Christian Eriksen was rumoured to be close to leaving Tottenham at the beginning of the season.

Real Madrid were among the clubs interested in the Dane, whose contract expires in 2020, but a move did not materialise before the end of the transfer window.

But that has not deterred the Spanish giants, with Zinedine Zidane willing to move two fringe players away from them Santiago Bernabeu to get a deal done for the 27-year-old.

 

TOP STORY - LOS BLANCOS PAVING WAY FOR ERIKSEN

Real Madrid could reignite their interest in Christian Eriksen in the January transfer window, AS reports a move will only happen if Madrid dispense of two players.

Isco and Mariano Diaz are understood to be the most likely to be sacrificed.

Mariano is yet to make a single appearance this season but could command a fee of around €20million, while Isco's two LaLiga starts came in the draw against Real Valladolid in August and last weekend's loss to Mallorca.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud is being eyed up by Crystal Palace for a January switch across London, according to the Daily Star.

- El Mundo reports Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have ended their dispute over the transfer of Antoine Griezmann with an extra €15m changing hands.

- The Daily Mail claim Arsenal are in pole position to sign RB Leipzig's France Under-21 defender Dayot Upamecano.

- Italy boss Roberto Mancini has not ruled out a return to the national team for veteran duo Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi as he shapes his squad for Euro 2020.

- The Sun says Juventus and Atletico Madrid are chasing 19-year-old West Bromwich Albion defender Nathan Ferguson.

Sandro Tonali said he is a mix of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso as he compared himself to the Italy greats following his international debut.

Tonali came off the bench to make his Italy bow in the country's 5-0 rout of Liechtenstein in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old Brescia sensation – who has been linked to Serie A champions Juventus, Manchester United and Fiorentina – addressed comparisons post-match.

"It's tough to pick one of those champions," Tonali told Rai Sport after being compared to Pirlo, Gattuso and Daniele De Rossi.

"Maybe a mix of all of them would be perfect. I guess there are similarities with Pirlo in a way but I also add a lot of a grit in there, so maybe more Gattuso."

Italy matched a national team record as they extended their winning streak to nine games, having booked their place at Euro 2020 with a win over Greece at the weekend.

Roberto Mancini named a young starting team for the clash at Rheinpark Stadion as Federico Bernardeschi, Andrea Belotti, Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy all got on the scoresheet in Vaduz.

There was also time for Tonali to make his debut with 16 minutes remaining and he reflected on the emotion he felt when replacing Bernardeschi.

"I felt wonderful as not everyone gets to play for the national team. I was a little emotional for 30 seconds that it was really happening," Tonali added.

"The coach told us all to be ready to play so I had an idea. Everyone in the squad was very helpful to the newcomers like me and it felt easy to come in.

"The system is different, so is the timing and there is obviously a lot more quality in the Italy side, but the role and position remain the same."

Italy matched a national team record as a 5-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein stretched their winning streak to nine games, but head coach Roberto Mancini's still sees areas where they can improve.

The Azzurri, who qualified for Euro 2020 by beating Greece at the weekend, eased to victory against Group J minnows Liechtenstein on Tuesday.

Victory means the current crop have equalled the achievement of the Italy team that played under Vittorio Pozzo, with their run spanning from May 1938 to March 1939.

Mancini, however, is more interested in another Pozzo record, as he explained following proceedings at the Rheinpark Stadion.

"Matching Pozzo's record of victories is nice, but I'd rather match his record of winning two World Cups!" Mancini, who also said there was still plenty of improvements for his side to make, told Rai Sport.

"It was natural with so many changes that we'd lack some consistency. There were some positives, other things we can improve, but the main issue was that these players haven't really worked together before."

Federico Bernardeschi opened the scoring inside two minutes – the Azzurri's fastest goal since June 2013 – though Italy had to wait until midway through the second half to double their lead.

Andrea Belotti headed home in the 70th minute, sparking a flurry of goals, the forward grabbing another after Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy had also scored.

