Napoli head coach Walter Mazzarri has stressed a Champions League place is still attainable for the Serie A title-holders as they prepare to host Hellas Verona on Sunday.

After winning a first Scudetto in 33 years last season under Luciano Spalletti, the Partenopei have had a significant drop off in a 2023-24 campaign that saw new boss Rudi Garcia replaced by Mazzarri in November.

Their nine league games since then have comprised three wins, two draws and four losses, and they are currently ninth in the table, four points behind fourth place.

Asked at a press conference if the Champions League spots remained a realistic objective for Napoli, Mazzarri said: “I don’t look at the table for my own reasons.

“But it’s clear that there are many teams within three to four points, and therefore the objective is possible.”

Since starting the calendar year with a 3-0 loss at Torino, Napoli – still without star striker Victor Osimhen due to international duty with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations – have won 2-1 at home against Salernitana, beaten Fiorentina 3-0, lost 1-0 to AC Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana and drawn 0-0 at Lazio in their return to league action last weekend.

Mazzarri said: “In the last few games we created little, for various reasons, also due to the strength of the opponents, but we returned solid and balanced, after the very bad performance in Torino.

“It’s clear that we will need to be more aggressive and proactive to create scoring opportunities, perhaps even shooting from outside, because we can’t always enter the area with triangles and penetrations.

“This week we are also working on this aspect and I think we will see the results.”

Napoli face a Verona outfit who went into the weekend just outside the relegation zone, and who brought in a trio of players on transfer deadline day – Stefan Mitrovic, Karol Swiderski and Fabien Centonze.

Boss Marco Baroni told a press conference ahead of the trip to Stadio Diego Armando Maradona: “We need points, but we have to start from the performance.

“These are complicated and difficult stadiums, where we must not be afraid. We will have to play a match of personality, having great respect for the opponent.

“These are teams against which you have to be very careful within the performance. We will need to be compact, focused, and help each other on the pitch.”

Napoli put an end to a jittery start under new coach Walter Mazzarri as their 2-0 victory over Braga confirmed their place in the Champions League knockout stage.

Three successive defeats since Mazzarri took over from Rudi Garcia may have knocked confidence but the hosts knew they needed only a draw to prevent their opponents snatching second place in Group C from them.

They could even have afforded a one-goal defeat, as their head-to-head record was superior courtesy of the 2-1 win in Portugal, but a ninth-minute Serdar Saatci own goal was the perfect morale boost for a side which had won just once in the last six games.

A quickly-taken throw allowed Matteo Politano to break into the right side of the penalty area and his low cut-back was intended for Victor Osimhen.

However, Saatci’s awkward attempted to block the cross only diverted the ball into the ground, up onto the underside of the crossbar and down over the line.

Stung by the early goal Ricardo Horta forced Alex Meret to tip a shot onto the crossbar, while Braga goalkeeper Matheus Magalhaes also denied Piotr Zielinski at his near post.

Osimhen had flown in from Morocco, where he had won African Player of the Year, and he celebrated beating Mohamed Salah to the award by adding Napoli’s second in the 33rd minute.

Natan, a centre-back filling in on the left, surged forward and having found space in the penalty area crossed for the Nigeria international.

The ball was behind Osimhen but his attempted drag-back diverted it goalwards via his standing leg from six yards and although Matheus got a hand to it he could not prevent it crossing the line.

Braga’s goalkeeper was the busier as he tipped over Politano’s left-footed curler and denied Osimhen a second.

Horta hit the foot of a post with 11 minutes to go but with Real Madrid coming back to beat Union Berlin late on, Braga’s consolation prize was a place in the Europa League.

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri has challenged his players to rectify the club’s wretched recent results against rivals Napoli to move top of the Serie A table.

Juve have lost five of their past seven league meetings with the reigning champions, including a 5-1 thrashing in January, but are favourites for Friday evening’s clash at Allianz Stadium.

The in-form Bianconeri sit second in the table and will climb above leaders Inter Milan for at least 24 hours by registering an 11th victory of the season.

