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Maurizio Sarri explained his decision to rest Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus' 2-0 victory over Brescia, saying the 35-year-old forward "cannot play 75 games" a year.

Ronaldo was left out of the squad after scoring 10 goals in his previous six Serie A appearances to take his tally to 20 this season, but Paulo Dybala and Juan Cuadrado found the net in his absence on Sunday.

Sarri was also without injured quartet Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi, Sami Khedira, and Merih Demiral, but Giorgio Chiellini made his first appearance since August as a second-half substitute.

Juve boss Sarri felt Portugal star Ronaldo needed time to put his feet up given the workload he has for club and country.

Sarri said: "It is difficult; we have many strong players and some are out.

"They are all atypical players, without a specific role. We have many situations to fix.

"Ronaldo is a centre-forward who starts off-centre. Today Cristiano had to rest; he cannot play 75 games there a year between the national team and the club, so we decided to let him recover."

On Chiellini, he added: "He put himself in the team. He had said it since yesterday. He made six months of great sacrifices."

Sarri admitted his side's performance against Brescia left plenty of room for improvement after seeing the Serie A champions pick up only their second win in five matches.

Defeats to Napoli and Hellas Verona either side of a victory over Fiorentina preceded Juve's 1-1 Coppa Italia draw with Milan ahead of the win over Brescia on Sunday, and they face SPAL on Saturday with Ronaldo set to play his 1,000th career game.

"We can improve on everything," said Sarri.

"On a defensive level we have room for improvement. We also have room for improvement in attack.

"We have hit the post five times in the last two games, so a little more luck would help us. We must focus on ourselves, instead of looking to others."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the ideal character to lead Milan into a new era of success, according to former Rossoneri hero Cafu.

Brazilian Cafu says Ibrahimovic's age should not be a problem either, with the 38-year-old already making a big impact in his second spell at San Siro.

The mid-season arrival of Swedish striker Ibrahimovic has given Milan fresh impetus and results have picked up significantly.

Last weekend's 4-2 defeat to Inter was their first in nine matches in all competitions since the resumption of the campaign following the mid-season break.

Milan responded to that setback with a 1-1 draw with Juventus in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final.

It promises to be a gradual process to bring the seven-time European champions into contention to add to their former glories, but Cafu sees Ibrahimovic's role as possibly vital to making that happen.

Speaking ahead of the Laureus World Sports Awards, Cafu told Omnisport: "The impact is very great with the return of Ibra to Milan.

"We hope he can help Milan win big titles like we did in our day.

"He's a fantastic player, a sensational player."

Ibrahimovic won a Serie A title with Milan in 2010-11 and has also won league titles in Spain, France and The Netherlands. He lifted the EFL Cup and Europa League at Manchester United.

A couple of seasons with LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer do not appear to have affected his enthusiasm for a fresh European club adventure, and Cafu has no doubt the charismatic veteran has plenty to offer.

Two-time World Cup winner Cafu, who won Serie A and Champions League honours while playing for Milan in his mid-thirties, said: "Age does not matter.

"What matters is that he still wants to play, wants to grow and keep Milan great."

After 37 minutes at the Allianz Stadium, Brescia could at least be grateful Maurizio Sarri had spared them the torment of trying to contain Cristiano Ronaldo.

Serie A's second-bottom side had just been reduced to 10 men, forward Florian Aye bounding untidily into Aaron Ramsey with the enthusiasm and poise of a Labrador puppy to earn a second booking in the space of three and a half minutes.

The visitors were already operating with their third-choice goalkeeper between the posts, an early head injury having accounted for Jesse Joronen's understudy Enrico Alfonso and thrusting Lorenzo Andrenacci into an unexpected top-flight debut.

It meant opportunity knocked for Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, the Argentina duo who were leading the Juve attack as Ronaldo, who has scored in every appearance in 2020, enjoyed a well-earned rest.

Higuain and Dybala have had to tailor their games this term under Sarri, operating within a significantly different tactical setup and very much at Ronaldo's service.

Nevertheless, the gulf in Serie A goal returns from the trio heading into the weekend was stark: Ronaldo boasting a haul of 20 in 2019-20 set against five apiece for his two attacking colleagues.

As Juve resume their pursuit of that elusive Champions League crown and contend with Inter's unflinching challenge domestically, it would be preferable to see the burden shared more equitably – irrespective of Ronaldo's superpowers showing little sign of fading.

