Giorgio Chiellini asserted it was the right time to end his Juventus career after making his final home appearance for the club, revealing Italy's failure to reach the Qatar World Cup influenced his decision.

Chiellini played the first 17 minutes of a Serie A clash with Lazio on Monday, in which Juve threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2.

First-half goals from Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata looked set to ensure the Bianconeri marked the Allianz Stadium swansong of Chiellini – and Paulo Dybala – with a win, only for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to equalise with the final kick of the game after Alex Sandro put through his own net.

The 37-year-old defender, who has won 20 trophies during his incredible career with the Turin giants, has made 392 top-flight appearances for the club, a tally bettered only by Gianluigi Buffon (489) and Alessandro Del Piero (467).

With Juventus guaranteed to finish fourth in Serie A after enduring a frustrating season, which also saw them lose the Coppa Italia final to Inter, Chiellini said the time had come for the Bianconeri's young players to take centre stage.

"The decision came in months, weeks, not days," he told Sky Sports Italia. "I have always said that I would like to leave at a high level, and I succeeded. 

"It was a difficult year, for Juventus and for me, but in the matches I managed, I played at my level. 

"All this led me to leave now, to leave room for young people. Juve need to restart, and young people have to take responsibility and mature. I helped to clip some people's wings, now it's right for them to fly alone. 

"I will cheer for them from near or far, and I made this decision with joy and serenity."

The legendary Chiellini has made 25 appearances for Juventus in all competitions this season, 17 of them starts.

Chiellini will end his Italy career after facing Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1, having won 116 caps to date during a glittering career with the Azzurri.

Having helped Italy to Euro 2020 glory last year, he revealed March's shock World Cup qualification play-off defeat to North Macedonia had influenced his desire to step away from both Serie A and international football.

"Of course, I wanted to get to the World Cup. It was the obsession I had after the European Championship," he added. "It is inevitable that I cannot play every match, but I wanted to be part of the national group. 

"It didn't go the way we wanted, which accelerated my choice. [But] I leave a national team and a Juve in good hands."

Chiellini is not planning on retiring, however, and has been linked with a potential move to Major League Soccer.

Although he said he had not yet made a final decision regarding his future, Chiellini hinted that a move abroad would interest him. 

"I don't know. It has attracted me, but for 10 years, I have to decide at home," he added. 

"An experience abroad enriches you, I think I need to see a little outside my life and Juve. I have to understand together with the family, I have to take a look outside, also for my future."

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has declared Giorgio Chiellini's decision to leave Juventus and retire from international football as a "pity for everyone".

Juve great Chiellini confirmed after the 4-2 Coppa Italia final loss to Inter last week that he will depart Turin at the end of the season, ending a 17-year spell with the Bianconeri that has seen him lift 20 trophies.

The centre-back has also already revealed he will retire from international duty with Italy after the Azzurri play Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1.

Chiellini opted to play in the Finalissima, a new final pitting the winners of the Copa America and European Championship against each other, as a fitting conclusion after Italy lifted Euro 2020 at Wembley in July.

Reports suggest 37-year-old Chiellini may accept an offer to play in MLS before taking his sizeable experience into management or a coaching role.

Mancini, speaking at the Prisco Prize in Chieti where he received a Special Jury Prize, was quick to heap praise on the veteran Chiellini as he reflected on the influence he has had on Italian football.

"It is a pity for everyone because he was a great player for the national team and for Juve," Mancini said, as quoted by Corriere dello Sport.

"Unfortunately, time passes for everyone. He made this decision but leaving after winning the European Championship in a race like the one at Wembley is still important."

Napoli talisman Lorenzo Insigne has also announced he will leave Serie A to move to Toronto FC at the end of the season.

The 30-year-old scored on his final home appearance for Napoli on Sunday, becoming the second-highest goalscorer in the club's history as he moved clear of Marek Hamsik's tally of 121.

Only team-mate Dries Mertens, with 148, has managed more goals for Napoli, and Mancini spoke glowingly of Insigne after his efforts in Naples and with the national side.

"He will go on to have an important experience anyway. He gave a lot to the national team and I hope he can do it again," the Azzurri boss added.

With those two experienced campaigners leaving Serie A, Mancini believes it is time for the Italian top flight to provide more young talent to fill the void Chiellini and Insigne will leave.

