The lead was doubled 17 minutes later, Barak putting his penalty just out of Tatarusanu's reach after Alessio Romagnoli was judged to have fouled Nikola Kalinic as the former Milan forward darted in front of him to meet a cross.

This Milan is a resilient side, though – they have only twice taken more points after the first eight matches of the season in the three-point era than they had before this game – and they got a lifeline just before the hour when Giroud nodded in Rafael Leao's expert cross from the left.

A swift passing move saw Leao backheel the ball to Samu Castillejo, who was caught from behind by Marco Faraoni, allowing Kessie to dispatch a confident penalty and level the scores with 15 minutes left.

Stefano Pioli introduced Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the bench, and the veteran striker may well have had a tap-in had Gunter not scuffed an attempted clearance beneath the legs of goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo to give Milan the lead.


What does it mean? Milan go top – and stay unbeaten

Milan's comeback saw them leapfrog Napoli, who play Torino on Sunday, and go top of the table by a single point.

With Inter having lost 3-1 at Lazio earlier, Pioli will be doubly pleased with the manner of their second-half performance as they capitalised on their rivals' first loss of the season.

Verona are 13th, with eight points from eight games.

Olivier takes centre stage

Giroud has made a career out of being a penalty-box menace and it was no surprise to see him drag Milan back into the contest.

He is the fifth Rossonero since 1994-95 to score three goals in his first two Serie A home games, after Oliver Bierhoff, Alexandre Pato, Mario Balotelli and Carlos Bacca.

Maldini goes missing

Daniel Maldini completed just seven passes before being hooked at half-time as Pioli rang the changes to good effect.

By contrast, replacement Rade Krunic completed twice as many in the opposition half alone while creating four goalscoring chances.

What's next?

Milan head to Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday before facing Bologna away on October 23.

Milan midfielder Brahim Diaz has tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the club's Serie A match with Hellas Verona.

Diaz, 22, is feeling fine as he isolates at home, according to a statement from the club.

No other players tested positive in the latest round of tests ahead of the Verona clash at San Siro on Saturday.

Milan, though, are already without defender Theo Hernandez due to COVID-19.

"Close monitoring with swab tests will follow according to the indications provided by the relevant health authorities, who were immediately informed," read Milan's statement.

Diaz has played in all seven of Milan's league matches this season, starting six, and would again have been expected to be named in the XI against Verona by head coach Stefano Pioli.

The former Real Madrid player has scored three goals in Serie A, tied for the most with Rafael Leao, and added one assist.

Alexis Saelemaekers is delighted to have pledged his long-term future to Milan, after penning a five-year contract with the Rossoneri.

Saelemaerkers joined Milan from Anderlecht, initially on loan, in January 2020.

Since then, he has made 52 appearances in Serie A, starting 38 times and helping Milan to 35 victories (only Franck Kessie, Theo Hernandez and Gianluigi Donnarumma have been involved in more league wins in that timeframe).

He has created 44 chances, providing six league assists and scoring three goals.

That form has seen him rewarded with a new deal, tying him to the San Siro until June 2026.

"I'm happy to have grown with this team," Belgium international Saelemaekers told Milan's official website, before expanding on his official Instagram account.

"Salamandra remains! I'm delighted to continue my story with this great club that has welcomed me and made me feel important immediately," a post read.

"It's a wonderful emotion that I want to share with all the people who have accompanied me on this journey and in particular with all the Milan fans who are special.

"I'm proud of my growth which has gone hand in hand with the team. Now, the target is always the same: work, grow and win!

"Forza Milan God is Great!"

Newcastle have the wealthiest owners in the world following their £300million takeover last week.

The Magpies have since been linked to a host of top players including Niklas Sule and Philippe Coutinho, with Timo Werner now joining that list.

The Premier League club are 19th in the table, winless this season with only three points from seven games, which suggests they need significant strengthening.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE KEEN ON GERMAN STRIKER

Newcastle are set to splash the cash and could make a bid to sign Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner, says Bild.

The report claims Newcastle have been "in regular contact" with Werner's agent ahead of the January transfer window.

Werner joined Chelsea in a £47.5million deal in June last year from RB Leipzig.

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- Juventus are willing to sell France international midfielder Adrien Rabiot, with Newcastle linked as a suitor, as they raise funds for moves for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni and Manchester United's Donny van de Beek.

- Marca claims Real Madrid are looking to sign Chelsea's Germany international defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season.

- Liverpool are open to the idea of bringing Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield from Barcelona in January, claims the Express.

- Fichajes claims Liverpool are also considering a £68million (€80m) swoop for Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, while they also progress contract talks with Mohamed Salah.

