Stefan de Vrij insisted Inter are not thinking about ongoing speculation over Mauro Icardi's future with the Serie A club.

Icardi is set to leave after being told he can depart Inter, with the former captain not wanted by new head coach Antonio Conte.

The 26-year-old star endured a turbulent 2018-19 campaign after he was stripped of the captaincy amid conflicting views of an apparent knee injury and internal disagreements with the club's hierarchy.

Icardi continues to dominate headlines, with the Argentina international reportedly prepared to see out the final two years of his contract but Inter defender De Vrij told Sportitalia: "The Icardi issue doesn't concern us. We're only thinking about what we have to do."

De Vrij was speaking after Inter opened the Conte era with a 2-1 win over Lugano in their first pre-season fixture on Sunday.

Stefano Sensi and Marcelo Brozovic scored for the Nerazzurri, who took to the field for the first time since Conte replaced Luciano Spalletti.

"It was a good start," said De Vrij. "It's always great to be back out on the pitch. We've worked incredibly hard this week but it was necessary to start getting minutes in the legs.

"These matches are needed to help us understand what the coach wants, and how we want to play. It went well, it was important to get off to a start like this."

On Conte, De Vrij added: "I like his approach, he’s always positive and he explains well what he wants."

Sensi – who swapped Sassuolo for Inter on an initial loan deal with the option to buy – opened the scoring in the 25th minute before Brozovic doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Speaking after his first outing, Sensi told Inter TV: "We're especially pleased because we tried to demonstrate the coach's methods out on the pitch.

"My goal? I'm happy with it, it's always important to start on the right foot and I believe that I've done so."

Jose Mourinho believes Inter must win the Scudetto under Antonio Conte as the former Manchester United manager revealed he is studying German.

Inter are among the favourites to dethrone Italian champions Juventus following the arrival of head coach Conte for the 2019-20 season.

The Nerazzurri have already signed Diego Godin, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and Valentino Lazaro, while Conte is determined to prise Romelu Lukaku from United.

Mourinho spent two years at Inter – winning back-to-back Serie A titles and the Champions League – and the club great told Gazzetta dello Sport: "The Nerazzurri have to win Serie A this season. I'm sure they will."

Inter finished fourth last season, 21 points adrift of Juve under former boss Luciano Spalletti.

Mourinho, meanwhile, hinted at a future move to the Bundesliga as the Portuguese remains out of work.

After two and a half years at Old Trafford, Mourinho was sacked by United in December amid a bad run of form and reports of dressing-room unrest.

Mourinho has been linked with numerous jobs since leaving United, with Benfica, Lyon and most recently Newcastle United said to have been interested.

Asked about his future, Mourinho said: "I really miss football. I miss the adrenaline, the field, my job. Football is football.

"Right now, I am studying German. Bundesliga? Now, I'm studying German because I miss the language. I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. But I do not exclude anything, not even Germany."

Andriy Shevchenko has backed fellow legends Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban to put AC Milan "back where it used to be" after they were given key roles at the club.

Former Rossoneri captain Maldini was appointed technical director in June while Boban, who won four Serie A titles and the Champions League during his spell at Milan, is now their chief football officer.

Shevchenko, who played alongside Maldini and Boban at San Siro, is confident the pair can help turn Milan's fortunes around after a disappointing 2018-19 season in which the club finished fifth in Serie A, missing out on a place in the Champions League.

"Maldini and Boban will guarantee that the club mentality does not change," Shevchenko told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"They will do well. Paolo is growing as a manager.

"The expectations are high, but I believe that Paolo and 'Zvone' will bring Milan back where they used to be."

Marco Giampaolo was appointed head coach in June and Shevchenko has been impressed by the former Sampdoria and Empoli boss.

"He seems like a guy with strong ideas, like these managers [Maldini and Boban]," said Shevchenko.

"Giampaolo is a coach who can achieve great results through play. He gives the impression he is prepared: I believe it was a good choice."

