Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann has been voted 18th in the final list for the 2019 Ballon d'Or, a fall of 15 places from last year.

Griezmann finished behind only Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo 12 months ago after winning the World Cup with France and impressing for Atletico Madrid at club level.

However, an underwhelming end to his Atletico career and a tough start to life at Barcelona - who he joined in a €120million deal in July - has seen him drop down the list.

It marks the second time the 28-year-old has slipped from third to 18th, having done likewise in 2017.

Griezmann's Barcelona team-mate Marc-Andre ter Stegen finished 24th and Frenkie de Jong, who spent the first half of the year with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, was voted 11th in the standings.

Three Liverpool players missed out on the top 10, with Georginio Wijnaldum, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino in 26th, 19th and 17th, respectively.

Fellow Premier League side Manchester City were also heavily represented in the 30-11 rankings, as were Dutch champions Ajax following their run to the final four of last season's Champions League.

Lionel Messi and Virgil van Dijk are the frontrunners to win the most prestigious individual accolade in world football during Monday's ceremony.

Ballon d'Or 30-11 list in full:

=28. Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain)

=28. Donny van de Beek (Ajax)

=28. Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid)

=26. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool)

=26. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

=24. Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)

=24. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)

23. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

22. Son Heung-min (Tottenham)

=20. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)

=20. Dusan Tadic (Ajax)

19. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)

18. Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)

17. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

16. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

15. Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)

14. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

13. Eden Hazard (Real Madrid)

12. Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)

11. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona)

Brescia will allow Mario Balotelli to leave the club for free in January, according to the Serie A club's president Massimo Cellino.

Former Manchester City and Milan striker Balotelli signed for his hometown club Brescia – who sit bottom of Serie A – in August and has scored two goals in eight league appearances.

The 29-year-old, who played in his side's 3-0 defeat to Atalanta on Saturday, has endured a tumultuous return to Italy, with several incidents overshadowing his performances.

In an away Serie A clash with Hellas Verona last month, he kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch after being subjected to monkey chants by home supporters.

That was followed by a training ground spat with head coach Fabio Grosso, which saw him dropped ahead of the 3-0 loss to Roma on November 24.

In the wake of that incident, Cellino said Balotelli was "black and is working on lightening up, but he is facing troubles". The word 'nero' in Italian means black but can also be used for 'gloomy', as in a person's state of mind.

Cellino concedes Balotelli's time at the club has not gone to plan and says he will not stand in his way if he wants to leave next month.

"Mario is sad because he can't express the game of football," Cellino told Le Iene. "For him to play in Serie A is a big sacrifice; maybe he thought it was simpler. 

"In January he is free to go away for free. Right now, he has to choose the road up or down. He has to convince himself. I don't want him to go away. If he leaves, we have both lost the bet."

Cellino moved to play down his recent remarks about the striker, denying there were any racist undertones.

"I wanted to play it all down, but I did it too much," he added.

"Me, racist? I'm Catholic, I can't be. What did I mean by 'he's clearing himself up'? If you don't like him, does it mean this boy must be cleared up to be accepted?

"I spoke with him, it was not me that offended him. When my joke was put in that way [by the media], I was more worried about Mario than anything else. My comment was manipulated.

"I said b******t, I do jokes too. After Verona, I told him to buy a can of paint, so he will make all these b******s happy. They are a******s that go to the stadium to offend.

"Mario is not a warrior who challenges everyone, it is not so. Mario must make people feel that he's suffering."

Napoli head coach Carlo Ancelotti denied his squad have turned against him after the club's winless streak extended to eight matches.

Sunday's shock 2-1 Serie A loss at home to Bologna left Napoli without a victory in all competitions since October 23.

The pressure is mounting on Ancelotti as Napoli – runners-up last term – languish seventh in Serie A, 17 points behind leaders Inter and eight adrift of the Champions League places.

Napoli's woes come amid internal problems, with owner Aurelio De Laurentiis looking to impose fines on players who deserted a recent training retreat.

Speaking after Bologna attacker Nicola Sansone's 80th-minute goal condemned Napoli to defeat, Ancelotti – who has been linked to Arsenal – told reporters: "The team is against the coach, they say. But it isn't so.

"I have an excellent relationship with the squad. No one has ever failed to respect me. I don't see any friction between the players and us.

"We exchange ideas every day, the situation must be resolved quickly, because we are failing badly."

Napoli, who claimed a 1-1 draw against Champions League holders Liverpool on Wednesday, have lost two and drawn six of their past eight games.

