Inter Milan president Steven Zhang vows not to cash-in on stars amid Barcelona interest in Lautaro Martinez – and insists they want ‘to attract the best talent from around the world’
Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez has scored 16 goals in 30 Inter Milan games
Club president Steven Zhang insists Inter want to keep hold of their best players
He says they will add to their squad with the ‘best talent from around the world’
They are challenging for Serie A title in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge
Inter Milan have no intention of selling star players such as Lautaro Martinez this summer, according to club president Steven Zhang.
The Argentine has attracted interest from Spanish giants Barcelona this season after scoring 16 times in 30 appearances for Antonio Conte’s side.
Reports in Spain on Wednesday suggested that Inter were willing to do business with Barca if they sent them Arthur Melo, Carles Alena and Jean Clair Todibo in exchange for Martinez.
Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez has attracted interest from Barcelona this season
Inter president Steven Zhang insists the club want to keep hold of their stars this summer
However, Zhang insists that the club are looking to add to their squad when the transfer window reopens and do not want to lose any of their best players.
‘For Inter, as one of the biggest clubs in the world, you have to try your best to win,’ Zhang told Financial Times.
‘We don’t want to sell our talented players and (we do want to) attract the best talent from around the world.’
Inter are challenging for the Serie A title under Conte this season, having last finished top of the table a decade ago.
Inter are challenging for the Serie A title this season after going 10 years without winning it
Antonio Conte is looking to bring the glory days back to Inter after arriving at the club last year
They are eight points off leaders Lazio in third but have two games in hand on Simone Inzaghi’s side, with champions Juventus currently sat second.
Zhang insists the club’s owners, Suning, are determined to make them a force to be reckoned with both domestically and in Europe.
He added: ‘Since Inter was bought by Suning, the club has gone through a huge transformation. Firstly, our performance on the pitch. Secondly, our commercial and marketing value. You can see from our digital platforms; the numbers are double or triple to what they were a couple of years ago.’
‘He’s really taken on the challenge’: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praises Fred after Manchester United midfielder’s improvement
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised Fred following the midfielder’s improvement
Fred was taken off at half-time away to Everton last season but has bounced back
Solskjaer feels Luke Shaw will rise to competition provided by Brandon Williams
Fred the red has won praise for transforming his Manchester United career since being taken off at half-time during last season’s 4-0 drubbing at Everton.
It’s a different Fred who returns to the Goodison Park bearpit on Sunday having been one of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s best players this season and scoring twice in Thursday’s Europa League win against Bruges.
The United boss says the £52million Brazilian deserves huge credit for adapting to the demands of English football after his tough start.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised Fred after the Manchester United midfielder’s improvement
‘He’s got used to it,’ expressed Solskjaer. ‘You have to play more one and two touch in the Premier League. You don’t have time for three or four touches or to get your studs on the ball, all those little habits Brazilian players have from a slower type of game.
‘Fred has really taken on the challenge. He had a first tough season but he’s known we believe in him. He is a top human being.
‘He struggled with the language last season but it’s easier for him to communicate with (coach) Martyn Pert coming in with fluent Portuguese.’
United are unbeaten in seven matches – conceding just once in that time.
Besides the defensive cover Fred gives his team-mates from midfield, there have been other notable individual improvements including left-back Luke Shaw who has responded well to the challenge set down by his younger rival Brandon Williams.
Solskjaer believes that Luke Shaw will rise to the competition provided by Brandon Williams
‘I would think he (Shaw) would respond to the competition because you either accept that kid is taking my place or you take up the challenge and improve your own game.
‘Luke is very focussed and concentrated. He’s fitter, he is consistently fit now, he’s fitter, and become a dad. He’s matured a lot and it’s great to see.
‘Luke has had his difficulties and the injury (a broken leg in 2015) was a bad one. Mentally that was difficult but he’s someone you want to see do well. Luke really cares for the kid (Williams) and tries to help him, but he wants to play himself.’
Both could feature if Solskjaer opts for a back-five on Sunday afternoon. Eric Bailly could also continue. United have kept clean sheets in both his appearances this season and he hasn’t been on the losing side for club or country for more than a year.
United will assess Anthony Martial who missed the midweek game after feeling a twinge around his thigh during training on Wednesday.
