For so long, Real Madrid have been linked with Kylian Mbappe but will the LaLiga champions bring the French forward to the Santiago Bernabeu?

Mbappe is reportedly open to the idea of making the move to the Spanish capital.

However, Liverpool could be ready to hijack any transfer.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE TO MADRID?

Kylian Mbappe dominates the front pages of Tuesday's Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo as Real Madrid try to sign the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has been tipped to swap Ligue 1 holders PSG for LaLiga champions Madrid at the end of the season.

While the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic impacts Madrid, the Spanish giants are still working on a deal to prise the Frenchman to the Santiago Bernabeu, with Vinicius Junior a possible makeweight.

Mundo Deportivo says Premier League champions Liverpool are ready to pounce should Madrid fail to sign Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

- Onda Cero reports PSG have offered Madrid captain Sergio Ramos a three-year deal worth €15million a season. Ramos is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and the superstar has been linked with the likes of Manchester United and Juventus.

- Both Madrid and Barcelona are considering a shock move for Roma striker Edin Dzeko, according to Mundo Deportivo. Dzeko has had a falling out with under-fire head coach Paulo Fonseca, prompting links to Juve and Inter.

Thomas Tuchel is set to be named Frank Lampard's Chelsea replacement, with Fabrizio Romano claiming an announcement is "just a matter of time". Tuchel was sacked by PSG in December.

- The Athletic says Juve have identified Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres as a long-term replacement for veteran Giorgio Chiellini. Torres has also been linked with United, Manchester City, Barca, Madrid and Chelsea.

Tottenham have approached PSG's Angel Di Maria, who is out of contract at the end of the season, according to L'Equipe. Di Maria has history in England, having spent a difficult season playing for United in 2014-15.

- Sport 1 says Borussia Dortmund are interested in Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli. The likes of Juve and City have also emerged as suitors.

Andrea Pirlo revealed he hopes to sign a striker before the transfer window closes if the right opportunity arises after Juventus beat Bologna 2-0 in Serie A on Sunday.

Roma frontman Edin Dzeko and Sassuolo's Gianluca Scamacca – who is on loan at Genoa – have been linked with a move to Juve ahead of the February 1 deadline.

Dzeko was left out of Roma's squad for their 4-3 win over Spezia on Saturday, leading to further speculation he could be on his way out of the club.

Scamacca, Olivier Giroud, Fernando Llorente and Graziano Pelle have also been mentioned as potential signings for the Bianconeri.

Pirlo said he would like to add more firepower to his squad after goals from Arthur and Weston McKennie moved the champions into fourth place in Serie A, seven points behind leaders Milan with a game in hand.

"We are watching what happens, there is not much around," Juve head coach Pirlo told Sky Sport Italia when asked about the possibility of going into the market.

"We do not have the obligation [to do any business], it will be a last-minute thing and if there is an opportunity to take it we will be happy."

Arthur scored his first Juve goal in fortuitous fashion with a long-range strike that took a big deflection in the first half and McKennie sealed all three points with a header 19 minutes from time.

Juve had 23 shots, 11 of which were on target, and Cristiano Ronaldo endured a rare off day, failing to find the back of the net with any of his five attempts.

Pirlo warned the Turin giants must be more clinical as they go in search of more trophies after their Supercoppa Italiana triumph in midweek.

"The important thing was to win after the satisfaction of the victory in the Supercoppa," he said.

"We started well but missed a few too many opportunities to end the game."

He added: "We played a good match against a team that attacks well, we were good at finding the spaces they left us."

Erling Haaland is one of the sought-after players in world football.

The Borussia Dortmund forward can reportedly take his pick from Europe's elite.

But if his agent Mino Raiola has his way, Camp Nou could be Haaland's next destination.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND COULD LEAVE BVB AT SEASON'S END

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could leave the Bundesliga club for Barcelona at the end of the season, according to TV3 program Onze.

Haaland has been linked with the likes of Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus following his exploits for Dortmund.

The Norway international forward reportedly has a €75million (£66.8m) release clause at the end of his second season in Dortmund, though he could depart sooner rather than later.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says United are not working on a deal to sign Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. The Spanish superstar is out of contract at the end of the season, and he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, City, Chelsea and Liverpool. A move to Liverpool is reportedly not on the horizon due to his role in the injury to Mohamed Salah in the 2018 Champions League final.

City have joined Serie A champions Juve in the race to sign Sassuolo star Manuel Locatelli, reports the Daily Mail.