"It's not a problem of tactics, more of an attitude problem," Ancelotti said. "Three days ago we showed great solidity against Liverpool, and we played with three midfielders.

"We have conceded many goals, it's true, we need solidity, but it is the mental aspect that must be improved by taking even a smidgen of responsibility.

"The fans are disappointed and I can only agree with them. I must be more lucid in order to resolve this situation."

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal is a player many teams would like to sign, according to Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta.

Vidal featured in 13 of Barca's 18 matches this season prior to Sunday's trip to Atletico Madrid, though just four of those appearances have been starts.

The Chile international this week vowed to leave Camp Nou next year should he fail to be given more minutes by Ernesto Valverde, despite having 18 months to run on his contract.

Inter have been tipped to move for Vidal, who worked with Marotta and head coach Antonio Conte at Juventus, but the Nerazzurri chief said his Barcelona deal must be respected.

"He is an important player on the world stage and both Conte and I are tied to him because of our great past together," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"We have great considerations of him. I think a lot of teams would like to sign him, but unfortunately he's at Barcelona. However, thoughts can certainly be made."

Inter beat SPAL 2-1 on Sunday through a Lautaro Martinez brace to leapfrog Juventus at the Serie A summit.

Milan may have secured a late victory over Parma on Sunday, but head coach Stefano Pioli admitted their problems have not been totally resolved yet.

Left-back Theo Hernandez struck two minutes from time in Sunday's clash at Stadio Ennio Tardini to end the Rossoneri's three-match winless run in Serie A.

Milan, 11th in the table, have won only two of their seven matches since Pioli replaced Marco Giampaolo last month, and the ex-Fiorentina boss acknowledged there is still work to do.

"The team was aware of the importance of this match," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We have had some good performances without having collected anything.

"We knew what we had to do today and we deservedly won against a strong and organised Parma side.

"The victory does not fix all of our problems. From here until Christmas I want to collect as many points as possible. 

"There is still a lot to do, but I am satisfied with today's performance."

Krzysztof Piatek missed a good chance at 0-0 and was replaced just after the hour mark, but Pioli has called on others to help the out-of-form striker.

"He is not smiling, but that is to be expected as we are professionals," he said. "It is clear that we need to support him.

"This group of players wants to get us out of trouble and they are all very motivated. Those that started did very well and now we think about Bologna."

A lack of goals has proved costly for Milan in recent weeks and they struggled to put away their chances against Parma before Hernandez's late strike.

Pioli is working to find a solution in attack and is hopeful his players will take confidence from a first win since the end of October.

"We are starting to work more as a team, with more cohesion and compactness," he added at his post-match news conference. 

"We have to work to grow and improve. If the victory had not arrived there would have been questions, but we have to continue concentrating.

"The goal now is to think about the next match and maintain our level of performance. Today's three points against a strong opponent gives us confidence."

Parma conceded a 95th-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Bologna last week, though they remain a point clear of Milan and head coach Roberto D'Aversa was quick to put Sunday's defeat into context.

"They may be behind us in the table but they're a team that were expected to finish in a Champions League spot at the beginning of the season," he told reporters.

"We must give credit to the opposition. We have to consider the fact we played against Milan.

"In the last few minutes today, and the last seconds against Bologna, we have thrown away some points. That must not happen because points are important if we are to reach our goal."

Antonio Conte is proud of his Inter side after the Nerazzurri moved top of Serie A thanks to a hard-earned 2-1 win over struggling SPAL.

Two first-half goals from Lautaro Martinez put Inter in control at San Siro on Sunday, although Mattia Valoti's strike sparked a much-improved display from SPAL after the break.

Martinez squandered two chances to complete his hat-trick but Inter were not made to pay for their forward's profligacy as they took advantage of Juventus' earlier slip up against Sassuolo.

And Conte, who has erred on the side of caution whenever pressed on Inter's title chances so far this season, is delighted by how they have progressed under his leadership.

“We've been working since day one to make an impact and annoy the other teams," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"Being back on top of the table after 14 rounds makes us proud, because we know the journey we've been through to get here.

"At the same time, it should give us positive enthusiasm, push us to do even better and control the game without suffering to the end the way we did, because in those circumstances a cross or deflected shot can change everything.

"We were determined and knew Juventus had dropped points, so we were prepared to make the most of the situation.

"We deserved to beat SPAL and it's important to remember we are focused on our own growth process, which is in full swing, so we're not trying to compare ourselves with others."

