Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has accused Serie A rivals Inter of attempting to "dismantle" his side by targeting their best players.

Inter are embarking on a new era after appointing Antonio Conte - a three-time title winner during his time at Juventus - as their head coach last week.

The fallen Italian giants clinched a fourth-place finish under Luciano Spalletti on the final day of the 2018-19 campaign and are expected to strengthen during the close-season to rival Napoli and Juve for the title.

But De Laurentiis has informed Inter and any other clubs circling that none of Napoli's star players are up for sale.

"My staff tells me that Inter wants to dismantle my team and have asked for my strongest players, but I have no intention of selling them - not Piotr Zielinski and not Lorenzo Insigne," he told Corriere dello Sport.

"Insigne could play in any of the big European teams, but right now he is with Napoli and he is happy. 

"We are not a supermarket - our players are not for sale unless we buy someone whom we think will make the team stronger. So many teams ask for our players, but they are not for sale.”

Napoli could come up against a familiar face next season as Maurizio Sarri has been linked with the vacant Juventus job, a year on from leaving the Stadio San Paolo.

"I don’t pay attention to the Sarri to Juventus rumours," De Laurentiis said. "I am completely detached from this affair. I think that once you turn 18 you are responsible for your own actions, that’s all."

Juventus are closing in on Massimiliano Allegri's successor.

According to the Guardian, Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is poised to sign a contract with the Serie A champions.

Former Napoli head coach Sarri has been linked with a return to Italy after just one season in charge at Stamford Bridge.

 

TOP STORY – TURIN BECKONS FOR SARRI

Look away Napoli fans… Sarri is set to sign a three-year contract to become Juventus coach.

Sarri spent three years in charge of Italian rivals Napoli before replacing Antonio Conte at Chelsea in 2018-19.

However, the lure of Juve and a return to Italy has seemingly proved too strong for Sarri after Europa League success with Chelsea.

The 60-year-old has reportedly been granted a release and is free to leave the Premier League.

 

ROUND-UP

- With the future of Ajax captain and in-demand centre-back Matthijs de Ligt up in the air amid links to Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United have reportedly turned to Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly. One of their initial defensive targets as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to bolster United's defence, Corriere dello Sport claim the Red Devils have offered €95million for the Senegal international.

- The end is near for Mauro Icardi at Inter. Despite wanting to remain in Milan, where he was stripped of the captaincy by former boss Luciano Spalletti in 2018-19, Icardi is not in Antonio Conte's plans, according to Sky Sport Italia. Inter are believed to be trying to force the Argentina striker to leave as they near a €13m deal for Roma's Edin Dzeko, a fee reported by Calciomercato.com. Radja Nainggolan could also be on the chopping block, with SportItalia claiming the Belgian midfielder could return to Roma after just one season.

- Eden Hazard in at Real Madrid and Paul Pogba to follow? According to the Mirror, Zinedine Zidane is ready to offer Gareth Bale to Manchester United to persuade the Premier League side to sell Pogba to the Spanish giants.

- Tottenham are preparing for a busy transfer window as they try to keep hold of manager Mauricio Pochettino following a remarkable run to the Champions League final. And if they are unable to sign Celta Vigo star Giovani Lo Celso, the Mirror reports Spurs could turn to Sporting CP sensation Bruno Fernandes.

Napoli have confirmed the signing of right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo from Empoli.

The 25-year-old scored five goals - including the winner against the Serie A runners-up in April - in 37 league appearances in the 2018-19 season.

Di Lorenzo's move was made official on Friday with media reports in Italy suggesting he completed a medical last week.

"I'm happy about my new adventure at a prestigious club like Napoli," he told his new team's official website. "I can’t wait to start the new season and get to know my new team-mates."

Di Lorenzo - who represented Italy at under-21 level twice in 2013 - was unable to prevent Empoli from suffering relegation on the final day of the campaign.

Lorenzo Insigne warned Maurizio Sarri that joining Juventus would represent "a betrayal" of Napoli, where the Chelsea boss was in charge for three years.

