AC Milan midfielder wanted by Boca Juniors and top French club

Luca Biglia is a wanted man, as his agent has revealed that Boca Juniors and a top French club want the AC Milan midfielder.

The 33-yr-old’s long run with the Rossoneri is a issue mark immediately after studies on Monday advised the Serie A side are not ready to focus on a new contract with the Argentine at this time.

That does not mean Biglia is with no suitors nonetheless, as his agent Enzo Montepaone discovered his player is being tracked by two clubs.

“The player only has the Rossoneri on his intellect, and he desires to end the season strongly,” he explained to
“Next week I’ll be in Milan to chat to the club and we’ll fully grasp issues a minor far better.

“The rumours about Boca are genuine. They questioned about him, but I replied that we are waiting around for the close of the season and then we’d see what is most effective.

“It’s the second time Boca have asked me about Lucas, but suitable now I never assume Biglia can go again to Argentina.
“It’s true we have also received an give from an vital French club. I just can’t say who, but they’re a top rated club in Ligue 1.”

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Serie A Team of the Week Round 28

Inter received an epic Derby, although Juventus dropped their 1st game of the Serie A season.

Napoli are now 15 points behind the Bianconeri, getting overwhelmed Udinese, while Lazio demolished Parma and Roma lost to SPAL.

Large wins at the bottom of the table for Empoli and Bologna.

Our Team of the Week will see the common 3-4-3 technique deployed. Enable us know your views!

Samir Handanovic – Inter (4 Team of the 7 days appearances)A few decisive saves, as properly as being on point on the ball through the game, guiding the defence.
Manuel Lazzari – SPAL (4 applications)Once once again, a nightmare for Roma, remaining a regular danger down the proper flank and little by little destroying Roma.

Danilo D’Ambrosio – Inter (3 apps)A device down the correct flank, frequently traveling ahead and being location on at the back, such as the miraculous block in the dying moments of the Derby to deny Patrick Cutrone.

Marko Pajac – EmpoliHis 1st goal in Serie A is a very important winner in the relegation clash against Frosinone.
Nicolò Barella – Cagliari (5 applications)Absolutely dominant in midfield, with one more man of the match effectiveness to enable Cagliari defeat Fiorentina.

Karol Linetty – Sampdoria (2 applications)A goal and an assist, as the Blucerchiati put 5 previous Sassuolo.
Matias Vecino – Inter (3 apps)An all spherical, astounding man of the match general performance for the Inter man, with the opening goal in the Derby and staying a frequent machine to defend and attack and give the Rossoneri midfield a hell of a tricky time.

Luis Alberto – Lazio (3 apps)Two goals, including a magnificence, as Lazio destroyed Parma.

Goran Pandev – GenoaCame on as a substitute to alter the face of Genoa’s assault, serving the assist for Stefano Sturaro’s opener and scoring the 2nd to place the game to mattress.

Rodrigo Palacio – Bologna (4 apps)A game of incredible intelligence, normally making the suitable alternative and serving two very important assists in paving the way to Bologna’s win at Torino.

Dries Mertens – Napoli (5 apps)One particular goal and two assists for the Belgian, who was on top form against Udinese.

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Serie A Player of the Week Round 25

Arkadiusz Milik took centre stage for Napoli on Sunday afternoon on their excursion to the Stadio Ennio Tardini as his brace assisted fire his side to a 4- victory more than Parma.

His to start with arrived from a free-kick and place him in some really great enterprise as in Europe’s leading 5 leagues, only he and Lionel Messi have scored at least 3 times from free-kicks.

The goals also extended his streak of hitting the back again of the net against the Ducali and with 4 goals against them in just two appearances, they are already his favoured victims in the Italian top rated flight.

It also furnished Milik with a fantastic possibility to get between the goals on the road, something that he has struggled to do considerably when not enjoying the home comforts of the Stadio San Paolo.

They ended up his to start with goals on the street of the present-day campaign and can take his count of strikes away from home to six in overall in Serie A, capping an remarkable effectiveness.

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Serie A Player of the Week Dugan Zapata

Another motion-packed spherical of Serie A motion has arrive and absent and, naturally, some players stood earlier mentioned the relaxation with their performances.

Luis Muriel and Fabio Quagliarella both of those shone in Florence wherever Fiorentina and Sampdoria performed out a thrilling 3-3 draw, when Stefano Sorrentino was spectacular in Turin even with conceding 3 at Juventus.

Dugan Zapata, though, was on yet another amount to everyone else as he bagged 4 goals away to Frosinone to enable Atalanta to a 5- win.

The Bergamaschi has scored a lot more than everyone else in Serie A this season (44) and the Colombian has been enjoying an extraordinary latest operate, netting thirteen goals in his previous 7 appearances, or fourteen in eight such as the Coppa Italia.

If Zapata can carry on his purple patch then Gian Piero Gasperini’s aspect will be hopeful of continuing their pursuit of European football until the very stop of the season, with them at this time harbouring hopes of even achieving the Champions League.

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Galliani: Ibrahimovic returning to AC Milan would be good for Serie A

As the man responsible for signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic for AC Milan the initial time, former vice-president Adriano Galliani hopes to see him return to the club again in January.

This week, rumours have intensified linking the Swede with a San Siro comeback, with experiences suggesting that he wants to return to the Rossoneri and is awaiting a call from Leonardo to join on an original six-thirty day period deal with the option for a even more seasons.

Galliani, who is now main government at Monza, is holding a close eye on the circumstance and hopes that for the sake of Serie A, 1 of the game’s greats returns to Serie A.

“I feel that all champions increase the amount of the league. The Cristiano Ronaldo transfer was a good 1 to raise Serie A’s profile and Ibrahimovic would do that far too,” Galliani advised Rai Radio Sport 1.

“Whenever any star of that amount will come to Italy, it raises the price and profile of the league. I promised myself when I remaining that I wouldn’t communicate about Milan, even if I am a ridiculous fan!

“I’m emotionally hooked up to Ibrahimovic mainly because in his two years with us, we won a Scudetto, a Supercoppa Italiana and came second the following season. Ibra is an extraordinary player and drags his teammates up to a further amount.”

All through his two years with the Diavolo from 2010 right until 2012, the Swedish star scored a amazing 56 goals in 85 games.

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Roma insist Alisson not for sale in spite of Liverpool and Real Madrid links

Roma will not offer Alisson these summer months, president James Pallotta says, amid studies linking the Brazilian goalkeeper to their Champions League opponents Liverpool.

Liverpool stepped up their pursuit of Alisson after keeping talks with the player’s agent.

Alisson has yet to concede a goal at the Stadio Olimpico in the Champions League this season and quite a few of Europe’s leading teams have been joined with a summer months bid for his solutions, with Real Madrid also reportedly monitoring him.

Pallotta, who made headlines for diving into one particular of the Eternal City’s fountains after the midweek victory in excess of Barcelona, says he will not hear to any delivers as he seems to be to keep on to the twenty five-year-outdated.

“We have no intention of providing him,” he instructed Sky Sports Italia. “I suggest zero at all. I’m certain some individuals will in all probability appear in with some bids, but I really don’t have any curiosity in providing him, he’s an excellent goalkeeper.

“When we acquired him, I considered the identical thing and as far as I’m anxious, I suggest no!”

Alisson has earned rave testimonials this season.