- According to Sky Sport Italia, Sportitalia and Tuttomercatoweb, Milan are set to meet with free agent Mario Mandzukic over the next 24 hours to discuss a short-term deal. Staying at San Siro and Sky Sport Italia says the Rossoneri are close to signing Torino midfielder Soualiho Meite on loan with the option to buy.

Arsenal are interested in Barca goalkeeper Neto, claims Sky Sports. With backup Runar Alex Runarsson struggling in London, the Gunners are hoping to bring in Neto on loan.

- Marca reports Barca are targeting Valencia star Jose Gaya to bolster their left-back position, while Villarreal's Alfonso Pedraza is another option.

Juventus are set to complete the signing of American defender Bryan Reynolds from MLS club Dallas, says Romano. The 19-year-old will join Benevento until June, before linking up with Juve.

Andrea Pirlo claimed his players showed they possess the "Juventus DNA" to keep fighting until the end of games this season.

Juve were far from their best in a scrappy Serie A clash with Sassuolo on Sunday and with nine minutes remaining were drawing 1-1 after Gregoire Defrel cancelled out Danilo's opener.

But late goals from Aaron Ramsey and Cristiano Ronaldo sealed the win for the defending champions against a Sassuolo side who played the entire second half with 10 men.

Ramsey has been involved in three goals in his past five Serie A appearances (one goal, two assists) while Ronaldo's strike ensured he has reached at least 15 league goals in his past 15 seasons.

The win helped the Bianconeri notch three consecutive victories in Serie A for the first time since July 2020 as they moved to within seven points of leaders Milan with a game in hand.

"We can improve our quality, we can play better or worse, but the determination is an element that must never be lacking," Pirlo told a post-match media conference.

"It has to be in the Juventus DNA, the determination and desire to push until the last minute.

"It was important for us to give a sense of consistency by winning this evening, otherwise the win at Milan on Wednesday wouldn't mean anything.

"We were a little sluggish at times this evening, but we became a little less organised and more determined, so we showed the hunger required to win the game.

"We are Juventus and therefore have the pressure on us to win every game. We have to face every match as if it's a final, then we'll see where we are closer to the end of the season.

"These games are fascinating to play for everyone, they inevitably raise the concentration levels and the tension too.

"If we don't play every game with the right concentration and determination, we will struggle."

Juve head coach Pirlo also said the club will assess injuries sustained by Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie.

The pair both limped out in the first half against Sassuolo and are doubts for Juve's midweek Coppa Italia clash with Genoa.

He added: "Dybala had a knock to the collateral ligament on the inside of his knee. We'll evaluate it over the next few days and hope it's nothing serious.

"McKennie already had a slight muscular problem yesterday and he felt it again after the back-heel flick, so he stopped."

Cristiano Ronaldo unlocked a stunning new career achievement when he netted late on in Juventus' 3-1 win over Sassuolo on Sunday.

It meant the Portugal forward became the only player to score at least 15 goals in each of the last 15 seasons in the top five European leagues.

Ronaldo first hit double figures in a league season in 2006-07 when he was a Manchester United player, scoring 17 goals in 34 appearances.

Remarkably Ronaldo, who turns 36 next month, has not dropped below that tally in a full season ever since.

Ronaldo's best league season was the 2014-15 campaign at Real Madrid where he scored an incredible 48 goals in 35 LaLiga games.

His great rival Lionel Messi has managed to reach 15 goals in 12 consecutive seasons at Barcelona since the 2008-09 campaign, and with 11 so far in LaLiga should make it 13 this year.

Ronaldo actually scored his first Serie A goals when Juve beat Sassuolo 2-1 in September 2018, and he has now scored five goals against them in five meetings in the competition following his goal on Sunday.

Ronaldo's value to Juventus is emphasised by their record with and without the Portugal forward.

Juve's win percentage is 72.4 with him which drops down to 46.7 without him, with an average of 2.3 points per game compared to 1.7.

The Bianconeri's average goals scored with Ronaldo on the team is 2.1 per game and drops down to 1.5 when he is absent, and they are better defensively with him involved too, conceding an average 0.9 goals versus 1.1 without him.

Juventus earned a 3-1 win over 10-man Sassuolo as goals from Danilo, Aaron Ramsey and Cristiano Ronaldo kept them in touch with Serie A leaders Milan.

Sassuolo had frustrated the Bianconeri in the first half but their combative approach saw Pedro Obiang sent off moments before half-time.

Danilo put Juve ahead five minutes into the second half with a powerful long-range strike, yet Sassuolo equalised with a fine finish from Gregoire Defrel.

Sassuolo looked on course to take a point but late goals from Ramsey and Ronaldo secured the victory for Andrea Pirlo's side.

