Nicolo Zaniolo would have been willing to accept a lower wage to secure a move to Milan or Tottenham in the January transfer window.

That is according to the player's mother, who revealed Zaniolo wanted to move to either San Siro or north London after Roma head coach Jose Mourinho made it clear he was happy for the midfielder to leave.

Neither Milan nor Spurs were willing to match Roma's asking price for Zaniolo, however, with only Bournemouth initially willing to do so.

Francesca Costa said her son had even agreed to join the Premier League strugglers before the closure of January's window, but by that time they had already signed Hamed Traore on loan from Sassuolo.

The 23-year-old finally sealed a move to Turkish Super Lig leaders Galatasaray for a reported fee of €16.5million last week.

"I want to clarify one thing, Nicolo would have reduced his salary or would have asked for the same money as at Roma for a move to Milan or Tottenham, but those clubs didn't find an agreement with Roma," Costa told Corriere dello Sport.

"At that point there was Bournemouth... Later, he accepted Bournemouth's offer, but when we called them back they had already taken another player."

Zaniolo joined Roma from Serie A rivals Inter in 2018 and went on to score 24 goals in 128 appearances for the club, though he spent significant periods on the sidelines after suffering two long-term knee injuries during his time in the Italian capital.

Real Madrid are eager to bolster their forward options, with a quality striker wanted to deputise for Karim Benzema.

Benzema, who is now 35-years-old, has battled injuries this season and played in 12 of their 20 LaLiga games.

Los Blancos have been regularly linked with Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, while there have been reports of a big-money bid for Eintracht Frankfurt's Randal Kolo Muani in recent days.

Instead of signing another French forward though, there is a report that Madrid are eyeing up a Brazilian.


TOP STORY – ANCELOTTI WANTS FIRMINO

Real Madrid want to sign Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino on a free transfer at the end of this season, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

Liverpool are bullish on re-signing Firmino but no extension has yet been agreed, with his contract due to expire in June.

According to the report, Atletico Madrid and Inter are also interested in the 31-year-old, who has been battling a calf injury in recent months.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona president Joan Laporta is determined to sign Julian Alvarez from Manchester City, reports Fichajes. The report claims "Laporta will do everything in his power" to land the Argentinean World Cup winner.

- Manchester City are monitoring Southampton full-back Tino Livramento, claims the Evening Standard. The English 20-year-old is viewed as a long-term successor to Joao Cancelo, who is currently on loan at Bayern Munich.

- Tuttomercatoweb reports that Bayer Leverkusen will compete with Juventus to sign Alex Grimaldo from Benfica. The Bianconeri want the left-back as a replacement for the departing Alex Sandro.

- Chelsea have joined the contenders to sign Brentford goalkeeper David Raya, writes Football.London. Raya's contract expires in 2024, with interest also from Tottenham and Manchester United too.

- West Ham United are circling for Brazil international striker Pedro, who plays for Flamengo, according to Fichajes.

- Former Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch is being considered for the vacant Southampton job following Nathan Jones' dismissal, claims The Athletic. Football Insider reports Southampton and Leeds both want Marcelo Gallardo, while the Mail adds that Saints are also interested in Torino boss Ivan Juric.

Jamaica opened their campaign in the CONCACAF U17 tournament with an emphatic 4-2 victory over Cuba at the  Doroteo Guamuch Flores Stadium in Guatemala City on Sunday.

Playing 4-4-2, Jamaica opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Jahmani Bell buried a volley from inside the box.

The score remained 1-0 until half time.

Orane Watson doubled Jamaica’s lead in the 56th minute before Ashton Gordon put the side up 3-0 in the 70th minute.

Watson put the match beyond the Cubans in the 75th minute to give the Jamaicans a 4-0 lead.

Cuba were never without a fight, however, and got a consolation in the 78th through Didier Reinoso who scored a second in the 89th.

The win means Jamaica temporarily go top of Group G that also has Costa Rica and Guadeloupe.

Costa Rica will take on Guadeloupe later Sunday.

