Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

Inter players look set to be given a "prize" from club president Steven Zhang after their dramatic 2-1 Supercoppa Italiana success over Juventus, according to coach Simone Inzaghi.

The Nerazzurri lifted the first piece of silverware of the Italian season late in extra-time, with Alexis Sanchez netting the decisive goal.

Weston McKennie had previously given Juve the lead, before a Lautaro Martinez penalty tied it up.

The two teams would remain level throughout the second half and for much of the additional 30 minutes.

That was until an error from Alex Sandro allowed Matteo Darmian to nudge the ball to Sanchez, who prodded home from close range with the last kick of the game to spark joyous celebrations.

It ensured Inzaghi became the first coach to beat Juventus in three finals (since 1929-30), as he continued his 100 per cent success rate in the Supercoppa.

Inzaghi spoke briefly after the game before sending his assistant to the news conference on account of losing his voice, revealing what president Zhang had told the players afterwards.

"He [Zhang] was very happy," Inzaghi told Mediaset. "He brought the team together and complimented us.

"The boys responded, they wanted a prize and I think the president will grant it."

While Inter will hope to add more significant titles to their collection later in the season, namely the Scudetto, Zhang suggested this success – coupled with their place at the top of the Serie A table – shows their hard work is paying off.

He told Inter TV: "This is a really special moment for us; we're delighted. The team played great, we're also top of the league, and this trophy is the fruits of the labour of both the coach and the players.

"I'm really happy with the result. This trophy win in what's a difficult time in football spurs us on. All of this is down to all the hard work we've put in together over these last six years.

"I'd like to dedicate this win to all of the Inter fans around the world and everyone who works for the club. They're the ones who have carried this project forward."

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri was gutted by his side's dramatic late defeat to Inter in Wednesday's Supercoppa Italiana, suggesting it was evidence of the "devil" inventing football.

Inter lifted the first piece of silverware of the Italian season thanks to a dramatic 2-1 win, secured with the final kick of the game at the end of extra time.

Weston McKennie had previously given Juve the lead, before a Lautaro Martinez penalty tied it up.

The two teams would remain level throughout the second half and for much of the additional 30 minutes.

That was until an error from Alex Sandro allowed Matteo Darmian to nudge the ball to Alexis Sanchez, who prodded home from close range to spark joyous celebrations.

It was Juve's 10th successive appearance in the Supercoppa, which pits the Serie A and Coppa Italia winners from the previous season against each other, but they were unable to claim the trophy.

While Inter's celebrations showed what the success meant to them, Allegri was philosophical yet frustrated by the last-gasp nature of the Nerazzurri's win.

"This was a real game tonight," he is quoted as saying by Sky Sport Italia. "It was a good test for us to see where we're at.

"They boys played a really good game, unfortunately football seems to have been invented by the devil, and five seconds from the end we committed an error.

"We played against the strongest team in Serie A, we had several chances and conceded few. We could have avoided the two goals and done better at the beginning, in the first 10 minutes, when they had the upper hand, but then the team played well technically.

"It is a burning defeat – losing five seconds from the end and seeing the others celebrate hurts. I have nothing to blame,

"Now, awareness and anger must enter us to continue well in the league, the Coppa Italia and the Champions League.

"We have to look on the bright side: the kids are physically better and growing. Tonight did not go well, but now let's think about Serie A."

Alexis Sanchez struck a last-gasp extra-time winner as Inter defeated Juventus 2-1 to claim the Supercoppa Italiana in the most dramatic fashion.

The annual clash between the winners of the previous season's Serie A and Coppa Italia appeared to be heading for a penalty shootout at San Siro.

Lautaro Martinez's spot-kick had earlier cancelled out a Weston McKennie header for Juventus, who were making their 10th successive appearance in the Supercoppa.

However, there was to be one late twist as substitute Sanchez controlled on his chest, before sliding past Mattia Perin with 121 minutes on the clock to snatch victory for the Nerazzurri.