- Barcelona and Milan are top of the queue in the pursuit to sign Jesse Lingard if he leaves Old Trafford on a free transfer at the end of this season, according to the Daily Mail.

- Phil Foden has agreed terms on a new six-year contract with Manchester City, reports Goal.com.

Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan will be out for 10 weeks following surgery on his left wrist.

The Serie A giants signed Maignan from Lille in May for a reported €15million fee to replace Gianluigi Donnarumma, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

The France international has started the season in fine form, starting every game as Stefano Pioli's side collected 19 points to match their best start in their opening seven Serie A games.

However, the 26-year-old suffered a wrist injury against Liverpool on September 15, with the problem worsening 13 days later in a clash with Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez.

Milan announced on Wednesday that Maignan had undergone surgery, adding that he will rest for six weeks before beginning the rehabilitation process. He is expected to return near the end of December at the earliest.

His potential 10-week absence means he could miss the entirety of the remaining Champions League group-stage fixtures, alongside crucial domestic clashes against fellow title hopefuls Roma, neighbours Inter, and Napoli.

Up until his injury, only Bartlomiej Dragowski (1.62) boasted a better goal prevention figure than Maignan (0.94) among Serie A goalkeepers.

The news prompted Milan to sign 38-year-old goalkeeper Antonio Mirante on a free transfer until the end of the season, with Ciprian Tatarusanu Pioli's only other option until January.

Meanwhile, Milan defender Theo Hernandez has tested positive for COVID-19 after reporting back from international duty with France, meaning Milan will be without the left-back for the visit of Hellas Verona on Saturday.

Milan have confirmed left-back Theo Hernandez has tested positive for COVID-19.

The 24-year-old played a crucial role in France's Nations League success, scoring a dramatic 90th-minute winner in the 3-2 semi-final victory over Belgium before assisting Kylian Mbappe's decisive strike in the 2-1 final triumph over Spain.

The showpiece contest against Luis Enrique's Spain was held in Milan, meaning Hernandez was able to stay in the city as he returned to his club side.

However, he is now set to miss the visit of Hellas Verona on Saturday as club action resumes.

Hernandez has enjoyed a fine start to the season with Milan, leading the Rossoneri in Serie A for assists (three) and expected assists (1.39) while also scoring once.

Fode Ballo-Toure would appear Hernandez's most likely deputy as second-placed Milan look to close the two-point gap to leaders Napoli.

Stefano Pioli's side are unbeaten this season, earning 19 points from seven matches. Victory would make this their best start through eight games in the three-points-per-win era.

Jules Kounde is seemingly bound to eventually move to the Premier League.

But where will the French centre-back land?

Manchester United and Chelsea are both believed to be interested.

 

TOP STORY – ANOTHER DEFENDER SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD?

Manchester United are in the race to sign star Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, according to Fichajes.

Kounde was tipped to join Champions League holders Chelsea but a transfer did not materialise before the end of the previous window, much to the frustration of the player.

Despite the arrival of Raphael Varane, United are reportedly set to make a move for the France international centre-back.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Wednesday's Diario AS claims Real Madrid have re-activated their interest in United star Paul Pogba, who will become a free agent at the end of the season. A deal for Pogba would reportedly provide further encouragement for Kylian Mbappe in their pursuit of the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

- Corriere dello Sport claims PSG and Atletico Madrid want Nicolo Barella as his contract talks with Serie A champions Inter stall.

- The Express reports United are considering a move for Monaco and France sensation Aurelien Tchouameni, who is also attracting interest from Madrid, LiverpoolChelsea and Juventus.

Barcelona will sell Sergio Busquets in order to sign Milan's Franck Kessie, says El Nacional. Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and the star midfielder has been linked with United, PSG, Liverpool, Arsenal and Inter. The front page of Wednesday's Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and Pogba are among several soon-to-be free agents being eyed by Barca.

- Le10 Sport claims PSG could join the race for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic, who is seen as a potential replacement for Madrid target Mbappe. Vlahovic has been linked with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Juve, Inter, Arsenal and Liverpool. PSG are also believed to be interested in Borussia Dortmund's sought-after forward Erling Haaland.

Franck Kessie's agent denied the Milan star has been offered to city rivals and Serie A champions Inter amid ongoing doubts over his future at San Siro.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and the Milan midfielder is no closer to re-signing with the Rossoneri, despite voicing his desire to remain at the club "forever".

There has been speculation linking Kessie with Inter, while the likes of Manchester United, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Arsenal have also emerged as options on a free transfer.