 

Zinedine Zidane sorely wanted to become head coach of France and has no interest in bossing Brazil, according to his friend and former team-mate Robert Pires.

It appeared Zidane might get his privately held wish when Didier Deschamps hesitated over his future after France lost the World Cup final to Argentina in December.

But Deschamps subsequently signed up for another term as boss of Les Bleus, agreeing to stay in the job he has held since 2012 through to the 2026 World Cup.

There have been suggestions Zidane, who has not coached since his second spell as Real Madrid boss ended after the 2020-21 season, might be in the frame to lead Brazil, who are looking for a new coach after Tite stepped down.

Pires, having spoken to Zidane, said: "What he wanted was the France team. Well, we know it will not be possible since Didier is going again for four years.

"Now he has to change direction a little bit, by going to a club. Of course, there aren't many clubs that can afford Zizou."

Turning to Zidane's thoughts about Brazil, Pires told Canal Plus: "I say what I feel: Brazil, no. Because there is the language, and he wants to understand what is happening when things are not going well.

"For that, you have to speak Portuguese well. Brazil was not topical for him."

Pires was a long-time France team-mate of Zidane, winning the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 titles together.

Zidane's successor at Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti, has been strongly linked with Brazil in recent days, with speculation he could move to the Selecao at the end of the season.

That would create a possibly enticing opening at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Zidane would also be a likely candidate at Juventus, another former club from his playing days, should Massimiliano Allegri's tenure come to an end in Turin.

He could even be a candidate if an opportunity arises at Paris Saint-Germain, although having been born in Marseille he has previously indicated the PSG job may not be for him, given the fierce rivalry between the Parisians and OM.

Xavi is adamant there is still more to come from Barcelona after his side battled to a 1-0 win at Villarreal to open up an 11-point lead at the LaLiga summit.

Barcelona continued their perfect record this calendar year with an 11th victory in a row thanks to Pedri's first-half strike at El Madrigal.

The Catalan giants struggled to kill off the contest, with Robert Lewandowski having three attempts saved by Pepe Reina, and that almost came back to haunt them late on.

Samuel Chukwueze found a way past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the goal was quickly ruled out for offside as Barca kept a fifth clean sheet in six league games.

Despite now having a double-figures points advantage on Madrid, who play their game in hand at Elche on Wednesday, Xavi is not ruling Los Blancos out of the title race.

"There are many points left to play for," he told Movistar+. "The run of form we are on is extraordinary, but we can still improve certain things.

"Villarreal wanted to have possession today, and they squeezed us. We missed a lot of final passes and, by doing so, we have ended up suffering."

 

Barcelona have recorded seven wins by a 1-0 scoreline in 21 LaLiga games this season, equalling their highest total in a full season in the history of the competition.

They have conceded just seven LaLiga goals all campaign, which is six fewer than any other team across Europe's top five leagues.

"The defensive side of things isn't our main weapon, but it is bringing us results," Xavi said. "The defence starts from Robert [Lewandowski], which is very noticeable.

"We leave here having given no big chances to Villarreal and we leave very happy."

Pedri's goal in the 18th minute was his sixth of the season in the league, with four of those coming in 1-0 victories for Barca.

Indeed, no player has won more points for his team in LaLiga with goals this season than Pedri (10 points, level with Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias).

The Spain international was played through on goal following a quick one-two with Lewandowski, but only after Barcelona turned possession over in midfield.

"The game was like that. We either stole the ball off them or they stole it off us," Xavi added. "It's about taking advantage. I think today's victory came from that aspect."

Barca host Cadiz in their next league match, but first is a Europa League knockout play-off round first leg against Manchester United on Thursday.

Massimiliano Allegri has defended his Juventus players amid their turbulent Serie A season, arguing they deserve greater respect for their performances.

The Bianconeri edged Fiorentina in a 1-0 win on Sunday, with Adrien Rabiot's first-half finish enough to seal the victory in Turin.

The result comes amid a campaign that has seen Juve's top-four hopes torpedoed by a 15-point sanction handed down for financial mismanagement off the field.

Allegri, who was seen rowing with a fan during the closing stages, feels his players have shouldered unfair blame for a decision outside of their control, and backed them afterwards.

