Lorenzo Insigne moved alongside Diego Maradona on Napoli's all-time list of leading goalscorers after hitting his 115th goal for the Serie A club.

The Italy international converted a penalty early in the second half of Sunday's 4-1 derby win against Salernitana.

That meant he joined Maradona in a tie for third place in the Napoli record books.

Dries Mertens heads that list and slotted a penalty just before half-time to give Napoli a 2-1 lead, his 144th goal for the club.

Belgium international Mertens stepped aside to allow Insigne to take responsibility for the second spot-kick in the 53rd minute.

Insigne had come on as a substitute for the start of the second half, and Mertens said: "I left the second penalty to Lorenzo because it was important to him."

Writing on Instagram after the match, Insigne expressed his delight at the victory.

He will leave at the end of the season to join Toronto FC, but the 30-year-old insisted he would always hold the club dear.

"The derbies are not played… they are won…. We continue like this until the end," Insigne wrote. "Always and forever FORZA NAPOLI."

Insigne is now six goals behind second-placed Marek Hamsik on the Napoli goalscoring list.

The late Argentina legend Maradona remains the greatest and most revered player in Napoli's history, having joined from Barcelona in 1984 and spent seven years in Naples.

He helped Napoli win league titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90 – the only Serie A championships the club have won – and his death in November sparked an outpouring of grief in the city.

Sunday's goal was Insigne's sixth goal of the season across all competitions, with Napoli's win moving them just four points behind Serie A leaders Inter.

Mertens believes Napoli can still push Inter hard for the title, saying on the club's website: "We must continue like this and look only at us. The championship is still long and we can be protagonists."

Napoli have confirmed the loan signing of Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe for the rest of the season.

Tuanzebe made 11 appearances during a loan spell with Aston Villa this season, but was recently recalled by the Red Devils.

The 24-year-old central defender is on the move again after agreeing to join Serie A side Napoli.

Tuanzebe had spent two previous loan spells at Villa Park in 2018 and 2019, when the club was in the Championship, and has made 37 appearances for United.

 

Tuanzebe could be available to make his debut for Luciano Spalletti's side against Sampdoria on Sunday, with the club struggling depleted due to injuries, COVID-19 cases, and Africa Cup of Nations call-ups.

Third-placed Napoli have the joint-best defensive record in Serie A this season, conceding just 15 goals in 20 games, from just 16.36 expected goals against, the lowest tally in the Italian top-flight.

They have, however, struggled in the absence of influential defender Kalidou Koulibaly, who missed a month through injury before jetting off to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Spalletti's team have kept just one clean sheet since Koulibaly's last appearance, a 2-2 draw with Sassuolo in early December, and will now hope that Tuanzebe, who has represented England at three youth levels, can provide valuable cover in the heart of their backline. 

Lorenzo Insigne will leave Napoli at the end of the season to join Major League Soccer side Toronto FC.

The 30-year-old has spent his entire career in Naples despite regularly being linked with a move away, but will finally say goodbye to his hometown club when his contract expires in June.

Winger Insigne has signed a four-year deal, which will begin on July 1, after agreeing to move to Toronto as a designated player.

The Italy international has played 412 games for Napoli, scoring 113 goals and registering 88 assists, and was a key part of Roberto Mancini's side that won Euro 2020 last year, scoring two goals in six games 

Toronto president Bill Manning said: “This is a historic and exciting day for our club.

"Lorenzo is a world-class attacking player in the prime of his career. He was a European champion with Italy and has performed on the biggest stages during his club career with Napoli.

"Lorenzo has the talent to change games. He plays the game with joy and passion, and our fans and supporters are going to love watching him as a member of our team."

 

Insigne will become the second big-name Italian to play for Toronto, following in the footsteps of Sebastian Giovinco, who joined the Canadian side from Juventus in 2015.

The club's head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said it was a move they had been hoping to make for "many years", stating: "We are all looking forward to having Lorenzo join us this summer.

"His ability to create chances for himself and his teammates is special. Having watched him for many years, I also know he's also a player who works for the team.

"Lorenzo is the kind of player you come to watch because there's always a chance he'll do something unforgettable."

Napoli head coach Luciano Spalletti will not be present on the touchline against Juventus after testing positive for COVID-19.