Fifth-placed Napoli are struggling to mount a title defence and, having last month reappointed former boss Walter Mazzarri after sacking Rudi Garcia, slipped 11 points adrift of Inter following a 3-0 home loss to them on Sunday.

“Tomorrow will be very tough,” Allegri told a press conference.

“Napoli stayed in the game against Inter until the second goal and we’ve only beaten them once in our last seven meetings – that’s something we need to put right.

“They’re a dangerous side away from home and have picked up 17 points on the road already.”

Juventus are just two points behind Inter, with whom they drew 1-1 on November 26, following a nine-match unbeaten run.

Allegri wants a minimum of six points from Juve’s next five fixtures to ensure the club reach the halfway point of the campaign in a stronger position than last term.

“This is a six-pointer – we have five games left before we reach the midway point of the season and they’ll all be difficult,” said Allegri, whose side finished a disappointing 2022-23 campaign in seventh position.

“Our target is to finish the first half of the campaign with more points than we did last term, when we had 38.

“We hope to achieve our target but we mustn’t take it for granted.

“Part of this job involves dealing with the pressure but we have to remember the league doesn’t finish tomorrow. There’s still a long way to go.”

Mazzarri, who initially managed Napoli between 2009 and 2013, beat Atalanta 2-1 in the first match of his second spell before the resounding loss to Inter.

The 62-year-old hopes his team can kick-start a revival by beating one of their fiercest rivals.

“Juventus v Napoli is a match that we know well because of the special sensations it generates and the importance of two teams that have been protagonists of the championship in recent years,” he told a press conference.

“We are playing against an opponent who is doing very well and there is little to add about the depth of the match.

“We go there as Italian champions and we want to highlight the progress that the boys are making.

“If we look at the squads, I don’t think there is as much of a difference as the league table says. This is also true compared to Inter.

“Unfortunately in football there are also moments and this is not a brilliant period for Napoli, especially in relation to the great last season.

“In football sometimes it doesn’t take much to make a change, it’s a question of trust but also of luck.

“There are moments which are going badly but a positive episode can change the wind.”

Empoli increased the pressure on under-fire Napoli boss Rudi Garcia with a 1-0 win in Serie A.

Viktor Kovalenko’s injury-time winner gave the visitors the smash-and-grab points in Naples and left Garcia in no doubt about how the home fans feel about him after he received jeers.

Last year’s champions are in fourth after this sorry defeat.

It could have been so different had the hosts taken two early chances, but they came up against inspired Empoli goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.

The Albania international tipped Matteo Politano’s effort wide and then kept out Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s header from the resulting corner.

Napoli thought they had taken the lead in the 27th minute after Giovanni Simeone poked home but he was ruled offside.

Empoli showed they meant business and fired two warning shots before the break when Matteo Cancellieri fizzed a shot just wide and then Andrea Ranocchia volleyed inches over.

Napoli took a while to get going after the break and then found Berisha was in no mood to concede.

Jesper Lindstrom, who had just come on, fired a wicked effort from 20 yards that was heading for the top corner, but the goalkeeper made a superb flying save.

He then twice denied Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as Napoli kept knocking on the door.

First he kept out an arrowed effort from the Georgian and then used his leg to save another low shot.

It looked like Napoli would be mulling over two points dropped as the game headed into injury time, but things got a lot worse as Empoli stole the win.

In the first minute of injury time Kovalenko found space on the edge of the area and found the far post with a delicious curling effort which beat goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini and went in off the post.

There was no time for Napoli to respond and Garcia was left staring down the barrel.

Victor Osimhen will miss Napoli’s Serie A derby against Salernitana with the striker due back with the squad next week to continue his recovery from injury.

The 24-year-old, a reported target of Manchester United and Chelsea, has been out since mid-October with a hamstring problem.

Osimhen was granted permission by the club to travel home to Nigeria but he will return over the next few days to build up his fitness.

“He has made an agreement with the club,” head coach Rudi Garcia told a press conference.

“I’ve heard from him by message, and the doctors assure me that he is following the program. Everything is fine and he will be with us next week.”

