Nicolo Zaniolo has left Roma to join Turkish Super Lig leaders Galatasaray.

The 23-year-old was expected to leave the Giallorossi during the January transfer window following a falling-out with boss Jose Mourinho, but he hesitated over a move to Premier League club Bournemouth.

Mourinho described the fact Zaniolo had remained at the club as "unfortunate", but the attacking midfielder's stay in the Eternal City has now come to an end.

Istanbul giants Galatasaray are reported to have paid Roma €16.5million to land Zaniolo, capped 11 times by Italy, on a four-and-a-half-year deal, with Turkish clubs still able to do transfer business.

In a farewell message to Roma, Tuscany-born Zaniolo posted on Instagram: "You welcomed me as if I were at home.

"You made me grow, you gave me a chance that I tried to take with all my heart, always honouring the history you represent, fighting for your colours, sweating for the jersey every time I wore it.

"Now that we've said goodbye, I want to tell you one thing... It was an honour."

Zaniolo joined Roma from Serie A rivals Inter in 2018 and went on to score 24 goals in 128 appearances for the club.

He missed the second half of the 2019-20 season and whole of the 2020-21 campaign due to knee injuries.

Galatasaray are targeting a deal to sign Roma forward Nicolo Zaniolo in the final days of the Turkish transfer window, coach Okan Buruk has confirmed.

Amid interest from Serie A champions Milan, Zaniolo outlined his desire to leave Roma last month, but the Italy international irked the club's hierarchy by rejecting a lucrative move to Premier League strugglers Bournemouth.

Jose Mourinho described the likelihood of Zaniolo staying at Roma as "unfortunate" shortly before the window closed for most European clubs, but the 23-year-old could yet finalise a move.

Amid reports suggesting Galatasaray are in talks to seal a deal worth over €22million for Zaniolo, Buruk heaped praise upon the Italian.

"Zaniolo is a world-class player," Buruk said after Galatasaray's 2-1 win over Trabzonspor on Sunday.

"He is a player we would like to see in the squad, even if we don't exactly know his relationship with Roma. 

"But if you ask me, 'do you want to see him in the team?' Of course, I'd like to have him."

Liverpool are expected to bid for Athletic Bilbao duo Nico Williams and Oihan Sancet at the end of the season.

Williams is one of LaLiga's brightest young stars, with the 20-year-old winger having already earned seven senior caps for Spain, including four appearances at the World Cup in Qatar.

Attacking midfielder Sancet, 22, netted a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Cadiz on Saturday to take his tally of LaLiga goals this season to seven.

Williams in particular received heavy interest during the January transfer window, but Bilbao will reportedly be faced with tough decisions about both players at the conclusion of the campaign.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE SIDES TAKE A LIKING TO BILBAO PAIR

According to AS, Liverpool were joined by fellow Premier League side Aston Villa in testing Bilbao's resolved over Williams in January, although they were informed no figure would be accepted below his €50million (£45m) release clause.

That report also mentions Sancet's release clause is only slightly lower at €45m (£40m), while Fichajes add he has received interest from Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

Both players only have 18 months remaining on their contracts, meaning Bilbao will either need to sort out some extensions or be prepared to cash in.

ROUND-UP

– The Sun is reporting Manchester City, Milan and Inter are all admirers of Fulham left-back Antonee Robinson, although they will not meet the £35m asking price.

– According to the Daily Star, City will look to avoid any further depletion of their full-back stocks by offering Rico Lewis a new contract that would quadruple his salary.

– Journalist Rudy Galetti is reporting Galatasaray have agreed personal terms with out-of-favour Roma attacker Nicolo Zaniolo, and have offered a fee of €22m to the Serie A club.

Newcastle United and Fulham target Sander Berge wants to remain with Sheffield United until his contract expires in 2024, with the Norway international excited by the club's potential Premier League promotion, per The Sun.

– According to Football Insider, Newcastle will return after the season for another attempt at signing Conor Gallagher, with the belief Chelsea would have allowed him to leave in January if their signing of Enzo Fernandez had been completed sooner.

Jose Mourinho took aim at critics of Roma after a 2-0 win over Empoli on Saturday, reminding fickle fans he could have left the club in December.

The former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United boss has put Roma in the mix for a top-four finish and a place in next season's Champions League, yet he feels he continues to get a raw deal.

