Cristiano Ronaldo's dream homecoming to Manchester United has not gone quite to plan so far.

While Ronaldo has scored 14 goals in 22 games – double the amount of any other United player – his team have otherwise struggled this term.

And with United in a serious battle to qualify for next season's Champions League, an early parting of the ways could be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO'S TOP-FOUR ULTIMATUM

Ronaldo's representatives have informed United that the superstar forward will leave if the club miss out on a top-four finish in the Premier League, according to The Sun.

The Portugal international, who penned a two-year contract in August with the option of a further year, is said to be concerned by the direction in which United are heading.

Ralf Rangnick's side beat Brentford 3-1 on Tuesday but still remain seventh, albeit now just two points off fourth-placed West Ham with a game in hand.

Serial winner Ronaldo last week questioned the attitude of some of his United team-mates and then reacted angrily to being substituted off during the win at Brentford.


ROUND-UP

Bayern Munich will consider selling Robert Lewandowski at the end of the season if their talisman turns down the offer of a new deal, according to Bild. Lewandowski, who received The Best FIFA Men's Player of the Year on Monday, is out of contract at the end of 2022-23.

– Goal reports that Atletico Madrid have no intention of allowing Luis Suarez to complete a sensational return to the Premier League this month. The former Liverpool striker had been touted as a target for Aston Villa, who are now under the management of his old team-mate Steven Gerrard.

Chelsea have set their sights on a trio of Barcelona players, reports El Nacional. Blues boss Thomas Tuchel is said to be particularly keen on Frenkie de Jong, while full-back Sergino Dest and youngster Gavi are also targets.

– Meanwhile, Sport say that Barca are interested in Chelsea's Andreas Christensen. Barca are hoping to reach a pre-contract agreement with the defender this month.

Newcastle United must fend off competition from another Premier League club for the signing of Sevilla centre-back Diego Carlos, claims Sky Sports. The Magpies are also reported to be interested in Jesse Lingard.

Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the subject of a loan bid, with an obligation to buy, from Saudi Arabian club Al-Nassr. The Gabon international is out of the picture under Mikel Arteta and may be granted permission to leave for the rest of 2021-22. Goal are reporting that story.

Barcelona coach Xavi has issued an ultimatum to Ousmane Dembele over his future: either sign a new contract or leave the club this month.

The Catalans have been in discussion with the winger for months about an extension to his deal, which expires at the end of the season.

Dembele has struggled badly with injury troubles since his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million, which have hampered his attempts to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou.

Xavi, though, has been eager to see the France international stay at the club despite him playing just six times in LaLiga this season and in only 52 per cent of all Barca's league games since his arrival.

This week, Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future and accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks.

It appears Xavi and Barca's directors have had enough of the situation and the message to Dembele is clear.

 

"What I can say is that we are making a difficult decision. If he does not renew, the club has decided they will make a decision," Xavi told reporters ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Bilbao.

"We've waited a long time. We have been in talks with him for five months.

"Either he renews or we look for an exit. In the end, the club has decided that if he does not renew, a solution must be found.

"We have to do what is best for the club. [Sporting director] Mateu Alemany has been talking with him and his representatives for months.

"It's not a pleasant situation for anyone, but what's clear is that the interests of the club must prevail here.

"He told me he wants to stay. It's a question for him. I've been really clear; I can't be more concise. Either he renews, or we look for an exit. It's all or nothing."

Xavi also made it clear he considers it a priority to extend the contract of defender Ronald Araujo, which expires at the end of next season.

"His renewal is a priority. He's a really important piece. He has a winning character," Xavi said.

"I hope an agreement is reached because he's a player for the present and the future. Ronald is a boy who adds a lot."

Hans-Joachim Watzke has slammed the suggestion that Borussia Dortmund have issued Erling Haaland an ultimatum over his future as "total b***s***".

Haaland, who joined Dortmund in January 2020 from Austrian club Salzburg, is one of the most sought-after talents in European football.