Napoli will travel to Salernitana without Osimhen or young striker Lorenzo Russo.

“It’s not that I don’t care, but whether it’s Osimhen or Russo, injured together, cannot play and therefore I focus on who can play,” added Garcia.

“It won’t be an easy match, it’s a derby first of all, they need points, but we only have one positive result to achieve, the victory there, and we have to field the best version of Napoli, we know what to do.”

Napoli currently lie fifth in the table and are already seven points behind leaders Inter Milan.

But they did hit back from two goals down at half-time to draw 2-2 with AC Milan on Sunday thanks to second-half goals from Matteo Politano and Giacomo Raspadori.

“We’re a quarter of the way through the championship, three quarters remain to get back to whoever is in front,” said Garcia.

“We conceded two goals from Milan’s first two actions, we didn’t do badly, we should have done better on the two goals, but we also had the chance to make it 1-1, but that’s over now and let’s focus on tomorrow.

“Obviously when a team comes back from 0-2 to almost 3-2 at the last minute the second half was better in terms of results. It’s always better to end on a positive note.”

Salernitana lie bottom of the table, without a win so far and with four points from their opening 10 matches.

Rudi Garcia is determined to hit AC Milan when they are down and relaunch Napoli’s Serie A title defence.

A rocky start to the season saw the Partenopei fall well short of expectations and critics of new head coach Garcia’s approach did not take long to make their voices heard.

But three league wins from four have thrust Napoli right back into contention and a home win against second-placed Milan, whose bubble has been burst by consecutive defeats to Juventus and Paris St Germain, could lift them to third.

“We have this home match against one of our direct rivals and it’s one we really want to win,” Garcia told reporters.

“There’s a good atmosphere in the camp. We’ve had a decent run of results but we know that if we really want to move up the table we need to keep winning back-to-back games.

“We want victory at home especially because we have the help of our fans after two wins on the road.”

Milan were one of the few sides to get the better of Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli last season, memorably winning 4-0 at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona as the hosts were trying to rubber-stamp their Scudetto.

“It will be a different game to last season,” Garcia said. “People keep saying this Napoli team is different to the one from last season so this game against Milan will be different too.”

Rossoneri boss Stefano Pioli, meanwhile, is demanding an instant response to last weekend’s San Siro reverse against Juve and a 3-0 humiliation at PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday.

He said at a press conference: “The team is hungry to turn things around.

“For the first time this season, we’ve lost two in a row in two big games and tomorrow we have another one.

“We’ll need to show that we have the quality to be a consistent side. We have to keep at it for 95 minutes against teams like this.

“We must live in the present; we’ve made mistakes and got results that we didn’t want. We have the chance in Naples to put in a better performance and show that we’re better.

“Garcia is a great coach. He had issues at the start – which is normal – but now they’re playing well and creating a lot.

“We need to be aware of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia because he can hurt you one-on-one. We’ll try to be alert.”

Rudi Garcia hailed Napoli for taking their lone clear chance in a largely uninspiring Champions League win over Union Berlin.

Giacomo Raspadori poached the only goal of the game after excellent work by player of the match Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, with the Bundesliga side having had the better of the game for long periods in front of a raucous crowd at the Olympiastadion.

Napoli coach Garcia told the club’s website: “We won with anger, patience, the desire to prevail and also intelligence.

“Right before we started we knew that we would be facing a complicated match. But we were calm, we never really suffered any danger, but it’s also true that in the first half we created little, also because on this heavy pitch it was difficult.

“Then in the second half with patience and intelligence we found the way to the goal. Kvara’s action and Raspa’s turn were beautiful from a technical point of view. A beautiful goal that I liked both for the assist and for the conclusion.

“We are a team that knows how to play the ball but also knows how to run and fight. These are the main characteristics with which we must continue our journey.”

Napoli lie second in Group C and Kvaratskhelia told “The group looks good but we must still focus on the other games and try to win those.

“Thanks for choosing me as player of the match today, but other players were very important too – and next time it could be someone else who wins it.”

