Jose Mourinho says he was "humble enough to apologise" to referee Antonio Rapuano after accepting he deserved his latest red card in Roma's late 1-1 draw with Torino.

Roma head coach Mourinho was sent to the stands in the 88th minute with his side a goal down for repeatedly protesting decisions made by the official in Sunday's fiery contest.

Mourinho watched on from the Stadio Olimpico stands as Nemanja Matic rescued a point with a 94th-minute goal – Roma's latest at home in the league in 12 years.

The 59-year-old is no stranger to being given his marching orders and did not react kindly to being banished from the sidelines, but he later held his hands up for his actions.

"It was the right decision – my words to the referee deserved a red card," he told DAZN. "I spoke to him after and apologised, but I don’t want to talk about his performance. 

"I was humble enough to apologise, but I will leave his performance and the hypothetical influence on the match to you. 

"I don't want to talk about what we said, that was private. My words deserved a red card, but I will not judge the referee's performance."

Matic's dramatic late leveller came immediately after substitute Paulo Dybala had hit the frame of the goal, while former Torino striker Andrea Belotti missed an injury-time penalty just moments earlier in an exciting end to the contest.

 

Mourinho's side enter the World Cup break seventh in Serie A after winning just one of their past five matches.

The 10 points the Giallorossi have collected from their opening seven home league games this term is their lowest return since the 2005-06 season, when accruing eight.

Roma's disappointing form has coincided with Dybala's month-long absence from the side, with the Argentina international making a difference on his return against Torino.

"There are two games tonight – one until the 70th minute and one after," Mourinho said. "Until the 70th, Roma fans wanted to just go home.

"But in the final 20 minutes we created more, perhaps more than we have done in the last four or five games. Why? Easy, because Dybala came on.

"When you have a player like Paulo and he doesn't play, it's different. How many extra points would we have now if Dybala hadn't been injured? 

"The break is coming up, it will be the right moment for certain players to look at themselves and try a little self-criticism.

"Despite all these problems, we are a united group. A team that misses a penalty at the 92nd minute is usually dead, but not us, we kept going."

Roma host Bologna on their return to action on January 4, before travelling to reigning champions Milan four days later.

Paulo Dybala has overcome injury to take his place in the Argentina squad for the 2022 World Cup.

The Roma forward has not played since the Giallorossi's win against Lecce on October 9 after suffering a thigh problem, though reports had suggested he was close to a return.

That appears to be the case as Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni has named Dybala in his 26-man squad for Qatar, a list headlined by Lionel Messi in what is expected to be his final World Cup.

The 35-year-old has rediscovered his form at Paris Saint-Germain, scoring 12 goals in 18 games this season, and he will be joined in attack by the only Albiceleste player to equal him for goals in qualifying (seven), Lautaro Martinez, as well as Dybala, Angel Di Maria, Joaquin Correa, Julian Alvarez and Nicolas Gonzalez.

Like Dybala, Tottenham centre-back Cristian Romero has recovered from injury in time to make it, with Manchester United's Lisandro Martinez also on the plane.

However, Villarreal midfielder Giovani Los Celso has failed to make the cut after recently sustaining a hamstring injury.

Impressive 21-year-old midfielder Enzo Fernandez earns his place in the squad after a good start to life at Benfica, while Brighton and Hove Albion's Alexis Mac Allister has also been rewarded for his form in the Premier League.

The two-time World Cup winners begin their campaign on November 22 against Saudi Arabia, before facing Mexico and Poland in their other Group C games.

Argentina squad:

Franco Armani (River Plate), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal); Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon); Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Enzo Fernandez (Benfica), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis); Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Joaquin Correa (Inter), Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain).

Joao Felix is angling for a way out of Atletico Madrid, having fallen out of favour in Spain.

The 22-year-old has started only eight of the 17 games he has played in this season, netting three goals.

The forward is contracted with Atletico until 2026, having signed a bumper seven-year deal when joining from Benfica in 2019.

TOP STORY – PSG PLOTTING JANUARY LOAN MOVE FOR JOAO FELIX

Paris Saint-Germain have joined the list of clubs interested in Atletico Madrid's wantaway forward Joao Felix, according to Le Parisien.

PSG may look to sign the Portuguese on loan in January, having been interested in a move for him during the last transfer window.