Goals from Roger Ibanez and Tammy Abraham inside the opening six minutes set up the latest victory that moved the capital club, at least briefly, up to third place in Serie A.

Mourinho is thought to have been wanted by Portugal after the World Cup, but the 60-year-old elected to stay with Roma and hopes that will prove a wise decision.

A narrow defeat to runaway leaders Napoli last week was followed by the blow of a Coppa Italia quarter-final exit at the hands of Cremonese, the whipping boys of the Italian top flight this season.

Roma fans booed at times on Saturday as they continue to reel from that cup disappointment, with captain Lorenzo Pellegrini not spared when he came off in stoppage time, near the end of the game.

But Mourinho said: "Pellegrini has a coach who respects him and respects everything he does for the team. Out of 60,000 people, maybe 20, 30, 50 people boo."

He said his team were playing "with our limitations", a reference to their limited squad depth, and said beating Empoli should be regarded as "an excellent victory, because we played against a very difficult team".

Mourinho added: "Some fans don't understand it, but this is normal. Fans love the club, but football is not their area. Obviously there are those who understand, and there are people in the press who should have understood, because it's their job, and who in my opinion understand but pretend not to understand that this is our reality."

For the Cremonese cup game, Mourinho started without a number of his Serie A regulars, believing they needed to be protected from a heavy schedule, but the likes of Abraham, Nemanja Matic and Paulo Dybala were back in the starting XI for the Empoli game.

"I think that if this team plays against Cremonese, we win and we're in the semi-final of the Coppa Italia," Mourinho said. "But then we wouldn't have won today. This is our reality. We always do our best, we work hard.

"Today, before the game, I told the players that we have to go onto the pitch with a backpack full of the frustration and sadness of the last game, but we can't expect anyone to help. Just us.

"For the first time I went on the pitch with them in the warm-up and our feeling was exactly this: it's just us. The truth is that we do our best. And as I always say, when you give your best, you can't give more. We always give our best.

"I think day after day. I could have left in December, and I didn't leave, I stayed here. And this is my life. Sometimes it seems like we're in trouble, in the relegation zone, but we're there, we're at the top, with all those teams that are very strong. But that's okay."

It remains to be seen whether Mourinho will be in charge next season, and whether Nicolo Zaniolo and Chris Smalling will stay at Roma.

Attacking midfielder Zaniolo saw a January move fail to come off, after he appeared to push for a transfer before hesitating when Bournemouth looked to be his likely destination.

Former Manchester United and England centre-back Smalling, who started against Empoli, is nearing the end of his contract and reports have claimed Inter and Juventus are keen on him.

Asked what Zaniolo had to do to be welcomed back into the squad, and how Smalling might be persuaded to stay with Roma, Mourinho said: "Zaniolo must do absolutely nothing, it is a problem of the club and he must solve it with the club, not with me. For Smalling, I can do nothing to convince him."

Jose Mourinho said Roma deserved to pay for a "horrible" first-half performance in Wednesday's surprise 2-1 Coppa Italia quarter-final defeat against Cremonese.

Cremonese – who are without a win in Serie A this season – took a two-goal lead in Rome through Cyriel Dessers' penalty and Zeki Celik's own goal, before holding on after Andrea Belotti pulled one back late on.

Having also stunned Napoli in the previous round, Cremonese became the first promoted Serie A side to reach the Coppa Italia's final four since Cagliari in the 2004-05 campaign.

Mourinho made a remarkable quadruple substitution at half-time after storming down the tunnel early, and he said the Giallorossi could have no complaints following their dire start.

"Congratulations to Cremonese. They have achieved two great victories against Napoli and Roma, it's a strange cup that favours small teams, they have even more merit for this," he said.

"They are deservedly in the semi-final, we pay for a horrible first half, of a low level.

"I can say that this squad struggles with rotation, with three matches in a week, but let's think about this single match, and in the first half we deserved to pay the price.

"Football is like this, this happens with the top teams and with the smaller teams. In Naples [in Sunday's 2-1 loss at Napoli] we deserved more and for this I was proud, even after the defeat. 

"Today I can't say, others can comment. My job is to think about the next game.

"After more than a thousand games as a coach, I prefer to be objective and say that we played badly and we paid. We are a team and I don't want to make a single person responsible."

Mourinho was also asked about Nicolo Zaniolo, who asked to be welcomed back into the fold via an open letter on Wednesday after requesting a move during the January transfer window.

