Serie A was given the green light to resume from June 20, making it the latest major European League to return to action.

The coronavirus pandemic forced most global sport into shutdown in March, but three rounds of Bundesliga fixtures have been played – albeit behind closed doors.

It was announced on Thursday that football in Italy will return with the Coppa Italia semi-finals on June 13, with the final taking place in the week leading up to the first Serie A fixtures in three months. The Premier League is also set to get back under way from June 17.

With the rest of the 2019-20 season now firmly within sight, we look back at the best Opta stats from Italy's top-flight campaign.

JUVENTUS

- Juve have been trailing for 133 minutes in 2019-20, less time than any other team in Serie A this season.

- At home, Juve are unbeaten in their previous 34 league games (W29, D5), more than double the next best streak (Lazio's 15).

- This term, Cristiano Ronaldo equalled the record of 11 consecutive goalscoring appearances in a single Serie A season. He has also already levelled his haul of goals from 2018-19 despite making nine fewer appearances, averaging 0.95 goals per game compared to 0.68 last season.

- Among the players who made their debut in the three-points era, Ronaldo was the fastest to reach 42 goals (52 appearances) – before him the record was 58 games played (Vincenzo Montella, Andriy Shevchenko and Brazil great Ronaldo).

LAZIO

- Lazio are unbeaten in their previous 21 league games (W17 D4), already an all-time Serie A record for the club. Six of the seven previous teams with streaks as long as that in a single season went on to win the Scudetto (the only exception was Roma in 2009-10).

- Ciro Immobile has 27 goals in 26 games in 2019-20. Only Antonio Valentin Angelillo (29) in has managed more after 26 matchdays.

INTER

- Antonio Conte is the first Inter coach to see his team score in each of his first 19 games in all competitions.

- Inter have won nine of their 13 Serie A away games this season (D2 L2): only in the 2006-07 campaign have the Nerazzurri won more (11).

- Romelu Lukaku is one of three players to have scored at least 17 Serie A goals in their first 25 games of a debut season with Inter, emulating Giuseppe Meazza (1929-30) and Stefano Nyers (1948-49).

ATALANTA

- Atalanta's 70 goals in this Serie A campaign already represents their second-best haul in a single season (77 in 2018-19).

- No team has scored as many as 70 goals in the first 25 matches of a single Serie A season since 1959, when Fiorentina netted 79.

- Three Atalanta players are into double-figures in terms of goals in this season: Josip Ilicic, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata. Only in 1949-50 and 1951-52 have the club had as many players reach 10 goals.

MILAN

- Since Stefano Pioli joined Milan, they have kept the most clean sheets in Serie A (seven).

- Milan have increased their winning percentage since the turn of the year across Serie A and the Coppa Italia. It was 35 per cent in 2019, rising to 50 per cent in the new year – they also increased their goals per game from 0.9 to 1.7.

- Since his first spell at Milan (which began in August 2010), Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 60 goals for the Rossoneri in all competitions, more than any other player with the club in the period.

Serie A is ready to return, with Italy's sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora having confirmed the league will be able to resume from June 20.

There has been no action in Italy's top flight since March 9 and the league is delicately poised at both ends of the table.

Juventus and Lazio are embroiled in a fascinating title race and, though they are eight points adrift in third, Inter may not consider themselves out of the running just yet due to their game in hand.

There are up to six teams in realistic danger of relegation, while Atalanta and Roma are vying for a spot in the Champions League places.

Here are the key fixtures for each remaining matchday.

 

MD28: Brescia v Genoa

If Brescia, who sit nine points adrift of safety, are to pull off an incredible escape they will need to hit the ground running when play restarts. A home match against Genoa, who are only outside the bottom three on goal difference, is a great opportunity to do just that.

MD29: Atalanta v Napoli, Parma v Hellas Verona

Atalanta and Napoli both have to play five of the other six teams in the top seven before the end of the season, so their meeting could play a big role on their momentum in the final stretch. Parma or Hellas Verona – eighth and ninth respectively – could make a late bid for European football with three points here.