‘Cristiano didn’t make a difference’: Matthijs de Ligt reveals he had already decided to move to Juventus BEFORE Ronaldo’s on-the-field charm offensive… after being convinced by ex-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri
Matthijs de Ligt has admitted he had already decided to move to Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo spoke to him at the Nations League finals.
The Dutch defender, one of the most sought after prospects in world football this summer, signed with the Serie A giants earlier this week in a deal worth £67.8million.
One of the most intriguing details of his transfer saga, however, came when Ronaldo encouraged him to move to Turin after Portugal’s win over Holland in June but De Ligt insists that conversation had nothing to do with his eventual transfer.
Matthijs de Ligt finally signed with Juventus earlier this week in a deal worth £67.8million
De Ligt admits he had already decided on Juventus before Cristiano Ronaldo spoke to him
De Ligt sealed the move with a kiss as girlfriend AnneKee Molenaar posted this on Instagram
‘I’m still young but I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience for a 19-year-old, that’s why I made this move to gain more experience and to learn from the players here,’ he said in a press conference on Friday.
‘It’s a big step, my first outside of my home country. I was really honoured with how the Juventus fans welcomed me and I hope that I can give a lot back.
‘After the Nations League final I was already sure that I wanted to join Juventus, but it was still a big compliment to have Cristiano ask me to join here but it didn’t make the difference.
‘I have to get used to a new sporting culture here and a new sporting environment and I hope that I can give my best.’
De Ligt is looking forward to getting down to business after his drawn-out transfer saga
The former Ajax starlet addressed the world’s media during his unveiling on Friday morning
De Ligt also revealed that all it took was a quick chat with manager Maurizio Sarri was enough to convince him that the footballing philosophy in Turin would match his own.
He added: ‘I spoke to Sarri on the phone before coming just to get to know each other.
‘He was one of the reasons that I wanted to join here, I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and I like his footballing philosophy and how he prepares his defence.
‘In Holland there is a lot of building from the back and defending high up the pitch. Italy is more about zonal marking and defending together, I think that Juve can help me and I can help them.
‘I’m 19, I can still improve and I want to do that. It’s important to work hard every day and to learn and I hope to become a better player.’
De Ligt, who played a starring role in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals last season, also revealed he was a boyhood Juve fan. He believes the atmosphere among Juventus fans when playing there last season was also attractive.
De Ligt spoke with manager Maurizio Sarri on the phone and he described his tactical style
He is excited to be playing in front of Juventus fans regularly after last season’s taste with Ajax
‘The photo of me in a Juventus shirt was taken when I was about six or seven, at that time (Fabio) Cannavaro was a defender that I admired,’ he said. ‘I always had a good feeling about Juventus and I’ve always been a fan.
‘When I played here with Ajax I was really impressed with the atmosphere of the Allianz. There are four competitions and we want to win them all. This is the mentality of Juventus.
‘I came here because Italy is one of the most traditional countries for defenders. Juventus is a great forwards step for me. Pressure is normal in football and for me it’s not a problem. I will show what I’m capable of on the pitch.
‘Ajax was a younger environment and here I hope that I can learn from great champions like (Giorgio) Chiellini, (Gianluigi) Buffon, Cristiano (Ronaldo) and many others.’
Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte earns long awaited call-up to France senior squad… as Didier Deschamps drops injury-troubled N’Golo Kante after Frank Lampard’s plea
Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte has earned a long-awaited international call-up for France’s senior squad for two upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers – but injury-troubled N’Golo Kante is left out.
The 25-year-old defender was last summoned for international duty in 2017 but is yet to be handed his first cap.
Laporte had regularly featured for France’s international youth sides, but was sidelined by boss Didier Deschamps because of a fractured relationship between the two.
Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte has received a long-awaited call-up for France
FRANCE’S 23-MAN SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris, Alphonse Areola, Mike Maignan
Defenders: Benjamin Pavard, Leo Dubois, Raphael Varane, Clement Lenglet, Aymeric Laporte, Kurt Zouma, Lucas Hernandez, Lucas Digne
Midfielders: Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi, Corentin Tolisso, Steven Nzonzi, Moussa Sissoko
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann, Nabil Fekir, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Lemar, Jonathan Ikone, Olivier Giroud, Wissam Ben Yedder
However, the centre half’s stellar form at the Etihad now means he is set to finally make his senior debut.
