For Milan and Inter Sundays derby a chance to show how far theyve come

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ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti and Stewart Robson share their predictions for the next chapter between Milan’s rivals.

MILAN, Italy — Stay indoors. Keep the windows closed. Don’t let the kids play outside.

Southerly winds have blown fumes caused by the burning of rubbish you shouldn’t be burning into Milan’s well-to-do neighbourhoods, and the city’s residents are asking questions about what they’re breathing in and whether it’s poisonous. Only one topic is helping to shift conversation and divert attention among the chattering classes out by the canal in Navigli, the bars in Brera and the arcades of the Galleria: Sunday’s eagerly anticipated Derby della Madonnina (Sunday, 2.30pm ET, ESPN+).

One reason for that is the growing confidence among the calcio cognoscenti that its two protagonists are starting to see the light again after too long in the darkness. This is perhaps the first derby since 2012, a year in which Milan sold Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain and Inter’s treble winners faded, that both teams are perceived to have the kind of quality worthy of the history and tradition of this rivalry.

It’s premature to talk about restoration to its former glory, of course. In fact, the economic stratification of football over the past decade has been so pronounced one wonders if it’s even possible. Nevertheless, it does feel that the instability and dysfunction characteristic of Inter and Milan over the past six years — with three owners each and 16 coaching changes between them — is thankfully over and normal service starting to resume.

Gonzalo Higuain has given Milan the no. 9 they've been sorely lacking and while they're still a work in progress, there's finally hope swirling around the storied club.
Gonzalo Higuain has given Milan the No. 9 they’ve been sorely lacking, and, while they’re still a work in progress, there’s finally hope swirling around the storied club.

The shift in perceptions reached a tipping point over the summer as Inter returned to the Champions League for the first time in six years and Elliott, the American hedge fund, repossessed Milan, appointing Leonardo and Paolo Maldini to run the sporting side of the club while ousting former owner Li Yonghong after he missed a recapitalisation payment. All of a sudden, the Milanesi have a renewed sense of credibility.

In Inter’s case, the passivity of Erick Thohir has been replaced by Suning pumping in half a billion euros to modernise the club, revalue the brand and grow revenues. With Milan, the mysterious Li and the doubts regarding his personal fortune have been redressed by the intervention of Elliott, whose profile and trustworthiness not only were enough to bring about reinstatement to the Europa League but also convinced Maldini to accept Leonardo’s offer, ending his apparent exile and returning him into the fold.

Maldini’s decision in particular represents a huge endorsement of the new project and signals an end to the “House of Cards”-style politicking, the creative differences and the confusion — as incarnated by Li’s tenure and the time Barbara Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani both covered the role of Milan’s chief executive — all of which turned him off returning.

Inter have had their own issues, with Suning initially taking advice from those who helped them get Jiangsu (the company’s Chinese Super League club) off the ground and the appointment as a sporting director for Suning Sports of Walter Sabatini, who has since resigned, in parallel with Piero Ausilio, who does the same job for Inter. The €125.5 million wasted on Gabigol, Joao Mario, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Dalbert continues to haunt Appiano Gentile, but greater clarity does seem to come in the form of Luciano Spalletti, who knows exactly what he wants — a reunion with Radja Nainggolan, please — and the presence of the owner’s son, Steven Zhang, on the ground in Milan.

Hopeful of exiting their settlement agreement with UEFA next summer, Inter have a head start on Milan, but looking at the way Leonardo and Maldini are operating, it doesn’t feel like it’ll be long before the Rossoneri are back in the Champions League.

Inter's resurgence is hitting stride nicely in 2018-19 but there's still some way to go before they bridge the gap to, say, Juventus.
Inter’s resurgence is hitting stride nicely in 2018-19, but there’s still some way to go before they bridge the gap to, say, Juventus.

In Gonzalo Higuain, Leonardo delivered the No. 9 Milan have been missing since the retirement of Pippo Inzaghi. By trading Leonardo Bonucci for Mattia Caldara, a move that left Juventus deeply conflicted, he ensured the team has the defence seemingly set for the next decade, and the announcement last week of the signing of Lucas Paqueta from Flamengo felt like classic Leonardo, following in the tradition of the early swoops to beat the competition for Kaka and Alexandre Pato. The reported role of Kaka in the deal and Rino Gattuso’s continued knack of exceeding expectation in style and results again serve to reinforce the idea that Milan are Milan again.

Every team can be improved, but there is a sense with Milan’s clubs that, at least relative to the lay of the land and where they have been in recent years, they are as complete as they have been in a while. Inter, for instance, have three top centre-backs and are no longer as dependent on Mauro Icardi for goals now that the wingers and midfielders are chipping in. Milan have the centre-forward they were crying out for last season, boast a backline that could start for Italy and can deploy a blossoming Suso in the form of his life.

Make no mistake: there is still a lot of ground to make up, and Juventus remain in a league of their own. But it’s encouraging that, figuratively at least, the air in Milan is clearing, the toxicity is gone and, on the eve of the Madonnina, the future is apparently quite bright.



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Transfer Rater Neymar to Barcelona Marcus Rashford to Juventus

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Things change in the blink of an eye in football. The Football Whispers Index takes the latest transfer rumours and gives them a score out of five; the higher the score, the more realistic and reliable the Whisper.

Here are today’s top five emerging whispers. And keep an eye on Transfer Talk for all the latest gossip.

Alberto Moreno to Arsenal

The Liverpool left-back has indicated that he is not going to sign a new deal at the club and will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season. This has alerted a number of sides including Arsenal, according to the Mirror, who also report that Moreno has turned down extensions to his current deal in search of first-team football. Unai Emery has previously worked with Moreno at Sevilla, and is looking for options at left-back having used 32-year-old Nacho Monreal in the position so far this season.