 

Simone Inzaghi says his Inter side must maintain the high standards they have set after the champions beat Lazio 2-1 to return to the top of Serie A.

Milan had taken over at the summit with a 3-0 win at Venezia on Sunday, but the Nerazzurri responded with an eighth consecutive Serie A victory in their first game since the winter break later in the day.

Alessandro Bastoni put them in front with a brilliant long-range strike - his first goal since June 2020 - but Ciro Immobile's 18th goal of the season drew Lazio level in the first half.

Bastoni turned provider for Milan Skriniar to secure all three points in the second half, whipping in an inviting cross that his fellow defender headed in off the crossbar.

Inter are unbeaten in 12 top-flight matches since a 3-1 loss when head coach Inzaghi made a miserable return to his former club Lazio in October.

They lead fierce rivals Milan by a point with a game in hand, but Inzaghi knows they cannot rest on their laurels in the title race.

3 - In 18 appearances in this #SerieA season, Milan Skriniar has scored three goals (all header), as many as those scored in 32 games played in the last season. Giant.#InterLazio

— OptaPaolo  (@OptaPaolo) January 9, 2022

He told DAZN: "I am fortunate to have important players and I am very happy. We must continue like this because the championship does not stop, all the antagonists have won.

"We just have to win, after the break we had the postponement with Bologna [on Thursday due to Bologna's COVID-19 outbreak] and we returned against a team that could have been more on the ball, having played on Thursday.

"The boys were very good and I congratulated them."

Lautaro Martínez had a goal disallowed when the VAR adjudged the striker to have been marginally offside as he raced to get on the end of Alexis Sanchez's defence-splitting pass before Bastoni opened the scoring.

Inter were good value for their victory after conceding for the first time in seven Serie A matches and now turn their attention to a Supercoppa Italiana showdown with Juventus on Wednesday.

Inzaghi added: "It wasn't easy because Lazio have quality. Our victory is well deserved, we made an excellent return. I'm happy, we have another great match on Wednesday, it's a final and we have prepared ourselves in the best way possible."

Alessandro Bastoni scored one goal and set another up for Milan Skriniar as Inter returned to the top of Serie A with a 2-1 win over Lazio.

Bastoni found the back of the net for the first time since June 2020 to put the Nerazzurri in front at San Siro on Sunday, but Ciro Immobile equalised in the first half with his 18th goal of the season.

Inter were not to be denied an eighth consecutive Serie A win, with Bastoni setting up fellow defender Skriniar for the winner midway through the second half.

Victory for Simone Inzaghi's side against his former club in their first game after the winter break moved them a point above Milan at the summit.

Lautaro Martinez looked to have given Inter a deserved 16th-minute lead when he raced onto a defence-splitting pass from Alexis Sanchez and fired beyond Thomas Strakosha, but the VAR ruled he was marginally offside.

Strakosha produced a great reflex save to keep out Martinez's rasping volley, but the champions were in front on the half-hour mark when Bastoni bent a brilliant left-foot strike into the bottom-left corner of the net from 25 yards out.

Lazio had not posed much of a threat until the lethal Immobile capitalised on a mix-up between Stefan de Vrij and Skriniar to nip in and level 10 minutes before half-time with a poacher's finish.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic spurned a good chance to put Lazio in front when he timed his run into the box to perfection, but failed to make a clean contact on Felipe Anderson's pinpoint cross.

Luiz Felipe's crucial block prevented Ivan Perisic from finding the back of the net after Strakosha denied Denzel Dumfries, but the Nerazzurri were back in front midway through the second half.

Bastoni turned provider for Skriniar, whipping in a cross that the centre-back met with a towering header that went in off the crossbar.

There was drama when referee Luca Pairetto showed Stefan Radu a red card before realising that the defender was only guilty of one bookable offence, correcting his mistake by also cautioning Mattia Zaccagni.

If Thomas Tuchel is after any advice on how to deal with the Romelu Lukaku issue, the Chelsea head coach could do worse than to have a brief word with the man he will come face-to-face with on Wednesday.

