Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Juventus last year made everyone happy, according to Real Madrid midfielder and former team-mate Toni Kroos.

Madrid lost their all-time leading scorer to Juve nearly 12 months ago in a deal that will cost upwards of €100million and endured a difficult campaign in their first season without him.

The Spanish giants finished a lowly third in LaLiga and fell short in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League after failing to fill the void left by Ronaldo's departure, but Kroos can understand why the five-time Ballon d'Or winner left.

"It would be strange if you didn't miss someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who has decided so many matches with his goals," he told Bild. 

"His transfer, however, made everyone happy. He wanted a new experience and Real Madrid earned a lot of money."

Kroos was also tipped to leave the Santiago Bernabeu last year, with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City rumoured to have made their interest known.

But the Germany international, about to enter his sixth season as a Madrid player, insisted he has never come close to joining the English champions.

"It has been written several times in the past," he said. "But I was never really offered the chance to go to Manchester City. Never. I can deny these rumours."

Kroos also reiterated he intends to retire from football at the age of just 33 when the four-year deal he signed in May expires.

"My contract duration was chosen consciously," he said. "Thirty-three would be a good age to hang up the boots. I will have the opportunity at that moment to choose if I want to do something else."

Defence appears to be an area of interest for LaLiga champions Barcelona.

Despite already boasting centre-backs Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti, Barca continue to be linked to Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt.

However, the Blaugrana have contingency plans should they miss out on the 19-year-old sensation.

 

TOP STORY – LINDELOF BARCA'S PLAN B

Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof is Barcelona's alternative to Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The race is hotting up for De Ligt, who is a target for the LaLiga champions, United, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

With uncertainty over De Ligt's destination, Barca reportedly contacted United over Lindelof but the Red Devils rejected the approach. The 24-year-old moved to Old Trafford from Benfica for €35million in 2017 and the Spanish giants remain confident a deal can be struck.

 

ROUND-UP

Ajax and Netherlands midfielder Donny van de Beek has emerged as alternative target should Real Madrid miss out on Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to Marca. Pogba has also been linked to Juventus and Corriere dello Sport claims the Frenchman and the Serie A champions will ask Adidas to intervene in a bid to bring him back to Turin.

- According to Tuttosport, an agreement on salary has been reached between Juventus and De Ligt. Juve are increasingly optimistic a deal will be reached with Ajax.

Tottenham have not signed a player since 2018 but the Champions League finalists a poised to complete a club-record transfer for Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele, says the Telegraph. A £55m transfer is set to be finalised, with Spurs also closing in on Leeds winger Jack Clarke, according to the Daily Mail.

- Marca says Barcelona are preparing for lengthy negotiations as they try to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou from Paris Saint-Germain following his €222milllion move in 2017.

- Premier League champions Manchester City and rivals Manchester United will battle it out for Leicester City centre-back Harry Maguire, who is rated at £65m, Sky Sports reports.

AC Milan are confident of signing Lucas Torreira from Arsenal, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. Milan want to reunite Torreira with former Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo on an initial two-year deal with the option of a permanent €30m transfer. France Football also says the Rossoneri are also a possible destination for Lyon captain Nabil Fekir.

Manchester United are considering a move for Sevilla's Wissam Ben Yedder should Romelu Lukaku join Inter, according to France Football.

Romelu Lukaku's proposed move to Inter is "difficult" but the Manchester United striker's agent insisted "nothing is impossible".

Lukaku looks set to leave United after acknowledging a desire to play in Serie A and hinting his future could be away from Old Trafford.

The 26-year-old Belgium striker – who fell out of favour during the second half of the 2018-19 Premier League season as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferred Marcus Rashford – has been tipped to join Antonio Conte's Inter.

Asked about Lukaku as Inter reportedly try to strike a deal with United amid the club's £75illion valuation, Federico Pastorello told FC Inter News: "Lukaku is a dream, a difficult one to make happen as such, but I believe nothing is impossible.

"He's publicly expressed his plans and desires. We'll see what happens."

Pastorello who has been in Milan to also discuss his other clients, added: "We talked about [Inter youth player Edoardo] Vergani because his is a more urgent situation. In the next few days, we’ll talk about the rest."