Oleksandr Zinchenko to Betis

The 21-year-old Ukraine international is another player in search of first-team football having struggled to break into the Manchester City side on a regular basis. Spanish outlet AS are reporting that the versatile youngster is a target for La Liga side Real Betis, who are in the market for a left back. Though Zinchenko would consider himself a midfielder, he impressed at full back for Pep Guardiola’s side and this could give him more first-team football in the long run.

Marcus Rashford to Juventus

Juventus sent their scouts to the UEFA Nations League clash between Spain and England, with Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford the focus of their attention. Reports in Italy by Tuttosport state the Italian champions are looking to take advantage of the 20-year-old’s unhappiness at his hometown club, and will look to make a move for the forward, whose contract has less than two years to run.

Neymar to Barcelona

Rumours of Neymar’s possible return to Barcelona have been given extra weight following new details that have emerged in the Spanish media. Reports on radio station Cadena Ser suggest the player has an agreement with Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi that will allow him to leave at the end of the season. The deal could see the Brazilian return to the Catalan club for a similar fee that saw him leave for the French capital in 2017.

Franco Vazquez to West Ham United

Manuel Pellegrini’s side will target a forward in the January transfer window, with Sevilla’s Franco Vazquez at the top of their list. Local Seville-based outlet Estadio Deportivo believe that the Argentine could favour a move to east London due to his friendship with one of West Ham’s assistant coaches, Enzo Maresca, who played alongside Vazquez at Palermo. The 29-year-old attacking midfielder has a release clause of around £35 million, but the Premier League club will try to negotiate a lower fee ahead of a possible January move.



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Cristiano Ronaldo joining Juventus saw club ‘kick me out’ – Gonzalo Higuain

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AC Milan enjoy a comfortable 3-1 win over Chievo ahead of their showdown with Inter in two weeks after the international break.
Italian Serie A: Gonzalo Higuain – AC Milan 2-0 Chievo Verona
ESPN FC’s Paul Mariner believes the ball is in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s court when it comes to the rumours linking him with a loan move to Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain has said he was “kicked out” of Juventus this summer following the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid.

Juventus broke their transfer record to sign Cristiano Ronaldo for €100 million, and Higuain left to join AC Milan soon after.

But, while the Argentine said the signing of the former Manchester United man was the final nail in the coffin, the issues began back in May when he was left out of the starting line-up for the Coppa Italia final.

“Inside me, I had the feeling something had something was broken that day,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport when asked whether things took a downward turn after that final. “Then they signed Ronaldo.

“It wasn’t my decision to leave. I gave everything for Juve. I won many trophies then, after Cristiano arrived, the club wanted to make a jump in quality and they told me that I couldn’t stay and they were trying to find a solution.”

Higuain was Juventus’ record transfer before the arrival of Ronaldo and, in two seasons with the club, won two Serie A and Coppa Italia doubles. But, despite being forced to leave, he said he does not bear the club any ill feelings.

“My feelings are that of affection because they really looked after me,” the 30-year-old said. “Both teammates and fans gave me so much affection.

“But I did not ask to leave. Effectively, everyone says it: they kicked me out. At Milan, I immediately received a lot of love and that is how they convinced me [to join].”



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Juventus invite schoolchildren into stand closed for racist chanting vs. Napoli

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Juventus are to ensure their stadium will be full for the visit of Genoa on Sunday, in spite of a partial closure, by inviting schoolchildren to fill the gaps.

The Bianconeri were ordered to close the Curva Sud after fans in that area of the stadium were heard making racist and territorial discriminatory chants during their win over Napoli.

Their appeal against the closure was rejected, meaning they have now turned to a solution they used in the past to fill the stadium after the Curva was closed by inviting schoolchildren born between 2004 and 2011 to attend for free.

“Juventus are against any form of social and territorial discrimination, racism, xenophobia and violence,” a statement on the Serie A champions’ website read. “The one against discrimination is a commitment that sees Juventus amongst the forerunners that also look to involve local communities.

“Following the closure of the Curva Sud decided by the Giudice Sportivo for Saturday’s match against Genoa, the Allianz Stadium will instead host the children belonging to the amateur clubs of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta, born between 2004 and 2011.

“The initiative, which was well received from the FIGC [Italian FA] is called ‘Gioca con me… tifa con me‘ [Play with me…cheer with me], that falls within the Juventus programmes against racism, alongside the projects: ‘Colour? What Colour?’ created with UNESCO, ‘A kick to racism’ and ‘Gioca con me‘, developed in collaboration with the UNESCO centre of Turin.

“Their objectives are to rediscover the passion for sport and to create a sporting spirit that is also used as an example for future generations.”

Juve launched the same initiative in 2013, when both the Curva Sud and the Curva Nord were closed.

However, it backfired with many of the children copying their peers by making similar discriminatory chants in the 1-0 win over Udinese, leading to further sanctions.



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LIVE Transfer Talk Liverpool eye move for Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne

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Players from across the league share their thoughts on Usain Bolt’s pursuit of a contract with the Central Coast Mariners.

The transfer window for all of Europe’s big five leagues is closed, but that doesn’t stop Transfer Talk from rummaging around about who will be moving where come January.

TOP STORY: Liverpool eye Napoli striker Insigne

When you’ve scored six goals already this season in the league, you’re going to be noticed. And that’s what is happening to Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne, who Rai Sport claim is attracting the attention of Liverpool.