Federico Chiesa is a "prototype of a great champion" who can use his performance against Milan as a "starting point" to display his qualities for Juventus, says Andrea Pirlo.

Juve signed forward Chiesa on loan from Fiorentina in October in a move the Serie A champions can make permanent for a reported fee of €50million if certain conditions are met.

A red card on debut against Crotone was part of an inauspicious start to life at the Allianz Stadium for Chiesa, but there has been a marked improvement in recent games.

That culminated in a star showing in Juve's 3-1 win at leaders Milan in midweek, a match in which Chiesa scored twice.

Since the start of last season, Chiesa has been thoroughly impressive against the best teams in the league. In that time, he has had a hand in three goals against Milan (two scored, one assisted) and Atalanta (two scored, one assisted) and also scored in meetings with Inter, Napoli and Lazio.

For Juve this season, he has four goals and three assists from 11 top-flight appearances, while he ranks seventh for the Bianconeri in terms of chances created (15). 

When it comes to 'big chances' created - from which Opta would expect a goal to be scored - only Alvaro Morata (seven) has more than his tally of six, while his passing accuracy is at just over 80 per cent.

For Pirlo, there was never any doubt about Chiesa's talent.

"I'm not surprised by Chiesa," he said when previewing Juve's home clash with Sassuolo on Sunday.

"I knew his qualities and I wanted him. He can still improve a lot, he is young, he is a prototype of a great champion. 

"He has to improve himself match after match. San Siro must be a starting point."

In Sassuolo, Juve face a team who have impressed in the first half of the campaign and sit just two points adrift of the top four in sixth place.

Pirlo spoke of his respect for coach Roberto De Zerbi, who like him hails from Brescia.

"Sassuolo are an excellent team, they've been playing together for a while," he added.

"The coach is very good at constructing the game. It will be a difficult match, we can't let them go without pressure from us. 

"I have a good relationship with De Zerbi, he is from Brescia, like me. He has had a good journey; we talk often about football. There are young and good coaches also abroad, everyone follows his own path."

Andrea Pirlo warned the victory over leaders Milan will be "of little use" to Juventus if they fail to defeat Sassuolo on Sunday and says the Rossoneri remain the team to beat in the title race.

Champions Juve ended Milan's 27-match unbeaten run in the Italian top flight with a 3-1 victory at San Siro on Wednesday.

The Turin giants had eased to a ruthless 4-1 win over Udinese in their first match of the year last weekend and an impressive triumph over Milan served as a warning to their rivals.

Juve boss Pirlo stressed the importance of his side maintaining the high standards they have set when they take on a Sassuolo team that are just a point behind them in the table.

The former Italy playmaker said in a media conference on Saturday: "It was an important victory in Milan, at an important moment too, but if we don't win tomorrow, it will be of little use.

"I still consider Milan the team to beat, because they are at the top of the table."

He added: "We take our responsibilities. We have been winning for nine years, it is normal that there is pressure on us. I've asked the team to improve their concentration and mental strength, especially when we take the lead, that is a very important phase.

"We must have the same desire to achieve a result - whoever the opponent is - and then we will see where we are in April."

Matthijs de Ligt became the latest Juve player to test positive for COVID-19 this week, with Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro having missed the win over Milan after contracting the coronavirus.

Pirlo is not feeling sorry for himself after the Netherlands defender joined the list of absentees.

"The positive cases affect us, as they affect anyone. But let's think about moving forward, there are other problems," he said.

"I have four defenders, in addition to [Alessandro] Di Pardo, who can play on the flank. I will choose between them, because we are in the bubble and we cannot summon other players."

Pirlo will be able to call upon Giorgio Chiellini and Merih Demiral at Allianz Stadium this weekend, while Alvaro Morata will be checked on to see if the striker can return from a thigh injury.

Matthijs de Ligt has tested positive for coronavirus, Juventus have confirmed.

Juve were without Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro against Milan on Wednesday due to positive COVID-19 tests and the Netherlands international has also entered self-isolation.

The Bianconeri face Sassuolo on Sunday before taking on Genoa and Inter in the following week.

A club statement read: "Juventus Football Club announces that, during the checks provided for by the protocol in force, Matthijs de Ligt has emerged positive with COVID-19.

"The player has already been placed in self-isolation."

De Ligt missed the start of the 2020-21 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in August but has started 12 straight games in all competitions since returning to action on November 21.

Will Paul Pogba return to Turin?

Pogba's future at Manchester United is in doubt, with the World Cup-winning Frenchman reportedly looking to leave the Theatre of Dreams.