El Shaarawy's goal marked his first Italy appearance since 2017 and the former Roma and AC Milan forward admitted it was an emotional moment.

"There was a bit of everything. It was emotional for me, very satisfying to be back on the field in an Italy jersey," El Shaarawy told Rai Sport.

"I feel Italy really deserved this qualification and these results, as we are all working so hard and are very pleased with how things are going.

"I was so hungry to be out there, as my last game for Italy was two years ago, the play-off that saw us fail to reach the World Cup. I needed to change the impressions from that match."

Italy continued their perfect record in Euro 2020 qualifying as Andrea Belotti's double helped them claim an emphatic 5-0 away win over Group J minnows Liechtenstein.

Federico Bernardeschi scored as Italy secured their place at next year's finals with a 2-0 triumph over Greece on Saturday, and the Juventus winger wasted little time in making his mark on Tuesday as he rattled in the Azzurri's fastest goal since June 2013.

The Azzurri were fortunate not to have fallen behind inside the opening 60 seconds, with Dennis Salanovic proving a real menace to the visitors throughout, though Salvatore Sirigu came out on top in an entertaining duel.

Sirigu's saves set the stage for a late Italy charge that included four goals in the last 20 minutes.

Belotti made sure of the points before Alessio Romagnoli and substitute Stephan El Shaarawy got in on the act - with Italy's striker helping himself to a second in stoppage time.

The Rugby World Cup is headed for the knockout rounds after a dramatic pool stage in which Scotland were the biggest casualties.

Eight teams remain from 20, with hosts Japan – who have four wins from four – progressing as winners of Pool A after defeating Gregor Townsend's men on Sunday.

Japan also stunned Ireland in the same group, but Joe Schmidt's side progressed into the quarters in second.

In Pool B, two-time defending champions New Zealand finished top, with an impressive South Africa side behind them. Italy were frustrated as the impact of Typhoon Hagibis ended their slim chances of progression.

Meanwhile, England topped Pool C with France in second place, with Wales and Australia completing the last-eight line-up.

Using Opta data, we look back at an enthralling tournament so far.

Pool A – Japan, Ireland, Scotland, Tonga, Russia

1 – Japan are into the knockout stage of a World Cup for the first time in their history, becoming the first non-tier one side to do so since Fiji in 2007.

5 – Kirill Golosnitskiy's scored in the fifth minute of the opening match as Russia took the lead against Japan. It is the quickest ever try in a World Cup opener.

2 – Scotland have failed to make it out of the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup for just the second time, after also doing so in 2011.

90 – Rob Kearney crossed for a try after just 90 seconds against Russia, Ireland's fastest World Cup try and the fastest of the tournament so far.

48 – Japan's Yu Tamura has scored 48 points so far, more than any other player. All of his points have come with the boot – 10 penalties and nine conversions.

Pool B – New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Canada

4 – Canada had Josh Larsen sent off versus South Africa and have had four players dismissed in the history of the World Cup, more than any other side. There have been seven dismissals so far this tournament – four was the previous highest total in both 1995 and 1999.

17 – New Zealand have won their last 17 World Cup matches, the longest run by any side in the tournament's history.

21 – Against Canada, South Africa's Cobus Reinach scored the earliest hat-trick in a World Cup match, crossing for his third try in the 21st minute.

142 – After featuring against South Africa, Italy captain Sergio Parisse surpassed Brian O'Driscoll (141) to become the outright second-most capped player in Test rugby history behind Richie McCaw, who played 148 times.

Pool C – England, France, Argentina, Tonga, USA

20 – Against Argentina, Romain Ntamack, aged 20 years and 143 days, became the youngest player to feature for France in a World Cup match.

88 – Agustin Creevy won his 88th cap for Argentina when he played against England, overtaking Felipe Contepomi as Los Puma's most capped player.

6 – George Ford has been involved in six tries for England, more than any other player, scoring two and providing a tournament-high four assists.