Joao Felix has also been linked with Bayern Munich and Manchester United, with both clubs reportedly bidding for him in the last transfer window.

ROUND-UP

– Borussia Dortmund are bullish they can ward off interest in their 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham and retain his services, reports 90min. Real Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United are all keen on the England international.

– Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa may have penned a new contract last week, but Manchester United are still monitoring the 23-year-old, reports Nicolo Schira. United will keep an eye on him during the World Cup, although he has a €75million (£65m) release clause.

– Arsenal are willing to fork out £56m to land Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Mykhailo Mudryk, according to Dean Jones on GiveMeSport.

– Roma are interested in out-of-favour Barcelona full-back Hector Bellerin, having failed to lure Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, reports Calciomercato.

– West Ham have identified Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Kouadio Kone as their top transfer target, reports Bild.

Cristian Volpato's decision on his international allegiance is a personal one that "should not be sped up", Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has said.

With the 18-year-old scoring two goals and contributing one assist in just 106 minutes of Serie A football for Roma, a fierce battle for Volpato's services at international level has emerged.

Born in New South Wales, Volpato is also eligible to represent Italy and has featured at youth level for the European side.

Australia had hoped the lure of World Cup football, with the Socceroos tackling France, Tunisia and Denmark in Group D in Qatar, would persuade Volpato to select his country of birth – with European champions Italy not qualifying for the tournament.

However, Volpato rejected the call-up, not wishing to rush into a decision, and Mourinho believes it was the right call.

"I think it is a personal decision and the club has not been involved. As a coach, for example, I would refuse to call up a player, even a young one, in a situation like that," he said in a press conference.

"What I understand is that he is at the beginning of his career and that he's growing with Roma by getting more minutes in consecutive matches.

"It's not like last year where he played just one game against Verona and then he didn't play again, I think he has now played four games in a row.

"He is in a development phase where I think he has to focus on building his future and not on certain decisions where maybe someone else wants to accelerate a process that should not be sped up."

Volpato used social media on Wednesday to issue a comment on the matter.

"I've seen lots of speculation about decisions I have supposedly taken at international level: the truth is I am just at the start of my professional career and I am totally focused on continuing that process at Roma," he posted on Instagram.

"Making any sort of rushed decision about my international future at this early stage risks being extremely premature.

"There will be plenty of time for me to make the decision that feels right for me, but right now I know my focus needs to be continuing to work hard each and every day in order to continue improving as a player."

Jose Mourinho has taken aim at misfiring Roma striker Tammy Abraham, suggesting the England international may be distracted by the World Cup.

Abraham enjoyed a prolific debut season with the Giallorossi, scoring 27 goals in 53 appearances during the 2021-22 campaign, but he has only netted three times in 18 games this term.

The Roma head coach appeared to question the focus of the former Chelsea forward, whose last Serie A goal came in the 2-1 win over Empoli on September 12.

"You should ask him what’s the problem," said Mourinho during his press conference ahead of Wednesday's clash with Sassuolo. "If he is distracted, if he has a problem or if he thinks about the World Cup."

However, Mourinho defended Roger Ibanez, who was subjected to criticism after his error culminated in Felipe Anderson's winning goal during the derby defeat by Lazio on Sunday.

"Respect is due to somebody who has always given his best since day one," the coach added.

"When we played in Seville [against Real Betis in the Europa League last month], I saw him in the morning and thought it was impossible for him to play, but he made it. To me, he is untouchable."

Roma travel to Sassuolo without Lorenzo Pellegrini, who is the latest player to join their lengthy injury list that already includes Paulo Dybala, Georginio Wijnaldum and Leonardo Spinazzola.

"Pellegrini has been playing too much and is struggling. He is fragile and doesn’t end many games being 100 per cent fit.

"We lost three starters in midfield [in the transfer window], [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan, Sergio Oliveira and [Jordan] Veretout. Wijnaldum hasn't played yet, then we have [Mady] Camara and [Nemanja] Matic.

"Unfortunately, we faced unexpected problems this last season. When Spinazzola got injured at the Euros, we had to take a direction we didn't like.

"I am crying a lot, but I don't like to do so, I like to say that we have had these problems that opened the door to [Cristian] Volpato and [Nicola] Zalewski. [Edoardo] Bove is improving and [Benjamin] Tahirovic will play soon."

