Zlatan Ibrahimovic is poised to give Milan a huge early-season lift by roaring back into action.

The extroverted striker is just weeks away from returning to full team training after the knee injury that forced him to miss Sweden's Euro 2020 campaign.

Head coach Stefano Pioli knows a fit Ibrahimovic can transform his team, as was proven when he scored 15 goals in his first 15 Serie A games of last season.

He netted at one goal every 79.47 minutes during that run, and even though his scoring then dried up, the veteran remains a talisman with the Rossoneri.

Asked about Ibrahimovic's condition, Pioli said in a news conference on Sunday: "Physically, he is certainly looking better, even though he's not begun full training with the team and he's forcing things a little bit.

"Next week will be very important for him because he needs to start ball work and that's what he's been missing.

"So we'll see next week whether he's able to actually train with us, and during the international break he might be able to be fit and available.

"I think his role is always the same: Zlatan is a charismatic leader in terms of his character. He's a leader on the pitch as well, he really is the benchmark for everyone.

"He's a significant figure. He's very motivated."

 

Ibrahimovic stands eighth on the list of top scorers across all competitions over the past 10 seasons, among players competing in Europe's top five leagues.

That is all the more impressive given his goals across two seasons with LA Galaxy are not counted in his total of 247 strikes, and Pioli will know Milan carried a unique threat when Ibrahimovic was on hand last term.

They won 66.7 per cent of games where he started (12 of 18) and that dipped slightly to 60 per cent when Ibrahimovic was not in Pioli's XI.

Milan begin their 2021-22 season against Sampdoria on Monday, then face Cagliari next weekend, and those may be the only games Ibrahimovic has to miss, if Pioli's fitness forecast proves accurate.

"He's fit and firing mentally," Pioli said of the player who turns 40 in October.

"He's a player that can still be a matchwinner for the team, for himself. So he's very motivated and can't wait to get back into full training with his team-mates.

"The same goes for me: I can't wait to get him back on the training ground."

Lionel Messi was the topic of plenty of speculation in recent weeks before inking a two-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain.

The 34-year-old left Barcelona as a free agent after two decades with the Catalan club, unable to stay despite wanting to continue his career there.

But rumours are swirling already about Messi's next move after PSG, even though he has yet to even make his debut for the Ligue 1 side.

 

TOP STORY - BECKHAM HOLDS MESSI TALKS

Inter Miami owner David Beckham has held talks with Messi about joining the MLS club after his PSG contract expires, reports The Mirror.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder has promised to bring a superstar player to the club, with links to Cristiano Ronaldo in the past.

According to the report, Messi purchased six luxury penthouse apartments in Miami a few weeks ago, adding fuel to the fire.


ROUND-UP

- Manchester City will need to up their bid for Harry Kane to Tottenham by £50million to convince Spurs to sell, reports The Mirror. City have reportedly tabled an improved bid since their £100m offer and are said to be willing to go as high as £120m.

- Newcastle are ready to make a move to sign Everton's Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez, according to fichajes.net.

- Milan are interested in a move for Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva for £45m (€52m) according to Star on Sunday.

- The Sun claims that Southampton are looking to complete a bargain deal for Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Roma defender Alessandro Florenzi has joined Milan on a season-long loan.

Florenzi becomes Stefano Pioli's latest acquisition in a busy transfer window, with Milan confirming they have an option to sign the full-back on a permanent deal.

The 30-year-old had not featured for Roma since January 2020, spending time on loan at Valencia and then Paris Saint-Germain, where he played 21 times in Ligue 1 last term.

Despite spending the previous season at the Parc des Princes, only Daniel De Rossi (20,370) and Edin Dzeko (19,686) have played more minutes for Roma than Florenzi's 18,925 since his debut in May 2011.

In the same time period, only Radja Nainggolan (285), Lorenzo Pellegrini (296), Dzeko (312), Francesco Totti (366) and Miralem Pjanic (403) have created more chances for Roma than Florenzi, who tallied up 282.

Among defenders in Serie A, Alex Sandro (321) and Aleksandar Kolarov (295) are the only two to have created more than the full-back, who will be back plying his trade in Italy.

A part of Italy's successful Euro 2020 squad, Florenzi also has experience on the international stage, too.

He appeared twice for Roberto Mancini's side as they secured the trophy, including a brief cameo in the final against England at Wembley, to take his total to 45 caps since making his debut in 2012.

Milan get their Serie A campaign underway on Monday when they travel to Sampdoria.

Erling Haaland is one of the most in-demand players in Europe.

