Virgil van Dijk is been joined by six Liverpool team-mates in the 30-man shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are also present.

Van Dijk played a vital role as Liverpool won the 2018-19 Champions League, producing several standout performances at the heart of Jurgen Klopp's defence en route to the title, making him one of the favourites for major individual awards.

He was pipped to The Best FIFA Men's Player award by Barcelona star Messi, who will surely be Van Dijk's biggest competition for the Ballon d'Or having inspired a Barca side many consider underwhelming to the league title.

Fellow Reds stars Sadio Mane, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah, Alisson, Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino all join Van Dijk on the list.

Ajax captured the imagination of neutrals in Europe's elite competition last term, reaching the semi-finals in stunning fashion before dramatically going out to Tottenham, and a couple of players from the Amsterdam's club are nominated.

Donny van de Beek and Dusan Tadic are in the running, while Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt - who have since moved on to Barcelona and Juventus respectively - are also included.

Elsewhere, Premier League champions Manchester City are represented by Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero 

Tottenham's Son Heung-min and Hugo Lloris are included from the losing Champions League finalists' ranks, but there is no place for Harry Kane or Christian Eriksen.

Last year's winner Luka Modric also misses out following a below-par year for Real Madrid, as does Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar.

The Ballon d'Or winner will be named in Paris on December 2.

Meanwhile, De Ligt is one of 10 youngsters nominated for the Kopa Trophy, awarded to the best performing player under the age of 21.

Borussia Dortmund and England winger Jadon Sancho is listed for the prestigious accolade and Joao Felix - signed by Atletico Madrid from Benfica for €126m earlier this year - is also in contention.

Four contenders for the Yachine Trophy ply their trade in the Premier League, with Alisson, Ederson, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Lloris included on the 10-man shortlist.

The likes of Jan Oblak and Marc-Andre ter Stegen are also battling it out to win the new award, which is handed to the best goalkeeper of the past 12 months.


Full list of Ballon d'Or nominees:

Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Dusan Tadic (Ajax), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Donny van de Beek (Ajax), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), Alisson (Liverpool), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona), Mohammed Salah (Liverpool), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Marquinhos (Paris St-Germain), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid).

With Zinedine Zidane on thin ice, a familiar face could return to Real Madrid.

Pressure is mounting on Zidane following Madrid's shock LaLiga loss to Real Mallorca on Saturday, a result that means they sit behind Barcelona in the table.

Former Madrid head coach Mourinho could be the answer to their problems…

 

TOP STORY – MADRID REACH OUT TO MOU

Real Madrid have contacted Jose Mourinho as pressure mounts on head coach Zinedine Zidane, according to El Chiringuito.

Zidane – in his second spell in charge after winning three successive Champions League titles prior to leaving ahead of the 2018-19 season – has failed to convince upon his return to the LaLiga giants.

And ex-Manchester United manager Mourinho, who spent three years in the Spanish capital – winning the 2011-12 LaLiga title, is reportedly wanted by Madrid president Florentino Perez.

ROUND-UP

- Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman could move to Barcelona in 2020. After Dutch Football Federation (KNVB) sporting director Nico-Jan Hoogma confirmed Koeman has a specific release clause in his contract built around his former club, Marca has linked the ex-Barca defender to Camp Nou.

Real Madrid are pushing to sign Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and Salzburg teenager Erling Haaland, claims El Desmarque. Sancho has been heavily linked to Manchester United.

- Calciomercato says Arsenal are favourites to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. The 20-year-old was linked to the Gunners before the transfer window closed.

Inter are tracking Atalanta's Swedish teenager Dejan Kulusevski, reports Calciomercato. The 19-year-old is attracting interest during his loan spell at Parma, where he has scored two goals and supplied five assists in Serie A.

- According to SPORT, Barcelona are interested in two Bundesliga players. While Bayer Leverkusen sensation Kai Havertz is coveted, the LaLiga champions are also keeping an eye on Schalke's Amine Harit.

AC Milan head coach Stefano Pioli bemoaned his team's mistakes in a disappointing last-gasp draw at home to lowly Lecce, though he believes the Rossoneri can learn from the result.

Pioli's reign as Milan coach got off to an underwhelming start following Sunday's 2-2 draw with Lecce at San Siro, where the visitors scored a stunning 92nd-minute equaliser.

The appointment of former Inter boss Pioli to replace Marco Giampaolo was an already unpopular decision among fans and the 54-year-old's debut in the Milan dugout did little to endear himself to the Rossoneri faithful.