Lukaku – contracted to the Red Devils until 2022 with the option of a further year after arriving from Everton in 2017 – scored 12 Premier League goals as United finish sixth in 2018-19, missing out on Champions League qualification.

He scored 15 goals across all competitions for United, who lost to Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Gianluigi Buffon's agent said a return to Juventus is "just an idea" for now as he seemingly admitted negotiations are underway to bring the legendary goalkeeper back to Turin.

Buffon is a free agent after leaving Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain following one season in the French capital.

The 41-year-old swapped Juventus for PSG in 2018-19 but Buffon could be set for a return to the Serie A champions, where he won the Scudetto nine times.

Responding to reports that Buffon is in talks to become Wojciech Szczesny's understudy before taking up a role as a director, Silvano Martina told SportItalia: "For now, it’s just an idea."

Buffon spent 17 years at Juventus after arriving from Parma for a then-world record fee of €52million in 2001.

The Italian great added five Supercoppa Italiana and four Coppa Italia titles to his collection, while he was a Champions League runner-up on three occasions.

Buffon then moved to PSG in 2018, winning the Ligue 1 and Trophee des Champions in his only season with Thomas Tuchel's side.

Roma have appointed Gianluca Petrachi as their new sporting director after reaching an agreement with Serie A rivals Torino.

Petrachi has signed a three-year deal to succeed Frederic Massara, who filled the role following Monchi's exit in March.

The 50-year-old will officially begin his new role with Roma on July 1 and is fully aware of the task at hand.

"Coming to Roma is an exciting and stimulating opportunity for me," Petrachi told his new club's official website.

"Roma are an ambitious and incredibly stimulating adventure for me. I know well the expectations of such an important club. That’s why I immediately accepted this challenge."

Petrachi's appointment comes two weeks after Paulo Fonseca was unveiled as the club's new head coach.

"I am pleased to be able to welcome Gianluca to our team," chief executive Guido Fienga said.

"With his skills, I am sure he will be an important asset within the club’s management structure."

Roma finished sixth in Serie A last season, three points behind fourth-placed Inter.

Luigi Di Biagio claims he did a "great job" as coach of Italy's Under-21 side despite their failure to reach the European Under-21 Championship semi-finals.

Italy beat Spain and Belgium but a 1-0 defeat to Poland in their second match of the tournament cost them a place in the last four.

Di Biagio, who briefly led Italy's senior side last year, insisted developing young players for Roberto Mancini's squad was a higher priority than success at the U21 Euros.

"We must separate the results of these years from what happened at this tournament," he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

"I would say that a great job has been done. We have made many players grow, we have been competitive with many strong teams, many boys have gone to the senior national team.

"Then there are painful notes because the result is not positive, but it is not a failure for myself. I will no longer be the coach of the U21s."

Di Biagio claimed he rejected offers from Serie A clubs to remain with the Under-21 side, but said he is now open to approaches.

"I'm on the market. Serie A and Serie B clubs have been looking for me, but out of respect for the Italian Football Federation [FIGC], I have always said no," he added.

"Thanks to the growth of these years I feel ready for new challenges. I would have left anyway. I do not feel stimulated enough anymore."

Neymar for Paul Pogba?

That was the proposal by Paris Saint-Germain to Manchester United, who are both set for busy off-seasons due to their wantaway stars.

But a swap between the two clubs does not appear to be on the agenda.

 

TOP STORY – WOODWARD SAYS NO TO NEYMAR

A swap deal involving Neymar and Paul Pogba was rejected by Manchester United vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

That is according to the Independent as Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar and United midfielder Pogba both seek exits.

Woodward reportedly said no to the idea due to costs and his determination to keep Pogba, who has been linked with a return to Juventus and Real Madrid .

Neymar is set to leave PSG and the world's most expensive player is ready to publicly apologise to Barcelona over his exit in 2017 to help facilitate a return to Camp Nou, according to AS.

