Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the "exception to all rules" and anything is possible regarding an extension to his Milan contract, says the club's CEO Ivan Gazidis.

Despite being 39, Ibrahimovic continues to dazzle in Serie A and has 14 goals in just 11 league appearances for the table-topping Rossoneri.

A brace in the weekend's 4-0 rout of Crotone saw Ibrahimovic surpass 500 career goals and led technical director Paolo Maldini to suggestion an extension to the veteran Swede's deal – which runs out at the end of the season – is in the works.

Gazidis struck a similar tone when speaking to Sky Sport about a potential renewal for Ibrahimovic, who some outlets have reported could be offered a two-year deal.

"Ibrahimovic is the exception to all rules, always, he's special," Gazidis said.

"He has incredible personal and physical qualities. Ibra changes the rules. Anything is possible [in terms of a renewal], this challenge is the most romantic of his career because he has a history with this club.

"He could retire tomorrow. He has already done everything. I think he feels this challenge in a special way. He can renew, why not?"

The futures of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu also remain unresolved, with both players out of contract at the end of the season.

Asked about the star duo, Gazidis added: "We will do everything possible to reach an agreement.

"We want them to stay, they are two important players for the club and great professionals.

"We will do everything possible, but the choice will also be theirs and we will respect it. I am confident that an agreement can be found."

Gazidis and Maldini endured a tumultuous time early in the former's tenure, largely due to the departure of Zvonimir Boban from the technical team and reported interest in hiring Ralf Rangnick to take over as head coach from Stefano Pioli.

A deal to bring the German to San Siro ultimately broke down and Pioli is overseeing a title charge for the Rossoneri.

Gazidis now says he and Maldini enjoy a strong relationship that he hopes will be a long one at the club.

"Initially we had different languages and cultures, now we are growing together and ours is a strong relationship," he said.

"Sometimes we disagree but it is normal.  Maldini represents the history of the club for me but this is not the reason why I chose Paolo, I chose him because I see something special in him.

"He is a man with values, modern, human and with a desire to learn. I hope he will stay here for a long time."

Milan technical director Paolo Maldini suggested Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in line to extend his contract with the Serie A leaders.

Ibrahimovic has been a revelation since returning to Milan for a second spell in January last year, the evergreen 39-year-old spearheading the club's Scudetto charge this term.

The star forward passed 500 club goals in Milan's 4-0 Serie A rout of Crotone, increasing his tally to 501 with his sixth league brace of the season on Sunday.

Ibrahimovic is one of the two players, alongside Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, to have scored the most braces in the top five European leagues in 2020-21, while the former Sweden international has netted 14 Serie A goals in 11 appearances this season - 16 across all competitions.

Out of contract at season's end, Maldini was asked about Ibrahimovic's future as Milan also look to re-sign stars Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu.

"We are one of the youngest teams in Europe and we need a leader like Ibrahimovic," Maldini told BeIN Sports.

"We tried to sign him in 2018 when he was playing for LA Galaxy.

"He's told us that the contract extension depends on his body, but if he carries on like this, I don't see why he shouldn't be continuing.

"We have three players with expiring contracts in 2022, we are working. There must be to parties happy to continue together, footballers are professional who only think about the pitch, we hope we are going to reach agreements soon."

Milan are two points clear of city rivals Inter atop the table as they prepare to visit Spezia on Saturday.

Juventus are not targeting Eden Hazard, while Sergio Ramos looks set to wait for a new Real Madrid deal.

Hazard's future has become a talking point amid his struggles at Madrid since arriving from Chelsea in 2019.

But just where the playmaker could end up remains to be seen.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS NOT INTERESTED IN HAZARD

Juventus are not interested in Real Madrid playmaker Eden Hazard for now, according to CalcioMercato.

Hazard has made just 24 LaLiga appearances for Madrid since arriving ahead of 2019-20 after battling numerous injuries.

Madrid reportedly paid €100million for the Belgium international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid is also uncertain. The defender is out of contract at the end of the season and is reportedly set to miss another two months after undergoing knee surgery. Marca says Ramos will still be without a contract by the time he returns, most likely in April.

- Changes are also expected at Barcelona at season's end. CalcioMercato reports Milan are interested in midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who has struggled to live up to expectations with the LaLiga giants.

- Barcelona and Arsenal are interested in bringing in Marc Overmars as sports director, according to Mundo Deportivo, with the former Netherlands international set to leave his role as Ajax director of football at season's end.