Mancini and the Italian system came into criticism for not trusting younger players after Italy failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup following play-off defeat to North Macedonia in late March.

"The important thing when things didn't go well is to get up," he continued. "We will have games in the summer and then the Nations League restarts. 

"There are several interesting youngsters in the championship but we would like more."

Marcos Senesi appears certain to be involved in June's Finalissima, and Argentina hope he will turn out in the Albiceleste.

The Feyenoord defender was born in Argentina but also holds an Italian passport.

Senesi remains uncapped and is said to be a target for Italy ahead of the June international break, in which they will play Argentina as part of the Finalissima between the European Championship winners and Copa America champions.

Lionel Scaloni has moved first by including Senesi in his preliminary squad, however, named on Friday.

And Senesi could get his opportunity as Cristian Romero, also called up by Scaloni, has been ruled out for the rest of the club season with Tottenham.

"We understood in the last few days that Romero had a serious injury and has finished this season," Spurs coach Antonio Conte said. "There are only two games to go and he has no time to recover for these two games."

After playing Italy at Wembley on June 1, Argentina also have a friendly on June 11 against Brazil, whom they must play again in a replayed World Cup qualifier.

Argentina squad in full:

Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa), Juan Musso (Atalanta), Geronimo Rulli (Villarreal), Franco Armani (River Plate); Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nahuel Molina (Udinese), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Marcos Senesi (Feyenoord), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Ajax), Nehuen Perez (Udinese), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla); Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Nicolas Dominguez (Bologna), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Giovani Lo Celso (Villarreal), Papu Gomez (Sevilla), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Lucas Ocampos (Sevilla), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa); Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Joaquin Correa (Inter), Julian Alvarez (River Plate), Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Lautaro Martinez (Inter).

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin labelled the crowd trouble at the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy as unacceptable and warned it must never happen again.

Italy secured their first European Championship since 1968 with a penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley Stadium in July, but the game was marred by clashes before the final.

Hundreds of supporters without tickets attempted to gain entry prior to kick-off, with an independent review later concluding it was "clear we were close to fatalities and/or life-changing injuries for some, potentially many" of the fans in attendance after 17 mass breaches of Wembley's gates.

UEFA punished the Football Association (FA) with a two-game stadium ban, one of which is suspended for two years, and an £84,560 fine.

The FA subsequently apologised and said it was appalled at the disorder that saw ticketless fans fight with stewards and police officers in an attempt to force their way into the stadium.

Ceferin, who was in attendance at the final, reinforced his disappointment with the failures of football as he spoke to a UEFA congress in Vienna on Wednesday.

"We still have many problems to solve to make our sport a role model and greater source of inspiration than it is today," Ceferin said.

"The images of violence at Wembley Stadium at last year's Euro final are unacceptable.

"When a family goes to see a match of any competition, it should be a time for fun, celebration and enjoyment. People should feel safe in and around a stadium.

"They should never feel in danger. With the authorities' help, this cannot happen again. Ever."

 

Giorgio Chiellini is plotting a career in management after the Juventus and Italy captain's playing days come to an end.

Chiellini will retire from international football after the Azzurri's Finalissima showdown with Argentina at Wembley next month.

The 37-year-old centre-back's future has been the subject of speculation, as his Juve contract is due to expire at the end of next season.

Chiellini has been linked with a move to the MLS before hanging up his boots.

The veteran defender plans to use his vast experience to forge a career in management, but will not take up a role until he is ready.

He told La Stampa: "As long as you are a footballer, you are focused only on that. And until today in my head I have always been a 100 per cent footballer, when you do this job it can only be like that. 

"Certainly in the future I would like to have a managerial path, in which to enhance the wealth of experience I have gained over the years and make it available in a new context."

He added: “I would like to take care of what surrounds the pitch, but it goes beyond that, but first I would have a lot to study. I know the sport well, but it is not enough to do well as a manager. 

"About Continassa [the Juventus training complex] I know everything, even where there are cobwebs, but what happens in the office I have a superficial idea. 

"The experience I'm having with Sport Horizon helps me, but you can't improvise it."

Giorgio Chiellini says his "love affair" with Juventus will never come to an end, but admits he is unsure on his next steps after confirming his international retirement.

The Italy captain announced that June's Finalissima encounter with Argentina at Wembley will be his last game for the Azzurri, a year on from success at Euro 2020.