N’Golo Kante was a surprise absentee from the 23-man squad, after Chelsea boss Frank Lampard implored France to drop the midfielder amid concerns over several injury setbacks.
Kante has struggled to regular match action since the tail end of last season, and was subsequently benched for the Premier League opener at Manchester United after falling short in a race to be fit.
He has made a handful of appearances under Lampard so far, but missed out entirely on the trip to Norwich because of a sprained ankle picked up at Old Trafford.
The string of concerns led to the new Blues boss appealing to Deschamps to allow Kante to remain at the club and continue rehabilitation during the international break.
‘It is a difficult one. He has had four years of constantly playing,’ Lampard had said.
N’Golo Kante was a notable absentee, however, amid concerns over a long-term knee injury
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard had appealed to France to leave the midfielder out of the squad
‘[The] injury from the Europa League final has affected his pre-season. Then he hurt himself against Man United.
‘We are trying to get him through it. The international break will be great for him to get the injury right. It would be great for everybody [if Kante stays] because he’s been playing game after game after game.’
France take on Albania and Andorra in successive Euro 2020 qualifiers next month, with Les Bleus currently sitting at the summit of Group H.
England boss Phil Neville said his side might need to “suffer more pain” in future friendlies after they drew with Belgium in their first game since the World Cup.
Having led 2-0, Nikita Parris’s late penalty saved England’s embarrassment as they avoided a first defeat by the Red Flames since 1980.
England were sloppy in defence as the hosts, ranked 15 places below the Lionesses at 19 in the world, entertained a lively crowd in Leuven.
Neville said: “The goals were really disappointing in a week where we have worked hard on being compact and hard to beat and three crosses into the box beat us. I’m not happy.
“I feel that with the plan we have for the next three camps we might have to suffer some pain a little bit. But I don’t want us to suffer pain in the areas we are working on. I want us to be better in those areas and that was the disappointment tonight.”
The Lionesses began positively as Jodie Taylor opened the scoring from Georgia Stanway’s through ball before Beth Mead followed up after Taylor’s shot was saved.
Steph Houghton then hit the post from a free-kick as the Lionesses threatened to run riot.
But poor defending let Belgium back into the game as goalkeeper Carly Telford’s own goal and an Ella van Kerkhoven header levelled matters on the stroke of half-time.
It got worse for Neville’s side in the second half as Houghton’s fluffed clearance fell straight to Van Kerkhoven to make it 3-2 before Parris’ penalty earned a draw.
Neville said before the game that he was looking for improvement from his side after their fourth-place finish in France, but on this evidence there is plenty to work on as England play a series of friendlies in the build-up to hosting Euro 2021.
“We cannot waste time on any camp thinking we will get it right at the Olympics, get it right at the SheBelieves Cup or Euro 2021,” Neville added. “While we are waiting, other teams are improving and we have to make sure we are improving faster than anybody else.”
Sloppiness costs England
Prior to the match, Neville also said England were still “hurting” from their failure to make it past the World Cup semi-finals and had an “incredible desire” to do better.
But there were several periods of sloppiness which were also a feature of some games in France, and it is a trait the team can ill-afford if they have designs of winning a gold medal in two years’ time.
The Lionesses were missing several key players through injury, including Ellen White, Jill Scott and Fran Kirby, as Lucy Bronze, who became the first English player to win Uefa’s Women’s player of the year award, moved into midfield.
Neville said there “was a never a moment in the game where Bronze looked like a full-back playing in midfield” and it was a strong England side, who once again were clinical but failed to manage the game once taking the lead.
The match was characterised by a home fan who attempted to stir the team on her own via a megaphone as they fell behind to two slick England goals.
As Stanway’s clever pass set up Taylor, Mead seemingly put England in control and Houghton rattled the woodwork, the supporter was an isolated voice.
But by the end of the first half, she had the stand she occupied rocking after England let their lead slip and then went behind.
Thankfully for the visitors, Parris helped them avoid a terrible start to their Euro 2021 campaign as she slammed home a penalty after Janice Cayman’s handball.
Having missed two at the World Cup it was at least one sign that some lessons had been learned.
Williams extends cap record
On a chaotic night for England, Fara Williams came on during the second half to extend her caps record to 171 and she did help to steady things for England later on in the game.