Under now-Tottenham boss Antonio Conte across two seasons with Inter, Lukaku enjoyed the best form of his career, scoring and assisting a combined 81 goals in 95 appearances.

Lukaku has not been as prolific since returning to Stamford Bridge in August, finding the net seven times in 18 games, and already his future at Chelsea has been called into question following an explosive interview in the Italian press that was published last week.

The Belgium international was subsequently dropped for Chelsea's crucial clash with Liverpool on Sunday but is in line return for the EFL Cup semi-final first leg with Spurs after holding clear-the-air talks with his manager, meaning a possible reunion with Conte.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how Conte got Lukaku out of the "deep hole" he found himself in at Manchester United, as the striker himself put it, and explores how Tuchel can go about getting the most out of Chelsea's all-time record purchase.


ROM AMONG EUROPE'S ELITE

As well as declaring an unhappiness with his role at Chelsea and expressing a desire to return to Inter as part of his 30-minute chat with Sky Sport Italia, Lukaku also opened up on the "hurt" he felt when Conte departed San Siro.

That is no surprise given the Belgian's form between arriving at Inter in August 2019 and departing two years later. 

The 47 Serie A goals scored by Lukaku in 72 games under Conte is his best return under any of the 11 managers he has played for at club level, followed by the 43 netted in 103 Premier League games when working with now-national team coach Roberto Martinez at Everton.

That includes a return of 24 goals in 2020-21 alone, on top of 11 assists, as he became the first player to score 20-plus goals and set up 10 or more in a single Serie A season since Opta started to record such data in 2004-05.

Indeed, only Cristiano Ronaldo (83), Kylian Mbappe (97), Lionel Messi (106) and Robert Lewandowski (121) were directly involved in more goals in all competitions among players from Europe's top five leagues than Lukaku's 81 across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons.

 

FLOPPED IN FAVOURED FORMATION

That impressive form helped Inter end their 11-year wait for Scudetto success last time out, a year on from falling just short in the Europa League with defeat in the final, but Lukaku was not alone in inspiring the Nerazzurri to glory.

Alongside him was Lautaro Martinez, who was very much the perfect foil in Conte's preferred 3-5-2 formation, which the Italian used 31 times in 38 league matches last season.

It is a formation Tuchel has used on only two occasions in the Premier League this term – in September's 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City and the 1-0 victory at Brentford three weeks later. 

Lukaku started both games alongside Timo Werner and Chelsea's tally of five shots against City and five against Brentford are the fewest the Blues have managed in any league game this term – Lukaku responsible for just one of those – as were the four and two chances created respectively.

While City's quality and dominance of the ball must be factored in, Lukaku's minimal involvement against Brentford was surprising – and surely no coincidence.

That west London derby blank came in the midst of a 10-game run without a goal for Lukaku, not helped by niggling injuries and a COVID lay-off, which he has since put an end to with three goals in four matches.

Chelsea's formation in those three most recent games Lukaku has scored in, incidentally, came with three attackers spread across the frontline. And there was one other common denominator, too: Mason Mount being on the field.

 

MOUNT TO PLAY THE MARTINEZ ROLE?

Mount assisted Lukaku's most recent goal in a 1-1 draw against Brighton and Hove Albion from a corner and the pair have combined to create nine chances in total for one another in the league this term, making it easily Chelsea's most dangerous partnership.

No Chelsea player has combined more regularly with Lukaku than Mount, with the pair linking up 10.06 times per 90 minutes so far this season. While that may not appear a huge amount on the face of it, next on that list is Mateo Kovacic with 6.45 combined passes between himself and Lukaku per 90.

However, Mount still has some way to go if he is to match the 54 combined chances created for each other in Serie A by Lukaku and Martinez in their two seasons used in tandem at Inter, which equated to nine assists.

