Man City rule out moves for Pjanic, Thiago & Kovacic

Manchester City sources have ruled out a big-money move for Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, Goal understands.

Reports in Italy had claimed that City boss Pep Guardiola has spoken to Pjanic in the past few days to convince him to move to the Etihad Stadium in an €80 million (£72m/$94m) deal.

City have been linked with a number of midfielders since missing out on preferred target Jorginho .

But Goal understands that a move for an established name is unlikely at this stage in the window, and that Pjanic is not under consideration.

The same goes for Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago and Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic, City sources have indicated.

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By targeting Fred in January and Jorginho this summer, City believe they had identified two quality options that would have been available for roughly £50m ($65m).

Ultimately they could not convince Shakhtar Donetsk to sell Fred in January, and the Brazil midfielder then decided to join Manchester United . 

Having agreed a deal with Napoli for Jorginho, City were shocked by the Italian club’s sudden refusal to sell, instead insisting that the Italy international only move to Chelsea, as part of a deal for manager Maurizio Sarri to replace Antonio Conte.

City do not believe they will find two similarly capable players available for £50m.

They are still monitoring the market and a move for a younger, less established player is thought to be a possibility, but it is just as likely that City will head into the new season without any further midfield signings, leaving them to weigh up their options for next summer as the campaign progresses.

It is understood that Guardiola is happy to utilise his current squad to fill the gap left by Yaya Toure, who left at the end of his contract in July.

Although Toure barely featured in his final campaign at City, Guardiola had identified the deep-lying midfield role as one of two areas in need of strengthening.

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But Guardiola is prepared to use Fabian Delph and Ilkay Gundogan as alternatives to Fernandinho, rather than be rushed into a new signing that they have not tracked as closely as Fred or Jorginho.

“No, we’re not disappointed,” Guardiola said of the failed pursuit of Jorginho. “We tried. We thought already it was done. My advice is for players to go where they want to go.

“It would have been a mistake if he’d come here when he wanted to go to Maurizio [Sarri] and Chelsea. English football received an exceptional player at the end. If they don’t want to come it’s better they don’t come. All the best for him.”

Asked about alternative options, the Catalan replied: “We’ll decide on the last day. We have Fernandinho, [Ilkay] Gundogan, Oleksandr [Zinchenko], [Fabian] Delph. We have young players who can play, we’ll see, Douglas Luiz, Claudio Gomes so we’ll see.”

Zinchenko could yet leave City this summer, with several clubs, including Fulham and Wolves, expressing their interest.

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Douglas Luiz spent last season on loan at Girona, while Claudio Gomes, 17, only started training with the squad this week, as they prepare for three International Champions Cup games in the United States.

“He has been so good, so good,” Guardiola said of Gomes. “My opinion is that at that age you have to play. You need minutes, if not with us then with the second team.

“It could be like what happened with Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz – he could stay with us, because from what we have seen  in these days, the impression is good, so good.”


Pjanic: Ronaldo ‘a huge coup’ for Juventus

Miralem Pjanic described Cristiano Ronaldo’s signing as a “huge coup” but the Juventus midfielder refused to confirm his future with the Italian champions amid links with Chelsea.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo swapped three-time reigning European champions Real Madrid for Juve in a sensational deal that will cost €100m (£88m/$117m) plus €12m (£10.5m/$14m) in additional charges.

The 33-year-old – Madrid’s all-time leading goalscorer – signed a four-year contract with the Serie A giants.

Asked about new team-mate Ronaldo, Pjanic told Sky Sport Italia: “He’s a huge coup, a great player.”

However, Pjanic’s future in Turin is far from certain, with new Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri reportedly looking to lure the Bosnia-Herzegovina international to Stamford Bridge.

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Goal understands that Chelsea are in talks over the signing of Juve’s Daniele Rugani, while the Serie A club are looking to offload Gonzalo Higuain.

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Pjanic – who arrived from Roma in 2016 – has now emerged as a possible target for Chelsea as Sarri seeks another central midfielder in London.