 

ROUND-UP

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic has agreed to join Paris Saint-Germain in an €80million deal, according to Serbian newspaper Blic. The 24-year-old was linked with Manchester United and Real Madrid prior to the 2018-19 season. AS reports that Ligue 1 champions PSG are also set to sign Sevilla attacker Pablo Sarabia.

- A move to Barcelona for Matthijs de Ligt is "still possible", according to Mundo Deportivo. Italian press have reported that Juventus are favourites to sign the 19-year-old Ajax captain, however, LaLiga champions Barca still appear to be in the running.

- According to AS, Real Madrid are keen on signing Napoli midfielder and Spain international Fabian Ruiz. The 23-year-old only moved to Serie A from Real Betis in 2018-19.

Edin Dzeko's move from Roma to Inter will be announced shortly, Corriere dello Sport reports. Antonio Conte's Inter are now targeting Cagliari star Nicolo Barella. The Nerazzurri are also interested in Brazil captain Dani Alves after his Paris Saint-Germain exit, according to France Football.

- Former Manchester City and Arsenal star Samir Nasri is a target for new A-League side Western United in Australia, according to the Herald Sun. The 31-year-old Frenchman is a free agent after leaving West Ham.

Borussia Dortmund defender Dan-Axel Zagadou is wanted by Arsenal, according to the Mirror. The Gunners have been linked with Saint-Etienne teenager William Saliba but Zagadou could be available following Mats Hummels' return to Dortmund.

- Serie A rivals Juventus and Napoli are battling it out to sign Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier, the Mirror reports. Joao Cancelo is reportedly close to joining Manchester City and Juve see the England international as the perfect replacement.

James Rodriguez is unsure where he will be playing in 2019-20 as the Colombia and Real Madrid midfielder continues to be linked with Napoli.

Serie A side Napoli want James, whose future is up in the air after Bayern Munich did not take up the option to sign the star permanently following a two-year loan deal.

James does not appear wanted at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Zinedine Zidane's Madrid are looking to raise funds after a busy transfer window.

Asked about his future amid Colombia's Copa America campaign in Brazil, James said: "Right now I'm only thinking about the Copa America.

"I still don't know where I'll go but I want to be calm. The decision depends on the club [Real Madrid].

"There are people with a lot of power there, I can't do much. I haven't spoken with Zidane."

Colombia are through to the Copa America quarter-finals, with James and his team-mates set to face Chile.

AC Milan and Inter are moving ahead with plans to demolish their famous San Siro stadium, Rossoneri president Paolo Scaroni has claimed.

Commonly known as San Siro for the district of Milan in which it is situated, the Giuseppe Meazza stadium is one of the most iconic grounds in European football.

It hosted matches at the 1990 World Cup, while it has also been the setting of four European Cup and Champions League finals, the most recent of which being in 2016, when Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Despite its status in world football, San Siro has long been regarded as in need of refurbishment, but the two Milan clubs are planning to rebuild it completely instead.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Scaroni said: "Everything is proceeding.

"We will make a new San Siro together, next to the old one in the same area of land. The old man will be knocked down and in its place there will be new buildings built."

Scaroni was speaking in Lausanne, Switzerland, ahead of the Olympic Committee's selection of the hosts for the 2026 Winter Olympics on Monday.

Milan is a candidate city and Scaroni dreams of seeing the new San Siro host the opening ceremony.

"It's an extremely complicated process," Scaroni added. "It would be beautiful to have the Olympics' opening ceremony in the new San Siro, but we are not certain."

The stadium was officially opened in 1926, with Milan taking up residence straight away.

Milan and Inter have shared the ground since 1947.

Napoli have hit out at media reports claiming Carlo Ancelotti has agreed to the sales of Allan and Lorenzo Insigne, calling speculation "the first big hoax of the season".

Brazil midfielder Allan and Italy international Insigne are two of Napoli's most valuable assets and have been linked with moves – the former apparently particularly interesting Paris Saint-Germain.

A report by Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport claimed Ancelotti had given Napoli chiefs the OK to the players' sales in order to raise the funds required to sign Kostas Manolas, James Rodriguez and Hirving Lozano.

But Napoli moved to shut down such speculation on Monday, insisting the players are not for sale.

