Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he is open to extending his Milan contract if technical director Paolo Maldini "wants".

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

The former Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain star – out of contract at season's end – has scored 14 Serie A goals to help Milan up to second position, three points adrift of city rivals Inter.

Asked about his future, Ibrahimovic told RAI's Che Tempo Che Fa via RAI: "I don't know, let's see. If Paolo wants, I am up for it.

"The season is still long, there are many games left.

"We always play to win, even if they can play once a week."

Nursing an injury, Ibrahimovic has been sidelined as he participated in the Sanremo music festival during the week.

Ibrahimovic was in attendance for Milan's 2-0 victory at Hellas Verona on Sunday.

"I am Zlatan, I feel the responsibility and I feel like a leader. This team is the only one that made me feel thrilled. I want to teach, I want to be a guide," he added.

"When I say something, they others are like: 'Ok, we are doing it'. Today I wanted to be in Verona, I felt it inside.

"When I spend a day without them is like staying without my sons."

Stefano Pioli felt Milan showed they have the belief in their ability to sustain a challenge for trophies in a 2-0 Serie A win at Hellas Verona on Sunday.

Rade Krunic and Diogo Dalot scored superb first Serie A goals to move second-placed Milan three points behind leaders Inter.

Krunic opened the scoring with a sublime first-half free-kick and Dalot doubled their lead with a classy strike early in the second half.

Rossoneri head coach Pioli was proud of the way his side extended their unbeaten run to four matches ahead of a Europa League round-of-16 first-leg tie at Manchester United on Thursday.

He told Sky Sport Italia. "We have shown that we have belief. It was a difficult match."

Pioli added: "We are not Martians, we are a young team of the which everyone was proud of and which everyone now asks for continuity.

"But we know how to overcome our defects, we know our strength and merits."

Theo Hernandez and Ante Rebic were added to Milan's injury list following the draw with Udinese, but Pioli says they will not complain about absentees, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic also sidelined.

He said: "We were good at not feeling sorry for ourselves, we must be balanced in evaluating our performance, even when we win."

Rade Krunic and Diogo Dalot scored their first Serie A goals for Milan in an impressive 2-0 victory at Hellas Verona.

Krunic opened the scoring with a brilliant first-half free-kick and Dalot doubled Milan's lead with a classy strike early in the second period at Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

Stefano Pioli’s side should have won by a more emphatic margin, but victory moved them three points behind leaders Inter, who play Atalanta on Monday.

The Rossoneri are now unbeaten in four matches ahead of a Europa League encounter with Manchester United on Thursday.

Milan made a positive start and they should have been in front when Rafael Leao headed Davide Calabria's whipped delivery over the crossbar.

Pioli's men continued to pose an attacking threat and Krunic made the breakthrough 27 minutes in, finding the far corner of the net with a sublime free-kick after he was upended by Giangiacomo Magnani at full tilt.

Striker Leao twice fired over to ensure Verona trailed by just the one goal at the end of a one-sided first half.

But Dalot put Milan two up just four minutes into the second half with a sublime finish, finding the top-right corner of the net with his right foot after throwing a clever dummy just outside the penalty area.

Alexis Saelemaekers came close to a third goal when he drilled a venomous strike over the bar as Verona struggled to contain Milan.

Federico Ceccherini headed wide at the other end with around 14 minutes to go and Krunic cleared Marco Faraoni’s header off the line as Milan secured three precious points.

 

Antonio Conte is focused only on this season with Inter, rather than his long-term future at the club, as the Serie A leaders prepare to host Atalanta.  

Inter's 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday – sealed thanks to a brace from Alexis Sanchez – made it four league wins on the spin, though Conte acknowledges there is still a long way to go yet in their bid for a first Scudetto since 2010.  

The former Juventus and Chelsea boss is in his second year in charge of the Nerazzurri, his current deal running until the end of the 2021-22 campaign.  

It remains to be seen if he will sign an extension to extend his tenure beyond then, though his primary concern right now is staying clear of the chasing pack in the title race.  

"The fact is I have another year to run on the contract. At this moment, all of us – me, the coaches, the players – must focus on the present," Conte said.

"We cannot be distracted by other factors, we must be concentrated because we can influence the present, from here to the end of the season.  

"What will happen externally, I do not know. We have no influence over that. We can influence the present and our job.  

"I know that people want to talk about other factors, but we must stay concentrated. We need continuity and consistency. We want to show that Inter are back to the levels it deserves. 

"We cannot get carried away and think about the future – we must stay focused and think about the here and now. Our objective is playing matters and doing well for the club." 