Sarri's future is the subject of speculation amid reports he could take the head coach role at Juventus, vacated at the end of 2018-19 by Massimiliano Allegri.

But Insigne urged his former boss to remember that he guided Napoli to three consecutive top-three finishes in Serie A during his time at the helm and in doing so etched his name into the club's history.

"It's speculation that gives me displeasure," Insigne told a news conference ahead of Italy's Euro 2020 qualifier against Greece.

"He did so much for us players and all the Neapolitan people. He's also a professional, but him choosing Juve would hurt.

"It will be a betrayal for us Neapolitans once it becomes official."

Insigne, 28, has represented Napoli for his whole career and played some of his best football under Sarri.

The Italy international indicated Sarri's legacy at Napoli could be affected by a switch to the Bianconeri, saying: "I'm sorry to think about him sitting on the Juventus bench.

"He was very important to me for many reasons. I hope he changes his mind. If he went to Juventus he would hurt us but I can't blame him. It’s his decision."

Jorginho, who played under Sarri at Napoli and then followed him to Chelsea, recently said it would be "sad" if the 60-year-old manager was to leave Stamford Bridge after just one season.

Carlo Ancelotti wants to stay at Napoli for a further two years despite speculation linking him with Juventus.

Ancelotti has been talked up as a possible replacement for the outgoing Massimiliano Allegri at Juve, though the former AC Milan and Real Madrid boss had an unsuccessful spell as coach in Turin from 1999 to 2001.

However, he has led Napoli to second in his first season in charge and remains committed to the team with whom he signed a three-year contract last May.

"I have a clause on May 30, and I hope Napoli will exercise it," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"I'm tied to the club and I'd like to stay for another two years. I'm happy to be here.

"The coach is always the last to know anything. They always live in doubt. I know sackings are part of our work.

"Experience shows that, for coaches, only results count so planning becomes difficult. I suffered more when I was sacked by Juventus, but then I got used to it."

Napoli thumped Inter 4-1 on Sunday, a result that emphasised the gap between themselves and those fighting for the remaining two Champions League places.

Though they go into the final weekend of the season 11 points behind champions Juve, Ancelotti expressed pride in his team's performances throughout the season.

"There's great sincerity and professionalism in the group. We didn't have anything to play for in our last few games," he added.

"This team have given great signals throughout the season. We lost a bit of ground and some of our quality mid-season, but we regained it in the final stretch.

"I won't single anyone out over where we can improve, but we'll need to apply much more attacking pressure, even if means risking something at the back.

"We need to improve our intensity there. It was worth trying out and we did well against Inter."

Luciano Spalletti challenged his Inter players to prove they have the gumption to "wear the shirt" as Serie A's Champions League race goes to the wire following their 4-1 dismantling by Napoli.

Inter were comprehensively outclassed by Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli at Stadio San Paolo on Sunday, only becoming a genuine threat in attack once they were 3-0 down away from home.

Piotr Zielinski's stunner was added to by a Dries Mertens header and Fabian Ruiz's brace, with Mauro Icardi's consolation coming via a late penalty.

Inter could have confirmed Champions League qualification with victory, but failure on that front means they head into the final game of the season just a point ahead of bitter rivals AC Milan.

Spalletti's side face relegation-battlers Empoli at home in their season closer and the head coach has thrown the gauntlet down to Inter's players.

"It's a final for us, we need to be ready to play it," he told reporters. "We need to maintain the composure of those who know how to assess things.

"The team played poorly [against Napoli], but our destiny is in our own hands. We need to take to the pitch to win because it's a crucial match for us, we'll either be in or out.

"We need to have the substance, composure and strength that an Inter side should have. You have to know how to withstand this kind of pressure if you wear this shirt."

 

Inter failed to confirm a top-four finish on Sunday as they were crushed 4-1 away to a Fabian Ruiz-inspired Napoli, meaning Serie A's Champions League race will go to the wire.

Luciano Spalletti's side would have secured a place in Europe's elite competition for next season, but they were outclassed by Napoli and go into the final game of the season knowing they could be beaten to fourth by bitter rivals AC Milan.