"I am disappointed, because while most of the crowd is helping the team, there are a few who decide a player is poor and jeer [us]," he told DAZN.

"Players like Moise Kean, Mattia De Sciglio, Leandro Paredes. They are Juventus players, and we need all of them.

"I don't like people coming to the stadium ready to jeer. That is disrespectful. By all means jeer when we do badly, but not ahead of time."

The sanction handed down against Juve has left them with a limited shot at both silverware and a place in European competition next year.

Allegri however is not giving up on either front, adding: "The Europa League and the Coppa Italia are objectives, along with climbing back up the table.

"We have to take it one game at a time. It is a new experience, it is interesting to go through, and we're sticking together."

Two goals were chalked off throughout the encounter for marginal offside calls by VAR, against Dusan Vlahovic and Gaetano Castrovilli.

In both instances, the pair saw their efforts denied by a matter of millimetres, to which Allegri called for further alterations to the system.

"I think that is the right way to go," he added to Sky Sport Italia. "We can't have goals disallowed for hair being offside. We'd all have to get the same haircut as me!"

Luciano Spalletti praised Napoli's supporters for helping his side lift their levels after they cruised to a 3-0 win over Cremonese in Serie A.

Goals from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Victor Osimhen and Eljif Elmas saw the league leaders extend their advantage to 16 points at the summit.

After losing to their rock-bottom visitors in the Coppa Italia last month, the hosts were able to take their revenge at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

But it came after something of a loose start, with Spalletti praising encouragement from supporters as key to helping his team focus in the second half.

"Our city, our fans, they care about what we are doing here," he told DAZN. "[They understand] the possibility that we can do important things.

"Everyone could see, perhaps too much, that we weren't as calm as we usually are in the first half. We got a little nervous, and it was more difficult.

"Cremonese played wide and we lost energy having to defend the balls they put into our penalty area. But it was much better in the second half.

"I applauded [the crowd] because that's what they do for our team. Our players are ready to destroy themselves on the pitch for a result."

A 17th goal of the league season for Nigeria international Osimhen saw the attacker further build his lead in the goalscorer charts this term.

Spalletti spoke positively about his player afterwards, and was keen to highlight how the striker is less vocal in his protests on the pitch.

"There are some things that shouldn't interest us on the pitch, which concerns different stuff than what should draw our attention," he added.

"Tonight there was an incident where we could have had a different reaction. Instead, it all remained orderly. The match must be managed as we did."

Pedri's first-half strike earned Barcelona a 1-0 win at Villarreal and moved the LaLiga leaders 11 points clear at the summit.

With closest challengers Real Madrid away on Club World Cup duty – which they won with victory over Al Hilal in Saturday's final – Barca took full advantage at El Madrigal.

Pedri struck with 18 minutes played after linking up with Robert Lewandowski, who had a couple of attempts saved by Villarreal goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Villarreal had the ball in the net late on but Samuel Chukwueze's strike was ruled out as Barca opened up a double-figures lead on Madrid, who have a game in hand to play.

Reina denied Lewandowski from a one-on-one inside the first three minutes, but the Poland striker played a big part in Barca's breakthrough goal.

Pedri played a quick one-two with Lewandowski, controlled the return pass when it arrived to him in front of goal and calmly tucked the ball away from Reina.

Lewandowski was again thwarted by Reina when going for goal himself, but Villarreal gave Barca a scare as Jose Luis Morales raced through and fired into the side-netting.

Both sides continued to create the occasional opening, with Raphinha sending an effort across the face of goal and Alex Baena flashing wide from further out at the other end.

Villarreal edged the second period and thought they had levelled through Chukwueze, but Yeremy was flagged for offside as Barca kept a fifth clean sheet in six league games.

Victor Osimhen extended his lead atop the goal charts as he helped Serie A leaders Napoli to a 3-0 win against rock-bottom Cremonese.

The Nigeria international prodded home a close-range finish in the second half to add to Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's earlier effort at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Eljif Elmas added a late third, making sure.