Pool D – Wales, Australia, Fiji, Georgia, Uruguay

62 – Fiji's Semi Radradra topped the charts for carries (62), metres (400) and defenders beaten (29) in the pool stage.

94 – James Slipper scored his first try for Australia in his 94th Test when the Wallabies faced Uruguay. No player from any nation has played more matches before scoring their first try.

130 – By playing in Wales' win over Australia, Alun Wyn Jones overtook Gethin Jenkins (129) as the most capped Welshman, going on to make his 131st appearance against Fiji.

35 – At the age of 35 years and 186 days, Adam Ashley-Cooper is the oldest Australia player to make a World Cup appearance. He subsequently became their oldest try scorer in World Cup history, and their oldest in any match since 1966.

100 – Warren Gatland's side have won 100 per cent of their matches so far. It is the first time Wales have won all of their pool games since 1987.

Roberto Mancini believes an improving Italy are ready to compete with the continent's top teams after sealing a place at Euro 2020.

Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi scored in a 2-0 victory over Greece in Rome on Saturday to confirm the Azzurri's qualification from Group J.

Euro 2020 will mark the nation's first appearance at a major tournament in four years following the shock failure to reach the World Cup in Russia.

Mancini took charge in the aftermath of that debacle and has guided a refreshed side to an eight-match winning streak, one short of the Italy record achieved under Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.

"We created a team in a short time and it wasn't that easy," Mancini said.

"Much of the credit must be given to the players. I tried to make them believe in their qualities at a time when many said there were no players with quality. I just needed a little patience.

"There is no absolute star, but there is a group that fights, that plays good football and that must improve.

"We haven't won anything, but we have qualified with three games to play. We must be very happy considering what our starting point was.

"I don't think there's a big gap to the big European teams."

Though his team held the hosts goalless for over an hour at Stadio Olimpico, Greece boss John van't Schip agreed with Mancini's assessment of Italy as a potential contender at next year's tournament.

"They have overcome the crisis they went through two years ago," he said.

"Italy can be a very dangerous outsider for the Euros or maybe even one of the favourites."

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma paid tribute to Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini after Saturday's 2-0 win over Greece secured their place at Euro 2020 with three matches to spare.

Italy went into the match at Rome's Stadio Olimpico having won each of their first six Group J matches and knew another victory would confirm their participation in next year's tournament.

It was by no means plain-sailing against a Greece side who set up to frustrate Italy, with Mancini's side barely troubling the visitors' defence in the first half.

But Andreas Bouchalakis blocked a Lorenzo Insigne shot with his arm just past the hour and Jorginho dispatched the penalty, before Federico Bernardeschi's late strike wrapped the win up.

And Donnarumma applauded the impact of Mancini, who has restored pride to Italy after they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

"He is a great coach, we listen to him," Donnarumma told Rai Sport. "He has good principles.

"We all listen to him and we must do that also during the Euros because he will surely lead us on the right track."

Victory over Greece was Mancini's eighth successive win, meaning he could equal Italy's all-time record of consecutive triumphs against Liechtenstein on Tuesday.

But Mancini dismissed the importance of that, highlighting the coach who set the record – Vittorio Pozzo – has an altogether more impressive legacy.

"Pozzo is a legend because he won two World Cups, the rest does not count," Mancini added.

"We hope the magical nights return and that in June it's even more beautiful."

Italy clinched a place at Euro 2020 as Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi scored in Saturday's 2-0 win over Greece.

Roberto Mancini's men were far from at their fluent best at Stadio Olimpico, appearing devoid of craft against an often-packed Greece defence, but a pair of second-half goals ensured they did enough to make sure of a top-two finish in Group J.

The victory extended their strong qualification campaign, giving Italy a seventh successive victory.

Unsurprisingly, Greece set up to frustrate Italy and they certainly achieved that goal in the first half, with the Azzurri crafting few notable opportunities in a dour opening 45 minutes.

