Franck Ribery made a public apology to his Fiorentina team-mates after the veteran French star was sent off for the seventh time in his club career.

The former Bayern Munich winger, who turns 38 on Wednesday, was dismissed by referee Fabio Maresca after going in studs-up on Davide Zappacosta during Saturday's Serie A clash away to Genoa.

That incident occurred in the 51st minute, with the teams locked at 1-1, and Fiorentina held on as the match finished without any further goals.

Fiorentina and Genoa lurk in lower mid-table, with both sides looking to banish the distant threat of relegation after the international break.

Ribery, who in 2012-13 beat Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win UEFA's Men's Player of the Year award, recognised he let down his Viola team-mates.

"Guys, I'm sorry I left you alone," he wrote on Twitter. "I didn't want to go in badly and I have already apologised. You fought to the end and you were very brave and careful. Keep going like this!"

Ribery joined Fiorentina on a two-year deal after being released by Bayern in 2019 and was sent off against Lazio early in his Serie A career. He had been dismissed four times for Bayern and once when playing for Marseille.

An ankle injury meant Ribery missed a large chunk of his debut season in Italy, when he scored three goals and had three assists in 21 games.

There have been flashes of his best in the current campaign, in which he has scored twice and had five assists in 23 appearances so far, also hitting the woodwork twice.

However, the number of chances he has created has dipped from 35 last season to 26 this term, despite spending 197 more minutes on the pitch, and his dribble success rate has also fallen, shrinking from 59.55 to 52.63 per cent.

Milan coach Stefano Pioli said there was little to be happy about after watching his side draw 1-1 with 10-man Sampdoria.

Jens Hauge came off the bench to score an 87th-minute equaliser and rescue a point for the Rossoneri on Saturday.

Fabio Quagliarella had put Samp ahead with a brilliant first-time finish following a loose pass from Theo Hernandez, barely two minutes before Adrien Silva was sent off for a second bookable offence.

It was not until Hauge's composed finish - Milan's first meaningful shot on target - that Pioli's men seemed to find any spark in attack, but they nearly snatched a scarcely deserved victory, Hakan Calhanoglu having a shot saved by Emil Audero and Franck Kessie striking the post in injury time.

"We didn't deserve to win this game, even though we could have when Kessie hit the woodwork," Pioli told Milan TV.

"We weren't precise enough in our play or our choices. We had the chance to make better choices and be more precise, but we needed to play with more precision and tempo.

"Our approach to the game wasn't right. If you don't come into a match with determination and concentration, they tend to become more complicated and difficult. This was a complicated match for us.

"Sampdoria played exactly as they had in the reverse fixture. They stopped us moving the ball and taking up positions. In Florence, we managed to attack with more depth and players; today we couldn't because we lacked the tempo and movement off the ball. That favoured a well-positioned defence.

"There is very little I'm happy with, to be honest. The performance should have been different because the conditions were right to play with more intensity, generosity and quality. Having failed to do so must make us disappointed and angry."

The result means Milan are five points behind city rivals Inter at the top of the table, having played twice more than the Nerazzurri and Juventus in third.

Milan's home form has been largely responsible for their failure to keep pace with the leaders. They have now gone six games without a win at San Siro for the first time since December 2013, and they started the match with the biggest negative difference between points picked up at home (22) and away (37) across all of Europe's top-five leagues.

"We must focus immediately on the next match," Pioli said. "There are nine left and we're yet to reach our objective. We knew it wouldn't be easy to reach it, so now we need to show we can bounce back well."

A late goal from Jens Hauge secured a 1-1 draw for Milan at home to 10-man Sampdoria on Saturday.

A superb strike from Fabio Quagliarella had put the visitors in front in a tight contest at San Siro before substitute Hauge levelled with Milan's first shot on target after 87 minutes.

Claudio Ranieri's side played the final half-hour with 10 men and looked to have done enough before Hauge's clever finish.

However, Stefano Pioli's men have now gone consecutive home games in all competitions without a win for the first time since December 2013, leaving their Scudetto hopes looking slim.

Gianluigi Donnarumma was the busier keeper by far in the first half, denying Manolo Gabbiadini and Tommaso Augello before a flying save kept out Morten Thorsby's header.

Milan ended the half without a shot on target, although they felt Zlatan Ibrahimovic should have won a penalty after a tangle in the box with Augello.

The Rossoneri then fell behind 11 minutes into the second half, Quagliarella lobbing Donnarumma with a fine first-time finish after Theo Hernandez played the ball straight to him.

