‘De Vrij clearly superior to De Ligt’

Dutch pundit and former player Willem van Hanegem claims Inter defender Stefan de Vrij is ‘clearly superior’ to Juventus star Matthijs de Ligt.

While De Vrij is considerably older at 29, it means he also has far more experience both of football in general and of Serie A, having joined Lazio in 2014 and Inter in 2018.

De Ligt is just 21, but Juventus paid €85m to sign him from Ajax in the summer of 2019.

Former Dutch international and current pundit Van Hanegem wrote in his column for newspaper Algemeen Dagblad that De Vrij ought to be the first-choice partner for Virgil van Dijk.

“De Vrij is simply the best defender in Serie A. I have found him to be clearly superior to De Ligt for a long time,” he wrote.

“De Vrij is going to take the Serie A title, but here people just want to talk about Virgil van Dijk. De Vrij really has become one of the best defenders in the world. It just seems that many people don’t want to see it.”

Van Hanegem also noted that De Vrij is “very modest on the field, he plays completely in the interest of the team, but outside of that, he could do with patting himself on the back a little more.”

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Emerson to Juve for Alex Sandro?

Reports are gathering steam that Juventus will try to sell Alex Sandro to Chelsea with Emerson Palmieri going the other way.

It is by no means the first time this has been suggested, but the Bianconeri are eager to monetise on players to cover mounting financial issues.

Calciomercato.com point out Juve have almost entirely absorbed the cost of Alex Sandro’s transfer and would be glad to lose his €6m per season wages.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is a known fan of the Portuguese player, having already wanted to sign him at Paris Saint-Germain in 2018.

Emerson Palmieri was born and raised in Brazil, but plays his international football for Italy.

He has long been linked with a return to Serie A for Juve, Inter or Napoli.

Because he would come to Italy from abroad, Emerson would also still be able to make the most of the tax cuts used to encourage growth.

It all means his wages would cost Juve circa half those of Alex Sandro.

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Juventus defence causing problems

Juventus have seen their defensive form collapse in recent weeks, as they went from five goals in 12 games to no clean sheets in seven.

The Bianconeri are currently in third place, but the battle for a top four finish is extremely tight, especially as they go head-to-head with Atalanta in fourth on Sunday.

Among the reasons for their poor results there’s the lack of defensive cohesion, although even here they struggle for consistency.

Juve conceded five goals in 12 competitive games from January 20, but in the last seven official matches they haven’t managed a single clean sheet.

During the most recent seven fixtures between Serie A and the Champions League, the Bianconeri let in nine goals.

In Serie A, the Old Lady conceded 27 goals in 30 rounds, meaning they have technically the joint best defence in the league with leaders Inter.

However, by their usual standards, it is a huge let-down.

Even Maurizio Sarri’s side had conceded only 26 goals by this stage of last season.

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Toni: ‘Lukaku more complete than Ronaldo’

Italy World Cup winner Luca Toni claims Romelu Lukaku is ‘a more complete’ striker than Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Inter and Juventus strikers battle for the Capocannoniere crown.

At the age of 36, Ronaldo has 25 Serie A goals in 27 games for Juve so far this season.

Meanwhile, Lukaku turns 27 later this month and scored 21 goals in 29 Serie A appearances.

“Lukaku is decisive for his team even when he doesn’t score goals, but CR7 is always world class,” said former Bayern Munich and Italy centre-forward Toni on his TikTok page.

“At this moment in time, I see Lukaku as being a more complete striker than Ronaldo, especially considering he is also younger.”

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Hakimi agent rues Inter Euro exit

Achraf Hakimi’s agent maintains if Inter had managed to stay in the Champions League, they ‘would go all the way’ to the Final.

The Nerazzurri reached the Europa League Final last season, while this term they finished bottom of their Champions League group.

Since that elimination in December, Antonio Conte has been able to focus his attention entirely on Serie A, going 11 points clear in the Scudetto race.

“The path to the Scudetto is clear now and the gap means Inter can start thinking about their title celebrations,” agent Alejandro Camano told Radio Kiss Kiss.

“Conte deserves a lot of credit and now they are playing good football too. If Inter were playing the Champions League right now, they would go all the way thanks to their quality, strength and organisation.”

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Branca throws Conte’s Inter future into doubt

Former director Marco Branca claims Antonio Conte’s stay at Inter depends on Suning’s projects and defends Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo.

Inter are the Serie A table leaders with an 11-point lead over second-placed Milan and need 13 more points to win their first Scudetto in more than ten years.

Antonio Conte’s contract expires in 2022, but Branca is unsure of his stay at Inter.

