Juventus assistant Giovanni Martusciello said Maurizio Sarri was "very happy" with Saturday's win over Parma after speaking to the absent head coach before, during and after the Serie A opener.

Sarri was not in the dugout as eight-time reigning Serie A champions Juventus kicked off their title defence with a 1-0 victory at Parma thanks to Giorgio Chiellini.

Martusciello took charge of the match as Sarri recovers from pneumonia – the former Chelsea boss also set to miss the clash against Napoli.

After the match, Martusciello told reporters: "We spoke to Sarri many times in the morning.

"Clearly for him it's quite difficult to stay away from the team and therefore he wanted to know whatever was happening, the conditions of the lads, how they were living the beginning of the league.

"And we also spoke to him before the game, during the break and at the end of the game. He was very happy for the result, but a bit angry as well because he is a perfectionist.

"When something doesn't go in the direction he wants, clearly he gets a bit angry. He was happy of what the lads did in the first half and above all he was super happy of how the team dealt with the moment of suffering in the game.

"I mean that when Parma played more aggressively, and we were struggling physically, the team resisted among the difficulties and that's not a trait of many teams."

Gonzalo Higuain started for Juve against Parma, with reported Paris Saint-Germain target Paulo Dybala named on the bench.

Higuain – whose Juve future looked bleak following unsuccessful loan spells at AC Milan and Chelsea in 2018-19 – played 83 minutes, while Dybala was an unused substitute.

"Let's say that we made a clear consideration: to avoid putting players - in this context, first game against a very well organised team like Parma - to put players where they were used to play, in their usual roles," Martusciello said. "The choice about Higuain and Dybala goes in that direction.

"This aspect, a player that is born as a central striker, and so we went in that direction. That doesn't mean that in the future Dybala won't be the central striker. Here we have to deal with many top players, we have to make choices and those choices are part of the coach's job and we have to put 11 on the pitch. But today's choice was only inspired by a 'solidity of habits'."

Juventus started their bid for a ninth consecutive Serie A title with a narrow, but thoroughly deserved, 1-0 win over Parma at Stadio Ennio Tardini on Saturday.

New boss Maurizio Sarri was absent from the dugout as he is recovering from pneumonia, but he will be buoyed by a performance that suggested they will once again be the team to beat this season.

Giorgio Chiellini scored the only goal of the game after 21 minutes, while Cristiano Ronaldo saw a goal ruled out for offside before the interval.

Juve were unable to add a second despite dominating throughout, although it mattered little as they comfortably kept Parma at arm's length to start the season in familiar fashion.

The visitors started with a spring in their step and should have gone ahead after 12 minutes, Ronaldo's header from 10 yards fizzing narrowly over.

Wojciech Szczesny pawed away Roberto Inglese's instinctive effort at the other end before Chiellini opened the scoring, the veteran defender diverting home Alex Sandro's scuffed volley from 10 yards.

Ronaldo should have doubled their advantage eight minutes later but flashed wide after being played in by Gonzalo Higuain.

There was more frustration for the Portugal international before the break when he saw a goal disallowed by VAR for offside. He lashed home superbly from a tight angle but replays showed he was marginally offside as he raced to collect Douglas Costa's pass.

Parma started the second half with more intent than they had shown in the opening 45 minutes, although they struggled to breakdown Juve's resolute defence.

Ronaldo clipped over from Costa's pull-back on the hour mark before Parma goalkeeper Luigi Sepe kept out the former Real Madrid's star's powerful drive from 20 yards.

The Bianconeri eased up in the closing stages, rarely looking like they would add a second, but the damage had been done by their defensive colossus in the first half.

 

What does it mean? Juve pick up where they left off

Juve were not at their very best but they scarcely needed to be to cruise past a limited Parma outfit. If Sarri was watching, he will have seen a team that looks solid at the back and lively in attack – the perfect combination for yet another title tilt.

Ronaldo wasteful but looking sharp

Any thoughts that the 34-year-old's powers might be diminishing were dispelled in a performance brimming with swagger and skill. He missed two clear chances in the first half and saw a goal ruled out, but he can reflect on a showing that bodes well for the season ahead.

Higuain fails to take chance

Few expected the Argentina international to be given a chance at Juve this season, which is why it was such a surprise to see Gonzalo Higuain starting in attack. He did little to suggest he will stay there, though, with a display every bit as listless as those he produced on loan at Chelsea last season.

What's next?

Juve welcome last season's runners-up and Sarri's former club Napoli to the Allianz Stadium next Saturday, while Parma travel to Udinese a day later.

Marco Giampaolo has asked for patience as he attempts to implement his vision at AC Milan.