Shevchenko also has high hopes for striker Krzysztof Piatek, who scored nine goals in 18 Serie A appearances for the club in the second half of last season.

Piatek is set to wear the iconic number nine shirt, following on from such names as Filippo Inzaghi, Marco van Basten and George Weah, and Shevchenko said the Poland international is a worthy successor.

"The way he entered Milan, the naturalness, the important goals he scored, it was a great impact and now it is right that Kris also takes responsibility for such an important shirt," said Shevchenko.

"It's not just about wearing certain shirts. Milan's story itself is both beautiful and difficult to wear on the skin.

"This is demonstrated by the attachment of the fans: in recent times the results have not been the same, yet I have seen that at Milanello for the first day of training there were thousands of people."

Romelu Lukaku is "not afraid" to seek a transfer in order to find a club where he feels wanted, according to former Belgium coach Georges Leekens, who backed the striker to "take a little bit of revenge" by leaving Manchester United.

Inter are reportedly keen to take Lukaku to San Siro and the 26-year-old told reporters they would "know something next week" after United's friendly win over Perth Glory on Saturday.

Lukaku did not play against Perth but is expected to feature when the Red Devils face Leeds United on Tuesday, and Solskjaer said the club have not received any acceptable bids for the Belgium international.

Leekens said he feels Solskjaer's arrival as manager in December 2018 was the start of the end for Lukaku at United, telling The Mirror: "He's a fantastic footballer, but the change of coach at Manchester hasn't worked well for him.

"He looked released when he played for Belgium and you saw that in the way he played and scored in the recent qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Scotland.

"He needs confidence, he needs to feel wanted. When you hesitate over picking him, he feels it and he doesn't forget it.

"The moment he feels there's a doubt over him, he won't hesitate to do what he thinks is best."

Leekens is not the first to recommend that Lukaku moves on, with current Belgium boss Roberto Martinez having already opined that "it would be a good thing for both parties" if the former Everton target man secures a switch.

Lukaku cost United £76million (€84.7m) in July 2017 and he scored 16 Premier League goals in his first season at Old Trafford, followed by 12 league strikes last season.

The United board are thought to be unmoved by Inter's reported offer of €70million (£63m) – comprising of a two-year loan and a €60m obligation to buy, but Leekens insisted a transfer to Serie A would be the best outcome.

"Now I think it's the right moment for him to go to Italy, to a country where the football is more tactical," said the 70-year-old, who coached Belgium from 2010 to 2012.

"He will like to take a little bit of revenge – and show Manchester United what they have been missing.

"He has shown in the past that he's not afraid to leave a club."

The future of James Rodriguez has dominated headlines this off-season.

Napoli have been tipped to sign James after Bayern Munich opted not to take up their permanent option to sign the Real Madrid midfielder.

However, James could be set to remain in the Spanish capital.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO SET FOR SHOCK SWOOP

Atletico Madrid are close to completing the signing of James Rodriguez from LaLiga rivals Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Napoli have been favourites to lure James to Italy, with the Serie A side keen to reunite the Colombia star and head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

However, negotiations have dragged on and James – who spent the past two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich – is reportedly keen to make the switch across town.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to le10sport, Barcelona have offered Philippe Coutinho in a straight swap for Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar. LaLiga champions Barca reportedly do not have money to spend after paying Antoine Griezmann's release clause.

- Sky Sports reports Arsenal have made an improved £25million offer for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney. Meanwhile, BBC Sport claims the Gunners have not submitted a bid for Lille forward Nicolas Pepe as they cannot afford the €80m-rated star.

- Harry Maguire has told Leicester City he wants to leave amid growing speculation he will join Manchester United, says the Daily Mail.

- According to the Daily Mail, Bayern Munich have not given up on signing Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi. The Bundesliga champions are reportedly set to make a £45million offer. Bayern are also interested in Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier, Sky Sports understands.