The visitors offered precious little going forward in the first half and it was no surprise Napoli led at the break, with Piotr Zielinski's stunning 16th-minute strike putting them in front.

Inter failed to stir into life and Dries Mertens' header was added to by a Fabian brace to seal a convincing win in the final 30 minutes, meaning a nervous final match awaits for the Nerazzurri despite Mauro Icardi's late penalty.

Napoli were on the front foot right from the start and deservedly went ahead when Zielinski punished a sloppy Kwadwo Asamoah error by drilling an unstoppable strike into the top-left corner from 30 yards.

Spalletti introduced Icardi for Matteo Politano at half-time, but the Argentina international struggled to have an impact and Napoli made it 2-0 in the 61st minute – Mertens nodding Jose Callejon's cross beyond Samir Handanovic.

Kalidou Koulibaly incredibly got back in time to head a Lautaro Martinez effort off the line in the 68th minute and Napoli capitalised soon after, Fabian collecting Mertens' cut-back and firing home.

Fabian doubled his tally 12 minutes from the end when surging into the box and blasting in from a tight angle, before Icardi netted a late consolation from the spot after Koulibaly clumsily tripped him.

 

What does it mean? Inter with it all to do on the last day

While Inter can console themselves with the fact their fate is very much in their hands, struggling Empoli – who have won three in a row – will not go to San Siro and lie down, knowing they need to secure their top-flight status.

Milan are just a point behind them and in better form. It promises to be an intriguing conclusion to the season.

Fabulous Fabian

Boosted by his recent Spain call-up, Fabian hardly put a foot wrong. The midfielder made four key passes – including the assist for Zielinski's opener – before providing two well-taken finishes to get himself a brace. Inter simply could not handle him.

Politano poses few problems

A virtually anonymous first-half display saw the winger withdrawn from the action at half-time in a thoroughly disappointing showing.

What's next?

Although Inter find themselves in a trickier position than they would have hoped, they will still be favourites against relegation-threatened Empoli at home in their final game of the campaign. Napoli's season comes to a close at Bologna, who are effectively safe from the threat of relegation.

Edinson Cavani insisted he wants to see out the remainder of his contract at Paris Saint-Germain.

It has been a difficult end to the campaign for PSG, but Thomas Tuchel's side cruised to a 4-0 victory over Dijon in their final home match of the season.

Cavani scored the second goal four minutes in, after Angel Di Maria had put the Ligue 1 champions ahead, taking his goal tally for the season to 23 in all competitions.

The 32-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season, and had been linked with a move away from Parc des Princes, with former club Napoli cited as a potential destination, although those rumours were shot down by his agent.

And Cavani has now stated his intention to remain in Paris for at least the duration of his current deal.

"It's beautiful [being Ligue 1 champions], these are things you keep in memory," Cavani told Canal+.

"The fans give us love. It's beautiful, I thank them. The future? The first thing is to respect my contract.

"I like this club, this city, I'm happy with my family. Football does not only depend on me, but I would like to stay and finish my contract. 

"A return to Naples? No, I do not say anything. Of course I will be here next year."

Cavani is PSG's all-time record goalscorer, having joined from Napoli in 2013, winning five Ligue 1 titles, five Coupes de la Ligue and four Coupes de France since then.

Luciano Spalletti sees no reason to doubt Mauro Icardi after the striker reaffirmed his commitment to Inter.

Amid recent reports in the Italian media that he is angling for a move away from San Siro, Icardi took to social media on Friday to stress he is not interested in a transfer.

"I want to inform our fans that I have repeatedly informed the club of my intention to stay at Inter," he posted on his Instagram account.

"Thus, from now on, no misunderstandings of any kind will be created. I understand the interests of the press to sell fake news but I can't do anything more than to clarify things personally."

The Argentina international has endured a difficult campaign at Inter - his sixth with the club since joining from Sampdoria - having been stripped of the captaincy in February and missed a couple of months with a knee injury.

But Spalletti is confident Icardi, who returned to action in April, is fully committed to the club and will consider selecting the 26-year-old against Napoli on Sunday.

