Juventus have announced the departure of head coach Andrea Pirlo as Massimiliano Allegri looks set to return to the club as his successor.

Pirlo signed a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri as Bianconeri boss last August, but the 42-year-old rookie boss failed to live up to expectations.

The former Italy playmaker failed to guide Juve to what would have been a 10th consecutive Serie A title and has paid the price after just one season in charge.

Juventus edged into the Champions League for 2021-22 by finishing fourth as Inter won the Scudetto.

The Turin giants tumbled out of this season's Champions League in March at the hands of Porto, losing on away goals at the round-of-16 stage.

Zinedine Zidane has stepped down as head coach of Real Madrid, ending weeks of mounting speculation over his future.

Zidane returned to Madrid for a second spell at the helm in March 2019, having led his former team to three consecutive Champions League successes from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Last season, he added a LaLiga title to the one he collected in 2016-17, but Los Blancos finished 2020-21 without a trophy to their name – bowing out in the semi-finals of the Champions League and finishing second to city rivals Atletico Madrid domestically.

A significant rebuild appears to be needed at Madrid, with Zidane deciding he is not the man for that task as the club face up to a testing financial situation and the potential of a Champions League ban for their part in the doomed Super League project.

Nevertheless, the allure of Real Madrid remains considerable and plenty of big names will be in the frame.

Raul

Zidane cut his coaching teeth with Madrid's Castilla team and fellow club great Raul is now the man in that position.

Elevating Madrid's former record goalscorer to the top job would no doubt prove popular with fans but the decision to follow the Castilla-to-first-team template backfired horribly during Santiago Solari's four-and-a-half months in charge that preceded Zidane's return.

 

Antonio Conte

Former Juventus and Italy boss Conte has been on Real Madrid's radar previously and is now on the market once more having left Inter by mutual consent.

Conte led Inter to Scudetto glory this term, adding that success to league titles won at Juve and Chelsea. However, his habit of clashing with his employers would arguably not bode well for any union with Florentino Perez.

In the Champions League, Conte's record is far less impressive. But, if a ban is on the way, the 51-year-old has shown himself to be at his very best when coaching teams rigorously for one game per week. Circumstances might conspire to make the timing absolutely right if Madrid turn to the Italian.

Mauricio Pochettino

Another coach previously linked to the Madrid post in between Zidane's spells at the helm, Pochettino appeared to be the one that got away after joining Paris Saint-Germain midway through this season.

Yet, reports emerged this week that the Argentine is unsettled in the French capital and has held talks over a dramatic return to Tottenham.

If he is open to that, he would surely listen to anything Real Madrid have to say?

 

Joachim Low

Low will bring down the curtain on 15 years in charge of Germany after the forthcoming European Championship and is certainly the kind of big name to excite Los Blancos' fanbase and boardroom alike.

It is tempting to wonder how much of the shine has come off Low in the years since Germany won the 2014 World Cup, although a strong farewell showing at Euro 2020 would assuage most doubts.

Even so, returning to club management for the first time in almost two decades at the Santiago Bernabeu might be something of a culture shock.

Massimiliamo Allegri

Yes, yes, okay. He's going to Juventus, right? Has he gone there already?

The rapidly turning European managerial merry-go-round has Allegri set for a return to Turin, the with failed Andrea Pirlo experiment apparently only having hours left to run.

On the other hand, this time yesterday, Conte was still in a job and Pochettino was settled in Paris, so far as anyone knew. And Allegri is admired in Madrid. Don't rule this one out entirely, for at least the next five minutes.

Juventus will part company with head coach Andrea Pirlo and replace him with Massimiliano Allegri, reports in Italy said on Thursday.

Rookie boss Pirlo signed a two-year deal to take over from Maurizio Sarri as Bianconeri boss last August, but the 42-year-old failed to live up to expectations.

The former Italy playmaker failed to guide Juve to what would have been a 10th consecutive Serie A title and appears to have paid the price.

Italian sport dailies La Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport both reported an agreement had been reached with Allegri.