The visitors soon handed Milan a boost, though, with Adrien Silva earning a second yellow card for a late challenge on Samu Castillejo.

Substitute Ante Rebic was lively and saw one close-range effort cleared away from goal by Omar Colley, but Milan looked blunt against a well-drilled Sampdoria rearguard.

That was until Ibrahimovic and Franck Kessie combined to release Hauge, who turned back onto his right foot and curled a good finish past Emil Audero.

Audero then saved from Hakan Calhanoglu and Kessie hit the post as Milan just failed to complete the turnaround.

 

Harry Kane has been linked with a move away from Tottenham this upcoming transfer window.

But the England forward has another three years on his contract and a deal will not come easy for suitors.

Manchester City are the latest club to be linked with Kane, as they assess their options if they cannot land Erling Haaland this close-season.

 

TOP STORY - TOTTENHAM WARD OFF KANE INTEREST

Tottenham have placed a £175million price tag on Harry Kane amid reports of interest in their star captain.

The Sun has reported Tottenham are unwilling to sell Kane, let alone to a Premier League rival such as City.

Kane is understood be content to stay at Tottenham and the price tag will likely deter any continental interest.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are willing to sell one Norwegian Martin Odegaard, who is on loan at Arsenal, to generate the funds required to land his compatriot Haaland, according to The Times. The Gunners are understood to be keen to sign Odegaard permanently.

- Barcelona are lining up Inter's Lautaro Martinez as a possible signing if they fail to win the race for Haaland, reports Spanish publication Sport.

- Tuttosport claims that Juventus are readying a move to bring Moise Kean back to Turin from Everton after starring on loan at Paris Saint-Germain.

- Spanish outlet ABC is reporting that both Manchester United and Chelsea are keen on Real Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez.

Stefano Pioli feels qualifying for the Champions League could "change everything" for Milan – particularly when it comes to retaining three key members of his first-team squad.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Hakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all out of contract at the end of the season, while the Serie A club also face a decision over whether to sign on-loan defender Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal.

However, ahead of the resumption of domestic duties after the international games in March, Pioli made clear the focus for everyone is on finishing the campaign strongly.

Milan sit second in the table and despite their form tailing off in 2021 – they have lost five times in the league since the turn of the year, having gone unbeaten in the competition in the first half of the season – they have a glorious opportunity to finish in the top four.

"In the eyes of Ibra, Calhanoglu and Donnarumma I see serenity," Pioli told the media about the trio on Friday.

"Their future is now for us - it would change everything for us to go to the Champions League. I see a lot of concentration and attention."

Tomori had made 12 appearances in all competitions since his arrival from Chelsea in the mid-season transfer window, with the temporary deal including a purchase option.

"We are very satisfied with how he has started, he is a smiling boy, he gives us important characteristics," Pioli said of the centre-back. "We must continue to do well without thinking about the future."

Milan are in early action on Saturday, taking on Sampdoria at San Siro.

The Rossoneri have failed to win in any of their last five home games in all competitions, a run that included a 1-0 defeat to Manchester United that ended their involvement in the Europa League.

Catching Serie A leaders Inter - who sit six points clear and have a game in hand - may be difficult but Pioli has set a points target for his players to work towards in the closing months.

"We have always taken responsibility with great conviction and confidence," he said.

"There comes a decisive moment - everything we have done so far is to be here right now. We want to get to the end of the season without regrets.

"Ten games are a lot and there are still many points to play for, 75 could be the right threshold to reach the Champions League but it is difficult to make calculations.

"The fight will be very tough, we have to think about the next game."

The armband tossed away by an angry Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal's match against Serbia last Saturday has sold for more than £50,000 in a charity auction.

Jovan Simic, founder of the humanitarian organisation Zajedno za Zivot (Together for Life), said the discarded armband had been bought by a betting firm for the "great figure of 7.5million dinars".

That amounts to around £54,300 and the funds will go towards paying for treatment for a Serbian six-month-old boy, Gavrilo Djurdjevic. According to Serbian news reports, the young child has spinal muscular atrophy and the treatment he requires will cost over €2million, with a major fundraising campaign under way.

Firefighter Djordje Vukicevic, at pitchside for the game, was able to pick up the armband and donate it for auction.

Portugal superstar Ronaldo flung it away and stormed off the pitch in Belgrade in the closing moments of the March 27 match, having felt he was wronged by a decision to disallow his last-gasp effort.

Ronaldo was certain the ball had crossed the line, but officials disagreed as Serbia rallied from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw in the World Cup qualifier. The 36-year-old forward was booked for his protestations.