Former Sampdoria boss Giampaolo took charge at San Siro after Gennaro Gattuso agreed to mutually terminate his contract in May.

The 52-year-old's reign starts with a visit to Udinese in Serie A on Sunday and Giampaolo wants to be given adequate time to stamp his authority on the club.

"This is a dream for me and a big opportunity for both myself and these players," he told a media conference.

"I am at an extraordinary club and I have a vision, an idea of where we want to go and the steps to get there. I need time to work with the players and this system, even if there are difficulties.

"Being at Milan is a privilege, something that few get to experience in their lifetime. Milan have millions and millions of fans all over the world and that's all you need to know for what this club represents."

Milan have added Rafael Leao, Theo Hernandez and Ismael Bennacer during the close season but Giampaolo has suggested that the starting XI for Sunday's clash will largely be made up of players from Gattuso's reign.

"The work has been going as planned, although some players arrived later to training than others," he added.

"When the season begins, you have fewer training sessions at your disposal and those who weren't here from the start need more time to catch up. We already worked on the details with the squad throughout the summer, but others are a bit behind.

"We’ll play those who are in the best shape physically and in terms of their collective knowledge of the project. We might be leaving some very strong players on the bench, but right now I don't know what their conditions are.

"Ismael Bennacer wasn't too bad when he arrived and could play as a substitute late on tomorrow, while there will be time to introduce all the others. We need to bring everyone into the project."

Gonzalo Higuain has been named in the Juventus team for their Serie A opener against Parma, with Paulo Dybala on the bench.

Higuain's future at Juve appeared bleak when he spent last season enduring unsuccessful loans with AC Milan and Chelsea.

But the appointment of Maurizio Sarri, under whom he thrived at Napoli - scoring 36 league goals in the 2015-16 season - appears to have given the striker a fresh chance with the Serie A champions.

Higuain, 31, will lead a three-pronged attack on Saturday with support from Cristiano Ronaldo and Douglas Costa, who starts on the right in place of Federico Bernardeschi.

New signings Matthijs de Ligt, Adrien Rabiot and Danilo are all on the bench along with the returning Gianluigi Buffon, with Wojciech Szczesny preferred in goal. Aaron Ramsey and Daniele Rugani did not make the squad.

Sarri will not be in the dugout at Stadio Ennio Tardini as he is recovering from pneumonia, with the coach also set to miss next week's visit of his old club Napoli.

Barcelona have a plan to land Neymar and the star forward's demands now appear to be known.

The Neymar saga is not yet over and it remains to be seen if the Brazil international will leave Paris Saint-Germain before the transfer window closes on September 2.

But Barcelona have a new plan to bring Neymar – who they sold to PSG for €222million two years ago – back to Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA HAVE NEYMAR PLAN AS STAR DEMANDS €35M PER SEASON

Barcelona have worked out a new formula to convince PSG to sell Neymar to them, according to Spanish newspaper Sport.

The LaLiga champions will offer cash and a player to the Ligue 1 giants this year and PSG can choose between either another player or more money in 2020, the report says.

Meanwhile, Neymar, 27, wants €35m net per season and a five-year deal, according to Spanish television show Jugones.

ROUND-UP

- Alexis Sanchez's possible move from Manchester United to Inter is developing slowly. The Serie A giants are confident of signing the attacker in the next few days amid talks about the division of Sanchez's wage, according to Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano.

- With Renato Sanches having left for Lille, Bayern Munich may be looking for a replacement. The Bundesliga champions remain interested in Espanyol midfielder Marc Roca, according to AS. However, Bayern want to pay €18m while the LaLiga side are hoping for Roca's release clause – €40m.

- Valencia are eyeing a move for Radamel Falcao after the Monaco striker ended talks with Galatasaray, reports AS. The Colombia international was heavily linked with a move to the Turkish giants, but Valencia may be looking for cover for Rodrigo, who could leave for Atletico Madrid.

- Also in Turkey, Rafinha is close to leaving Barcelona for Fenerbahce, according to O Jogo. Rafinha had been linked with a move to Valencia, but the 26-year-old could now be heading to Fenerbahce.

- Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has had few chances since joining PSG in 2018, but the forward has no plans to leave, according to L'Equipe. Lecce had been linked with a move for the Cameroon international.

Mauro Icardi has been given the number seven shirt for Inter this season as it grows increasingly likely he will stay at the club.

The Argentina international saw his number nine jersey given to new signing Romelu Lukaku as talks over a transfer away from San Siro continued.

However, with an exit beginning to look unlikely, the striker has been given a new squad number for the 2019-20 Serie A season, which starts this weekend.