But a combination of Italy's determination and a defensive blunder from Andreas Bouchalakis in the second period allowed Jorginho to convert a penalty and substitute Bernardeschi wrapped the win up late on.

Italy generally dominated a largely forgettable first half in Rome, though their control of possession was not reflected in the number of chances forged, as Alexandros Paschalakis in the Greece goal was little more than a spectator.

While Gianluigi Donnarumma was by no means busy at the other end, his reflex save to palm away Dimitris Limnios' effort in the 12th minute was vital.

Italy then suffered the blow of losing Federico Chiesa to an apparent muscle injury just before the interval.

But the hosts' first attempt on target came from a cross courtesy of Chiesa's replacement, as Bernardeschi's delivery found Ciro Immobile and his header was tipped around the post by Paschalakis.

The goalkeeper was helpless just past the hour, however – Jorginho dispatching a penalty with typical composure after Bouchalakis blatantly blocked Lorenzo Insigne's shot with his arm.

Bernardeschi ended Greece's hopes of a late fightback, finding the bottom-left corner from distance with 12 minutes to go.

What does it mean? Italy back in the big-time

After missing out on a place at the 2018 World Cup, Italy were not going to accept failure in this qualification campaign, so they put their money where their mouth was and hired a reputable coach in Mancini.

While there was nothing vintage about the performance on Saturday and their group always looked like being simple, at least on this occasion they have met expectations by securing a place in next year's tournament and with three matches to spare.

 

Verratti adds a touch of class

In a match often lacking quality, Marco Verratti was a standout performer. Hassled and harried by Greece's dogged midfield, the Paris Saint-Germain star routinely played his way out of trouble with ease, even inside his own penalty area in the first period.

 

A day to forget for Bouchalakis

Until the bizarre decision to block a shot with his arm in the penalty area, Bouchalakis and his defensive colleagues had put up a decent fight. In that moment their chances disappeared, as they did not look much of a threat at the other end.

 

What's next?

Italy return to action on Tuesday away to Liechtenstein, while Greece host Bosnia-Herzegovina on the same day.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini has told Moise Kean to "be more careful" after the striker was sent off in a European Under-21 Championship qualifier.

Kean was dismissed for pushing Republic of Ireland striker Troy Parrott in the chest. Tottenham player Parrott also saw red following the clash.

It is not the first disciplinary issue Kean has faced this year, the 19-year-old having been left out at this year's European Under-21 Championship finals by coach Luigi Di Biagio after repeated breaches of team rules.

Kean was then omitted from Mancini's senior Italy squad for this international break having struggled to make an impact in the Premier League for Everton, the club he joined from Juventus in August.

"I'm sorry for yesterday's expulsion," Mancini told reporters on Friday. "He was also unlucky. But he is always involved, he must be more careful."

Brescia teenager Sandro Tonali played in the same team as Kean in Dublin on Thursday, and the midfielder, uncapped at senior level, has been brought into Mancini's squad for Saturday's home game against Greece.

The Azzurri are closing in on qualification for Euro 2020 having recorded a perfect six wins out of six games in Group J, and while victory against John van 't Schip's side would be enough to secure a place at the finals, Mancini is taking nothing for granted.

"We have to think about qualifying, this match will not be easy," Mancini added. "I don't know how they will play, but we always want to have our footprint and we want to win.

"Qualification is certainly not a sure thing, we have a serious opponent tomorrow night, who we must beat.

"Now comes the Euros as it's the first competition we'll have to face. Then, certainly, we'll turn our attentions to the [2022] World Cup in Qatar."

Sergio Parisse believes World Rugby would not have cancelled Italy’s clash with New Zealand if the All Blacks needed a victory to qualify from Pool B.

The reigning champions were set to go up against Italy in their final group game at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday. However, with Typhoon Hagibis due to hit Japan, the fixture has been called off.

With each side awarded two points, New Zealand will top the table while Italy finish in third, meaning they miss out on a chance to claim an unlikely win and progress to the quarter-finals.