Chelsea forward Beth England made her debut from the bench and impressed Neville, but there were still chances for Belgium as Tine de Caigny’s shot was blocked late on.
The worrying aspect for Neville will be that his side also suffered friendly defeats by teams ranked lower than them in the build-up to the World Cup.
At the time, he brushed them off saying England would come good in the World Cup, which they did to some degree based on the record TV audiences which followed them to their third successive semi-final at a major tournament.
However, the inclusion of 35-year-old Williams underlined the limited midfield resources that Neville has at his disposal.
With Scott rested and Jordan Nobbs and Izzy Christiansen still recovering from long-term injuries, Neville needs them back in the team.
The England head coach, who has said he will pick players based on their character, also needs to ensure his players can concentrate for longer periods in games.
There will be no inquest given it is a first game of the season, but Neville will want England to improve when they face Norway in their next friendly game in Bergen on Tuesday.
Player of the match – Ella van Kerkhoven (Belgium)
Dortmund to practice corners for Barcelona, Benfica feel ‘curse’ of Bela Guttmann and Slavia Prague bosses can’t stop laughing after ending up in Group of Death… social media reacts to the Champions League draw
The draw for the 2019-20 Champions League group stage was made in Monaco on Thursday and social media was quickly awash with reaction to it.
When Czech side Slavia Prague were drawn from pot four in a group containing Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, the reaction of club officials quickly got the attention of fans.
The camera panned to the Slavia Prague officials and they were seen unable to hold in their laughter having been drawn in what many consider to be the Group of Death in this year’s group stage.
Slavia Prague bosses couldn’t hold in laughter at the Champions League group stage draw
Borussia Dortmund joked they are to practice corners after they were paired with Barcelona
Slavia Prague are considered the weakest team in the group and the laughter did not go unnoticed, with many joking their bosses had seen the funny side to what was a nightmare draw.
One of their opponents in Group F, Borussia Dortmund, reacted better to facing Barcelona with the German side feeling they can exploit a key weakness.
The club’s English twitter account wrote: ‘Time to practice our corners.’
It is a reference to Barcelona’s semi-final collapse at Anfield last season when Lionel Messi and Co were caught out by the quick-thinking of Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold from a corner.
Bayern Munich waved to Tottenham on social media after the sides were drawn together
Bayer Leverkusen could not contain their relief after they avoided joining Barcelona in Group F
German clubs are particularly funny on their social media platforms and while Dortmund prepared to perfect their set-piece routines, Bayer Leverkusen put out a ‘phew’ GIF having avoided Barcelona.
Leverkusen’s twitter account shared the initial relief of supporters before it became clear their route to the knockout stages will see them go up against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus and also Atletico Madrid.
For Bayern Munich, their draw was much more kind and their social media showed no fears or disappointment after being drawn alongside 2019 finalists Tottenham.
The Bundesliga champions’ US account shared a GIF waving to the account of Spurs and they will hope their goal-laden performances against Arsenal can continue against the Gunners’ north London rivals.
While the German clubs kept things fairly simple in terms of their reaction, Zenit St Petersburg’s English account went to the history books to bring up the ‘curse’ surrounding Benfica.
Zenit St Petersburg questioned whether Benfica are cursed as they keep heading to Russia
Benfica responded and said Bela Guttmann’s curse could once have been lost in translation
Zenit were drawn in Group G alongside Benfica, Lyon and RB Leipzig and the Russian club questioned whether the ‘curse of Bela Guttmann keeps sending Benfica east to their country.
Guttmann, the Hungarian football coach, is said to have cursed the Portuguese giants after leaving the club at the end of the 1962 season.
He allegedly told bosses on his departure: ‘Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions.’
Benfica’s account joked that the meaning of the curse could have been translated wrong and that the punishment may be another match in Russia after being paired with Zenit.
Alexis Sanchez finally completes loan move to Inter Milan from Manchester United, with Italian side saying: ‘He wants nothing except to play football’
Alexis Sanchez has completed his loan move to Inter Milan from Manchester United.
The winger had fallen out of favour at Old Trafford and will now hope to rediscover his best form at Inter.
A statement on Inter’s official website read: ‘Throughout Alexis’s life, football has always represented everything, and he has always been happiest with a ball between his feet.