"I always value the things that are said. I think he’s a good person and a great player," he said at Saturday's news conference. "If he expressed himself this way with two matches to go, then it must be considered [as being correct].

"Icardi is training in the right way and is available. Everything is okay."

Third-place Inter require only three more points from their final two matches, away to Napoli and home to Empoli on the final day, to secure a Champions League spot for the second consecutive year.

And Spalletti, who will reportedly be replaced in the San Siro dugout by Antonio Conte at the end of the campaign, insists the future is bright for his side.

"We have grown a lot since last season," he said. "We have worked well, we have seen positive results. We have done well in the present to set up an even better future.

"We must first play and win, then we talk about third place. It is a speech that is made later, it does not move us an inch now, we must remain attentive and focused. We focus on the current objective, which is the match against Napoli.

"We want to bring the maximum points home. We have trained well and what we saw in the last few games, even if we didn't win much, was the right attitude. We will try to repeat that, we want to win.

"We have to get back on the bus that's heading to the Champions League. The millions of Inter fans deserve it - they've shown great attachment to the colours over the past few years."

Liverpool fans must be wondering what more their team could have done after they picked up 97 points and still did not win the Premier League, yet the Reds are not alone in coming up just short in a title race despite performing superbly.

Jurgen Klopp's side won 30 of their 38 matches and lost just once, only to miss out on the title by one point as Pep Guardiola's Manchester City retained the trophy on Sunday.

Liverpool's 97-point haul is the best accrued by a team that has finished second in the Premier League's 20-club era.

But how does it compare to other runners-up in Europe's major leagues, who racked up the points but still finished without winners' medals?

Scottish Premier League 2002-03: Celtic (97 points)

Finishing second with 97 points has been done before, and Celtic came even closer than Liverpool. Celtic and their Glasgow rivals Rangers finished with identical records (31 wins, four draws and three defeats) but the Gers, who scored 101 times, had a +73 goal difference, one better than the Bhoys' +72. The two had the same goal difference heading into the final round of games but Rangers' 6-1 victory over Dunfermline meant they got the trophy instead of Celtic, who could only win 4-0 against Kilmarnock.

LaLiga 2009-10: Real Madrid (96 points)

After bringing in Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema before the season, Real Madrid would surely have expected to end the campaign with some silverware. Yet it was Guardiola's Barcelona who once again won the title. Madrid scored 102 goals and had 31 victories - as many as Barca. However, four defeats, including two to their great rivals - proved costly in the final standings as Barca finished three clear on 99 points.

Serie A 2017-18: Napoli (91 points)

A 5-0 win over Cagliari at the end of February moved Napoli four points clear at the top of Serie A, yet they were reeled in by a Juventus team that went on to make it seven Scudettos in a row. Maurizio Sarri's Napoli even won at Juventus in April but dropped points in six of their final 12 fixtures, leaving them four adrift of the Bianconeri in the final standings.

Premier League 2011-12: Manchester United (89 points)

Seven years ago City were involved in an even more dramatic title race when they ended a 44-year wait to win the top flight by scoring twice in stoppage time to beat QPR. Their cross-city rivals Manchester United had beaten Sunderland and were waiting on the full-time whistle at the Etihad Stadium but, with 93:20 on the clock, Sergio Aguero rifled in a winner to seal the title for City on goal difference.


Ligue 1 2016-17: Paris Saint-Germain (87 points)

PSG have won six titles in the previous seven seasons, but they were pipped to the crown in 2016-17 by a Monaco team featuring Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Fabinho. Monaco, who also reached the Champions League semi-finals, won 18 of their final 20 games, drawing the other two, to clinch the title with an eight-point gap to the Parisians. PSG's response was to splash the cash and sign Neymar and Mbappe in the off-season.

Bundesliga 2015-16: Borussia Dortmund (78 points)

A relentless pace caused by a Guardiola team once again proved too much for the nearest challengers as his Bayern Munich side retained the title by taking 88 points from a possible 102. Dortmund impressed in Thomas Tuchel's first campaign at the helm, winning 24 of their 34 matches, but they still finished 10 adrift of Bayern, whose 5-1 victory in October showed the gulf between Germany's two leading clubs.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has called for the Champions League and Europa League to be abolished. 