Having described the likelihood of Zaniolo remaining at the Stadio Olimpico as "unfortunate" last week, Mourinho was unwilling to discuss the 23-year-old's future, saying: "The ownership was very clear and I won't make any kind of comment."

Nicolo Zaniolo asked to be welcomed back in an open letter to Roma's supporters after his failed request to leave in the January transfer window.

Zaniolo was linked with several clubs – including Milan and Bournemouth – after Roma head coach Jose Mourinho confirmed the forward wished to depart after a win against Spezia in mid-January.

The Italy international was keen on a move to Milan and reportedly irked Roma by rejecting the chance to join Bournemouth in a £26.3million (€30m) deal.

That led Mourinho to describe the likelihood of Zaniolo staying at the Stadio Olimpico as "unfortunate" as the end of the window approached, while the forward was also reportedly threatened by fans.

With Zaniolo set to stay at Roma until at least the end of the season after failing to secure a move away, he hopes the Giallorossi will welcome him back into the fold.

"Many things have been said and written about me in recent weeks and many are not true," the 23-year-old said in an open letter sent to ANSA on Wednesday.

"I arrived in Rome as an unknown and Roma and the fans welcomed me as one of their own. They gave me trust, courage and affection in the terrible moments and during my injuries. 

"At 23, I have had experiences that many of my colleagues do not in their whole careers, to fall, to get up, to fall again, to get up again, to win.

"In recent months, I went through a delicate period, in which it was difficult to understand what my professional future would be. 

"However, I have always worked hard on the pitch and in training with the utmost professionalism. For the first time in recent days I have been afraid, for myself and for my family, and I have felt abandoned.

"The future is in our hands. I hold out mine and place myself at the complete disposal of the Roma family."

Zaniolo – who has only scored once in 13 Serie A appearances this campaign – has not played for Roma since their Coppa Italia win over Genoa on January 12, missing their last three league games.

Manchester City are reportedly planning a move for Leicester City midfielder James Maddison at the end of the season.

Maddison, 26, has been one of the top goal-creating midfielders in the Premier League over the past couple of seasons, collecting seven goals and four assists from 14 fixtures this campaign after a 2021-22 season with 12 goals and eight assists.

He closed last campaign with goals in each of his final four Premier League outings and was heavily sought after in pre-season, but Leicester opted to hold onto their midfield star.

Regardless of what happens in the second half of the season, Maddison has less than 18 months remaining on his contract and has reportedly shown no interest in extending, which will likely force Leicester's hand unless they want to lose him on a free transfer as appears likely with Youri Tielemans.

TOP STORY – CITY VIEW MADDISON AS KEY COG IN THEIR FUTURE MIDFIELD

According to the Daily Mail, City boss Pep Guardiola is an admirer of Maddison, and with plenty of upheaval expected in the club's engine room, a space could open up for the Foxes star.

The report states Leicester set their asking price at £60million when Newcastle United came knocking prior to this season, but they held firm as the offers "did not come close" to their valuation.

City midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva are both expected to depart at the conclusion of the campaign, and their supposed £70m demand for the latter would likely pay for Maddison's arrival.

Leicester are already set to lose Tielemans on a free transfer after spending £32m to purchase his services in 2019, and they will likely be eager to avoid a similar fate with Maddison, while Brendan Rodgers could then use the fee to fund a mini rebuild.

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting Chelsea enquired about 25-year-old Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella but were told the Italian club have no interest in selling, as he remains tied to the club until 2026.

– According to Sky Sports Italia, disgruntled Roma forward Nicolo Zaniolo had a change of heart and wanted to head to Bournemouth, but the English side turned him down after spending their funds elsewhere.

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting Barcelona have an anxious wait to see if their €4m ($4.35m) transfer for 21-year-old LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo will be processed as the deal was signed seconds after the deadline.

– Manchester United captain Harry Maguire never considered a loan move to Inter and will remain with the club until at least the end of the season, per Fabrizio Romano.

Europe's elite clubs raced to beat the January transfer deadline as Pedro Porro signed for Tottenham and Enzo Fernandez neared a record Premier League move when the window slammed shut.

Argentina's World Cup winner Fernandez appeared set to complete a long-awaited move to Chelsea in a record-breaking Premier League transfer.

While Chelsea aimed to bring in the youthful Fernandez, veteran Italy international Jorginho departed as he joined Arsenal after Mikel Arteta's side were unable to secure Brighton and Hove Albion's Moises Caicedo.