It is a decision Parisse has branded as "ridiculous", insisting the match would have gone ahead had it been vital for their opponents. 

"It's difficult to know that we won't have the chance to play a match against one of the great teams," said Parisse in a news conference. "If New Zealand needed four or five points against us, it would not have been cancelled.

"We had the chance to play in a big stadium against a great team. It's ridiculous that a decision of this nature has been made.

"If Italy and New Zealand decide they don't want to play, then that's fine. But, as I said, if New Zealand needed the points, it wouldn't have been cancelled."

Parisse also questioned the back-up planning by tournament organisers when knowing a World Cup during storm season would always put matches at risk.

"It's ridiculous that there was no plan B because it isn't news that typhoons hit Japan," Parisse added.

"When you organise a World Cup you should have one in place. Sure, everyone might think that Italy v New Zealand being cancelled counts for nothing because we'd have lost anyway, but we deserved to be respected as a team."

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen, in contrast, described the decision as a "no-brainer" when speaking to the media.

"The reality is we can't control the weather," Hansen told a news conference.

"Do we charge on and put lives at risk? Or do we lead and make a decision that's around making sure people are safe? It's a no-brainer."

England's Rugby World Cup showdown against France and New Zealand's clash with Italy have been cancelled due to the pending threat of Typhoon Hagibis.

World Rugby announced the two pool fixtures scheduled for Saturday will not take place on "safety grounds" as the typhoon bears down on Japan, but Ireland's game against Samoa in Fukuoka is to be played.

Australia's Pool D finale against Georgia in Shizuoka will also go ahead, while Sunday's fixtures – including Japan's meeting with Scotland – are still being reviewed.

Thursday's statement read: "Based on the latest detailed information from the tournament's independent weather experts, Hagibis is predicted to be the biggest typhoon of the 2019 season and is highly likely to cause considerable disruption in the Tokyo, Yokohama and City of Toyota areas throughout Saturday, including likely public transport shutdown or disruption."

England were set to meet France in their final Pool C game in Yokohama, where top spot was up for grabs at International Stadium Yokohama.

The cancellation – resulting in a 0-0 draw and two points apiece – sees England top the group, meaning Eddie Jones' side are likely to face Australia in the quarter-finals.

France finish runners-up in Pool C, with a last-eight battle against Wales awaiting, should the latter top Pool D ahead of the Wallabies by beating Uruguay.

Organisers also scrapped the Pool B meeting between world champions the All Blacks and Italy in Toyota – located in central Japan.

New Zealand have already qualified for the knockout round as pool winners ahead of South Africa and will face the runner-up in Pool A, with Ireland currently occupying second place.

World Rugby chief operating officer and tournament director Alan Gilpin told the media: "This is a complex and dynamic situation which we have been monitoring extremely closely with the assistance of our weather information experts. We are now in a position to accurately predict the likely impact of Typhoon Hagibis on Rugby World Cup fixtures this weekend.

"While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday's matches to be played, it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon.

"As a result, we have taken the decision to cancel some matches in order to ensure the safety of all involved. It is the right thing to do, and comes with the support of all stakeholders, including the teams.

"We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed, but we trust they will appreciate that their safety must come first. They will be entitled to a full refund on their match tickets.

"Our message for all fans in Japan for Rugby World Cup is to heed all official advice, stay indoors throughout Saturday and do not attempt to travel on the day."

Roberto Mancini is prepared to wait on Gabriel Martinelli as Italy try to secure the Arsenal forward's international future.

Martinelli, 18, was born in Guarulhos in Brazil but is said to be eligible to represent Italy through his father.

It was reported on Monday the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) contacted Martinelli to try to convince him to reject Brazil and commit his future to the Azzurri.

Mancini, though, accepts it will take time for the process to be completed.

"In the case of Martinelli, it is not so easy," the Italy boss told reporters on Monday. "You have to submit a request and it may take a long time. It is a long wait for these players who have a double passport."

For now, Mancini is not considering many changes to his squad before Euro 2020.