Barcelona will face Manchester United in their return to the Europa League after the Blaugrana were drawn against the Premier League club in the knockout round play-offs.

Xavi's side dropped into Europe's second-tier competition for the second season running after failing to progress from the Champions League group stages, finishing behind Bayern Munich and Inter.

It sets up the outstanding tie with Erik ten Hag's United, who are looking to end a trophy drought stretching back to when they last won the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017.

United came second to Real Sociedad in the Europa League group stage, ultimately missing out to La Real by one goal.

They have paid the price for their failure in that regard, with Barca arguably the toughest draw they could possibly get and La Real already through to the competition's last 16.

Joining Barca in dropping down from the Champions League are Juventus, though they will likely be much more content with their draw after being paired with Ligue 1 side Nantes.

Europa League knockout round play-offs:

Barcelona v Manchester United
Juventus v Nantes
Sporting CP v Midtjylland
Shakhtar Donetsk v Rennes
Ajax v Union Berlin
Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco
Sevilla v PSV
Salzburg v Roma

Jose Mourinho bemoaned Paulo Dybala's absence after Roma slipped to a 1-0 derby defeat against Lazio, but revealed his hope the Argentina international will return before the World Cup.

Felipe Anderson capitalised on an error from Roger Ibanez as Maurizio Sarri's team clinched a crucial win over their arch rivals on Sunday, moving to third in the Serie A table.

While Lazio were without influential duo Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile at the Stadio Olimpico, Roma only managed two shots on target as they toiled in the absence of Dybala – their top goalscorer with five league goals this season.

"We talked about Milinkovic-Savic and Immobile, we didn't talk about Dybala," Mourinho said at a post-match news conference.

"I think he is more important, because he's the one that assists us with goals. When certain players are missing, we go into difficulty."

Dybala has been absent since October 9 after sustaining a hamstring injury, but Mourinho hopes he will return against Torino next Sunday, in what would also be a boost for Argentina ahead of their trip to Qatar.

"Obviously he wants to go to the World Cup, it is difficult to say no to that," Mourinho told DAZN. "If there is a good evolution of his injury, we hope to have him back on Sunday against Torino."

Roma have suffered narrow defeats to several of Serie A's leading lights recently, but Mourinho believes they have not always got what they deserved.

Asked about the Giallorossi's poor record against top opponents, Mourinho added: "Roma lost those games, in my opinion, undeservedly. 

"Atalanta made one shot on goal and won 1-0, Napoli had difficulties like never before and won with a great goal from [Victor] Osimhen, and Lazio won with a half-goal. 

"I think the game they played was the consequence of being 1-0 up, in a low block, compact. In our cultures, it is said that this was a cynical, intelligent game. In England, people would go home after 20 minutes.

"The playing time was definitely very low, the intensity and continuity of the game was very low. We dominated, but there was a lack of creativity."

Newcastle United's Bruno Guimaraes has only played 27 games for the club since arriving from Lyon, and he has been so impressive that he is now a target of Barcelona.

Guimaraes, 24, spent three seasons with Lyon before Newcastle secured his services in a £40million move in January.

He scored five goals in just 11 starts this past Premier League campaign, and has added two goals and two assists this season, with Newcastle unbeaten in the 10 games he has started.

The Brazil international with eight senior caps to his name is a key part of why Newcastle currently occupy fourth place in the Premier League table, but they will now reportedly have to fend off interest from Barca.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA INVESTIGATE A MOVE FOR GUIMARAES

According to The Sun, Barcelona have officially moved on from their chase of Manchester City's Bernardo Silva and are instead focusing their attention on Newcastle's Guimaraes.

The report claims Barcelona were "priced out" of a move for Silva after City slapped a price tag of £80m on him and Guimaraes would certainly not come cheap.

With his contract tying him to Newcastle until 2026, it would need a huge offer to land the 24-year-old. 

While their spending spree will eventually need to be balanced out with some sales, the Magpies are said to be offering Guimaraes a new contract that will pay him £200,000 per week to put any questions about his future to bed.

 

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting both Roma and Juventus are expected to pursue 23-year-old Sassuolo midfielder Davide Frattesi, who is valued in the region of €30m.

– According to The Mirror, Sporting will attempt to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo in January, and are preparing a second contract offer despite previously stating they can not afford the Portugal legend.