Manchester United also looked to strengthen their midfield with a loan deal for Bayern Munich's Sabitzer after an injury to key playmaker Christian Eriksen at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Tottenham solidified their defensive options by snaffling Spanish wing-back Porro from Sporting CP after lengthy negotiations.

Stats Perform provides a rundown of the notable deals as the mid-season transfer window finally closed.

 

BOEHLY BREAKS RECORD FOR FERNANDEZ

Fernandez emerged as a target for Chelsea following his influential displays for Argentina during their World Cup triumph in Qatar and the Blues' Todd Boehly-led consortium appear to have finally got their man. 

After already snatching Mykhaylo Mudryk from under the noses of Arsenal, Chelsea are set to splash a reported £105.5million (€120m) on Fernandez from Benfica.

That would break the Premier League record of £100m Manchester City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish, as the Blues looked to secure the former River Plate midfielder on a reported seven-and-a-half-year contract.

ARSENAL'S CAICEDO BLUES CURED BY JORGINHO

Arteta and Arsenal's pursuit of Caicedo fell on deaf ears as Brighton refused to budge, despite the Gunners lodging a reported £70m bid for the 21-year-old.

After missing out on primary midfield target Caicedo, Jorginho switched the blue shirt of Chelsea for the red of Arsenal as he completed a reported £12m transfer to the Premier League leaders.

The 31-year-old will provide able competition for the impressive Thomas Partey after penning an 18-month contract at Emirates Stadium.

TEN HAG FINDS ERIKSEN COVER IN SABITZER

With Eriksen ruled out for three months, Erik ten Hag and United acted swiftly to attempt to bring in experienced midfielder Sabitzer on a short-term loan.

Opportunities had been hard to come by for the Austria international after joining Bayern from Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig ahead of the 2021-22 season.

He started just 15 times in his 40 appearances for the Bundesliga champions, though he may now have the chance to impress in the Premier League with Ten Hag's resurgent Red Devils.

CONTE GETS PORRO AS DOHERTY AND SPENCE DEPART

It appeared Tottenham may not secure the services of attack-minded wing-back Porro, formerly of Girona and Manchester City, after it seemed negotiations had come to a halt with Sporting.

But Spurs confirmed the 23-year-old's arrival late on, with Porro signing a five-and-a-half-year deal after a reported £40m (€45m) move from Sporting, who signed Barcelona's Hector Bellerin as a replacement.

That transfer saw Djed Spence, who only signed from Middlesbrough in a deal worth up to £20m in July, sent out to Ligue 1's Rennes for the rest of the season on loan.

Fellow full-back Matt Doherty also made way as he joined Atletico Madrid on a six-month contract, with Spurs terminating the 31-year-old's contract to "enable him to join another club".

OTHER DEALS

Bournemouth paid their second-highest transfer fee in history for Illya Zabarnyi, parting with a reported £24m (€27.2m) for the Ukraine centre-back from Dynamo Kyiv.

Gary O'Neil's Bournemouth added a second signing soon after, confirming the arrival of Sassuolo midfielder Hamed Traore on a loan that will become permanent on a five-year deal in June.

Nottingham Forest continued their spending after signing Atletico centre-back Felipe on a deal that will run until 2024, while Jonjo Shelvey also arrived from Newcastle United on a deal until 2025, and a move for Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas on loan was reportedly nearing.

Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace bolstered their midfield by bringing in Naouirou Ahamada for a reported £10.5m (€12m) fee from Stuttgart, while Arsenal's Albert Sambi Lokonga joined on a six-month loan.

Leeds United's Diego Llorente joined Jose Mourinho's Roma on loan until the end of the season, with an option for a permanent transfer reportedly worth €18m (£15.9m).

Ayoze Perez is another Premier League player who will spend the second half of the term on loan, with the Leicester City forward moving to LaLiga side Real Betis.

Aleksandar Mitrovic's Serbia team-mate Sasa Lukic traded Torino for Fulham in a transfer reportedly worth £8.8m (€10m) including add-ons, signing a contract until June 2027.

Lukic will likely be joined by Arsenal full-back Cedric Soares after Marco Silva's side reportedly agreed to bring the former Southampton defender on a six-month loan.

Outside of England, Borussia Dortmund and Belgium midfielder Thorgan Hazard completed a short-term loan move to Eredivisie title hopefuls PSV.

