Rafael Leão is carrying AC Milan, and should punt Cristiano Ronaldo off of Portugal

Advertisement

And he salted away the game, after Milan had somehow surrendered and regained their lead in injury time (2:00 in the above video). The way he scorches away from the Empoli defenders while still having the ball, and then comes up with the most delicate chip at full speed, is simply quite rude. And it’s what Leão has been doing all season, and most of last year as well, being a terror with the ball at his feet with his control and speed. Leão’s signature move is to pick up the ball wide on the left, bamboozle any fullback and accelerate away at F1 rates into the box and finish from a tight angle. He’s so quick it’s hard to stop when you know it’s coming.

No wonder Chelsea is sniffing around.

Leão has not yet made the same splash for Portugal, though he was only called up for the first time last year and has started only three games. And this is where things get a little tasty. Leão should be one of the breakout stars in the World Cup, but he has to get on the field first. And to get him on the field, it might involve removing only the best player the country has ever produced and national and world icon in Cristiano Ronaldo.

Advertisement

What Portugal could have in their front three is Leão, Bernardo Silva, and Diogo Jota. Or you could swap in Jaoa Felix for either of the wide forwards, or move Silva into the midfield where he frequently plays for Man City to join Bruno Fernandes. Whatever combination of three forwards that don’t wear #7 are fast, dynamic, and could be press-happy if so instructed (though not something Leão does well now). It would be highly mobile, constantly interchanging, and popping up in space. It would be a nightmare for any defense Portugal comes up against in Qatar.

But there are two problems. One, Ronaldo can’t just be put on the bench without some sort of national uprising, and two, Portugal manager Fernando Santos gets a coronary any time more than one player at a time crosses the halfway line. Santos has an unending line of credit in Portugal, because under his stewardship they did win Euro 2016…winning one game in 90 minutes, and that was over Wales. They got lucky in a penalty shootout and in extra time and benefitted from the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams, providing a round of 16. They did dick in the last World Cup or this year’s Euros, meekly bowing out in the Round of 16. They even tried hard to biff qualifying for this World Cup but saved themselves at the last hurdle. Santos should have been out on his ass long ago, but thanks to that one trophy, he’s got carte blanche. Trophies are forever and all that, but at some point the process needs to be seen more than the results.

Advertisement

And Portugal have the same problems that Man United do when Ronaldo plays. One, he neuters Fernandes by dropping into his space because he can’t get behind defenses anymore. Two, his lack of movement means a runway into Portugal’s midfield when the other team has the ball. It doesn’t have to be this way. By using any of his three mobile forwards, Santos could cut this off while also having way more angles to threaten from. Portugal don’t face the toughest group in Qatar, lined up against South Korea, Ghana, and Uruguay. They’d better win it, because if they don’t they’ll be staring at Brazil in the Round of 16.

Portugal have a chance to be one of the more fun teams in the World Cup, and with a serious chance to make some noise. All they have to do is remove the obelisk on the field, though it’s too late to remove the obelisk in the manager’s chair. Sadly they won’t, and we’ll probably have to wait until Euro 2024 to see what they could truly be.

Juventus’ Allegri: Bonucci to replace Chiellini as captain

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said on Sunday that Leonardo Bonucci will be the new club captain following the departure of Giorgio Chiellini.

The Italy skipper announced he would be leaving the Bianconeri at the end of the campaign following the 4-2 Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter.

And, speaking in a press conference ahead of Monday’s clash Lazio, Allegri confirmed Bonucci would wear the armband from next season.

The Juve coach also said he hopes his side will learn from the defeats to Inter in the league and cup final which negatively impacted their campaign.

“The team’s personality has grown throughout this season,” Allegri said. “The defeat to Inter in the league stopped us in our tracks.

“In Wednesday’s match, we were unable to bring him the Coppa Italia. When you don’t win, you don’t need to talk but focus on what needs to be done next season.”

Juve have finished the campaign trophyless for the first time since 2010-11 but will be in next season’s Champions League, having guaranteed themselves a top-four finish.

Scamacca drops hints on future: ‘Priority is continuing in Serie A’

Gianluca Scamacca is sought after in the Premier League and Bundesliga, but the Sassuolo striker insists his ‘priority is to continue in Serie A,’ giving Inter, Milan and Juventus hope.

The striker scored twice in today’s 3-1 victory away to Bologna, along with a Domenico Berardi bicycle-kick at the Stadio Dall’Ara.