The goal came when Mario Rui won the ball well and fed the Georgian on the left. His first cross was cleared back to him but he took on Christopher Trimmel and teed up Raspadori six yards out to finish decisively.

Union had a goal disallowed in the first half, with the impressive David Datro Fofana flagged offside after setting up Janik Haberer, and largely kept their Serie A opponents at arm’s length but remain bottom of the group after a third straight loss.

Coach Urs Fischer told “I’m disappointed. We put in so much to restrict them to just one shot on goal, and we still lost 1-0.

“Despite that, we did a lot well. We weren’t missing too much today.

“The group table doesn’t look good, of course. It’s almost impossible to qualify but that’s the situation we find ourselves in.

“We hoped to get a result but it didn’t come off. Still, I’m really proud of our performance today.”

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia scored twice as Napoli relaunched their Serie A title defence with a 3-1 victory at struggling Hellas Verona.

Recent underwhelming form saw Rudi Garcia’s men suffer a home defeat by Fiorentina last time out but they were always likely to get more from a trip to a Verona side who were winless in six matches heading into Saturday afternoon’s clash.

Matteo Politano made the first-half breakthrough before Kvaratskhelia scored either side of the break to render Darko Lazovic’s response largely redundant as Napoli consolidated themselves in fifth, not far behind the leading pack.

Napoli were first to threaten as Giacomo Raspadori forced Lorenzo Montipo to punch clear from a venomous free-kick in the seventh minute.

Raspadori soon tried again, this time connecting with a Mario Rui touch to test Montipo from distance. The Verona goalkeeper parried for a corner but he was not so successful in the 27th minute when Napoli opened the scoring.

Mario Rui, Piotr Zielinski and Raspadori tied Verona up in knots with a series of short passes before the latter crossed to an unmarked Politano for a volleyed left-footed finish at the far post.

There was almost a quickfire second when Jens Cajuste, put through by the slick Raspadori, spanked it wide from a one-on-one with Montipo.

Kvaratskhelia gave Napoli a two-goal lead before half-time, however. A rapid counter-attack down the right side gave Politano plenty of time to pick out the Georgian on the other flank for a low drive inside the near post.

Verona tried to slash the deficit as soon as play resumed, with Federico Bonazzoli latching onto Milan Djuric’s pass and fizzing it towards Alex Meret in the Napoli goal.

Instead Kvaratskhelia fired the Partenopei well clear when, in the 55th minute, he collected another Politano assist and coolly beat Montipo.

Lazovic promptly bit back for wounded Verona, though, when the visitors failed to deal with Davide Faraoni’s cross on the hour mark and the Serbian scorched one in.

With a potential comeback on the cards the game opened up and Djuric and Politano enjoyed opportunities at either end before Meret pulled off a desperate stop to deny Bonazzoli before needing to keep Lazovic at bay not long after.

Substitute Alessio Zerbin looked to rubber-stamp the Napoli win as time ticked away but Montipo prevented further damage by blocking the daisy cutter with his legs, limiting the winning margin to two goals.

Napoli boss Rudi Garcia is expecting his team to deliver against Fiorentina on Sunday.

The Partenopei boss revealed at a press conference that he asked his team to win their three Serie A matches ahead of the international break, following a disappointing goalless draw at Bologna.

After a 4-1 home victory over Udinese and 4-0 success at Lecce last time out, Garcia’s players are close to providing the right answer to his request.

Ahead of Sunday’s visit of La Viola to the Stadio Maradona, Garcia told his club’s official website: “I asked the team for three straight wins and on Sunday we have the chance to achieve that.

“We’re in third place, alongside Fiorentina. We want to beat them to stay up near the top and consolidate our position.”

However, the 59-year-old knows his team will not have things all their own way as they seek to extend their winning league run.

He continued: “We know they’re a team who play good football and they’ve enjoyed an excellent start to the season.

“Fiorentina have top-quality players, they’re well drilled and have a clear playing philosophy. They’ve scored lots of headed goals and we’ve analysed their strengths.