Insigne, 27, has 116 goals in 360 appearances in Naples, so Jurgen Klopp knows he would be getting an experienced striker. 

Of course, Insigne is well known to Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, who is also on the lookout for a goal scorer. And we know his track record of persuading his former players to come and join him again (Jorginho, anyone?).

Liverpool may just have a battle on their hands.

LIVE BLOG

11.09 BST: Calciomercato reports that a salary of €1.5m per season isn’t going to stop AC Milan’s move for LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the fact that he would be behind Gonzalo Higuain and Patrick Cutrone in the pecking order might…

10.36 BST: Matthijs De Ligt is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after teenagers in world football. The 19-year-old Ajax defender only made his debut two years ago and is now the club captain, but has caught the eye of Barcelona, Chelsea and now Juventus, according to Tuttosport.

09.55 BST: Manchester City let Jadon Sancho join Borussia Dortmund for around £8m in the summer of 2017, but now he’s starring in Germany he appears to be worth £100m. Well, he is young and English after all…

Lucky then, that they reportedly have a buyback clause and will have first refusal on signing him again, according to the Manchester Evening News.

09.25 BST: ICYMI – Usain Bolt has been offered a two-year contract to play for Maltese club Valletta FC and spearhead their charge to the Champions League.

Valletta managing director and CEO Ghasston Slimen told ESPN on Monday that they hope to sign the eight-time Olympic sprint champion in time for him to participate in their Maltese Super Cup match on Dec. 13 against Balzan.

09.00 BST: Real Madrid remain interested in Harry Kane, but their main target is Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, according to Guillem Balague who was speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live.

PAPER TALK

Chelsea could thwart United, Spurs over Ake

Manchester United and Tottenham are interested in Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake, according to the Telegraph, but his old club, Chelsea, could frustrate them.

United boss Jose Mourinho remains eager to add another central defender to his squad after failing to do so in the summer, and Spurs are also monitoring Netherlands international Ake.

But the Telegraph reports that Bournemouth — who signed the 23-year-old in a £20m permanent deal after a loan spell — would have to inform Chelsea of any offer because the Blues hold first refusal to re-sign him for about £40m.

United and Spurs “are likely to keep tracking Ake until the end of the season, but any move would have to wait until Chelsea signalled their intentions.”

And although there is no indication of whether Maurizio Sarri would be interested in bringing Ake back to Stamford Bridge, a bid from Manchester or North London “would force Bournemouth to offer Chelsea the opportunity to make a move and leave the other two clubs sweating.”

Barcelona eye Alderweireld

Barcelona have leaked nine goals in eight games and haven’t kept a clean sheet in five, so are turning to the transfer market in an attempt to do something about it.

They were recently linked with Dutch centre back Matthijs de Ligt, but Catalan radio station RAC1 have reported that this particular move would be “impossible” in January. However, Barca also have their eye on Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld.

The Belgian’s contract expires in the summer, and there is no sign of a renewal, so the Catalan club could see him as a realistic target according to the Mirror.

Ernesto Valverde’s side acquired Clement Lenglet this summer, but he could take some time to settle in. They will see 29-year-old Alderweireld as a read-made solution.

Bale free to leave Real Madrid

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is open to offers for Gareth Bale as he believes the Welshman doesn’t have what it takes to step into Cristiano Ronaldo’s shoes, according to Spanish newspaper El Periodico.

The Welshman has impressed in spells at the Madrid club, and was an important part of their Champions League triumphs under Zinedine Zidane, but it has never felt that he has been fully accepted in the Spanish capital.

Manchester United have long been linked with the former Tottenham winger, and could see him as the man to wake them from their slumber. The report states that the only obstacle is Bale’s desire to remain at Real but, at 29, he could be tempted into one final big move.

Tap-ins

Edin Dzeko is looking to return to the Premier League after spending four seasons in Serie A, according to the Mirror. Southampton, Crystal Palace and Cardiff are all interested, but these clubs will have to concentrate on staying in the Premier League first. Perhaps a January move for the former Manchester City man could help them.

– Vincent Kompany, 32, thinks he has plenty more to give at Manchester City, and is looking for a new contract, say the Daily Mail. The Belgian is aiming to play for at least three more years at the top level.

– Meanwhile, Everton winger Kevin Mirallas does not want to return to Merseyside and is targeting a permanent deal at Fiorentina, where he is on loan. The 31-year-old has found himself out of the picture at Goodison Park following the summer arrivals of Richarlison and Bernard and hopes to stay in Italy, the Liverpool Echo reports.



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Cristiano Ronaldo shares video of son scoring two goals for Juventus under-9s

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s son could be set to continue his legacy for years at Juventus, judging by a Twitter video of one of the club’s youth sides.

In a video posted on Ronaldo Sr.’s social media, Ronaldo Jr. is seen in action for the Juventus under-9 team who he joined following his father’s move from Real Madrid in the summer.

The youngster scored four times on his first appearance for the Old Lady’s youth side in September.

And he is showing no signs of slowing down … at least if this latest clip is anything to go by.

In the 16-second clip he is first seen on the right wing, beating a defender before dribbling into the penalty area and rounding the goalkeeper before scoring from close range.

Then he is spotted striding forward and scoring from the edge of the area to cap an impressive showreel that has already been viewed over three million times.

Your move, Cristiano.



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Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku hints at Serie A move praises Juventus

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Romelu Lukaku scored twice in Belgium’s win over Switzerland, but the FC crew observe an inconsistency in front of goal for the Man United star.

Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku says he is open to a move to Italy in the future.