Qualifying for upcoming season’s Champions League will warranty Pallotta’s club greater income upcoming season and make it much easier for them to reject bids for their players. Sunday’s night’s goalless draw against Lazio in the Rome derby was a missed opportunity to cement their place in the leading 4.

“We have acquired a few games still left and we have acquired to choose treatment of business for an upcoming year,” he claimed. “[The point against Lazio is] improved than nothing. I’m a very little disappointed but like I claimed, we have acquired to choose treatment of business in the upcoming bunch of games.”

Roma host Genoa on Wednesday ahead of travelling to Ferrara to face SPAL upcoming weekend, forward of a trip to Anfield for them to start with the leg of a Champions League semi-final clash against a club owned by his fellow Bostonian John W. Henry — a tie Pallotta thinks could go possibly way.

“Yes, why not, I suggest we are not participating in [just for fun] — I feel we match up actually well against Liverpool,” he claimed. “They’re actually tricky and I feel we match up actually well, and it truly is going to be fun to have a Boston derby.”

Pallotta is a component-proprietor of the NBA’s Boston Celtics, while Henry’s Fenway Sports Group controls Significant League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox.


Davide Astori inspiration powering Fiorentina’s successful run – Stefano Pioli

Davide Astori inspiration

Reaction to the death of Fiorentina captain Davide Astori throughout the footballing globe.

Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli claims the death of Davide Astori has influenced his team to what could develop into a history-breaking run of victories.

Astori died just in excess of a month ago prior to Viola‘s fixture with Udinese. They had gained at Chievo in Astori‘s final game as captain and have since beaten Benevento, Torino, Crotone, Udinese and Roma to shift to within just two victories of their club history for successive wins in Serie A.

Pioli claims the respect the team had for Astori has united them and made them perform even more challenging as the Tuscan club edge closer to a place in Europe subsequent time.

“He generally had a long-time period vision and he was a single of the initiative to believe that in our new path, and he places in a whole lot of effort to help his teammates develop,” Pioli informed RAI radio. “We were actively playing excellent football even when Davide was with us, but we lacked consistency, which is also usually provided the variations that we had made.

“Now we are far more of a team, far more mature and the success is arriving. We’re reaping the rewards of a very long but good task.”

As matters stand, Fiorentina would qualify for the Europa League subsequent time by holding their present-day seventh place, as long as AC Milan end within the leading six.

They are just two points forward of Sampdoria and Atalanta, although, and in a fight, Pioli expects to rage by to the close of the time, even if he admits he did not, in the beginning, assume Fiorentina to be an element of it.

“Ideal from the start out, there have been six sides who are much better than us, and they are the kinds now in the leading six positions,” Pioli said. “Then there is a group of sides who can make it into Europe, which includes sides like Atalanta and Sampdoria.

“We were starting up virtually from zero and the goal was to construct for the seasons to occur, but now we will test to get the finest we possibly can from this time.”


Davide Astori honoured as Fiorentina defeat Udinese in rescheduled game

Fiorentina defeated Udinese 2-0 on Tuesday in a Serie A game postponed hours before it was scheduled to be played last month because of the sudden death of their captain, Davide Astori.

A minute’s applause was held at the Stadio Friuli in Udine prior to kickoff, with fans of both sides chanting Astori‘s name during the game and countless banners paying respect to the defender, who was found dead in his hotel room after a suspected cardiac arrest on the morning of March 4.

Fans in the stadium applauded once again in the 13th minute in recognition of Astori‘s shirt number.

“It certainly wasn’t easy,” Fiorentina coach Stefano Pioli said at a postgame news conference. “The memory of the tragedy is still fresh and it will always be there.”

Jordan Veretout converted a penalty in the 29th minute and Giovanni Simeone doubled the lead in the 71st as Fiorentina won their fifth consecutive game — and fourth since Astori‘s death — to move to eighth in the table and within three points of the Europa League places.

“The squad has become more compact and these lads have united, and they have shown that they have an extraordinary strength to push on with the work Davide left behind,” Pioli said. “He’s still with us and now we’re giving even more on the field.”

Fiorentina midfielder Marco Benassi admitted it was difficult to return to Udine after Astori‘s death, writing on Instagram that the team dedicated the victory to the defender.

“It wasn’t easy coming back to Udine after what happened,” Benassi wrote. “Today, more than ever, Davide was with us and we won for Davide.


Douglas Costa Juan Cuadrado come on late to lead Juventus past AC Milan


Juventus extended their Serie A lead to four points by virtue of a convincing win over Milan and Napoli’s dropped points at Sassuolo.

In the most anticipated tie of the Serie A weekend, Juventus defeated Milan 3-1 to extend the gap at the top of the Serie A table and prove their efficiency.

Despite scoring an early goal, Juventus were mediocre at best for much of the match, relying on individual moments of brilliance as opposed to working as a team to overcome a well-organised side.

Milan reacted well to going down a goal in the sixth minute and proved better for much of the game thereafter as they pressed Juve, pushed them back and stopped them from going forward as a team. When they finally scored their well-deserved equaliser, the home fans began to worry.

However, the Bianconeri boast experience, depth and intelligent players who can always change the face of the game. Massimiliano Allegri opted to throw on Douglas Costa and Juan Cuadrado in the second half and together they brought energy back to the attack while Sami Khedira’s intellect ensured superiority.

Another three points for the Old Lady.


The squad depth is proving important. Juventus can start matches with the brilliance of Paulo Dybala, the sacrifice of Gonzalo Higuain and still have the option to introduce the likes of Cuadrado and Costa, who have the pace and skill to change the face of the game.


Barring the fact that Juventus are less reliant on playing as a team and more dependent on individual play, the more worrying aspect of their performance is that they once again lost control and interest in the match after scoring an early goal. Juve continues to invite sides back into the game and lose the will to attack and control if they score early. While they are good enough to win a game in 20 minutes against sides like Tottenham Hotspur and Milan, they cannot always take such risks, especially since their next opponents might not be so inefficient with their scoring opportunities.

Manager rating out of 10

6 — Allegri’s substitutions changed the game while he kept faith with Khedira, keeping him on despite a poor first half. More importantly, his players never give up and always look to win. However, Allegri’s side is struggling to play with fluency and unity to keep control of the match throughout the 90 minutes. Milan looked better as a unit and had they boasted better individuals, may have well won the match.

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK, Gianluigi Buffon, 6 — Had to be alert, as he never knew what Milan would try from distance. There was nothing he could do on the goal but was always focused and authoritative between the post to ensure safety at the back.

DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 — Troubled by the opponent and was part of the blame for Leonardo Bonucci’s goal. Wasn’t offered much support from the midfield and was often left exposed but had a great moment in the second half when he ran back to stop Suso in his tracks.

DF Mehdi Benatia, 6 — A mature and important performance at the back from the Moroccan, who proved the best at the back. Played with authority and proved composed in the vital moments.

DF Giorgio Chiellini, 5 — An emotional performance from the player who was also at fault for Bonucci’s goal and looked out of sorts. Aggressive, dramatic and not as composed as usual, but he can still be relied upon even when he’s not at his best.

MF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 4 — He conceded the corner that led to Bonucci’s goal and looked overwhelmed whenever Milan pushed forward. Could not produce accuracy or even get the basics right under the pressure.

MF Sami Khedira, 7 — A bizarre performance. Poor for much of the game to provoke jeers from the crowd, he didn’t do enough to help support the team defensively, often leaving Barzagli exposed. However, he sprang to life when it mattered, reading the moments well to change the face of the game with his positioning and decisive play. Delivered a sublime assist for Cuadrado and scored the third Juve goal.

