Serie A Team of the Week: Gilardino & Destro double up

The best players from Italy’s latest round of top-flight action are recognised in our weekly roll of honour

Another round of Serie A action brought another week of star performances all across the peninsula, making more more tough choices in compiling the latest Goal Team of the Week.

The XI is led from the back by Christian Abbiati, who made some decisive saves before Mario Balotelli’s dramatic late winner for Milan against Bologna. Gino Peruzzi secures the right-back slot after his goal-scoring performance in Catania’s victory over Lazio, with Walter Samuel providing another wall-like display as Inter won at Fiorentina. Emerson grabbed the first goal in Livorno’s win at Cagliari, while Cristian Molinaro kicked off Parma’s stunning 4-0 triumph at Atalanta.

Torino were boosted by the display of Omar El Kaddouri as they beat Verona on Monday, while Miralem Pjanic made light work of the loss of Francesco Totti in Roma’s win against Sampdoria. Juventus continued on their merry stroll towards another Scudetto after Kwadwo Asamoah opened the scoring against Chievo.

Lorenzo Insigne was a goalscorer as Napoli won away to Sassuolo, Alberto Gilardino grabbed two late goals to earn Genoa a point against Udinese while Mattia Destro also scored twice to ensure Roma took maximum points from their clash with Sampdoria at the Olimpico.

Barca & PSG considering Pjanic summer swoop

The Giallorossi midfielder might not be leaving Italy in January, but he is expected to depart in the summer as interest swells at Camp Nou and Parc des Princes

SPECIAL REPORT
By Marco Terrenato

Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are eyeing Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic as a future signing.

Yohan Cabaye’s move from Newcastle United to Paris Saint-Germain for €24 million ensured that les Parisiens will call off their pursuit in the current transfer window.

PSG prioritised the signing of Cabaye to shore up their midfield after the Giallorossi demanded an eye-watering €55m for Pjanic following his impressive Serie A form, but Laurent Blanc is expected to return with a new offer later this year.

The 23-year-old has also been targeted as a potential successor to Xavi at Camp Nou by Barca, who are considering a summer swoop for the in-demand central midfielder.

Xavi, now 34, has been linked with a move to MLS either in 2014 or next year and Pjanic is seen as a player in the mould of the Spain veteran.

The arrival of Radja Nainggolan from Cagliari triggered suggestions that Rudi Garcia could offload Pjanic the same way the Stadio Olimpico side sold Marquinhos, Pablo Osvaldo and Erik Lamela for large sums of money last summer.

Regardless of whether Roma qualify for the Champions League next season, the capital-based club would have every intention of investing the €35-40m they believe they can get for Pjanic, who is primed to feature prominently at the World Cup for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Before any potential sale, Roma intend to give Pjanic a four-year extension on his current deal – which expires in 2015 – to boost his value, but will ensure that there is a release clause on the €3m-a-year they are willing to offer him.

Blanc: Pjanic a good Cabaye alternative

The Parisians coach believes the Roma midfielder could be an alternative to Cabaye and will be very happy if they can bring in at least one of these options

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has revealed the club is considering a move for Miralem Pjanic over Yohan Cabaye.

Newcastle United midfielder Cabaye has long been admired by Blanc, who has previously admitted PSG’s interest, having worked with the former Lille captain during his spell in charge of the France national team.

The 48-year-old is hoping to bring Cabaye to Parc des Princes but revealed Roma star Pjanic, who left Olympique Lyonnais for Roma in 2011, could be signed as an alternative.

“Yes, Pjanic is interesting,” Blanc said at a press conference on Friday. “He could be a good alternative to Cabaye.

“They are both targets for PSG; they are very technical players who have the same profile. If a midfielder comes this winter, I’ll be very happy.”

Roma, though, have moved to deny reports that they are in negotiations with PSG over a deal for Pjanic.

Their official Twitter account, said:  “AS Roma would like to stress that there are no talks underway regarding the exit of Miralem Pjanic. The player is not for sale‏.”

Blanc offered a positive update on the fitness of 18-year-old Adrien Rabiot, who suffered knee ligament damage in the Coupe de la Ligue win at Bordeaux earlier this month.

There had been fears that the teenager would spend considerable time on the sidelines, but Blanc has indicated that Rabiot could make a quick recovery.

“He has lateral ligament damage,” Blanc added. “There is rehabilitation work to do, but no operation.

“The news is very positive. He will be training in the beginning or middle of next week.”

Defending Ligue 1 champions PSG, five points clear at the top of the table, travel to Guingamp on Saturday, seeking to get back to winning ways following a 2-1 home defeat to Montpellier in the Coupe de France.

Pjanic hints at interest in PSG move

The midfielder says Laurent Blanc’s side would be the only team in France he would consider joining but has stressed he is happy with life at Roma

Roma attacking midfielder Miralem Pjanic has hinted he could be open to a move to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

The 23-year-old has been earmarked as one of Laurent Blanc’s primary transfer targets this month following a strong first half of the season with the Giallorossi, while Manchester United have also been credited with an interest.

Pjanic – who joined Roma from Olympique Lyonnais in 2011 – has stressed he is enjoying life in the Italian capital but suggests he could be tempted to return to France should PSG come calling.

“It’s the only club I would go to in France,” he told Telefoot when asked about PSG.

“I’m at Roma, it’s a big club and I feel really good here. I love the fans and I am a fan of Roma. If there must be a transfer, all parties must agree. For the moment, I’m staying concentrated on my football.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina international Pjanic was involved in Roma’s 3-0 triumph over Livorno on Saturday.

Pogba, Pjanic or Cabaye – who will Paris Saint-Germain sign in January?