Juventus are keen to re-sign Pogba – who initially left United for the Italian giants in 2012 before returning to Manchester four years later.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE WANT POGBA REUNION

Signing Manchester United star Paul Pogba remains the dream for Juventus, according to Calciomercato.

Pogba is eyeing an Old Trafford exit amid growing links to former club Juve and LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

Juve are keen on reuniting with Pogba, though Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli, Lyon star Houssem Aouar, Udinese midfielder Rodrigo De Paul and Roma sensation Nicolo Zaniolo are alternatives.

 

ROUND-UP

Stefano Pioli is looking forward to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's return, but the Milan coach was pleased with Rafael Leao's performance against Sassuolo.

Leao scored the fastest goal in Serie A history – after just six seconds – as Milan recorded a 2-1 win over Sassuolo on Sunday.

Milan returned to winning ways after back-to-back draws, and they are a point clear of rivals Inter atop the table.

Pioli's men have managed to stay unbeaten in Serie A through 13 games despite being without Ibrahimovic since the end of November, the striker – who has scored 11 goals this season – set to miss another month after suffering a calf injury in training.

Despite his side's form without the 39-year-old star, Pioli is keen to welcome Ibrahimovic back.

"First of all, with Ibra we are a stronger team. He is a champion and with him the team improved under many aspects," he told a news conference.

"Thanks to his work many players have improved their performances. I hope he can come back as soon as possible because we need him and with him we are a better team."

Leao, 21, is the youngest player with three-plus goals in the top five European leagues in each of the past three seasons.

Alexis Saelemaekers doubled Milan's lead after the early opener and they saw out a win despite Domenico Berardi's late strike.

"I'm very happy for Leao because sometimes I ask him more in terms of determination and consistency during the game," Pioli said.

"I never judge a performance by the goal but today despite scoring he had a good approach to the game and he worked a lot also when we were defending and was able to help the team a lot.

"He did all these things and with his individual qualities if he shows this mentality he can become a very important player if he plays like he did [against Sassuolo]."

Rafael Leao earned a place in the Serie A history books before he and Stefano Pioli confirmed Milan's breathtaking start at Sassuolo was cooked up on the training ground.

The Portuguese forward scored after just six seconds as the leaders stunned their hosts, with Milan going on to secure a 2-1 victory.

Brahim Diaz touched the ball from kick-off to Hakan Calhanoglu who charged through lines of Sassuolo players before feeding Leao, who sprinted in from the left.

Leao took two touches as he entered the penalty area before driving a powerful shot beyond Andrea Consigli, with head coach Pioli revealing it was among a handful of ploys Milan had prepared.

Pioli told Sky Sport Italia: "Let's say we have four or five kick-off situations and every now and then we alternate them.

"We wanted to approach the match well, in the last few matches we had been lacking a little bit. it was good from Calhanoglu and Leao."

Leao himself said, according to La Gazzetta Dello Sport: "Yes, we had prepared it in training. But we are Milan, this match was important for us because we had lost points in the previous matches."

Back-to-back 2-2 draws against Parma and Genoa had seen Milan lose some of their early-season momentum, and news of an injury setback for Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the eve of the Sassuolo game came as a fresh blow.

But Pioli had Milan fired up for this game, and they showed urgency from the first whistle.

"There are times when matches are worth a little more," Pioli said. "We weren't happy with the draws. Today it was very important from a mental point of view. Being able to win gives us great satisfaction."

Milan have now scored two or more goals in 15 consecutive Serie A games, the most times that has been achieved in succession in the top-five European leagues since Barcelona did so 18 times in a row in 1948.

Leao had faced pre-match criticism from Pioli over his recent performances, but the coach was smiling as the 21-year-old beat the previous fastest goal on record in Serie A - Paolo Poggi for Piacenza against Fiorentina in 2001.

A booking for Franck Kessie was his fifth in Serie A this season and triggers a suspension that means he will miss the game with Lazio at San Siro on Wednesday.

That presents Pioli with another selection issue, and the head coach would welcome additions to his squad in the January transfer market as Milan look to push for a first Scudetto since the 2010-11 season.

"If there are the right opportunities to improve the staff we will do it, otherwise we will stay like this," Pioli said. "The squad is compact and united, so it is difficult to manage so many absences."

Rafael Leao drove home the fastest goal in Serie A history to set leaders Milan on their way to a 2-1 win at Sassuolo. 

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli said on Saturday that Leao's recent performances had been "not up to standard", but there was no faulting his sharp finish after six seconds at the Citta del Tricolore stadium. 

The 21-year-old former Lille forward took a pass from Hakan Calhanoglu in his stride and, with his third touch, smashed the ball past home goalkeeper Andrea Consigli. 