Italy can qualify for the tournament if they beat Greece on Saturday and Armenia fail to defeat Liechtenstein, and Mancini already has most of his team in mind.

"The group is more or less decided. Two or three players might come in or out, maybe," he said. "If someone is suddenly unavailable then we'll see what happens, but the players who will go to the Euros are all here."

That could prove bad news for Mario Balotelli, who was overlooked for the latest squad and has only made two appearances for Brescia this season.

Mancini, though, suggested his former Manchester City striker could still get back into his plans if he can put together a strong run of performances.

"He's only just come back after months out and he's not quite there physically yet," said Mancini. "He did well against Napoli but he needs to play more games."

Stefano Sensi will miss Italy's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Greece and Liechtenstein due to injury.

The midfielder is unavailable for international duty after he was forced off in the first half of Inter's 2-1 defeat to Juventus in Serie A on Sunday.

Sensi was included by Italy coach Roberto Mancini in his squad for the upcoming fixtures last week, but Italy confirmed on Monday the 24-year-old will now instead remain at his club to undergo treatment.

The Azzurri sit top of Group J with a 100 per cent record, recording six wins from six so far in qualifying.

Sensi was involved in the victories over Armenia and Finland in September, starting the 2-1 triumph against the latter, while he scored his first international goal in a 6-0 thrashing of Liechtenstein back in March.

However, he will not feature in the return fixture next Tuesday, with that game coming three days after Mancini's side host Greece at the Stadio Olimpico.

Italy props Andrea Lovotti and Nicola Quaglio have been banned for three matches for a dangerous tip tackle on South Africa's Duane Vermeulen.

Lovotti was sent off early in the second half of the Rugby World Cup Pool B encounter at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa on Friday after he and Quaglio lifted number eight Vermeulen and dumped him on the floor.

Quaglio escaped punishment for an incident that occurred after referee Wayne Barnes had blown his whistle, but the replacement was cited.

Vermeulen was fortunate to escape serious injury when he was ploughed head first into the turf, picking himself up to continue as the Springboks went on to hammer the Azzurri 49-3.

Lovotti admitted he deserved to be given his marching orders at a disciplinary hearing on Sunday, but although Quaglio accepted he committed an act of foul play, he did not feel it warranted a red card.

An independent judicial panel ruled that both players would be suspended for three matches, the first being their final pool match against New Zealand and the other two in the Pro14 if Conor O'Shea's men miss out of the quarter-finals. 

Nicolo Zaniolo has earned a recall to the Italy squad, but injury appears to have ended Daniele De Rossi's hopes of an incredible return.

Zaniolo broke into the senior Azzurri set-up last season after impressing for Roma following a move from Inter as part of the deal to take Radja Nainggolan to San Siro.

The 20-year-old earned two caps but was left out of Roberto Mancini's squad in September.

However, having made eight appearances in all competitions at club level this season, scoring once in the Europa League, Zaniolo is back in the fold for Euro 2020 qualifiers against Greece and Liechtenstein.

While a current Roma star is included, a former Giallorossi icon misses out, with De Rossi absent following reports he was set to return almost two years on from his international retirement.

The 36-year-old midfielder picked up a hamstring injury with club Boca Juniors last month and is not involved.

The only new face in the group is Napoli right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo, although he was involved in a training camp in April.

Forwards Moise Kean, Patrick Cutrone and Andrea Pinamonti are all in the under-21 squad.

Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup but have six wins from six in Euro 2020 qualifying to sit top of Group J.

With third-placed Armenia nine points behind and only four matches to play, Mancini's men could secure their place at the finals in the coming international break.

 

Italy squad: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Pierluigi Gollini (Atalanta), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino); Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Cristiano Biraghi (Inter), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Danilo D'Ambrosio (Inter), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Armando Izzo (Torino), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma); Nicolo Barella (Inter), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain), Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Stephan El Shaarawy (Shanghai Shenhua), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli).

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