“You have to see what Suning’s plans are,” he told Radio Punto Nuovo.

“Then the board will decide what to do and how to make a step forward in Europe. The same goes for Milan, who are monitoring young talents.

“Inter are the only team that played on the same level as last season,” the former director added.

“Apart from Inter and Atalanta, the others have’t confirmed themselves this season. Milan have done well, Napoli could do more and everyone expected Andrea Pirlo to have difficulties at the beginning of the campaign.

“Inter have had a great season, but they found consistency only after their Champions League elimination.”

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Most valuable Serie A clubs revealed

Four Serie A clubs are among the 20 most valuable in the world, according to Forbes, but none is in the top 10.

Football club values are up 30% on average in the past two years despite the COVID pandemic as “buyers focused on what they see as still untapped revenue potential in the sport’s massive global following,” Forbes explains.

However, average operating income fell by 70% over the period to $23 million. 

The top 20 teams are worth an average of $2.28 billion, and Barcelona top the ranking with a value of $4.76 billion.

Juventus are the first Italian club in 11th position, behind Tottenham. The Bianconeri’s worth is $ 1,95 billion.

The Bianconeri are also the only Serie A club in the top 10 of the most valuable sponsorship kit deals.

Inter, Milan and Roma feature in the top 20, but each one has a worth below one billion.

According to Calcio&Finanza, Inter are the second club with the highest growth compared to two years ago, the last time Forbes published its ranking.

World’s 20 most valuable football teams

Barcelona – $ 4,76 billion

Real Madrid – $ 4,75 billion

Bayern Munich – $ 4,125 billion

Manchester United – $ 4,2 billion

Liverpool – $ 4,1 billion

Manchester City – $ 4 billion

Chelsea – $ 3,2 billion

Arsenal – $ 2,8 billion

Paris Saint-Germain – $ 2,5 billion

Tottenham – $ 2,3 billion

Juventus – $ 1,95 billion

Borussia Dortmund – $ 1,9 billion

Atletico Madrid – $ 1 billion

Inter – $ 743m

Everton – $ 658m

Milan – $ 559m

Roma – $ 548m

West Ham – $ 508m

Leicester City – $ 455m

Ajax – $ 413m          

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Inter ‘in pole position’ to land Mandi on a free transfer

According to multiple reports, Inter have made an offer to sign Betis’ defender Aissa Mandi as a free agent in the summer.

The 29-year-old is one of the Nerazzurri’s transfer targets for 2021-22 and according to Estadio Deportivo and Le Buteur, they have offered the Algeria international a €2m-a-year deal.

Mandi will see his contract expire at the end of the season, and next week, he will reportedly announce his decision to leave his current club at the end of the campaign.

According to the reports, Mandi wants to begin a new chapter of his career and Inter are in pole position to secure his services.

The versatile defender won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019 along with Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer and next season they could face each other in the derby of Milan.

Mandi joined Betis from Stade Reims in 2016 and played 169 games with the La Liga side since.

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Liveblog: Serie A Wk30 Super Sunday

Join us for all the build-up and action as it happens from today’s six Serie A games, including Inter-Cagliari, Juventus-Genoa, Sampdoria-Napoli and Fiorentina-Atalanta.

If you are on a mobile device or tablet, then follow the Liveblog HERE.

We begin at 11.30 UK time (10.30 GMT) at San Siro with leaders Inter hosting Radja Nainggolan and Diego Godin’s increasingly desperate Cagliari.

At 14.00 UK time (13.00 GMT), Juventus take on Genoa, Napoli take a trip to Sampdoria in order to keep their top four hopes alive and Lazio face Hellas Verona.

Roma try to put their Europa League exploits behind them and focus on Bologna at 17.00 UK time (16.00 GMT).

The day concludes at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT) with Fiorentina vs. Atalanta.

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Video: Conte’s wild celebration in Inter’s win vs. Cagliari

Video: Conte’s wild celebration in Inter’s win vs. Cagliari

Antonio Conte went wild during celebrations for Matteo Darmian’s winner against Cagliari and even kissed Achraf Hakimi, who provided the assist.

The Nerazzurri sealed a crucial 1-0 win against the Serie A strugglers to keep an 11-point lead over second-placed Milan in the Serie A table.

Conte ran over to celebrate with his players and even kissed Achraf Hakimi on his head.

“I don’t consider myself their older brother, but I do sometimes kiss my players on their head,” Conte told DAZN after the final whistle.

“They know I am ready to throw myself into the fire for them. Hakimi deserved it and so Darmian.”

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