Lukaku's relationship with Mount does provide some promise, though, as does the Anderlecht academy product's goalscoring performances in his most recent two outings prior to being dropped against Liverpool, showing Chelsea do not necessarily have to replicate Inter's system to help their main man thrive.

 

TUCHEL WILL NOT SHIFT

Lukaku is averaging fewer passes, overall touches and touches in the opposition box this season compared to last, while also shooting less frequently, dribbling less and creating fewer chances for others.

Yet instead of attempting to find the perfect formula and personnel for Lukaku, Tuchel will not shift from his own way of thinking.

"We cannot just play like Inter in the hope that will bring the most out of Lukaku. The system they played not only suited Romelu but also Lautaro Martinez and others. If you don't have five players you can't play five defenders," Tuchel said on the eve of the Tottenham tie.

"It works both ways. It is more about principles of how we play. I feel he is more impatient than anything else. He wants to be involved more, wants more big chances. 

"Like with every transfer, you have to accept there is a change of environment, culture, team-mates, playing style, belief. He's not the first player to take time, but even while doing it he was scoring goals."

And maybe Tuchel has a point. After all, for all the talk of Lukaku's struggles and unhappiness, he is scoring at an almost identical rate to Cristiano Ronaldo (0.54 goals per 90 minutes compared to 0.56), and remains one of Europe's most prolific strikers of the past decade.

Now back from injury and a team exile brought on by his own actions, only Lukaku can ensure he avoids falling down another deep hole that he may this time be unable to escape.

Christian Eriksen has expressed his gratitude for the support he has received during his recovery from his cardiac arrest, where he admitted that he "died for five minutes".

Eriksen collapsed during Denmark's game against Finland at Euro 2020 last June and was subsequently fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)

The 29-year-old is not permitted to play in Italian football due to regulations surrounding his ICD device, which lead to Eriksen and Inter mutually agreeing to terminate his contract.

He joined the Nerazzurri in January 2020 following seven years in the Premier League with Tottenham.

In a recent interview with Danish broadcaster DR, Eriksen made clear his gratefulness to those who have written to him or approached him with well wishes.

"It was weird, because I didn't expect people to send flowers because I'd died for five minutes," he said. "It was quite extraordinary but very nice of everyone.

"People still write to me. I've thanked people I've met in person, I've thanked the doctors, my team-mates and their families in person.

"But all the fans who've sent thousands of letters and emails and flowers, or who've come up to me in the street in Italy and Denmark, I thank them all for the support I got from all over the world that helped me through this."

Meanwhile, Eriksen's agent, Martin Schoots, has said that playing in England would feel like a homecoming for his client.

"Playing in England again would absolutely feel like coming home for Chris and his family," Schoots told the BBC.

"Christian has been treated exceptionally well by the British public, not only because of his top football skills, but also because of his human values, his modesty and altruism."

Romelu Lukaku's club future has been thrown into the spotlight after an explosive interview.

The Belgian striker revealed his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea in August.

Lukaku was subsequently dropped by coach Thomas Tuchel for Sunday's 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU COULD MAKE STUNNING SWITCH TO SPURS

La Gazzetta Dello Sport claims that unsettled Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku could make a cross-city switch to Tottenham to re-unite with Antonio Conte.

Lukaku and Conte worked together at Inter where they won the Serie A title last term.

The striker revealed his frustrations at Chelsea over the weekend, with Tuchel offering no guarantees about his future.

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland will not leave Borussia Dortmund during the January transfer window, reports Fabrizio Romano. Haaland has not decided his next destination yet, despite rumours of a pre-agreement with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

- Ara claims Barcelona will offer Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United as part of a swap deal for want-away forward Anthony Martial.

- Tottenham and West Ham United  are both keen to sign Wolves' Adama Traore, claims the Telegraph. Wolves want £20million for the Spanish forward.

- Olympiakos' Guinea international midfielder Aguibou Camara is attracting interest from Milan and Liverpool, claims Calciomercato.

Ronaldo has tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss Sunday's anniversary celebrations of Cruzeiro, the Brazilian club he recently bought.