Juventus goalkeeper Mattia Perin is close to moving to Portuguese champions Benfica, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. Perin is looking for regular football following Gianluigi Buffon's return to Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is the number one.

- The Mirror says Liverpool have joined Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the race to sign CSKA Moscow striker Fedor Chalov.

Juventus could use Moise Kean in a deal to sign Inter outcast Mauro Icardi, according to FCInterNews.it. Rai Sport has also claimed Juve could take Icardi on loan with an option to buy for €40million.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said he is "optimistic about everything" amid the club's ongoing battle to sign Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku revealed that he expects an update on his future next week as Inter try to prise the Belgium star from Old Trafford, where Marcus Rashford has become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first-choice striker.

Antonio Conte's Inter have made no secret of their interest in the 26-year-old, but the Serie A side's reported offer of €70million (£63m) – comprising of a two-year loan and a €60m obligation to buy – has apparently fallen short of United's €83m asking price.

Asked if he was optimistic about Lukaku following speculation Inter could turn to Eintracht Frankfurt's Ante Rebic, CEO Marotta told reporters: "Yes, I am optimistic about everything."

Lukaku was not included in the squad for United's 2-0 win over Perth Glory in their opening pre-season fixture in Australia on Saturday.

The former Chelsea striker – contracted to the Red Devils until 2022 with the option of a further year – joined United from Everton for £75m in 2017.

Lukaku, who has acknowledged a desire to play in Italy and hinted his future could be away from Manchester, scored 12 Premier League goals last season.

He scored 15 goals across all competitions as United finished sixth in the Premier League and lost to Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini and Blerim Dzemaili rallied around Bologna head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic following his leukaemia diagnosis.

Mihajlovic revealed his leukaemia battle in a news conference on Saturday, with his Bologna contract to remain in place while treatment begins.

The 50-year-old Serb – who led Bologna in 2008-09 – returned to the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara in January amid the threat of relegation and preserved the club's Serie A status.

Mancini and Mihajlovic played together at Sampdoria and Lazio before the latter worked as the Italian's assistant at Inter in 2006.

And in a social media post, Mancini sent Mihajlovic – who won two Serie A titles as a player – an encouraging message.

"You're too strong, this won't scare you and besides we need to go play paddleboard afterwards," Mancini wrote via Instagram.

Meanwhile, Bologna captain Dzemaili said Mihajlovic is "like a father" following the news.

"The coach will win this battle for us too, as we feel like we are his family," Dzemaili told Sky Sport Italia.

"What he has given us over the last six months has rarely been given by any coach, especially in such a short space of time. We know what kind of person he is, how strong he is and we'll try to transmit our strength to him too. We can't wait until he returns."

Mihajlovic will begin treatment on Tuesday and Bologna doctor Gianni Nanni added: "The coach talked about leukaemia, which 20 years ago we might not even have talked about challenging.

"Now that we have the tools to ensure a complete cure, we can talk about a coach who can work, can train, can affect what happens on the field and in the dressing room.

"There are times when he won't be with the team, as he'll be in hospital for treatment, starting from Tuesday, but the treatment has changed a great deal over the last few years and is absolutely effective. It is now an illness that can be faced and can be beaten, even in a short period of time."

Carlo Ancelotti expects negotiations with Real Madrid to bring James Rodriguez to Napoli will take "a very long time".

Ancelotti, who worked with James, 28, at both Madrid and Bayern Munich, is keen to sign the Colombia international.

But Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis has told Madrid they will have to lower their demands for James, who is surplus to requirements at the Santiago Bernabeu.

De Laurentiis is confident a deal can be struck, however, while Ancelotti has already been in contact with the playmaker.

"James can play in many positions behind the centre-forward," Ancelotti told TV Luna on Saturday after a pre-season loss to Benevento. "He is a number 10 used to playing behind the striker or as a winger, with the tendency to cut inside.