MF Miralem Pjanic, 5 — Where did the real Pjanic go? Another game and another disappointing performance from the player, who is struggling to play with character and authority. A few good moments here and there, both in attack and defence, but looked lost and void of confidence on the whole, destabilising the team in midfield.

MF Blaise Matuidi, 5 — Barely completed any passes, poor in possession and incapable of helping the midfield assert itself. Not the usual Matuidi and we hope we see a better version against Real Madrid.

MF Kwadwo Asamoah, 6 — Had many moments of difficulty and inaccuracy but also played with determination, always trying.

Juan Cuadrado was sublime in the second half, putting Juventus up to stay in the 79th minute.

FW Paulo Dybala, 7 — What a sensational goal to open the scoring! Dybala played with character and with intelligence in an important match. He looked to create danger, always looked to relieve the pressure when pushing forward and delivered the assist for Khedira’s goal.

FW Gonzalo Higuain, 6 — Well-guarded and defended against but Higuain tried, combined well with Dybala and always attempted to break away and create danger but struggles when the side doesn’t play as a unit.


FW Douglas Costa, 7 — Showed off his sublime ability to evade his markers but struggled initially to produce decisive actions thereafter. However, his accelerations and determination eventually produced the results. He never gave up on a ball and was always looking to provide a key pass or an accurate cross, helping to change the face of the game.

FW Juan Cuadrado, 7 — What a performance from the player who announced his return to the side. He read the game well, showed composure and played with character, scoring the goal to relieve the pressure off his team.

MF Rodrigo Bentancur, N/A — His arrival ensured greater balance in the midfield and he played with determination.

Gab Marcotti previews the upcoming Serie A season

Gab Marcotti previews the upcoming Serie A season

Gab Marcotti previews the upcoming Serie A season with his predictions for the leading 4 plus the Scudetto winner.
Serie A is back from its summer time holidays this weekend. James Horncastle appears ahead to what may very well be one of the most open season in years:

Important storylines

Milan’s spending

Prior to Paris Saint-Germain signed Neymar, the greatest story on the summer season was how Milan have been spending at a price not noticed given that Roman Abramovich became Chelsea owner in 2003. The scale in the investment — €215.5m — and its targeted nature has lent credibility towards the project despite the fact that doubts stay about specifically just how much on the funds is president Li Yonghong’s and no matter if Milan’s organization program is compliant with Monetary Fair Play. Nevertheless not accomplished within the transfer marketplace, the standout pieces of organization will stay the signing of Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus plus the contract extension for goalkeeping wunderkind Gianluigi Donnarumma. A sleeping giant is rousing from its slumber.

Buffon’s final year

This section could have already been devoted to VAR going on the internet within a nation exactly where it’s so badly necessary but, as an old romantic who blubbered by means of Francesco Totti’s retirement from Roma, I’ll dedicate it as an alternative to Gigi Buffon and his swansong season. The 39-year-old plans on retiring just after the Globe Cup in Russia, Italy’s qualification for which depends lots on September’s trip to Spain. But if Juve do make it third time fortunate and wins the Champions League in Kiev, he may also honour a guarantee created to president Andrea Agnelli and pull on his gloves once again for the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club Planet Cup.

Yet another Champions League spot

For the very first time in six seasons Serie A may have 4 Champions League spots up for grabs. Juventus aside, that owes far more to politicking than merit and Agnelli is currently worried that, in the event the other Italian sides do not commence pulling their weight, Ligue 1 will do what the Bundesliga did in 2011 and take it off them. Till then, higher access promises to become a game-changer for Italian football. Inter and Milan’s decline has in component come since they’ve been starved of Champions League income even though, even had four-team qualification been in location during the last six years, they would not have often certified. However the stakes are greater this year.

Marquee signings

Leonardo Bonucci: Juventus to AC Milan, £37.eight million

Bonucci has created no secret of wanting to “do for Milan what [Andrea] Pirlo did for Juventus.” Six years ago the midfielder’s move was the hinge on which the balance of energy swung in Italy and Bonucci now hopes to perform the exact same inside the opposite path. The consequence of his fallout with Max Allegri is comparable towards the manager’s marginalisation of Pirlo in 2011, in that it strengthens a rival. Juventus and Bonucci could have got a good deal a lot more if he had left for Manchester City or Chelsea. Alternatively, Milan have got themselves certainly one of the ideal centre-backs inside the globe to get a steal of a price tag.

Douglas Costa: Bayern Munich to Juventus, £5.4m (loan)

Douglas Costa of Juventus
Douglas Costa spent the earlier two seasons in Germany with Bayern Munich.
Juventus’ switch to 4-2-3-1 in January helped propel the group to a second Champions League final in 3 years but, throughout the second half in Cardiff, it became abundantly clear they did not possess a squad constructed for it. Costa and Federico Bernardeschi happen to be signed to produce the program a far more all-natural match and Gonzalo Higuain need to be licking his lips at possessing each of them and Paulo Dybala behind him. “Wherever I go, I immediately develop into a striker’s greatest pal,” Costa told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It occurred with Luiz Adriano in Ukraine and Robert Lewandowski at Bayern. You will see. Higuain and I’ll get on properly.”

Borja Valero: Fiorentina to Inter, £4.95m

Likely the bargain on the window, Borja will be the midfield basic Inter have lacked, at the very least inside a tactical sense, considering the fact that the 2014 departure of Esteban Cambiasso. Manager Luciano Spalletti wanted him at Roma final season and not only for his capability to play among the lines and knit teams collectively; Borja tends to make the players about him much better and is really a leader. He was nicknamed “the mayor” in Florence and Inter have badly necessary a player of his potential and character.

Huge departures

Dani Alves: Juventus to Paris Saint-Germain, cost-free

Not permitted to express himself as a lot as he would have liked, Alves decided just after just a year that Italian football wasn’t for him. The Brazilian full-back’s selection to double his funds and act as an incentive to Neymar shocked and disappointed Juventus and, as together with the Bonucci predicament, the departure has left them within a bind. Alves was the club’s key distinction maker within the knockout stages from the Champions League final season and brought a risk-taking swagger to their play. He will probably be a huge miss even when each parties did not finish around the greatest of terms.

Joe Hart: Torino to West Ham, finish of loan

Hart’s recognition off the pitch, at the same time because the novelty of an Englishman playing for any club as romantic as Torino, in the end wrote cheques off the pitch that his physique could not money on it. Torino owner Urbano Cairo possibly drove him towards the airport, in element since he sincerely liked Hart, but in addition due to the fact he knew the club could do much better with new signing Salvatore Sirigu.

Antonio Cassano: Hellas Verona to retirement (for now, at the least)

Asked in June why a top-flight club really should take a punt on him soon after a year out of your game, Antonio Cassano boasted: “Because I am nonetheless the most beneficial there’s in Italy.” Hellas rolled the dice and reunited him with his old strike companion Giampaolo Pazzini, providing fans of a specific age pangs of nostalgia. Shortly immediately after, although, Cassano quit instruction camp and announced his retirement. He then had second thoughts, went back around the selection and returned to coaching, only to re-quit and retire several days later. Speak about among the game’s greatest wasted talents.