– Relevo claims N'Golo Kante is seen by Barcelona as a potential successor to Sergio Busquets, with the Chelsea midfielder's contract set to expire at the end of the season.

– It could be a busy January for Barcelona as Sport are reporting they hope to sell Memphis Depay, while Fichajes believe Franck Kessie will push for a move back to the Serie A.

– According to IG Esporte, Brighton and Everton are interested in 25-year-old Monaco left-back Caio Henrique.

Until now, Napoli have pretty much risen to every challenge this season as they aim to win the Scudetto for the first time since 1990.

They sit top of the Serie A table after 10 games and are one of just two teams to not lose a game, with Luciano Spalletti's men already beating Lazio and Milan away from home.

While their past three league games – wins over Torino, Cremonese and Bologna – would have always been expected to yield Napoli victories, a slightly trickier run begins this weekend.

Before the break for the World Cup, Napoli still have to face Rangers and Liverpool in the Champions League, plus high-flying Udinese, second-placed Atalanta, Sassuolo and, first up, Jose Mourinho's in-form Roma in Serie A.

Sunday's trip to the capital poses a real threat to a historic achievement that is…

… within touching distance

While Napoli's Champions League exploits – hammering Liverpool, Rangers and Ajax, twice – have attracted plenty of praise, the true extent of their form doesn't appear to have really registered outside of Italy yet.

However, they are undeniably on a remarkable run across all competitions.

 

Napoli have won each of their past 10 matches, meaning they are just one victory away from equalling the longest such run in the club's history.

That 11-game winning streak was recorded between April and September 1986, the Diego Maradona era.

Although the run ended in September, that was still the season Napoli won their first Scudetto.

Kvaradona

Napoli may not have a player of Maradona's ilk this time, though supporters have certainly taken to Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

The Georgia winger only joined in pre-season, but his impact has been phenomenal.

 

Already he has been involved in 13 goals in 14 appearances in all competitions, which is more than any other Serie A player.

He heads into the weekend on a particularly effective run, too, having registered one assist in each of his past four games. The last Napoli player to have a better run (five games) was club great Lorenzo Insigne in early 2016.

The 'Kvaradona' nickname is seemingly here to stay.

 

Napoli's versatile arsenal

As good as Kvaratskhelia has been for Napoli this term, it wouldn't be fair to say they're completely dependent on him.

In fact, the Partenopei have earned themselves a reputation for being adaptable and versatile.

For starters, they've had 15 different scorers in Serie A this season, which is the joint-most with Bayern Munich across the big five leagues.

And on top of that, Napoli's 35 goals from set-pieces (including penalties) since the start of last season is more than any other Serie A team.

 

Omens on Napoli's side?

Mourinho has Roma in good shape. They're fourth in Serie A and go into the weekend having won each of their past three league games – they last managed four successive top-flight wins in August 2020.

But their recent record – for what it's worth – against Napoli is pretty poor, having only won one of their previous eight Serie A meetings, a 2-1 victory in November 2019.

On top of that, Roma are winless in their past 12 home league games against teams in the top four at the beginning of the matchday, losing the three most recent examples.

A Roma win will put them just a point behind Napoli, however. Regardless of the latter's fine start to the season, they won't be expecting a straightforward contest.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho mocked clubs qualifying for the Europa League knockout stages via the backdoor as 'the failed sharks of the Champions League'.

Mourinho's side are in a battle to reach the knockout stages via Group C after a 1-1 draw at Real Betis left them third on four points, behind the Spaniards (10) and Ludogorets (seven). Roma will still hope to overhaul Ludogorets and advance with two games to play in the group.

The draw, however, meant Betis were assured of reaching the next stage and Mourinho was asked if they were the Europa League favourites, leading him to implicitly goad teams like Barcelona and Juventus.

"I see them [Betis] as candidates, but the failed sharks of the Champions League will arrive, and they will come in hard," Mourinho said, referring to sides who drop into the Europa League after finishing third in their Champions League groups.

"They shouldn't come but it's the reality. It's going to be fun. The failures of the Champions League."

Among the clubs currently third in Champions League groups are Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax, Atletico Madrid and Milan.

Should Roma fail to finish in the top two in Group C, they will qualify for the Conference League where they will defend the title they won under Mourinho last season.