Carlo Ancelotti's side secured second place in Serie A on Sunday, thanks to a dramatic 2-1 win over Cagliari. 

Napoli have now qualified for the Champions League in the past four seasons, but De Laurentiis has suggested that UEFA's two European club competitions must be scrapped. 

Instead, De Laurentiis has proposed a new format that would see 80 teams compete in a single competition. 

"The Champions League and the Europa League must be abolished," De Laurentiis, who believes that Europe's elite competition is not competitive enough, told Corriere della Sera. 

"The Champions League is now for a select few, while the Europa League has become a sort of consolation prize. 

"I would like to present them with a single tournament of 80 teams, to which the top seven teams from the Italian, French, English, German and Spanish leagues would enter, and the first four of the other leagues. 

"I would call it the European Cup and the games would be played on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, thus respecting the placement of the national championships over the weekend. 

"It's all very outdated, we are often confronted with the same sparring partners. We play too little. To enjoy ourselves we have to watch Manchester City, Tottenham, Barcelona or Liverpool; our football is getting boring." 

Ancelotti has come under criticism from some sections of Napoli's support after failing to challenge Juventus' dominance of Serie A, but De Laurentiis is happy with the former Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain's boss. 

"I am satisfied with the work of Ancelotti," he added. "With [Cristiano] Ronaldo, Juventus has raised the level, we are competing with one of the best European teams." 

Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne said he is waiting to sign a new contract as he insisted both parties want to "move forward together".

Insigne – who has been linked with Premier League giants Liverpool – cast doubt over his future last month when he conceded an offer may come in that he "can't refuse"'.

However, the 27-year-old star forward is ready to commit his future to his boyhood club, where he emerged from the youth team in 2010.

"Renewal? I'm waiting for the president," Insigne told Sky Sport Italia after converting a 98th-minute penalty in a 2-1 win at home to Cagliari as Napoli sealed second spot on Sunday.

"For my part there's maximum availability. We both want to move forward together. I hope that the signing of the contract will come soon."

Insigne added: "It was important to be clear about going ahead together. There has been misunderstanding but now there is the desire to continue united."

Italy international Insigne has scored 10 Serie A goals and tallied six assists this season.

Insigne has netted 14 goals across all competitions for Carlo Ancelotti's Napoli, who reached the Europa League quarter-finals.

Napoli guaranteed they will finish second in Serie A again by securing a last-gasp 2-1 win at home to Cagliari.

The visitors led through Leonardo Pavoletti's strike midway through the second half at Stadio San Paolo on Sunday.

But Dries Mertens hit back, with his 107th goal for Napoli moving him level alongside Attila Sallustro as their joint-third most prolific players.

In added time Fabrizio Cacciatore was penalised for a handball, the penalty awarded following a VAR check, with Artur Ionita dismissed in the aftermath.

Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to convert in the eighth minute of added time, ensuring Carlo Ancelotti has matched last season's second place in his first campaign in charge.

"It is a matter of urgency... The time for talking about this is over, we need some action." That is the message from FIFPro vice-president Francis Awaritefe amid growing calls for change to the concussion protocol and treatment of head injuries.

The issue of concussion and head injuries has dominated headlines once again after a sickening incident involving Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Ajax on Tuesday.

Vertonghen required extensive treatment after colliding with the back of fellow Belgium defender and Spurs team-mate Toby Alderweireld's head in the first half of the 1-0 loss in London, where he was initially cleared to return following a three-minute medical assessment as per the current concussion protocol.

The 32-year-old, however, had to be helped from the field moments later in worrying scenes on the sidelines. While he was cleared of concussion following days of assessment, Vertonghen has been advised to undertake a "brief period of rehabilitation" before returning to training.

It is one of many head-related incidents this season amid calls for the introduction of an independent doctor as well as demands for 'temporary concussion substitutions'. Switzerland defender Fabian Schar, Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina, Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes and United Arab Emirates' Fares Juma Al Saadi were cleared to return under the current guidelines.

