Football Index

Derby d’Italia

This Friday sees a huge clash in Serie A as Juventus host Inter at the Allianz Stadium in Turin. The Nerazzurri are already 11 points behind their rivals after 14 matches, and defeat here would see any small hopes of a title win fade to nothing as Juve march on towards an eighth consecutive Scudetto.

Yet more than a heavily-favoured champion facing an unfancied pretender to the belt, this is a rivalry so fierce that it was handed the title of “Derby d’Italia” (Derby of Italy) back in 1967 by journalist Gianni Brera. That teams from two separate cities – albeit separated by just 90 miles in the North of the country – now have derby status in the matches between them is testament to a series of incidents that have caused an intense dislike.

One of the most notable of these was when Juve were stripped of their Serie A title in 2005/06 and relegated to Serie B for the following campaign during the Calciopolicontroversy. A further crushing blow would then be delivered when their league win was handed to third-placed Inter after AC Milan in second were also given a points deduction.

Moving into more present times, well-loved Juventus director general Beppe Marotta looks to have made the move to San Siro after the Bianconeri opted to move forward without him. The 61-year-old has been the man responsible for sourcing Juve’s incredibly astute signings since 2010, a foundation from which their unprecedented recent success was built.

“We’ll see” was the answer given to reporters by Marotta outside a Lega Serie A meeting, when questioned over rumours that he will be officially unveiled in a new capacity at Inter ahead of Friday’s anticipated encounter. If so, it will be a poignant moment indeed, especially as this will be seen by many as a sure-fire way to close the gap.

A good summer in the transfer market saw Inter impress on paper, however boss Luciano Spalletti is yet to get his team firing on all cylinders, a tendency for inconsistency harming their chances of getting near a Juventus team that remain unbeaten in the league this term. Even if they are still a long way from making a genuine attempt at the title, a win over their despised rivals on Friday will certainly give them some hope that they are heading in the right direction.

Last year’s fixtures between the pair first saw a monumental effort from Inter secure a 0-0 away from home, but the match in Turin was poignant in that it was the last of an unbeaten start to 2017/18 for Inter – Spalletti’s side going on to notch up two losses followed by five consecutive draws. It was followed by a thrilling 3-2 away win for Juve at San Siro, scoring on 87 and 89 minutes to take home all three points in a victory which effectively handed the Bianconeri the title towards the end of the season.

All of the above factors give this fixture a real intensity, and neutral supporters can look forward to something special at the end of the working week. It is now 51 years since Brera gave this match its moniker, and it has been living up to it ever since.

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Football Index

Franck Kessie – Player Focus

“There are at least 20 clubs following the lad, including the best in Europe,” agent George Atangana told Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli about his client Franck Kessié back in March 2017. “His price? Whoever wants him will have to invest a lot.”

Full of hope – which would eventually turned out to be false – in their new Chinese owners, AC Milan would beat off the competition and win that battle to capture the Atalanta midfielder’s signature. It was part of a spending spree that would eclipse any other Italian side in summer 2017, as the Rossoneri also snapped up the likes of Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus and young Porto striker Andre Silva.

The latter pair have since moved on, yet 21-year-old Kessié is proving he is still a vital part of the Milan midfield, and why he continues to attract interest from both home and abroad. Initially signed on a two-year loan deal, the San Siro outfit have an obligation to buy the player at the end of the current campaign, meaning he could well be discussed on the European transfer market again this summer.

West Ham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers are just two of the Premier League clubs already linked with a move for the Ivorian international and it’s not difficult to see why.

“Technically he has a good foundation and an impressive physical dominance. I guess he can play one day at a big club,” former boss Gianpiero Gasperini told reporters back when the player was just 19 years old. “This is because there is a need for players with his physicality, the Italian teams in do not suffer tactically or technically, but physically. In other leagues there is greater intensity. Kessié, in this sense, can become an important player because he has everything.”

Indeed, a look at this season’s statistics backs up the faith shown in him by Gasperini, Kessié having improved in almost all areas. Already on two goals and one assist in 12 league starts for the Rossoneri,  the midfielder is averaging a career-high 88.6% passing success rate from 51.3 attempts per match. Notching up 0.9 clearances per match and 0.4 blocks highlights that this all-round player is putting in a shift defensively, but it is in his creative talent where the youngster is truly beginning to shine.

His season for Atalanta in 2016/17 yielded just 0.6 chances created for teammates on average per match, and while that figure improved upon his move to Milan last term to 1.2, this season has seen him take a leap to 1.7. Usually deployed on the right-hand side of a midfield three, his improvement in forward play has undoubtedly helped winger Suso – deployed just in front of him by boss Gennaro Gattuso – to thrive.

The former Liverpool man has scored four goals and provided eight assists this term, safe in the knowledge that he is well backed-up by Kessié behind him. This is exactly the demonstration of maturity at such a young age which will drive the Ivorian’s suitors back to him this summer, and proves that there are big things ahead for a supremely talented all-rounder.