MD30: Juventus v Torino, Napoli v Roma

As Juve attempt to fend off Lazio, their first big fixture comes in the form of the Turin derby on matchday 30. This round of games also sees Champions League-chasing Napoli and Roma go head-to-head at the San Paolo.

MD32: Juventus v Atalanta, Napoli v Milan

Another huge match in Juve's title defence comes against Atalanta, who by this stage will be hoping their Champions League bid is still on. Gennaro Gattuso, meanwhile, will face his former club Milan, who will be looking to cement their place in the European qualification spots.

MD34: Juventus v Lazio

There will be only one place to be on matchday 34, as the two title contenders go head to head. With just four fixtures remaining afterwards, it could be the match that settles the title race.

MD35: Lecce v Brescia, Sampdoria v Genoa

The battle for top-flight survival could take some significant turns in this round of matches. The hopes of Lecce and Brescia, the latter of whom face fellow strugglers SPAL the matchday prior, could hinge on this match, while the Derby della Lanterna will take on greater significance if Samp and Genoa remain in precarious positions by this point.

MD37: Inter v Napoli

The success of Inter's season could well centre on a pair of tricky games to end the campaign. If they are able to mount a late charge for Scudetto glory they will certainly have to work hard to see it through, but if it goes the other way they could end up clinching onto a space in the top four.

MD38: Juventus v Roma, Napoli v Lazio, Atalanta v Inter

As fate would have it, the current top six all play each other on the final day of the season and plenty of drama will surely be on offer. The title, Champions League places and Europa League spots could all be decided on an incredible final day.

Serie A has been given the green light to resume on June 20 following a three-month hiatus.

Italy's top flight was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the country's sports minister announced on Thursday the league - and the Coppa Italia - will restart next month.

Juventus are one point clear of Lazio as they chase down a ninth successive Scudetto, while Inter are nine points adrift of top spot with a game in hand to play.

The reigning champions' first league game back is scheduled to be away to Bologna, a week after they take on Milan in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final.

Below is the full list of Serie A games still to be played, including four fixtures carried over from earlier in the season.

 

Matchday 25

Inter v Sampdoria
Hellas Verona v Cagliari
Torino v Parma
Atalanta v Sassuolo

Matchday 27

Atalanta v Lazio
Bologna v Juventus
Fiorentina v Brescia
Genoa v Parma
Hellas Verona v Napoli
Inter v Sassuolo
Lecce v Milan
Roma v Sampdoria
SPAL v Cagliari
Torino v Udinese

Matchday 28

Brescia v Genoa
Cagliari v Torino
Juventus v Lecce
Lazio v Fiorentina
Milan v Roma
Napoli v SPAL
Parma v Inter
Sampdoria v Bologna
Sassuolo v Hellas Verona
Udinese v Atalanta

Matchday 29

Atalanta v Napoli
Bologna v Cagliari
Fiorentina v Sassuolo
Genoa v Juventus
Hellas Verona v Parma
Inter v Brescia
Lecce v Sampdoria
Roma v Udinese
SPAL v Milan
Torino v Lazio

Matchday 30

Brescia v Hellas Verona
Cagliari v Atalanta
Inter v Bologna
Juventus v Torino
Lazio v Milan
Napoli v Roma
Parma v Fiorentina
Sampdoria v SPAL
Sassuolo v Lecce
Udinese v Genoa

Matchday 31

Atalanta v Sampdoria
Bologna v Sassuolo
Fiorentina v Cagliari
Genoa v Napoli
Hellas Verona v Inter
Lecce v Lazio
Milan v Juventus
Roma v Parma
SPAL v Udinese
Torino v Brescia