Higuain offered a demonstration of his underrated selflessness just after the half hour, stealing in front of Ales Mateju and cutting an inviting ball back across goal. It laid on the sort of chance Ronaldo has gleefully gobbled up time and again over recent weeks, but Dybala failed to adjust to the bounce and skewed woefully wide from eight yards.

Aye's indiscretion allowed him to make amends in style, lifting a delicate free-kick beyond Andrenacci.

Higuain and Dybala each went close with fine angled strikes before the break but, not for the first time over recent weeks, a presumed formality for Sarri's men became a bit of a slog.

Brescia's defending was often of the last-ditch variety – Stefano Sabelli showing great poise to clear off the line and deny Higuain before Birkir Bjarnason bravely denied Dybala at the end of a slaloming run – although their Iceland midfielder fired a presentable half-chance over from 20 yards in the 72nd minute.

It required the more unheralded member of Sarri's Ronaldo-less trident, Juan Cuadrado, to make the points safe. Cuadrado found a cute finish after a clever one-two with substitute Blaise Matuidi.

Like Dybala's, this was another goal wonderfully easy on the eye. The concern for Juventus and their coach is they are increasingly reliant on such moments of magic or Ronaldo's enduring brilliance. Sarrismo is yet to fully take hold in Turin, with the collective frequently underwhelming.

Higuain had a header ruled out for offside and Dybala crashed against the crossbar late on, meaning Inter's goal difference remains five better than Juve's ahead of Sunday's blockbuster clash with third-placed Lazio in Rome.

For the fine-margins battle ahead, it is hard to escape the feeling Juventus need more than the sporadic flashes of brilliance that are just about sustaining them at present.

Paulo Dybala scored his sixth Serie A goal of the season and Juan Cuadrado was also on target as Juventus earned a 2-0 victory over 10-man Brescia that moved the Bianconeri top of Serie A ahead of Inter's evening kick-off at Lazio.

With in-form Cristiano Ronaldo rested by head coach Maurizio Sarri, Argentina international Dybala provided the firepower the champions needed from a first-half free-kick after Brescia forward Florian Aye was sent off.

Sarri's men were guilty of wasteful finishing against their 19th-placed visitors, who might have ground out a point towards their battle against relegation had they kept 11 men on the field, but Cuadrado kept his cool to double their lead after 75 minutes.

It was far from a vintage performance, but two goals proved enough to earn Juve a first win in three matches and relieve some of the pressure mounting around Sarri's position.

Giorgio Chiellini's appearance as a second-half substitute following a long injury lay-off also boosted the home crowd.

An early clash with Gonzalo Higuain left Brescia goalkeeper Enrico Alfonso unable to continue and he was replaced by the club's third-choice stopper Lorenzo Andrenacci after nine minutes.

But Brescia's impressive first half fell apart 10 minutes before the interval.

Aye brought down Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the box and received his second yellow card in four minutes, before Dybala curled a sublime free-kick into the left corner of the net with Andrenacci rooted to the spot.

Andrenacci kept the deficit to one goal at the break with a superb one-handed save, turning a Daniele Rugani header onto the crossbar when the Juve defender looked certain to score.

Leonardo Bonucci was denied early in the second half, Andrenacci parrying the Italy international's powerful header away from danger.

Dybala danced through the Brescia box after 66 minutes only to have his shot from 12 yards blocked by Birkir Bjarnason.

Bjarnason blazed over the crossbar when the ball fell to him unmarked on the edge of the box moments before Cuadrado made sure of the victory, playing a neat one-two with Blaise Matuidi and applying a cool, dinked finish past Andrenacci from six yards out.

Higuain saw a header disallowed for offside late on and Dybala hit the bar right at the death, with Juventus comfortable in the end.

What does it mean? Sarri keeps Pep talk on hold

A run of two defeats in three Serie A games handed the title race initiative to Inter and led to speculation that Pep Guardiola could replace Sarri at the end of the season.

While unspectacular, this win steadied the ship and reassured Juve supporters that their side are not reliant on Ronaldo to keep them winning.

Dybala does the business

It was an all-action performance from Dybala, who linked up with Cuadrado and Higuain to great effect throughout, took his goal superbly and rattled the crossbar with his rising drive on the stroke of full-time.

Clumsy Aye costs Brescia

Just four minutes after being booked for a needless foul on Danilo, Aye got his legs tangled up with Ramsey in a dangerous position, got himself sent off and conceded the free-kick from which Dybala scored.

What's next?