Conte will come up against one of his former clubs on Monday, though Atalanta are a far different proposition now to when he was in charge in 2009-10.

Gian Piero Gasperini's side are once again fighting for a top-four finish, their total of 49 points a club-record tally after 25 games in a top-flight campaign.

Inter have triumphed only once in their last six matches against Atalanta in Serie A, with Conte full of praise for his opposite number ahead of the game at San Siro.

"We are facing a team that creates big problems for everyone, in the Champions League and in the league, where they have won several times against the big names," Conte said. 

"Atalanta have consolidated, aware of their means and have strong players, both the starters and those who enter during the match – I think of [Luis] Muriel, who has taken over many times and has solved complicated games. 

"Gasperini is doing an extraordinary job, the group is following his ideas and I'm happy for him and for Atalanta, who I coached for a while."

Andrea Pirlo saluted the spirit of his Juventus side after they came from behind to seal a 3-1 win over Lazio in Serie A on Saturday.

The Bianconeri fell behind to Joaquin Correa's 14th-minute strike, but powered back to claim all three points thanks to Adrien Rabiot's fine strike and Alvaro Morata's second-half brace – the second of which came from the penalty spot. 

Morata's double took his goal involvement tally this season to 15 (seven goals, eight assists) – his best return in a Serie A campaign. 

The result means third-placed Juve are now seven points behind leaders Inter, having played the same number of games. 

With an eye on Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto, which the Portuguese side hold a 2-1 advantage in, Pirlo opted to shuffle his pack against Lazio. 

Serie A's leading goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo started on the substitutes' bench, while Federico Bernardeschi was deployed at left-back and Danilo was used in a defensive midfield role. 

While Pirlo was disappointed with his side's sluggish start, he was pleased they were able to secure all three points after going behind for the first time since the 2-1 win over Torino in December. 

"We started badly and conceded with our poor back pass, but then there was a strong reaction from the whole team despite missing so many players," he told DAZN. 

"We didn't let our heads drop, we started to step up the tempo and that was the most important thing.

"We thought about Tuesday's game. We knew tonight was like a final, some had to play in new positions and showed great professionalism and spirit of sacrifice.

"The most important thing was the three points. Danilo was ready to work in central midfield, while Bernardeschi deserves all the compliments for playing as a left-back.

"What I liked the most was the reaction of the team, as we didn't accept being behind in such a delicate and important game, so it was that spirit I appreciated."

While he did not get on the scoresheet, Federico Chiesa was particularly impressive for the reigning champions, and the winger, who laid on Morata's first, believes something has sparked amongst his team-mates. 

"We put in a great performance, but only after conceding the opening goal, which was a mistake," he said. "We proved that we have heart, grit and I think we'll battle to the end if we play like this.

"Lazio have shown themselves to be a great team, always in the fight for the top four, so it was a big game. Having said that, they are all big if we want to win the Scudetto.

"I do what the coach asks of me. Winning the ball back comes above all from the team pressing and not just individuals. The assist was mine, but I was able to get the ball because we all worked so hard to win it back.

"After tonight, I think we're all in great shape. Something sparked within us and from now on every game is a final, whether it's in Serie A, the Champions League or the Coppa Italia."

Alvaro Morata scored twice to help Juventus to a 3-1 home win over Lazio on Saturday and keep alive their faint hopes of a 10th consecutive Serie A title.

The Bianconeri, who started with Cristiano Ronaldo on the substitutes' bench, had started sluggishly and fell behind inside 15 minutes courtesy of Joaquin Correa's third league goal of the campaign. 

Adrien Rabiot pulled them level with their first shot on target in the 39th minute, though, before Morata's quickfire double after the break – the second from the penalty spot – sealed a third win in four top-flight games. 

Andrea Pirlo's side remain in third, but have moved to within a point of Milan and seven of leaders Inter, having played the same number of games.

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo was named on the substitutes' bench for Juventus' Serie A clash with Lazio on Saturday. 

With an eye on Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto, who hold a 2-1 lead from the first match, Andrea Pirlo opted to rest his talisman. 

Ronaldo is the leading scorer in Serie A this season with 20 goals and has netted four in his last three games. 

Speaking at his pre-match media conference on Friday, Pirlo hinted that 36-year-old Ronaldo might be suffering from fatigue. 

"When you play a lot of games, a day or two of rest is good," Pirlo said. "It also applies to Cristiano. 

"Now that we are short up front, he has gritted his teeth and will do it for as long as we need it. He has shown and continues to demonstrate his great professionalism."