Matchday 32

Brescia v Roma
Cagliari v Lecce
Fiorentina v Hellas Verona
Genoa v SPAL
Inter v Torino
Juventus v Atalanta
Lazio v Sassuolo
Napoli v Milan
Parma v Bologna
Udinese v Sampdoria

Matchday 33

Atalanta v Brescia
Bologna v Napoli
Lecce v Fiorentina
Milan v Parma
Roma v Hellas Verona
Sampdoria v Cagliari
Sassuolo v Juventus
SPAL v Inter
Torino v Genoa
Udinese v Lazio

Matchday 34

Brescia v SPAL
Cagliari v Sassuolo
Fiorentina v Torino
Genoa v Lecce
Hellas Verona v Atalanta
Juventus v Lazio
Milan v Bologna
Napoli v Udinese
Parma v Sampdoria
Roma v Inter

Matchday 35

Atalanta v Bologna
Inter v Fiorentina
Lazio v Cagliari
Lecce v Brescia
Parma v Napoli
Sampdoria v Genoa
Sassuolo v Milan
SPAL v Roma
Torino v Hellas Verona
Udinese v Juventus

Matchday 36

Bologna v Lecce
Brescia v Parma
Cagliari v Udinese
Genoa v Inter
Hellas Verona v Lazio
Juventus v Sampdoria
Milan v Atalanta
Napoli v Sassuolo
Roma v Fiorentina
SPAL v Torino

Matchday 37

Cagliari v Juventus
Fiorentina v Bologna
Hellas Verona v SPAL
Inter v Napoli
Lazio v Brescia
Parma v Atalanta
Sampdoria v Milan
Sassuolo v Genoa
Torino v Roma
Udinese v Lecce

Matchday 38

Atalanta v Inter
Bologna v Torino
Brescia v Sampdoria
Genoa v Hellas Verona
Juventus v Roma
Lecce v Parma
Milan v Cagliari
Napoli v Lazio
Sassuolo v Udinese
SPAL v Fiorentina

Serie A is the latest of Europe's top leagues to announce a firm date for the return of the 2019-20 season.

Italy's top flight, suspended in March amid the coronavirus crisis, is set to get back underway on June 20.

Debate has raged in the past three months over whether the season should resume or be ended early, as has been done in France, but the Stats Perform AI team have crunched the numbers behind the scenes during the hiatus.

With all 20 teams having either 12 or 13 league matches still to play, their goal was to simulate how the rest of the season would pan out if the games were played now to produce a predicted 2019-20 table.

 

The statistical model estimates the probability of each match outcome – either a win, draw or loss – based on each team's attacking and defensive quality.

Those ratings are allocated based on four years' worth of comprehensive historic data points and results, with more weighting given to recent matches to account for improvements or declines in form and performance trends.

The AI simulation takes into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes goals against and rewards them accordingly.

All that data is used to simulate upcoming matches using goal predictions from the Poisson distribution – a detailed mathematical model – with the two teams' attacking and defending ratings used as inputs.

The outcome of the season is then simulated on 10,000 different occasions in order to generate the most accurate possible percentage chance of each team finishing in their ultimate league position.

Without further ado, let's have a good look at the results of the simulation with the predicted final league table.

 

JUVENTUS ARE CHAMPIONS... AGAIN

The results in our model see Juventus retain the Scudetto, accumulating 87 points.

Undoubtedly the story of the season in Italy has been the rise of Lazio, who have mounted a genuine title challenge and went into the forced hiatus just one point adrift of the summit.

With Ciro Immobile's goals and Luis Alberto's creativity in midfield, Simone Inzaghi's men have excelled and delighted neutrals with their entertaining football.

But, in our model, Juventus see them off in the title race, with Maurizio Sarri picking up where Massimiliano Allegri left off last term and guiding them to a ninth successive Serie A title.

However, their points haul is their worst since getting the same amount in 2014-15.

INTER SETTLE FOR THIRD

For much of the first half of the season, Inter looked destined to push Juve all the way in the title race.