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FootballIndex Futures

Argentina forward Mauro Icardi, 25, is set to sign a new contract with Inter Milan despite interest from a number of European clubs, including Chelsea. (Calcio Mercato – in Italian)

Argentina forward Mauro Icardi, 25, is set to sign a new contract with Inter Milan despite interest from a number of European clubs, including Chelsea. (Calcio Mercato – in Italian)

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Talk Sport

Former West Ham loanee Joao Mario ‘rejected the chance to join Fulham’ from Inter Milan

Former West Ham loanee Joao Mario snubbed a summer move to Fulham, according to reports in Italy.

The 25-year-old made 13 Premier League appearances for the Hammers last term and impressed during his stint in east London.

Mario featured for Portugal at the World Cup
 

However, it has now been suggested that he turned down the chance to stay in the capital when Fulham came calling during the window.

The Whites launched an ambitious summer spending spree, splashing almost £100m on the likes of Aleksandar Mitrovic, Jean-Michael Seri and Andre Anguissa.

But they currently find themselves in the Premier League’s bottom three after a dreadful start to the season, conceding a staggering 28 goals in their opening ten games.

According to FCInterNews, AS Monaco also wanted to land Mario before the transfer window closed but he decided to stay and fight for his place at Inter.

Fulham are struggling so far this season
 

So far this season, he has made just one Serie A appearance for the Italian giants.

The Portuguese midfielder reportedly decided against joining either Fulham or Monaco because he wanted to play for Inter rather than move to a ‘less ambitious club’.

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Chelsea and Manchester United target Mauro Icardi hailed as ‘world class’ after late Milan derby winner

Manchester United and Chelsea target Mauro Icardi proved he is one of the best strikers in the world after scoring a vital winner during the Milan derby.

After bagging an incredible 29 goals in Serie A last season, both Premier League giants have been linked with a move for the Argentina international.

Icardi celebrates his late winner
 

On Sunday, the Inter Milan skipper had virtually nothing to do throughout the entire game with the game goalless.

However, he came alive in the box and showed his true predatory instincts by losing his marker to head home a 92nd minute winner to send Nerazzurri fans crazy.

But it is not until you look closely you realise just how special the goal is. That is, until you follow Icardi’s incredible movement.

Like an apex predator stalking his prey, the 25-year-old never uses unnecessary energy and stalks the movement of the ball until the time to strike is just right.

By the time Mateo Musacchio realises where his man is, the ball is in the back of the net and the game is won. Icardi’s incredible movement leaves the defender flat on his backside and completely clueless.

Having already scored against Tottenham Hotpsur in the Champions League, it may not be too long until we see the striker scoring against Premier League teams more often.

Somehow, the striker was left out of Argentina’s World Cup squad, but fans have been quick to heap praise on the centre forward, with many calling him world-class. Check out the best reaction below.

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Chelsea transfer news: Blues made ‘very strong push’ to sign Juventus defender Daniele Rugani in the summer, reveals agent

Chelsea made a serious charge to sign Juventus defender Daniele Rugani in the summer transfer window, but the player rejected the move.

That is according to the player’s agent, Davide Torchia, who has been lifting the lid on the 24-year-old’s transfer saga.

Daniele Rugani was a target for Chelsea
 

Rugani was heavily linked with a move to Chelsea during the summer, but the Blues could not agree a fee for him.

It was claimed at the time that the Italian centre-back wanted the deal to go through and had provisionally agreed personal terms.

However Rugani’s agent has dismissed those claims and said his client never asked to go.

“Chelsea made a very strong push to negotiate,” Davide Torchia told RMC Sport.

“Juve evaluated it, but the player never asked to leave.

“It expires in 2021, so there is no urgency, but we cannot wait too long either.”

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Chelsea transfer news: Italian wonderkid Sandro Tonali has £22million price tag

Chelsea target Sandro Tonali has had a £22million price tag put on his head by Brescia, according to Sport Mediaset.

The 18-year-old is currently catching the eye in Serie B, but he has been tipped to have a big future at a higher level.

Sandro Tonali in action for his nation.
 

Chelsea and Inter Milan are interested in the midfielder, who has been compared to Italy legend Andrea Pirlo, and have already sent scouts to watch him in action.

Brescia are aware of the growing interest in Tonali and will do all they can to keep him for as long as possible.

But they have now set an asking price of £22million for the youngster.

Inter Milan are reportedly ready to meet the asking price, which may spark Chelsea into action.

Arsenal and Juventus have both looked at Tonali in the past, but their interest is said to have cooled.

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Chelsea transfer news: Tiemoue Bakayoko will NOT return to Stamford Bridge in January according to his agent

Chelsea midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko is to remain at Milan and not return to Stamford Bridge, according to his agent.

Bakayoko, the midfielder, endured a tough debut campaign with the Blues following his move to west London from Monaco last summer.

Bakayoko’s time with Milan has been less than stellar
 

Despite playing 43 times under Antonio Conte, Bakayoko was widely criticised for a serious of woeful showings; his 30-minute spell before being sent-off in Chelsea’s 4-1 defeat at Watford is commonly regarded as one of the worst solo performances ever seen in Premier League history.