The two-time Ballon d'Or winner, who top-scored in Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph, has been experiencing mild symptoms of the coronavirus.

Ronaldo had been due to attend events marking Cruzeiro's 101st anniversary, but the 45-year-old former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter striker was instead isolating.

His positive case was announced by the Brazilian club, who were acquired by Ronaldo, with the support of an investment bank, in December.

"Cruzeiro reports that this Sunday morning Ronaldo Nazario tested positive for COVID-19," the Campeonato Serie B club said.

"This makes it impossible for him to travel to Belo Horizonte today, as well as his presence in the commemorative actions for the club's anniversary.

"Ronaldo is doing well, with mild symptoms and, on medical advice, is now in rest and social isolation."

Ronaldo has been majority owner of Spanish club Real Valladolid since 2018 and serves as the Segunda Division team's president. He had been due to meet with representatives of Cruzeiro supporters on Sunday and was scheduled to appear at a news conference on Monday before taking ill.

He began his playing career at Cruzeiro as a teenage sensation before heading to Europe to join Dutch giants PSV after the 1994 World Cup.

Ronaldo wrote on Twitter: "Cruzeiro nation, this is not the way I wanted to spend this January 2 which is more than special for us.

"I had the greatest anticipation and everything was organised for this moment. But there are situations in life that are beyond our control and, unfortunately, last night I found myself in one of them. I started to feel bad, had a PCR and woke up today with a positive result for COVID-19.

"The most important thing is that I am vaccinated, I will follow the isolation protocols and, at the end of it, I hope to be 100 per cent recovered to resume my schedule.

"Our meeting was not cancelled, it was postponed due to circumstances. And I make a point of celebrating with you the anniversary of our club! It's just the beginning of our fight together! I count on you, count on me."

Romelu Lukaku hopes to rekindle his striker partnership with Lautaro Martinez, but has told his former team-mate to stay at Inter rather than join him at Chelsea.

Chelsea brought in Lukaku from Inter for a reported club-record fee of £97.5million (€115m) and have since been tipped to move for fellow frontman Martinez in the new year.

The pair scored and assisted a combined 125 goals during Lukaku's two seasons at San Siro – 76 direct goal involvements for Lukaku and 49 for Martinez.

Thanks to their link-up play, Inter were the fourth highest-scoring team across Europe's top five leagues between Lukaku's first and last game for Inter, netting 152 times.

There has recently been suggestions that Chelsea may look to bring Martinez to Stamford Bridge, though Lukaku would rather the Argentina international remain at Inter.

"I miss Lautaro Martinez, I could die on the pitch for him since day one I met him," he told Sky Sport Italia.

Asked if he wanted Martinez to join him at Chelsea, a laughing Lukaku replied: "No… Lautaro, you can stay in Milan! I'll be back there."

Lukaku was speaking as part of a wide-ranging interview conducted by the Italian outlet earlier this month and published across two days on Thursday and Friday.

In the first part of the interview, Lukaku admitted he is "not happy" with his situation at Chelsea and outlined his desire to return to San Siro in the future.

He added that he was "hurt" to see boss Antonio Conte, the man who guided Inter to their first Scudetto in 11 years last season, depart shortly before his own exit to Chelsea.

Conte has since followed Lukaku to London by taking over as Tottenham head coach in November and he has made an instant impression at his new club.

The Italian is unbeaten in his first seven league games, making him the first Tottenham boss to ever do so, and Lukaku has tipped his former coach for big success at Spurs.

"I speak regularly with Conte, not just about football but life in general," he said.

"It hurt me when he left Inter, it was one of the toughest moments for me but I didn't leave because of him. I knew that we could still win things at Inter with [Simone] Inzaghi.

"I think Conte at Spurs could do what he did at Inter in Serie A. But he also knows that our Chelsea team is really strong. 

"I see him as an opponent in the league, I never won against him so that's an extra motivation for me.