Under Antonio Conte and with Romelu Lukaku leading the attack following his move from Manchester United, Inter appeared invigorated.

But their dipped after the turn of the year, leaving them nine points off the top when the season was put on hold, though they had a game in hand.

In the simulation they did not recover to overtake either of the top two, finishing third on 79 points. 

Nevertheless, this would still represent an improvement on last season, when they only amassed 69 points and finished fourth.

 

MILAN SCRAPE EUROPA LEAGUE PLACE

It has been a difficult few years for Milan, and this season has not been much better.

Stefano Pioli's appointment as coach late last year has seen them improve somewhat, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's arrival also giving the team a boost.

But there remains a lot to fix with the Rossoneri, with the squad lacking in quality and the hierarchy at odds with each other.

The simulation has Milan finishing seventh and that would be enough to scrape a Europa League spot, as the other three teams left in the Coppa Italia semi-finals with them are all predicted to end the season higher than Pioli's men in Serie A, therefore qualifying for Europe already.

Roma and Napoli take fifth and sixth, with Atalanta rounding off the Champions League spots in our model thanks to a five-point advantage over the Giallorossi.

SAMPDORIA AVOID THE DROP, RIVALS GENOA NOT SO LUCKY

Only one of the current bottom three escapes relegation in the simulation, with Lecce preserving their top-flight status at the expense of Genoa.

Il Grifone and bitter rivals Sampdoria sit just above the drop zone in reality, but our predicted table sees Genoa drop to Serie B for the first time since 2006-07 – last season they only guaranteed their survival on the final day.

The model has Genoa eventually reaching 36 points, but Samp and Lecce manage to climb to 41, giving them both a healthy five-point cushion.

Brescia unsurprisingly prop up the predicted table, given they are nine points from safety in the real standings. Our AI team give Brescia a 1.8 per cent chance of avoiding relegation.

Also going down in our predicted table are SPAL, whose haul of 29 points - one more than Brescia in this experiment - leaves them well adrift of safety.

If Lautaro Martinez heads to Barcelona, Inter may land Timo Werner as his replacement as Liverpool withdraw from the race for the RB Leipzig star.

Martinez and Werner are two forwards linked with moves during the close season after impressive campaigns at Inter and RB Leipzig respectively.

And Werner could reportedly fill Martinez's boots at San Siro if the Argentina international makes the switch.

 

TOP STORY – WERNER COULD REPLACE BARCELONA TARGET LAUTARO

RB Leipzig star Werner is the leading candidate to replace Martinez if the Inter forward joins Barcelona, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Werner has been heavily linked with a transfer to Liverpool, but the Mirror reports the Premier League leaders have withdrawn from talks as they are unwilling to meet his £49.4million (€55m) release clause.

Meanwhile, AS reports Philippe Coutinho could be part of Barca's bid to land Martinez, even as Inter say the only way the 22-year-old will leave is by his reported €111m clause being paid.

ROUND-UP

- Will Barcelona and Juventus get an exchange deal done? Sport reports Juve are pushing to land Arthur, but the midfielder wants to stay with the LaLiga giants. Miralem Pjanic has been linked with a move to Camp Nou.

- Staying at Barcelona and Mundo Deportivo reports the club are willing to let Ousmane Dembele leave if a good offer arrives. The attacker has been linked with a switch to Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar reportedly a target for Barcelona.

- David Luiz's future appears uncertain. Sky Sports News reports the defender's stay at Arsenal could be coming to an end after one season as his contract expires next month and no talks are planned over a new deal.

- It seems Tiemoue Bakayoko could be set for another transfer. Le 10 Sport says the midfielder, on loan at Monaco from Chelsea, is being targeted by Milan and West Ham, with PSG's interest having eased.