Juve, who were 10 points behind leaders Inter ahead of kick-off, opted for Alvaro Morata and Dejan Kulusevski in attack.

 

Will Kalidou Koulibaly leave Serie A's Napoli?

Koulibaly is one of Europe's finest defenders and the 29-year-old has attracted interest from across Europe.

Bayern Munich are reportedly eyeing the Senegal international.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN FRONTRUNNERS FOR NAPOLI STAR

Bayern Munich are leading the race to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Il Mattino.

Koulibaly has long been linked with a move away from Napoli, though the club's valuation has deterred suitors.

But Koulibaly's asking price has reportedly dropped to €45million (£39m), alerting Bayern, as well as Manchester United and Liverpool.

Bild, however, claims Bundesliga champions Bayern have not made an offer for the Napoli star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild reports Manchester City are favourites to sign Erling Haaland if Borussia Dortmund sanction an off-season exit. Haaland has been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Liverpool, ChelseaUnited and Bayern.

- As City target Haaland, Sport Mediaset says Serie A champions Juve are considering a move for veteran forward Sergio Aguero. The Argentina international is out of contract at season's end.

Barca have been offered Bayer Leverkusen star Edmond Tapsoba, claims Sport. Tapsoba is valued at around €40m.

- Wolves are open to selling Adama Traore at a reduced price, according to the Daily Mail. Barca, Liverpool and City have been linked with Traore previously.

- The Sun reports United are considering the sale of star goalkeeper David de Gea. It comes as Dean Henderson expects to become number one next season. The Transfer Window podcast, meanwhile, says United are seeking a new number one amid links to Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Chelsea remain interested in RB Leipzig centre-back Ibrahima Konate, according to Bild. Konate is not short of admirers, linked to the likes of United and Arsenal.

United have not contacted Eintracht Frankfurt's Andre Silva as an alternative to Haaland, claims Bild.

Andrea Pirlo insists Juventus remain determined to push for glory on all fronts despite not being at 100 per cent, with the club heading into a pivotal stage of the season.

The reigning champions find themselves in a battle to remain in touch with Inter in the Serie A title race; they trail the leaders by 10 points, albeit with a game in hand. 

They host Lazio on Saturday in league action, then have a crucial Champions League clash with Porto to follow on Tuesday, the Bianconeri needing to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to make it through to the quarter-finals.

With a Coppa Italia final to come later in the year, Pirlo appreciates he will have to manage his squad carefully in the coming weeks, though insists his focus will not switch away from the Scudetto while there is still a chance of winning it for a 10th successive season. 

"All the matches are decisive for Juventus. The next game is tomorrow's match and we will concentrate on it with all our strength to win and only then will we think about Porto," Pirlo told the media on Friday. 

"We are still in the race on all fronts and as long as there is hope we will give our all to try to win the league. 

"The enthusiasm is there because we are going through a period of tough and important games. Tomorrow's match is also important for the standings and where we are is the same as last week. We can't make mistakes in case those in front of us do so."

He added: "We must play an intelligent game tomorrow, knowing that we are in a delicate period and we are not at 100 per cent.  

"It will be important to manage every situation and every play well, because you won't be able to go to 100 miles per hour for 90 minutes."

Pirlo is hampered in his preparations by injuries within the first-team squad, while Rodrigo Bentancur is isolating away from the group after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Alvaro Morata is nearing a return to action; the striker's recent absence has increased the reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored four goals in Juve's past three games. 

"When you play a lot of games, a day or two of rest is good," Pirlo said. "It also applies to Cristiano. 

"Now that we are short up front, he has gritted his teeth and will do it for as long as we need it. He has shown and continues to demonstrate his great professionalism."

Pirlo revealed Leonardo Bonucci has been able to take part in some sessions, though fellow defender Matthijs de Ligt is yet to resume training. Morata, meanwhile, is "getting better every day". 

There was also good news regarding Arthur, with the midfielder sidelined since early February but potentially close to a comeback.

"Arthur's medical check-up went well yesterday, the pain is reducing," the Juve boss revealed. "We hope he can give us a hand in the next few matches, it will depend on the pain when he resumes training with the team.

"Aaron Ramsey is fine and could play tomorrow. He can be an extra resource and we might need him."

Gianluigi Donnarumma is attracting interest from across Europe.

Donnarumma's Milan contract expires at season's end and the star goalkeeper is yet to commit.

Premier League giants Chelsea are reportedly ready to prise the Italy international to London.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LAUNCH DONNARUMMA BID

Chelsea are ready to make a move for Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Libero Quotidiano.