Reflecting on his bow, which looked on track thanks to goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and substitute Krzysztof Piatek before Marco Calderoni's stoppage-time leveller, birthday boy Pioli told Sky Sport Italia: "It's a pity, there were positives, but we wanted the win and didn't get it because of our mistakes. I saw some good moves, quality and spirit, but if you leave the game open, you can have a nasty surprise at the end.

"Milan players are well aware of their capabilities and the fact they are wearing a prestigious jersey. They will be able to judge their own performances and we'll analyse them carefully, but in a way we paid for our generosity, as we ran after the ball and didn't keep an eye on other players. I think we had deserved to win it.

"Some of the positions we took were positive, others not so much. We tried to build from the back with a three-man defence, but that can change with a different opponent such as Roma next week.

"After only a few days of training, I did see some of the ideas we had worked on and that bodes well for the future, even if there is a lot of work to be done. I had hoped for a gift this evening for my birthday, but I saw some good things and I hope we can learn from these mistakes."

The result left Milan with just one win from their past five league fixtures and languishing in 12th position – six points adrift of fourth-placed Napoli.

"We lacked a little collaboration on the final equaliser," Pioli added. "Calderoni hit it well, but we had several opportunities to close that Lecce move earlier and if we had, we'd be here talking about a deserved victory.

"In the news conference yesterday [Saturday], I was asked many questions about how I found the team. I tell you after this match, there are many positives. The big error was that a side like Milan have to kill games off. We could've even held on for 2-1 and kicked it out of play rather than misplace those passes.

"This match will help us learn a great deal, for what we did and what we should've done. On the penalty, there were too many of us going after the ball and we left gaps. We weren't set out well at all."

Stefano Pioli's reign as AC Milan coach got off to an underwhelming start as Marco Calderoni's stunning late equaliser secured struggling Lecce a 2-2 draw in San Siro.

Krzysztof Piatek had seemingly secured former Inter boss Pioli – who replaced Marco Giampaolo during the international break – a debut win with his 81st-minute goal, but Calderoni struck in stoppage time to ensure Milan dropped points for the fifth time in eight games this season.

The impressive Hakan Calhanoglu powered Milan into the lead with a fine strike following Lucas Biglia's pass, but they struggled to maintain their lively start and faded towards half-time.

Khouma Babacar found the net from close range after Gianluigi Donnarumma saved his penalty in the second half, and then Piatek's strike was cancelled out by Calderoni's long-range drive to prevent Milan from moving back into the top half of the table.

Roma have issued an apology to Sampdoria's Ronaldo Vieira after the midfielder suffered racist abuse in Sunday's Serie A meeting.

Former Leeds United youngster Vieira, who played the entire match, was abused by a section of the travelling Roma support during the 0-0 draw at Stadio Luigi Ferraris – Claudio Ranieri's first game at the Sampdoria helm.

"I heard it, but I don't want to talk about it. This happens too often, it shouldn't be this way," England youth international Vieira told Rai Sport after the match.

Roma were quick to respond, taking to Twitter to apologise to the 21-year-old and vowing to ban any supporters found guilty of racist abuse.

"Roma would like to apologise to Ronaldo Vieira for the racist boos he was subjected to," the post read.

"Roma does not tolerate racism of any kind and the club will support the authorities in identifying and subsequently banning any individuals found guilty of racially abusing the midfielder."

Sampdoria responded by tweeting: "We are united in saying no to racism."

Inter are unlikely to seek a January replacement for injured loanee Alexis Sanchez, according to chief executive Giuseppe Marotta.

The Chile forward underwent surgery in midweek after his injuring his left ankle on international duty.

Sanchez, 30, could be out for up to three months but Marotta believes Antonio Conte's squad is deep enough to handle his absence.

Inter did not miss the Manchester United misfit in Sunday's thrilling 4-3 victory over Sassuolo, secured courtesy of braces from Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

"The January market is available to the club but the strongest players aren't available for moves in that window," Marotta told DAZN.

"We'll be alert to examine any potential opportunities. We have a competitive squad. Obviously we'd be happier without the Sanchez injury but we're optimistic.

"When Alexis comes back the attacking set-up will remain unchanged."

Lukaku and Martinez starred as Inter ran riot for over 70 minutes at Mapei Stadium.

The visitors were three goals clear and cruising before Filip Djuricic poked in Sassuolo's second goal in the 74th minute.

Fellow substitute Jeremie Boga reduced the margin back to one and the Nerazzurri had to survive a nervy finish to secure their seventh win in eight Serie A matches.

Antonio Conte battled a fever before the game and left it to his assistant, Cristian Stellini, to explain the "blackout" that put three points in jeopardy.