Juventus edged into the Champions League for 2021-22 by finishing fourth as Inter won the Scudetto,

They tumbled out of this season's Champions League in March at the hands of Porto, losing on away goals at the round-of-16 stage.

Allegri has been out of work since leaving the Turin giants two years ago, but he had been linked with Real Madrid before news emerged of the likely change at Juventus.

Juventus were champions of Italy in five consecutive seasons under the experienced Allegri.

Zinedine Zidane's second spell as head coach of Real Madrid is over after the club announced the departure of the Frenchman.

The former 'galactico', a majestic playmaker who dazzled crowds at the Santiago Bernabeu and beyond, Zidane returned to Madrid for two spells as coach.

Now his era is over, with Madrid stating on Thursday: "Real Madrid announces that Zinedine Zidane has decided to end his current spell as coach of our club.

"It is now time to respect his decision and show him our appreciation for his professionalism, dedication and passion in all these years, and for what he represents to Real Madrid.

"Zidane is one of Real Madrid's great icons and his legacy extends beyond what he has achieved as a coach and player at our club.

"He is aware that he has a place in the hearts of the Real Madrid fans and that he will always have a home at Real Madrid."

In his first spell, from January 2016 to May 2018, Zidane delivered an astonishing three successive Champions League triumphs and one LaLiga title.

Drawn back to the club in March 2019, his second tenure did not prove quite as successful, although he led Madrid to LaLiga success in the 2019-20 season.

He departs after a barren campaign on the trophy front, however, with Madrid losing early to minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, edged out by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, and pipped to the Spanish title by Atletico Madrid.

Zidane, 48, had been tipped to depart for weeks, with the confirmation of his exit coming as no surprise to most, although Madrid striker Karim Benzema told L'Equipe this week: "I don't see him leaving. He will not leave, you will see."

Now Madrid must find a worthy successor. Their former striker Raul has been linked with the post but is inexperienced, and Massimiliano Allegri emerged as an early favourite as whispers of Zidane's decision emerged.

However Allegri, who won a Serie A title with Milan in 2011 and added five more with Juventus, is reportedly returning to the Turin giants as a replacement for Andrea Pirlo.

Antonio Conte, who left Inter on Wednesday, may be in the Madrid frame, while Joachim Low, who will step down as Germany coach after Euro 2020, could also be a contender.

Whoever takes the job will inherit a side who finished 2020-21 in fine form.

Madrid ended their LaLiga campaign on an 18-game unbeaten run, winning 13 and drawing five in that sequence to apply pressure on one-time runaway leaders Atletico, taking the title battle to the final day.

That goes down as their best run without defeat in a single league season since Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid also strung together 18 unbeaten games in the 2013-14 campaign, winning 15 times.

Zinedine Zidane's second spell as head coach of Real Madrid is over after the club announced the departure of the Frenchman.

The former 'galactico', a majestic playmaker who dazzled crowds at the Santiago Bernabeu and beyond, Zidane returned to Madrid for two spells as coach.

Now his era is over, with Madrid stating on Thursday: "Real Madrid announces that Zinedine Zidane has decided to end his current spell as coach of our club.

"It is now time to respect his decision and show him our appreciation for his professionalism, dedication and passion in all these years, and for what he represents to Real Madrid.

"Zidane is one of the great mythical figures of Real Madrid and his legend goes beyond what he has been as a coach and player of our club.

"He knows that he is at the heart of Real Madrid and that Real Madrid is and will always be his home."

In his first spell, from January 2016 to May 2018, Zidane delivered an astonishing three successive Champions League triumphs and one LaLiga title.

Drawn back to the club in March 2019, his second tenure did not prove quite as successful, although he led Madrid to LaLiga success in the 2019-20 season.

He departs after a barren campaign on the trophy front, however, with Madrid losing early to minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, edged out by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, and pipped to the Spanish title by Atletico Madrid.

Zidane, 48, had been tipped to depart for weeks, with the confirmation of his exit coming as no surprise to most, although Madrid striker Karim Benzema told L'Equipe this week: "I don't see him leaving. He will not leave, you will see."