Since the Norway forward made his Dortmund debut just over two years ago, he has netted 79 goals in all competitions.

He marked his two-year anniversary with a goal on Tuesday, though Dortmund nevertheless suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to St Pauli in the DFB-Pokal.

It means that, for the first time since 2006-07, neither Dortmund nor Bayern Munich will contend in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals, while none of the winners from across the previous 26 years are left in this season's competition.

That defeat followed on from an emphatic Bundesliga win over Freiburg on Friday, though it was after that match that Haaland commented on his future.

The 21-year-old claimed Dortmund had been pressuring to make a decision on his next move, and that he would soon make a call on whether he will look to leave the club at the end of the season. 

However, Dortmund chief executive Watzke, who did over the weekend acknowledge they had stressed the importance of Haaland making a decision soon to the striker, has insisted the club have not made any ultimatum.

"Some in the media write that BVB would give him an ultimatum, which is total bullshit," he told ARD.

"Dortmund didn't put the gun on his chest."

 

Asked if Dortmund had been unsettled by Haaland's comments, Watzke added: "Erling was obviously a bit bothered by it, but we can't influence that. We told him that too."

Since his Dortmund bow, only Robert Lewandowski (107) has scored more goals than Haaland across all competitions, of players in Europe's top five leagues.

Haaland averages a goal every 80 minutes, while his tally has come from an expected goals (xG) of 63, suggesting his finishing has been way above the standard that would be expected given the quality of chances that have been created for him.

As for big chances – which Opta define as an opportunity from which a player would reasonably be expected to score – Haaland has been presented with 110 and converted 65 of them.

That equals a conversion rate of 59.1 per cent, which is better than eight of the top 10 goalscorers across Europe's top five leagues in that time, with Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes, who has netted 32 of his 49 big chances (65.3 per cent) having a better conversion rate.

Luis Suarez's future at Atletico Madrid is unclear with his contract to expire at the end of the season.

Suarez helped Atleti win LaLiga last term with 21 goals.

The Uruguayan joined Atletico from top-flight rivals Barcelona in 2020 on a two-year deal.

TOP STORY – SUAREZ WANTS GERRARD REUNION AT VILLA

Suarez wants a reunion with former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, reports Gerard Romero.

The Atletico Madrid forward's contract expires at the end of this season and has been sounded out by numerous Brazilian clubs.

Suarez has had offers from Palmeiras, Corinthians and Atletico Mineiro but wants to link up with Gerrard who took over at Villa in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN claims Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Milan's Franck Kessie, as part of their effort to convince Kylian Mbappe to stay in the French capital amid interest from Real Madrid.

- Juventus have made an enquiry for Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria according to 90min as they prepare for Arthur Melo to join Arsenal .

- Arsenal's bid to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic looks to have hit a roadblock with the Serbian only interested in joining Juventus, reports the Mail.

- Milan want to bolster their backline and are interested in a loan deal for Tottenham's Japhet Tanganga, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Leicester City and Newcastle United may rival Brentford to sign Inter's Christian Eriksen, reports the Times.

Juventus have ruled out a move for Manchester United's Anthony Martial after being boggled by the cost of a deal to bring in the Frenchman.

Club chief executive Maurizio Arrivabene said the expense that would be involved in recruiting the forward meant it was a non-starter.

Martial was absent from United's squad for Saturday's 2-2 Premier League draw with Aston Villa, which interim manager Ralf Rangnick explained was down to the player not wanting to be included.

However, the 26-year-old denied that was the case, and he and Rangnick appear to have resolved their issues.

Ex-Monaco man Martial has scored 79 goals since his United debut in September 2015 – only Marcus Rashford (91) has scored more for the club in that period.

But he has played just 358 minutes in the first team this season, scoring only once, and a January exit may make sense for all parties. Martial is contracted to United until 2024.

Juventus have been linked with him, but Arrivabene told Sport Mediaset: "Absolutely not at those figures. We don't wait for them to come down, we don't wait at all. We don't talk about it."