"I sent him a happy birthday message this week. There are negotiations in progress, it's going to take a very long time, but we aren't desperate or anything.

"If it doesn't work out, we'll still be a strong team and might go for a different target."

Napoli have also been linked with Mauro Icardi, who has been told he can leave Inter, but Ancelotti indicated he is satisfied with options in attack that include Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens.

"As for the striker, a modern centre-forward can't just be a finisher now, which is why Arkadiusz Milik is very important for us," the Italian said.

Sampdoria have signed Jeison Murillo from Valencia.

The centre-back will initially link up with the Serie A side on loan before joining for a reported €15million fee, having agreed a four-year deal.

Murillo spent the second half of last season on loan at Barcelona but started a single LaLiga game.

Colombia international Murillo was then left out of his country's squad for this year's Copa America.

And Valencia have allowed him to leave only a year after he moved to Mestalla from Inter.

Valencia had already signed goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen from Barcelona for 2019-20, with Neto eventually moving the other way.

Romelu Lukaku expects an update on his future next week as Inter look to lure the striker away from Manchester United.

Lukaku joined United from Everton in 2017 and has scored 28 Premier League goals across his two seasons at Old Trafford, but he has been a regular target for criticism from fans.

The Belgium international has received flak for his technical ability, control and perceived lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, finding himself usurped as first-choice striker by Marcus Rashford last term after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as manager.

Inter have made no secret of their interest in the 26-year-old, but their reported offer of €70million (£63m) – comprising of a two-year loan and a €60m obligation to buy – is said to have fallen significantly short of United's €83m asking price.

With media reports on Friday suggesting Lukaku is more likely to stay at United than leave, the striker suggested news is imminent.

Speaking after United's 2-0 friendly win over Perth Glory, which Lukaku missed due to injury, he told reporters: "You guys [the media] will know something next week."

Furthermore, Solskjaer expects Lukaku to feature in the Red Devils' next pre-season game against Leeds United on Wednesday, though the United manager was less definitive about whether the striker will still be at the club when the Premier League season starts.

"There's been so much speculation, but yes, he should be fit for Wednesday and he trained with the team yesterday [Friday] but it wasn't useful to risk him [against Perth], to be fair," Solskjaer said.

"Can I see him staying? Let's see when the season starts. We've not had any bids we're considering.

"All my conversations I will keep confidential, that's my privilege and I can promise them that I won't tell them our discussions."

Paul Pogba is another big-name United player being linked with a move and he refused to offer any clarification over his future after Saturday's match.

When asked about his situation, Pogba said: "Who needs to talk? There's no need."

One person who has felt the need to talk is Pogba's agent Mino Raiola, who confirmed earlier this month the France international wants to leave United.

Kostas Manolas has completed a reported €36million switch to Napoli from Roma after undergoing a medical on Saturday.

Roma announced on June 30 that the 28-year-old was due to depart for their Serie A rivals, and the transfer has since gone through, with the defender understood to have signed a five-year contract.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis seemed to confirm the completion of the deal with a "welcome" post on Twitter earlier in the day, before the club followed suit on their official account.

Greece international Manolas spent five years with the Giallorossi after signing from Olympiacos and will bolster Napoli's options at centre-back following the departure of Raul Albiol to Villarreal.

Manolas is Napoli's sixth signing of the close-season, following Alex Meret, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, David Ospina, Orestis Karnezis and Luigi Liguori.

The experienced defender will be expected to line up alongside Kalidou Koulibaly, provided the Senegal international does not leave.

Filip Helander admitted the chance to play under Steven Gerrard was too good ignore after joining Rangers from Bologna.

Sweden defender Helander has signed a four-year deal in Glasgow pending international clearance.

Rangers reportedly paid £3.5million to prise him from Bologna.

The towering centre-back made 20 appearances in Serie A last season and arrives at Ibrox with 10 caps of international experience.

