Premier League side Arsenal are set to rival Serie A giants Inter Milan in the race to sign exciting Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron.
The Paraguay international has impressed for the MLS side who have surprised everyone with their performances in their debut season, with Calciomercato reporting that the Gunners are set to battle it out for the 23-year-old’s signature.
Almiron has featured 29 times for Atlanta since his move from Lanus in December and has scored nine times and is also a regular in the Paraguay national team, with his side still having an outside chance of going to Russia next summer.
The Paraguayan was linked with a move to Inter last season, but chose to join the MLS newcomers in a deal worth $13m. The 23-year-old has excelled in his debut campaign stateside featuring mainly as a number 10 but can also play out wide.
After a sparkling year, Inter are set to renew their interest in Almiron, but set to be rivalled by Arsenal as Arsene Wenger looks to secure an attacking midfielder with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s contracts coming to an end in the summer.
With no new deals for the duo on the horizon Wenger is planning ahead to replace his two star men and the Atlanta star could be available for a fee between €15-20m. Under the guidance of former Barcelona boss Tata Martino, interest in Almiron has picked up again with Inter keen to bring him to the San Siro.
It’s over – the brilliant, bearded genius has announced his retirement, leaving his greatest admirers in a pool of their own tears as they come to terms with a lifetime of Pirlo-less football.
He will no longer grace pitches with his uniquely cool and elegant playing style, no longer pass his opposition into submission. In December, Andrea Pirlo will hang up his boots at New York City FC and leave us all mourning what we’ve lost.
There’s always the possibility of looking back on some of his greatest moments, though. The list is endless, but here are seven of them.
7. The Panenka Penalty
For most mere mortals, the thought of attempting a panenka penalty in the quarter-finals of the European Championship would induce a state of panic. Not Pirlo, though.
Italy and England had played out a goalless draw and it came down to a penalty shootout to establish the semi-finalists.
Ignoring Joe Hart’s futile efforts to distract him, the unerringly composed playmaker dinked the ball down the middle as the goalkeeper fell ungracefully to the right.
“Joe Hart looked very confident with himself, so I thought we had to bring him down a peg or two,” he later said.
Former West Ham midfielder Alessandro Diamanti went on to score the decisive penalty, but it was Pirlo’s brilliance that stood out. His performance throughout the game wasn’t bad, either.
6. The Best Goal of All Time
Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it’s unquestionably one of the best long-range screamers.
Back when Milan routinely competed at the top of Serie A and the latter stages of the Champions League, Pirlo was a feature of their midfield. His ten years at the club came to an end in 2011, but he departed with another Scudetto in his final campaign.
And in that campaign he scored arguably the goal of his career against Parma, an astonishingly accurate long-distance missile which nestled satisfyingly in the top corner. Even when all his passing options were cut off, he found a way.
5. The World Cup Final Penalty
Another penalty, another example of Pirlo’s unflappable composure.
The stakes were higher than against England; this was a World Cup final and the then beardless midfielder was first up.
But he stroked the ball down the middle, past Fabian Barthez, and set Italy on the way to lifting the 2006 World Cup.
“Being first on the spot, kicking off that torture in the biggest, most incredible game that a player can play or imagine,” Pirlo wrote in his autobiography: I Think Therefore I Play. “That’s not necessarily good news. It means they think you’re the best, but it also means that if you miss, you’re first on the list of d********.”
4. The Pass for Roberto Baggio
Andrea Pirlo and Roberto Baggio were a mouthwatering duo, and the two linked up perfectly to rescue a vital point for Brescia in 2001.
Playing against the would-be champions Juventus late in the season, Pirlo played an immaculate, lofted through ball into the path of Baggio, whose superb first touch allowed him to round Edwin van der Sar and level the scores.
That point, it transpired, helped Brescia finish outside the relegation zone by one point. Pirlo, on loan at the club from Inter, moved to Milan the following season.
3. Nomination for FIFA World Player of the Year
Pirlo, in recognition for his brilliant performances in 2006 and 2007, was nominated for FIFA World Player of the Year.