Now Madrid must find a worthy successor. Their former striker Raul has been linked with the post but is inexperienced, and Massimiliano Allegri emerged as an early favourite as whispers of Zidane's decision emerged.

However Allegri, who won a Serie A title with Milan in 2011 and added five more with Juventus, is reportedly returning to the Turin giants as a replacement for Andrea Pirlo.

Antonio Conte, who left Inter on Wednesday, may be in the Madrid frame, while Joachim Low, who will step down as Germany coach after Euro 2020, could also be a contender.

Whoever takes the job will inherit a side who finished 2020-21 in fine form.

Madrid ended their LaLiga campaign on an 18-game unbeaten run, winning 13 and drawing five in that sequence to apply pressure on one-time runaway leaders Atletico, taking the title battle to the final day.

That goes down as their best run without defeat in a single league season since Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid also strung together 18 unbeaten games in the 2013-14 campaign, winning 15 times.

Juventus have announced that managing director Fabio Paratici is to leave next month after 11 years at the club.

Paratici arrived at the Italian giants from Sampdoria in May 2010 and has taken up a number of boardroom positions, during which time he has helped oversee transfer activity.

However, his contract expires at the end of June and, following talks with president Andrea Agnelli on Wednesday, it has been confirmed the 48-year-old's deal will not be renewed.

Agnelli said in a statement on Juve's official website: "Fabio has written the history of Juventus over the past few years. 

"A growth path characterised by professionalism, perseverance and many successes. 

"Today is the time to thank him for being able to create a strong professional bond, accompanied by a daily passion."

Juve have won 19 domestic trophies during Paratici's time in Turin and pulled off a major transfer coup by signing Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid in 2018.

"They were wonderful years of professional growth and strong emotions," Paratici said of his spell with Juve. 

"Juventus gave me the opportunity to carry out my work with full freedom and without interference in full respect of my role. 

"For this I would like to thank the whole club, my staff, the employees, co-workers, the players, the coaches, the shareholders, and in particular the president, Andrea Agnelli. 

"An important chapter of my career closes, as I await new challenges."

The decision to part ways with Paratici comes on the back of a disappointing 2020-21 campaign for Juventus, head coach Andrea Pirlo's first in charge.

Juve relinquished their grip on the Scudetto for the first time in 10 seasons, with Inter finishing top, though they did salvage their campaign somewhat in the run-in.

They won their final three Serie A games to finish above Napoli in fourth place, as well as beating Atalanta 2-1 in the Coppa Italia final to add to their Supercoppa Italiana triumph back in January.

While Paratici is certainly moving on, the future for Pirlo still remains unclear. Former head coach Massimiliano Allegri has been linked with a return to the Allianz Arena.

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's future is dominating headlines.

Milan want to re-sign the Italy international but time is running out.

A blockbuster move to LaLiga could be on the horizon…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA TO SPAIN?

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has been offered to Barcelona by his agent Mino Raiola, according to Diario AS.

Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season and the Italy international is yet to re-sign with Milan.

He has been linked with Serie A rivals Juventus, Barca, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Donnarumma's arrival could force Barca to sell star number one Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS claims Kylian Mbappe's proposed transfer to Real Madrid does not hinge on head coach Zinedine Zidane, who could leave at the end of the season. Former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri and Madrid great Raul have emerged as the frontrunners should Zidane leave, but it will not impact Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe's future. Madrid have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Tottenham's Harry Kane.

Sergio Aguero is set to accept a contract offer from Barca until June 2023, reports Fabrizio Romano. Aguero is poised to become a free agent once his deal with Manchester City expires. Lyon captain Memphis Depay is also on the verge of moving to Camp Nou on a free transfer.

- Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul, Atalanta's Josip Ilicic and Roma attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan are potential replacements for Milan's Hakan Calhanoglu, according to Tuttosport. Calhanoglu's contract is expiring at San Siro amid links with Juve, United and clubs in Qatar.