- With Kepa Arrizabalaga out of favour, Chelsea are said to be looking for a new goalkeeper. The Sun says the Premier League side are lining up a £15m (€16.7m) move for Borussia Dortmund shot-stopper Roman Burki.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are also reportedly eyeing a left-back. The Mirror reports they are keeping an eye on developments around Ajax full-back Nicolas Tagliafico, who could be available for around £22m (€24.5m).

Juventus signing Dejan Kulusevski hopes he can become as good as Manchester City star Kevin De Bruyne.

Kulusevski, 20, was bought by Juve for €35million in January before being sent back to Parma on loan for the remainder of the season.

The Swedish attacker said he had watched De Bruyne closely and is hoping he can emulate the Belgium star.

"He is one of the top five players in the world," Kulusevski told Sky Sport on Wednesday.

"I study a lot because he is a phenomenal player and because I want to become like [him], but also stronger.

"Among my habits is to watch many games, because I learn a lot from my colleagues."

Kulusevski was also linked with a move to Inter before deciding to sign with Juventus.

The former Atalanta man said Juve coach Maurizio Sarri was one of the key reasons he chose the Serie A champions.

"One of the reasons why I chose the Bianconeri was Sarri," Kulusevski said.

"I think I can do very well and learn a lot with him. I watched all his Chelsea games."

Cristiano Ronaldo's anger in defeat provided a lesson for Bruno Guimaraes, even if the Lyon midfielder missed the opportunity to swap shirts with his idol.

Guimaraes has played just five times for Lyon since his €20million January move from Athletico Paranaense, but the 22-year-old has already made his Champions League bow against Juventus.

The clash gave the Brazilian the chance to face Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Guimaraes came out on top, too, playing the full 90 minutes as Lyon claimed a 1-0 first-leg lead in the last 16, with the return match yet to be played due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ronaldo is "a guy I used to play with on video games", Guimaraes explained to UOL as he recalled an educational experience.

"We talked in the game in Portuguese," the Lyon man said. "He said it was not a foul, and I said it was a foul.

"I was going to ask him to swap shirts with him, but he was kind of angry. He's a guy who doesn't like to lose. This is what we have to take as an example; a guy who has won everything [but] hates to lose.

"I want more and more to have this in my mind, being able to get the good things from these football legends, which is super important."

Discussing his nerves ahead of the match, Guimaraes said: "I was very nervous and slept badly at night because it was my first Champions League game, as a starter and in the last 16.

"But I thought to myself: 'If I want to be a great player, this has to be normal in my life. I have to play well against these guys.'

"I was very focused and I felt like I was playing on the street. Obviously, you are nervous to go on the field and when you are out there you get butterflies.

"But when the ball rolls, everything is normal. It's 11 against 11."

Former Juventus star Angelo Di Livio has been concerned by the absence of the Bianconeri's usual "unique mentality" at times this season, but talisman Cristiano Ronaldo escaped criticism.

With the season suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, Juve are top of Serie A and playing in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Yet Italy's defending champions have not been entirely convincing this term under Maurizio Sarri, sitting just one point clear of Lazio in the league and trailing Lyon 1-0 after the first leg of their European tie.

Di Livio, who was part of the last Juve team to win the Champions League in 1995-96, was troubled by their approach to the Lyon game and does not consider them genuine contenders for Europe's top title.

"Juve are still a long shot from what I have seen this season before COVID," he told Stats Perform News. "They struggled even in Serie A and they have a super Lazio just one point behind them.

"They are at risk in Serie A as much as in the Champions League against Lyon. They have to come from behind, but I didn't like their approach.

"Juventus boast a very unique mentality, we all know that. Whoever plays there knows exactly what to do with aggression, grit and love for the shirt.

"This season they looked a bit prissy, but they still top the league and have a game in hand to topple Lyon."

Di Livio is at least encouraged by Sarri's recent work at the club, although he was bemused by the departure of previous head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

"Not many have understood this change at the helm," he said. "You have to respect a winner.