Ronaldo is in line to play his 1,000th career match as Juventus travel to Ferrara to face SPAL on Saturday, with Brescia hosting Napoli on Friday.

Stefano Pioli described mounting speculation over his future as Milan head coach as "normal" as he aims to end the season strongly despite rumours Andriy Shevchenko could replace him.

Milan have lost just one of their past nine games in all competitions, with the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in January having helped Pioli recover some of the ground lost in a dismal stretch either side of his October arrival in place of Marco Giampaolo.

But a run of two draws and a defeat in three games ahead of the visit of Torino in Serie A on Monday has returned the focus to Pioli's position.

Former Rossoneri and Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was also mentioned in reports discussing potential appointments in the coming months.

"I know very well what my role is and how we have been very good at not getting carried away by rumours," said Pioli. "We have to do this until the end.

"We are in a great club, it is normal for there to be some talk. We must be very focused on our work.

"There is a lot of season remaining to do well; 45 points are available.

"I am not worried about my future and I am not even thinking about it. I want to try together with the team to exploit this situation."

Pioli started Hakan Calhanoglu in support of Ibrahimovic in Milan's 1-1 Coppa Italia draw with Juventus on Thursday and in his side's 4-2 derby defeat to Inter before that.

And the Rossoneri boss backed his decision to play a lone striker, rather than pairing Ibrahimovic with another forward such as Ante Rebic or Rafael Leao.

"We must strengthen the positive feelings and bring back the same spirit of the last few matches," said Pioli as he looked forward to entertaining Torino at San Siro.

"All game systems are good if the characteristics of the players are suitable for that system.

"We have the characteristics to play with this formation. We see that the team feels these positions and is very balanced and compact, as well as being very dangerous and shooting on goal more than the opponents."

Christian Vieri believes only Paris Saint-Germain's attacking force of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi can compete with Inter's long-term strike partnership of Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

Inter are top of the table in a thrilling Serie A title race in which just one point separates the Nerazzurri from third-place Lazio, who host Antonio Conte's men in a huge contest at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

Lukaku has enjoyed a fine start to life at Inter, scoring 17 goals in 23 top-flight appearances, while Martinez has contributed 11 in 20.

Former Inter striker Vieri says the future is bright for Conte's side and not many teams boast a better long-term strike force.

"The pairing of Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez guarantees Inter both a present and future as a top club," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

"They're among the best three-four partnerships in the world, so considering their age and prospects, only PSG can compete with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar or Mauro Icardi."

Lazio have spent significantly less than Inter and second-place Juventus but are challenging in part due to Ciro Immobile's excellent return of 25 Serie A goals.

Immobile is the leading scorer in the league but Vieri says the Italy international and Lukaku, while outstanding talents in their own right, are not at the level of Juve forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who splits the two in the race for top-scorer honours.

"Ronaldo belongs to another category, he belongs to a world apart. He's a beast, always hungry, matched with impressive quality and technique," he added. 

"Lukaku is a pure centre-forward, devastating, physically strong. He fights, keeps the ball, helps his team-mates. Conte has helped Lukaku reach his physical peak.

"Immobile gives defenders a headache. He never stops moving and is incredibly difficult to mark. 

"He's more of an atypical striker, but is still lethal in front of goal, even with all that work. I respect him, he never stops working."

Having represented all three teams during a nomadic career, Vieri is well-placed to comment on a title race he believes is the best Serie A has seen in some time.

"It's the best title race in 10-15 years and I think it's going to be a battle right to the final round," the ex-Italy striker said.

Vieri also hailed Inter's signing of Christian Eriksen, a move he feels shows the club are displaying their ambition to return to the elite in European football.

"Inter want to win straight away, but with Eriksen, they also build for the future," he said. 

"He has so much quality, can cover all the midfield roles and the fact he chose the Nerazzurri confirms the club has grown on an international level."

Manchester City's two-season Champions League ban could be about to reverberate through the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola's future had been a topic of discussion prior to UEFA handing down sanctions for "serious" Financial Fair Play breaches and the loss of European competition has fuelled suggestions the Catalan could quit the club.

Media reports indicate City already have alternatives in mind, and their search for a successor looks set to pose problems for Premier League rivals.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE PEP REPLACEMENTS

Mauricio Pochettino and Brendan Rodgers are among the contenders to take over at City if Guardiola walks, according to The Telegraph.

The report states the pair "would be in the running" to become the club's next manager in the event their current boss decides to leave at the end of the season.