"We lost the ball twice and they caught us by surprise when breaking quickly," he said.

"It was too easy for them to score. We've still got a long way to go and working on situations like this is the most important thing for us."

Stellini added: "Antonio is slightly worn out, he had a bit of a fever before the match. He gave his all so he could lead the team, as he always does over the course of the 90 minutes.

"Thankfully he wasn't kept away from the bench but he's feeling the effects again now."

Stellini said Stefano Sensi, who missed the match with a thigh injury, would be assessed on Monday ahead of the Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund.

Romelu Lukaku described Inter coach Antonio Conte as a team player after rushing to the bench to celebrate a goal with his boss in the Nerazzurri's 4-3 victory at Sassuolo.

Conte called for Lukaku to "train more" after Inter lost two consecutive matches going into the international break, and the former Manchester Untied striker underlined his commitment to meet his coach's demands after netting a brace at MAPEI Stadium.

After goals at either end in the opening 16 minutes, Lukaku struck twice to put Inter 3-1 up at half-time against Sassuolo and Lautaro Martinez added a fourth to ensure the hosts' late rally came to nothing.

Belgium international Lukaku, who scored twice in his country's win over San Marino 10 days earlier, told DAZN: "It ought to have been over at 4-1.

"We did everything right in the first half, should have scored more in the second. Once it goes to 3-1 and 4-1, it ought to be over.

"The positive we take is that we got the three points, but we need to defend better than that. I try to help the team throughout the game and am happy for the side, because it was very important to get this win."

Lukaku has scored five goals in eight Serie A appearances for Inter since joining the club for €65million in August.

He is almost half way to matching his league tally of 12 for Manchester United last season but wants to make further improvements to his game at his new club.

"Conte and I are both team players, so when I score a goal, I want to celebrate with everyone," said the 26-year-old.

"I am focused only on working and giving my best in every match.

"I'm fine, but I have to work even more to help the team throughout the game. But today I'm happy because the victory was important for the group. Now I just think about improving again."

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez combined brilliantly as Inter survived a late Sassuolo recovery to win 4-3 at Mapei Stadium on Sunday.

Defeat to Juventus before the international break shunted Antonio Conte's men down to second in Serie A but a superb performances from their front two trimmed the margin at the top back to a point.

Martinez made an early incision and Lukaku struck twice in seven minutes to establish a two-goal advantage at half-time, Domenico Berardi having fleetingly restored parity for the hosts.

The exceptional Martinez won the penalty for his strike partner's second and, in the 71st minute, dispatched a spot-kick of his own, although the visitors were made to fight for victory as substitutes Filip Djuricic and Jeremie Boga set up a grandstand finale.

 

Carlo Ancelotti joked he will call Zlatan Ibrahimovic about a move to Napoli following Saturday's 2-0 win over Hellas Verona.

LA Galaxy superstar Ibrahimovic talked up his chances of a return to Serie A as the 38-year-old expressed his interest in playing for Ancelotti's Napoli.

Former Juventus, Inter and AC Milan striker Ibrahimovic claimed he would score 20 goals a season in Italy's top flight during an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

Responding to Ibrahimovic's comments after Arkadiusz Milik's double guided Napoli past Verona, head coach Ancelotti told Sky Sport Italia: "I'll call him tonight and say we're waiting!

"I have a great deal of affection for him, I saw he scored 29 goals in 30 MLS games.

"Tomorrow, after I've called him, I'll let you know how it went!"

Ibrahimovic and the Galaxy are in action in the MLS play-offs on Sunday.

The Galaxy will meet Minnesota United for a spot in the Western Conference semi-finals against Supporters' Shield champions Los Angeles FC.

Ibrahimovic netted 30 goals during the regular season, four adrift of top scorer and LAFC captain Carlos Vela.

Ex-Manchester United star Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of the season and the veteran has been linked with a return to Italy, as well as Argentine giants Boca Juniors – where Roma great Daniele De Rossi is based.

Maurizio Sarri told Juventus to curb needless showboating after their 2-1 win over Bologna on Saturday.

The Bianconeri established a four-point lead over Inter at the top of Serie A after goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Miralem Pjanic secured the victory.

However, Sarri was unhappy with the manner in which some of his attacking players took to excessively showing their skills rather than killing the game off.

Bologna almost snatched a point amid some late drama that included a penalty appeal against defender Matthijs de Ligt and Federico Santander hitting the bar before forcing a save from goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with an overhead kick.

"It was a good game, tainted by some mistakes," Sarri said.

"The boundary between dribbling in a productive way and becoming a bit superficial, however, is thin: for 40 minutes we did it well, for five minutes incorrectly.