The veteran centre-back oversaw a second successive failure by the national team to qualify for the World Cup earlier this year, ensuring their absence at Qatar 2022.

While his future on the global stage will come to a close, Chiellini says he will take time to consider his club career – but added he will always carry a torch for the Bianconeri.

"My love affair with Juventus is not ending," he stated after Juventus' win over Sassuolo on Monday in Serie A. "It will never end.

"The love is so strong that as far as I am concerned, but also I think it will never end.

"Of course, from now to the end of the season I do have to evaluate everything, talk to my family about what is best.

"Let’s reach fourth place first and win the Coppa Italia, then we’ll sit down with my two families – at home and Juventus – to figure out what is best for everyone.

"It was the same last summer. I took time and didn’t sign the new contract until after the Euros. At my age, you can’t look too far into the long-term, but that’s only natural, it’s all fine.

"I hope you can see that I am happy, relaxed and want to keep enjoying myself with my team-mates, then we'll see."

Since joining the Bianconeri in 2004, Chiellini has established himself as a central figure in Italian football, and helped the club to nine successive Scudetto titles between 2011 and 2020.

But it will likely be his efforts at Euro 2020 last year, when he steered Italy to a penalty shoot-out triumph over England at Wembley, that will stand as his defining achievement.

The joint-fourth most-capped player in Azzurri history, Chiellini added that he hopes to be available for the game with South American champions Argentina – and that it will be a fitting occasion for his farewell.

"If I'm fine, I'll play and say goodbye to the national team at Wembley, where I reached the peak of my career," he added.

"It would be great to say goodbye to the Azzurri shirt with a celebratory match like the one with Argentina. For the national team, it will be the last time."

Juventus legend Gianluigi Buffon was surprised by the club's decision not to renew the contract of attacker Paulo Dybala.

However, the 44-year-old, now at Serie B side Parma, does not believe the Bianconeri have made a mistake in letting Dybala leave, noting the improvement Juventus have made under Massimiliano Allegri.

The club confirmed last month Dybala would be allowed to leave at the end of his contract in June, despite the Argentina international recording 13 goal involvements (eight goals, five assists) in 23 Serie A appearances this season.

Among Juve players, only Alvaro Morata (also eight goals and five assists), can match the 28-year-old's output this term.

"I didn't expect it," Buffon told La Stampa of Dybala's departure. "But the club was direct and honest. 

"They didn't renew his contract because they consider him not functional to the project, not because he is poor. 

"He will do great things, but it does not mean that Juve made a mistake. The camp says the group is improving."

Juventus have played their way into title contention after picking up more points in the second half of the Serie A season than any other side (28), while their six-point gap to leaders Milan is the closest the Old Lady have been to the summit since August.

Their quest for a 10th title in 11 years sees them face Bologna on Saturday, against whom Dybala, who is being strongly linked with rivals Inter, has seven goals and one assist in 11 Serie A matches.

 

Buffon was also asked about the fortunes of the Italy national team after Roberto Mancini's European champions failed to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup, falling to a humiliating play-off loss to North Macedonia in qualifying last month.

Buffon, who won 176 caps for the Azzurri and starred as they won the 2006 World Cup, said Mancini must carry responsibility for their struggles despite leading Italy to Euro 2020 glory.

"He was the architect of the Azzurri renaissance, but he has some responsibility," Buffon said of Mancini. 

"There is a way and a way... if you lose on penalties to Portugal, it is one thing, North Macedonia is tougher [to justify]. 

"Already in 2010 I realised that things were changing, that we should have celebrated the qualifications. We lack quality and nastiness. If motivated, we give our best; otherwise, we can lose to anyone."

Gianluigi Donnarumma "still has a lot to give", says former Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar, despite the Italy shot-stopper's recent spate of high-profile errors on the biggest stages.

The 23-year-old ended last season on the high of a Euro 2020 triumph with the Azzurri, shortly before a move to Paris Saint-Germain alongside fellow new recruits Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos.

But fast-forward nine months, and he has struggled with costly performances for club and country, resulting in Italy's failure to reach the World Cup and PSG's Champions League exit.

Ex-Selecao goalkeeper Julio Cesar feels Donnarumma has possibly struggled with expectations since his arrival at the Parc des Princes.