"He was a massive influence on my career. He helped me on a mental level, he taught me how to be a professional and how to make sacrifices on and off the pitch."

Romelu Lukaku has revealed he rejected a move to Manchester City in 2020 and only joined Chelsea a year later after Inter decided against offering him a new contract.

The Belgium international returned to Stamford Bridge in August for a reported club-record fee of £97.5million (€115m) on the back of firing Inter to a first Scudetto in 11 years.

Speaking in September, Lukaku said he asked Inter boss Simone Inzaghi to grant his return to Chelsea in the close-season after the Premier League side's first two offers had been rejected.

He has scored seven goals in 18 appearances since re-joining the Blues in a first half to the campaign that has been hampered by injuries and illness.

In an interview with Sky Sport Italia conducted earlier in December and first aired on Thursday, Lukaku admitted he is "not happy" with his situation at Chelsea and outlined his desire to return to San Siro in future.

In the second part of the interview released on Friday, Lukaku insisted he never initially wanted to depart Inter and even turned down interest from City out of loyalty.

"At the end of the first year with Inter, I turned down an offer from Manchester City, which was higher than Chelsea's this summer," the ex-Manchester United striker said.

"I did it because it had only been a year, it wasn't the right time to leave and I didn't want to. I wanted to do something good for Inter, because I have to say that Inter saved my career to some extent.

"I was in a deep hole at Manchester United, things weren't going well. I was a big investment for Inter but we did great things together. So, the second year after we won the Scudetto, I went to speak with club chiefs and asked for a new contract.

"I told myself, I'm 28 years old, my family feels great in Milan, I still have my flat there, my mother and my son could come and live there and we would all feel comfortable. But they didn't want to extend my contract, the possibility wasn't there.

"It was tough for me to accept, because in my head I told myself that I would be able to do a few more years in Milan."

Amid Inter's much-publicised financial difficulties, Lukaku was linked with an array of Europe's top clubs after an impressive second season in Italy.

The Anderlecht academy product was directly involved in 35 goals in 36 league games last season – 24 of his own and 11 assists – which was the most of any player in Serie A.

In doing so, he became the first player to score at least 20 goals and reach double figures for assists in a Serie A season since Opta started to collect such data in 2004-05.

Between his Inter debut in August 2019 and his final game in April 2021, Lukaku played a direct part in 76 goals in 87 games for the Nerazzurri in all competitions.

Across that period, only Cristiano Ronaldo (79), Kylian Mbappe (82), Lionel Messi (96) and Robert Lewandowski (108) were involved in more goals among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Despite interest from elsewhere, Lukaku's priority was to remain an Inter player for the 2021-22 campaign.

"In my opinion, there are three absolute top teams in football – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Every player dreams of playing for one of these teams one day," he said.

"So, I thought if I ever had that possibility, I would sign a new contract with Inter and then go there. But it didn't happen, so I told myself that there is only one team where I could possibly see myself – Chelsea.

"I wasn't thinking about going there, but at one point they came in for me and I asked Inzaghi to leave. The fact that they didn't try to make me sign a new contract bothered me a bit, it hurt me even. If Inter offered me a new contract, I would have stayed 100 per cent. That goes without saying.

"Also, the fact that I hadn't won anything in England in eight years there bothered me a lot. So, it was hard to turn down the chance to come back here with the team I have supported since I was a child."

Inter forward Edin Dzeko has again tested positive for coronavirus, the club announced on Friday.

Dzeko was reportedly sent home as a precaution from Inter's first training session back following the mid-season break after exhibiting cold symptoms on Thursday.

It was not known at that time whether it was COVID-19, but Inter confirmed the following day that three players, including Dzeko, had tested positive for the virus.

Martin Satriano and Alex Cordaz make up the trio of coronavirus absentees, with the Serie A leaders stating the three players are already in self-isolation at home and following the government's health guidelines.

This is the second time Dzeko has contracted the virus, having tested positive in November 2020 when at Roma.