Spalletti's side have been ravaged by coronavirus issues over the mid-season break, leaving them somewhat short-handed for the trip to Turin on Thursday.

To make matters worse for the Naples outfit, their boss Spalletti returned a positive result for the virus on Tuesday that will keep him away from the Allianz Stadium as he heads into self-isolation.

On the same day, Napoli announced Mario Rui and fellow full-back Kevin Malcuit were isolating, while Andrea Petagna came into close contact with a positive case but was later given the all-clear.

That trio joins a host of stars within the Napoli ranks who will be absent for the clash with Massimiliano Allegri's side due to COVID-19 issues.

Hirving Lozano, who has featured in all of Napoli's 25 games in all competitions this term, was confirmed as unavailable last Tuesday after contracting the virus while back in Mexico.

Talisman Victor Osimhen, Fabian Ruiz and Eljif Elmas, all of whom are regular starters for the Serie A outfit, are also among the notable absentees ahead of the visit to the Bianconeri.

Reports in Italy suggest due to the ongoing situation at the club and across the country, the game could still yet be called off if local health authorities order Napoli to quarantine.

That would ban Spalletti's team from travelling to Juve and cancel the meeting between the two sides who sit third and fifth in Serie A respectively.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future is unclear having become frozen out.

The Gabon striker was stripped of the Arsenal captaincy last month and dropped by the club for disciplinary reasons and has not played since.

Aubameyang's future is a hot topic as the January transfer window opens.

TOP STORY - NEWCASTLE IN FOR JANUARY AUBA MOVE

Big-spending Newcastle have got in touch with Arsenal about a loan deal for outcast striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claims The Mirror.

The Magpies want to sign 32-year-old Aubameyang on loan for the remainder of the season.

Newcastle would also look to sign Aubameyang, who is away at the African Cup of Nations, on a £20million off-season permanent deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Teenage US international Ricardo Pepi is on the verge of joining Bundesliga club Augsburg claims Fabrizio Di Romano. The 18-year-old netted 13 goals for Dallas in the 2021 MLS season and is set for a medical on Sunday.

- Eddie Nketiah is being pursued by Bayer Leverkusen on a free transfer from Arsenal when his contract expires at the end of this season, reports The Sun.

- Sport reports that Brazilian giants Palmeiras are not interested in signing forward Philippe Coutinho as Barcelona try to shop him around in January.

- Axel Tuanzebe will join Napoli on loan from Manchester United until the end of the season, claims the Manchester Evening News. Tuanzebe is currently on loan at Aston Villa.

- The Sun claims that Manchester United's pursuit of Declan Rice has been boosted by West Ham's recent slide outside the Premier League top four.

Juventus face being without captain Giorgio Chiellini on their return to Serie A action next week after the defender tested positive for coronavirus.

Chiellini has featured in 11 of Juve's 25 matches this season in all competitions and was in contention to start Thursday's clash with third-placed Napoli.

However, the 37-year-old returned a positive COVID-19 test at Juve's training ground on Saturday and will now serve a period of self-isolation.

Italy international Chiellini, who is fully vaccinated, had already recently spent a period in quarantine due to being in close contact with someone who had contracted the virus. 

He is the third Juventus player after Arthur and Carlo Pinsoglio to test positive upon their return to training this week.

A statement on Juve's official website read: "During today's screening procedures for the resumption of competitive activity, Giorgio Chiellini tested positive for COVID-19.

"The player is already observing the foreseen measures and has been placed in isolation, in compliance with the health protocol in force."

Napoli also face being without players for the showdown at the Allianz Stadium as Hirving Lozano, Lorenzo Insigne and Fabian Ruiz have recently tested positive.

After their meeting with Napoli, fifth-placed Juve – who have won four and drawn one of their last five league games – face Roma in Serie A and Inter in the Supercoppa Italiana. 

Leeds United winger Raphinha is drawing plenty of attention.

The Brazilian debuted for his country in October and has scored two goals in five caps.

Raphinha joined Leeds from Rennes on a four-year deal in 2020.

And, having seen his career hit new heights since that move, he does not appear to be desperate for another switch.