Ex-Tottenham manager Pochettino recently admitted he would "love" to return to the Premier League, telling the 'In The Pink' podcast: "It's going to be difficult, I know, and for now it's a moment to wait and we'll see what happens."

The Argentinian has been heavily linked to City's cross-town rivals Manchester United, while Rodgers is tied to Leicester City until 2025.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus-linked Guardiola might not be the only big name headed for the Etihad Stadium exit. The Sun claims Real Madrid will launch an "all-out assault" in a bid to sign Raheem Sterling.

- City could potentially even be docked Premier League points for the same Financial Fair Play breaches that compelled UEFA to act, says The Guardian.

- Meanwhile, over at Old Trafford, United have set their asking price for Paul Pogba at £130million, reports the Daily Star.

- As for potential arrivals, United are interested in Norwich City pair Todd Cantwell and Max Aarons plus West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, states the Daily Mail.

- Serie A side Milan are no closer to extending Gianluigi Donnarumma's deal beyond June 2021, according to Tuttomercato, and LaLiga title contenders Madrid are monitoring the situation.

- Sky Sport Germany continues to link former Bayern Munich boss Niko Kovac to manager-less Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin, who saw Jurgen Klinsmann leave earlier in the week.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been left out of Juventus' squad to face Brescia in Serie A on Sunday.

Ronaldo's penalty to snatch a 1-1 draw in the first leg of Juve's Coppa Italia semi-final against Milan on Thursday continued his run of scoring in every match he has played in 2020.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's next chance to continue that run and his record of netting in each of his previous nine Serie A games is likely to come in next weekend's trip to SPAL.

Ronaldo's next appearance will be the 1,000th outing of his highly decorated professional career.

Juve are level on points with leaders Inter at the summit and head coach Maurizio Sarri is once again without injured quartet Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi, Sami Khedira, Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral.

Antonio Conte is convinced Lautaro Martinez remains fully focused on Inter amid speculation linking the striker with a move away from San Siro.

Martinez has shone for Inter alongside Romelu Lukaku this term, scoring 16 goals across all competitions for the Serie A leaders.

His form has seen him linked with a transfer to some of Europe's other major clubs, with Barcelona reportedly eager to secure the 22-year-old as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

Conte, though, dismissed the suggestion Martinez will be disrupted by speculation over his future.

"Lautaro is only 22, but he is very mature. He has a wise head on his shoulders," Conte told a news conference ahead of Sunday's crunch Serie A encounter with title rivals Lazio.

"Transfer rumours mean very little. There is always paper talk. Players remain focused throughout.

"The players know what is asked of them. Rumours count for very little, zero. Players need to focus on the pitch."

Conte insists Inter's entire focus is on maintaining their title challenge, though he believes they will face a Lazio side that is ahead of the Nerazzurri in terms of their development on Sunday. 

"Winning is not easy, especially in Italy. In recent years only one team has won the league," Conte added. 

"It is similar in France and Germany. Lazio have won cups and trophies recently but it has taken time. They have kept the core of the squad. Plus they have strengthened each year. They are a strong side, who are ahead of us in terms of their journey. 

"Lazio have worked well off the pitch, work and planning is important, but so is patience. You need time and patience in football. That is the only way to grow which is our aim."

Maurizio Sarri believes Jurgen Klopp is "shaking off the burden" of Liverpool attempting to win the Champions League for a second straight season by claiming Juventus are favourites to lift the trophy. 

As well as tipping them for glory in Europe, Klopp also revealed his surprised at Juve not being clear in the Serie A title race, with Sarri's side level on points with Antonio Conte's Inter at the summit.

However, Sarri suggested the German is only highlighting the Bianconeri's strengths to relieve the pressure on his own players, with Liverpool set to take on Atletico Madrid in the last 16.

"Jurgen also said that he doesn't watch much Italian football, so that explains his confusion!" Sarri told a news conference ahead of Juve's clash with Brescia.

"Jurgen is one of the smartest and funniest people I've ever known and what he's doing here is shaking off the burden of being the favourites for the Champions League.

"It was clear from the very start that this would be a different type of season. I think it's motivating to be in a title race to the very end, so I feel we have to feed off this situation.

"No single match is decisive. We just have to focus on ourselves and picking up as many points as possible."

Manchester City, meanwhile, were handed a two-season ban from European competition by UEFA on Friday for a breach of Financial Fair Play regulations.

While they are to appeal their suspension, already there is speculation over City's star players leaving the club, along with Pep Guardiola, but Sarri does not think the punishment will lead to a mass exodus from the Etihad Stadium.