Of more pressing concern may be the soon-to-expire contract of star Argentine forward Paulo Dybala, but Juventus appear relaxed about that matter, happy to wait until next month to address it.

"I said we would talk about it in February," Arrivabene said. "There is not only Dybala, but also [Juan] Cuadrado, [Mattia] Perin, [Federico] Bernardeschi who is a European champion and [Mattia] De Sciglio."

Juventus are confident such players will not be chasing pre-contract deals with other clubs in the meantime.

"We have excellent relations with the players," Arrivabene said. "They are very close to Juve. We talked and made an appointment for February. We will calmly do what we have to do."

Ousmane Dembele's agent claims Barcelona have threatened to bench the winger for the rest of the season if he does not sign a new contract.

Dembele entered the final six months of his deal on January 1, meaning he is eligible to discuss potential moves to other clubs for next season.

Barca, especially coach Xavi, have been open in their desire to see Dembele commit himself to the club, despite his time there being largely disappointing since joining from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in 2017.

But reports suggest Barca have grown frustrated with the lack of movement, with Xavi previously urging Dembele to "make an effort" in talks.

Now, the likelihood of an agreement may have diminished even further after Dembele's agent accused Barca of refusing to negotiate and instead turning to "threats".

"It's applying pressure, and that doesn't work with people like us," Dembele's representative Moussa Sissoko told French broadcaster RMC Sport.

"Maybe it can work with agents who are cosy with Barcelona, but that's not the case, I am here to defend the interests of my player.

"We are not here to fuel the debates on social networks, but the truth must be told. Yes, we have demanding demands, but we have already shown that Ousmane's career choices are not dictated by the money, otherwise he wouldn't be here.

"If Barcelona wanted to negotiate, they could have tried to come to the table with us to discuss, except that there is no discussion, just threats of no longer playing in the side, and that's forbidden. We will assert Ousmane Dembele's rights if necessary.

"We don't know what we're going to do, nothing has been finalised, but [Barca's] hierarchy alone are losing Ousmane.

"From the start, we have shown that we want to discuss, with conditions of course, but without closing the door."

Sead Kolasinac has joined Marseille on a free transfer after the defender was released by Arsenal.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international left the Gunners on Tuesday, having reached an agreement to terminate his contract.

Kolasinac had fallen out of favour at the Premier League club and returned to Schalke on loan last season.

The 28-year-old is on the move again, joining Ligue 1 side Marseille on a deal until the end of the next campaign.

Kolasinac made 118 appearances for Arsenal following his switch from Schalke in June 2017, but only played for Mikel Arteta's men five times this season.

He becomes Marseille's second signing of the January transfer window following the arrival of striker Cedric Bakambu from Beijing Guoan.

Brentford manager Thomas Frank hinted at the club's potential interest in signing Christian Eriksen as he bids to make a return to top-level football, and even the rumours have the Danish coach pinching himself.

Eriksen has not played since suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark's Euro 2020 opener against Finland in June last year, an emergency that meant he had "died for five minutes".

He was subsequently fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) – while the device could potentially save his life should something similar happen in future, it effectively ended his time at Inter due to Italian football regulations prohibiting professionals from having such implants.

However, ICD are permitted in other European leagues, and the mutual contract termination between Inter and Eriksen last month means the player is free to seek a contract elsewhere.

Former club Tottenham, with whom he spent six and a half years, had been mooted as a potential destination, but reports on Monday claimed Brentford had offered him a six-month deal with the option for another year.

Frank, who coached Eriksen in the Danish youth setup, was initially coy on the rumours, saying: "I can tell you that Christian is a really good player. Everyone knows that. I worked with him in the past.

"He needs to find a club. I love to speak about players that are in house and go running around training pitch. I don't think I should discuss that. I'm not discussing that too much.

"I really hope he comes back to top football and plays football again. He spoke to Danish TV about playing at the World Cup and I hope he does succeed for all football, and for Danish fans. He's our biggest star from the Euros, we want the best for him and his family."