The France midfielder was expected to leave Chelsea all summer, and when Maurizio Sarri replaced Conte as the club’s manager he took little time in sending Bakayoko away on loan.

Milan, the Serie A side, secured the 24-year-old’s services on a season-long deal, but it seems Bakayoko’s Chelsea form has followed him to Italy.

Earlier this month it was reported Milan could terminate Bakayoko’s loan early, with the player’s embarrassing return to Stamford Bridge scheduled for January.

Bakayoko was widely ridiculed during his time with Chelsea
 

However, Bakayoko’s agent, Federico Pastorello, has dismissed suggestions, telling Calciomercato both club and player are happy with the current arrangement.

“Bakayoko is happy in Milan and Milan is happy with him,” Pastorello said. “It was known that it would take some time, but everyone believes that he can make a big contribution to the season of the Rossoneri.

“So any rumours about his return to Chelsea in January are completely unfounded.”

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West Ham have reportedly set aside £20million to move for former Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko

West Ham are the latest side to show an interest in Edin Dzeko, with the Hammers reportedly preparing to make a January move for the Bosnian striker.

The former Manchester City man has enjoyed a prolific couple of years with Roma, scoring 24 goals last term to go with the 39 he netted the previous campaign.

Dzeko has been one of Europe’s most dangerous marksmen over the past couple of years
 

The 32-year-old has begun 2018/19 in similar form – striking five times in just nine matches – and his showings have alerted a host of Premier League clubs.

The Mirror say Southampton, Crystal Palace and Cardiff have started keeping tabs on Dzeko following his admission that he would like to return to English football – even if he is currently happy at Roma.

But now, according to Calciomercato, another top flight side are considering a move for Dzeko – West Ham.

It is believed the Hammers want to sign Dzeko in the New Year when the transfer window reopens and have already set aside around £20million for the deal.

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini knows the striker well, having managed him at Man City, with the pair winning the Premier League during their time together at the Etihad.

Dzeko helped Man City win two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and the League Cup
 

Dzeko is reportedly asking for around £3.5million-a-year to pen fresh terms with Roma.

They are struggling to meet those demands and West Ham are now seemingly hopeful of convincing the striker that the London Stadium is the perfect venue for him to fulfil his ambition of returning to English football.

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Transfer news and gossip: Barcelona plan shock swoop for Liverpool star, West Ham ‘considering’ January move for Chelsea striker, Eden Hazard to pen new contract

Here’s a round up of the latest news and rumours from Thursday’s newspapers and online…

Barcelona want another Liverpool star to replace 31-year-old striker Luis Suarez – The Reds’ Brazilian forward and fan favourite Roberto Firmino. (OK Diario)

It is also claimed Barca’s French players want Manchester United star Paul Pogba to join the club. (Daily Mail)

United youngster Andreas Pereira has confirmed the heated training pitch discussion between Pogba and boss Jose Mourinho was due to a misunderstanding over an Instagram video. (Manchester Evening News)

West Ham are reportedly considering a January move for Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud(Daily Mirror)

NOT AGAIN! Could Liverpool lose another of their key players to Barcelona?
 

Chelsea star Eden Hazard is ready to accept a new £300,000-a-week deal to remain at the club, according to reports. (Daily Express)

Neymar apparently regrets his decision to join Paris Saint-Germain and would welcome a return to Barcelona at the end of the season. (Mundo Deportivo)

Liverpool are said to be preparing an offer for Hoffenheim’s 25-year-old Germany midfielder Kerem Demirbay. (Daily Star)

Liverpool and Man United are both keeping tabs on 21-year-old PSV winger Steven Bergwijn. (De Telegraaf)

Manchester United left-back Luke Shaw has been offered a new £50m deal at Old Trafford. (The Sun)

Will Olivier Giroud move across London to join West Ham in January?
 

Arsenal have been linked with a potential move for Cagliari’s Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella(Gazetta dello Sport)

Manchester City have joined Barcelona and Juventus in the race to sign 19-year-old Ajax defender Matthijs De Ligt, who is rated at €50million. (Goal.com)

Manchester United and Manchester City have received a transfer boost after a reported target, 23-year-old Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar, would be interested in a move to the Premier League. (La Gazetta)

Wolves are close to agreeing a deal to pay Sporting Lisbon almost £16million for Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio. (Express and Star)

Latest talkSPORT.com EXCLUSIVES and transfer headlines:

Paul Merson blasts ‘typical Arsenal’ over Aaron Ramsey contract fiasco in exclusive talkSPORT interview 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette can fire Arsenal to the top four, says former Gunner Paul Merson 

David Seaman pleads with England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford over Cruyff turn – ‘Please don’t do it again!’

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck hints at huge new contract for Eden Hazard

Eric Dier reveals what Sergio Ramos said to him after crunching tackle left Spain captain writhing in agony 

Liverpool confirm Sadio Mane thumb surgery, but forward could still play against Huddersfield 

West Ham set aside £20million as they prepare bid for ex-Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko

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