Lukaku, 25, is into his second season at Old Trafford following his £75 million move from Everton in 2017 but has admitted he would like to test himself in Serie A.

“Why not? I hope so,” Lukaku told La Gazzetta dello Sport when asked if he would like to play in Italy.

Lukaku will come up against the Italian champions next week when United host Juventus in the Champions League.

It means a return to Old Trafford for Cristiano Ronaldo for the first time since 2013. Juventus and United sit first and second in Group H after two games.

“They [Juventus] have a big project and they never stop,” Lukaku said.

“Each year, they look to get better. Without doubt they are one of the two or three best sides. They’ve got a great coach on the bench and extraordinary players all over the field.

“Cristiano is their best player, but look out for the others: [Paulo] Dybala is already really good and he’s getting better, while I love Douglas Costa.

“It’s a tough group, but United want to finish top of it.”

United host Juventus on Oct. 23 having drawn 0-0 with Valencia last time out in the Champions League. Ronaldo is eligible for the trip to Old Trafford after he served a one-match ban following a red card on his Champions League debut for Juve.

Lukaku, meanwhile, has scored four league goals for United this season, the last strike coming against Watford in a 2-1 win on Sept. 15. The Belgium international’s contract at the club runs until 2022. 



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Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola open to coaching in Serie A in future

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The guys respond to your tweets about the surprising results of Europe’s giants, Mahrez’s penalty miss, managers on the hot seat and Dejan Lovren.
Stewart Robson details exactly how Liverpool were unable to play their normal game against Premier League champions Manchester City.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola could see himself coaching in Serie A in the future.

Guardiola, who extended his contract with City through the end of the 2020-21 season in May, played for both Brescia and Roma in Serie A and was in Italy over the weekend to participate in the Festival dello Sport, where he was asked whether he could imagine returning as a coach one day.

“Why not?” he said as part of a podium discussion with Arrigo Sacchi and Carlo Ancelotti. “After my experience at Barcelona, who would have thought I’d go to [Bayern] Munich and Germany? Yet that happened.

“I overcame the arduous challenge of learning German, so everything is possible. I’ve coached in Spain, in Germany and now in England, so why couldn’t I coach in Italy? I don’t know what the future holds for me, but the food’s good here.”

Guardiola, who guided City to the Premier League title last season, ended his playing career in 2006. After coaching Barca for four seasons beginning in 2008-09, winning La Liga three times and the Champions League twice, he joined Bayern in 2013.

He won the Bundesliga in each of his three seasons with Bayern and made three Champions League semifinal appearances, then was appointed at City in 2016.

Guardiola later told reporters that his Brescia and Roma days made him feel at home in Italy, which is why a longer stay than just a weekend appeals to him.

“I come to Italy often, when I can, because I love this country,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of friends here. The Catalans and Spaniards are very similar to the people here — it’s a nice life, there’s the sun, and we like to enjoy or lives.”



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Paolo Maldini not surprised by AC Milan’s €126m loss in 2017-18

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Mina Rzouki, Paolo Bandini and Gab Marcotti discuss Gigio Donnarumma’s rise to prominence and what lies ahead for the Italian goalkeeper.

Paolo Maldini, who returned to AC Milan as sporting strategy and development director in the summer, has said he is not surprised that the club recorded a €126 million operating loss for 2017-18.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reported the figures from Milan’s accounts, revealed on Friday and due to be approved at their Annual General Meeting later this month.

The figures showed that expenses had risen 22.3 percent during the first and only full year of ownership by Chinese businessman Li Yonghong.

Li relinquished control in the summer when he failed to meet a deadline for the repayment of a loan, with the Elliott Group taking charge of a club whose operating loss has grown by €53 million from the final year of Silvio Berlusconi’s reign.

Milan committed more than €200 million to signing new players last summer although some of that is not reflected on the current balance sheet, with some payments postponed to future years.

“I’m not the right person to ask about this, but certainly what’s emerged from the balance sheet is not a surprise,” Maldini told reporters.

Milan missed out on Champions League qualification last season and also faced exclusion from the Europa League after UEFA imposed sanctions for breaching financial fair play rules.

However, the sanctions were overturned on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.



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Portuguese newspaper defends Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid settlement allegation

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Sam Borden details the accusations faced by Cristiano Ronaldo and discusses what might happen next with regard to the investigation.

Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha is standing by the information it published this week claiming that Real Madrid put pressure on Cristiano Ronaldo to reach an out-of-court financial settlement with Kathryn Mayorga after an alleged sexual assault in Las Vegas in 2009.

Real Madrid announced on Thursday they were taking legal action against the Portuguese daily for publishing “categorically false information” and stated: “The club has absolutely no knowledge of any of the information that the newspaper published.”

Carlos Rodrigues, the paper’s executive director, has said its staff will continue to cover the story and stand by what it has written.

“The CM headline news that also featured on CM TV was properly verified by the newsroom [editorial staff],” Rodrigues told CM TV.

“We naturally maintain, line by line, what was published. I personally find it very strange Real Madrid’s reaction but we will respond to all the forums for which we are quoted. To our readers and viewers, I assure them that we will continue to investigate this case, independently of attempts to apply pressure whichever country it comes from.”

Mayorga has accused Ronaldo of raping her in his hotel room on June 13, 2009. An out-of-court settlement followed in January 2010.

Ronaldo was in the process of joining Real Madrid from Manchester United, with his then-world-record transfer of £80 million announced on June 11. The Portugal international was unveiled as a Real Madrid player on July 6 and remained with the Spanish giants until this summer, when the 33-year-old joined Italian champions Juventus in a €100m move.