Icardi was told to look for a new club by chief executive Giuseppe Marotta in July and was excluded from the club's pre-season tour of Asia.

The 26-year-old, who was stripped of the club captaincy last season, was tipped to move to Juventus in a part-exchange deal involving Paulo Dybala, but no such agreement has been reached.

Most recently, he was linked with Ligue 1 side Monaco, only for wife and agent Wanda Nara to rule out such a transfer.

Nara seemed to hint at Icardi staying at Inter with a tweet on Friday showing her photographed with other wives and girlfriends of Nerazzurri players, captioned 'another year together'.

Antonio Conte's side begin their Serie A season at home to Lecce on Monday.

Franck Ribery could make his Fiorentina debut against Napoli when the Serie A season gets up and running this weekend, says Vincenzo Montella.

Ribery joined La Viola as a free agent on a two-year deal this week having left Bayern Munich at the end of his contract.

The former France international suggested in his presentation he would not be ready to play this weekend, and certainly is not fit to start.

But Montella is keen on using the 36-year-old for Saturday's season opener at Stadio Artemio Franchi.

"I want him to be with us because he wants to be a part of the game," Montella told a news conference. "I want him to be with us and I hope for a chance for him to play.

"He joined us because he wants to be still on the first line. He has to be competitive, I know he says he wants to, he works on it and I realised by myself in these first days of training.

"He doesn't pull himself out during the sessions. He knows he can get results only through hard work. I am sure he will transmit this mentality to all the squad.

"But I need to focus on the game. Dreams are great, but we need to keep our feet on the ground in this moment."

Ribery was given a rousing reception at his official presentation on Thursday, with thousands of Fiorentina fans attending to welcome him to the club.

Carlo Ancelotti commended Napoli's efforts in the transfer market after capturing Hirving Lozano a day before the new Serie A season.

Napoli reportedly spent €40million to sign the Mexico international from PSV.

Lozano, 24, joins centre-back Kostas Manolas, right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo and teenage midfielder Elif Elmas among the new faces at Stadio San Paolo.

Ancelotti guided Napoli to second last term, 11 points behind champions Juventus, and thinks his squad is better resourced this season.

"We have become more competitive," Ancelotti said.

"With Lozano and the other new arrivals, the level of quality in the squad has increased and we're stronger overall than last year.

"The club has had a very good transfer window and spent big, which I'm pleased about."

An exciting winger, Lozano shot to international prominence when he scored the winner for Mexico against Germany at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The former Pachuca player scored 17 league goals in each of his past two seasons in the Netherlands and struck four times in the Champions League during a productive 2018-19 campaign.

"He's a player that we've been tracking for a while and thanks to the club's hard work, we finally now have him here with us," Ancelotti said.

"It wasn't a simple operation.

"Lozano brings extra technical quality to the squad. He's full of desire and is very excited and motivated to be at Napoli. Those are the characteristics that we like, besides his technical ability.

"Hirving can play anywhere across the frontline. On the left, right or behind the striker. Maybe he can also play as a striker himself.

"He's a complete footballer with fantastic quality."

Napoli begin their Serie A campaign away to Fiorentina on Saturday.

Aaron Ramsey will miss the chance to make his competitive Juventus debut in their opening Serie A game against Parma.

The Wales midfielder, who left Arsenal as a free agent to join the Italian champions, is absent from Juve's 23-man squad.

Daniele Rugani, who has been linked with a move away from the club, is also missing but new signing Matthijs de Ligt could feature.

Fellow fresh faces Adrien Rabiot, Danilo and Merih Demiral are also included, along with former Parma goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon after his return from Paris Saint-Germain.

Juve's new head coach Maurizio Sarri will not make the trip to Stadio Ennio Tardini as he is recovering from pneumonia.

The club confirmed in a statement released on Thursday that former Chelsea boss Sarri would also be absent from the bench for the visit of his old club Napoli next weekend.

Paulo Dybala's presence is no hindrance to Juventus' ongoing search for new signings, according to the club's vice-president Pavel Nedved.

The Serie A champions head into Saturday's season opener against Parma with a host of new signings at their disposal, including Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey and right-back Danilo.

Argentina forward Dybala seemed set to make way amid the influx with Manchester United, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain all linked at various stages.

None of those proposed moves have transpired and the 25-year-old is still standing at Allianz Stadium, a situation that sits comfortably with Nedved.

"Dybala will never be a problem for us because he is a great player," the former Bianconeri midfielder said on Friday, sitting in at a pre-match news conference as head coach Maurizio Sarri continues his recovery from a bout of pneumonia.