Clubs from across the continent are queuing up to sign the Borussia Dortmund forward.

Real Madrid, however, are firmly placed to make a move for the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STILL EYEING HAALAND

Real Madrid believe a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could be done next year, according to the front page of Friday's Marca.

Kylian Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has dominated headlines as Madrid target the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

But Madrid have not forgotten about Haaland, who is also reportedly wanted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Athletic says Bernardo Silva has turned down a move to Tottenham as part of a potential deal that would help send Harry Kane to City. Atletico Madrid and Barca have also been linked with City's Silva.

Pedri could sign a new four-year deal with Barca by September, reports Sport. The 18-year-old has been a revelation at Camp Nou.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Milan are nearing a deal to sign Tiemoue Bakayoko from Chelsea. Bakayoko spent the 2018-19 season on loan at Milan. Di Marzio, meanwhile, says Milan are interested in bringing Monaco's Pietro Pellegri to San Siro on loan.

- Staying in Milan and Tuttosport reports the Rossoneri are interested in Sassuolo and Italy star Domenico Berardi. Leicester City are also reportedly among his admirers.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga is dreaming of a move to PSG, according to Le Parisien. United have also been linked with the France midfielder.

Simon Kjaer insisted he is "not a hero" for his quick-thinking actions to save Christian Eriksen, who collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest in Denmark's Euro 2020 opener.

In concerning scenes in Copenhagen against Finland in June, Eriksen received CPR on the pitch with his team-mates forming a protective screen around him.

The Denmark midfielder has subsequently been fitted with a pacemaker and encouragingly returned to Inter's training ground in August – Eriksen's health being "the only thing that matters" to Kjaer.

Kjaer was one of the first to the scene and prevented Eriksen from swallowing his own tongue as he placed his team-mate into the recovery position.

The centre-back was hailed as a saviour but he told Corriere della Sera: "I'm not a hero, I just did what I had to do, without thinking, like anyone else would.

"Then what happened, happened. I was ready to remain lucid, like all my team-mates. It was a team effort, obviously we would have done the same if he had been an opponent.

"Instinct guided me, and I did what I had to, automatically. It was the first time this happened to me, I hope it’s the last, too.

"That’s all. The only thing that matters is that Christian is fine now. That's the only important thing. I did it without thinking."

It remains unclear if Eriksen will be able to play in Italy again due to the national restrictions on people playing with ICDs – a device connected to the heart to regulate abnormal rhythms.

However, Eriksen could feature in other European countries, as seen by the example of Daley Blind, who still features for Ajax despite an ICD fitting in 2019.

Kjaer's focus remains firmly on Serie A with Milan and, after Stefano Pioli credited the Denmark international as a leader, the Rossoneri fans want the defender to take the armband.

"We already have a captain and his name is [Alessandro] Romagnoli," the 32-year-old responded to questions over the captaincy.

"There is great harmony and sportiness between us. I don't care about the armband. I do my best always and in any case.

"There is harmony, unity [at Milan]. But above all there is a desire to work. Because without work, there is no improvement.

"A team like Milan has the duty to aim for the maximum. This is the only way to grow. I've never won a championship and I'd like to do it with Milan. [It] would be a dream."

Gareth Bale was denied from the penalty spot as Real Madrid rounded off their pre-season preparations with a goalless draw against Milan in Austria.

Handed a start by the returning ex-Rossoneri coach Carlo Ancelotti, Bale was making his first appearance for Madrid in over a year after spending last season on loan at Tottenham.

But the Wales international could not mark the occasion with a goal, Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan guessing correctly to save his 41st-minute penalty at the Worthersee Stadion.

Maignan, who arrived from Ligue 1 champions Lille last month, is expected to start the season as Milan number one following Gianluigi Donnarumma's departure for Paris Saint-Germain.

The France international would have certainly impressed Stefano Pioli with his smart saves to deny Bale and David Alaba from distance.

He then went the right way to keep out Bale from 12 yards when the forward was brought down by Davide Calabria after a surging run into the box.

The breakthrough continued to elude both sides after the break, Luka Modric going close as he rattled the crossbar from 25 yards, while Brahim Diaz stung Andriy Lunin's palms at the other end.

Madrid launch their LaLiga season away at Deportivo Alaves on August 14, the same day that Milan complete their preparations for the forthcoming Serie A campaign against Panathinaikos.

Olivier Giroud is excited to start a new chapter in his career in Serie A and says "God wanted me to play for Milan".

The 34-year-old joined the Rossoneri in a reported €2million (£1.7m) deal on July 17, bringing an end to his nine-year stay in the Premier League with Arsenal and more recently Chelsea.