Ronaldo’s Las Vegas-based attorney, Peter S. Christiansen, released a statement on Wednesday saying his client “vehemently denied all of the allegations” made in a lawsuit filed by Mayorga’s lawyers last month, and insisted the encounter in June 2009 between the two was “consensual in nature.”



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AC Milan confirm deal to sign Lucas Paqueta from Flamengo for €35m

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ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti shares his thoughts on the weekend’s Serie A action, including Gonzalo Higuain’s strong run of form for Milan.
AC Milan enjoy a comfortable 3-1 win over Chievo ahead of their showdown with Inter in two weeks after the international break.
Italian Serie A: Gonzalo Higuain – AC Milan 2-0 Chievo Verona
ESPN FC’s Paul Mariner believes the ball is in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s court when it comes to the rumours linking him with a loan move to Milan.

AC Milan’s sporting director Leonardo has confirmed an agreement with Flamengo to sign Lucas Paqueta, but said nothing can be made official until the transfer window opens on Jan. 3.

Paqueta, 21, has already undergone a medical for the Serie A side ahead of a move which will cost €35 million, according to ESPN sources.

Speaking at an awards’ ceremony in Fubine on Thursday, Leonardo confirmed that the deal was done.

“We have a basic agreement with Flamengo, but the transfer window opens on Jan. 3 and, therefore, we cannot confirm it,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The deal is done, though.

“We’ll have time to talk about it, but he still has 10 games to play in Brazil, and his team are challenging for the title.”

The Rossoneri have beaten competition from Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain for the Brazil international, who is already being tipped to become Milan’s new Kaka.

The highly rated midfielder, who has played for his country twice — debuting in August’s friendly against the United States before facing El Salvador four days later — is Flamengo’s leading scorer this season with nine goals in 24 Brazilian Serie A games.



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Real Madrid sue Portuguese newspaper over Cristiano Ronaldo rape allegations

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Gab Marcotti reacts to the statement released by Juventus via Twitter in response to the sexual assault allegations levelled against Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sam Borden details the accusations faced by Cristiano Ronaldo and discusses what might happen next with regard to the investigation.
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri says Cristiano Ronaldo is ready to play, despite allegations of rape against him.
The lawyer of Ronaldo’s accuser gives an update on why the case against the footballer has been reopened.

Real Madrid on Thursday said they are taking legal action against Correio da Manha after the newspaper in Portugal published a story alleging that the Spanish club told Cristiano Ronaldo to pay off Kathryn Mayorga after he allegedly raped her in Las Vegas in 2009.

The Portuguese daily, citing unnamed sources, reported that Real Madrid, whom Ronaldo was in the process of joining from Manchester United in June 2009, put pressure on their star forward to reach the out-of-court financial settlement agreed with Mayorga the following January.

“Real Madrid C. F. can today announce that the club has taken legal action against the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha for publishing categorically false information in an effort to seriously damage the image of this club,” Real Madrid said.

“Real Madrid has absolutely no knowledge of any of the information that the newspaper published with regard to the player Cristiano Ronaldo, and therefore the club was unable to take action on a matter of which it had no knowledge. Real Madrid has demanded total rectification of the situation from the aforementioned newspaper.”

On Wednesday, Ronaldo’s Las Vegas-based attorney said his client “vehemently denies all of the allegations” made in a lawsuit filed by Mayorga’s lawyers last month, and he described the incident in June 2009 as “consensual in nature.”

Mayorga has accused Ronaldo of raping her in his hotel room on June 13, 2009. The out-of-court settlement followed in January 2010.

Ronaldo joined Madrid from Manchester United in a world-record transfer during summer 2009, with the Old Trafford outfit accepting Real’s £80 million bid on June 11, and his presentation at the Bernabeu as a new Los Blancos player taking place on July 6. Ronaldo, now 33, played for Real Madrid until this summer, when he joined Serie A club Juventus.

Also on Thursday, Mayorga’s lawyers responded to Ronaldo’s attorneys, calling on them to back up their claims that settlement documents that were leaked to the European media are false.

Anything that proves that documents were altered, fabricated or inaccurate also “should be immediately turned over to the appropriate law enforcement agencies,” attorneys Leslie Stovall and Larissa Drohobyczer said in a statement emailed to media in the U.S. and abroad.

“Disputes regarding the accuracy of documents are generally questions of fact to be decided by the jury,” they said.

A day earlier, Ronaldo’s attorney, Peter S. Christiansen, had issued a statement denying wrongdoing by Ronaldo, branding documents that led to last year’s media reports about the rape claim “complete fabrications.” The documents became public because they were stolen by a hacker in Europe and put up for sale, Christiansen said.

Stovall and Drohobyczer said Christiansen acknowledged that documents upon which the allegations are based “were obtained from Cristiano Ronaldo or individuals acting on his behalf.” Drohobyczer declined, via text message, to provide additional comment.

The statement was issued in Las Vegas several hours after the German magazine which first published the rape allegation against Ronaldo said that it stood by its story.

“We have no reason to believe that those documents are not authentic,” Der Spiegel spokesman Michael Grabowski said. “We have meticulously fact-checked our information and had it legally reviewed.”

In a separate email on Thursday, Mayorga’s attorneys listed 18 U.S. and European agencies ranging from Interpol to Scotland Yard, the FBI and U.S. state attorneys general that they said they asked to investigate whether Ronaldo and anyone associated with him violated laws based on information contained in the documents.

It was not immediately clear if investigators in Portugal, Spain, England, Italy, Ireland and the U.S. states of Nevada and California were acting on that request.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.