Despite Martinez's frustrations at not adding to his goal tally in the second half, Conte hailed the all-round display of the forward, who has scored 13 times in all competitions so far this season.

"Lautaro – we call him Lauty – lives for goals, but I was very clear with him that the top strikers are the ones who work for the team," Conte said.

"The ones who track back in defence and seek each other out. Romelu Lukaku, for instance, didn't score today, but he was constantly involved."

Theo Hernandez scored two minutes from time to earn Milan a 1-0 victory at Parma and end their three-match winless run in Serie A.

A lack of goals has cost the Rossoneri in recent weeks and their profligacy again looked as though it would haunt them in Sunday's clash.

But Theo poked home a late winner following some calamitous defending from Parma to earn a vital triumph for Stefano Pioli's men.

The victory for Milan – just their second in seven matches under Pioli – lifts them into 11th place, one point behind opponents Parma.

Lautaro Martinez starred for Inter as his double helped Antonio Conte's side to a 2-1 victory over SPAL and moved the Nerazzurri top of Serie A.

With Juventus having drawn with Sassuolo in Sunday's early fixture, Inter knew a win at San Siro would be enough to leapfrog Maurizio Sarri's men, and they had too much for a struggling SPAL side who are now winless in seven matches.

Martinez spearheaded Inter's attack – picking out the bottom-left corner of Etrit Berisha's goal with supreme accuracy in the 16th minute before doubling his tally with a well-placed header prior to half-time.

Mattia Valoti struck to spark a rejuvenated SPAL performance after the break, yet – despite Martinez squandering two golden chances to round off a hat-trick – Inter held firm to claim top spot.

Romelu Lukaku broke through SPAL's line in the 11th minute, though Berisha did well to rush out and close the angle.

Berisha was beaten five minutes later, however – Martinez gliding forward before directing a low finish across SPAL's goalkeeper.

Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic both went close as Inter kept up the pressure, but the hosts had their second four minutes before the break, Martinez guiding home Antonio Candreva's excellent first-time cross.

Against the run of play, SPAL pulled themselves back into contention early in the second half as Valoti carved through Inter's defence and slotted in off the left-hand upright.

Alessandro Murgia might have made it 2-2 had he connected well with a looped cross, while Martinez saw a close-range header saved by Berisha before he then failed to beat the goalkeeper when one-on-one soon after.

Matias Vecino's close-range miss buoyed SPAL's resolve, but Andrea Petagna failed to take advantage when the visitors' next chance came his way, while Jasmin Kurtic went close with a rasping long-range strike as Inter held onto the points.
 

What does it mean? Nerazzurri make most of Juventus off-day

Juve have long dominated Serie A, but in the form of Conte's Inter, the Old Lady seem to have serious title rivals this season.

Inter – now top by one point – have won 12 of their opening 14 Serie A matches in a season for the first time, while they have also become the fifth side to find the net in each of their first 14 league matches of a campaign in the 21st century, after Juve, Milan, Fiorentina and Roma.

In-form Martinez strikes early... again

Martinez needed no second invitation to open the scoring, though it is perhaps no surprise given his record of scoring early goals in Serie A this season. Overall, six of the striker's eight league strikes have come in drilling in the opening 30 minutes.

 

Sluggish second-half start a cause for concern

Inter were in cruise control heading into the break, but a stuttering start to the second half enabled SPAL to wrest their way back into the contest and, had the visitors possessed more quality in attack, Conte's team could easily have been made to pay.

What's next?

Inter welcome Roma to San Siro on Friday in Serie A, while SPAL's next outing comes against Lecce in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.

Cristiano Ronaldo's next step is to rediscover his spark after proving he has improved physically in Juventus' 2-2 draw with Sassuolo, says head coach Maurizio Sarri.

The Portugal forward has been struggling with a knee problem, which saw him miss last weekend's contest with Atalanta before he was restored to face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

Prior to the international break, Ronaldo had been hauled off in wins over Lokomotiv Moscow and Milan despite Juve having been level at the time of his withdrawal.

Ronaldo netted a 68th-minute penalty at Allianz Stadium to earn a point against Sassuolo on Sunday, though, and Sarri was encouraged by what he saw.

"The feeling is that he has regained strength," Sarri told DAZN. "He is doing better in the final [moments].

"The next step will be to recover the brilliance."

Prior to Ronaldo's intervention, Juve appeared destined to pay the price for a lacklustre showing that saw Leonardo Bonucci's opener cancelled out as Sassuolo scored through Jeremie Boga and Francesco Caputo.