"Maurizio is using him as a false nine and I believe he is playing the role very well. He had a great pre-season."

Nedved dodged questions about Inter outcast and rumoured Juve target Mauro Icardi but revealed there could yet be further new arrivals.

"[Sporting director] Fabio Paratici has had done extraordinary things, some beautiful and important deals," he said.

"The transfer window is still open and we will see if there are opportunities we can seize.

"We are not forced to do anything. If there are possibilities, we will do something. Otherwise we will remain as we are."

Juve will, however, have to do without the guidance of head coach Sarri for their first two Serie A fixtures as he recuperates.

The former Chelsea boss is to return to work after the international break, Nedved confirmed.

He said: "Pneumonia is not a simple thing. Sarri would like to be out the training pitch and in the office every day because he is a great professional, but he needs time. He is getting better.

"Obviously there are difficulties for us, but we have managed them before."

Alexis Sanchez is not certain to leave Manchester United even though there are ongoing transfer talks with interested clubs, according to manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Chile forward Sanchez was not in the matchday squad for United's first two Premier League games of the season with Chelsea and Wolves, having not taken part in any pre-season fixtures following his efforts at the Copa America.

The 30-year-old has been heavily linked with Inter, who have already signed Romelu Lukaku from United in this transfer window and are said to be interested in a loan deal.

It is claimed Sanchez's wage demands are proving a problem for the Nerazzurri, though, with Italy's transfer deadline just 10 days away.

Solskjaer appears unsure of what will happen with Sanchez, but he was pleased with his efforts in a behind-closed-doors friendly match against Sheffield United this week and does not seem desperate to see the player go.

"There's still talks with some clubs, but he played in that game and played well," Solskjaer told a news conference on Friday. "So, as I've said, he's working hard and let's see in September what's going to happen."

Lukaku caused a stir this week when a podcast apparently recorded while he was still a United player was published, in which the striker accused United of effectively nudging him out of the club by failing to protect him from public criticism and transfer speculation.

Solskjaer refused to become embroiled in the matter, saying: "I'm not going to dive into that one. That interview was made before the summer, wasn't it? When he was a Man United player? So, I think I'd rather not."

United host Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday after taking four points from their first two league matches of the season at home to Chelsea and away to Wolves.

Solskjaer has been encouraged by the fitness displayed in those performances, having been concerned by the way his players allowed their intensity to drop in matches towards the end of last season.

"The team spirt is great, we've got loads of energy and passion. You can see that with the way we went about the game with Wolverhampton," he said.

"I thought our pressing was excellent. We gave them five minutes in the second half and that was it, really, when they had the ball and pushed us back but, apart from that, the engine looks so much better.

"Everyone's fit and when you're physically fit it's easier to be mentally strong as well.

"[Palace] are a very organised team. They've got pace up front for counter-attacks, strong on set-pieces, so, of course, we know we have to do all parts of the game.

"We have to attack well, we have to win the ball back when we're losing it and we've got to be strong on set plays."

Solskjaer also confirmed that full-back Diogo Dalot is likely to be out of action until after the international break next month due to injury.

Napoli have completed the signing of Mexico forward Hirving Lozano from PSV in a deal reportedly worth €40million.

Lozano spent two seasons in the Eredivisie, scoring 34 league goals for PSV across the two campaigns, and impressed in the Champions League last term.

The 24-year-old winger also starred for Mexico at the 2018 World Cup, scoring a memorable goal in a 1-0 win over Germany in the group stage.

Lozano, who had also been linked with Manchester United, has now swapped the Eredivisie for Serie A, with Napoli reportedly paying a club-record transfer fee reported to be €38m plus bonuses.

Prior to the club's official announcement on Friday, Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis had shared a photo of Lozano signing his contract on his official Twitter account.

Napoli kick off their Serie A campaign against Fiorentina on Saturday.

Will they, or won't they?

Barcelona are trying to re-sign wantaway Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar before the transfer window closes on September 2.

LaLiga rivals Real Madrid are also interested, so this is set to go down to the wire.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA RENEWING NEYMAR EFFORTS

According to Sport, Barcelona are preparing a fresh offer to prise Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

Barcelona have already reportedly had an initial loan deal turned down by PSG, who are determined to recoup the world-record €222million fee they spent on Neymar in 2017.

Real Madrid, however, are still said to be determined to trump Barca to the signing of the Brazilian forward.

 

ROUND-UP

- Should Neymar be granted his wish to leave PSG, the Ligue 1 holders are reportedly considering a move for Juventus forward Paulo Dybala. That is according to Tuttosport, after Dybala had been linked to Manchester United and Tottenham prior to the Premier League's transfer window closing.