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Serie Awesome: Donnarumma’s a star in the making

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AC Milan to sign Lucas Paqueta from Flamengo for €35m in January

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ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti shares his thoughts on the weekend’s Serie A action, including Gonzalo Higuain’s strong run of form for Milan.
AC Milan enjoy a comfortable 3-1 win over Chievo ahead of their showdown with Inter in two weeks after the international break.
Italian Serie A: Gonzalo Higuain – AC Milan 2-0 Chievo Verona
ESPN FC’s Paul Mariner believes the ball is in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s court when it comes to the rumours linking him with a loan move to Milan.

AC Milan have agreed a deal to sign Lucas Paqueta from Flamengo for €35 million, according to ESPN Brasil.

The Rossoneri have staved off competition from Paris Saint-Germain for the 21-year-old. Both sides offered the same amount but Milan’s Brazilian sporting director Leonardo swung the deal in their favour, and Paqueta will join the Serie A side in January, providing he passes a medical.

As well as Milan and PSG, Barcelona had also been tracking the attacking midfielder.

A Flamengo academy product, Paqueta began his senior career in 2016, having starred in the Copa Sao Paulo juniors tournament, and has now made 88 appearances for the club, scoring 17 goals.

He is their leading scorer this campaign with nine, and made his international debut in the friendly against the United States in August before also featuring in the victory over El Salvador four days later.

Milan’s stock has fallen significantly since they last won the Champions League in 2007, and have not qualified for Europe’s elite competition since 2014.

The club were purchased by hedge fund Elliott Management group in the summer, and they have shown their ambition with the signings of Gonzalo Higuain, Mattia Caldara, Samu Castillejo, Diego Laxalt, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Pepe Reina.

ESPN Brasil’s Gabriela Moreira contributed to this report.



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Cristiano Ronaldo lawyer acknowledges Kathryn Mayorga agreement

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Gab Marcotti reacts to the statement released by Juventus via Twitter in response to the sexual assault allegations levelled against Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sam Borden details the accusations faced by Cristiano Ronaldo and discusses what might happen next with regard to the investigation.
The lawyer of Ronaldo’s accuser gives an update on why the case against the footballer has been reopened.
ESPN FC’s Craig Burley recaps Juventus’ comfortable win over Young Boys, powered by Paulo Dybala’s hat trick.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Las Vegas-based attorney said his soccer star client “vehemently denies all of the allegations” made in a lawsuit filed last month, and he described the encounter in a Las Vegas hotel room in June 2009 as “consensual in nature.”

In a lawsuit filed in Clark County (Nev.) District Court last month, Kathryn Mayorga detailed the alleged assault inside a suite at the Palms Hotel and Casino. Ronaldo issued a statement last week to “firmly deny the accusations being issued against me.”

“Mr. Ronaldo has always maintained, as he does today, that what occurred in 2009 in Las Vegas was consensual in nature,” attorney Peter S. Christiansen said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports and other outlets on Wednesday.

Christiansen confirmed that Mayorga reached a settlement with Ronaldo’s representatives in 2010. The lawsuit seeks to void that $375,000 settlement, which included a non-disclosure agreement.

“While Mr. Ronaldo does not deny the existence of the mutual agreement and release, his motivations for agreeing to that resolution have been twisted, to say the least,” Christiansen said.

“Far from any admission of guilt or any ulterior motive, Mr. Ronaldo was advised to privately resolve the allegations against him in order to avoid the inevitable attempts that are now being made to destroy a reputation that has been built upon hard work, athleticism and honor.”

Christiansen said some documents cited in the lawsuit that first appeared on Football Leaks — a repository where documents related to soccer can be submitted anonymously — were “completely fabricated.”

The Las Vegas police previously told USA TODAY Sports that it had re-opened the case. Mayorga had reported to police she had been sexually assaulted the same day of the encounter and underwent a sexual abuse examination at a local hospital.

A police spokesperson said Mayorga did not identify who assaulted her when interviewed in 2009 and didn’t seek to pursue the case.

A message left with the firm representing Mayorga by USA TODAY Sports was not immediately returned on Wednesday.



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Ballon d’Or award nominees: Cristiano Ronaldo Harry Kane Eden Hazard on list

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The numbers behind Real Madrid’s current goal drought are more shocking than meets the eye.
Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui prefers to talk about his whole team after their win over Roma.
With a goal for Real Madrid in every competitive game, the FC crew examine what’s led to Gareth Bale’s sublime start to the season.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo has been named among 30 nominees for the men’s Ballon d’Or trophy awarded by France Football magazine.

The Portugal captain has won the award for the past two years and five times in all, a record he shares with Argentina’s Lionel Messi who is also on the list announced on Monday.

European champions Real Madrid dominate the nominees with eight players, including Croatia midfielder Luka Modric and Wales forward Gareth Bale.

Modric won the Golden Ball as the best player at this year’s World Cup in Russia, where Croatia finished runners-up, and last month claimed FIFA’s The Best men’s player award, given to the world’s top player.

Bale scored twice in the Champions League final win over Liverpool.

France World Cup winners Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Raphael Varane, one of the Real Madrid contingent, and captain Hugo Lloris have also been nominated.

A panel of journalists select the winner of the Ballon d’Or, which was first established in 1956 and will this year feature a women’s award for the first time, to be decided from a shortlist of 15 players.

The award merged with FIFA’s World Player of the Year prize from 2010-15 to create the FIFA Ballon d’Or, but returned to France Football in 2016 while FIFA established The Best awards.

The magazine also unveiled the 10-man shortlist for the Kopa Award, given to the best under-21 player in the world.