"Being a keeper is tough," he told Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. "Donnarumma made his debut at AC Milan when he was 16, then he joined the national team.

"He has already won a European Championship at such a young age, and then to join one of the strongest teams in the world, which is full of champions.

"Many positive things happened to this young man, sometimes it is not easy to have that personality you need to get on the pitch after all the things he has been through down the years.

"From being the strongest keeper of the world, to become the player making the mistake that kicked PSG out of the Champions League.

"Everybody was expecting PSG to reach the final simply because the club brought [Sergio] Ramos, [Achraf] Hakimi, [Lionel] Messi and him [Donnarumma]."

Donnarumma may not have been solely at fault for Italy's World Cup play-off exit to North Macedonia or PSG's elimination at the hands of Real Madrid, but Julio Cesar believes the ex-Milan star needs to learn to maintain his level amid the peaks and troughs of the game to become one of the best in the business.

"In football there are ups and downs, but you need to be consistent if you want to become a great keeper," he added. "If you make a mistake during a match, you cannot miss the next 10 or 20 balls.

"Otherwise, you are out. This is what I think, however, the team did not help. I am talking about both club and national team.

"PSG did not do a nice game against Real Madrid, same for Italy when they had the chance to qualify for the World Cup.

"He is a lad who still has a lot to give to football, he can offer a lot to this sport. He is very young, and fans will be happy to watch him playing, because he is a young talent."

Julio Cesar believes his former club Inter have "all the possibilities" to retain their Serie A title after a productive weekend for the Nerazzurri in the Scudetto race.

Simone Inzaghi's side beat Hellas Verona on Saturday before seeing title rivals Napoli lose at home to Fiorentina and league leaders Milan draw 0-0 at Torino.

Inter now sit second, ahead of Napoli on goal difference and two points behind Milan, but with a game in hand on both and a superior goal difference.

Speaking with Stats Perform courtesy of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Cesar compared the current Inter team to the one he played in, which won a treble in the 2009-10 season. 

"Since Inter won the title [last season], Juventus' streak has been interrupted," he said. "When I was at Inter, Juventus was the team to beat. Now, after the title, responsibility always increases.

"Today, the club has a wonderful structure at La Pinetina. I had the opportunity to visit the place. Everything has changed. Having said that, I think that the football played on the pitch makes the difference.

"This championship is very balanced. Inter is in second place behind Milan, the season is still open.

"We have Milan, Inter and Napoli, which are all in contention for the title. There are six games left and Inter have all the possibilities to win the Scudetto. Inter is a strong team, although they had peaks and valleys, but I guess this is normal during a season."

 

Cesar also had words of praise for current Inter stopper Samir Handanovic, believing that a lack of Champions League football during his time at the club has led to people underestimating the Slovenian.

"I think Samir has shown his value since he joined Inter," he said. "However, his quality was not always recognised because Inter was out of the Champions League for many years.

"Playing in the Champions League allows you to step up your game. Samir has brought the right confidence, he has become the captain and the leader of the team. Inter must be ready to give credit to the work that Samir has done."

Inter have been linked with a move for Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana at the end of the season, but Cesar is unsure if the Cameroonian would displace Handanovic.

He added: "Even if a younger keeper will join the club – I am not sure about Onana's age [26] but I imagine he is a young talent – Samir is still a keeper who knows the club's environment very well.

"Even if Onana will join Inter, Handanovic will be the first choice. Winning the title could also give him the confidence in persuading the club to be their first choice also for next year. He is talented and he keeps himself physically fit, so he could be the first goalkeeper for the next two years."

Former Juventus defender Fabio Cannavaro says the Bianconeri can still win the Scudetto this season, insisting Massimiliano Allegri's men have a chance in a "four-man race" for the title.

Cannavaro noted the slip-ups of Juventus' rivals as a reason for his belief in his former club's chances, claiming "it seems that nobody wants to win" Serie A.

The legendary centre-back also demanded far-reaching changes across Italian football in response to the Azzurri's recent failure to reach this year's Qatar World Cup, but would not be drawn on talk he could replace Roberto Mancini as the national team's coach.

Juventus are six points behind leaders Milan with six games remaining, and narrowed the gap on their rivals over the weekend, beating Cagliari 2-1 before Milan drew 0-0 with Torino and Napoli lost 3-2 to Fiorentina.