Alexis Saelemaekers added a second in the 26th minute and Milan's lead rarely came under threat from sixth-placed Sassuolo until Domenico Berardi netted an 89th-minute free-kick that made for a briefly tense finish.

Pioli fielded a team with an average age of just 22 years and 313 days, Milan's second youngest line-up since the 2004-05 season, when Opta began collecting such data. 

There was no Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the team's 39-year-old leading scorer absent after suffering a calf strain in training as he prepared for a first-team return. 

But after Juventus showed they remain a part of the Scudetto conversation with an impressive 4-0 win at Parma on Saturday, it was Milan's turn to show their hand, and they had an ace up their sleeve. 

Leao put an emphatic finishing touch to Milan's immediate charge through the Sassuolo ranks, with Brahim Diaz playing the kick-off short to Calhanoglu, who raced straight towards the penalty area in what looked a well-rehearsed ploy. Calhanoglu's pass through to Leao was smashed in, leaving the home side shell-shocked and still yet to touch the ball. 

Milan thought they had a second goal in the ninth minute when Calhanoglu drove home low into the left corner from the edge of the penalty area, but a marginal offside in the build-up saw the goal disallowed after a VAR check. 

They were nevertheless in control and full value for their second goal when it arrived in the 26th minute. Theo Hernandez ran from deep inside his half down the left flank before darting infield and clipping a short pass that gave Saelemaekers a tap-in. 

Gianluigi Donnarumma made a fine diving stop to keep out a fizzing 25-yard shot from Mehdi Bourabia in the second half, before Milan threatened a third when Jens Petter Hauge's curling shot from similar range was pushed away by Consigli. 

Sassuolo had the final say as Berardi got his shot beyond the Milan wall, but the visitors survived.

Rafael Leao scored the fastest goal in Serie A history to put Milan ahead at Sassuolo on Sunday, netting after just six seconds. 

The forward put an emphatic finishing touch to a Milan charge through the Sassuolo ranks, with Brahim Diaz playing the kick-off short to Hakan Calhanoglu, who raced straight towards the penalty area. 

Calhanoglu's pass through to Leao was smashed in, leaving the home side shell-shocked. 

Milan began the game at the top of Serie A.

1 - #RafaelLeão has scored the fastest goal in Serie A (after 6 seconds), overtaking the previous record made by Paolo Poggi in December 2001 with Piacenza (8 seconds). Sprint.#SassuoloMilan

— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) December 20, 2020

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's injury setback will not have an impact on Milan's transfer plans for the January window, according to head coach Stefano Pioli.

Ibrahimovic has been out of action since sustaining an injury against Napoli on November 22, but was back involved in first-team training this week.

However, reports emerged on Saturday claiming that the 39-year-old – who has scored 10 goals in six Serie A appearances this season – had suffered a calf strain and will now miss another month.

Pioli confirmed the news in a media conference ahead of Sunday's trip to Sassuolo, though he affirmed Ibrahimovic's new problem will not change Milan's strategy heading into the transfer market.

"It was a strange day, as we were convinced he could recover in time to be in the squad tomorrow and even play a few minutes, then this happened," said Pioli, whose side have been linked with a move for out-of-favour Atalanta star Alejandro Gomez.

"I am very disappointed for him, because he was so eager to return. He'll be back stronger than ever and we have alternatives who can play.

"Ibrahimovic's injury will not change our transfer strategy, although if there is an opportunity to improve the squad, I'm sure the club will evaluate it."

Milan have drawn their last two league games, with city rivals Inter hot on their tails in second place and Juventus four points back.

Of the 11 league matches Ibrahimovic has missed since rejoining Milan, the Rossoneri have won six and drawn five.

It may not just be Ibrahimovic who Pioli is without, however, with Ante Rebic also struggling after sustaining a knock against Genoa on Wednesday, while Rafael Leao is not in good form.

Pioli continued: "The plan remains to play attacking football. Rebic hasn't scored lately, but only due to the opposition goalkeeper making great saves and some bad luck, but I am very satisfied with his contribution and movement.

"Leao struggled with that injury and spending so much time off the field can affect your tempo. His last few performances have not been up to standard.

"Rebic went off against Genoa on Wednesday because he had a problem with his foot. He's been training separately over the last couple of days and I hope he'll be ready.

"We need a great performance against Sassuolo as they are a team to be faced with a very clear head. The team won't suffer from Ibrahimovic's injury because it is a side that always attacks and creates chances anyway. It is a squad with quality throughout."

After beating Milan four times in their first six Serie A meetings, Sassuolo have since lost eight of the last eight, drawing the other two.

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