This has been the breakout campaign for Scamacca, who is tipped to lead the Italy squad in future rather than Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, and he credits coach Alessio Dionisi for this growth.

“I didn’t have that much experience, so I thought only the statistics needed to speak for me, but a modern striker has to play for his teammates too. A goal is an added bonus, but the important thing is to play for the team,” Scamacca told Sky Sport Italia.

He has been linked with amongst others Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Newcastle United, Inter, Milan and Juventus.

“I think my priority now is to make my mark in Italy. Having said that, the transfer market is somewhat unpredictable. When the time comes to make a decision, I’ll try to make the best one.

“Serie A is of a very high level and my priority is to continue here. Others will then evaluate and we’ll see what happens.”

Allegri notes ‘these seasons happen’ after tough year with Juve

Massimiliano Allegri underlined that difficult seasons happen, even to top clubs, and noted the importance of Champions League qualification.

The Bianconeri will now finish this season in a worse position than they did last year under Andrea Pirlo, with no trophy and less points. It was been a frustrating and difficult campaign for both Allegri and the fans, who have started to lose faith in the coach that brought them to two Champions League finals.

Speaking in a press conference, Allegri first discussed the state of his team ahead of tomorrow’s match against Lazio.

“For who we are, we’re fine, tomorrow is the last at home and we have to honour it as best we can. Then it’s Chiellini’s celebration and Dybala’s last game, we must unite all three.”

Allegri touched on if this season could be considered a failure.

“Failure I’m hearing. When you’re at Juve it’s normal that there are high expectations, but such years happen.

“In the meantime we achieved Champions League qualification, which seems like a trivial objective but it’s not. It’s eleven consecutive years that Juve has taken part in the Champions League and it’s an important result.”

He did not want to rate the team’s season.

“These are trivial questions… What do I say 3, so are you happy? You always have to win here, but qualifying for the Champions League is not a trivial objective.”

The Italian coach didn’t want to discuss Paulo Pogba either.

“The season is not over yet and Pogba is a Manchester United player, with the club we will talk about the market at the end of the season. I have already forgotten, I don’t remember him so much, I have a full memory.”

Allegri commented on if Paulo Dybala’s departure takes a back seat compared to Giorgio Chiellini’s farewell.

“They are two different things. Chiellini spent 17 years with Juve, Paulo has a career ahead of him and will have the tribute of all the fans.”

The Juventus coach spoke about if there was a risk of the team giving up for the final two games of the season.

“Lazio and Fiorentina are teams in the running for the Europa League. By the way, tomorrow Sarri arrives, who is the coach of the last Scudetto, I think he will be shrewd because he deserves it.

“Some players will not be there. Danilo has finished his season, Arthur will have finished as well. De Sciglio will be back, Zakaria had a knock on his thigh and we have to evaluate but he won’t be there tomorrow.

“McKennie will see if he can be available on Wednesday. We saw Locatelli who had been out for a while. Miretti will play again tomorrow.”

He discussed if he was satisfied with this season as a whole.

“I am satisfied because of the team’s growth and the minimum goal achieved. Then I am not satisfied because we did not win anything.

“From what was negative there are always positive things, fighters in a season that stopped with Inter. Then moments often decide things. You have to take Wednesday’s defeat with you, it’s something I’ll find hard to erase.”

Finally, Allegri spoke about why it was important for him to take the defeat with him.

“Those are always there. The final must stay with us because we lost. The team did its best, but let’s not forget that in the long run numerically we paid for the traumatic injuries. Chiesa, McKennie, Danilo, Bonucci, it’s normal to pay in terms of strength.

“Vlahovic next year will be a better player than now, because he is young and can improve and has already been at Juve for six months. We have players who can potentially grow. Then with the market we’ll try to improve on the team’s shortcomings.”

Juve identify Gabriel and Milenkovic as possible Chiellini replacements

Juventus are looking to strengthen their backline this summer and two players in particular have caught their eye: Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic and Arsenal’s Gabriel.

The Old Lady are preparing for the emotional departure of veteran centre back Giorgio Chiellini, who is leaving Turin after 17 years of service this summer. Massimiliano Allegri will therefore need a new defender to try and fill the void left behind, and the club’s search is starting to heat up.

As reported by Tuttosport, Milenkovic and Gabriel are currently two players that Juventus are seriously considering ahead of the upcoming summer transfer window. The former’s contract expires with Fiorentina next season and he could be signed in a fairly affordable deal.

The latter has not had a hugely convincing campaign in North London and could leave on a loan deal, especially if William Saliba returns to Arsenal from a loan spell with Olympique Marseille.