Ronaldo and Messi will be among the panelists deciding the winner.

Kylian Mbappe leads the names after a successful year with PSG and France, while Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is also nominated.

United States and Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic is on the list, as well as AC Milan duo Patrick Cutrone and Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Lyon’s Houssem Aouar, Groningen’s Ritsu Doan, Red Bull Salzburg’s Amadou Haidara, Roma’s Justin Kluivert, and Santos’ Rodrygo complete the list.

FIFA’s The Best winner Marta, United States’ Megan Rapinoe and Australia’s Sam Kerr are are among the names on the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or shortlist.

UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Pernille Harder and U.S. international Lindsey Horan are both nominated, as well as England duo Lucy Bronze and Fran Kirby.

Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg, Amandine Henry, Saki Kumagai, Dzsenifer Marozsan, Amel Majri and Wendy Renard are all nominated.

Canada’s Christine Sinclair and Netherlands’ Lieke Martens also received nominations.

The winners of the prestigious men’s and women’s awards will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on Dec. 3.

2018 Men’s Ballon d’Or nominees:

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina)

Alisson (Roma/Liverpool and Brazil)

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid and Wales)

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)

Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay)

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea/Real Madrid and Belgium)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Juventus and Portugal)

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)

Roberto Firmino (Liverpool and Brazil)

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay)

Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid and France)

Eden Hazard (Chelsea and Belgium)

Isco (Real Madrid and Spain)

Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur and England)

N’Golo Kante (Chelsea and France)

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham and France)

Mario Mandzukic  (Juventus and Croatia)

Sadio Mane (Liverpool and Senegal)

Marcelo (Real Madrid and Brazil)

Kylian Mbappe (PSG and France)

Lionel Messi (Barcelona and Argentina)

Luka Modric (Real Madrid and Croatia)

Neymar (PSG and Brazil)

Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid and Slovenia)

Paul Pogba (Manchester United and France)

Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona and Croatia)

Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid and Spain)

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool and Egypt)

Luis Suarez (Barcelona and Uruguay)

Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid and France)

2018 Kopa Award nominees:

Houssem Aouar (Lyon and France)

Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool and England)

Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan and Italy)

Ritsu Doan (Groningen and Japan)

Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan and Italy)

Amadou Haidara (Red Bull Salzburg and Mali)

Justin Kluivert (Ajax/AS Roma and Netherlands)

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain and France)

Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund and United States)

Rodrygo (Santos and Brazil)

2018 Women’s Ballon d’Or nominees:

Lucy Bronze (Lyon and England)

Pernille Harder (Wolfsburg and Denmark)

Ada Hegerberg (Lyon and Norway)

Amandine Henry (Lyon and France)

Lindsay Horan (Portland Thorns and United States)

Sam Kerr (Chicago Red Stars and Australia)

Fran Kirby (Chelsea and England)

Saki Kumagai (Lyon and Japan)

Dzsenifer Marozsan (Lyon and Germany)

Amel Majri (Lyon and France)

Marta (Orlando Pride and Brazil)

Lieke Martens (Barcelona and Netherlands)

Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign and United States)

Wendie Renard (Lyon and France)

Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns and Canada)

Reuters was used in this report.



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Ballon d’Or award nominees: Cristiano Ronaldo Kevin De Bruyne on list

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The numbers behind Real Madrid’s current goal drought are more shocking than meets the eye.
Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui prefers to talk about his whole team after their win over Roma.
With a goal for Real Madrid in every competitive game, the FC crew examine what’s led to Gareth Bale’s sublime start to the season.

Cristiano Ronaldo leads the second set of Men’s Ballon d’Or nominations as France Football release their list of 30 at staggered intervals throughout the day.

The Juventus forward helped Real Madrid to a third successive Champions League title in May, scoring 44 goals in 44 games in all competitions in his final season at the club.

The individual honour, which is European football’s oldest having been awarded every year since 1956, has been won by either Ronaldo or Lionel Messi for the past 10 years — with each winning a record five.

Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne is also among the nominees after winning the Premier League, Carabao Cup and Community Shield, while also playing a major role in helping Belgium finish third at the World Cup.

Fellow Belgium international Thibaut Courtois is also on the list despite a shaky start to life at Real Madrid, while Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino receives a nomination after their run to the Champions League final.

Uruguay captain Diego Godin completes the second set of nominations after winning the Europa League with Atletico Madrid.

Sergio Aguero was the first nominee on Monday morning after scoring 26 goals in 33 games in 2018 for club and country as Manchester City won three trophies.

He was followed by Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, who made a then-world record transfer to the club after helping Roma to the Champions League semifinals.

Then came Gareth Bale, who scored twice in the Champions League final — along with Real Madrid teammate and fellow scorer, Karim Benzema.

Paris Saint-German forward Edinson Cavani — who came 11th in last year’s poll — completed the quintet.

This award runs alongside FIFA’s The Best, which was won by Luka Modric in September.

2018 Ballon d’Or nominees:

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City and Argentina)

Alisson (Roma/Liverpool and Brazil)

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid and Wales)

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid and France)

Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain and Uruguay)

Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea/Real Madrid and Belgium)

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Juventus and Portugal)

Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City and Belgium)

Roberto Firmino (Liverpool and Brazil)

Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid and Uruguay)

Information from ESPN FC’s Ian Holyman was used in this article.



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Gonzalo Higuain Suso 8 10 as Milan thump Chievo extend unbeaten run

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AC Milan enjoy a comfortable 3-1 win over Chievo ahead of their showdown with Inter in two weeks after the international break.