A brief statement on Twitter read: "The Gazza [Gazzetta] writes that Ancelotti has said OK to the sales of Allan and Insigne.

"We can call that the first big hoax of the season. Napoli players are not for sale, and no offer worthy of them has come in. If offers arrive, they will be evaluated."

Allan featured 33 times in Serie A last term as Napoli finished as runners-up for a second successive season, while Insigne made 28 appearances, netting 10 goals.

Kalidou Koulibaly suspects he will stay at Napoli next season despite links with numerous major European clubs, though he is not 100 per cent certain.

Koulibaly, 28, joined Napoli from Genk in 2014 and has gone on to establish himself as one of the world's leading centre-backs.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Napoli's bitter rivals Juventus are all said to be particularly keen on him, though Partenopei chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis has not made things easy, reportedly holding out for €120million.

Koulibaly seems relaxed about his future and appears to be in no rush to force a move while he is away on international duty with Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations, helping them begin their campaign with a 2-0 win over Tanzania on Sunday.

"I don't know [if I will still be at Napoli], I think so, but I have to play the Africa Cup of Nations and then after that I'll go back to Napoli," Koulibaly told Goal.

"Everyone's speaking about me, but I'm only speaking about Senegal, because that's my objective and I want to achieve something big with Senegal.

"I don't want to talk about my future at the moment, I prefer to talk about Senegal. Senegal achieved something great [on Sunday]. I am 200 per cent with Senegal and 200 per cent with the 15 million Senegalese people.

"I'm relaxed, I want to focus on the AFCON and after that return to Napoli and we'll see what happens. The most important thing now is to win with Senegal."

Senegal's remaining Group C matches will see them go up against Algeria and Kenya.

A return to Barcelona appears on the cards for Neymar.

The Brazilian looks set to leave Paris Saint-Germain, with Barca and LaLiga rivals Real Madrid reportedly interested.

But the familiarity of Camp Nou could see Neymar play for Barca one again.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR CONFIDENT OF BARCA RETURN

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar will re-join Barcelona, if he gets his wish.

According to Catalonia-based newspaper Sport, Neymar has told Barca players: "Relax, I will come".

Neymar – who left Barcelona for PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 – has also been linked with Real Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

AC Milan are in negotiations to sign Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira, according to Sport Mediaset. The Serie A side want to reunite Torreira with former Sampdoria boss Marco Giampaolo on a two-year loan deal at San Siro. Arsenal boss Unai Emery, meanwhile, wants extra cash to sign Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha, says the Metro.

- According to La Voix du Nord, Lille star Nicolas Pepe could still move to Manchester United or Liverpool despite strong interest from Atletico Madrid and Inter, who are both reportedly preparing €90m bids. Le10 Sport, however, reports that Pepe would be keen on PSG if Neymar leaves.

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal will reject a move to the Chinese Super League, according to Sport. RAC 1, meanwhile, says the LaLiga champions have turned down the chance to re-sign Dani Alves following his exit from PSG.

Daniele De Rossi could join AC Milan, Inter, Fiorentina, Sampdoria or Atalanta after deciding to remain in Serie A following his Roma exit, according to Sky Sport Italia.

Napoli midfielder Allan is attracting interest from PSG, according to Calciomercato. The Brazilian, who is valued at £60m, was target by the Ligue 1 holders in January.

Newcastle United and Paraguay star Miguel Almiron has caught the attention of Real Madrid, that is according to the Mirror. Almiron only moved to the Premier League from MLS champions Atlanta United in January.

Zeljko Kalac is hopeful Marco Giampaolo can bring Champions League football back to AC Milan as he hailed the Italian's arrival at the Serie A giants.

Giampaolo will lead Milan in 2019-20 after leaving Sampdoria to replace Gennaro Gattuso on a two-year deal at San Siro, with an option to extend through to June 2022.

The 51-year-old arrives in Milan after establishing Sampdoria's position in the top half of the table with an entertaining brand of football over his three seasons in Genoa.

Not since 2013 have 18-time champions Milan finished in Serie A's top four but former goalkeeper Kalac is excited by Giampaolo's appointment.