Juventus have now won three consecutive away league games for the first time this season, and the 48-year-old, who left the club for Real Madrid after captaining Italy to World Cup glory in 2006, believes Allegri's men remain in the hunt.

"It seems that nobody wants to win it," the 2006 Ballon D'or winner said at an event in Tuscany. "The feeling is that when there is the chance to make a difference, something always happens.

"The championship is always open, anything can happen. Seeing the results of those ahead [of Juventus], it's a four-man race.

"We know Juventus, they never give up, it is certainly a championship that can give us surprises.

"It's a strange championship, when you have the chance to knock the others off [the top], nobody does. It's a championship that anyone can win, all four of them. If the results are [to continue like] these, it will be an interesting ending ".

If Juventus were to win the title, it would represent their 10th Scudetto in 11 years, and their sixth under the tutelage of Allegri.

Cannavaro was also asked about his country's second consecutive failure to qualify for the World Cup after Italy suffered a shock play-off defeat to North Macedonia last month.

"It hurts," he said of the failure to reach Qatar. "After 2006, we are no longer able to [have our] say at the World Cup, which has always seen us as protagonists.

"Beyond this, this resignation to the fact that it has to be like this saddens me. It is a shame, there are generations [of Italians] that have not seen a final phase [of a World Cup].

"We need to change quickly. I don't have the cure, I don't have the recipe, it's not up to me.

"It [the Italian Football Federation] is an organisation that doesn't work. Before, the [Italian] teams went to Europe and commanded, we went to Champions League finals, now we haven't reached it for years.

"It [talk of Cannavaro succeeding Mancini] is normal. You can't focus on one man, but on a system that has failed for too many years. I haven't heard from anyone."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti prefers the day-to-day running of club management amid questions about whether he would take up an international role.

Ancelotti has guided Madrid to the summit of LaLiga, 12 points clear of a resurgent Barcelona, who do have a game in hand.

Madrid are also in contention to go all the way in the Champions League. Los Blancos are 3-1 up in their quarter-final against reigning European champions Chelsea heading into Tuesday's second leg.

While Ancelotti has Madrid on course for success this season, speculation swirls as to whether president Florentino Perez will stick with the 62-year-old for next season.

The failure of Italy to qualify for two straight World Cups has also brought Roberto Mancini's position into question, but Ancelotti – a reported option to take over as Azzurri coach in 2018 – prefers club football.

"I have thought about it, to train a national team," he told a news conference when asked about the Italy job. 

"To be honest I must say that I like the day-to-day of club football. The matches give you emotion and happiness.

"But there is of course the worry and the day-to-day stress – when I lose the desire for the daily work, I will stop."

The former Bayern Munich and Chelsea boss opted to leave Everton for Madrid at the start of this season, after guiding the Toffees to an underwhelming 10th in his only full Premier League campaign with them following a 12th-placed finish in 2019-20.

Everton were looking good to mount a challenge for Champions League qualification as late as March, yet only managed three wins from their final 12 top-flight games.

The Merseyside club are now fighting relegation, but Ancelotti said Madrid, who he coached previously between 2013 and 2015, were the only suitors capable of turning his head.

"With Everton, I was having a good time," he said. "Then Madrid called me and I can understand why [Everton] got angry, but it was difficult to say 'no'.

"It was the only team I couldn't say no to. To the rest, I could say no."

Asked whether he would be in charge in 2022-23, Ancelotti replied: "I hope so, but I'm not thinking about that.

"I'm not thinking about the contract. If the club is happy, I'm still happy. If not, I'll appreciate it, period. I trust at the end of the season, it will be good."

Paulo Dybala should have demanded a one-year contract to prove his worth to Juventus if he was happy in Turin, according to former Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello.

Argentina international Dybala is set to see his time at the Allianz Stadium comes to its conclusion when his contract expires at the end of the season.

The forward has 113 goals across all competitions for Juve, ranking him third all-time among the club’s non-Italian scorers, behind only David Trezeguet (171) and John Hansen (124).

Fellow Serie A competitors Inter and Premier League side Tottenham, managed by former Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte, are reportedly among the favourites to secure Dybala's signature for the next campaign.

But Capello believes if the 28-year-old was settled at Juve then he should have pleaded with the club for another chance, while he heaped praise on Massimiliano Allegri's new star striker Dusan Vlahovic.