Giroud is looking forward to adding to his trophy collection during his time in Italy having won Ligue 1 with Montpellier before lifting the FA Cup four times tasting glory in the Champions League and Europa League during his time in England.

"I won many trophies at every club I've been at and would like to do the same here," he said at his official unveiling on Monday. 

"I do have an objective in my mind during my time here, but I don't want to reveal it, otherwise there will be too much pressure. Let's just say my final objective is to win with Milan."

Giroud is thought to have signed a two-year deal with Milan and is following in the steps of legendary figures such as Gunnar Nordahl, Filippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko.

And the France international leaned on one of those iconic figures before putting pen to paper with the Italian giants.

"The time had come to leave Chelsea and discover a new league. God wanted me to play for Milan," he said. 

"This is one of the biggest clubs in the world and I really believe in the project here. We've got what it takes to have a very good Champions League campaign.

"When I was young, I watched Milan games with Shevchenko and he later became a dear friend who I asked for advice.

"It's an honour for me to be at a club where so many great stars have played and it was emotional talking to [director] Paolo Maldini, too.

"I want to give my contribution, be a big brother to the players and bring my experience. I hope also to be remembered as a good person and not just a great player."

 

Giroud found starts hard to come by at Chelsea following Thomas Tuchel's arrival in late January, though he did make his mark felt in his final campaign at Stamford Bridge.

The World Cup winner netted five times in Chelsea's Champions League-winning campaign, four of those goals coming in the Blues' 4-0 victory at Sevilla in the group stage.

That made him the oldest player (34 years, 63 days) to score a hat-trick in the Champions League/European Cup since Ferenc Puskas (38y, 173d) for Real Madrid in 1965.

He arrives at Milan as a European champion and has inherited the number nine shirt, which is one of the most iconic jerseys in football but has more recently become a poisoned chalice of sorts.

Mario Mandzukic, Krzysztof Piatek and Gonzalo Higuain have all failed to live up to its reputation in recent years, yet Giroud is unfazed by the weight of expectation.

"I am not superstitious. A shirt number cannot change the way I play," he said.

"Strikers like Inzaghi, Marco van Basten and Jean-Pierre Papin wore this shirt for Milan, but I don't feel the pressure."

Giroud will link up with another Milan great this coming season in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has 25 goals in 37 Serie A appearances since returning to San Siro in January 2020.

Grenoble product Giroud will turn 35 next month but is inspired by 39-year-old Ibrahimovic to continue playing at the top for as long as possible.

"My age means nothing," he said. "Zlatan is a few years older than me, but it's all about your mentality. With the right motivation, you can still push hard."

Giroud scored with his first touch as a Milan player in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Nice. Stefano Pioli's men face Valencia in their next pre-season outing on Wednesday.

In-demand midfielder Franck Kessie says he wants to stay at Milan "forever" and plans to sign a new deal when he returns from the Olympics.

Kessie is in the final year of his deal with the Rossoneri and has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.

The 24-year-old, currently representing Ivory Coast at the Games in Tokyo, has assured Milan he has no intention of moving on.

"I'm proud to have chosen Milan and it is not my intention to leave. Indeed, I want to stay forever," he told Gazzetta dello Sport: 

"When I come back from the Olympics, I'll fix everything. I just want Milan. Sporting director Paolo Maldini knows my thoughts.

"I want to be the 'president' of Milan for life."

 

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli said he has no concerns about Kessie departing earlier this month.

Asked about the prospect of Kessie signing a new deal, he said: "These are club things. We all know how important Franck is and how happy he is to be at Milan.

"Franck has grown a lot, we talk about him but the others have also grown. He can still do a lot, both I and the club know how important Franck is, I have already heard it. First he rested, then married, now he will go with the national team."

Kessie scored 13 goals – 11 of those coming from the penalty spot – and provided four assists as Milan finished second behind city rivals Inter in Serie A last season.

Harry Kane looks like he might soon get his wish to leave Tottenham.

Spurs had previously dug in their heels and were determined that Kane, who is contracted until 2024, would stay.

The England captain won last season's Premier League Golden Boot with 23 goals, and now he could be heading to the champions.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SET FOR BUMPER KANE DEAL

Tottenham forward Harry Kane is poised for a £160million move to Manchester City, reports The Sun.

According to the report, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will allow Kane to exit the club for such a sum.