"They'll play a good brand of football," Kalac – who won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup during his four years at Milan – told Omnisport. "The way his teams play, fantastic. He is a real believer in possession, playing out from the back. They'll be very entertaining.

"He's done a great job at Sampdoria obviously with the next tier of players down. So, I think with a better quality of player, Milan will be even better.

"Hopefully Milan can get back to the top if he can finish in the top four to get back to where they deserve. One thing I always say is Milan don't wear all those stars on their jerseys for no reason. They need to be playing in the Champions League and competing for the Champions League."

Club great Gattuso quit Milan last month after the Rossoneri narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification in 2018-19.

Gattuso was promoted from the Primavera team in November 2017 after Vincenzo Montella's sacking and his one and only full season in charge saw Milan finish just a point outside the Champions League positions.

Kalac, who played alongside tenacious midfielder Gattuso between 2005 and 2009 after arriving from Perugia, added: "What Rino did was fantastic. He brought the culture back to Milan. There's something I really believe in football and that's to have a culture at a club and I think Rino brought that back.

"Was his team the best? Probably not. But what he did bring back was the red and black, and the heart and soul of the club. Rino was there to do a job and he did the job fantastically. People don't understand what kind of pressure coaching Milan is. It's enormous pressure."

Milan have a new-look set-up heading into 2019-20 with icon Paolo Maldini now technical director following Leonardo's return to Paris Saint-Germain. Former star Zvonimir Boban has also been named chief football officer after leaving his role at FIFA, while ex-Roma chief Frederic Massara has arrived as sporting director.

"I think they have the right people in charge. Maldini – another person who bleeds Milan and knows the culture," former Australia international Kalac said. "What Milan went away from for many years was the culture of the person, not just the footballer but the actual person. I remember when I got to Milan, there was a lot of talk that they didn't sign clowns, they signed professionals and people who were humble and hungry for success. They will bring that back.

"Now with Maldini and Boban – they have the right people that know what kind of players the supporters expect."

Kalac, 46, added: "People talk about the glory years of Milan and everyone wants it back, but Maldinis aren't born every day, the Kakas, [Clarence] Seedorfs, [Andrea] Pirlos and Cafus aren't born every day. These were special players. It wasn't just one, it was a squad full of them.

"People have to be realistic too. That generation doesn't exist anymore. So you need to have that culture with a team ethic. Even as special as those players were, they were all part of a team. They knew their roles. That's what Rino brought back. Now Giampaolo has come in and he will continue that."

Greats of their respective sports, Cristiano Ronaldo met with Michael Jordan on Sunday.

Ronaldo, 34, posted an image alongside Jordan on Instagram, simply writing: "We made history."

The Juventus star has been on a family holiday in the French Riviera ahead of beginning pre-season with the Serie A champions.

Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner, is regarded as one of football's greats, while Jordan – a six-time NBA champion and five-time MVP – is arguably the greatest basketballer ever.

Patrick Cutrone should leave AC Milan in order to improve himself as a player, according to former San Siro striker Alberto Gilardino.

Italy Under-21s forward Cutrone, thought to be valued at €25million by Milan, scored for his country at the U21 European Championship against Belgium on Saturday, rekindling speculation about his future at club level.

The 21-year-old was the subject of interest from LaLiga and the Bundesliga in January, according to his agent, and Gilardino told Gazzetta dello Sport that he should seek more regular first-team opportunities elsewhere after making just 12 starts for Milan in 2018-19.

Asked whether he would advise Cutrone to leave, former Italy international Gilardino replied: "Yes, because he would have more chances to play continuously.

"His future may lie away from Milan, where he might be given the chance to become a very important player."

Cutrone's second full season as a first-team player for the Rossoneri saw him score just three Serie A goals – seven fewer than he netted in 2017-18 despite making six more appearances.

Gilardino, who struck 36 goals in 94 league appearances for Milan, said Cutrone would be a worthwhile investment for another club.

"This year he has improved and can already do everything," said Gilardino, who won the Champions League with Milan in 2007.

"[He can] play out wide, behind the main striker, or as a centre-forward.

"He is young and already expensive, but I would sign him."

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