"I like Vlahovic, he has pace, physical strength and desire to improve," he told Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport. "He knows how to work for the team and stay inside the box.

"But Max [Allegri] is right when he says that he must learn how to play in a top club, managing the pressure and the different phases in a game.

"You can't question Dybala technically, but he has had some fitness issues. If he was happy in Turin, he should have challenged Juventus. Ask them for a one-year contract and show how much he's worth.

"The same goes for [Roma forward Nicolo] Zaniolo. He suffered two serious injuries and remained out for 18 months. He must rediscover self-confidence because he has the technical skills."

 

Capello also expressed his concern for the state of Italian football, with the Azzurri missing out on two straight World Cups and no Serie A side in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Roma and Atalanta are the only two Italian sides left in the Europa League, and former England manager Capello believes Italy are way behind their international competitors.

"Italian football is far behind the others. The ball doesn't move quickly, referees blow the whistle too often," he added. "They stop the play too frequently. Every challenge is a foul, so there is never intensity, our teams do not learn to keep up the pace.

"We have fallen behind, in every sense, but the main problem is that the best players no longer come to Italy, so there is no comparison with the best. 

"I don't learn anything if what should help me grow is of the same level as me, has my same knowledge, identical experiences"

Allegri acknowledged his reluctance to use young players in an interview on Friday, and the preference to utilise more experienced players is a problem thought to spread across the whole of the Italian game.

Capello expects no quick fixes as he cited the progression of other countries to learn from.

"Even eight. In Italy, everyone intervenes," he responded when asked if it would take five or six years to return Italy to the top of the footballing pyramid.

"As for youth sectors, those in charge should have a trip to Spain where they work on the technique, not on tactics."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has called for Italian authorities to honour the legacy of Paolo Rossi by naming the Stadio Olimpico after the former forward.

Rossi scored six goals to claim the Golden Boot and Golden Ball as Italy lifted the 1982 World Cup, while he was awarded the Ballon d'Or in the same year – the only player to win all four trophies in the same year.

During that competition, Rossi guided his side into the knockout stages as his hat-trick propelled Italy to a 3-2 group-stage victory over a formidable Brazil team, which included legends Socrates and Zico.

Rossi still remains Italy's joint-top scorer at World Cups, with his nine goals only matched by fellow attackers Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri.

The former Vicenza and Juventus striker died aged 64 in 2020, and Infantino implored the Italian Football Federation (IFF) to mark Rossi's legacy by naming Lazio and Roma's Olimpico stadium after him.

"What are we waiting for to name the Olimpico after Paolo Rossi? There isn't another Italian who has given more to this sport," he said on Monday at an event to remember former IFF president Artemio Franchi.

"So, please I'm saying this to all the directors here. Please, help us, I think Paolo deserves it."

Infantino also recalled a meeting with former referee Abraham Klein, who officiated the meeting between Italy and Brazil in 1982 and ruled out what would have been Italy's fourth goal through Giancarlo Antognoni.

"Among other things, he admitted that Antognoni's goal [that was disallowed for offside] was valid, so let's rectify the result, it ended 4-2," he added on Klein before discussing the legacy of Franchi.

"I am president of FIFA, who for the first time in its history has appointed a woman general secretary. These are the values ​​that football gives and that we managers must protect, as did Artemio Franchi.

"It means listening, but also making decisions and acting: without this, Italy probably would not have won the European Championships and would not have qualified for the World Cup, UEFA would not have taken the steps it took at a time when Europe was uniform.

"As leaders, we must always seek, with diplomacy and emotion to bring the sport back to play this very important role of giving emotions to people."

Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli faces up to a month out of action after the midfielder sustained a knee injury in the 1-0 loss against Inter on Sunday.

The Italy international, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March, started in the Derby d'Italia but suffered a knock in the first half and was replaced by Denis Zakaria after just 34 minutes.

Bianconeri head coach Massimiliano Allegri appeared unworried by the damage to the 24-year-old after the match, but Juve provided another update on Monday.

Scans have confirmed a problem in the ligament of Locatelli's right knee that is estimated to keep him out for a month, which means he will likely miss Serie A clashes with Cagliari, Bologna, Sassuolo and Venezia.

Locatelli will also be absent for the second leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final on April 20 against Fiorentina, who lost the first meeting 1-0, as Juve look to defend their title.