For home coach Luciano Spalletti, the three points came with a side order of revenge after his side were knocked out of the Coppa Italia last month by their visitors, and they go 16 points clear for now.

But for Cremonese boss Davide Ballardini, the fight to seal top-flight survival is growing dimmer by each matchday, despite a spirited performance from his team.

Taking to the field in the Valentine's Day strip they debuted against the same opponents in their earlier cup clash, Napoli dominated matters across the first quarter.

It was little surprise when they opened the scoring in the 21st minute, with Kvaratskhelia seizing on a poor clearance to dance his way back into the box for a low finish.

Both teams fluffed further good chances, including a missed header for Osimhen, while the hosts also had a penalty appeal waved away just before the break.

Hirving Lozano went close to adding a second Napoli goal seven minutes into the second half, when he forced Marco Carnesecchi into an acrobatic save.

There was no denying Osimhen in the 65th minute, as he flicked Kim Min-jae's header over the line following a corner kick that was parried by the goalkeeper.

That gave Osimhen a 17th league goal of the season in just his 18th appearance, with his haul putting him five clear of Ademola Lookman and Lautaro Martinez in joint-second.

With a two-goal cushion, Napoli could have cruised to the finish line, but Elmas fired in with just over 10 minutes to go to ensure it would be an even more comfortable conclusion.

France's record goalscorer Olivier Giroud has decided against retiring from international football and hopes that is music to the ears of Didier Deschamps.

The 36-year-old Milan striker was toying with halting his career with Les Bleus following their defeat on penalties to Argentina in the December 18 World Cup final.

However, Giroud feels he has still plenty to give his country in an active role, and the man who has netted 53 goals in 120 games will aim to be a part of the group heading into the upcoming European Championship campaign.

It may help Giroud's cause that Real Madrid's Karim Benzema has retired from France duty, having missed the Qatar 2022 finals due to injury.

Speaking to French broadcaster France 2, Giroud said: "No, no, it's not over. Emotions, I hope there will still be some to come.

"I'm not ready to hang up [my boots], to take off this blue jersey which is close to my heart.

"I have the motivation to continue and the physique too, I feel good. For the moment I am still selectable and a player of the France team "

Head coach Deschamps, who was retained after deciding he too was not ready to step away from Les Bleus, saw Giroud score four goals during France's World Cup run.

They came up just short of a successful title defence, with Giroud grabbing a vital quarter-final winner against England among his contribution.

Giroud overtook Thierry Henry to become France's top scorer during the World Cup campaign, surpassing the former Arsenal and Barcelona striker's haul of 51 national team goals.

Captain Hugo Lloris, along with fellow goalkeeper Steve Mandanda and defender Raphael Varane, retired from France duty after the World Cup.

France begin their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with Group B games against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland in March.

Ghana have appointed Chris Hughton as their new head coach following Otto Addo's exit.

Addo led the Black Stars to the 2022 World Cup, where they just fell short of progression from Group H due to defeats to Portugal and Uruguay either side of a thrilling win over South Korea.

Following their elimination, Addo confirmed his time in charge was to end immediately.

His replacement should be a familiar face to many in the Ghana setup, however.

London-born Hughton, whose father was Ghanaian, became the Black Stars' technical advisor in February last year, with his chief responsibility being to provide Addo and his coaching staff with additional expertise ahead of – and during – the World Cup.

Hughton was also said to have been behind Ghana's attempts to persuade the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Eddie Nketiah and Tariq Lamptey to represent the Black Stars – only the latter has been enticed.

The 64-year-old – who has managed Newcastle United, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League – now assumes control of the team, though the Ghanaian Football Association has not confirmed the length of his contract.

Hughton's attention will now turn to Africa Cup of Nations qualification next month, with a double-header coming up against Angola.

After two games, Ghana top of Group E with four points, ahead of Angola on goal difference.

Adrien Rabiot's header was enough to earn Juventus a 1-0 win over Fiorentina that lifted them into the top half of the Serie A table despite some late controversy.