"I went to Chelsea last season and they weren't in the Champions League. I was happy to do it," Sarri said.

"This is also the first stage of the process, there will be appeals and we'll see what the definitive verdict is, but there are situations where a coach can look beyond those limitations."

Mino Raiola believes only one thing has gone wrong for Matthijs de Ligt at Juventus so far, and that is not having Giorgio Chiellini alongside him.

De Ligt signed for Juve from Ajax in a €75million deal in July, though has struggled to recapture the form he showed during his time with the Eredivisie club.

The centre-back has made 24 appearances across all competitions this season, predominantly playing alongside Leonardo Bonucci.

Though there has been some bumps in the road for De Ligt, his agent Raiola believes the 20-year-old's switch to Serie A has been a success.

However, he pointed out the absence of Chiellini, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in August, has not helped.

"It's a great balance. Virtually everything went exactly as we wanted, as we hoped," Raiola told Tuttosport.

"The only thing that didn't go so well is that Chiellini has been hurt. Having this great player next to him, Matthijs could learn even more and the insertion [into the team] could have been more gradual.

"But it is also true that sometimes if you do not dive into the water, you certainly cannot learn to swim, can you?"

De Ligt is not the only Juve player who has struggled to find their best form, with Maurizio Sarri's side embroiled in a tight title race with both Inter and Lazio.

They face Brescia at home on Sunday, with a win enough to - temporarily at least - take them above Inter into first place.

Pep Guardiola will consider his future at Manchester City after the club were hit with a two-season Champions League ban.

City were handed the sanction – and a €30million fine – by UEFA on Friday for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play regulations.

The Premier League club have denied wrongdoing and intend to appeal the verdict, but they could face personnel problems if unsuccessful.

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA TO CONSIDER MAN CITY FUTURE AFTER EUROPEAN BAN

Guardiola will consider his future as City manager at season's end unless the verdict is overturned, according to The Telegraph.

The Catalan – who has been linked with Juventus – is contracted until 2021 and had suggested previously he intended to honour his deal.

ESPN reports Guardiola is worried about how the ban will impact his players but does claim the former Barcelona coach would be willing to remain as long as he, personally, is happy.

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still under some pressure at Old Trafford, Manchester United are favourites to land Massimiliano Allegri as manager, according to Sport Mediaset. Paris Saint-Germain, Milan and Roma are also reportedly interested in the former Juventus coach.

- Staying at Manchester United, the Manchester Evening News reports Leicester City star James Maddison wants a move to the Premier League giants. Maddison has been reported to be close to signing a contract extension at the King Power Stadium.

- With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang coming out of contract at the end of next season, Arsenal may opt to sell the forward during the next transfer window. The Mirror reports Inter are hoping to sign Aubameyang, who has also been linked to Barcelona.

- Olivier Giroud is prepared to wait to make a decision on his future despite coming out of contract at season's end. The Telegraph reports the Chelsea striker has been offered a pre-contract by Lazio but is in no rush to make a decision after attracting interest from Tottenham in January.

- Inter and Napoli are set for a transfer battle. CalcioMercato reports Hellas Verona and Albania defender Marash Kumbulla is a target for both clubs, who will need to pay at least €20m for the 20-year-old.

Romelu Lukaku has made quite the impact in Serie A this season but he comes up against one of Europe's most in-form strikers in Ciro Immobile when Inter visit Lazio on Sunday.

Lazio have been one of the surprise packages in Italy's top flight this term and are just one point adrift of table-topping Inter ahead of a huge clash at Stadio Olimpico.

The performances of Immobile and Lukaku could well be crucial in determining the outcome of a blockbuster encounter between two teams aiming to end Juventus' stranglehold of Serie A.

With help of Opta data, we look at how the two compare this season.


IMMOBILE ON FIRE IN FRONT OF GOAL

Lukaku said "there's a new king in town" after helping Inter down Milan in the derby last weekend, and he has been an undoubted success during his maiden campaign at Inter. Thus far he has 17 goals in 23 Serie A appearances with an impressive minutes-to-goal average of 116.

But Immobile is Lazio's leading light, scoring 25 times in 23 league games, giving him an impressive average of a goal every 77 minutes in the top flight.

The Lazio man has also taken more shots (including blocked efforts), registering 93 to Lukaku's tally 68, with 46 on target compared to 35 for the Belgium striker.