He has played an integral role this season for Allegri's side, who sit fourth in Serie A after their 16-game league unbeaten run ended against Inter.

Indeed, only Alvaro Morata (30) has featured in more top-flight games than Locatelli for Juve this campaign (29), while Juan Cuadrado (1,283) and Matthijs de Ligt (1,317) are the only players to complete more passes than him (1,141).

Locatelli has won 15 of the Serie A games he has appeared in this term, with De Ligt, Morata, Cuadrado and Moise Kean (all 16) the only players to boast better returns.

Juve will be hoping that Zakaria, Adrien Rabiot and Arthur can step up in Locatelli's absence when they visit Cagliari on Saturday.

The qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup is all but over.

Some key matches still have to be played, with Wales yet to find out their fate as they wait to face the winner of Scotland's play-off with Ukraine, which has been postponed due to Russia's invasion of the country, while there are inter-confederation play-offs also to be decided.

In total, 28 nations have qualified already, and most of football's star names will be present.

That being said, while France's world champions will bid to defend their crown, Neymar will bring the Brazilian stardust, Lionel Messi will look to build on Argentina's Copa America triumph and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature at a record-equalling fifth tournament, some huge players - and indeed teams, in the case of Italy - will not be present in Qatar.

Stats Perform has looked at some of the star players who will be watching the tournament from home.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Arguably the best player in the world this season, Salah will not be lighting up Qatar with any mazy runs or sensational strikes. Given the tournament is in the middle of next season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may secretly be pleased his talisman will not be risking injury or fatigue, but Salah – who blazed his penalty over in the decisive shoot-out against Senegal on Tuesday – will be a big miss.

 

James Rodriguez (Colombia)

A star of the 2014 World Cup, in which he won the golden boot, James Rodriguez scored Colombia's winner against Venezuela on Tuesday, yet Peru's victory over Paraguay meant the ex-Real Madrid playmaker and his team-mates will not appear in Qatar, where James currently plies his trade for Al-Rayyan.

Luis Diaz, who has made a flying start to life at Liverpool since joining from Porto in January, is another Colombian talent who will be watching on from the sidelines.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The hero of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph with his saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England last July, Donnarumma – one of Europe's best goalkeepers – will be watching on from afar along with the rest of Roberto Mancini's players. After his error in Paris Saint-Germain's capitulation against Madrid in the Champions League, March has been a sour month for the 23-year-old.

Georgio Chiellini (Italy)

While Donnarumma has time on his side to make it to the next World Cup, the same cannot be said for Giorgio Chiellini. The centre-back is 37 and will surely not be featuring at another major tournament for Italy now.

Defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci may also fall into that category, given he turns 35 in May, while 29-year-old playmaker Marco Verratti may also have seen his final chance of appearing at the World Cup for a second time dashed.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

It was the battle of two of Europe's leading marksmen of the last decade on Tuesday, as Poland went head-to-head with Sweden, and it was Robert Lewandowski and Co. who came out on top, winning 2-0.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and though Ibrahimovic came on as a late substitute, he could not turn the tide in Sweden's favour. The Milan striker has suggested he wants to carry on playing for his country, but at 40, surely this was his last chance of appearing at a World Cup.

Erling Haaland (Norway)

Although Ibrahimovic may be approaching the tail-end of his career, Haaland is certainly not. Yet like the Swede, the Borussia Dortmund forward will not be playing in Qatar either.

Indeed, even if Norway had made it through their qualification group, it is uncertain as to whether or not the players would have chosen to boycott the tournament, having previously made their feelings on Qatar's human rights record clear. But they finished third in Group G anyway.

Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard is another bright Norweigian talent, though the Scandinavian nation may well fancy their chances heading towards Euro 2024 and the 2026 World Cup.

 

David Alaba (Austria)

Madrid defender Alaba could not inspire Austria to victory in their play-off clash with Wales, with Gareth Bale's double doing the damage. After a glittering career with Bayern, Alaba is on course to win LaLiga with Los Blancos, but any form of real, tangible success on the international stage looks set to avoid him.

Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

Oblak's form has dipped this season for Atletico Madrid but on his day he is still right up there among the world's best goalkeepers, though he could not help Slovenia finish higher than fourth in their qualification group, as their wait to qualify for a first World Cup since 2010 rolled on.

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