"I hold Massimiliano Allegri in high esteem because in comparison he looks so similar to Marcello Lippi. He who wins can't be sacked. Allegri was pivotal for that and even for this Juventus.

"Of course, good luck to Sarri, who has finally understood what it means to manage a club that has to win."

Ronaldo, Juve's star man, is a role model for his team-mates, according to Di Livio.

He said: "Cristiano Ronaldo always has to play. You can make him rest once every 15 games. He is admirable and it is proven by all his team-mates who get on so well with him.

"He is a super champion. He leads by example for his working attitude, his lifestyle, never a problem. Hats off."

Dejan Kulusevski has revealed he chose Juventus over Inter as he was "in doubt" about working under Antonio Conte.

The Sweden international agreed to sign for the Serie A champions from Atalanta in January, penning a four-and-a-half-year deal before being loaned back to Parma.

As well as relishing the prospect of lining up alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, Kulusevski is also eager to learn from Juve boss Maurizio Sarri.

And the midfielder drew a direct comparison with Inter coach Conte, who he was not so sure about.

"[Sarri] was nice. He put me at ease. I knew his Chelsea and his style of play," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"That's also why I chose to play for the Bianconeri. 

"With Conte, the movements are different, the tactical set-up. That was why I was in doubt."

Reflecting on his arrival at Allianz Stadium, Kulusevski was delighted to be welcomed by Ronaldo among several of his new team-mates.

"What a thrill that day at the stadium, a unique atmosphere," the 20-year-old said. "And CR7 said to me: 'Welcome Dejan, how are you?'

"[Gianluigi] Buffon and [Giorgio] Chiellini were nice to me too. An immense joy for a boy who had only seen them on TV.

"I hope we go far in every competition and above all that we will win the Champions League."

With Italian football still in a coronavirus-enforced shutdown, Kulusevski will not be able to make his debut until the new season begins but he is looking forward to the challenge.

"I'm on the right track, I feel stronger every day and ready to face new challenges," he said. "I'm attracted to the idea of testing myself against the best.

"I go there to learn; I can't wait to link up with Dybala and his magical left foot.

"In any case, I now know how to play in multiple positions, and I plan to claim my place in Turin too."

Manchester United star Paul Pogba returning to Juventus is apparently shaping as impossible.

Pogba, 27, has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Juventus and Real Madrid reportedly interested in landing the midfielder.

But it seems the Serie A giants will find such a deal impossible.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA RETURNING TO JUVENTUS IS IMPOSSIBLE

Pogba leaving Manchester United to return to Juventus is looking impossible, according to Sport and Corriere dello Sport.

Sport says the Bianconeri cannot afford the €100million (£89m) United would want for the France international.

Pogba left Juve to join United for £89m (€105m) in 2016.

ROUND-UP

- James Rodriguez is pushing for a stay in the Spanish capital. Mundo Deportivo reports the Real Madrid playmaker is determined to sign for Atletico Madrid.

- Real Madrid may be looking for a back-up in his position, but Casemiro is seemingly going nowhere. Marca claims the midfielder recently extended his contract until 2023.

- Odion Ighalo is set for a return to China. The Mirror reports the striker is expecting to go back to Shanghai Shenhua from his loan spell at Manchester United after just eight appearances for the Premier League club, with the Chinese Super League side demanding he returns. Goal says United will focus on RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner and Lyon's Moussa Dembele with Ighalo leaving.

- Forget trying to land Ansu Fati this close season. According to Sport, Barcelona will keep the 17-year-old, who is reportedly wanted by Borussia Dortmund and Premier League clubs.

- Newcastle United are looking at signing Liverpool midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri if they are taken over, according to the Daily Mail.

- It seems Adam Lallana is set to leave Liverpool when his contract expires at the end of the season. The Mirror reports Burnley have joined the fight for the midfielder, who is also said to be a target for Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham.

Manchester City look set to have to fill a void in their squad.