Arsenal are still desperate to add a new face in central midfield and will reportedly make late runs at Chelsea's Jorginho and Leicester City's Youri Tielemans before the transfer deadline.

Tielemans is one of Leicester's top talents, appearing in all 20 of their Premier League games this season while contributing three goals and an assist from his 18 starts.

Jorginho is in his fifth season at Stamford Bridge and remains an integral part of Chelsea's squad, making 15 league starts this season, including wearing the captain's armband in their two most recent fixtures.

However, both players are in the final six months of their contracts and are set to become available via free transfers at the end of the campaign, and their clubs may be willing to accept a significantly reduced figure for highly valuable assets.

 

TOP STORY – GUNNERS GUNNING FOR MIDFIELD ACTION AT THE DEADLINE

According to Football London, Arsenal's pursuit of 21-year-old Brighton and Hove Albion standout Moises Caicedo appears to have been unsuccessful, and they now view Jorginho as an acceptable alternative.

The report states Chelsea are willing to let the Italy international leave, indicating he will become expendable if the impending arrival of Benfica's Enzo Fernandez comes to fruition.

Football London also adds Arsenal will make another push at both Caicedo and Real Sociedad's Martin Zubimendi, but they are considered unlikely options.

Meanwhile, 90min claims Leicester would be more open to allowing Tielemans to leave if they were not locked in a relegation battle, but as it stands they would need a "huge" bid to prioritise a transfer fee over their Premier League survival.

 

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato is reporting Leeds United will try to secure Roma's Nicolo Zaniolo after he snubbed Bournemouth, but Roma are unlikely to accept unless the full transfer fee is paid up front.

– According to L'Equipe, Paris Saint-Germain are interested in a loan move for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech, who would prefer a loan to France instead of a fellow Premier League side.

– Manchester United captain Harry Maguire has rejected a loan approach from Inter and will instead opt to fight for his place, although he will re-evaluate his future at the end of the season, per the Daily Star.

– El Nacional is reporting Liverpool will make a run at signing Chelsea's N'Golo Kante when his contract expires after the season.

– According to Football Insider, Southampton have agreed to meet the £26.2million (€30m) release clause for 22-year-old Braga forward Vitinha.

Matias Vina has joined Bournemouth on an initial loan deal, which contains an option to make a permanent move from Roma.

The Uruguay left-back signed for Roma from Palmeiras in 2021 and has appeared 29 times in Serie A.

But Vina has been limited to just 54 league minutes under Jose Mourinho this season and has left for Bournemouth at least until the end of the campaign.

The 25-year-old is reportedly set to be joined at his new club by Sassuolo midfielder Hamed Traore and Dynamo Kyiv defender Ilya Zabarnyi on Tuesday's transfer deadline day.

Bournemouth appear to have failed in a bid for Nicolo Zaniolo had have already brought in Dango Ouattara and Antoine Semenyo.

Meanwhile, Roma are said to be close to signing Diego Llorente from Leeds United.

Roma are targeting a solution to their Nicolo Zaniolo crisis before Tuesday's transfer deadline after the winger was "not very happy" about the prospect of joining Bournemouth.

The Italy international was strongly linked with Tottenham earlier this month; however, Antonio Conte subsequently signed Arnaut Danjuma on loan from Villarreal as a solution to his wide attacking midfield needs.

Bournemouth subsequently emerged as frontrunners, with the team third from bottom of the Premier League seeing Zaniolo as a player who could help them to safety in their first campaign back in the top flight.

Reports suggested Roma and Bournemouth had reached an agreement on a deal worth an initial £26.3million (€30m), but it appears Zaniolo is not sold on the idea of joining the English south-coast club.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has expressed major frustration over Zaniolo asking to leave and then stalling when the opportunity arose, saying it "unfortunately" seemed the 23-year-old would end up staying with the Giallorossi.

When asked about firm opportunities to sell Zaniolo, Roma general manager Tiago Pinto said on Sunday: "I have no problem answering this question, everyone understood what happened.

"Zaniolo asked to be sold, and together with the agent we found a solution. We succeeded, but now Nicolo is not very happy with the solution that has arrived, and obviously we are all in a bit of difficulty."

Last season saw Zaniolo score the only goal of the inaugural Europa Conference League final, as Roma beat Feyenoord, yet his time at the Stadio Olimpico may be up.