The second of those was a tame effort that squirmed through veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after a rash clearance from Matthijs de Ligt.

"It was an incredible series of mistakes, from a bad back-pass to another that hit a Sassuolo player," Sarri added.

"When you aren't fully focused, a howler can happen."

Sassuolo were playing with teenage debutant Stefano Turati in goal and the 18-year-old put on a fine display in Turin.

After the game, Turati explained he had an important phone call to make.

"I honestly don't have the words! So many emotions, it all happened so quickly and I never expected this. It was an extraordinary sensation and an incredible day for me," he said.

"The save on Ronaldo was the most important for the game, with that free-kick, but the breakthrough for me was early on to stop their counter-attack.

"It was an honour to play against Gigi Buffon, as I used to watch him when I was growing up. I am so happy and shocked that I don’t even know what to say. The first thing I have to do now is call my mum!"

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still evaluating his future and is not in negotiations with Milan over a January transfer, according to the Serie A club's director Frederic Massara.

The 38-year-old has been linked with a return the Rossoneri, where he spent two seasons between 2010 and 2012, after leaving Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy.

MLS commissioner Don Garber last month suggested Ibrahimovic is set to rejoin the Milan, but Massara insists talks between the club and the player are not ongoing.

"There is no news on Ibrahimovic, because this is not a negotiation," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"He is evaluating his future. He is on the market, but there are no developments."

Ibrahimovic spent 18 months with the Galaxy and was named in the MLS Best XI in 2018 and 2019 after scoring a combined 53 goals.

Fiorentina, Napoli and Bologna are among the other Italian sides to have been credited with an interest in the ex-Sweden international.

Franck Ribery has suffered ligament damage to his right ankle in an ill-timed injury blow for embattled Serie A side Fiorentina.

The Viola confirmed the setback after the 36-year-old was forced off in the first half of Saturday's 1-0 loss to Lecce.

Panagiotis Tachtsidis' sliding challenge left the experienced winger in considerable pain and he had to be helped from the field.

Precisely how long he will spend on the sidelines remains to be seen, but Fiorentina can little afford to do without the former Bayern Munich star following a third successive defeat.

A club statement read: "Ribery underwent tests after spraining his ankle. They revealed a Grade I/II tear of the medial collateral ligament of his right ankle. He has begun treatment and his condition will be re-assessed soon."

The loss to Lecce left Fiorentina nine points outside the top six after 14 games.

Newspaper reports in Italy suggest Vincenzo Montella is under pressure to save his job amid rumours Gennaro Gattuso and Cesare Prandelli could take over.

Lacklustre Juventus needed a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to salvage a 2-2 home draw with Sassuolo that left the door ajar for Serie A title rivals Inter.

Maurizio Sarri's men were set to pay a hefty price for a poor performance until Paulo Dybala appeared off the bench and won a 68th-minute spot-kick, which Ronaldo duly converted.

Leonardo Bonucci had fired Juve into a 20th-minute lead but an almost immediate response from Jeremie Boga seem to send panicked shivers through the home side.

Francesco Caputo capitalised on dual defensive blunders to give Sassuolo the lead and, though Juve steadied enough to pinch a point, the result would have been appreciated by Inter, who had SPAL at home later on Sunday.

Coach Sarri heeded Emre Can's public plea for a start and the midfielder's first major act was to miscue a straightforward finish.

Gonzalo Higuain stabbed a tougher chance past the post before captain Bonucci set the example.

The centre-back's ambitious drive whistled past teenage debutant Stefano Turati in the Sassuolo goal and gave Juve a lead that lasted barely two minutes.

The equaliser arrived in style as Boga produced a divine dink over the onrushing Gianluigi Buffon after Caputo's pass had nutmegged Alex Sandro.

Italy great Buffon was beaten again within two minutes of the restart, this time from an entirely less glamorous finish.

Matthijs de Ligt's rash clearance was sent back into the box and Caputo's tame attempt squirmed through a red-faced Buffon.

Turati proved more assured as he acrobatically parried Ronaldo's free-kick, before Higuain and Can squandered gilt-edged opportunities.

Ronaldo had a goal correctly disallowed for offside but was not to be denied from the spot, the 34-year-old confidently converting after Filippo Romagna brought down Dybala.

Juve looked likely to go on and snatch a winner, but a Dybala shot that drew an excellent save from Turati and a Ronaldo header that looped wide proved the closest they came.