He soon opened up a little more, seemingly confirming Brentford's interest in both Eriksen and Bologna's Scottish left-back Aaron Hickey before also making reference to a joke made about potentially signing Kylian Mbappe in a recent interview.

"I'm interested in a lot of players, both Hickey and Eriksen," Frank added. "Someone spoke about Mbappe, I'd take him as well!

"A lot of rumours. I love to discuss if and when we sign a new player and give my insight. We're in the market and we're looking for players."

Even if Brentford cannot ultimately land Eriksen, Frank believes the fact he was even discussing such a rumour showed just how far the club had come, though he recognised the unusual circumstances of this particular story.

He added: "We all know the journey this club has been on over the last eight to 10 years. Ten years ago someone would say we're crazy to [think we'd] be linked with Eriksen.

"We're playing in the best league in the world, the club is progressing, it's positive. There are so many rumours out there, coaches being sacked, new players. I think it's more fun to talk about other things – let's speak about reality.

"This a player that only plays for the top clubs. Something unfortunate happened with Christian, he deserves to play at the highest level and I hope he does.

"In normal circumstances, there would be no rumours with a club like us. We should be flattered with Brentford involved with a player of Christian's qualities. It's the same with all the players out there… [Lionel] Messi, Mbappe, Eriksen… if they fill in the criteria, they are right for us."

Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick will consider selecting Anthony Martial to face Brentford after holding clear-the-air talks with the forward.

Martial was absent from United's squad for Saturday's 2-2 Premier League draw with Aston Villa, which Rangnick explained was down to the player not wanting to be included.

However, the 26-year-old subsequently refuted his manager's claims by stating on social media that he "will never refuse to play a match for Man United".

Speaking on Tuesday, Rangnick did not explain the contrasting versions of events, but he left the door open for Martial to return to the squad should the forward prove his fitness.

"I had a conversation with him on Sunday about what happened and how I saw the situation," Rangnick said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's trip to Brentford.

"The matter is now resolved. He didn't train yesterday or the day before. But he will probably train today and after training I will then take the decision if he is selected or not."

Martial is reported to have rejected loan offers from other Premier League clubs, while Juventus and LaLiga pair Barcelona and Sevilla have also been credited with an interest.

The ex-Monaco man has scored 79 goals in 268 appearances since his debut in September 2015 – only Marcus Rashford (91 in 286) has scored more for United in that period.

Martial's 79 goals have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 64, meaning he has scored 15 goals more than expected from the quality of his chances.

That is the largest positive xG differential of any player at the club over the same period, followed by Mason Greenwood (11) and Rashford (10).

However, Martial's playing time has been limited this term – not helped by injury issues – with his 358 minutes on the field only the 21st most of all United players.

The player's agent, Philippe Lamboley, revealed last month that Martial is looking to join a new club in January due to a lack of playing time.

While Martial may play a part against Brentford, team-mate Paul Pogba is still not being considered for selection despite returning to training this week.

Pogba has been used just 13 times this season – and not at all under Rangnick – but could return from a three-month lay-off in the next few weeks.

"Paul had his first day of training with the whole group yesterday," Rangnick said. "He showed what kind of extraordinary player he can be.

"He will not be available for the two games this week. Hopefully after the break, with the cup game against Middlesbrough and the away game at Burnley, he can be an option."

Rangnick also confirmed he will make a late decision on whether Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature in west London as they recover from knocks.

Wednesday's meeting will be the first between United and Brentford in the league since 1947 and their first in any competition since 1975, when United won 2-1 in an EFL Cup tie.

Barcelona remain determined to strengthen their squad despite financial constraints and could be ready to move for Adama Traore.

It appears the Wolves winger may be sold this month as Bruno Lage's men have already secured a potential replacement.

Any Barca deal would be complicated by interest from Tottenham, however – assuming they are prepared to match Wolves' demands.


TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM, BARCELONA ON ALERT AS WOLVES READY TO SELL TRAORE

Adama Traore could leave Wolves in January, and Barcelona and Tottenham are both interested in the winger, according to the Daily Star.

Wolves have previously insisted they want to keep the Spain international, but Monday's signing of Portugal Under-21s international Chiquinho could open the door for Traore's exit.

Spurs are keen but their proposed loan until the end of the season is not something Bruno Lage's side are prepared to accept, as they are holding out for a £25million sale.

Barca have been linked with the 25-year-old but they must be careful of their spending due to their financial problems.


ROUND-UP

Barcelona are determined to bring in a striker this month and Alvaro Morata remains the top target, according to Marca. However, negotiations with Juventus have proved difficult.

– It appears Dusan Vlahovic may not be leaving Fiorentina yet after all. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Arsenal and Juventus target will be kept until the end of the season.

Manchester United have turned their attention to signing John McGinn from Aston Villa, but not until the close-season, the Telegraph says.

– Meanwhile, United striker Anthony Martial does not want to join another English club, leaving BarcaJuventus and Sevilla as his main options, Fabrizio Romano reports.

– Newcastle United's bid to sign a new centre-back took a blow as Monaco rejected their £33.4m (€40m) bid for Benoit Badiashile, L'Equipe claims.

– A striker is also on Newcastle's shopping list and they have launched a £25m (€30m) offer for Atalanta's Duvan Zapata, the Daily Record says.

Diego Costa confirmed he has left Atletico Mineiro after just five months with the Brazilian club, stoking rumours over a potential return to the Premier League with Arsenal.

The Brazil-born Spain international joined Galo in August on a short-term contract, having been granted his release from Atletico Madrid eight months earlier.

Costa's second spell in Madrid was far less successful on an individual level than his first, which had earned him a £32million move to Chelsea in 2014, with the striker generally impressing in the Premier League as he scored 52 goals in 89 matches.

His August switch to Atletico Mineiro provided Costa with the opportunity to regain fitness after several months away from competitive action.

He featured 19 times for the Belo Horizonte club and scored five times across all competitions, helping them to a Brasileiro and Copa do Brasil double.

Arsenal are said to be interested in signing the 33-year-old on a free transfer, with Mikel Arteta apparently keen for striker reinforcements after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was ostracised from the first team.

Costa offered no clues as to where he will end up, however, as he bade farewell to Galo.

"Today, officially, I say goodbye to Atletico," he wrote on Instagram.

"I would like to thank all [Atletico Mineiro fans] for all the support and affection I received from the first to the last day.

"Thank you so much for being part of my childhood dream of playing in Brazilian football and winning titles.

"I would also like to express my gratitude to the entire technical staff, medical department, employees and especially to my teammates who helped me daily, always doing everything to make me feel comfortable.

"The feeling that remains is gratitude to all of you Atleticanos. Thank you and I wish you all the success in the world!"

While Costa could potentially join Arsenal, the Gunners are expected to announce that centre-back Pablo Mari has left on loan for Udinese after struggling for first-team football following the arrival of Ben White.

Real Madrid's squad is already packed with a magnitude of talent – and it could become even stronger should Erling Haaland arrive from Borussia Dortmund later this year.

Haaland has scored 78 goals in his two years with Dortmund – only Robert Lewandowski (107) has more in Europe's top five leagues – and would be a major coup for Madrid.

But while the Spanish giants remain confident of bringing in the in-demand striker from Dortmund, it could have a negative knock-on effect.


TOP STORY - HAALAND IN, BENZEMA OUT?

Karim Benzema is a much-loved figure at the Santiago Bernabeu and is enjoying another impressive campaign, but El Nacional claims that Madrid risk losing the Frenchman.

The report suggests that Benzema does not like the fact that president Florentino Perez is so fixated on bringing in a new player to lead Los Blancos' attack from next season.

While the 34-year is not currently seeking an exit, that could change should Madrid reach a pre-contract agreement with Haaland in the coming weeks, as has been suggested.