TOP STORY - RAPHINHA NOT PUSHING FOR LEEDS EXIT

Brazil international Raphinha will not push for a January move away from Leeds United according to the Mirror.

Raphinha has been linked with moves to both Liverpool and Bayern Munich during the January transfer window.

The 25-year-old's agent has spoken about his ambition, but he is content at Leeds who are battling relegation.

 

ROUND-UP

Inter are angling to sign Germany international Matthias Ginter as a free agent in the middle of next year claims Fabrizio Romano. Ginter confirmed on Tuesday he would leave Borussia Monchengladbach when his contract expires at the end of this season.

- Gerard Moreno reports that Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has reached an in-principle agreement to join Barcelona in the close-season.

Sevilla are considering a bid to sign Barcelona defender Mika Marmol, according to Diario Sport.

Everton want to land Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley on loan in January, says The Telegraph.

- Sky Sport Italia claims MLS club Toronto are in advanced talks with Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne and Torino striker Andrea Belotti.

Napoli face being without Hirving Lozano for their upcoming Serie A clash with Juventus after the forward tested positive for coronavirus.

The 26-year-old has featured in all 25 of Napoli's matches in all competitions this season, starting 17 of those, and has three goals and three assists to his name.

However, Napoli announced on their official website on Tuesday that Lozano will now serve a period of self-isolation after contracting COVID-19 while back in Mexico.

Lozano, who is asymptomatic and has been vaccinated, must return a negative test before he is cleared to fly back to Italy.

It is a further blow for Luciano Spalletti's side as Lorenzo Insigne and Fabian Ruiz have also tested positive for coronavirus over the past seven days.

Napoli are scheduled to face Juventus at the Allianz Stadium on January 6 in a battle between the sides third and fifth in Serie A.

The Partenopei have slipped from top spot after winning just two of their previous eight league matches, while Juventus have taken 13 points from the last 15 available.

Newcastle United are set to flex their financial muscles during the January transfer window.

The Magpies are struggling in the Premier League drop zone even after claiming a 1-1 draw with Manchester United.

But following a change of ownership they have funds available to bolster their squad.
 

TOP STORY - MAGPIES KEEN ON BARCELONA'S UMTITI

Cashed-up Newcastle are considering a move for Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti according to The Sun.

The 2018 World Cup winner has fallen out of favour at Barcelona, who are looking to offload players due to their financial issues.

Eddie Howe's side have conceded a league-high 42 goals and want to shore up their backline to aid their case to avoid relegation.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have ramped up their bid to sign Leeds United's Raphinha, claims The Sun. Leeds remain hopeful of keeping the Brazil international.

- Chelsea have also entered the race to sign Raphinha according to the Express, who also claim they will allow Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech to depart.

- Tottenham are leading the way to secure the signature of Milan midfielder Franck Kessie with the two parties in advanced talks, reports the Express.

- Ex-Liverpool forward Philippe Coutinho's preferred new home is Arsenal,  with Barcelona keen to offload the Brazil international according to Sport.

- Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina are all on high alert with Torino's Italy international striker Andrea Belotti set to exit the club when his contract expires at season's end, reports Calciomercato.

Paulo Dybala could be the subject of an audacious swoop from Juventus' Serie A rivals Inter.

The Argentine forward has a contract at the Allianz Stadium until June 2022 and previous reports had suggested a renewal was a mere formality.

However, it seems the situation is not quite as simple as once thought.

TOP STORY – INTER TO PLAY THE LONG GAME WITH DYBALA?

Prominent Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri explained there is the possibility that Juve's pursuit of Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic may open up the opportunity for the Dybala move to take place.

Inter have had their financial troubles, which led to the exits of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi in the last window.

But the Nerazzurri are attempting to offload huge earner Alexis Sanchez, which could free up funds to bring Dybala to San Siro.

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are admirers of Chelsea full-back Reece James, according to El Nacional. The Catalan publication says Los Blancos could offer the Blues the chance to re-sign Eden Hazard in order to secure a deal.

- Antonio Rudiger looks far more likely to leave Stamford Bridge for the Santiago Bernabeu. AS reports PSG and Bayern Munich are also interested in the Germany centre-back, although the defender wants to join Madrid.