While downplaying the Inter reports, George Atangana warned Milan the 24-year-old Ivory Coast international requires a new deal that reflects his quality.

"A player of Franck's calibre does not need to be offered to anyone. In any case, I have never spoken to Inter," Atangana told Calciomercato.com.

"An important player needs a contract that is up to his standards.

"There was a formal offer from the club [Milan] and a request from the agent, but we are talking about figures a long way off what you are referring to.

"For too long people have been saying things in the wrong way. I am sorry for those who read these stories and believe them to be true."

Kessie has called Milan home since 2017, having initially joined from Atalanta on loan before signing permanently in 2019.

After scoring 13 Serie A goals in 37 appearances last season, Kessie is yet to find the back of the net through five matches this term.

Steve Bruce's days at Newcastle appear to be numbered.

Rumours of possible replacements are swirling, with plenty of managers having been mentioned. 

Frank Lampard may well lead the race.

 

TOP STORY – LAMPARD FAVOURED TO REPLACE BRUCE

Frank Lampard is the leading candidate to step in once Steve Bruce is inevitably shown the door at Newcastle, The Sun reports. 

The Telegraph claims Lampard and former Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre top the new owners' wish list.

The 43-year-old Lampard was sacked by Chelsea in January 2021, about six weeks after Favre, 63, left Dortmund. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are keeping a close eye on Ousmane Dembele, who is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of the season, Mundo Deportivo reports.

- Dortmund and RB Leipzig are the top potential landing spots for 19-year-old Salzburg striker Karim Adeyemi, reports Sky Sport Germany.

- Feyenoord will make another effort to prise Amad Diallo from Manchester United in January, according to The Sun, after a potential loan move fell through due to injury during the last transfer window. 

- Club Brugge and Belgium midfielder Charles De Ketelaere is drawing interest from Milan and Napoli, says Calciomercato, with Everton and West Ham also monitoring the 20-year-old.

- Former Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero is expected to finalise his deal with Venezia on Tuesday, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

Olivier Giroud hailed Zlatan Ibrahimovic as an inspiration to younger players in Serie A, while expressing his excitement to play with the Sweden forward at Milan.

Giroud joined Milan in a reported €2million (£1.7m) deal from Chelsea in July and opened his account with a double against Cagliari at the end of August.

With that brace, the France international became the first player to score multiple times in his first home league match for the Rossoneri since Mario Balotelli in February 2013.

However, after testing positive for COVID-19 the following month, the 34-year-old striker has amassed just 224 top-flight minutes for Stefano Pioli's side, with Rafael Leao and Ante Rebic leading the line so far.

Ibrahimovic is another of Milan's options and has scored once this term, despite playing just 30 minutes in Serie A as his new campaign has been hampered by injuries to this point.

And Giroud is keen to link up with the former Barcelona and Manchester United forward as he praised the impact his team-mate can have on future generations of footballers.

"I played against Zlatan a few times," Giroud said to Serie A's YouTube channel. "He still plays at 40 and that means he's an exceptional professional.

"He takes care of himself and his body, and I also try to do so to enjoy football as long as my body will allow it.

"I think he's a great example for the youngsters and he is one of the best strikers in Serie A. I can't wait to play alongside him and enjoy him in training.

"I think we will have fun and we want to win something with Milan. With Zlatan, it will be easier."

 

Before his recent injury, Ibrahimovic was one of Pioli's key players as he registered 25 goals in 37 Serie A games between his second debut for the club on January 6, 2020 and the end of last term.

That tally is bettered by just five players across that period — Duvan Zapata (27), Luis Muriel (30), Romelu Lukaku (35), Ciro Immobile (37) and Cristiano Ronaldo (50).

Having brought in the likes of Mike Maignan and Fikayo Tomori alongside Ibrahimovic's experience, Giroud is hoping Milan can compete for the top spot after setting the early pace with Napoli and neighbours Inter.

"I’m very proud to play for Milan and in Serie A," he continued.

"We play football for these emotions and pass them on to the fans, and that's why I can't wait to give everything for the team and for the Milan supporters.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on us, but we want to fight for the top spot in the standings."

Bayern Munich could be set for a busy transfer window.

With Barcelona struggling financially, clubs are eyeing some of their talent.

Bayern are reportedly interested in a number of players at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG, TER STEGEN WANTED IN MUNICH

Bayern Munich are eyeing Barcelona quartet Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Pedri and Sergino Dest, according to Sport.

Barca are a club in crisis amid their financial woes, which led to the departure of superstar captain Lionel Messi on a free transfer at the start of the season.