Alexis Sanchez poses in the Inter Milan shirt after joining on loan from Manchester United
Sanchez posed alongside a picture of fellow Chilean Ivan Zamorano, who also played for Inter
Sanchez was in a positive mood as he secured a season-long loan move to the Italian side
Inter Milan welcomed Alexis Sanchez to the club, saying: ‘He has always been happiest with a ball between his feet’.
‘From now on he’ll have a chance to do this in Nerazzurri colours. So, on behalf of the entire Nerazzurri family, we’d like to wish him a very warm welcome and the best of luck. #WelcomeAlexis.’
Sanchez had not yet met his new Inter team-mates, who were snapped while out for dinner by Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian also joined Inter from Manchester United this summer, but in a permanent deal.
Sanchez was in a positive mood as he posed wearing the Inter shirt for the first time, and he posed alongside a picture of fellow Chilean Ivan Zamorano, who played for Inter between 1996 and 2001.
Recapping Sanchez’s football journey, Inter said: ‘Alexis had a great future ahead of him and he wanted nothing except to play football. He always said so, practically from the day he was born on 19 December 1988.
‘His first ever football boots were a gift from the mayor of his town, and he wore these for his first real footballing experience with Cobreloa.’
Sanchez has yet to meet his Inter team-mates, who were pictured out for dinner together
Alexis Sanchez posted a farewell message to his Manchester United teammates on Thursday
Sanchez posted a picture with some of his United teammates on his Instagram account
Alexis Sanchez waves to fans upon his arrival for medical checks in Milan on Wednesday
It marks a fresh start for Sanchez and brings to an end a torrid 18 months at Man United
Earlier, Sanchez posted a farewell message to his United teammates.
Sanchez previously spent three seasons in Serie A with Udinese from 2008 to 2011.
Sanchez brings to an end a torrid 18 months at United, where he scored just five goals in 45 appearances following his arrival from Arsenal.
Posting a picture with some of his United teammates on his Instagram account, Sanchez wrote: ‘Good luck for the rest of the season @manchesterunited.’
He will now link up with former United striker Romelu Lukaku, who left the club in a £73million deal this summer.
Sanchez will still be United’s second-highest earner despite being on loan to Inter Milan
Sportsmail reported earlier, however, that Sanchez will still be United’s second-highest earner despite being on loan to Inter.
It is understood that the 30-year-old pockets an eye-watering £400,000 a week, before bonuses, at United after signing from Arsenal last January.
Inter have agreed to pay close to £4.5m of the Chile international’s £21m annual salary, meaning United will have to subsidise a significant portion of his wages.
Inter Milan will pay £4.5m of his annual £21m earnings – the rest will be covered by United
Sanchez has sealed a reunion with close friend and former Man United teammate Lukaku
REVEALED: Isco ‘kept his phone off all summer so he could ignore interest and remain at Real Madrid’ after being given assurances over his role by boss Zinedine Zidane
Isco dropped off grid this summer in a bid to remain at Real Madrid.
The Spain international’s Bernabeu future looked ambiguous, having fallen out of favour for much of last season, but Zinedine Zidane’s return changed his outlook.
The midfielder informed Madrid officials at the end of the last season he was not prepared to leave the club under any circumstances and went to great lengths to ensure he stayed in the Spanish capital.
Isco was considering his future last season but decided he wanted to stay at Real Madrid
According to Marca, Isco has had his phone off for the whole summer and will keep it switched off until the transfer window closes in Spain on September 2.
They claim several clubs enquired about Isco’s availability but the player told the club he will refuse to listen to any proposals.
Zidane is a huge admirer of Isco and is understood to have given him assurances about playing a more prominent role this season.
Isco had been unhappy at the number of games he played under former boss Santiago Solari last campaign and was considering his future before Zidane took over the reins again in March, having only quit 10 months earlier.
The 27-year-old has kept his phone off the whole summer to ignore interest from other clubs
The return of Zinedine Zidane is a big factor why Isco decided he wanted to stay at Madrid
The 27-year-old only completed 90 minutes on three occasions last season and is expected to feature more regularly this term.
He came on in the second half as Real Madrid won their opening La Liga fixture 3-1 at Celta Vigo and started the draw against Real Valladolid but was forced off early after suffering a hamstring injury.
Isco is facing two to three weeks out on the sidelines but is expected to return in time for next month’s derby against Atletico Madrid.