Eden Hazard's time at Real Madrid will develop into something "very special", according to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Hazard appeared to be finding some form for Madrid before suffering an ankle injury in a Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

The former Chelsea star has just one goal and two assists in 13 games this season, but Martinez believes the Belgium playmaker will become a Madrid star.

"I saw Eden at the [Santiago] Bernabeu against PSG and I have to say that we saw a fascinating hour," Martinez said on Saturday.

"He taught us how his season with Real Madrid will be and the truth is that it makes your mouth water.

"Too bad he had to come off because of the injury, but we see an Eden Hazard that is going to contribute more and more, that his mates know him more and more and the truth is that the project of Eden at Real Madrid will be very special."

Martinez was speaking after Belgium were drawn to face Denmark, Finland and Russia in Group B at Euro 2020.

Another player sure to be key to possible success for Belgium at next year's tournament is Romelu Lukaku, who has scored 11 goals in 17 games for Inter this season.

"The truth is that he had a very difficult period in Manchester United, especially the last six months," Martinez said about the striker.

"He is now leading a project with Antonio Conte and it will be very interesting to see its evolution."

Maurizio Sarri hopes Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo wins his sixth Ballon d'Or, and he also tipped team-mate Paulo Dybala to be recognised as the world's best player in the future.

Ronaldo is up against fellow five-time winner Lionel Messi and Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk in the running for this year's gong, while Juve defender Matthijs de Ligt is in contention to win the Kopa Trophy awarded to the best performing player under the age of 21.

After watching Ronaldo overcoming a persistent knee injury to play a full 90 minutes in Juve's 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, Sarri said he was impressed with the 34-year-old's recovery.

"Cristiano did well in the last game, even with some resistance," Sarri told reporters. "Now he just has to grow in terms of brilliance.

"I hope that Cristiano wins the Ballon d'Or, de Ligt the Kopa Trophy and that Dybala will one day be a future Ballon d’Or contender."

Serie A leaders Juventus play 14th-placed Sassuolo on Sunday, and Sarri said his deliberation over selecting two from Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Dybala to play in attack is a welcome problem.

But the former Napoli and Chelsea coach warned his players against complacency as they go in search of a fifth consecutive Serie A victory, having beaten Atalanta 3-1 prior to the win over Atletico.

"Tomorrow's game is very dangerous," Sarri said of the Sassuolo clash. "We come into this fixture after two games that took away a lot of our mental energy.

"In addition, Sassuolo is a team that has done well, even on the road, and they have a young and strong coach who I respect a lot.

"Do I get a headache choosing who to play in attack? If anything, the opposition gets the headache.

"Emre Can may be an option for tomorrow. Alex Sandro took part in the full training session with the team yesterday. We need to see if he can play 90 minutes. 

"[Federico] Bernardeschi is doing well, he is a useful player to the team, who has great technical qualities, so we ask him to give more."

Antonio Conte says Inter's run of just one defeat in nine matches has led to a "feel-good factor" at San Siro but he has warned his players against complacency ahead of their clash with struggling SPAL.

Inter are second in Serie A, one point behind leaders Juventus, as they prepare to face 19th-placed SPAL on Sunday, and Conte was in ebullient mood in his pre-match press conference.

The Nerazzurri returned to form in the Champions League by beating Slavia Prague 3-1 on Wednesday and victory at home against SPAL would extend Inter's Serie A winning streak to five matches.

Conte was asked how he intends to maintain his side's strong form in order to keep Inter's title challenge on course, and he called for everyone at the club to keep their feet on the ground.

"In the league and in Europe we are doing very well," Conte told reporters. "In Europe we have played with real pride. Even when we lost we gave a good performance.

"We have always played every game on level terms. In Europe the situation is in our hands again. That is very encouraging.

"I am very optimistic and pleased with the feel-good factor. However, we cannot get carried away and must stay grounded. We need to make sure we are realistic.

"We have lots of confidence and that should spur us on. Let's beat SPAL and keep going. I want to see the same spirit and desire. I want us to be hungry."

Martinez has already matched his league goal tally from last season by scoring six this term and Lukaku has endeared himself to Inter fans with 10 goals in 13 league appearances since his £75million transfer from Manchester United.

"Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku aren't the same strikers who started the season," said Conte.

"They are both atypical modern strikers, as they can be a centre-forward or a support striker, they work hard for their team-mates and are really developing an understanding with each other.

"They have grown a lot. They have come a long way since the start of the season. They have a good understanding. They are working very well and very hard.

"The goals are coming which is important. But the whole team play their part. I am attentive at both ends of the pitch. However, there is still lots of work to do."

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