- Marca also reports goalkeeper Keylor Navas is close to leaving Real Madrid for PSG. Navas wants out after reportedly being told he will be Thibaut Courtois' understudy this season.

Manchester United will not make an offer for Fernando Llorente, according to the Daily Mail. Llorente is a free agent after leaving Tottenham and reports in Italy linked the Spaniard to Old Trafford following Romelu Lukaku's move to Inter. However, the Red Devils are reportedly not interested in the veteran.

Inter are close to signing full-back Cristiano Biraghi from Serie A rivals Fiorentina, reports Calciomercato. Biraghi was part of Inter's youth academy before moving on to the likes of Cittadella, Pescara and Fiorentina. Inter are said to be looking to include Dalbert in a swap deal for the Italy international.

Inter and United are continuing talks over Alexis Sanchez, claim Sky Sport Italia and Sportitalia. More discussions are reportedly planned, with United wanting Inter to cover more of the Chilean's salary during the proposed loan spell.

- According to The Telegraph, Leicester City midfielder Adrien Silva is poised to return to Monaco on loan. The Portugal international spent the second half of the 2018-19 season on loan at the Ligue 1 side. It comes after Sky Sport Italia reports AC Milan and Franck Kessie rejected Monaco's proposal for the midfielder.

Roma are weighing up a move for Atletico Madrid striker Nikola Kalinic, says Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio. After re-signing Edin Dzeko, Roma are reportedly considering Atletico fringe figure Kalinic if Patrik Schick and Gregoire Defrel leave.

Adrien Rabiot said Cristiano Ronaldo is helping him improve at the Serie A champions as he hailed the Juventus superstar.

Rabiot is preparing for Saturday's league debut with Juventus against Parma after joining from Ligue 1 holders Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Having settled in Turin, French midfielder Rabiot praised Juve team-mate and five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo.

"I played a lot this summer, because I needed to adapt to the team," Rabiot told Sky Sport 24.

"I'm managing to create an excellent affinity with Cristiano Ronaldo, because he also plays on the left. Training with him allows me to improve myself a lot and his presence is very good for the group."

"Turin is different from Paris. It's smaller, but it's a beautiful city," he added. "I am finding myself at ease and I managed to adapt well, which is very important for what I can then give on the field.

"Personally, I can't wait to start this adventure. I feel fit, we have worked a lot this summer, but we are ready for this appointment. With Parma it will be difficult, because we are the team to beat, and everyone will always give their best against us, but we are confident."

New head coach Maurizio Sarri will not be on the Juventus bench for their opening two Serie A games as he recovers from pneumonia.

Sarri, who arrived from Chelsea in the off-season, will miss Saturday's trip to Parma as well as the home match against former side Napoli on August 31.

"The coach made an excellent impression on me," said Rabiot. "He has a precise game philosophy and knows exactly how we must play, both in the offensive and defensive phases.

"We have already absorbed his concepts and we are working well with his staff."

Franck Ribery hopes to play on beyond the age of 40 after joining Fiorentina but says he does not intend to be a rival to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ribery's 12-year stay at Bayern Munich concluded when his contract expired at the end of the 2018-19 season, in which he won a ninth Bundesliga title.

Following prolonged speculation about his next move, the former France winger agreed a two-year deal with La Viola.

And Ribery, who plans to follow in the footsteps of Serie A veterans such as Francesco Totti, is aiming to lead Fiorentina back into the Champions League.

"We have had a very long negotiation, but I am very happy to be here in Florence," said the 36-year-old.

"I saw great motivation and great confidence in me from the management, and that is why I am here. Naturally, my wife also helped in the choice, because my family is very important.

"I am very motivated, I always want to play. I have a two-year contract and I want to be decisive and help the young players. I want to give something new to this club, I want to bring Fiorentina into the top three of the table.

"I came here to help my team, which is Fiorentina. I am not here to be a rival to Ronaldo. Serie A is a great tournament with many excellent players. Inter bought well on the market, as did Juventus.

"The thing I appreciate the most is that people here love and live for football. It's a wonderful experience and I want to enjoy myself on the field.

"Football is my life. It's the reason I wanted to remain in Europe and I was fortunate to find Fiorentina. I hope to continue playing until the age of 40, just like Francesco Totti."

Fiorentina open the new Serie A season at home to Napoli on Saturday but Ribery is not expecting to be involved.

"I am not ready to start, but I am happy that I got to train with the squad today, which is very different to training by yourself," he added. 

"I need a week or two to be ready to play, but if the coach [Vincenzo Montella] tells me that I'm needed, I will step up."

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