Simic added: "Congratulations to firefighter Djordje and his colleagues, as well as to all the wonderful people who helped!"

The auction was blighted by fake bids, Serbian news reports said, before the Mozzart Bet company made its winning offer.

Antonio Conte has told his players to do their talking on the pitch by holding off Milan and winning a first Scudetto in 11 years.

Inter edged out Torino 2-1 late on in their most recent match and boast a six-point lead on Milan with a game in hand on their closest challengers.

That made it eight Serie A victories in a row for the Nerazzurri and they will be looking to make it nine on the spin for the first time since 2017 when they travel to Bologna.

Milan boss Stefano Pioli and midfielder Ismael Bennacer have both warned Inter that the title race is not yet over, but Conte does not want to engage in mind games.

Asked at his pre-match news conference on Friday what mistakes have to be avoided, Conte said: "Speaking inappropriately. We need to shut up and pedal.

"The best advice I can give the players is to pick up from where we left off, even if it is never easy after returning from international breaks. There aren't many more games to go."

Inter have twice finished as runners-up since last winning the Scudetto in 2009-10, including last season in Conte's first at the San Siro helm.

Conte won three Serie A titles during his time as Juventus boss and wants his squad to embrace the pressure that comes with leading the way late in the season.

"Inter is a team that, throughout the course of its history, is used to always managing pressure in the right way," he said.

"Many of them are in this situation for the first time, but we can only think about ourselves and do our best until the season finishes."

Inter's sole focus is on Serie A over the remainder of the season, with the trip to Stadio Renato Dall'Ara the first of 11 remaining fixtures.

Bologna have won their last two league matches to move up to 11th and are seeking three wins in succession for the first time since February 2020.

The Rossoblu have lost 11 and drawn three of their last 14 home league meetings with Inter, but Conte is anticipating a difficult match against Sinisa Mihajlovic's side.

"It's always important to start well when you return to action, but we have to pay a lot of attention against an excellent Bologna side," Conte added.

"They are led by a very good coach who likes attacking football. We need to prepare for the match in the best possible way if we are going to win."

Inter's clash with Sassuolo prior to the international break was postponed after four of their players tested positive for coronavirus.

Samir Handanovic, Matias Vecino and Stefan de Vrij have all since returned to training, however, while Danilo D'Ambrosio is due back soon.

Providing a fitness update, Conte said: "Samir has been back for a while now and has had time to work. Matias has had three days of training and is in a good condition.

"Stefan only returned yesterday and will inevitably not be fully fit, and Danilo will be back as soon as possible. We need to get them all back in top condition."

Juventus trio Arthur, Paulo Dybala and Weston McKennie have been left out by head coach Andrea Pirlo as punishment for their breach of coronavirus protocols.

Italian newspaper La Stampa reported that police were called to McKennie's home late on Wednesday to break up a social gathering, with such events forbidden under current social restrictions.

Arthur and Dybala were among those to attend, despite a nationwide curfew put in place amid the global health pandemic.

Ahead of Saturday's derby with Torino, Pirlo confirmed the three players would not be involved – and did not make it clear exactly when they will be considered again for first-team action.

"The three players involved in the episode are not called up for tomorrow's match and we will see when they will resume," the Juve boss told the media on Friday. "Having said that, let's talk about the derby.

"I took the decision not to call them, the club did the rest. This certainly wasn't the right time to have a dinner until late, both because it was two days away from a match and out of respect for those who respect the rules."

For Dybala, it is the latest setback in a difficult season. The forward has featured in just 11 Serie A games in 2020-21 and has been sidelined since the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie with Porto through injury.

The Argentina international issued an apology via Instagram on Friday having attended the gathering with his colleagues, adding: "I know that in such a difficult moment for the world with COVID it would've been better not to make a mistake, but I was wrong to stay out to dinner."

Pirlo is also without defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral after both tested positive for coronavirus during the international break.

It is hardly ideal for the reigning league champions as they desperately look to stay in the title race; Juve suffered a shock 1-0 home loss to Benevento last time out and trail leaders Inter by 10 points.

"Tomorrow is very important, we will speak to each other before the match in order to face it in the best possible way. The approach doesn't change, you play to win, always," Pirlo said.

"After defeats you have to get up and react as best you can. We are ready to do that, we will show great pride, we have champions and a great group who want to react."

Pirlo will have Alex Sandro available after he returned to training without any issues, while Danilo offers an option for Juve in either defence or midfield.

Torino have won only one of their past 29 Serie A derbies between the sides, though they too are in need of points as they sit precariously placed in 17th, just above the relegation zone.