"We have to dribble with substance and not just for the sake of it.

"We must manage the result and the energy levels. We have to secure games and in the second half we had the chance to do so."

Pjanic felt Juventus' victory was merited even though they were hanging on at the end as Bologna threw caution to the wind in stoppage time.

"We knew it would be a complicated game, we have seen them play often," he said.

"Bologna are in good shape, play well and are organised on the pitch. 

"We deserved it. We had to score one more goal to secure the result but in the end they are three precious points, after the [international] break it is never easy. 

"In the end they too got tired, because they had to run a lot. We are happy and move forward."

Cristiano Ronaldo scored for the fourth Serie A home game in succession as Juventus claimed a 2-1 victory over Bologna on Saturday despite some late drama.

The Portugal forward has netted in all of Juve's home league fixtures this season and opened the scoring with a typically clinical finish.

Bologna levelled with a sumptuous half-volley from full-back Danilo before Miralem Pjanic restored Juve's advantage after some poor defending by the visitors.

Late in the game, the visitors had a penalty appeal for handball against Matthijs de Ligt turned down and hit the crossbar, while Gianluigi Buffon made a fine late save as Juve moved four points clear at the top of the table.

Ronaldo was presented with a special award by Juventus before kick-off having scored his 700th career goal while on international duty and it did not take him long to add to that tally.

A move which began at the back culminated in cross-field pass in Ronaldo's direction which Bologna's Ladislav Krejci only managed to divert into the path of the Juventus man.

Ronaldo created a shooting angle with a stepover on the right edge of the penalty area, and then struck a powerful low effort which beat goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski at his near post.

However, Bologna got themselves back on level terms with a fine strike from full-back Danilo.

The Brazilian defender controlled a high ball on his chest before he struck a sweet half-volley which left Buffon grasping at thin air.

Juventus went through the gears after the interval and were ahead again after some lacklustre defending when Bologna failed to clear their lines.

The ball pinged around the edge of the area before dropping into the path of Pjanic, who steered a low shot into the corner of the net.

Sinisa Mihajlovic's side appealed for a penalty in the dying minutes when the ball struck De Ligt on the arm, but VAR backed up referee Massimiliano Irrati's decision not to award the spot-kick.

Buffon then made a brilliant save to deny substitute Federico Santander after his initial head came back off the bar, with the veteran goalkeeper then pushing a spectacular overhead kick from the Paraguayan over the top in the game's final act.

 

What does it mean? Relentless Juve in pole position

The Juventus machine rolls on. After a 2-1 win over Inter before the international break, which saw the Bianconeri leapfrog their rivals into first place, the Italian champions tightened their grip on top spot.

For Juve head coach Maurizio Sarri it has been a case of 'if it isn't broke, don't try to fix it' and although his side lacked some of their usual swagger, they had too much quality for Bologna.

Juve are four points clear of Inter and the clinical manner in which they are able to win games means they are going to take some stopping in Serie A this season 

Ronaldo sparkles again 

Another game, another goal. Ronaldo has been in wonderful form for both club and country recently and at 34 shows no signs of letting up.

He was full of flicks and tricks, and scored a goal which owed much to his ability to shoot from improbable positions as the power he can generate with his shot.

Palacio fails to make an impact

At 37, Rodrigo Palacio's career is firmly in its twilight but Bologna needed more from the veteran Argentina forward against such dominant opposition.

Palacio struggled to make an impact up front, and was unable to hold on to the ball when Bologna desperately needed a breather.

What's next?

Juventus host Lokomotiv Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday before an away trip to Lecce next Saturday. Bologna are next in action a week on Sunday when they welcome Sampdoria to the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara a week on Sunday.

Atalanta collapsed from 3-0 up to draw at Lazio on Saturday, missing the chance to move to the top of the Serie A table.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side have made a superb start to the domestic season, despite suffering consecutive defeats to begin their debut Champions League campaign.

The Bergamo outfit could have climbed to the Serie A summit with victory in Rome - at least until champions Juventus played later on Saturday - and were cruising at half-time.

Atalanta, who face Manchester City away on Tuesday, led as Luis Muriel scored twice in quick succession midway through the first half.

Captain Alejandro Gomez then stretched their advantage further heading into the break.

But the visitors fell apart in quite spectacular fashion, with their lead cut thanks to two goals in two minutes from Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa.

Atalanta still looked to have held on until Immobile, who won and dispatched a penalty for his first, again went down in the area and converted from the spot in the 92nd minute.

The Italy striker then comically failed in his attempts to take his shirt off in celebration, falling over but still earning a yellow card.