Germany international Leroy Sane is tipped to swap City for Bayern Munich.

And Leon Bailey has reportedly emerged as a target for City.

 

TOP STORY – SANE OUT, BAILEY IN AT CITY?

Manchester City are targeting Bayer Leverkusen's Leon Bailey as a replacement for Leroy Sane, according to the Daily Mail.

Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich are hoping to sign City star Sane in the off-season.

Should Sane complete his return to Germany, Bailey has been identified by Pep Guardiola's City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport claims Juventus have warned Paul Pogba he will have to accept a drastic cut to his salary if the Manchester United star is to return to the Serie A champions. Pogba has been linked with former club Juve and LaLiga giants Real Madrid. The Red Devils have reportedly re-opened the door to Juve over a possible deal.

Luka Jovic wants to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu and turn things around with Madrid, reports Marca. The Serbia forward, who has struggled since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt, has emerged as a target for Milan.

- Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is pushing for a move to Juve, says Calciomercato. The Poland international is a free agent in 2021 and is valued at €40million by Napoli, though he is hoping to lower the club's demands.

Juve are desperately trying to convince Arthur to leave Barcelona for Turin, according to Mundo Deportivo. Juve want Arthur to replace Miralem Pjanic, who is reportedly close to swapping clubs.

- Onda Cero says Barca could recall Philippe Coutinho from his loan spell at Bayern. With Bayern opting not to exercise their option to purchase Coutinho, the Brazilian could find himself back at Camp Nou ahead of LaLiga's proposed resumption.

Inter have been in contact with Edinson Cavani's entourage over a move to San Siro, says Calciomercato. Paris Saint-Germain forward Cavani is coming out of contract and could replace Inter star Lautaro Martinez, who is wanted by Barca.

- The Daily Mail claims Barca will listen to loan offers for Ousmane Dembele. The injury-prone Frenchman has previously been linked to PSG, Juve, Arsenal, United and Liverpool.

Neymar's return to Barcelona could be getting a little closer.

The Paris Saint-Germain star continues to be linked with a return to Camp Nou, where he left in 2017 for a world-record €222million.

While there is uncertainty over whether Barcelona can get a deal done, it seems it may be getting closer.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR CLOSER TO BARCELONA RETURN AS PSG EYE DEMBELE

Paris Saint-Germain remain very interested in signing Ousmane Dembele and it could help Neymar return to Barcelona, according to Sport.

France international Dembele has struggled with injuries since joining Barca from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, but the former Rennes attacker could be set for a return to his homeland.

However, Marca reports Neymar is not a priority for Barcelona with their focus on Inter star Lautaro Martinez and Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic.

Staying at Barcelona and Sport says the club are following Hertha Berlin's 18-year-old midfielder Lazar Samardzic.

 

ROUND-UP

- Timo Werner starred again for RB Leipzig on Sunday with a hat-trick against Mainz in the Bundesliga. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp held a virtual meeting with the forward in recent weeks, according to journalist Raphael Honigstein.

- With Bayern Munich deciding not to buy Philippe Coutinho, the Barcelona attacker's future remains unclear. Le 10 Sport reports Arsenal want to start talks with the playmaker's agent, with head coach Mikel Arteta dreaming of signing the Brazil international.

- Toni Kroos looks set to finish his career at Real Madrid. AS reports the 30-year-old midfielder has no interest in leaving Madrid, where he is contracted until 2023, amid links to MLS and the Chinese Super League.

- Odion Ighalo's Manchester United career may be over already. According to the Daily Mail, Shanghai Shenhua have rejected the Premier League club's requests to keep the forward – who has scored four goals in eight games for United – on loan for another three months.

- Could Raul Jimenez leave Wolves for Juventus? Todofichajes reports Juve offered Adrien Rabiot plus €30m (£26.7m) for the star forward.