Speaking to DAZN, Pinto said Roma would not be able to buy a player to take Zaniolo's place before sealing the sale of the former Inter youth-team player.

He, too, is frustrated by Zaniolo's stalling on a transfer, with time at a premium.

"We found this solution following a request from the player and, as you know, with all the limits that we have with financial fair play we are not exactly a company that can yield to Zaniolo's no and take on other players," Pinto said.

"We are always bound by those limits. Now we have another 48 hours, let's see what happens. I don't want to dwell on this issue, it is really a difficult situation for us."

Jose Mourinho claimed Roma suffered an "unfair" defeat to runaway Serie A leaders Napoli as he saluted both his team and the rival side he is convinced will win the Scudetto.

Head coach Mourinho could not get the better of opposite number Luciano Spalletti, whose Napoli players sit 13 points clear at the top of the table after 20 games.

Sixth-placed Roma would have moved level on points with Inter, who sit second, had they got the win at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Victor Osimhen converted Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's cross in stunning style to give Napoli a 17th-minute lead, but Roma levelled up in the 75th minute through Stephan El Shaarawy.

Yet Mourinho's visitors could not hang on for a point, with Giovanni Simeone firing an 86th-minute winner when he took on a short pass from Piotr Zielinski and was allowed to turn inside the penalty area before firing powerfully into the right corner.

Mourinho said: “From the first minute we played well. The team were always in control, we pressed very hard, we defended well.

"Napoli suffered, we are the team that scared them most. The stadium seemed empty, and beyond the negative result I leave here more confident.

"Sometimes football is unfair, the team that deserves more loses. Sometimes we won without deserving it, tonight they [Roma] deserved to win. I told the boys that we must be sad for the defeat, but calmly see you on Wednesday at the Olimpico."

Roma face Cremonese in midweek in a Coppa Italia quarter-final.

"Today we saw that Napoli are very good and have the champion's star," Mourinho told DAZN. "I have won eight championships, I know what it means to have the star that lights up for you. The championship will definitely be theirs."

Mourinho saw plenty to admire about Napoli striker Osimhen, but warned the Nigerian striker would have to change his game if he ever goes to the Premier League.

"Osimhen is very strong, he's difficult to mark, he's a top player, but if he goes to England he has to change because they'll kill him," Mourinho said. "Certain attitudes are accepted in Italy."

Napoli boss Spalletti said determination was key to his team's success.

"They're delicate matches and those who have played have done so with the right attitude," Spalletti said.

His team's lead is the largest by any team at this stage of a Serie A season since 1994-95, when the three points for a win era began.

Osimhen's opener was a special strike, with the striker controlling the ball on his chest, then taking a touch with his knee, before rifling an unstoppable shot into the top-right corner.

"There is technical quality, there is personality," Spalletti told DAZN. "He is a physically strong player and it becomes difficult to get at him."

Roma coach Jose Mourinho suggested Nicolo Zaniolo is "unfortunately" likely to remain at the club after the winger reportedly failed to agree terms on a move to Bournemouth.

The Italy international had been strongly linked with several teams since the start of January, with Tottenham initially appearing to be his most likely destination.

But after Spurs signed Arnaut Danjuma on loan from Villarreal, their need for additional reinforcements out wide reduced, with Bournemouth subsequently emerging as frontrunners.

Mourinho confirmed last Sunday that Zaniolo asked to leave, and media reports this week indicated Roma and Bournemouth reached an agreement on a deal worth an initial £26.3million (€30m).

Zaniolo's seeming reluctance to join the Cherries has Mourinho now expecting the player to stay, though he did not hide his frustration regarding the player's hesitance despite being open about wanting out.

"Unfortunately, it seems that I'm right. Unfortunately, what I said after Spezia [that he expects Zaniolo to still be at Roma on February 1] seems it's coming true," Mourinho told reporters ahead of Sunday's trip to leaders Napoli, which Zaniolo will miss.

Mourinho was then asked why he perceived it to be an unfortunate situation.

"Because the player has been saying he wants to go for a month," the Portuguese coach replied.

"After Spezia, I gave Monday off, while Tuesday was an optional training session. All the players who didn't play in La Spezia trained, many players who did play came anyway. These are the players coaches want.

"Even those who don't play must think that the team might need him. I want these players.

"If a player always tells everyone he doesn't want to wear the Roma shirt, I have to say 'unfortunately'.