- After several impressive displays for Leicester City, the Premier League club are rushing to renew Youri Tielemans' contract, which runs until 2023, according to TodoFichajes.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli said evergreen star Zlatan Ibrahimovic "doesn't have to stop" at 500 goals after reaching the landmark figure in his club career.

Ibrahimovic passed 500 club goals in Milan's 4-0 Serie A rout of Crotone, increasing his tally to 501 with his sixth league brace of the season on Sunday.

The 39-year-old opened the scoring after half an hour before doubling the lead with 26 minutes remaining at San Siro, where Ante Rebic netted a quick-fire double as Milan returned to the top of the table.

"There's no need to add anything. We just have to congratulate with him," Pioli told reporters.

"It's an unbelievable milestone but we are talking of an absolute number one, he is a champion. I just want to congratulate him again and send him a message.

"He doesn't have to stop at that number."

Only with Paris Saint-Germain (156) has Ibrahimovic scored more goals in all competitions, having managed 83 for Milan across two spells.

Ibrahimovic is one of the two players, alongside Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, to have scored the most braces in the top five European leagues in 2020-21.

The former Sweden international has scored 14 Serie A goals in 11 appearances this season, while he has 16 across all competitions.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not immediately looking to celebrate his latest achievement on Sunday after passing 500 club career goals in Milan's 4-0 defeat of Crotone.

The veteran Rossoneri striker increased his tally to 501 in club action with his sixth Serie A brace of the season at San Siro.

The first of Ibrahimovic's two strikes, assisted by Rafael Leao, arrived 15 minutes before the break to belatedly bring up the milestone.

The 39-year-old had been stuck on 499 for almost two weeks after a red card against Inter and a missed penalty at Bologna.

Ibrahimovic was asked by Sky Sport at half-time of his accomplishment but was not interested in discussing personal glory.

"It means I've scored a few goals in my career," he said. "But the important thing is to help the team. My job is to score."

Ibrahimovic added his second following the restart, and Ante Rebic then also netted a double, teed up twice by Hakan Calhanoglu in the space of 70 seconds.

Meanwhile, Milan kept their eighth league clean sheet of the season, a division high.

Coach Stefano Pioli was therefore keen to share the praise around at full-time, even as he hailed Ibrahimovic's efforts.

"He has great qualities and is a champion who is doing well," Pioli said. "He has great ambition and is competitive, which is why he always manages to stay at high levels.

"But let's not forget all the others who are all doing their best. There is still a lot to do and let's not get excited, because the difficult moments are yet to come."

Victory moved Milan back above rivals Inter at the summit, two points clear again despite losing two of their prior three home games.

Pioli added: "I believe that the growth of the team is in the right direction.

"We are a young but responsible group, always giving our best, every day, without being influenced by others and critics.

"Expectations rise and that is merited. We welcome it. Now we have to hold up."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic went past the 500-goal mark as his double strike in a 4-0 win over lowly Crotone sent Milan back to the top of Serie A.

Ibrahimovic rammed home a fine finish to put Milan in front at the break, reaching a new landmark in his outstanding club career.

The 39-year-old netted a close-range second that sparked a flood of goals midway through the second half, as Ante Rebic scored twice in 70 seconds.

Inter had replaced their city rivals at the top after winning at Fiorentina on Friday, but Stefano Pioli's man reasserted their authority in a gripping title battle.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was kept waiting but finally scored his 500th career club goal for Milan against Crotone on Sunday.

The 39-year-old reached 499 on Tuesday with the opening goal against rivals Inter in the Coppa Italia, but he was later sent off in a 2-1 defeat.

Ibrahimovic should have netted the milestone goal in the first half against Bologna last weekend, only to miss a 26th-minute penalty, although Ante Rebic scored the rebound.

But the former Sweden striker's moment came at San Siro when he played a one-two with Rafael Leao.

Ibrahimovic fed Leao on the edge of the box and the young Portuguese slotted a perfect return ball behind the Crotone defence for his veteran strike partner to drive into the far right corner, securing another milestone for one of the greatest goalscorers of the modern era.
 

MILAN'S MAIN MAN

Enjoying a fine second spell with Milan now at the age of 39, Ibrahimovic's goals have fired Stefano Pioli's side back into title contention.

The Rossoneri have not won the Scudetto since 2011 - in Ibrahimovic's first stint at the club - and are without any silverware since the 2016 Supercoppa Italiana.

With Saturday's strike, Ibrahimovic now has 15 goals in all competitions this term, including 13 in the league, swelling his Milan total to 82.