Who will win the league?
Massimiliano Allegri has warned this year’s Serie A title race will the toughest but for Juventus.
Juventus’ rivals are sniffing blood however the champions have sold various big-name players in other years — most notably 2015 — and nonetheless won the title. They stay favourites but, when the crown slips, Napoli appear greatest placed to take it from them. As opposed to final year, they’ve kept their very best players and just should choose up exactly where they left off.

Naturally Milan are becoming billed as contenders nevertheless it remains to become noticed if a whole new group can come collectively swiftly adequate to join the title race. Inter have had a wonderful preseason and, immediately after underperforming final year, are probably not becoming taken as seriously as a Luciano Spalletti group needs to be. Spalletti currently appears to possess knocked them into shape and they are close to finishing an already-talented squad with some astute, if low profile signings.

Meanwhile, Roma may possibly have changed also substantially to contend, despite the fact that the hope is Eusebio di Francesco will make the exact same leap in his coaching improvement as Allegri and Maurizio Sarri did after they went from Cagliari and Empoli to Milan and Napoli respectively. Fresh from winning the Super Cup, Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio also never appear like fading away in spite of losing Lucas Biglia, and in all probability, Keita Balde Diao.

Battle in the bottom

Probably the most pessimistic fans are, very rightly, these of Fiorentina, while it really is unlikely they are going to be drawn in to the relegation battle below Stefano Pioli. Virtually all the club’s greatest players wanted to leave this summer season and ended up receiving their way, but there appear to become some hidden gems — Rafik Zekhnini and Nikola Milenkovic — in their transfer window also for the better-known Giovanni Simeone, who’s anticipated to arrive from Genoa.

Sassuolo are a minor concern now Di Francesco has departed for Roma, but no less than Domenico Berardi is sticking about for a further year. Sampdoria’s mini-Monaco model, which has observed Milan Skriniar, Luis Muriel, Bruno Fernandes and, probably, Patrik Schick all leave, locations loads of trust within the recruitment of Riccardo Pecini also because the coaching of Marco Giampaolo. However they need to nonetheless keep up.

No matter if second season syndrome afflicts Cagliari will probably be a storyline to adhere to and it’ll be fascinating to find out if Genoa are capable to quit their unsafe liaisons with relegation. Crotone seemed to possess Serie A all figured out toward the finish of final year however the restricted material at Davide Nicola’s disposal was, in component, what produced their escape so fantastic.

On the promoted clubs, Hellas possess a goalscorer in Pazzini whilst SPAL, back within the major flight immediately after 49 years, happen to be in a position to maintain quite a few of people who who got them up, like their goalkeeping star Alex Meret. This has been extra of a challenge for debutantes Benevento, who will probably be conscious of how that proved Pescara’s downfall final season.

James covers the Italian Serie A and European football for ESPN FC Comply with him on Twitter @JamesHorncastle.


Free flowing Juve and stout Napoli show how this Serie A clash has changed


The ESPN FC crew discuss whether Paulo Dybala is the hottest striker in Europe right now.
The ESPN FC crew discuss whether Paulo Dybala is the hottest striker in Europe right now.

Luckily the top of the table clash pitting Napoli against Juventus on Friday night will kick off very soon after the World Cup draw in Moscow. What better way to take the mind off Italy’s failure to qualify for the first time in 60 years than the game of the year in Serie A?

The face-off at the San Paolo is the best Italian football has to offer. Eight of the 11 players named in the Team of the Season at this week’s annual PFA awards play for Napoli and Juventus. Two of the others, Leonardo Bonucci and Dani Alves, were included on the basis of their performances for the Old Lady last season.

Gianluigi Buffon was surprised to be voted Player of the Year by his peers. He acknowledged it was a nice gesture — a lifetime achievement award in all but name. The smart money had been on Dries Mertens, or Ciro as he’s known in Naples, with whom the Juventus captain shares a place on the 30-man Ballon d’Or list along with teammate Paulo Dybala.

Whatever the lay of the land in the league, this rivalry always promises to be a tense and heated affair nowadays in light of Gonzalo Higuain’s decision to leave Napoli for Juventus the summer before last. Higuain is a doubt for Friday’s match after undergoing surgery on his hand this week. But the papers are still talking about him, speculating on his fitness and wondering whether Napoli’s players and the crowd at the San Paolo will be as fired up if Pipita is absent.

Napoli would love to show Higuain once and for all he was wrong to leave and that they’re now better off without him. Psychologically, it might push Napoli to give that extra five or 10 percent. Then again, the opposite is also true. Napoli will likely prefer Higuain to sit this one out. They know only too well what he’s capable of. Higuain returned to haunt them with immediate effect when they met in Turin this time last year. He scored the only goal of the game then struck twice at the San Paolo in the Coppa Italia semifinals.

But, come on. Napoli hardly need motivating for Friday’s game. If the Partneopei win, as they have done in three of the last five meetings with Juventus in Fuorigrotta, the pretenders will go seven points clear of the champions, who, lest we forget, still have to play Inter and Roma before the winter break. In January, they can reinforce, shopping for the depth they lack in attack, perhaps bringing Roberto Inglese’s move from Chievo forward six months.

Napoli boast the best defence in Serie A, with opponents struggling to even make it into the box.

“A defeat would be difficult to swallow,” Giorgio Chiellini said on Tuesday. “We’re not even thinking about what might happen if we fall seven points back because we hope to leave the San Paolo just a point behind [Napoli].”

Make no mistake: we’ve got a fascinating game on our hands. Part of that is down to roles reversing. For six years Juventus have had the best defence in Italy. It’s been the difference between them and the rest; that and the mentality instilled by the big characters they have at the back. Of course, one of them — Bonucci — is now gone and, up until recently, the team hasn’t been defending to the same standard set in the past.

Juventus have conceded the first goal in eight matches this season. They threw away leads against Lazio and Atalanta. Last weekend’s 3-0 win against Crotone marked only the second time this season the Bianconeri have recorded back-to-back clean sheets. The control of old is yet to materialise. Lapses in concentration and the inability to lock in from kick-off to final whistle have cost Juventus.

Now Serie A’s best rearguard belongs to Napoli. Of the nine goals they have shipped, a third have been from long distance and four have come from dead-ball situations. Napoli’s opponents are finding it hard enough just getting into their penalty area. Take Milan, for instance. They didn’t record a single touch in Napoli’s box in the first half of their 2-1 defeat in November.

This is where Napoli have improved most. The confidence in their ability to defend has allowed them to compensate for a lack of depth. Napoli rest on the ball and manage games better than ever. Criticised in the past for only being able to defend in a high press, they no longer chase if they don’t have to, raising a wall in front of their own penalty area in the final 20 minutes, safe in the knowledge that their position play is so accomplished that teams struggle to play through them. It should be a risk. But it’s not.

Napoli have matured. Little fazes them. They have gone behind on four occasions this season and always come back to win. The grit you associate with Juventus is strong in Napoli now. They win ugly, as we saw against Udinese at the weekend. More beauty than usual is to be found in Juventus’ play. They are Serie A’s top scorers with 40 goals this season. You have to go back to the 1950s to find a Juventus side this prolific. The centre of the team’s gravity has shifted from the defence to the attack.

After a furious start to the season, Paulo Dybala has slowed. Juventus need him to rediscover his form.

Juventus remain in pursuit of balance though. It took them until January to find it last season. They had greater margin for error then. Juventus are a point better off than a year ago, but find themselves four points behind Napoli, not eight points in front of them as they were in 2016.