“They’re a similar team to us in the way they press and win the ball back. We know it will be a difficult match but we’re playing at home and we must show we’re capable of winning it.”

Despite their strong league form, Napoli lost 3-2 to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

However, Garcia says the team should not be short of confidence despite the home defeat.

He explained: “We can take confidence and become stronger because of it. The way we played shows we’re capable of giving world-class teams like Real a game.

“There were little things we should have done better, especially when we conceded the goals, but it can help us grow.

“The Real Madrid match shows we’re a strong side but now we need to take that into our game on Sunday and be even more determined when defending.”

Garcia has not ruled out making changes against Fiorentina, revealing he would decide after their final training session ahead of the game.

Defender Amir Rrahmani is closing in on a return from a muscle injury but is not yet fit to play 90 minutes.

Victor Osimhen put his social media storm with Napoli to one side to help his club return to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Udinese.

Last season’s Scudetto winners entered this fixture after a three-match winless run in Serie A, which had turned up the heat on new boss Rudi Garcia.

Osimhen’s missed penalty in last weekend’s stalemate at Bologna was followed by a bizarre post on Napoli’s official TikTok account.

It appeared to mock the Nigeria international but, while the forward threatened to take legal action, Osimhen brushed off the scrutiny to end his four-game goal drought with a smart finish in the 39th minute in Naples to fire the hosts up to seventh in the table.

After the spot-kick drama of Sunday, it took Napoli only a quarter of an hour to be awarded another penalty when Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was fouled inside the area.

VAR was called and eventually the penalty was awarded, but instead of Osimhen it was Piotr Zielinski who took responsibility and he rolled into the bottom corner after 19 minutes to make it 1-0 at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Garcia’s out-of-form side were firmly in the ascendancy now with Kvaratskhelia, Osimhen and Mario Rui forcing saves from Marco Silvestri in the Udinese goal.


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Silvestri had no answer to Osimhen in the 39th minute when Matteo Politano slipped through last season’s leading marksman and Napoli’s number nine drilled into the net for his fourth goal this season.

Osimhen was initially reluctant to celebrate but after some anxious glances towards the assistant referee, no offside flag was raised and he embraced his team-mates while feeling the support of a raucous home crowd.

Further applause followed in the 63rd minute when Osimhen was replaced by Giovanni Simeone, who would find the net but not before Kvaratskhelia.

Georgian attacker Kvaratskhelia had endured a difficult start to the season and would have been grateful for the gift from away defender Jaka Bijol.

A poor touch by Bijol allowed Kvaratskhelia to steal in and win possession before he beat Silvestri to the loose ball and was able to open his account for the season from close range in the 74th minute.

Lazar Samardzic reduced the deficit in the 80th minute but, seconds later, Kvaratskhelia turned provider again when his excellent run and cross found Simeone, who headed low into the net to wrap up the scoring on a much-needed positive night for the champions.

Napoli head coach Rudi Garcia knows his side cannot afford a slow start if they are to target Champions League success this season.

The Partenopei topped their Champions League group ahead of Liverpool and progressed to the quarter-finals last season, where they were beaten by AC Milan.

Garcia’s side, though, head into their opening European tie away to Portuguese outfit Braga on Wednesday night sitting fifth in the table after a draw at newly promoted Genoa left them with seven points from four games.

“There is something wrong in the league (Serie A) because we are only fifth, but it is the start of the season,” Garcia told a press conference.

“The logical thing would be to say that we need to be more consistent, but we can say that the championship is the championship – and the Champions League is another competition.

“There are only six matches in the group (stage) and so every match counts much more than those of the 38-round championship (Serie A).

“We are here to win and we arrive with determination and confidence.”

Napoli arrived in Portugal much later than planned on Tuesday evening following a significantly delayed departure because of technical problems with their aircraft.

But Garcia will not look for any excuses if his side do not produce the required performance at the Estadio Municipal.

“Braga have quality players, but we want to start this Champions League group off well,” he said.

“We have to be consistent from the first minute and have to put everything on the pitch to win the three points.”