His 122 appearances are his most for any Italian club - having also represented Juventus and Inter - while this goal set Milan on course for a 71st victory with Ibrahimovic in the side.

GLOBAL SUPERSTAR

Ibrahimovic has been one of Italian football's biggest names in the 21st century, but he has proven his worth worldwide between his spells in Serie A.

Indeed, the greatest share of his 500 goals came in the colours of Paris Saint-Germain, 156 in just 180 matches.

Ibrahimovic's Inter tally of 66 is third on the list after his Milan haul, with LA Galaxy next after he netted a remarkable 52 goals in only 58 games.

As well as scoring 26 times for Juve, Ibrahimovic has plundered goals in the Netherlands (48 for Ajax), England (29 for Manchester United), Spain (22 for Barcelona) and his native Sweden (18 for Malmo).

Is Erling Haaland's future becoming clearer?

Haaland's exploits for Borussia Dortmund have attracted interest from far and wide.

But Manchester City appear to be the frontrunners for his signature…

 

TOP STORY – CITY LINING UP BIG HAALAND BID

Manchester City are confident of landing Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland in a £100million (€114m) deal, according to the front page of Friday's Mirror.

Haaland is one of the most sought-after players in Europe, having been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus.

But City believe winning this season's Premier League will help them sign Haaland at the end of the campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal claims Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi will wait until season's end before deciding his future. Messi has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and City on a free transfer.

Sergio Aguero is tempted by a move to Barca if Messi remains at Camp Nou, reports Cadena Ser. Like Messi, City forward Aguero is out of contract at the end of the 2020-21.

- Defensa Central says Chelsea are interested in re-signing Eden Hazard, but at a huge discount. Hazard has struggled for form and fitness since leaving Chelsea for Madrid in a big-money move in 2019.

Milan will miss out on signing Ajax teenager Brian Brobbey as he is set to join RB Leipzig, according to Calciomercato and widespread reports in Italy. But Milan are close to signing Marseille's soon-to-be free agent Florian Thauvin.

- Calciomercato claims Madrid have put veteran full-back Marcelo up for sale amid links to Juventus.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has opened an inquiry into the clash between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku in Inter's Coppa Italia win over Milan.  

The former Manchester United team-mates were involved in a heated exchange in which Ibrahimovic appeared to tell the Belgian forward: "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey".  

It was suggested Ibrahimovic was referring to comments made in 2018 by Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, who said Lukaku had declined a contract extension because a "voodoo message" told him to move to Chelsea - a transfer that never transpired.  

Some accused Ibrahimovic of racially abusing Lukaku, with the Swede responding by stating on Twitter: "In ZLATAN's world there is no place for RACISM." United midfielder Paul Pogba also tweeted to say his old team-mate was "the last person I'd think of as racist".  

Both players were booked following the incident before Ibrahimovic picked up a second caution for a foul in the second half of the game.

As part of the inquest, match referee Paolo Valeri has been summoned to explain his decision to book both players in the aftermath. 

A statement read: "This morning, FIGC attorney Giuseppe Chine opened an inquiry into the verbal dispute between Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku in the Coppa Italia quarter-final between Inter and Milan on January 26. 

"As part of this inquest, Chine has decided to summon referee Paolo Valeri, who will, in the next few hours, be called upon to give his statement regarding the sanctions that were handed out to both players during the game." 

Lukaku had cancelled out Ibrahimovic's opener in the tie at San Siro before Christian Eriksen sealed Inter's progression to the semi-finals with a stoppage-time free-kick. 

Stefano Pioli was delighted to end a difficult week for Milan with what he felt was a deserved win over Bologna - but opposite number Sinisa Mihajlovic begged to differ.

The Rossoneri went into Saturday's game off the back of two successive defeats. After going down 3-0 at home to Atalanta in Serie A, they were knocked out of the Coppa Italia in midweek by rivals Inter.

Having been sent off against Inter and forced to deny suggestions he made a racist comment towards Romelu Lukaku during the quarter-final tie, Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed a penalty as he failed to reach 500 goals in his club career.

However, Ante Rebic tucked home the rebound to give Milan a half-time lead and Franck Kessie made no mistake from the spot in the second half.

Substitute Andrea Poli halved the deficit in the 81st minute but Bologna were unable to find an equaliser, Milan becoming just the third team to win nine of their first 10 Serie A away matches in a season.

"Without committing the naive error for the Bologna goal, we had an excellent match," Pioli told Milan TV.