Napoli are setting an almost unprecedented pace. Last season they established a new club record points total. Now though, they’re plus-13 on last year. Only the Juventus team of 2005 — the year the Calciopoli scandal broke — have ever started better. Maurizio Sarri is realistic about Napoli’s ability to sustain this tempo. It’s true they have slowed a little of late. Napoli scored 25 goals in the opening seven games of the season. They’ve struck only 10 in the last seven.

Mertens didn’t find the back of the net in Serie A in all of November. Put it down to tiredness. Napoli started the season early in the Champions League playoffs. They lost Mertens’ stand-in, Arkadiusz Milik, to an ACL tear and then Faouzi Ghoulam, who really makes them tick down the left-hand side. Napoli just don’t have Juventus’ reserves. But 89 points in 34 games in 2017 shows this team’s consistency.

So far Napoli have delivered in all the big games, beating Lazio and Roma in Rome, then Milan at the San Paolo. Only Inter have managed to hold them. Juve by contrast have come a cropper whenever the difficulty level has increased, losing twice to Lazio, then 3-0 at Barcelona and Sampdoria [going into stoppage time]. Two-nil up against Atalanta, they drew in Bergamo.

Of course, had Dybala converted last-minute penalties against Lazio and Atalanta, the Old Lady would be level on points with Napoli. After scoring 12 goals in his first eight appearances, Dybala has found the net just twice in his last 10. Covering up for the cracks in this Juventus side at the start of the season took a great deal out of him, as did the tension of being involved in Argentina’s last-gasp qualification for the World Cup. The time has come for Dybala to step up again. The same goes for Mertens.

Twenty three games are left after Friday’s match at the San Paolo. Sixty-nine points will still be up for grabs, which is why Allegri and Sarri insist the outcome of this one won’t be decisive. Privately, however, they know, in terms of psychology, momentum and perception, this game is the game. It’s huge.

James covers the Italian Serie A and European football for ESPN FC Follow him on Twitter @JamesHorncastle.


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Slowly but surely Inter Milans Mauro Icardi starting to get global recognition he deserves


Check out all the best moments from Serie A’s top sides, as Inter Milan surpassed Juventus to take second place.
Luciano Spalletti dismisses Real Madrid’s reported interest in Mauro Icardi, suggesting every team wants the Inter star.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story but they do give a sense of just how lethal Mauro Icardi is as a striker.  

Still only 24, two years ago he became the youngest Capocannoniere since Paolo Rossi in 1978. The Argentine has already scored more than 100 goals in Italy. This is his fourth season in a row in double figures and we’re only in November. He’s the first player to achieve that with Inter since Christian Vieri. And if Icardi completes another hat trick to go with the one he netted in the Derby della Madonnina in October — the first in this storied rivalry since the days of Diego Milito — he will move into the top 10 Nerazzurri goalscorers of all-time in Serie A. 

He is one of the best strikers in the world and yet his profile in the game doesn’t reflect that, at least outside of Italy. It actually lags behind his talent. Icardi is often an afterthought in discussions about the world’s most devastating No. 9s. He’s better known for a love triangle and publishing a book that set Inter’s ultras against him. 

In the opinion of Inter coach Luciano Spalletti, a lot of people have got the wrong idea about Icardi. He’s a centre-forward misrepresented and misunderstood.  “In the box, Mauro’s the best,” Spalletti says. “Off the pitch, he’s a grandissimo professional.” True, the book, in particular, showed poor judgement. But when it comes to how Icardi lives, trains and prepares for games, his manager hit the nail on the head. 

Take this summer for example. Icardi missed nearly all of the preseason after sustaining an injury at his first Argentina training camp in four years. And yet he returned on the eve of the campaign looking sharper than ever, scoring a brace in each of his first two games. Big ones too in wins against Fiorentina and away to Roma. Think about that for a moment. Icardi had barely trained with the team all summer, working out on his own. To get into the condition he found himself required great discipline. 

Despite all the goals, Mauro Icardi is just now starting to get the global recognition he deserves.

He now speaks and acts like a captain too. There was a time when Icardi would put an anonymous performance down to the shortcomings of his teammates and the inadequate service he received. Throwing them under the bus. If we return to the book one last time, calls to strip Icardi of the armband were very loud indeed amid all the furore it caused. Make no mistake, it has been quite the learning curve. But Icardi has matured in how he conducts himself and in terms of putting side before self. 

The assist stats were already an indication of that in the first half of last season. This year you can point to the goal-line clearance he made in the 1-0 win against Genoa, which Spalletti considered “worth a goal” in its value to the team. Actions like that, together with the experience he has accumulated over the last year, seem to have helped Icardi assume more presence and authority as a leader. He doesn’t care who scores as long as the team wins, a lesson learned from last season. “I scored 24 times,” he embittered, “but we didn’t get into Europe.” 

A little ticked off after Inter nearly threw away a 3-0 lead in a 3-2 win against Sampdoria, Icardi was self-critical after the game despite scoring another brace. He was angry with himself for hitting the post in the first half and misplacing a few too many passes. “I’ve got to improve in these things,” he said. The disappointment writ large on his face and those of his other teammates after the draw with Torino before the international break spoke volumes about the mentality ingrained by Spalletti in such a short period.

For some reason, it feels more significant to highlight these aspects of Icardi’s season than the 13 goals he has scored in 13 games. They show character development. We all know how clever and dangerous a finisher he is for Inter. What a great header of the ball he’s become. His innate appreciation of time and space. How he senses a centre-back or goalkeeper’s weakness in a split second, calculating the right angle and best shot to select in the blink of an eye. A lightning-quick thinker, the former Inter centre-back Daniele Adani says “Icardi steals time” from defenders. Often all he needs is a sniff. His first goal in the derby came with his first touch in the penalty area. We’re talking acute concentration, elite predatory instincts. Icardi is like the shark that finds the one drop of blood in the ocean. 

In some respects, it was entirely predictable he would go to another level this season. Spalletti turned Francesco Totti into a goal machine and transformed Edin Dzeko from flop to Capocannoniere last year. The brief with Icardi was different though. He has always been prolific. Not every other year. Always. Spalletti has worked on making him more complete. The seven assists he laid on last year should be enough to silence those who insist he is a goalscorer and that’s it. 

But Spalletti has got Icardi coming short and pulling wide to destabilise defences, drag centre-backs with him and open up space for midfield runners. He has him just outside his own penalty area instead of on the halfway line when Inter is defending a corner. Spalletti wants Icardi involved at all times. Watch his second goal against Milan. Icardi nicks the ball from Lucas Biglia in his own half, starting a move that he finishes with a frankly incredible mix of contortion and coordination. 

Mauro Icardi saved the day for Inter Milan on Sunday.
Mauro Icardi has put his immature past behind him and become a strong captain and leader for Inter.

Hidden a little because of Inter’s inability to qualify for the Champions League during his time at the club, not to mention Argentina’s unwillingness to give him more than seven minutes of game time until Jorge Sampaoli’s appointment, it hasn’t stopped Europe’s elite from registering their interest in Icardi. He has a €110 million buy-out clause in his contract for clubs outside of Serie A. When Undici put it to Icardi that the figure looks cheap, he laughed: “After the last transfer window maybe you’re right.  But this is what we discussed with the club and decided to do. Everyone at the club knows how I think, though, and what I want. We’re all very cool about it.” 