Juventus have time to prepare ahead of the summer and they understand the importance of signing a top replacement, but it won’t be easy for them to forget Chiellini anytime soon.

Juve identify Gabriel and Milenkovic as possible Chiellini replacements

Juventus are looking to strengthen their backline this summer and two players in particular have caught their eye: Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic and Arsenal’s Gabriel.

The Old Lady are preparing for the emotional departure of veteran centre back Giorgio Chiellini, who is leaving Turin after 17 years of service this summer. Massimiliano Allegri will therefore need a new defender to try and fill the void left behind, and the club’s search is starting to heat up.

As reported by Tuttosport, Milenkovic and Gabriel are currently two players that Juventus are seriously considering ahead of the upcoming summer transfer window. The former’s contract expires with Fiorentina next season and he could be signed in a fairly affordable deal.

The latter has not had a hugely convincing campaign in North London and could leave on a loan deal, especially if William Saliba returns to Arsenal from a loan spell with Olympique Marseille.

Juventus have time to prepare ahead of the summer and they understand the importance of signing a top replacement, but it won’t be easy for them to forget Chiellini anytime soon.

Juve identify Gabriel and Milenkovic as possible Chiellini replacements

Juventus are looking to strengthen their backline this summer and two players in particular have caught their eye: Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic and Arsenal’s Gabriel.

The Old Lady are preparing for the emotional departure of veteran centre back Giorgio Chiellini, who is leaving Turin after 17 years of service this summer. Massimiliano Allegri will therefore need a new defender to try and fill the void left behind, and the club’s search is starting to heat up.

As reported by Tuttosport, Milenkovic and Gabriel are currently two players that Juventus are seriously considering ahead of the upcoming summer transfer window. The former’s contract expires with Fiorentina next season and he could be signed in a fairly affordable deal.

The latter has not had a hugely convincing campaign in North London and could leave on a loan deal, especially if William Saliba returns to Arsenal from a loan spell with Olympique Marseille.

Juventus have time to prepare ahead of the summer and they understand the importance of signing a top replacement, but it won’t be easy for them to forget Chiellini anytime soon.

Figures behind Juventus’ offer to Pogba

Juventus have prepared an offer ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Paul Pogba, hoping it’ll be enough to beat PSG to the punch.

The 29-year-old French midfielder is leaving Manchester United on a free transfer next month, six years after his much-anticipated return. The 2018 World Cup winner has always proved divisive for fans and pundits alike, with many frustrated that his qualities are not often on display in the Premier League.

As reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus have prepared a contract worth €7.5m net per season for Pogba, with various add-ons that could see it rise to double figures. They cannot afford a more expensive offer and so they’re hoping that it’ll be enough to beat out competition from Paris Saint-Germain, who predictably don’t share this concern.

The Frenchman currently earns around €15m net per season in England, so it’s still unclear if he’ll be willing to accept such a wage drop.

Figures behind Juventus’ offer to Pogba

Juventus have prepared an offer ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Paul Pogba, hoping it’ll be enough to beat PSG to the punch.

The 29-year-old French midfielder is leaving Manchester United on a free transfer next month, six years after his much-anticipated return. The 2018 World Cup winner has always proved divisive for fans and pundits alike, with many frustrated that his qualities are not often on display in the Premier League.

As reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus have prepared a contract worth €7.5m net per season for Pogba, with various add-ons that could see it rise to double figures. They cannot afford a more expensive offer and so they’re hoping that it’ll be enough to beat out competition from Paris Saint-Germain, who predictably don’t share this concern.

The Frenchman currently earns around €15m net per season in England, so it’s still unclear if he’ll be willing to accept such a wage drop.

Figures behind Juventus’ offer to Pogba

Juventus have prepared an offer ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Paul Pogba, hoping it’ll be enough to beat PSG to the punch.

The 29-year-old French midfielder is leaving Manchester United on a free transfer next month, six years after his much-anticipated return. The 2018 World Cup winner has always proved divisive for fans and pundits alike, with many frustrated that his qualities are not often on display in the Premier League.

As reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus have prepared a contract worth €7.5m net per season for Pogba, with various add-ons that could see it rise to double figures. They cannot afford a more expensive offer and so they’re hoping that it’ll be enough to beat out competition from Paris Saint-Germain, who predictably don’t share this concern.

The Frenchman currently earns around €15m net per season in England, so it’s still unclear if he’ll be willing to accept such a wage drop.