Centre-back Amir Rrahmani has been included in Napoli’s travelling squad after missing Saturday’s Serie A game with a muscle problem picked up while on international duty with Kosovo.

Uruguay defender Mathias Olivera is expected to start after coming off the bench against Genoa while recent signing Bernardo Natan could make his debut, with the Brazilian, fit again following a knee issue, an unused substitute at the weekend.

Braga have returned to the Champions League group stages for the first time in 11 years after coming through two qualifying rounds – and will also face Spanish giants Real Madrid as well as tournament debutants Union Berlin in Group C.

After suffering a 3-1 loss at Farense in the Portuguese Liga, Braga coach Artur Jorge is expecting a response against the Italian champions.

“Our opponent has a lot of individual and collective quality. The widespread opinion is that it will be more difficult for Braga, but we have the will to counter that,” he said.

“We have three very strong teams (in the group) and we will be put to the test with maximum demands.

“But even against a very strong Napoli, but we will have a rigorous and committed approach and I believe we have a chance to compete until the end.”

Jorge told a press conference: “We want to enjoy the match, but highlighting that we are not going to play just for the sake of playing.

“Regardless of the competition, the ambition to win is fundamental – we cannot get tired of winning.

“It should not be as a response to anything, this is the ambition that the players have to express – it is our desire for the mission to be accomplished.”

Al Nassr showed Rudi Garcia the door on Thursday and handed little-known Croatian Dinko Jelicic the chance to boss Cristiano Ronaldo in the Saudi Pro League.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho had been linked with a possible Ronaldo reunion, having coached the Portuguese at Real Madrid.

Spanish newspaper AS this week claimed Mourinho had been offered a two-year contract worth €100million.

For now at least, Al Nassr have put Jelicic in charge, promoting him from his position in charge of their under-19 team.

The Riyadh-based club said: "Al Nassr can announce that head coach Rudi Garcia has left the club by mutual agreement.

"The board and everyone at Al Nassr would like to thank Rudi and his staff for their dedicated work during the past 8 months.

"We can announce that our U19 coach, Mr Dinko Jelicic will be the new head coach for the first team. Good luck, Mr Dinko."

Frenchman Garcia was a Ligue 1 winner as head coach of Lille in 2010-11 and the 59-year-old has also bossed Roma, Marseille and Lyon.

He was appointed in late June last year and departs with Al Nassr sitting second in the Pro League with seven games remaining, three points behind leaders Al Ittihad, to whom they lost last month.

Ronaldo's arrival as a free agent after his release by Manchester United was announced in late December, and the 38-year-old superstar has drawn unprecedented attention to the league.

Real Madrid's record scorer spent three seasons playing under fellow Portuguese Mourinho at the Santiago Bernabeu from 2010 to 2013, and it remains to be seen whether they are reacquainted in the future.

Jelicic gets the chance to lead the team for now, and he may make the job his own.

Should Al Nassr fall short of overhauling Al Ittihad, however, they may have reason to think again, and it could prove less disruptive to prise away a top coach of Mourinho's ilk during the close season rather than at the business end.

Cristiano Ronaldo vowed to change the rest of the world's perception of football in Saudi Arabia as he was formally unveiled as an Al Nassr player.

Ronaldo signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Saudi Pro League leaders Al Nassr last week, having spent over a month as a free agent after leaving Manchester United.

At his unveiling in Riyadh on Tuesday, Ronaldo declared he had nothing left to prove in Europe and insisted the move did not represent the end of his distinguished career.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner may well have appeared in the Champions League for the final time, but he claims to have a fresh set of aims in Saudi Arabia – including contributing to the development of women's football in the country.

"It's a new challenge and I'm so glad that Al Nassr has given me this opportunity to develop, not only in football, but also for the young generations, and for women as well," said Ronaldo.

"Many people probably don't know, but Al Nassr has a women's football team as well. Women's football is very competitive here.

"I know what I want, and I know, of course, what I don't want as well. It's a good chance to change, to help with my knowledge and my experience to grow many, many important things.