Spalletti naturally thinks Inter need to make the clause inaccessible. “Mauro should get the highest clause possible, like Isco’s [€700m] and all the other top players.” However, Spalletti shouldn’t worry. True, loyalty probably isn’t the first word that springs to mind when people think of Icardi but his loyalty to Inter has never been in question. If he didn’t love the club he would have moved on by now. Serie A’s decadence, the absence of Champions League football, and his fallout with the ultras were reasons enough to go. But he elected to stay and unlike some of his peers, Icardi, while realistic that things could change, never answers a question about his future with “you never know.” He commits to Inter. “I see myself here. I hope to go on a long journey with Inter. I want to win something with this shirt.”

Of course, the influence of Javier Zanetti, now vice-president, is strong.  Icardi not only respects Inter’s former captain for his place in the club’s history and the fact he’s a fellow Argentine but because “he showed an attachment for Inter and stayed until the end of his career.” How depressing and simultaneously refreshing is it that saying something along those lines should make Icardi seem different. 

It’s about as odd as the football world not fully waking up to the size of Icardi’s talent. Winning something, playing at the World Cup and the Champions League will surely change that. It’s about greater exposure. It’s only a matter of time.  

James covers the Italian Serie A and European football for ESPN FC Follow him on Twitter @JamesHorncastle.


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Mauro Icardi: Inter Milan’s strong start ‘nothing to do with luck’


With Inter and Napoli leading the charge in Serie A, Gab Marcotti assesses which team has the best chance of winning the title.
Mauro Icardi’s brace helped Inter see off Sampdoria and move one point ahead of Napoli at the top of Serie A.

Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi says it is no coincidence that the Nerazzurri are doing so well this season, saying that the atmosphere at the club has changed.

Inter spent Tuesday night at the top of the table, before Napoli’s win over Genoa saw them return there on Wednesday, but with just two points separating them from the league leaders, Inter are being considered as serious title challengers again this season.

One of the reasons, according to Icardi, is the arrival of Luciano Spalletti and the return of a positive atmosphere which he says has been missing in recent years, particularly in the second half of last season.

“It’s nothing to do with luck,” Icardi said in an interview with Undici magazine. “We worked really well in preseason and everything changed. The coach is very attentive and we all have the same objective in our minds, which is what everybody is asking for, from the club to the president, right down to the very last person: we need to get back into the Champions League.

“Last year, in March — after the international break — we all came back a bit lost. I was angry at the time and would come back home in a bad mood.”

Mauro Icardi has already scored 11 goals in Serie A this season.

Now, Icardi is looking to the future with renewed optimism and with a degree of pride at being captain of a club challenging for trophies once again.

“Being captain of this team is not difficult for me,” said the 24-year-old. “I’ve got the personality to be able to do it. This is my mission and I am proud of it. I see myself here for a long time. I want to win something with this shirt.

“I’m not going to be in football when I am 40, though — not like [Francesco] Totti. I’m not going to be a coach or a director — they are not roles that I would like. I think I’ll just become a full-time dad, at home, with my family.”

Icardi joined Inter four years ago, saying that it was the club’s former president Massimo Moratti “who wanted me the most,” adding that he “signed me from [Sampdoria] and was the one who insisted on getting me the most.”

The Argentine forward scored his 100th goal in Serie A — his 11th of the current season — in Inter’s 3-2 win over Sampdoria at the weekend.

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.


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Mauro Icardi’s brace sees off Samp as Inter hold on for 3-2 victory


With Inter and Napoli leading the charge in Serie A, Gab Marcotti assesses which team has the best chance of winning the title.

Inter played a superb first half against Sampdoria, but nearly let their 3-0 lead slide by allowing Marco Giampaolo’s side score twice in the second. After a strong start from the visitors, Milan Skriniar was the quickest on an 18th-minute corner, and that was followed by a stunning Mauro Icardi volley a quarter of an hour later. The second half began in much the same way, only for the Beneamata to pull off a simply outstanding passing move to make it three on 53 minutes. They started to get a sloppy, however, allowing Samp to net twice, making the last minutes rather difficult watching.


The football from about the 15th minute onward was simply exceptional. Inter are smooth, collected and play like a team. Barring their defensive distractions, Sampdoria was a great test, in a league where the average quality isn’t the same. They kept the Nerazzurri on their toes and forced them to learn, especially by trying to press high early, compelling Inter to pass out of their defence.

Since when does Yuto Nagatomo keep trying through balls and chips to the midfield, where Icardi was there to chest it down and quickly change the play? The Nerazzurri are counting on a great atmosphere, on Italy’s best home attendance record. The midfield looks more in sync, too.


The final half hour wasn’t a lot of fun, and the Inter support’s emotions were captured by one veteran fan rolling his eyes in the stands. This is a clear indication that the team still needs to grow. Sampdoria’s first came in a three-on-five situation. The scoreline was close because Inter couldn’t bury their chances. Icardi needs to keep improving his overall play. The midfield needs to give it away less, though one can understand why this risk-taking worked. Joao Mario looks less and less like he belongs. Keeping the defence so deep — a ploy which worked as the Nerazzurri learned the system — may now be too much, as Sampdoria could exploit those spaces, and the rearguard hesitated in coming off their line.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Luciano Spalletti’s work culminated in the third goal, which was a complete and utter masterpiece, and testament to his patience in asking this team to play the ball on the deck; a dozen or so passes out of defence combining with Borja Valero’s eye for the pass, Matias Vecino’s great run into space, Ivan Perisic’s hard work and Icardi’s finishing. The dip at the end was a little puzzling, but chances are that it still owes to the rebuilding phase. Changes could have been made sooner.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Samir Handanovic, 6 — Made a sensational save in the first half — preventing Fabio Quagliarella from bagging a sure goal — but was then lazy on Sampdoria’s first.

DF Danilo D’Ambrosio, 7 — Proactive throughout the game. Ran his socks off on the pitch and was a monster in defence, even managing an excellent anticipation to launch the counter.

DF Milan Skriniar, 6 — An eight for the first half — in which he scored against his former team — and a four for the second, in which he was arguably guilty on both of their goals.

DF Joao Miranda, 7 — Had a more stable game than Skriniar. Showed initiative in coming off his line. Lost a key ball early on, however. Getting back to his levels.

DF Yuto Nagatomo, 8 — Great creativity. Deserved the standing ovation. Kept looking for Icardi and Perisic deep and was very solid in defence.

Mauro Icardi scored both of his goals vs. Sampdoria in sensational fashion.

MF Matias Vecino, 7 — Went on another one of his mazy runs. Are we sure that he was paid too much? Do we realize just how different Inter’s midfield is compared to last season? All Geoffrey Kondogbia could do is kick people.

MF Roberto Gagliardini, 7 — Personality on the up. Spent all game tackling and keeping Inter ticking over. Volleyed a beauty to launch Perisic on the counter. Was a little slack at the end of the game.

MF Borja Valero, 7 — His range of passes was exceptional. Ran for longer than usual, but was lazy on a late Samp chance.

MF Antonio Candreva, 8 — His penchant for the shot from outside nearly resulted in a goal. Far better delivery from corners, finding Icardi twice and assisting the opener. Hard worker, dipped a little in the final stretch.

MF Ivan Perisic, 8 — May as well have scored, as he was denied twice by the woodwork, once on a spectacular lob after a missed Sampdoria clearance. Ran like he was possessed, and was simply excellent in defence and doubling up.