Monza are eyeing Juventus great Gianluigi Buffon, says Gazzetta dello Sport. Monza – owned by former Milan president Silvio Berlusconi – are currently in Serie B and missed out on promotion via the playoffs. Monza also boast Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng. Buffon has already revealed he will leave Juve at the end of the season.

Where will Harry Kane play in 2021-22?

The Tottenham star Kane reportedly wants out of his boyhood club.

Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are ready to pounce…

 

TOP STORY – KANE SEEKING SPURS DEPARTURE

Harry Kane has told Tottenham he wants to leave the club in the off-season, according to widespread reports in England.

Frustrated at a lack of silverware in London, Spurs star Kane would reportedly prefer to remain in the Premier League amid links to champions Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Kane is believed to be open to a LaLiga switch, with Barcelona among his admirers.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Diario AS claims former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane if the Frenchman leaves Real Madrid. Club great Raul, who is currently in charge of the Castilla team, is another option. It comes as Madrid push to bring in a franchise player in the form of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich's David Alaba are also wanted amid links to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and United midfielder Paul Pogba.

- The Sun says City are considering a mega move for Barca superstar Lionel Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Messi is reportedly open to reuniting with Pep Guardiola in Manchester on a one-year deal.

Barca are weighing up the futures of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto, reports Mundo Deportivo. Due to their financial situation, the players could be asked to take a pay cut as Lyon captain Memphis Depay prepares to arrive on a free transfer. City forward Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, Haaland and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum have also been linked.

- Lille's Jonathan Ikone is Dortmund's top priority as the Bundesliga club prepare for life without Jadon Sancho, according to France Football. Sancho has been tipped to join United or Liverpool, while Dortmund are also eyeing PSV sensation Donyell Malen, Ajax forward David Neres and Pedro Goncalves of Sporting CP.

The uncertain future of Kylian Mbappe means Paris Saint-Germain's off-season plans remain unclear.

The big-spending French powerhouse could enter the market to make a splash if the superstar 22-year-old forward exits.

PSG are currently in a Ligue 1 title fight and fell in the Champions League semi-finals.

 

TOP STORY - PSG TO TURN TO BAYERN'S LEWANDOWSKI

L'Equipe claims that PSG have put Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski firmly on their radar, should Kylian Mbappe leave.

Mbappe has been heavily linked with Real Madrid along with Liverpool and Manchester United.

L'Equipe reports that PSG will want to be proactive and land a major signing if Mbappe exits and the Bundesliga top scorer is top of their list, even if Bayern are determined to keep him.

Lewandowski is contracted with Bayern until 2023 although there have been some rumblings about entertaining a move elsewhere.

 

ROUND-UP

- Goal are reporting that Zinedine Zidane has informed his Real Madrid players that he will leave at the end of this season. The Sunday Mirror claims the club are already considering Everton's Carlo Ancelotti and ex-Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri as his replacement.

- Arsenal have joined Manchester City in the race to sign departing Southampton defender Ryan Bertrand reports the Mail on Sunday.

- West Ham are reportedly front of the queue to sign West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone according to Football Insider.

- Bayern Munich are targeting Inter defender Achraf Hakimi according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Marca claims Real Madrid are interested in Rennes teenage midfielder Eduardo Camavinga.

Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo maintains he is not worried about his future amid reports he could be sacked and replaced by Massimiliano Allegri.

Allegri, who stepped down in 2019 after winning five Serie A titles in a row with the Bianconeri, is reportedly the leading contender to take over should Pirlo be dismissed.

Juve are fourth in the table after 33 games and almost certain not to win a 10th consecutive Scudetto. Indeed, Inter will be crowned champions should they defeat Crotone and Atalanta fail to beat Sassuolo.

With the league title slipping away and their Champions League campaign ended by a last-16 defeat to Porto, there are serious doubts over whether Pirlo will be given a second season in charge of the club.

John Elkann, the CEO of Exor – the holding company of Juve's owners – visited the team's training ground this week to add further fuel to the rumours, but Pirlo insists he is not distracted.

"I'm fine," said the 2006 World Cup winner. "I talked to the owners the other day. It's not the first time they've come. We had a little chat about everything, as we always do. I'm calm about my work.