Kane is said by the newspaper to have agreed personal terms on a £400,000-a-week deal with City, which is reportedly double his current Tottenham contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paul Pogba has rejected a £50million contract offer at Manchester United and is set to leave this summer, according to The Mirror as rumours swirl about Paris Saint-Germain's interest.

- Marca reports that Kylian Mbappe will reject Paris Saint-Germain's latest contract offer and look to seal a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

- Fabrizio Romano has reported that talks are ongoing between Atalanta and Tottenham for Cristian Romero with personal terms agreed and a €55m price tag on the table.

- Atalanta want Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez included in any deal, reports Sportitalia.

- Milan are interested in signing Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech on loan, claims Calcio Mercato.

- Donyell Malen 's transfer from PSV Eindhoven to Borussia Dortmund is all but done according to Dutch outlet ED, with an anticipated €30m fee.

Stefano Pioli feels team spirit will be "crucial" ahead of the 2021-22 campaign and he pointed towards Simon Kjaer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the men who lead by example at Milan.

Having been appointed in 2019, with the Rossoneri slumped in 13th in Serie A, Pioli guided his side up to 6th at the end of the campaign before a second-place finish last season – their joint-highest since winning the Scudetto in 2010-11.

Simon Kjaer, who ranked second among Milan defenders for aerial duels won (55) and first for interceptions (42) in 2020-21, was a standout performer as the Rossoneri undertook something of a transformation under Pioli.

And after Kjaer's heroics at Euro 2020, involving the potentially life-saving actions he performed to deal with Christian Eriksen's concerning collapse against Finland, Pioli appeared unsurprised by the Dane's clarity of mind.

"I already knew the value of Kjaer. He is a man of rare intelligence and sensitivity," the head coach told Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

"He used those qualities to save a friend. He was lucid and precise even in such a dramatic situation."

But Pioli was not just full of praise for Kjaer, as he shifted his focus to define the important role that Ibrahimovic plays for the Rossoneri.

The 39-year-old netted 15 times during the last Serie A campaign, though it is the forward's presence off the pitch that the former Inter head coach sees as a great aid.

"Ibrahimovic has helped me a lot, he is an example in everything he does. He demands the best from himself and the others. Zlatan and Simon [Kjaer] have changed the team, not just technically, but especially in the moral sense," Pioli added.

Milan, who play Serie C side Modena on Saturday, are well underway with their pre-season plans as they prepare to compete in the Champions League for the first time since 2013-14.

The signings of Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonali – the latter pair making their loan deals permanent – will only further develop an already strong squad, and Pioli is looking forward to the season ahead.

"We must not set limits for ourselves, but it will be a difficult season because there will be seven teams fighting for the top four," the head coach said.

"The group is crucial, Italy won the Euros because you could see the team spirit in their eyes. You don't win with tactics, you win by putting the group ahead of yourself."

Paul Pogba has one year remaining on his Manchester United contract.

After a strong Euro 2020 with France, he is attracting interest.

Pogba has been linked with a move away from United numerous times in the past and a decision could be looming.

 

ROUND-UP – POGBA'S AGENT IN PSG TALKS

Paul Pogba 's agent Mino Raiola is discussing a potential move to  Paris Saint-Germain , claims the Daily Mail.

Manchester United are feeling the pressure to sell the France international who is set to be a free agent in 12 months' time.

PSG are reportedly eyeing off a £43million move, which is less than half the amount United paid for him in 2016, given his contract status.

 

TOP STORY

–  Chelsea are ready to submit a monster bid worth £135m for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland , claims 90min. Dortmund have insisted they will not sell the Norway forward, but the bumper deal may tempt them.

– Bild claims  Manchester United along with Real Madrid and Barcelona are monitoring Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka 's situation.

–  Milan are looking to prepare another loan deal for Diogo Dalot from Manchester United, reports Fabrizio Romano.

– Sky Sports claims a deal is imminent for Arsenal's Granit Xhaka to move to Roma .

Milan announced the re-signing of Real Madrid's Brahim Diaz on Monday on a two-year loan deal and the 21-year-old feels the Rossoneri can compete to achieve "great" things under Stefano Pioli.

Diaz spent the 2020-21 campaign on a season-long loan at the San Siro, managing four goals and three assists in 27 Serie A outings, 17 of which Pioli's men ran out victors in.

Formerly of Manchester City, Milan's loanee is aware of the pressures that come with a club like the Rossoneri but he insists he will not shy away from the battle next campaign.

"I'll give my all to show my talent and I'll give my blood, sweat and tears for this great club", Diaz told the in-house media on Tuesday.

"I'll fight to make it a great season. I've learnt how important Milan are and this season I hope to have an even better season. Last season was great, but this is a new season.