- Less than a year after leaving Newcastle United, Rafael Benitez is being linked with a return. Benitez, now coach of Dalian Professional in China, wants to return to the club if their proposed takeover is resolved, and sign Manchester City defender John Stones and Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley.

Former Real Madrid midfielder Uli Stielike would prefer the LaLiga giants targeted "humble players" ahead of signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Pogba, 27, has regularly been linked with a move to Madrid, while the midfielder is also reportedly a target for former club Juventus.

Stielike, who won three LaLiga titles and numerous other trophies as a Madrid player in the 1970s and '80s, said the club should only go after Pogba if they were returning to the days of the Galacticos in the early 2000s.

"If you want to return to the idea of the galactics, maybe yes," he told AS.

"But I am more in favour of humble players with great talent and sacrifice for the team."

Madrid lost plenty of star power just two years ago, when Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus.

After a spectacular career at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus before the 2018-19 season, a campaign during which the LaLiga side had three coaches and won just the Club World Cup.

Stielike said any club would struggle to replace a player like Ronaldo.

"There is only one Cristiano," he said.

"That's why I see that any team needs a certain adaptation time when a fundamental piece is gone."

Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini believes Leonardo Bonucci's decision to join Milan in 2017 was illogical.

Bonucci made a stunning switch from Juve to Milan in 2017, only to return to Turin the following year.

Chiellini, 35, felt his fellow defender's move made no sense, saying he would have understood if Bonucci had decided to join a club like Real Madrid.

"His year at Milan was different, a choice certainly wrong because he was not made at peace with himself, therefore not in a lucid way," he wrote in his autobiography, Io, Giorgio, via Corriere dello Sport.

"Leo was shaken for a thousand reasons. I was sorry because everything happens in the weeks when we didn't see each other.

"I'm sure if it had happened at another time I would have made him think about staying. Like [Antonio] Conte in that July 2014, they always leave when I'm not there."

Chiellini added: "With Leo I spoke that everything was already established … something without logic from start to finish.

"I could have understood if he had gone to Real Madrid, but to that Milan? Fortunately, fate wanted everything to come back in order."

Bonucci had played 34 games in all competitions for Juve this season, which has been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bryan Robson revealed Fabrizio Ravanelli found it difficult to adjust from the high standards of Juventus when the Italy star made his shock move to Middlesbrough.

One of the most remarkable transfers in Premier League history saw Ravanelli, something of a superstar at the time, trade Turin for Teesside in 1996.

Just weeks before the £7million deal went through, Ravanelli won the Champions League with the Bianconeri, but the Middlesbrough switch turned sour when manager Robson's team were relegated.

Ravanelli spent just one full season in England, and Robson admits: "We had a couple of problems with him."

Describing the 'Silver Fox' as "super professional", Robson conceded in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live that Ravanelli found not everyone at Middlesbrough met the striker's expectations.

"He sort of got frustrated with some of the players, but he couldn't hide it because of the Italian passion," Robson said.

"Now and again I had to calm that down and have a chat with Ravanelli in the office, and just say, 'The standards you've come from, you can't expect that at Middlesbrough at the moment, but that's what we're trying to aim for, trying to build up where we've got a top team that can compete with the best teams in Europe'."

Although Ravanelli's stay was short-lived, Middlesbrough supporters did not suffer for a lack of top names at the Riverside Stadium during the rest of the decade.

Paul Gascoigne arrived from Rangers in 1998, and before Middlesbrough's first away game of the 1998-99 season, a trip to Aston Villa, the former Tottenham and Lazio star commandeered the team bus without permission.

Gascoigne went on to crash the bus and had to pay for repairs.

"Yes," recalled 63-year-old Robson. "Gazza, in whatever frame of mind he was in, a brand new bus, first away game of the season, and he decided to drive it up the drive because he thought it smelled and sounded so cool.

"So, he drove it up there and he ripped all the side of the bus off.

"And we had to wait two hours at the training ground for another bus to come to take us down to Aston Villa."

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