Rabiot scored the winner in the first half of a typically feisty affair between two long-standing rivals at the Allianz Stadium on Sunday, moving the beleaguered Bianconeri up to ninth.

Juve's former Fiorentina pair Dusan Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa started alongside Angel Di Maria for the first time, and the World Cup winner outshone them by teeing up Rabiot's goal in a bright display.

Vlahovic saw an effort chalked off for offside following a VAR review, but Juve will feel that decision was evened out when Gaetano Castrovilli saw a stunning late volley disallowed following a similar intervention.

Chances were at a premium during a heated start, before Filip Kostic squandered a couple of decent openings.

Juve made their superiority count after 34 minutes, however.

A teasing ball from Di Maria was met with a firm header by Rabiot, which Pietro Terracciano could not claw away as goal-line technology confirmed it crept in. 

Vlahovic thought he had scored against Fiorentina for the first time since his acrimonious departure last year when he lobbed Terracciano from Kostic's pass, only to be called offside by the tightest of margins.

Vlahovic's replacement Moise Kean was then thwarted by Terracciano soon after entering the fray, before Luka Jovic almost levelled with a glancing header.

Fiorentina were then denied in contentious circumstances one minute from time, a VAR review deeming Luca Ranieri to have been offside before Castrovilli found the bottom-left corner with a thumping volley from range.

Long-serving Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke set a new record for the most league appearances of any player for the club in Sunday's meeting with Celta Vigo.

The 31-year-old featured in Atletico colours for 402nd time in LaLiga to overtake fellow Atleti icon Adelardo Rodriguez outright.

Koke is also the club's record appearance maker in all competitions, a record he set in October when appearing for the 554th time.

Spain international Koke emerged through Los Rojiblancos' youth ranks and made his first outing for the senior side in a 5-2 loss at Barcelona in September 2009.

Across his 13 years with Atletico, Koke has won eight major trophies, including LaLiga in 2014 and 2021, while also reaching two Champions League finals.

Valencia head coach Salvador Gonzalez 'Voro' has pleaded with the struggling club's fans to express their "Valencianism" to help the team.

Thousands of supporters staged a protest prior to Saturday's home game with Athletic Bilbao aimed at owner Peter Lim, with Valencia in the LaLiga relegation zone.

A 2-1 defeat to Athletic meant Los Che have now picked up just one point from their past seven league games and lost four in a row.

Despite the defeat, Voro was pleased with the performance of his side, who took the lead through Samu Castillejo, only for goals from Nico Williams and Oihan Sancet to turn things around at the Mestalla.

Voro said: "The team has been closer to being able to win and has been focused except on some detail that Athletic has taken advantage of.

"The attitude has been very good and it's unfair, but football is like that. It's a sad day, but improvements have been seen and you have to compete equally to be able to win games."

When asked about the fan protests, Voro added: "The situation is very complicated from a sporting perspective. 

"We understand that the public may be upset, I respect that everyone expresses their Valencianism in the way they consider, but we need the people.

"We are in a very difficult situation, and I think that today there are green shoots. It has not given us a win, but we have lost due to specific actions, football has these things."

Valencia striker Hugo Duro understands the fans' frustration.

"It is normal for the fans to be this demanding when they are in this situation, I would be too," he said after the Athletic game. "We've had 37,000 people come out here tonight and we cannot ask for more.

"They support however they can and the rest is down to us."

Highly rated Bayer Leverkusen defender Piero Hincapie has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the Bundesliga club until 2027.

The Ecuador international has impressed since his move from Argentinian side Talleres ahead of the 2021-22 season and was linked with a move to Premier League outfit Tottenham in the January transfer window.

He has 24 senior international caps for Ecuador under his belt, playing every minute of his country's three group stage fixtures at the Qatar World Cup.

Leverkusen are keen to hold onto the player and have extended his existing deal by a year to ward off any potential suitors.

Hincapie said: "They didn't promise me too much here, but as a young player at the highest level they gave me the playing time I wanted.

"I was able to establish myself here and also consolidate my position in the national team.

"It's a huge motivation for me to confirm my achievements in the coming years and to aim for titles with Bayer Leverkusen."

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