The Portuguese added: "We want to go through and finish second, but if we finish third, we'll become candidates to retain the Conference League."

Real Madrid had a drawn-out pursuit of Kylian Mbappe earlier this year but ultimately missed out on the France forward.

Mbappe opted to sign a lucrative contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain in May, tying him to the Parisians until 2025.

But earlier this week, Fabrizio Romano reported the situation between PSG and Mbappe had got tense, with the player keen to depart.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MOVE ON FROM MBAPPE AMID TRANSFER TWIST

Marca claims that Real Madrid are no longer have interest in signing Mbappe amid reports that he is unsettled at PSG and wants to leave.

The report claims that Los Blancos are observing the situation from afar with no desire to participate in the latest drama.

Romano also said PSG had no intention of selling Mbappe in January amid the speculation he wanted out. PSG director Luis Campos denied the report on Tuesday.

ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich will turn to Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram should they fail to land Tottenham's Harry Kane , reports TZ. Thuram's Gladbach deal ends at the end of this season.

– Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg reports that Toni Kroos and Real Madrid are set to commence talks on a new deal running until 2024, with his currently deal expiring at season's end.

Barcelona will try to lure Chelsea pair N'Golo Kante and Jorginho to Camp Nou as free agents at the end of this season, claims the Evening Standard. The Blues are currently trying to convince both to re-sign.

– 90min claims Manchester City have told Bayern Munich and Inter that defender Nathan Ake is not for sale in January, following speculation about their interest.

West Ham have joined Roma and Manchester United in pursuing a deal for Sassuolo midfielder Davide Frattesi, according to Calciomercato.

– Football Insider reports Brentford have commenced discussions with England international striker Ivan Toney on a new deal, with Tottenham linked to him.

Jose Mourinho says the warnings against a hectic pre-World Cup schedule went unheeded after Paulo Dybala suffered an injury that has cast doubt over his participation in Qatar.

Roma were dealt a huge blow during Sunday's 2-1 Serie A win over Lecce, with Dybala limping out of the match with a thigh injury immediately after scoring a penalty.

In the aftermath of that victory, Mourinho said Dybala – who has scored five Serie A goals this season – could miss the rest of 2022.

While subsequent reports have suggested four to six weeks may be a more realistic timeframe for Dybala's recovery, even an absence of that length could represent a blow to the attacker's hopes of representing Argentina at the World Cup.

Speaking ahead of Roma's Europa League trip to Real Betis, Mourinho lamented the effects of a congested fixture schedule ahead of the tournament.

He said in a press conference: "It's something we have been talking about for a long time. 

"When we talked about World Cup four or five years ago, this was said. Now we live it and we live the situation. 

"I learned to cry less than I cried before. I learned to live with the reality of things. 

"You can say that you play too much or say that the richer clubs are privileged. There are the rich, the poor and the less rich. 

"The poor play once a week, the rich can play every day by changing players, and the less rich are those most in difficulty because they play as much as the rich, but with less chance to change and I'm living this situation."

Roma suffered a 2-1 defeat at home to Betis last week, and are in need of a victory after taking just three points from their first three games in Group C.

Mourinho called on others to step up in Dybala's absence as he told Sky Sport Italia: "I expect more from the team and even before Dybala's injury, we never played the most creative players all together. 

"Now, without Dybala, it will be even more difficult. But I trust the work and discipline of our game, I'm confident that tomorrow we will be able to make a result."

Daniele De Rossi will take his first steps as a head coach with Serie B club SPAL after the former Italy and Roma midfielder was named as Roberto Venturato's successor.

The 39-year-old De Rossi has signed up to join the team from Ferrara, in Emilia-Romagna, on a contract running until the end of June 2024.

De Rossi had recently been serving as a technical assistant to Italy boss Roberto Mancini but has vacated that post to strike out on his own in Italy's second tier.

SPAL sit 14th in Serie A and have lost their last two league matches, leading to the sacking of Venturato on Sunday.

De Rossi made 616 appearances across all competitions for Roma in an 18-year first-team career, captaining the team in 207 games. Only Francesco Totti has played more games for the capital giants than De Rossi.

He also won 117 caps for Italy, helping the team lift the World Cup in 2006 and playing on until 2017 in the national side.