Lukaku has scored nine and missed 10 'big chances', with Immobile's numbers reading 15 and 12 in that department. The Italian has a slightly better shot conversion rate (including blocks) of 27 per cent to 25.


CIRO THE CREATOR? LUKAKU UP FOR THE BATTLE

Lukaku's strengths are not just his goalscoring prowess but his ability to bring team-mates in to play.

Immobile is no slouch in terms of those attributes, though, and his six assists and 41 chances created outstrip what Lukaku (two and 34 in the respective categories) has managed this season.

Where Lukaku has outperformed Immobile is the number of duels won, with his 104 some way clear of Immobile's 65. Unsurprisingly, his duel success rate of 44.07 per cent is better than the Lazio forward's 38.69.

In terms of recoveries, Immobile has made 59 to Lukaku's 44.


THE STATS

- Immobile has failed to score in his past two league games; he has not gone three without a goal since last May.

- After scoring twice in his first three matches against Inter, Immobile has failed to net in the following eight against the Nerazzurri.

- Lukaku has the most away goals in the top five European leagues this season with 12, while Immobile is the highest scorer in home fixtures with 15 (the same total as Cristiano Ronaldo).

- Indeed, Lukaku's tally of 12 away goals is already the joint-best for a debut Serie A campaign. Andriy Shevchenko (1999-2000) and Antonio Vojak (1929-30) also managed as many on the road in their maiden seasons.

Agent Mino Raiola has said it is not the time to discuss Gianluigi Donnarumma's future at Milan, while suggesting it will be dependent on the club showing sufficient ambition in their future plans.

Although he does not turn 21 until later this month, Italy international Donnarumma is into his fifth season as Milan's first-choice goalkeeper and has already played 188 competitive games for the club.

However, he has often been linked with a move away from San Siro and Raiola was non-committal when he was asked about his client's future following Milan's 1-1 Coppa Italia draw with Juventus - one of the teams to have been credited with an interest in Donnarumma.

"I don't want to talk about Donnarumma's future, I don't want problems. Donnarumma is happy with Milan," Raiola told reporters.

However, he then added: "The main target is to reach the UEFA Champions League. It would be important for him but also for Milan. We'll talk about it after Euro 2020.

"I don't know what Milan's plans are for the future. You guys are sure that Milan have great projects for the future but I'm not really sure of it. We'll see."

Raiola was also asked whether he hoped another of his clients, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, would remain at Milan next season.

"I hope [so]," he replied. "I cannot imagine football without Ibra. It would be so boring.

"I always think about [Ibrahimovic]. I am his biggest fan, after his father. His father is a bigger fan than me but than after his father it's me."

First Barcelona and now Real Madrid. Lautaro Martinez is a wanted man.

With 16 goals across all competitions for Inter this season, Martinez is attracting plenty of interest following previous links to Manchester United.

Madrid and Barca are set to go head-to-head on and off the pitch.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID JOIN BARCA IN MARTINEZ RACE

Real Madrid want to pay the release clause of Inter star and Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Tyc Sports.

Martinez has long been linked with LaLiga champions Barca, who are eyeing a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

However, Martinez is now firmly on Madrid's radar with a release clause of €115million and Luka Jovic struggling to score regularly behind veteran striker Karim Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN says Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea are chasing Manchester United goalkeeper Dean Henderson, who is on loan at Premier League side Sheffield United. The 22-year-old – who is contracted to United until 2022 – has impressed at Bramall Lane and is reportedly unwilling to return to Manchester unless he is number one ahead of David de Gea.

Manchester City have joined Madrid, Barca, Arsenal and Tottenham in the race to sign RB Leipzig centre-back Dayot Upamecano, reports the Manchester Evening News. Pep Guardiola's City are desperate for defensive reinforcements following Vincent Kompany's exit and injury woes.

- According to the Daily Express, Serie A champions Juventus are eying a shock move for Chelsea's Willian, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Remaining in Turin and the Daily Mail claims Juve have entered the chase for Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 17-year-old is also wanted by United and Chelsea.

Tottenham are plotting a double swoop for Norwich City pair Ben Godfrey and Max Aarons, the Express says. It comes as the Daily Mail reports Spurs will sell Eric Dier if he does not sign a new contract.

- Marca says Barca have contacted Levante about Roger Marti but the club have pointed to the striker's release clause. Barca are looking to bring in an emergency forward following Ousmane Dembele's long-term injury. Real Betis' Loren Moron and Lucas Perez of Deportivo Alaves are also reported options.

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