"The ideal situation is that the player is happy. I said that I expected him to stay, but today I add 'unfortunately'.

"Today I say again that Zaniolo won't be available, that we focus on the match and that my focus is on the players who will be there. It's not the case with Zaniolo."

Bournemouth revealing themselves as a potential destination for Zaniolo struck many as surprising considering their stature in the game – only getting promoted back to the Premier League last season – and the player's own reputation, given he was once deemed Italy's next great hope.

But Mourinho did not seem particularly shocked as he looked to explain the financial might of England's top tier.

"Everything happens because of TV rights. A clear picture is the English Championship play-off final. You have more money on the table even than the Champions League final.

"That says it all: it's a completely different economic power. The Premier League, an economic view, is stronger than Serie A. Maybe Juventus could compete [with Premier League clubs], but the others can't."

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has congratulated Napoli on already wrapping up the Serie A title, despite the season only being halfway complete.

Napoli are 12 points clear of closest challengers Milan at the summit after winning 16 of their opening 19 games and losing just once.

They are just the third different team in Serie A history, after Juventus three times and Inter once, to have won that number of games in the first half of a season.

Roma will look to halt Napoli's momentum at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday, but regardless of the result, Mourinho can only see one outcome in the title race.

"I'll say what I always say: they have already won the Scudetto, and deservedly so," Mourinho said at Saturday's pre-match press conference.

"They are an excellent team, with an excellent coach in Luciano Spalletti. They are now 12 points ahead and there are no teams that scare them. The Scudetto is theirs.

"We won't just step out of the way for them, but they have already won the championship. Congratulations to them."

 

Napoli are unbeaten in eight of their past nine Serie A matches against Roma, with their sole defeat in that run coming in November 2019 (a 2-1 loss at Stadio Olimpico).

Among the 10 coaches Mourinho has faced at least four times in Serie A, Spalletti is the one he has the worst win percentage against (20 per cent), with just one win from five.

For Spalletti, though, it is still a case of one game at a time as Napoli target an elusive first title since the 1989-1990 season in the days of Diego Maradona.

"The results of other teams is not down to us, so we must therefore always behave the same and play well, while also being humble," Spalletti told reporters.

"We pay attention to taking it one step at a time, concentrating on where we put our feet. We work daily and never beyond."

Napoli are unbeaten in their past four home league games against Roma – not since between 1985 and 1989 have they enjoyed a longer such streak (a run of seven). 

Jose Mourinho is "still number one" in the eyes of former Inter star Wesley Sneijder.

The Portuguese boss celebrates his 60th birthday on Thursday and is back in Italian football with Roma, who he led to glory in the inaugural season of the UEFA Conference League in 2021-22.

That triumph was Mourinho's fifth continental title, having won the Champions League with Porto and Inter, the UEFA Cup with Porto and the Europa League with Manchester United.

Mourinho's treble-winning season with Inter in 2009-10 is one of the highlights of his illustrious career, with Sneijder part of the team that dominated in the Nerazzurri's most famous campaign.

The Portuguese great went on to enjoy LaLiga success with Real Madrid, while leading Chelsea to the Premier League title in his second spell in charge, which preceded winning the EFL Cup and Europa League with United.

However, he was sacked by both clubs and by Tottenham prior to joining Roma, with some believing Mourinho's reputation has taken a hit.

Sneijder, however, still rates Mourinho ahead of his managerial rivals.

"I have great memories of him, especially when we won the Champions League. He was very determined and so confident we would win that match," he told Stats Perform.

"He knows exactly how to behave with his players on the pitch but especially off it. As I said before, with him there was no need for a chairman, he protected all the players.

"For me, he is still number one."

Having guided Roma to a sixth-place finish in Serie A last season, Mourinho's side are now in the midst of a fierce battle for a top-four finish and Champions League football.

Roma are fifth, level on points with Inter and Lazio ahead of them, while just three points separate second-placed Milan from sixth-placed Atalanta.

With many rival teams enduring problems this season, Sneijder feels Mourinho and Roma have a great opportunity to take advantage.

"Of course, he is doing well there. As you said, Milan, Inter and Juventus with all their problems are a bit in trouble now, so this is the right moment [for Roma]," he added.

"But there is Napoli now who are doing great in Serie A and in the Champions League. It will be hard to beat Napoli, but Roma can beat all the others."

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