AC Milan continued their fine form in front of goal on Sunday as they secured a 3-1 win over Chievo at the San Siro. A double from Gonzalo Higuain and Giacomo Bonaventura’s deflected effort sealed the victory, ensuring the Rossoneri are now unbeaten in their last eight games in all competitions. They’ve also scored 10 goals in their last three outings.

Positives

The clinical edge that was missing during a frustrating run of results has been found and it’s essentially turning draws into wins. Milan looked in control and comfortable for the most part on Sunday, and they had an end product to ensure that it was as straight-forward as many predicted.

Negatives

Yet again, the Rossoneri failed to keep a clean sheet and that will be a huge annoyance for the backline. It was a poor goal to concede and it could be argued that it stemmed from the fact the players got too comfortable with their lead and became too passive in possession, with a mistake leading to the goal.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Gennaro Gattuso ensured his side had the right approach, particularly in the first half, as they put pressure on Chievo high up the pitch and found space in the final third to find those key breakthroughs. Looks to now be pairing good football with results.

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

GK Gianluigi Donnarumma, 6 — Aside from a shaky moment or two playing it out from the back, he had very little to do throughout the game but dealt with crosses into the box well when called upon.

DF Ignazio Abate, 6 — Chievo seemed to be targeting Milan’s right flank and that was largely due to the fact that the defensive stalwart can be a liability. Defended well for the most part but was caught out at times and wasn’t particularly impressive with his distribution.

DF Mateo Musacchio, 6 — Defended resolutely throughout and never hesitated in bringing the ball out from the back to start attacking moves. Also deserves credit for adapting to his new defensive partner with captain Alessio Romagnoli ruled out through injury.

DF Cristian Zapata, 6 — With two games in the space of four days, the experienced Colombian international is proving his worth. Moments of concern, but for the most part he defended well and gave Milan the platform to go out and win.

Higuain and Suso were at their devastating best as Milan thumped Chievo on Sunday.
Higuain and Suso were at their devastating best as Milan thumped Chievo on Sunday.

DF Ricardo Rodriguez, 7 — Seemingly growing in confidence on the ball, Rodriguez is starting to impress. Always puts in a shift defensively to help keep things tight at the back, but it’s positive to see him attack with purpose and not be afraid to push on and create an opportunity for his teammates.

MF Franck Kessie, 6 — Switched off in the build-up to the Chievo goal, and so must work on those situations as well as his finishing. Nevertheless, as Milan come to expect from the combative and tireless midfield ace, he worked his socks off to gain a foothold in the game.

MF Lucas Biglia, 7 — Got a little sloppy in the second half but made countless interceptions and tackles to provide a steady defensive shield in front of the backline. While he did keep it mostly simple, he continued to keep Milan ticking in midfield and was crucial in the victory.

MF Giacomo Bonaventura, 7 — Making his 150th appearance for Milan, he celebrated with a well-taken goal even though his shot from distance took a deflection. Was a constant threat in the first half in particular with his runs into the box, and showed that bit of courage and quality needed to find a key goal.

FW Suso, 8 — Decisive display, as he provided two assists for Higuain and continued to be the main threat for Milan. Can be criticised for his lack of consistency, but he has been in fine form in recent weeks and he’ll hope that continues after the international break against Inter.

FW Gonzalo Higuain, 8 — Proves what a difference a world-class striker can make to a side. Took his two goals ruthlessly as he didn’t hesitate and buried both opportunities, while he dropped deep at times too to help link up play. He’s the missing piece Milan needed and his goals will continue to be crucial: that’s now six goals in seven games in all competitions this season.

FW Hakan Calhanoglu, 6 — Was a threat at times and was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet himself, but a little too sloppy in his overall play as he often gave possession away cheaply. Nevertheless, played his part in the win with his defensive work too.

Substitutes

FW Patrick Cutrone, NR — Provided Milan with a lift in the latter stages with his burst of energy and presence up top to keep the pressure on the Chievo backline.

DF Diego Laxalt, NR — Fresh pair of legs at left-back to finish the game to offer a little more energy on that flank.

FW Samu Castillejo, NR — Minimal time on the pitch to make an impression as he afforded Suso a late rest as he looked to be struggling with a slight ankle twist.



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AC Milan vs. Chievo Verona – Football Match Report – October 7, 2018

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Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain scored twice as AC Milan secured a 3-1 victory over bottom side Chievo.

Milan came into this match in 12th place and just four points above the relegation zone, but any doubts over whether they would record their third win of the campaign were put to bed following Higuain’s first-half double.

The game’s opening goal came on 27 minutes as the on-loan Juventus man profited from a defensive mix-up. Chievo defender Mattia Bani and goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino got in each other’s way and Bani headed the ball to Suso, who picked out Higuain to score.

And the two combined again seven minutes later to double the hosts’ advantage.

Suso opened up the Chievo defence with an inch-perfect through ball and Higuain found himself in acres of space, and he was never going to miss.

It was more of the same after the break and Giacomo Bonaventura made it 3-0 with a neat effort from the edge of the box, capping his 150th appearance for Milan in style.

However, Milan were unable to claim a first Serie A clean sheet of the season as veteran Chievo striker Sergio Pellissier pulled a goal back for the visitors. The 39-year-old latched onto a loose backpass to fire home from the edge of the area.

Hakan Calhanoglu thought he had made it four for Milan when he slotted past Sorrentino, but saw his effort ruled out for offside.

The result leaves Chievo, who were docked three points for falsifying player sale accounts, bottom on -1 points.

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Udinese 0-2 Juventus: Ronaldo leads Bianconeri

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