"I read the names of possible successors from you. I don't allow myself to be influenced and I'm focused on what I have to do.

"We are aware that this is a very important moment: we have 15 points to win plus the Coppa Italia final. All matches are fundamental and we are focused on the next one.

"My goal is to win the remaining matches that will lead the team to the Champions League and win the Coppa Italia. I am not thinking about anything else: I'm calm and concentrated. These final days will be a fight to the end, with difficult matches for everyone... starting tomorrow."

Juve face Udinese on Sunday, a team against whom they have won six times and lost just once in their most recent seven league meetings.

Erling Haaland is hot property right now with a long list of suitors keen on the Norwegian forward.

Financially powerful clubs Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea are among those jostling for the Borussia Dortmund man but Barcelona are in contention too.

Haaland and his agent Mino Raiola visited Barcelona along with Madrid in April as talks commenced.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI PAY CUT TO FUND HAALAND DEAL

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is willing to take a pay cut in order to help Barcelona land Erling Haaland according to Eurosport.

Messi wants to renew with Barca under the assumption the club is ambitious and contending for top honours.

Contract talks have commenced between Messi and the Catalans, with reports that they will offer Messi a new 10-year contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca reports that Real Madrid are looking to extend Lucas Vazquez's contract with a new and improved offer.

- Raheem Sterling could be offloaded by Manchester City this off-season, in order to fund moves for Erling Haaland and Jack Grealish, claims Football Insider.

- Chelsea are in the race for Juventus' French midfielder Adrien Rabiot, along with Barcelona, reports Calciomercato.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Napoli have made a €10 million offer to Club Brugge for 20-year-old Belgium international Charles De Ketelaere.

- Gazzetta dello Sport also reports that Juventus wants to lure Massimiliano Allegri back to the club to replace head coach Andrea Pirlo.

Tottenham's Jose Mourinho gamble has not paid off and once again Spurs find themselves at a crossroads with their next managerial appointment.

Installing Mourinho as boss, even with his astounding list of achievements, appeared a slightly bemusing decision considering the complete contrast between his pragmatic style and the more high-intensity football played by predecessor Mauricio Pochettino.

There were plenty of signs of promise, not least the 6-1 hammering of Mourinho's former employers Manchester United at Old Trafford in the infancy of a Premier League campaign that offered early promise of a title tilt.

But a run to the EFL Cup final has not done enough to assuage Spurs' hierarchy, who have decided to pull the trigger after a slump in form has left Tottenham seventh in the table, out of the Europa League and in serious jeopardy of missing out on Champions League football again.

So, 17 months after his appointment, Mourinho has been sacked. Here, we look at the potential candidates to replace the Portuguese.

JULIAN NAGELSMANN

Is there a more in-demand young coach in world football than RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann right now? Hansi Flick dropped a huge bombshell on the world of football when he announced on Saturday that he intends to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season, with the German national team likely to be his next venture. Nagelsmann is thought to be Bayern's top target but reports in Germany suggest Leipzig will attempt to resist such a move, given it would considerably strengthen a rival. The 33-year-old has long-been linked to Tottenham, and the decision to wield the axe on Mourinho may have been prompted by Flick's announcement and the need to act fast to land a top target.

BRENDAN RODGERS

Another man whose name has been heavily linked with Tottenham is Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers, one of the most revered coaches in the Premier League. After falling agonisingly short of leading Liverpool to the Premier League title in the 2013-14 campaign, Rodgers departed Anfield in October 2015 and went on to enjoy an excellent period of success at Celtic. He has since turned Leicester into Champions League contenders over the past two seasons, playing an exciting brand of football at the same time. A potential stumbling block may be the fact his contract runs until 2025 but many believe Daniel Levy sees Rodgers as the man to lead Tottenham.

MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI

Massimiliano Allegri is a name that crops up pretty much any time a vacancy becomes available at a big club across Europe, and it is not hard to see why. The Italian won five straight Serie A titles with Juventus, also lifting the Coppa Italia on four occasions during that golden period. With a top-flight title to his name during his time at Milan also on his resume, Allegri has proven to be a serial winner in the past. With the 53-year-old out of work, Allegri would provide a cheaper solution than others. His compatriot Maurizio Sarri, a Europa League winner with Chelsea, has also been touted – he too led Juventus to Serie A glory before being replaced by Andrea Pirlo ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

LEDLEY KING/RYAN MASON

It seems unlikely, but Spurs may decide to appoint from within. One option would be to instil former captain Ledley King, who made 268 Premier League appearances for Tottenham. Upon his retirement, King took up an ambassadorial role at the club and was appointed to Mourinho's coaching staff as first team assistant last August. Another who provides an internal option is Ryan Mason, who has been asked to take first-team training. The former England midfielder was forced to retire at the age of 26 after fracturing his skull and has been working in Tottenham's academy coaching set up.

GERRARD, BENITEZ AND OTHER OUTSIDERS

Even the best laid plans can go to waste and should luring Nagelsmann or Rodgers not come to fruition, several other interesting candidates have been mooted. Chief among them is Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who has cut his managerial teeth at Rangers and ended Celtic's dominance in Scotland by leading the club to Scottish Premiership glory this season, while a 2-0 win over their Old Firm rivals on Sunday kept them in the hunt for Scottish Cup glory. Rafael Benitez, the man who Gerrard lifted the Champions League under at Liverpool, is another interesting name said to be in the running. The Spaniard has plenty of experience in England having managed the Reds, Chelsea and Newcastle United and is out of work having left Chinese side Dalian Professional back in January. Fulham boss Scott Parker, a former Tottenham midfielder, and ex-Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe have also been suggested as potential alternatives.

Andrea Pirlo was not concerned by a meeting between former Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and president Andrea Agnelli, insisting he retains the support of the Serie A champions.

Reports this week revealed Allegri, who won five Scudetti in five seasons in Turin, had met with Bianconeri chief Agnelli.

That appeared to increase pressure on Pirlo, whose first season as a senior coach has badly gone off the rails.

Juve are fourth heading into Wednesday's game against Napoli, who are fifth on the same number of points.

After nine consecutive Serie A titles, Juve risk missing out on Champions League qualification for next season.

But Pirlo feels he still has the backing of Agnelli, who informed him of the encounter with Allegri, a coach who has been without a job since his departure in 2019.

"There is no position," Pirlo said ahead of the Napoli game. "I was warned by the president himself about the meeting with Allegri.

"Football is one thing, friendship is another. I have a daily relationship with Agnelli, we tell each other everything that happens.

"I knew about this meeting and I know I have his confidence, then obviously it's up to me to prove that I can be the coach for next season as well."

Pirlo might find the going tough against Napoli, as the Partenopei arrive in Turin on a four-match winning run in Serie A.

Napoli have also won their previous two games against Juve, while they have a joint-high five wins over the Bianconeri since the start of their sequence of nine championships in a row.

Pirlo will also be without Merih Demiral, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Bernardeschi following positive coronavirus tests, but the coach insisted he had no issue with the game going ahead.

The fixture was originally scheduled to take place in October but did not go ahead as planned, after Napoli did not travel to Turin on the recommendation of their local health authority (ASL).

"We respect the protocol," Pirlo said. "We are in tune with what the ASL says. We will do what we have always done, we will present ourselves and play."

Paulo Dybala, left out against Torino on Saturday after breaching COVID-19 regulations, is back in contention, while Pirlo is keeping faith with Wojciech Szczesny and Dejan Kulusevski, who have each been guilty of recent on-field mistakes.

Juve had not committed a single error leading to a goal in Serie A this season until March but have since had three.

Szczesny's, against Torino, also saw Kulusevski - at fault against Lazio - give the ball away cheaply.

"Szczesny will play because after a negative performance there is always a desire for redemption," Pirlo said, adding: "I spoke to Kulusevski. I reassured him. Mistakes can happen - you have to raise your head."

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

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

But Haaland could reportedly unlock Messi's future.

 

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

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

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

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

 

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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