Dzeko has led the line effectively with Lautaro Martinez this campaign, scoring eight times and assisting three goals in 18 Serie A outings.

Indeed, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international has comfortably exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 5.89, while only strike partner Martinez has found the net more often for Inter this season (11).

Inter head into early January in control of Serie A, sitting four points clear at the summit, with their next game against Bologna scheduled for next Thursday.

Romelu Lukaku has admitted he is "not happy with the situation" at Chelsea and harbours regret at the way he left Inter for Stamford Bridge.

The Belgium international signed for the Blues for the second time in his career in August for a reported club-record fee of £97.5million (€115m).

Lukaku later said he spoke to Inter boss Simone Inzaghi to plead for the chance to go back to Chelsea, the club he first joined from Anderlecht in 2011, as he felt he had unfinished business in the Premier League.

Inter fans were angry with Lukaku's determination to leave just weeks after they had celebrated a first Serie A title in 10 years, with the striker having played a critical role in their success under Antonio Conte.

Lukaku was directly involved in 35 goals (24 scored, 11 assisted) in 36 league games, the most of anyone in Italy's top flight, and he was named Serie A's MVP for his performances.

He has not been as successful in his first season back in England, though, starting just eight times in the Premier League amid injury and COVID-19 problems.

Lukaku scored in the 3-1 win over Aston Villa and Wednesday's 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, his first league goals since September, but claimed he wanted clarity from head coach Thomas Tuchel about his role in the side.

Now, the former Manchester United forward says he is unhappy with matters at Chelsea, who have fallen eight points behind league leaders Manchester City after two wins in six games, and has made a promise to return to Inter before he enters the twilight of his career.

He told Sky Sport Italia: "Physically, I'm fine, even better than before. After two years in Italy, in which I worked a lot at Inter with coaches and nutritionists, I'm physically doing okay.

"But I'm not happy with the situation. This is normal. I think the boss has chosen to play with another system. I just have to not give up and continue working and being professional.

"I'm not happy with the situation, but I'm a hard worker and I must not give up.

"I don't think everything that happened was supposed to happen like that. The way I left Inter, how I communicated with the fans, it bothers me because it might not be the right time now [to say it] but it wasn't the right time when I left, either.

"Now, I think it's right to talk because I have always said I have Inter in my heart. I'll go back to play there, I really hope so. I love Italy; this is the right time to talk and let people know what happened without speaking badly about people, because I'm not like that.

"I want to say a big apology to the Inter fans because I think the way I left should have been different. I should have talked to you first because the things you've done for me, for my family, my mother, my son, are things that will stay with me for life.

"I really hope, from the bottom of my heart, to return to Inter. Not at the end of my career, but while I'm still at a good level to hope to win more."

Leeds United winger Raphinha is drawing plenty of attention.

The Brazilian debuted for his country in October and has scored two goals in five caps.

Raphinha joined Leeds from Rennes on a four-year deal in 2020.

And, having seen his career hit new heights since that move, he does not appear to be desperate for another switch.

TOP STORY - RAPHINHA NOT PUSHING FOR LEEDS EXIT

Brazil international Raphinha will not push for a January move away from Leeds United according to the Mirror.

Raphinha has been linked with moves to both Liverpool and Bayern Munich during the January transfer window.

The 25-year-old's agent has spoken about his ambition, but he is content at Leeds who are battling relegation.

 

ROUND-UP

Inter are angling to sign Germany international Matthias Ginter as a free agent in the middle of next year claims Fabrizio Romano. Ginter confirmed on Tuesday he would leave Borussia Monchengladbach when his contract expires at the end of this season.

- Gerard Moreno reports that Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has reached an in-principle agreement to join Barcelona in the close-season.

Sevilla are considering a bid to sign Barcelona defender Mika Marmol, according to Diario Sport.

Everton want to land Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley on loan in January, says The Telegraph.

- Sky Sport Italia claims MLS club Toronto are in advanced talks with Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne and Torino striker Andrea Belotti.

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