"Milan deserves a team worthy of the club. I am confident we are all ready to do our best and achieve great things."

Last campaign, out of the forwards at the San Siro, Diaz (1.31) ranked second behind Ante Rebic (1.77) for chances created from open play per 90 minutes.

The Spaniard (0.81) was also the most fouled player in the final third for Milan to frequently offer the likes of Theo Hernandez and Hakan Calhanoglu set-piece opportunities.

 

Diaz also spoke highly of Pioli, who guided Milan to second last season, their highest Serie A finish since their Scudetto-winning performance in the 2010-11 season.

"Our success was thanks to coach Pioli. He created a good team from the experienced players and young players who are growing," Diaz added.

"We have all learnt a lot from the coach, he taught me a lot and, under his guidance, last season we had a good season.

"Now we must improve and in the coach's hands, we certainly will."

Milan have re-signed forward Brahim Diaz on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid.

The Rossoneri announced on Monday the 21-year-old Spaniard will be tied to the Serie A club until June 30, 2023 and will wear the number 10 shirt.

Diaz spent last season on loan at San Siro where he scored four goals and provided three assists in 27 games in Serie A, 17 of which ended in victories for Stefano Pioli's side.

The former Manchester City man, who signed for Madrid from the Premier League club in January 2019, had 26 shots for Milan last season with a conversion rate of 15.38.

Diaz, a technically gifted and skilful attacker, joined City in 2015 after showing promise in Malaga's youth ranks.

Although he was regarded as one of City's best prospects alongside Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, Diaz followed the former in leaving the club in search of more opportunities.

He won his first cap for Spain in June when he started and scored in a 4-0 friendly win over Lithuania, a match where Luis Enrique was forced to call up his country's under-21 squad en masse. Sergio Busquet's positive COVID-19 test in the build-up to Euro 2020 left La Roja's senior team in isolation.

"Happy to be back. Thank you for all the love I have received," Diaz posted on his Twitter account.

 

 

Milan have announced the signing of defender Fode Ballo-Toure from Monaco on a four-year deal.

The Senegal international, who emerged through Paris Saint-Germain's academy and has also previously represented Lille, is reported to have cost Milan an initial €4.2million.

Former France youth player Ballo-Toure joined Monaco from fellow Ligue 1 side Lille in January 2019 and made 74 appearances for Les Monegasques in all competitions. That includes 24 outings in Ligue 1 last season, albeit just six of those being starts. 

He ranked particularly highly for crosses, with his average of 5.4 balls played into the box per 90 minutes bettered only by Sebastien Corchia (5.9), Leo Dubois (6.6) Clement Michelin (6.6) and Jonathan Clauss (7.7) among defenders to have played more than twice in Ligue 1 last season.

 

Ballo-Toure has been handed the number five jersey at San Siro and is expected to rival Theo Hernandez for a starting spot under Stefano Pioli this coming season.

Milan confirmed Ballo-Toure's arrival on their official website on Sunday, the 24-year-old becoming their fifth signing of the close season.

The Rossoneri have also brought in Mike Maignan and Olivier Giroud, while Fikayo Tomori and Sandro Tonali had their respective loan deals made permanent.

Pioli's side, whose second-place finish last season was their highest since 2011-12, kicked off their pre-season programme with a 6-0 win over Pro Sesto on Saturday.

Manchester City's pursuit of a new striker is well known.

Sergio Aguero's exit has left a void for the Premier League champions.

City have been linked with a host of big names including Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

 

TOP STORY - MAN CITY MONITORING LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester City are monitoring the status of Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewandowski has two years remaining on his Bayern Munich deal but has previously indicated he may be open to a move elsewhere.

The report claims City are worried they may not succeed in their pursuit of Kane and see 32-year-old Lewandowski as an option given his quality and potentially lower asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool is readying a £60million (€70m) bid for Inter and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella according to La Repubblica. However, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will not sell him.

- Everton have submitted a £30m (€35m) bid for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but the Italian club have told the Toffees to double the offer, claims Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier is desperate to return to the Premier League as he waits on a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United.

- The Telegraph also claims that Joe Willock will spend time on loan again at Newcastle from Arsenal. He will join the Magpies on a season-long deal.

- SPORT claims that Chelsea are tracking Sevilla's Jules Kounde after he recently rejected interest from Tottenham.

- Chelsea are looking to utilise Tammy Abraham as a sweetener in any deal to land Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports The Mirror.

- West Bromwich have turned down West Ham's offer for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims The Athletic.

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