FW, Mauro Icardi, 8 — Sensational on his two goals, especially the first, a beautiful half-volley across the goal. Denied by the post and was wasteful with counters at the end.


MF Joao Mario, 5 — Just like Icardi, he needed to be more incisive when he came on. Doesn’t press or mark well, either.

DF Davide Santon, 5 — Lost Quagliarella for Samp’s second.

MF Eder, N/R — Came on too late to make a difference. Would have been useful instead of Joao Mario. Actually contributed more to the defensive phase.

Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.


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Inter win Milan derby thanks to Mauro Icardi Antonio Candreva


Inter boss Luciano Spalletti sings the praises of Mauro Icardi after the Argentine’s hat trick in the Milan derby.
Mauro Icardi completed a hat trick with a late penalty kick to lead Inter past rivals Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.
Mauro Icardi completed a hat trick with a late penalty kick to lead Inter past rivals Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.

Another spectacular Milan Derby — are there any boring ones these days? — was decided by a late Mauro Icardi penalty, the Argentine slamming home a legendary hat-trick to down the Rossoneri 3-2.

The Nerazzurri had started better and went ahead after a sensational Antonio Candreva cross found Icardi unmarked on 28 minutes. The Lazio man had also hit the bar, something Inter would rue after the break when Milan’s domination saw them equalise through a Suso curler. A brilliant Icardi lunge sent Inter ahead again only seven minutes later but Milan looked like they could pull off a coup when Jack Bonaventura levelled in the 80th, only for Ricardo Rodriguez to wrap his arms around Icardi in the box soon after.

The rest, as they say, is history.


A major bookmaker published live odds on the advertising boards during the game and had the Rossoneri as marginal favourites after Suso’s goal. Yet their strikes were answered within seven and 10 minutes respectively, which speaks to Inter’s character and composure.

Inter really needed Icardi to answer. He may not be complete but is working harder in the build-up, where he has evident limits. The midfield three may finally be settled, too, and both Vecino and Skriniar are monsters.


Inter let their rivals score twice and take control in the second half. They are incapable of digging in and avoiding silly goals.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Luciano Spalletti’s Nerazzurri team is coming together, alright. There are problems (Inter dipped late on, which almost cost them two points) but one can see that his schemes are working. Using Borja Valero was a huge boon; he protected Candreva (whom he shielded from the critics) and his attack looks a lot more clinical. His side wasn’t lucky to win. It sabotaged itself perhaps but kept coming back for more.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Samir Handanovic, 6 — Really should have saved Suso’s goal. Made a miraculous save to deny Fabio Borini and can’t be blamed if his Shaolin-like save off Bonaventura then bounced into the goal off his knees.

DF Danilo D’Ambrosio, 6 — A decent game by any standards, a very good one by his. Sharp in the tackle, he helped Candreva set up the opener with a run downfield though his crossing was questionable.

DF Milan Skriniar, 7 — Made a number of wonderful steps out of defence to make key tackles. Neither Patrick Cutrone nor Andre Silva was that noticeable, which said a lot.

DF Joao Miranda, 6 — Booked for a completely unnecessary barge into Andre Silva early on. Needed to be bailed out by his centre-back partner on a few occasions. How long can this go on?

DF Yuto Nagatomo, 5 — Generally didn’t look bad but lost a massive 25 balls. A couple were good (in theory) long ones to Icardi, many others were not so inspired. Struggled to contain Borini and Suso as well.

MF Matias Vecino, 7 — Tireless worker. Should have scored when he fired an effort just wide, but completely unmarked. Later made an incredible run to set up the corner from which the Beneamata earned the winning penalty.

Mauro Icardi’s sublime hat-trick tipped the Milan derby in Inter’s favour.

MF Roberto Gagliardini, 5 — Completely fell for Suso’s dummy. Perisic can be excused for trying to dart outwards but Gaglia shouldn’t have done the same. Fought hard in defence but needs to stamp his authority on the midfield.

MF Borja Valero, 6 — Faded in the second half but showed that he can play as a trequartista in the first, with a series of beautiful touches which allowed Candreva to advance (and dip inside) and kept the team moving.

MF Antonio Candreva, 9 — Who are you, and what have you done with Candreva? As a sarcastic critic put it, he would win the Ballon d’Or if he only ever played Milan. Deserved a goal for hitting the bar. Clipped those early crosses Spalletti has asked for beautifully and should have had a second assist when he found Vecino.

MF Ivan Perisic, 7 — Not as dangerous or as involved as Candreva, but worked hard in defence and was far more effective with his crosses, finding a dangerous Miranda header early on. Was fooled by Suso’s turn, a pity for someone who set up a counter with a sliding tackle.

FW Mauro Icardi, 10 — Has the right to wear Bonucci as a coat until the next Derby. He has nine goals from eight games, yet there were those who would have sold him to Napoli for only €60 million two years ago. Still looks better at the San Siro where he doesn’t have to work as hard in the build-up play. His second goal was a work of art, his third a gutsy call mere hours after Paulo Dybala’s epic choke against Lazio.


MF Joao Cancelo, 5 — Responsible for Milan’s second, completely losing Bonaventura.

MF Eder, 6 — I guess this is what he does now: come on and galvanize the Nerazzurri. In all honesty, that’s probably enough for now.

DF Davide Santon, NR — Brought on to waste time, give Icardi a standing ovation and offer the security of an extra defender. Wasn’t tested.

Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.


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Mauro Icardi hat trick lifts Inter over AC Milan Sampdoria recover to beat Atalanta as Genoa secure first win of the season


Mauro Icardi celebrates the first of his three goals on Sunday.
Mauro Icardi’s hat-trick fired Inter Milan past AC Milan and into second place.

Mauro Icardi plundered a hat-trick to pile the pressure on AC Milan boss Vincenzo Montella as Inter Milan came out on top 3-2 in a thrilling Derby della Madonnina.

The Argentina international striker converted a controversial 90th-minute penalty after Ricardo Rodriguez was adjudged to have pulled back Danilo D’Ambrosio to snatch a 3-2 victory at the San Siro.

Icardi put the home side ahead with a deft 28th-minute finish and then after Suso had levelled with an equally adept finish, dispatched an improvised 63rd-minute volley.

Montella’s men thought they had claimed a point when keeper Samir Handanovic could only carry Giacomo Bonaventura’s 81st-minute shot into his own net, but Icardi’s late heroics condemned them to a fourth Serie A defeat of the new campaign which leaves them 10 points adrift of their city rivals.

The win lifts Luciano Spalletti’s side to second in the Serie A standings with 22 points, two behind Napoli, who have yet to drop a point this season.

Milan slumped to 10th, with just 12 points from eight matches.

Sampdoria players celebrate after winning at Atalanta.

Sampdoria came from behind to secure a 3-1 victory over Atalanta at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Sunday.

The visitors led at the interval after Bryan Cristante opened the scoring midway through the first half.

But Sampdoria responded in emphatic fashion after the break, scoring three times inside 12 minutes to secure the victory.

Duvan Zapata hauled them level after 56 minutes before Gianluca Caprari doubled their tally moments later and Karol Linetty completed the win with 68 minutes gone.

Genoa also scored three times as they secured their first victory of the season, 3-2 at Cagliari.

After a run of five defeats from their last six matches, they struck first when Andrey Galabinov scored after just eight minutes.

Adel Taarabt then got a second with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, and although Leonardo Pavoletti hit back for Cagliari after the break, Luca Rigoni was on the mark with 75 minutes gone.