"The issue of concussion is a very serious issue. It's a health and safety issue, which is related to their work place. In my point of view, I don't think it's been addressed in the proper manner it should be addressed," Awaritefe told Omnisport.

"We've seen the medical data around the long-term risks of concussion and how they can have a deleterious long-term effect for people who suffer concussion when it's not managed properly.

"We're really worried about it because football seems to be a long way behind some of the other sports in terms of protocols and just in terms of the way how seriously they're taking concussion.

"For me, it's a massive issue. I think football at the moment, FIFA and the national associations, are being totally negligent in the way that it deals with concussion. It's utterly negligent and we don't want to wait until a player has a serious injury that it might end their career or worse, we have a player die on the field or soon after because of a concussion issue that wasn't treated properly.

"As a sport, we need to reflect on this and get together with experts to come up with smart and proactive solutions to deal with this really, really serious issue."

Awaritefe – a three-time Australia international – said: "The issue here is that sports administrators, they're starting point is always putting the interests of the sport first, rather than the interests of the athletes and the players who play sport.

"If you don't put those interests first, you'll end up making bad decisions. The health of the player should come first. It's not about whether coaches will cheat or abuse the system by using subs or not using subs, whatever they will do. That's not the point. The health of the player should come first. Until we start to think like that, we will continue to do this.

"When you look at the issue of racism, this is another example of that. Black players are being abused in their work place and the very organisations and institutions whose first duty should be to protect those players are more concerned about what might happen if players walk off the field than they are about the abuse and vilification. The default position is always putting the interest of the sport first, rather than the players. You have to change that thinking. With concussion, if you don't put the health of the players first that's just negligent.

"We don't want to get to a point where we have a tragedy and then we do something. By then, it's too late. We don't want to be reacting to something like this. If that happens, the administrators will be 100 per cent to blame. That's no comfort to the player, who might suffer a serious or permanent injury, or worse, loss of their life. It's no comfort to them or their families."

"The game's administrators aren't taking it seriously at all," the 55-year-old added. "Unions have to start collectively bargaining these types of issues because until you have it in your collective bargaining agreements, FIFA and some national associations won't take this seriously.

"Until the unions start to say 'no, we must have these conditions as part of our work-place agreement', that's not going to happen."

Juventus have won the Serie A title for an eighth successive season after a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina on Saturday.

Massimiliano Allegri's men have been dominant pacesetters for much of the campaign and a dramatic triumph over AC Milan earlier in April put them on the brink.

Napoli's subsequent draw at home to Genoa delayed the Bianconeri's celebrations by another week, while a defeat at SPAL that saw Allegri rest players for their Champions League quarter-final with Ajax - which Juve lost 3-2 on aggregate - extended the wait.

And it looked as though the party would be spoiled once again when La Viola took an early lead through Nikola Milenkovic at the Allianz Stadium, before Juve turned the match around via Alex Sandro and German Pezzella's own goal.

Juve's clinching of the title rounds off a hugely impressive season domestically, having dropped points in just five matches.

Allegri's side have sealed the Scudetto with five games still to play, making it one of the earliest title triumphs in history across Europe's big five leagues - and a joint-record in Italy's top flight.

Cristiano Ronaldo has undoubtedly been key to their success, having scored 19 Serie A goals from just 27 appearances, while he was rested for Juve's two defeats this season, against Genoa and SPAL.

The Portugal superstar was a surprise arrival from Real Madrid in a €112million deal last year and his transition to Italian football has been almost seamless.

Juve's eighth straight title has looked a formality for much of the campaign, particularly considering they beat closest challengers Napoli home and away.

It may still not be enough for Allegri to retain his position, however, with the surprise home defeat to Ajax ensuring the club's wait for a first Champions League triumph since 1996 goes on.

Allegri has now had five attempts at clinching European club football's biggest prize, reaching the final twice, though speculation is sure to continue as to whether Juve's patience with their head coach will remain intact.  

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