Donnarumma's contract expires at the end of the season and Premier League giants Chelsea are set to submit an offer worth £9million (€10.5m) per season, despite already boasting the world's most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and Edouard Mendy.

The Italy international has also been linked with the likes of Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sky reports teenage sensation Jamal Musiala has signed a long-term contract extension with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. The new deal is reportedly worth €5m per year and will tie him to Bayern until 2026.

Manchester City have joined the race for Atalanta star Robin Gosens, according to Virgilio. Gosens has had interest from Serie A rivals Inter and Juventus but Atalanta are understood to want €40m (£34m) for his services.

- The Daily Mail says Leicester City are planning for Jamie Vardy's long-term replacement by targeting a £15m move for Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard.

- Santiago Arias is being circled by EvertonRoma and PSG this off-season, according to Kicker. Arias is currently on loan at Bayer Leverkusen from Atletico Madrid.

- InterLive claims Inter are keen on Juve goalkeeper Mattia Perin, who is currently on loan at Genoa, and may use Matias Vecino in exchange. The Nerazzurri are looking for goalkeeper cover for Samir Handanovic.

Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes Alexis Sanchez is in his best condition since he joined the club, while the Chilean has compared himself to a "caged tiger".

Sanchez followed up his goal in the Nerazzurri's weekend win over Genoa with a vital brace in the 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday. 

The result moved Inter six points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit after Stefano Pioli's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday. 

Sanchez spent last season on loan at Inter from Manchester United, but only managed four goals across all competitions. 

He is up to five this term despite largely playing second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

While acknowledging that those two are still his preferred partnership in attack, Conte stressed the importance of having a firing Sanchez waiting in the wings. 

"He is in the best condition we've ever seen him at the moment," the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia.

"He knows only hard work will take him to a certain level, and now Romelu and Lautaro know that Sanchez is right behind them too. 

"It's important for us to create these situations with competition for places.

"Don't forget for a year-and-a-half we had to carry on with just Lukaku and Lautaro, nobody else. We had Sebastiano Esposito last season, he's now in Serie B at Venezia."

Sanchez agreed with Conte's assessment of his condition and said he is eager for more playing time. 

"I am a player with a lot of experience, the coach trusts me and I am happy," he said. 

"I always want to play and be at 100 per cent. I feel like a caged lion and the more I play, the better I feel. That's always been the case since I started playing football.

"I love this sport. I love playing, and the more I play, the better I feel. We've all made sacrifices, worked hard, watched videos, studied, trained and every day learned something new."

The win over Parma means Inter have now claimed 59 points or more from the opening 25 games of a Serie A season for the fourth time in the three-points-for-a-win era. 

They won the title in the previous three (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09), yet Conte is refusing to get carried away and warned his side against losing their focus.

"We are in a very good position, certainly a vast improvement from last season, but we also know every game is a battle and we can drop points against anyone," he added. "That is why we must never underestimate any opponent.

"We want to do our best. If our best means we are here at the end of the season, we'll be very happy and proud, because it'll mean we've made incredible leaps forward in a very short period of time."

Inter are next in action on Monday when they host Atalanta.

Inter moved six points clear at the Serie A summit as a brace from Alexis Sanchez sealed a 2-1 win away at struggling Parma on Thursday.   

Scudetto rivals Milan were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday and Antonio Conte's side took full advantage of that slip up to move closer to a first league title since the 2009-10 campaign.   

Sanchez, who scored in the weekend win over Genoa, set Inter on their way to a sixth consecutive top-flight win with his fourth league goal of the campaign nine minutes into the second half.   

The former Manchester United player added another eight minutes later as Inter, who gave the hosts hope of salvaging a draw when Hernani scored 19 minutes from full time, claimed yet another three points to pull away from their neighbours at the top of the table.

Parma carved out the first clear sight of goal in the contest, Samir Handanovic pawing away Jasmin Kurtic's header in the 15th minute.   

A sluggish Inter did not have a shot on target until the 33rd minute when Milan Skriniar's effort inside the six-yard box was well kept out by Luigi Sepe.   

The Parma goalkeeper then thwarted Romelu Lukaku after he had been played in by Marcelo Brozovic, while the Belgium international also headed wide before the interval.   

However, Inter started the second half brightly and went ahead in the 54th minute when Sanchez's strike from eight yards proved too powerful for Sepe, creeping over the line before Riccardo Gagliolo could clear.   

The Chile international claimed his second in the 62nd minute, sliding his finish past an exposed Sepe after a barnstorming run from Lukaku created the opportunity for his team-mate.   