Benzema would not feel the need to move on should Kylian Mbappe join, though, as he considers that case to be different given the PSG striker is set to become a free agent.


ROUND-UP

Barcelona accept that it is increasingly likely Ousmane Dembele will leave Camp Nou as a free agent at the end of the season. According to Sport, Manchester United and Juventus have held talks with the player's camp, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich have an outside shot of signing the forward.

Arsenal have made their first move to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, with Corriere Della Sera reporting that the Gunners have tabled an offer of £50million (€60m) plus Lucas Torreira, who is currently on loan with the Serie A side.

Chelsea are interested in signing Layvin Kurzawa on loan as they look to bolster their full-back ranks. However, Fabrizio Romano claims that the Blues have not yet officially opened talks with PSG.

– Calciomercato reports that Man Utd forward Anthony Martial has emerged as a January target for Juventus. The France international has struggled for games this season and has openly admitted he wants to find a new club this month.

Everton are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Rafael Benitez on Sunday and hope to make a swift appointment. According to ESPN, former boss Roberto Martinez – now in charge of the Belgium national team – is the leading candidate to take over.

Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood this window, but The Telegraph reports that they have been knocked back in their bid to bring in Donny van de Beek on loan. The Man Utd midfielder is said to have been put off by the Magpies' position in the Premier League.

The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

Anthony Martial has insisted he would never refuse to play for Manchester United, despite Ralf Rangnick's claims that he asked not to feature against Aston Villa.

The 26-year-old forward was absent as Rangnick named just eight substitutes, including two goalkeepers, for United's trip to Villa Park, which ended all square after Philippe Coutinho completed a late comeback from two goals down. 

Rangnick was already without Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo due to injury, with Anthony Elanga chosen to start on the left flank.

The United interim manager revealed last month that France international Martial is seeking a move away from the club due to a lack of minutes.

Sevilla were reported to be interested in Martial but are understood to be unable to afford his wages, with United apparently rejecting an approach to take him on loan until the end of the season.

Rangnick told reporters: "He didn't want to be in the squad.

"He would have been in the squad normally but he didn't want to and that's the reason why he was not travelling with us yesterday."

However, Martial – who joined from Monaco in 2015 – subsequently refuted his manager's claims.

On his Instagram story, Martial said: "I will never refuse to play a match for Man United.

"I've been here for seven years and I have never disrespected and will never disrespect the club and the fans."

Paulo Dybala said Juventus "don't play good football" after refusing to celebrate his goal in Saturday's 2-0 Serie A win over Udinese.

Dybala's future is in doubt as the Argentina forward's contract expires at the end of the season and the 28-year-old has been linked with a move to Serie A rivals Inter.

He did not celebrate his opener in the victory at the Allianz Stadium, instead glaring intensely towards the stands.

Asked if that was a signal to the club's directors over contract negotiations, Dybala dryly told Sky Sport Italia: "I invited a friend and couldn't see him. There are many people up there watching and I couldn’t find him."

After being asked if he was telling the truth, Dybala responded: "I don't know, that's up to you. There have been a lot of stories, and many things happened that I prefer not to talk about."

The result stretched Juve's unbeaten streak to eight games – only Inter have a longer run (12) – while they moved level on points with fourth-placed Atalanta as they chase a Champions League qualification spot.

Since the start of November, Juve have gained 26 points in Serie A – more than any other side in this period, although Inter (25) and Atalanta (22) have played two fewer games.

Dybala was less than complementary about Juve's playing style, though, and said they need to focus on working harder than their opponents during the closing months of the season.

"I think we played well. We must try to be more consistent after scoring goals, as too often we score and then start to defend more, become afraid of attacking, and we can't keep doing that," he added.

"We are Juventus, of course we are in the running for the Champions League spots and must try to win. We don't play good football; that is not our strength, so we need to focus on hunger and trying to run harder than anyone else."

Juve are next in action on Tuesday when they host Sampdoria in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia. 

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