"I am delighted to be joining Rangers, it's a special club with tremendous fans and a unique history," Helander told his new club's official website after the move was announced on Saturday.

"The opportunity to work with a manager like Steven Gerrard was an easy decision to make.

"I've come here to battle for every point and to win trophies and I'm looking forward to meeting my team-mates and getting started."

Rangers finished second in the Scottish Premiership last season, Gerrard's first in charge.

Bologna head coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has confirmed he has been diagnosed with leukaemia.

The 50-year-old made the announcement at a media conference on Saturday alongside Bologna director Walter Sabatini.

Bologna confirmed Mihajlovic's contract will remain in place while he begins treatment.

"Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we did some tests and discovered some anomalies that weren't there four months ago," said the former Inter boss.

"We said I had a fever and the hardest thing was to convince my wife that it was true: I have leukaemia.

"I spent the night crying and I still have tears now, but I'm not afraid. I'll go to hospital and I can't wait to start fighting. I explained to my players that I will fight to win, as I've taught them to do on the pitch.

"I'll win this challenge, no doubt about it. I want to thank all of Bologna for making me understand that I'm a member of the family, and I'll also need them to win this battle. But I'll also need to see people not crying for me. I don't want pity.

"My father died of cancer, so I always get tested regularly. If we hadn't performed these tests, I wouldn't have shown any symptoms for a year. 

"None of us must think we are indestructible. All of us think, 'It won't happen to me', but when it does, it's a big shock. Your only hope then is to anticipate it, because if you discover it after two months or after a year, that makes a big difference.

"So, if I, as a famous person, can go through this, I hope it can help others to get themselves checked, to prepare and to realise that it can happen to anyone. I was perfectly healthy in every way and yet here I am.

"It changes your life in a moment. Everything changes in a moment. When you sleep and have a nightmare, you wake up, but for days you wake up and realise this isn't a nightmare, this is real.

"I hope, after winning this battle, I'll be able to talk it over with you all and look back on this period. Nothing has been given to me in life - I've had to fight for everything. I'll fight this, too."

Sabatini added: "Sinisa will hold Bologna in his hands, and Bologna will hold Sinisa, until the end of his contract.

"Whatever happens in the coming days, Mihajlovic will remain the coach of Bologna."

Mauro Icardi has moved closer to a San Siro exit after mutually agreeing with Inter to withdraw from the club's pre-season tour of Asia.

Giuseppe Marotta, Inter's chief executive, recently told the striker he was no longer wanted and a divorce appears to be nearing fruition.

Icardi left the Nerazzurri's training camp in Switzerland on Saturday and will be excluded from upcoming friendlies against Manchester United, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Inter confirmed the development in a statement published to social media.

It read: "Mauro Icardi will today return to Milan from our training camp in Lugano.

"The club and the striker have come to this decision by mutual agreement.

"Icardi will continue his pre-season training over the next few days and will take no part in our summer tour in Asia."

Whether Inter can find an appropriate suitor for their controversial former captain remains unclear.

Juventus have been linked and Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, who admitted to being interested, has claimed Icardi is set on a switch to the Serie A champions.

The 26-year-old has spent six seasons at Inter.

Antonio Conte's men meet local Swiss side Lugano on Sunday before jetting off to face Premier League outfit United in Singapore.

Matthijs de Ligt's expected move to Juventus appears close to completion after Ajax omitted their captain from a pre-season trip to Austria.

The Eredivisie champions confirmed defender De Ligt was "awaiting a possible transfer" as they announced a 28-man travelling squad.

De Ligt, 19, has agreed personal terms with Juve and is tipped to sign in a deal worth around €70million.

The Netherlands international trained with Ajax as recently as Friday, but a breakthrough in negotiations is said to have been reached.

It seems the Serie A side now only have to complete the final formalities before announcing their seventh new arrival of the close-season.

One of the world's most in-demand players, De Ligt was linked to Barcelona, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain before Juve emerged as favourites for his signature.

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