The moment of hilarity was of little comfort to Atalanta ahead of a daunting European trip to the Etihad Stadium.

Inter do not need to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic to challenge in the Champions League and close the gap on Juventus in Serie A, according to Antonio Conte.

After going unbeaten in their opening seven matches under Conte, the Nerazzurri have lost their last two fixtures - against Barcelona in the Champions League before they went down 2-1 to Juve prior to the international break.

Injuries to Stefano Sensi and Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, have depleted Conte's squad heading into Sunday's meeting with Sassuolo.

Former Inter striker Ibrahimovic - whose contract with LA Galaxy expires in December - has claimed he would be open to a return to Serie A, though Conte does not believe his side need a player of the Swede's quality to push on.

"I do not talk about players that are not mine. It would not be respectful," Conte told a news conference when asked if Inter could move for Ibrahimovic.

"I have respect for Ibra of course, he is a quality player. He has made history in this game.

"I respect him and rate him but it is not right to talk of others, also because I have lots of faith in my players and I have so much respect for my squad. We will get better and keep improving. From these setbacks against Juve and Barca we must come back stronger.

"We need to keep being consistent, we need consistency in displays and training, we must improve every day, this is what I want. If we do this we will take the next step.

"In every match there are areas to work on. We always analyse the good and the bad. We have highlighted areas to work on. I cannot expect miracles."

Sanchez had started promisingly for Inter since arriving on loan from Manchester United, but is now expected to miss up to three months after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury sustained while on international duty with Chile.

"I am upset to lose him. We are all disappointed," Conte said.

"He is a player we thought was back to his best. He was doing well and I was pleased. Now he is injured, it is a real shame also for him.

"He arrived full of enthusiasm and was doing well. He was showing he is the Sanchez of old.

"However, he is now injured and that is part of the game, I had lots of injuries as a player, but each time you come back stronger."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed he would still score 20 goals a season in Serie A as he talked up his chances of a return to Italy's top flight.

But Ibrahimovic labelled former club AC Milan "a disaster" in a wide-ranging interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, while also poking fun at Inter forward Romelu Lukaku's first touch.

Former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic was discussing his options for a next move as his LA Galaxy contract expires in December following the MLS playoffs.

The 38-year-old has been linked with a return to Manchester United, but he suggested Serie A, where he represented Juventus and both Milan clubs, might be his preferred destination.

"I am 38 years old and have the enthusiasm of a kid, with that same desire to win. That, for me, is everything," Ibrahimovic said.

"Italy is my second home. I will listen to all offers, but I want to fight for the maximum target. If I were to come back, I'd want to challenge for the Scudetto, not just be signed by someone because I am Ibrahimovic.

"I can still make the difference. I'm not a zoo animal to be put on display for people to see. I can still get 20 goals in Serie A."

Milan, who are 13th in Serie A with nine points from seven matches, would not appear to be an option, though, and Ibrahimovic picked out Paolo Maldini for criticism.

"Milan are a disaster. They're all talk and no action," he said.

"This is not the club everyone fell in love with, in Italy and all over the world. Perhaps there are too many wrong people who should be elsewhere.

"Paolo Maldini doesn't have what it takes to be a director, whereas in his playing career he was one of my all-time favourites."

Meanwhile, the striker revealed a mooted bet with former team-mate Lukaku, whose touch was maligned by some supporters during his time at United.

Ibrahimovic explained: "At Manchester United, we made a bet, 'I'll give you £50 for every decent first touch you make'. He replied: 'What do I win if I get them all right?'

"I told him nothing, he would simply become a better player. For the record, he never accepted the bet! Perhaps he was afraid of losing."

Sergio Aguero and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been included in FIFA 20's first Ultimate Scream pack ahead of Halloween.

EA Sports announced the release of the FIFA Ultimate Team cards on Friday, with Manchester City striker Aguero and LA Galaxy star Ibrahimovic among the standout names.

Top-rated Aguero is joined in the first batch by fellow Premier League players Dele Alli, Nicolas Otamendi and Bernard, with a second group of players to be released next Friday.

Below, we have the list of FUT cards that are up for grabs.

FUT Ultimate Scream pack

LM: Bernard (Everton) - 84

CB: Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City) - 85

LM: Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund) - 85

CAM: Marcel Sabitzer (RB Leipzig) - 85

CB: Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan) - 86

CDM: William Carvalho (Real Betis) - 86

CAM: Dele Alli (Tottenham) - 87

CAM: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid) - 88

CAM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) - 88

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy) - 88

ST: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) - 91

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