Cagliari’s Joao Pedro scored from the penalty spot four minutes later to ensure a nervy finish, but the visitors clung on.

Earlier, Cyril Thereau came back to haunt his former team as Fiorentina secured a much-needed 2-1 victory over Udinese.

Thereau, who spent three years at Udinese before moving to Fiorentina in the summer, opened the scoring after 27 minutes when he converted from close range.

The forward then doubled his tally shortly before the hour mark. Samir pulled one back for the visitors with just under 20 minutes remaining, but Fiorentina saw out the remainder of the match to end a three-game winless streak.

Bologna struck twice to win 2-1 against SPAL and register a third victory in as many matches.

Andrea Poli netted for the home team after 30 minutes before an own goal by Bartosz Salamon shortly after half-time increased their advantage.

Mirco Antenucci’s 88th-minute strike reduced the deficit, but Bologna saw out the remaining time to secure the points.

Lorenzo De Silvestri scored a late equaliser as Torino rescued a point in a 2-2 draw at Crotone.

The hosts led at half-time after Marcus Rohden’s 25th-minute opener, only for Iago Falque to haul the visiting side level after the interval.

Bruno Martella restored Crotone’s advantage shortly after the hour mark before De Silvestri struck in the second minute of injury time.

Elsewhere, Sassuolo and Chievo played out a goalless draw at the Mapei Stadium.


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Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi ‘impossible to stop’ but can still improve – Luciano Spalletti


From Jordan Veretout’s stunning free kick to Ivan Perisic’s volley, relive the best goals from Serie A’s third round.
Steve Nicol believes the manner in which Inter Milan have kept suitors away from Ivan Perisic is a model for other clubs to follow.
Gab Marcotti previews the upcoming Serie A season with his predictions for the top four and the Scudetto winner.

Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti has called star striker Mauro Icardi “impossible to stop,” but has cautioned that the Argentine can still improve.

The Inter captain is off to a hot start under the former Roma boss, scoring five goals in his first four games on the young season after netting 24 times last campaign.

And Spalletti urged the 24-year-old to keep pushing on.

“I’ve praised him for his displays, but he can get even better,” Spalletti said on Monday.

Mauro Icardi has scored five times in his first four games this season.

“Icardi inside the penalty area is impossible to stop, he is lethal. I would like him to join in more with the team play, but that takes nothing away from his finishing.

“There is room for improvement. He has received a lot of praise but the team have also played their part too.

“Icardi and Perisic can do a lot for the team and they are doing well but like we need them, they need the team, so together we all need to work hard so we can unleash our full potential. We need to work as a group.

“Individuals are important. All of the great teams know how valuable individual players are but if they can’t make the difference, only collective play allows you to win matches.”

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.


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Inter scrape victory vs SPAL thanks to brilliance of Milan Skriniar Mauro Icardi


Milan Skriniar was superb on both sides of the ball as Inter fought to victory win over SPAL.

Inter won a sketchy game against SPAL, going ahead early thanks to a Mauro Icardi penalty. The Nerazzurri tired quickly after the hour mark, making it look like the Ferrara side could earn a typical, frustrating 1-1 draw. Instead, Ivan Perisic gave Manchester United more reason to regret their transfer strategy by lashing in a beauty of a half-volley three minutes from time.


VAR was a triumph, again. Joao Mario was initially adjudged to have been fouled outside the box only for referee Claudio Gavillucci to use the video assistant and correctly change the call, allowing Icardi to break the deadlock from the spot. Milan Skriniar is an absolute beast. Inter managed a number of rare feats: winning after the international break, not choking against a bread-and-butter opponent and, more importantly, keeping up the good work after beating the strong opposition.


This had the makings of a maddening game. Inter never really got into any rhythm, courtesy of SPAL’s clever passing game. The Nerazzurri is still very wasteful and look a little soft at defending set pieces.

Manager rating out of 10

6 — Should Marcelo Brozovic have come on? Beyond that, Luciano Spalletti is still trying to impose his system. Teething problems are to be expected. Throwing on Matias Vecino was the right call, eventually.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Samir Handanovic, 6 — Deflected a dangerous-looking header that may have been going out anyway. Was a spectator otherwise.

DF Danilo D’Ambrosio, 7 — Plenty of overlapping energy on the right. Actually found Antonio Candreva with some decent balls hugging the touchline, but wasn’t paid back despite his good positioning. This is a common theme, which has been underestimated in the past. A rock in defence, something we haven’t seen as much as we would have wanted and made the assist for Perisic’s screamer.

DF Milan Skriniar, 8 — An absolute monster. Was there to make a crunching tackle when Miranda napped (though he could have been quicker), hit the crossbar with a rocket and even headed away what would have been a juicy chance, earning a kick in the abdomen from D’Ambrosio for his efforts. Who on earth expected him to be this good?

DF Joao Miranda, 6 — Was caught out on two occasions when he tried the early press and left gaping holes behind him. Was otherwise solid. Strange that Skriniar has completely outshone him so far.

DF Dalbert, 6 — Initially had a hard time containing Manuel Lazzari but it developed into a fascinating battle. Made mistakes going forward, but actually backed Perisic up, something we haven’t seen in a while. A far from strong performance but remember, Yuto Nagatomo plays it safe because he hasn’t got the skill to make a difference, or to justify his many weaknesses. Dalbert at least has upside and has the right to a trial-and-error period.

MF Roberto Gagliardini, 7 — Doubting Gagliardini makes sense, at least on the surface as most of what he does is behind the scenes. Yet how many have noticed that he made seven (!) tackles, or 125 passes? Beyond his early forays, the Italy midfielder dictated the tempo. Faded in the second half, where Inter’s midfield struggles to maintain a hold on opponents.

A Mauro Icardi penalty and stunning Ivan Perisic volley guided Inter to their third straight win to start the Serie A season.
A Mauro Icardi penalty and stunning Ivan Perisic volley guided Inter to their third straight win to start the Serie A season.

MF Borja Valero, 6 — Some nice flourishes, but a quiet game by his standards, Taking him off made a lot of sense as the Nerazzurri needed muscle in the middle. Still a pleasure to see what a good passing midfield looks like. Found Perisic with a wonderful pass.

MF Joao Mario, 6 — Actually proved that he can run against packed defences, which was the key development. Earned the go-ahead penalty and was very active, if not always tactically diligent. Also slowed down after the break. Progress.

MF Antonio Candreva, 7 — His cross selection can be maddening, but kept thundering down his wing throughout the game. Looked good in that central position, something he is allowed to do by D’Ambrosio.

MF Ivan Perisic, 7 — Icardi’s penalty technically counts as the winner, but it was Perisic who actually guaranteed the three points. Made the highlight play, but we still want to see Icardi served better.

FW, Mauro Icardi, 6 — Worked reasonably well with Joao Mario, but was otherwise quiet, and never seemed to get into good positions. Even started shanking one-two passes later on, too.


MF Marcelo Brozovic, 5 — What on earth did he contribute? Inter needed to beef up the middle, not see this guy go walkabout.

MF Matias Vecino, 6 — Put the game to sleep, as one Twitter user so cleverly put it. That release clause is suddenly looking like a bargain, as Inter seem to miss something whenever he is off the pitch. Could he be the gem and not Borja Valero?

FW Eder, NR — Not to sound cruel, but he used to come on earlier in similar situations last year, and not contribute much.

Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.


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