- Sticking with Madrid, and out-of-favour midfielder Dani Ceballos looks certain to depart the capital. A return to Real Betis is being touted by Mundo Deportivo.

- In the Premier League, Anthony Martial's long-term future at Manchester United remains up in the air. The France forward has told interim boss Ralf Rangnick he wants to depart Old Trafford, according to Goal.

- Over in the blue half of Manchester, Ferran Torres' switch from City to Barcelona is set to move a step closer with Sport reporting a medical is booked in for Monday.

- Ainsley Maitland-Niles is set for a fresh start in Serie A, so say Goal. The versatile midfielder is said to be on the cusp of securing a loan switch to Jose Mourinho's Roma.

- Napoli have yet to tie down Lorenzo Insigne to fresh terms. Links to Inter and Tottenham have run hot and cold, but MLS outfit Toronto are thought to be serious about the forward, offering him a €5million per year deal, say Calciomercato.com.

Spezia recorded a Serie A first as they dealt a blow to Napoli's title challenge by securing a shock 1-0 victory at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Wednesday. 

Juan Jesus' own goal was the difference in Naples, with Spezia becoming the first side to win a Serie A match without registering a shot on target since Opta started collecting the data in the 2004-05 season. 

Napoli's third straight home league defeat saw them slip behind Milan – who Luciano Spalletti's side beat 1-0 at the weekend – and into third, with the gap to leaders Inter now standing at seven points. 

The hosts were unable to convert with any of their 26 efforts on goal, with Hirving Lozano seeing a goal chalked off for offside and Andrea Petagna adjudged to have committed a foul before heading the ball home. 

Napoli have now fired 66 shots in their past three Serie A games and only scored once – Eljif Elmas' goal in the victory over Milan. 

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli claimed his side did not deserve to lose against Napoli, dismissing any suggestion the Rossoneri's fitness levels have dropped.

Napoli headed to San Siro having lost consecutive league games but were ahead inside five minutes when Eljif Elmas managed his first league goal since early November – Napoli scoring their quickest top-flight goal against Milan since November 2012.

Visiting goalkeeper David Ospina was rarely called upon in a somewhat sedate affair, though Franck Kessie saw a stoppage-time finish ruled out by VAR for offside against Olivier Giroud, who was on the floor in the build-up to the midfielder's opportunity.

Napoli held on for back-to-back league clean sheets against Milan for the first time since 2015, as Luciano Spalletti's team leapfrogged Milan to move into second on goal difference, the pair four points back from leaders Inter.

However, Pioli – without a win against Spalletti in nine league meetings – believes his side's performance did not warrant a loss as he refuted suggestions Milan might be flagging in terms of fitness.

"We are not tired, we proved it tonight [Sunday]," Pioli told DAZN. "Yes we can play with more quality, certainly, but we played a game from the point of view of intensity and energy among the best in the league.

"From a physical and willpower point of view, the team were pleasing in every way. We missed the last step.

"But there are the regrets, such as the goal conceded and the balls lost. We played almost always in the Napoli half, we played a real, serious and energetic game. We are lacking a bit of quality at the moment, but the team didn't deserve to lose. The data is very close in victories and defeats, the team had a balanced performance.

"The important numbers that we take into consideration are the acceleration and deceleration; the numbers are more or less those from the start of the season. The coach's eyes are also important, and the team didn't do badly tonight."

 

Pioli's team would have been heading into the final Serie A matchday of 2021, when they visit Empoli on Wednesday, in second place if Kessie's late strike had not been ruled out.

The Milan head coach, who was pictured by television cameras among the celebrations near Napoli's goal for the apparent equaliser, accepted the decision – but still expressed confusion as to how Giroud was adjudged to be involved in the play.

"I know that in the end they will say that the ruling is right, but I ask how does a player on the ground, who does nothing to intervene, how does he cause damage to the defender? Giroud does nothing to intervene," Pioli said.

"Now let's lick our wounds and try to do better for Wednesday."

Eljif Elmas' first-half strike was the difference as Napoli leapfrogged Milan into second in Serie A with a 1-0 victory on Sunday. 

Luciano Spalletti's side lost consecutive league games against Atalanta and Empoli but struck first after just four minutes at San Siro through Elmas' header – his first top-flight goal since August.