"I'm happy with the performance and it's a victory which gives us confidence at the end a difficult week. It's deserved. 

"The last two training sessions we've done this week are the best in a long time. We have seen the return of important players and the team has managed to maintain a balanced attitude.

"We were not happy with the performance against Atalanta, the only team that has put us in difficulty this season. We played it out against all the others."

However, Mihajlovic felt Bologna were the better team in open play, insisting that Ibrahimovic's presence in his line-up would have led to a comfortable home victory.

"We created three or four chances and didn't score. It was an undeserved defeat and I think we played better," Mihajlovic told Sky Sport Italia.

"Fine, Milan are a better team, but we created our chances from open play. They scored from penalties and their only chances were from long balls.

"If we had Ibrahimovic on our side, we would have won 3-0. My players should be proud of their performance, they fought to the end, but as usual against bigger teams, we play well and don't win."

As well as the penalty, Ibrahimovic was also denied by a fabulous double save by Bologna goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski in the first half.

The talismanic striker was on target with three of his four attempts in total but will have to wait to reach the personal milestone. He has now missed three of his six penalties taken in Serie A this term, one more than in his previous 17 spot-kick attempts for Milan in the top flight.

Ibrahimovic will hope to make it to 500 goals when the league leaders host struggling Crotone at San Siro next weekend.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed out on reaching 500 goals in his club career as Milan returned to winning ways on Saturday, securing a hard-fought 2-1 triumph at Bologna.  

Having taken his tally to 499 before getting sent off in the midweek Coppa Italia exit to Inter, Ibrahimovic failed to convert a first-half penalty awarded for a foul on Rafael Leao.  

However, Ante Rebic scored from the rebound as the Rossoneri bounced back from successive losses - including last weekend’s 3-0 humbling at home to Atalanta - to remain the pacesetters in the Serie A title race.  

Franck Kessie succeeded where Ibrahimovic failed in the second half to double the lead, punishing Adama Soumaoro's handball as he scored from 12 yards.  

Yet Milan did not have it all their own way, Andrea Poli converting fellow substitute Andreas Skov Olsen's cut-back cross to finally beat Gianluigi Donnarumma, who had made fine one-on-one saves from Nicola Sansone and Nicolas Dominguez before the break.  

Lukasz Skorupski was equally impressive in goal for Bologna, including producing a stunning double save to deny Ibrahimovic twice in a hurry in the 23rd minute.  

The Swede was frustrated again by the keeper from the spot, though there was nothing Skorupski could do when Rebic reacted quickly to steer in the rebound for just his second goal of the season. 

Bologna's hopes of a comeback were dealt a blow when Soumaoro's jump to cut out a long pass saw the ball strike him on both arms, Kessie punishing the defender as he took over penalty duties.

Poli's finish – slammed high into the net from close range in the 81st minute - set up a tense finish, yet Milan - who set a new club record by scoring for a 20th successive away league game – held on to claim all three points.

Milan technical director Paolo Maldini has revealed that contract talks with Gianluigi Donnarumma have been 'frozen' while the January transfer window is ongoing.

The 21-year-old's current deal expires at the end of the season and he is weighing up the possibility of leaving a club for whom he has made 228 senior appearances since breaking into the first team at the age of just 16.

Milan's Serie A rivals Inter and Juventus have reportedly both expressed an interest, while Chelsea have also been linked with a close-season swoop.

And those clubs have been given encouragement with the news that discussions over a new contract have been paused, temporarily at least.

"We talk, but for now we have frozen the renewal issue to think about the January transfer market," Maldini said.

"We were protagonists, the ownership allowed us to act within certain parameters. We are in two competitions and we have the team to get to the bottom of both."

Milan's top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic is facing scrutiny this week after being accused of racially abusing Inter forward Romelu Lukaku during a fiery derby meeting in the Coppa Italia.

FIGC president Gabriele Gravina has confirmed the incident is being looked into but Maldini has vowed that the club will stand behind the veteran.

"The only thing is that it was really too long as a fight. It happens to fight, it's a bad episode but that ends there," he added.

"What will happen? Let's see, we are ready to defend ours player in any way. Honestly, if racism were to be brought up, it has nothing to do with Ibra."

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

For so long, Real Madrid have been favourites to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Premier League champions Liverpool are believed to be stepping up their pursuit.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL FRONTRUNNERS FOR MBAPPE

Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid in the race to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe , according to Canal+ show Late Football Club.