He excelled as Milan lifted the Champions League trophy, two years after the disappointment of Istanbul against Liverpool.
Pirlo finished seventh in the final voting, losing out to attacking teammate Kaka, but it was a deserved testament to his abilities.
2. Champions League Success
Champions League victory over Liverpool in 2007 more than made up for defeat against the same club two years earlier in Istanbul.
That was one of the low-points of Pirlo’s esteemed career, but he was on form as Milan earned their revenge in Athens.
His deflected free-kick made the breakthrough and, although Liverpool were the better side, the Italian club emerged with a 2-1 win.
1. Serie A Domination
Though it ended in tears with Juventus falling to defeat against Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final, Pirlo’s time in Turin was largely excellent.
In the latter stages of his career, there was no huge decline, and he contributed to the Old Lady’s inexorable domination of Italian football.
Four Serie A titles in a row was not a bad way to leave his indelible mark in his homeland, before he left for MLS.
Former Italy star Andrea Pirlo has made some interesting revelations recently.
The 38-year-old will likely call curtains on his MLS career at the end of the season and in an exclusive look at the contents of his new book, released by the Mail, opened up on several aspects of his football journey.
Pirlo spoke about his disappointment against Liverpool in the Istanbul final, nearly joining Chelsea in 2009 and his exquisite penalty against Joe Hart for Italy, as well as several other things.
But perhaps one of the things that stuck out the most was him revealing that Roy Hodgson never got his name right whilst he was at Inter.
“He called me Pirla (a term used in Milan dialect roughly translated as ****head), perhaps understanding my true nature more than the other managers,” the midfielder said.
“We went through four coaches that year (1999). I’d wake up in the morning and not remember who my coach was.”
Pirlo, who must really enjoy the feeling of being part of a football squad, given how long he’s played, describes it as being “better than sex.”
“Being part of a team that belongs to everyone makes me feel good. A lot of the time, it’s better than sex: it lasts longer and if it falls flat, it can’t just be your fault.
“Take someone like (Parma striker) Antonio Cassano. He says he’s slept with 700 women but he doesn’t get picked for Italy any more. Can he really be happy? I wouldn’t be.
“That shirt, with its Smurf-like blue, gives you a whole new image across the world. It takes you to a higher level. Much better to be a soldier on the pitch than in the bedroom.”
Well that certainly makes a whole lot of sense. And it’s quite unfortunate that he will only be involved in sex after calling it quits in a few months.
Despite his love for the game, though, Pirlo has no intentions to step into management.
“I wouldn’t bet a cent on me becoming a manager,” he added.
“There are too many worries and the lifestyle is far too close to that of a player. In the future, I’d like to get back a semblance of a private life.”
After Winning six of their seven matches in the new Serie A season, Inter Milan see themselves third in the table and prepare to face their San Siro rivals in the Milan derby as the international break comes to an end.
In an interview with Italian outlet Mediaset, Inter midfielder Joao Mario gave some words of praise to manager Luciano Spalletti after taking up the role in the Summer.
When asked what Inter’s objectives for this season are, the Portuguese star was unsure of what his team were aiming for.
However, Mario explained that the work rate was indeed better with Spalletti at the helm compared to last season.
“Is the target to get into the Champions League? It’s still early,” he said. “Compared to last year, the organisation has changed. Spalletti has been decisive, he is doing well and his work gives us added strength.”
When asked about the importance of the Milan derby, he said: “The derby is a very special match, we’re fine and we want to win at home. We hope the fans can help us.”
The derby will also give a chance for Mario to face fellow Portugal teammate Andre Silva, who has been one of Milan’s expensive signings in the summer after their financial takeover.
Mario explains that both himself and his team mate have a winning mindset but Portugal is their primary focus in the World Cup qualifiers.
“We have spoken about it, naturally he wants to win too. But we are still concentrating on the national team.”
Manchester United are preparing to reignite their interest in Ivan Perisic with a £54m offer for the Inter Milan ace next summer.
Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t the Sun) has claimed that the Red Devils have not been put off in their attempts to land the 28-year-old, and will return for him after the World Cup in Russia next July.
Perisic was consistently linked with making a switch to the Premier League from Serie A in the recent transfer window, but penned a new deal with the Nerazzurri after talks broke down between the two clubs.
However, Perisic reportedly has a £54m release clause fee written into his new contract – something that United appear all too happy to stump up to land their man.
Manager Jose Mourinho is an admirer of Perisic’s ability to whip in crosses from either wing, and his expert deliveries would be food and drink for the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford if he were to join.
One potential sticking point that may prevent United from moving for the Croatia international would be the lack of resale value if he didn’t work out in English football.
Perisic is edging closer to 30 years of age, and United wouldn’t be able to get much in way of compensation if they did end up selling him on following any perceived failure to adapt to the UK.
Perisic’s arrival could also lead to less game time for wonderkid forward Marcus Rashford, and United fans would be loathe to see the 19-year-old lose his place in the starting lineup if Perisic jetted in. For now, it’s safe to assume that this rumour won’t be going away unless Mourinho or United turn their attentions to other targets.
Perisic has bagged three goals and three assists in seven appearances for Inter so far this term, taking his tally to 23 goals and 21 assists in 86 run outs.
Serie A giants Inter are considering a move for Theo Walcott as the England international begins to run down his contract at the Emirates.
Walcott is currently Arsenal’s longest serving player, having joined with a lot of hype around him from Southampton in 2006. Aged just 17, many tipped Walcott to be England’s next big star but he has struggled to find consistency in his decade in north London.
THEO WALCOTT HAS FINALLY FOUND HIS LEVEL – EUROPA LEAGUE LEGEND ALREADY!
— Arslan (@Arslan_AFC) September 28, 2017
Now 28, he is moving into his final two years of his contact at the Emirates and Calciomercato report that Inter are more than ready to go for him if he is made available in January. The move would allow Inter winger Antonio Candreva to leave the San Siro, with Chelsea reportedly interested in him.
The Nerazzuri have reportedly been following Walcott for a while, and are said to be very keen on him. Walcott has for long been a controversial figure amongst Gooners fans, but can boast a respectable enough 107 goals in 388 games.
He would be tasked with helping the former treble winners getting back into Europe, having failed to even reach the Europa League last season after a seventh placed finish as Juventus again strolled to the league title.
However, his only silverware with Arsenal is three FA Cups, with his best goal tally in a season being 21 back in 2012/13. It’s the only time in his career he’s scored 20+ goals in a season in his career, but a move to San Siro would link him up with free scoring captain Mauro Icardi, who already has six goals in seven games this season, following on from 26 in 41 last year.
Italian football legend Fabio Cannavaro has insisted that both AC Milan and Inter will require time to become genuine title contenders once again.
The 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year told Premium Sport (via FourFourTwo) that the two Chinese-backed clubs must show patience after their respective recent squad overhauls, admitting: “They have financial resources and they will always be fighting for the biggest objectives.
19 – Inter have collected 19 points over the opening seven games of a Serie A campaign for the first time since 2002. Present.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) October 1, 2017
“But it will need time in order for them to organise themselves. Napoli, for example, have arrived at their level after 10-12 years.”
Cannavaro now manages Chinese Super League outfit Tianjin Quanjian, and it has been the substantial Chinese investment into Milan’s two biggest clubs that has prompted suggestions one of the pair could lift the Serie A title this year.
Juventus have commanded Italian football by winning the Scudetto in five consecutive seasons with Inter’s last triumph coming in 2010 under Jose’ Mourinho and Milan’s in 2011 – their first in seven years.
Milan’s recruitment policy has been geared towards quick results, with Leonardo Bonucci and Lucas Biglia among the new arrivals in a summer outlay of around £175m for the red and black half of the city, whilst the blue and black half spent a more modest £72m – with Matias Vecino a notable acquisition.
Napoli’s stellar start to the season and Juve’s experience may prove difficult to content with. But Inter have begun well in Serie A and Milan will be looking to transfer their positive Europe League form into the domestic competition.