Laurent Blanc’s side are focusing on strengthening their midfield, yet the approach of the Ligue 1 champions will be one of patience to ensure they secure the correct man

SPECIAL REPORT
By Robin Bairner & Simone Rovera

There will be no indecent offers or enormous changes in the Paris Saint-Germain squad this January.

If something does happen in the French capital this month, it will be in midfield. Any potential arrival will not be a replacement, but a starter who can play with Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti, most notably in the Champions League. The two Italians are now untouchable (more so than Blaise Matuidi) in an area of the field that Laurent Blanc would increasingly like to resemble Barcelona.

For the Parc des Princes club, their dream is named Paul Pogba. This is nothing new. The director general of Juventus, Beppe Marotta, responded to PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi before last weekend’s match with Roma: “There is nothing planned in the short term. The relationship with him and his representatives is excellent and I don’t believe there will be any issues.”

The Bianconeri are aiming to extend Pogba’s contract, which expires in 2016, with a pay increase, to avoid an offer from PSG turning his head, or that of agent Mino Raiola, who is always ready to raise the stakes when one of his players is targeted by a big club.

The leaders of the Old Lady are ready to increase the salary of the player to €3 million net per year, with significant bonuses for victories in Serie A and the Champions League.

Will it be enough? Maybe not. Paris currently can make a large offer, though perhaps not the €7m that the Italian press speak of, due to fears of upsetting the balance of the locker room – Pogba is only 20 and cannot just appear having been handed the fourth-largest salary at the club.

He is a prodigy but he has only played two seasons at the top level, winning one Scudetto – the second is on its way – with Juve. He has only played 14 Champions League matches and seven with the France team.

In fact, he has more or less the same experience as Verratti, who is Italy’s biggest hope and has only four international caps. After his first contract extension, he was awarded only €2m per season.

Can PSG risk presenting a similar player with three times his salary? In this case, Donato Di Campli, the agent of the young Italian, would not be content to sit on his hands, and this could trigger a domino effect with several players looking for new deals.

To avoid exactly this situation, the Parisian leaders took three of four months to negotiate the extension of Thiago Motta, and are still in talks with the agents of Alex, Salvatore Sirigu and others.

One rumour that is circulating around Paris persistently since the summer is a move for Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye. This has been at the emphasis of others, most notably the French press. In the capital, it is only Blanc and the PSG board, who dictate transfer strategy, and there is no one who believes that the international midfielder would not increase the technical level of the midfield. In short, Cabaye would be a good substitute, but not a key element for the future. In addition, Newcastle’s asking price of €20m has taken the player away from being a priority for PSG.

Not so keen on Cabaye | Appreciated, but not a major target for PSG

Miralem Pjanic is now the preferred option to arrive in January. He is 23 years old and already has seven seasons in top leagues between Ligue 1 and Serie A, as well as 23 appearances in the Champions League with Olympique Lyonnais and nearly 50 caps with Bosnia.

Roma are currently strengthening their midfield with the arrival of Radja Nainggolan (€3m for the loan, and potentially up to €15m for his full rights), Leandro Paredes (loan and an option to buy for €4.5m) and they are dreaming of Juan Iturbe, the Hellas Verona ace, who could leave for €15m.

It is easy to think that the sale of Pjanic could fund these transfers, but will the deal take place in January or June?

Pjanic is admired by Blanc and Parisian leaders. Even Al-Khelaifi admitted that he considers him a great player. The established team leaders would also consider him a top-level recruit, with his experience in Serie A working in his favour. In addition, those players who have arrived from Italy in the last two seasons are now the most important players on and off the field.

His situation is not so different to Pogba’s: his contract in Rome lasts until 2015, while the Giallorossi’s sporting director Walter Sabatini is ready to match the player’s requested wage of €3m per year in order to entice him to stay. An exchange with Javier Pastore has been muted, but though the Argentine’s wage could be matched by Roma, negotiating a deal in 20 days will be problematic.

On paper, this exchange remains a solution that would not displease PSG or Roma, where Sabatini, the former sporting director of Palermo who brought the Argentine to Europe, officiates. The link between the two has never been broken, as Pastore explained to the Italian press a few weeks ago. That said, ‘El Flaco’ has no intention of leaving Paris this winter, even to rejoin his former master in Italy.

If for Pjanic, as for Pogba, the simplest solution is to wait until June, Verratti’s muscle problem shows that, aside from rookie Adrien Rabiot, there is no high-level replacement in the middle of the field.

However, PSG do not want to buy players who do not fit 110 per cent into the framework of the club. Blanc has repeated this several times recently. When he was still in Doha, he announced to beIN Sport that he is happy with his squad, but if an injury should occur, he would need more in midfield. He repeated this on Wednesday after the Coupe de France win over Brest.

Asked about the need for a replacement on the right of his defence after an injury to Christophe Jallet, Blanc said that at this moment he is happy to have seven players for four positions, but conversely the alternatives in the midfield were limited.

PSG’s strategy is clear: there will be no arrivals to increase the number of substitutes available to Laurent Blanc, and that goes for the midfield as much as the right-back role. If there is a replacement, he will be a very good player and will start. The absence of Jallet, a replacement who alternates good games with more discreet ones, has offered PSG the chance for reflection with regards to buying in this area.

According to several good sources, it is not easy to find a high-level right-back in this January window. It is not practical to sign a full-back by default to offer back-up to Gregory van der Wiel and then have three players for the same position when Jallet returns. Abundance of quality is not harmful, it is generally said, except that this proverb does not apply to PSG, who seek excellence and quality, rather than quantity.

Marquinhos played some strong games at right-back when he was with Roma, and he took up the post during the last 20 minutes of the friendly match against Real Madrid on January 2. And as he is third in the hierarchy of centre-back, behind Alex and, of course, Thiago Silva, he may seize his chance at this position in the coming weeks. Unless something better arrives …