Juve are unbeaten in their past 33 league fixtures against teams starting the matchday in the bottom four (W29 D4), their last defeat against such opposition coming back in May 2016 against Verona.

Gianluigi Buffon is "the best goalkeeper in the football history" but should have retired after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, according to Gianluca Pagliuca.

Italy great Buffon has appeared only five times in Serie A so far for Juventus this season.

Indeed, the 43-year-old has featured in just 25 matches in all competitions since returning to Turin in 2019, keeping 11 clean sheets and conceding a meagre 17 goals.

Buffon's save percentage of 80.5 per cent ranks second among goalkeepers in Europe's 'top five' leagues to start 25 games in the past two seasons, but he is very much playing second fiddle to Wojciech Szczesny (72.8 per cent), who has had 67 Juve outings over that time.

The legendary Buffon played on 25 occasions in a single season with PSG and ex-Italy goalkeeper Pagliuca feels he should have called time on his career following his spell in the French capital.

"If I was him, I have already retired," Pagliuca told Stats Perform News. "I would have retired after PSG.

"It was a good idea to go to Paris because it's a big club and he was playing regularly.

"Buffon on the bench? Happy to play only in Coppa Italia? It's not great.

"Someone with his career, it's better to retire when you are 41 and you are still playing than having a couple of years on the bench. He is still a really good goalkeeper.

"The best thing was to retire after PSG, considering his career. Maybe he still wants to compete.

"However, we have to think he's been the best goalkeeper in the football history."

Montpellier centre-back Hilton, also aged 43, is the only player older than Buffon to appear for a club in Europe's 'top five' leagues this season.

Former Italy goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca expects Gianluigi Donnarumma to sign a new deal and remain with Milan.

Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season and is yet to agree terms to extend his stay with the Rossoneri.

Chelsea are among the clubs to be linked with the 22-year-old Italy international, who has made over 200 appearances for Serie A giants Milan since making his debut in 2015.

But ex-Inter keeper Pagliuca does not believe Donnarumma is coming towards the end of his time at San Siro.

He told Stats Perform News: "I think he will stay at Milan, finding a solution in between. The club offers €8million, he wants €12m. They will find an agreement at €9m or €10m.

"It's loads of money. Earning €9m, €10m or €11m is the same thing, it does not change a lot with €1m more. It can change if you go from €500,000 to €2m.

"There is not a big difference if it's €9m, €10m or €11m. If I have played a few years after, maybe I would have earned this amount of money. However, I cannot complain.

"He would like to stay at Milan earning a lot. The agent [Mino Raiola] - who is a good one - will try to get the best salary."

 

Sergio Aguero's next destination is a hot topic of conversation after Manchester City confirmed he will leave at the end of the season.

The Argentina forward has been linked with a host of clubs, including Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 32-year-old has spent the past decade in England with City.

 

TOP STORY - BLUES IN BOX SEAT FOR AGUERO

Chelsea have moved into pole position to land Aguero, who wants to remain in England according to the Daily Mail.

The Blues, who wanted to sign Aguero in 2011 when he left Atletico Madrid for City, will be in the market for a forward with rumours about Timo Werner's future after an underwhelming debut season at Stamford Bridge.

Portuguese publication Record claims Benfica are also interested in Aguero, while The Sun has added Arsenal and his former club Independiente to the list.

 

ROUND-UP

- Lyon's Netherlands international Memphis Depay has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, but Marca claims Liverpool could 'muscle in' for the soon-to-be free agent.

- Le Parisien reports that Paris Saint-Germain are in a hurry to get Kylian Mbappe to commit to a new contract amid speculation linking him with a move away, including to Real Madrid.

- L’Equipe claims that Arkadiusz Milik has a €12million buyout clause in his Marseille loan contract from Napoli and Juventus are preparing an offer to swoop for him.

Sheffield United midfielder Ismaila Coulibaly has attracted interest from AC Milan and Galatasaray but the Blades want to keep him, according to Yorkshire Live.

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala has apologised for breaking coronavirus protocols by attending a get-together with a couple of his team-mates.

Italian newspaper La Stampa reported on Thursday that police were called to the house of Weston McKennie late on Wednesday to break up a party attended by up to 20 people.

Arthur is also alleged to have been in the Turin property and all three players are said to be facing large fines, and possibly a suspension, for attending the lockdown gathering.

Juventus have yet to officially comment on the reports, but Dybala took to Instagram on Thursday to confirm he was present.

"I know that in such a difficult moment for the world with COVID it would've been better not to make a mistake, but I was wrong to stay out to dinner," he said.