Stefano Pioli's team pressed on in the second half but were unable to mount a comeback as their winless home league run against Napoli – which dates back to December 2014 – continued, although only a VAR intervention denied Franck Kessie a late equaliser.
 
Napoli overtake Milan to move into second, with the pair four points back from reigning champions Inter heading into the final matchday of 2021 on Wednesday.

The visitors were soon ahead when Elmas nodded in Piotr Zielinski's corner at the near post, Napoli scoring their fastest Serie A goal against Milan since November 2012.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic responded by flicking a header wide, while Alessandro Florenzi blasted a speculative long-range half-volley just off target as Milan failed to test David Ospina before the interval.

Ospina, though, was required immediately after the break to palm over from Ibrahimovic, with the Colombia international denying Junior Messias moments later.

Napoli had conceded six of their past seven league goals in the final 30 minutes, while Milan had scored the joint-most in that period (15), and Messias almost furthered that record but curled just wide.

Kessie thought he had netted a late leveller as he swept into the bottom-left corner, only for VAR to judge the prone substitute Olivier Giroud to be offside as the visitors managed to hang on to an important victory.

Stefano Pioli declared that league titles "are not won in December" but challenged Milan to raise their game when they face Napoli on Sunday.

Inter moved four points clear of the Rossoneri at the top of Serie A by hammering Salernitana 5-0 on Friday.

The champions have soared to the summit with six consecutive victories, while Milan dropped to second after they were held to a 1-1 draw at Udinese, after crashing out of the Champions League with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Liverpool.

Pioli says it is too early for talk of Inter running away with it, highlighting that Milan topped the table for much of last season before falling short.

The Milan head coach said in a press conference on Saturday: "I don't think we can talk about an escape, I think Inter are demonstrating the qualities they had already shown.

"Championships are not won in December. We were in the lead for a long time last year and we know how it ended. We have to improve ourselves.

"The first year we had 66 points starting from a difficult position. The second year 79 points.. This year's goal is to do better, especially in the second round [of fixtures]."

He added: "We are having a very good first round, there are still two games to go. I would like to surpass last year's 43 [before the break].

"Tomorrow's opponents have great qualities and an excellent coach, we certainly need to raise the level of performance.

"We are not racing against anyone, but only with ourselves. The last two performances weren't optimal, we must try again to bring our qualities into play with strength and conviction."

Milan have only won one of their last 13 Serie A games against Napoli, but at least it came recently – a 3-1 success in November 2020. Over that period they have had five draws and suffered seven defeats.

Neither team can point to particularly strong recent form, despite both sitting in the top four going into the San Siro game. After setting an electric pace in the early weeks, Milan and Napoli have been steadily reeled in.

Since the beginning of November, Milan have picked up eight points from six games and Napoli have managed only five, ranking them 10th and 16th respectively in Serie A across this period.

Milan's forwards may be interested in the fact Napoli have faced 28 shots on target in their last five league matches (5.6 on average per match), whereas they had faced 11 in total in their previous five (2.2 on average per game).

Pioli will check on Theo Hernandez for the clash with fourth-placed Napoli as the France left-back has been suffering with illness.

Barcelona will face Napoli in the pick of the ties for the Europa League knockout round play-off.

Beleaguered European giants Barca crashed out of the Champions League group stages following a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich.

It is the first time since 2003-04 that the Camp Nou club will not appear in the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition.

Instead, the Europa League offers Xavi's side some hope of continental redemption, although Napoli – fourth in Serie A – represent tough opponents for a side languishing eighth in LaLiga.

Sevilla, six-time winners, will take on Dinamo Zagreb, while Scottish champions Rangers were handed a stern test after being drawn to meet Borrusia Dortmund.

Elsewhere, Porto and Lazio go head-to-head, while Atalanta face Olympiacos, with all ties being decided over two legs.

Europa League knockout round play-off draw in full:

Sevilla v Dinamo Zagreb
Atalanta v Olympiacos
RB Leipzig v Real Sociedad
Barcelona v Napoli
Zenit v Real Betis
Borussia Dortmund v Rangers
Sheriff Tiraspol v Braga
Porto v Lazio

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