Now, Bundesliga champions Bayern are looking to capitalise, having previously been linked with midfielders De Jong and Pedri, goalkeeper Ter Stegen and right-back Dest.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca's move for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is dependent on the future of Ousmane Dembele, says Sport. Dembele has been linked with Liverpool and Manchester United previously.

- Calciomercato claims Milan will wait to sign wantaway Torino star Andrea Belotti on a free transfer at the end of the season. Monday's Tuttosport reports Serie A champions and city rivals Inter are also interested in the Italy international.

Bruno Fernandes' contract extension is a priority for United, according to Fabrizio Romano. United are also looking to re-sign Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba, who has been linked with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Newcastle United are eyeing a move for Ralf Rangnick as their sporting director following the club's huge takeover. Rangnick currently works for Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Erling Haaland has his pick of Europe's elite.

The Borussia Dortmund and Norway star is wanted by the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid.

But Premier League champions City are one particular club looking to prise Haaland from Germany if the rumours are to be believed.

 

TOP STORY – CITY HOPING TO CAPITALISE ON PUMA PARTNERSHIP

Manchester City are hoping their Puma sponsorship and a looming boot deal can help land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Daily Star.

City's kits are manufactured by Puma, while Haaland is reportedly poised to sign a boot deal with the German giants.

Haaland has been linked with City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Barcelona and Juventus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Juve are planning an approach to bring United midfielder Paul Pogba back to Turin. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and while United are keen for a renewal, the Frenchman has been linked with Madrid and PSG also.

- United captain and England defender Harry Maguire is poised for a new bumper contract at Old Trafford, reports the Mirror.

Liverpool are considering a move for Barca's Ousmane Dembele with Juve unwilling to part with Federico Chiesa, says Team Talk.

- According to Football Insider, Newcastle United have made star Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly a priority signing in January. It comes after Newcastle's blockbuster takeover.

PSG are targeting Napoli's soon-to-be free agent Lorenzo Insigne, per Le10 Sport. Insigne has also been linked with Inter and Milan.

- Manchester United outcast Donny van de Beek is wanted by Serie A powerhouse Juve, claims Corriere dello Sport. Van de Beek was in talks over an Everton switch during the previous window.

- Milan star Franck Kessie is among Barca's midfielder targets for the January window, says Diario Sport. Van de Beek, Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele and Marcelo Brozovic of Inter are also options.

Lionel Messi did not want to leave Barcelona and his eventual signing for Paris Saint-Germain even caught them by surprise, according to the Parisians' sporting director Leonardo.

Messi ended a 21-year association with Barca back in August when it was announced he would not be re-signing for the club.

His contract had officially expired at the end of June but Barca and Messi were expecting to be able to announce a new deal on a reduced salary.

But even with the reduced terms, Barca were still unable to get their wage expenditure under their LaLiga-imposed salary cap, which prevented them registering new signings.

As such, Messi was officially a free agent and PSG quickly swooped to bring him in, with the Ligue 1 champions and Manchester City both being linked with him extensively in the past.

The situation surrounding Messi's inability to re-sign for Barca and his move to PSG shocked the world of football, and that included those at PSG.

"Messi was convinced to stay at Barcelona," Leonardo told reporters at the Festival dello Sport on Saturday.

"We had some contacts. Some rumours were saying he may not stay at Barcelona because his contract was expiring.

"We checked the situation, we talked but we did not have the feeling he wanted to leave Barcelona. However we started networking. This helped us to be in a good position.

"Then Barcelona announced the end of their relationship, so that's the moment we started and it's been great. It's been a surprise for everybody.

"Then he arrived. The way he arrived… he was at Barcelona for 21 years. It was the first transfer he'd done.

"It was a new thing for him to be in a new dressing room. He's got an impacting silence, he doesn't talk much but he is someone to admire."

Another high-profile player signed by PSG on a free transfer in pre-season was Gianluigi Donnarumma, who departed Milan after running his contract down.

Many in Italy have been intensely critical of Donnarumma for opting to leave for the greater riches on offer in Paris, but Leonardo insisted PSG did not get in touch with him until June, two months after his exit was confirmed.

"I know it's a difficult situation," Leonardo said. "We never contacted Donnarumma before June. I don't want to be wrong, I think Milan announced in April that they were not extending the contract [of Donnarumma].

"They signed a new goalkeeper in Mike Maignan, so Donnarumma was free for the market. We had never contacted Donnarumma before, then some things happened.

"I had been in Milan but his future was not decided yet. He was free in June. We talked and we took this decision.

"We had never done previous work to have him for free. He was going to another team if it wasn't PSG. He wouldn't have stayed at Milan."

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