Mbappe has been tipped to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Madrid at the end of the season.

But Liverpool are reportedly the frontrunners to prise the France World Cup winner to Anfield amid doubts over Mohamed Salah 's future.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are preparing for the departure of Sergio Ramos as their star captain nears an exit. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with the likes of PSG , Juventus , Manchester United and Manchester City .

- Will Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Inter's Alexis Sanchez swap clubs? Sky Sport Italia reports an exchange deal could be set to collapse. City reportedly turned down a chance to re-sign Dzeko, who has a fractured relationship with Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca.

Milan are continuing to target Palmeiras and Uruguayan defender Matias Vina , says Calciomercato.

- Cadena Cope reports PSG want to sign Barcelona defender Emerson , who is on loan at Real Betis.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk says United are interested in RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano , but Bayern Munich lead the race to secure his services at season's end. Upamecano has also been linked to the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool .

- Falk also confirmed that Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate has a release clause in excess of €40million (£35m) amid interest from United , Liverpool and Tottenham .

United are eyeing Barca's Ousmane Dembele if Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho does not arrive ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, according to Falk.

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli insists Zlatan Ibrahimovic is "certainly not a racist" but thinks his clash with Romelu Lukaku could rekindle his best form. 

Ibrahimovic was sent off having scored the opening goal in the Rossoneri's 2-1 Coppa Italia defeat to Inter this week. 

The veteran striker earned his first of two yellow cards after a heated confrontation with former Manchester United team-mate Lukaku, in which he appeared to tell the Belgian forward: "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey". 

It was suggested Ibrahimovic was referring to comments made in 2018 by Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, who said Lukaku had declined a contract extension because a "voodoo message" told him to move to Chelsea - a transfer that never transpired. 

Some accused Ibrahimovic of racially abusing Lukaku, with the Swede responding by stating on Twitter: "In ZLATAN's world there is no place for RACISM." United midfielder Paul Pogba also tweeted to say his old team-mate was "the last person I'd think of as racist". 

Ibrahimovic will serve a one-game ban for his red card but Pioli hopes a line can now be drawn under the incident as Milan focus back on Serie A.

"Ibrahimovic is determined and up for it, as he always is," Pioli said ahead of Saturday's game at Bologna. "Certain things can happen on the pitch; I'm not going to justify that, but you need to draw a line under it and move on. 

"Ibra is certainly not a racist; the club has always been on the front line in the fight against discrimination. Zlatan also needs these situations to get a bit of energy and motivation back." 

Milan's cup exit followed a 3-0 home league defeat to Atalanta that allowed Inter to close the gap on the leaders to two points. 

Pioli says back-to-back losses have not changed his view of his team's potential as he aims to return them to the Champions League. 

"We're not interested in what people are saying outside of the club," he said. "We just need to focus on ourselves, maintain a good balance, continue to work and improve. We know that opinions can change quickly in football. 

"It's useless to look back; we only need to look forwards. I haven't changed my mind on our quality. We have a good team and the ideas are there. We are able to put in consistently good and competitive performances, which we have shown up to now. 

"We're having a great season; we have 18 more points than we did at this stage last season and have closed the gap to our direct rivals.

"The second half of the season will be more complicated and hard-fought. Qualifying for Champions League football won't be easy, but we have the quality to do it."

Paul Pogba has leapt to the defence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, saying his former team-mate is "the last person I'd think of as racist" after his clash with Romelu Lukaku.

Ibrahimovic and Lukaku traded insults in heated exchanges during Inter's 2-1 Coppa Italia quarter-final derby win over Milan on Tuesday.

Both players were booked following a confrontation late in the first half and they had to be separated as the furious row continued after the whistle for half-time was blown.

Ibrahimovic, who was sent off in the second half for a second bookable offence, appeared to tell Lukaku to "Go do your voodoo s***, you little donkey."

The Milan striker on Wednesday denied he was guilty of racially abusing Inter's leading scorer Lukaku, who equalised in the second half before Christian Eriksen scored a late winner.

He tweeted: "In ZLATAN's world there is no place for RACISM. We are all the same race – we are all equal!! We are all PLAYERS some better then [sic] others."

Pogba, who played alongside the prolific Swede and Lukaku at Manchester United, later stated there is no way Ibrahimovic would subject anybody to racial abuse.

"Zlatan... racist? He loves me too much so he's the last person I'd think of as racist! Come on, don't joke with that one!" the United and France midfielder posted on Twitter.

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