"It wasn't a party, but I was wrong anyway and I apologise."

Juventus announced earlier on Thursday that Leonardo Bonucci and Merih Demiral have tested positive for COVID-19.

Leonardo Bonucci has joined Juventus team-mate Merih Demiral in testing positive for coronavirus, the Serie A giants have confirmed.

The 33-year-old returned from international duty with Italy on Thursday, a day after the Italian Football Federation announced four members of staff had also returned positive tests.

Bonucci will now begin a period of self-isolation that could keep him out of Serie A games with Torino, Napoli and Genoa over the next 10 days.

A statement on Juventus' official website on Thursday read: "Leonardo Bonucci, upon returning from the Italian national team, this morning underwent a diagnostic molecular test for COVID-19 which came back positive. 

"The player has already been placed in home isolation."

Juve confirmed earlier on Thursday that fellow defender Merih Demiral tested positive for COVID-19 on March 26 while away on international duty with Turkey.

Demiral was granted permission to return to Italy on a specially arranged flight and is isolating at the club's J Hotel.

According to reports from Italy, meanwhile, Juve intend to fine a trio of players for breaching coronavirus restrictions by attending a party.

Lionel Messi has been tipped to leave Barcelona for either Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

But Haaland could reportedly unlock Messi's future.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND TO CITY MEANS BARCA STAY FOR MESSI?

Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland could hold the key to Lionel Messi's future at Barcelona, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Barca, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

City have been tipped to sign Messi, but should they step up their pursuit of Haaland, the Premier League leaders could reportedly drop their interest in the Barca captain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says new Barca president Joan Laporta is preparing a contract renewal for Messi, who is set to become a free agent at season's end.

- Bayern Munich are eyeing a move for Tottenham star Son Heung-min, claims Football Insider. Son has reportedly been offered a bumper new contract by Spurs, but the former Bayer Leverkusen forward is wanted in Munich.

- Sporting CP's Joao Palhinha, Borussia Monchengladbach star Denis Zakaria and Sander Berge of Sheffield United are on the list of midfielders to replace City veteran Fernandinho, reports A Bola.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Juventus and Barca are interested in Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli. The Italy defender is out of contract in 2022 and is reportedly seeking a €6million-a-year contract.

Napoli are eyeing Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi and sporting director Igli Tare, claims Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli. Gennaro Gattuso has been tipped to leave Napoli at the end of the season, with ex-Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri, Luciano Spalletti and Hellas Verona's Ivan Juric among the possible replacements. But Lazio duo Inzaghi and Tare are being monitored to replace Gattuso and Cristiano Giuntoli in Naples.

United are interested in Lille defender Sven Botman, according to Fabrizio Romano. Sevilla star Jules Kounde has been on United's radar but the club's asking price of €80m (£68m) is too steep.

- Romano also says there is no agreement with United and Paul Pogba over a new contract. Pogba has been linked with former club Juve, Madrid and PSG.

Manchester City will turn to Harry Kane if they cannot land Erling Haaland.

It is widely expected City will go hard to sign the Norway striker, who is being pursued by numerous big clubs.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Chelsea are all interested in the Borussia Dortmund man.

 

TOP STORY - KANE IN CITY'S SIGHTS

The Times reports that if City fail to win the race for Haaland's signature they will consider making an offer for Tottenham talisman Kane.

Kane is seven years older than Haaland but has a proven Premier League goal scoring record.

City have already confirmed Sergio Aguero's exit at the end of the season and are in the market to bolster their forward ranks.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail is reporting that City's main priorities in the transfer market are to sign Haaland and Aston Villa playmaker Jack Grealish, as they turn to a younger generation of talent. The duo are expected to cost £200 million.

- Football Insider has reported Lionel Messi has requested FC Barcelona sign countryman Aguero as part of his own negotiations to stay with the Catalans. Mundo Deportivo claims Aguero is not a priority signing for Barca, with Memphis Depay, Romelu Lukaku and Haaland top of the list.

- Gianluigi Donnarumma has been linked with a host of big clubs and Sky Sport Italia are reporting that contract talks with AC Milan are at a standstill. Milan are allegedly offering €7million per-year deal but the goalkeeper wants more.

- Voetbalkrant are reporting Southampton are interested in Anderlecht's teenage defender Marco Kana.

- Ex-Borussia Dortmund and Hertha Berlin coach Lucien Favre is interested in becoming Celtic's new coach, according to the Daily Mail.

- Fichajes reports Leeds United's Rodrigo is unhappy in England and wants to return to Spain, with Real Betis and Sevilla in the mix.

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