"I want to give a different vision of the country from the footballing perspective of everybody. This is why I took this opportunity."

While Ronaldo – who could make his Al Nassr debut against Al Ta'ee on Thursday – will undoubtedly be the most high-profile star to have featured in the Saudi Pro League, club president Musalli Al-Muammar insists he will be treated differently to other players.

"During the negotiations, Cristiano made it clear that he wants to be treated like the rest of our players," he said. "He doesn't want special treatment.

"Ronaldo is the greatest player ever. We hope players learn from him and replicate his attitude."

Head coach Rudi Garcia, meanwhile, is not expecting any issues as he integrates Ronaldo into his squad. 

"Ronaldo is one of the best ever. It's an honour for me and for Al Nassr to have him here," Garcia said.

"It's fantastic for the league and for the country to have Ronaldo here. 

"He will be the easiest player to train. There's nothing to teach him. My goal is to make Ronaldo happy."

Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly set to complete his move to Al Nassr.

The Portugal forward saw his second stint at Manchester United brought to an early conclusion last month following an inflammatory interview with Piers Morgan, in which he revealed his unhappiness with the Red Devils and their manager Erik ten Hag.

Ronaldo has been a free agent since United terminated his deal shortly after the start of the World Cup, at which he scored one goal and was reduced to the role of substitute for Portugal's two knockout games.

Having revealed he rejected a move to the Saudi Pro League ahead of this season, Ronaldo had been strongly linked with Al Nassr since leaving Old Trafford.

While Ronaldo denied a deal had been agreed earlier this month, Al Nassr sporting director Marcelo Salazar said the club would remain patient in their attempts to take him to Riyadh – and that approach looks to have paid off.

On Friday, widespread reports suggested Ronaldo had agreed a two-and-a-half-year deal with Al Nassr, where it is suggested he will earn £62million (€69.9m) per season.

Those reports also claimed Ronaldo had already undergone one part of his medical.

Ronaldo's move will bring the curtain down on his remarkable stint at the top of the European game.

Ronaldo could potentially be available to make his Al Nassr debut on Thursday, when Rudi Garcia's side host Al Ta'ee.

Al Nassr are second in the Saudi Pro League after losing just one of their first 10 games this season.

Former Lyon manager Rudi Garcia has said he was close to being appointed manager of Manchester United earlier this season.

The Red Devils eventually opted to hire Ralf Rangnick as interim manager in November following the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The club is expected to hire another permanent manager at the end of the season, which will end without a trophy after they were knocked out of the Champions League round of 16 by Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, losing the second leg 1-0 at Old Trafford.

Garcia has managed several clubs throughout his career, including Lille, Roma and Marseille, but the French coach has been out of work since leaving Lyon at the end of last season.

Speaking to Le Figaro, Garcia revealed he had offers from several clubs across Europe, but United was the closest he came to being appointed.

"I had several offers, in England, Spain and France, but the most advanced, and which almost went as far as the end, was with Manchester United," he said.

"I saw John Murtough (United's director of football) and Darren Fletcher (technical director). I told them that I had to work on my English and Darren, who is Scottish, had a joke telling me that I didn't have the level yet with the Scottish accent to answer, but that was fine."

The club's form has been up and down since Rangnick arrived, and they currently find themselves one point off the top four in the Premier League, but having played three games more than fourth-placed Arsenal, and have been knocked out of both the FA Cup and the Champions League.

Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag have both been strongly linked with the permanent job at Old Trafford at the end of the campaign, though both were also knocked out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage, with Paris Saint-Germain losing to Real Madrid and Ajax being eliminated by Benfica.

Garcia has said he would like to return to management soon and is not putting too many limits on where he is willing to work.

"I would like to find a club that plays in the Champions League or has the capacity to qualify for it," he added "I have a preference for England or Spain, but I'm not saying no to Germany, France or Italy.

"If it is, you will find me in an exotic country in a few months, because I won't have found anything that lived up to my expectations. But today, I want to find a club again next season, because after almost twelve months off, I'm itching."

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