The city rivals actually go head-to-head after the international break at San Siro on October 15th in a star-studded derby.
Following the sacking of manager Carlo Ancelotti, it seems another exit could be on the horizon for Bayern Munich as Serie A side Internazionale are reportedly planning on making a move for Chilean international Arturo Vidal.
Italian sports site Corriere dello Sport made the claim on Wednesday that the Chinese-backed side are preparing a January swoop for the 30-year-old midfielder.
With Ancelotti Vidal’s ‘biggest fan’, his departure leaves a clear path for suitors including Inter to pursue of the tenacious former Juventus star.
Vidal is already a proven commodity in Serie A following his successful spell with Inter’s rivals Juventus between 2011 and 2015.
The Chilean, who has yet to sign a new deal, will be out of contract in the summer of 2019 and the signs are beginning to point to the end of his spell with his current club.
The midfielder is no stranger to success, being a former four time winner of Serie A and claiming the Bundesliga crown in his two seasons at the Allianz Arena.
For six years in a row Vidal has ended the season as the League champion, so Inter fans will be hoping that his run will continue if he does indeed make the move to the club.
Luciano Spalletti’s side currently sit just two points off the top of the table, so a high-profile introduction in the shape of Vidal will be a welcome sight to their title challenge.
Suning Group, who took over Inter Milan in 2016, are reportedly planning to build a new headquarters at the club in an attempt to develop the club’s infrastructure and youth systems, according to Football Italia.
With Inter’s resurgence as a European giant already taking shape, this may be the next step in sustaining the club’s position as title challengers.
It is believed that the Chinese company have been in contact with Invimit, the asset management company of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which deals with urban construction. The construction is likely to take place in the Piazza d’Armi area, and would cover 450,000m2 of land.
There are reportedly plans being made for a main headquarters, as well as new training centres for the Nerazzurri youth teams.
Suning are willing to invest around €100m in the new project which would be seen as bringing the club forward along with the rest of Europe’s heavy investment. They hope to settle a deal by the end of this year, or early in 2018.
Inter Milan currently sit in third, level on points with second place Juventus. After last season’s disappointing seventh placed finish, the club will be delighted with their superb start to the season.
This project for investment at the core of the club show’s the owner’s ambition for Inter, who will be looking to return to the glory days of European silverware.
Having fallen down the peck order since Jose Mourinho left the club in 2010, they will be looking to maintain their resurgence this season, but also in the future which is what this project is aiming to achieve.
Inter Milan are unlikely to make their approach for rumoured target Mesut Ozil any sooner than the end of the season after seeming to accept that the Arsenal play-maker probably won’t be on the move in the January transfer window.
Ozil is due to be out of contract on 30th June and looks no closer to agreeing an extension.
That could tempt Arsenal to sell him in January to ensure they recoup at least some of their £42.5m outlay. But for the money suitors would be willing to offer with only six months to go, the Gunners may be willing to risk it by keeping him until the end of the season.
“We are studying our squad. We have scouts everywhere and they look at every kind of player,” Inter chairman Erick Thohir told Premium Sport.
“I don’t think players like [Ozil] will be leaving in January. Luciano Spalletti knows this team has room for improvement, that’s what we are working on.”
Inter director Piero Ausilio said similar on the subject of Ozil at the weekend.
“We are thoroughly evaluating our players and watching foreign leagues at the same time – we are in place. But, anyhow, we do not think operations for players like Ozil are possible before June,” he commented.
News of Inter’s apparent interest in Ozil surfaced last week when Thohir commented on the possibility of pursuing the former Real Madrid star. Even then, though, the chairman warned against anything being expected after being burned in the January market before.
As things stand, Ozil is eligible to open formal talks with non-English clubs from 1st January and could sign a pre-contract agreement to secure a free transfer in the summer should he wish.
To avoid that, ex-Premier League manager Stuart Pearce believes Arsenal should definitely sell in January when the transfer market re-opens. “Part of me thinks if they get good money for Ozil, take the money and move on,” he told Sky Sports.