He left Roma in 2019 and had a brief playing stint at Boca Juniors, before switching to coaching and uniting with Mancini in the Azzurri set-up.

De Rossi was part of Mancini's staff as Italy won the delayed Euro 2020 tournament last year, beating England on penalties in the Wembley final.

His move to SPAL was given the blessing of Italy's football association, the FIGC, with president Gabriele Gravina saying: "To Daniele, I wish you the best of luck for this new professional adventure.

"In the belief that the experience gained in Club Italia will be very useful to him, I thank him for the commitment and passion with which he has always honoured the blue shirt, giving himself and giving us so much satisfaction."

Jose Mourinho believes Paulo Dybala is unlikely to feature for Roma again this year after the Argentine suffered an injury in Sunday's 2-1 win over Lecce.

Dybala stroked home the winner from the penalty spot after Gabriel Strefezza cancelled out Chris Smalling's sixth-minute opener, finding the net for a third successive Serie A game.

However, the forward began to limp and clutch his left thigh in the immediate aftermath of his goal, and appeared to be in tears on the bench after being withdrawn.

Dybala's return of six goals in 10 appearances for Roma this term is a team-high tally (in all competitions), but Mourinho could now be without the 28-year-old for a lengthy period.

Asked about Dybala's condition after the win, Mourinho told DAZN: "I say bad, but I think very, very bad. 

"I am not a doctor, but in my experience, and after speaking to Paulo, it's unlikely we'll see him this year."

If Dybala is ruled out for a prolonged period, it would also represent a blow for Argentina ahead of the World Cup, with the forward having won 34 senior caps for the Albiceleste.

Meanwhile, despite Roma staying within a point of Serie A's top four with the victory, Mourinho was displeased with their game management after the visitors had captain Morten Hjulmand sent off. 

"There was fatigue, both physical and mental. Playing Thursdays and Sundays is tough," Mourinho said. "When I see Udinese and Atalanta [who drew 2-2 earlier on Sunday], I understand that they don't play midweek. 

"We entered very well, with intensity and ambition. After that it was more difficult because we managed it badly; when you are tired, instead of playing simply you complicate things.

"Today we didn't play well and we won, with Atalanta we played better and we lost [1-0 last month]. We have to manage tiredness better."

Paulo Dybala is "one of the most important signings in Roma's history," according to former Giallorossi striker and head coach Rudi Voller.

The Argentina international has made an impressive start to life in the Italian capital, scoring four goals and providing two assists in seven Serie A appearances since his free transfer from Juventus.

The former Bianconeri forward has also netted twice in the Europa League and his impact has caught the eye of Voller, who scored 68 goals in 198 games for Roma between 1987 and 1992.

"He's one of the most important signings in Roma's history," he told Corriere dello Sport. "The fans were waiting for a big hit, and he arrived. [He is] magnificent, and he is fulfilling expectations.

"I hope he can continue like this and not have any physical problems. If Paulo is physically well, he can be devastating with that exceptional left foot."

Voller, who was also briefly head coach of Roma in 2004, offered words of encouragement to striker Tammy Abraham following his steady start to the campaign.

The England international top-scored for the club last season with 17 goals - a tally only bettered by Ciro Immobile (27), Dusan Vlahovic (24) and Lautaro Martinez (21) in Serie A - but has netted just twice in 10 appearances across all competitions this term.

"He must believe in himself; never stop having faith in his abilities because these moments happen to all strikers, even the strongest ones," Voller added. "Then comes the match when you score a hat-trick and everything changes, especially in your head.

"The important thing is to always remain focused on the tasks and duties, even if he doesn't score, Abraham must continue to work for the team, give everything on the pitch."

Roma welcome Lecce to Stadio Olimpico on Sunday aiming to bounce back from their Europa League defeat by Real Betis in midweek, and Voller believes that Champions League qualification should be the Giallorossi's minimum aim this season.

"The victory against Inter was exciting for the fans and put the team back in a good position in the standings," he said. "They have a very good chance of at least making it to the Champions League spots. 

"The beauty of Italian football is that right now there is no Bayern Munich that is superior to all the others. Here, there are five-six teams that can fight for the Scudetto. 

"Roma must now aim for fourth place, then once they've stabilised and found their balance they'll be able to think about even more important objectives."

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