Hernani set up a tense finale with a controlled volley from 10 yards from Giuseppe Pezzella's cross in the 71st minute, yet Inter held on to take another significant step towards the title.

Juventus have announced midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Uruguay international – who played the entire match as Juve defeated Spezia 3-0 in Serie A action on Tuesday – is asymptomatic, as confirmed by the club on Thursday.

Bentancur is now isolating and seemingly certain to miss Saturday's league game against Lazio in Turin.

"The club is in contact with the relevant health authorities for the definition of an effective implementation of the protocols required to allow the training and competition activities of the team group," Juventus said in a statement.

The 23-year-old's positive test also makes him a major doubt for the upcoming return leg of the last-16 Champions League tie against Porto.

Juve lost 2-1 in the first meeting, with the reverse fixture to take place next Tuesday.

Bentancur has made 33 appearances in all competitions this season, including 18 starts in the league for Andrea Pirlo's side.

Erling Haaland continues to dominate headlines.

The Borussia Dortmund sensation is one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

Manchester City and Real Madrid are reportedly going head-to-head to sign the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – AGUERO OUT, HAALAND IN?

Manchester City want to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a replacement for veteran forward Sergio Aguero, according to Bild.

Aguero, who has been hampered by injury this season, is out of contract at the end of the current campaign.

Haaland is a player in demand, having been linked to Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

But Haaland dominates the front pages of Thursday's Marca, Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo in Spain amid Madrid's interest.

The Norway international reportedly wants to listen to Madrid, who will need €150million to prise Haaland to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Lyon star Houssem Aouar remains on the radar of Juventus. Aouar has previously been linked with the Serie A champions, as well as Arsenal.

Chelsea are interested in Monaco's defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims ESPN.

- O Jogo says Liverpool could reignite their interest in Sporting CP defender Nuno Mendes. Juve, Madrid and Milan have also been tracking the 18-year-old, who has a £60m (€70m) release clause.

Edinson Cavani is open to extending his United contract, according to Fabrizio Romano. Cavani joined United as a free agent on a one-year deal at the start of the season. The former PSG star has been linked with Boca Juniors.

Stefano Pioli did not see any shortage of commitment from his Milan side in the 1-1 Serie A draw with Udinese, but conceded the quality was lacking.

Franck Kessie scored a 97th-minute penalty with the last kick of Wednesday's encounter at San Siro, as Milan's title hopes took another hit – Inter now have the chance to move six points clear should they beat Parma on Thursday.

Milan's equaliser came courtesy of a remarkable error from Jens Stryger Larsen, who inexplicably handled in the area as Udinese looked to see out what would have been just a second away win in their last eight league matches on the road.

The Rossoneri were without their talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is set to miss up to three weeks with a thigh injury, and Milan head coach Pioli acknowledged his team were missing the "characteristics" the 39-year-old brings, while also bemoaning Mario Mandzukic's absence.

"We wanted to win, it's a shame," Pioli told DAZN. "We knew that it would be difficult against a team with everyone behind the ball.

"I saw determination and a lack of clarity. There was a lack of quality and rhythm, not anger and determination.

"We start again as always with the next match. Each game has its own story. On Sunday we found an opponent who wanted to play, Udinese instead play this [defensive] type of game.

"Today we lacked the right characteristics to face this type of match, we lacked the two real strikers in the squad. [Rafael] Leao and [Ante] Rebic have other characteristics.

"Now we must try to resume our run. A half positive result, let's think about the next game."

Leao and Rebic both struggled to assert themselves against Udinese's three-man defence.

Rebic – the second-highest scorer in Serie A in the back half of the season (since January 29), behind Inter's Romelu Lukaku – failed to have an attempt on goal or create a chance, while Leao only tested Juan Musso with a tame flick late in the first half.

Pioli did not look to single out his attackers, however, though he acknowledged Leao in particular has a lot to add to his game.

"I always expect a lot from my players," Pioli said. "Rafa has characteristics more suited for attacking spaces.

"When he finds a closed defence, he still doesn't have the shrewdness to anticipate the defender."

Ibrahimovic was watching on from close to the bench and was seen looking disgruntled at Milan's display.

"We didn't come out of this game satisfied, he's like everyone else," Pioli explained.

The good news for Milan is that, in Kessie, they have a midfielder on 10 goals in all competitions this season, though nine of them have come from the penalty spot.

Kessie's cool finish, timed at 96:20 was the latest Milan have scored in Serie A since 2017, while the Ivory Coast international has now netted 25 league goals in total for the Rossoneri – matching Robinho's tally.

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