As he left a restaurant on Wednesday, Pjanic was quizzed on his future with Juve and the 28-year-old replied, “have a good evening” before driving away in his car.

Juve have already signed Ronaldo, Joao Cancelo, Emre Can and Mattia Perin, while Manchester United star Paul Pogba has been linked with an unlikely return to the club as well.


Pirlo names the three best free-kick takers in the world

Legendary set-piece specialist Andrea Pirlo has revealed who he believes are the three best free-kick takers in world football today.

The Italian maestro is widely regarded as one of the best of all time when it comes to free kicks and he holds the all-time joint-record, 28, for the number of set-pieces scored in Serie A.

And when asked who the best free-kick taker on the planet was today, the recently retired Pirlo couldn’t separate three players.

“At the moment the three best free-kick takers in the world are Lionel Messi, Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybala,” Pirlo told Goal.

“All three of them take free-kicks very well.”

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Over the past five seasons, Messi has scored the most free-kick goals, 16, in Europe’s five major leagues.

Juventus star Pjanic has scored the joint-second most according to Opta data, with 12 along with AC Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu, while Dybala is fourth with nine goals.

Pirlo is joint-eighth with Mario Balotelli (six goals each) despite not playing in Europe since 2015.

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And the retired midfielder commented on his former Italy team-mate’s recent return to the national team, insisting he is happy to see the striker back in the fold.

Free agent Balotelli had not played for the Azzurri since the 2014 World Cup but, after two excellent seasons with Nice, he returned for the international friendly against Saudi Arabia, scoring in a 2-1 win.

“I am really happy that Balotelli is back playing for the Italy national team,” Pirlo said.

“He’s been playing really well in the past two years and he deserves the recall.

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“I don’t know which club Balotelli is going to be playing for next season but I am sure that a lot of big clubs are going to be after him. It is up to him to choose himself the best option.”

Finally, the retired Pirlo addressed media talk that he could become Italy manager Roberto Mancini’s assistant coach – confirming that there have been talks between the pair.

“I spoke with Mancini about the role,” Pirlo revealed.

“I am studying for my coaching badges at the moment until the end of June.

“After that I will be allowed to work as a coach but at the moment there is nothing really concrete in terms of being the assistant of Mancini.”

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Pirlo will spend his first World Cup as a fan since 2002 at home with McDelivery from Uber Eats.

With more than 3.2 billion people expected to tune in to watch the World Cup at home this year, McDonald’s, the official FIFA World Cup sponsor has partnered with Uber Eats to offer McDelivery in 26 countries for the first time ever during a FIFA World Cup.

Fans can follow Uber Eats’ search for a team for Andrea to support this summer by searching #TeamForPirlo

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Buffon one of the greatest of all time, says Pjanic

Gianluigi Buffon is one of the “greatest players of all time” and his Juventus team-mate Miralem Pjanic is honoured to have played alongside him.

Italy legend Buffon made his final Bianconeri appearance in the 2-1 win over Verona on Saturday, having announced on Thursday that he would be calling time on his illustrious 17-year stint at the club.

And Pjanic – a key part of Juve’s double-winning season at the heart of Massimiliano Allegri’s midfield – was full of praise for the 40-year-old, who has not yet announced if he will retire altogether and has been offered terms by Paris Saint-Germain.

“Buffon is one of the greatest players of all time,” Pjanic told Mediaset Premium.

“I don’t know yet if he’s leaving football, but he is leaving his Juve. 

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“We’ll miss him so much, he is a superb person and I am honoured to have played with him.”

Pjanic netted Juve’s second in the victory at Allianz Stadium, curling home a sublime free-kick three minutes after Daniele Rugani put the hosts ahead.

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And although Alessio Cerci pulled one back for the visitors – with Stephan Lichtsteiner missing a penalty late on – the Serie A champions held firm to cap off the season in winning fashion.

“We closed this important campaign with a victory, this seventh Scudetto was the best, as everyone did something extraordinary,” Pjanic added.

“We are only missing the Champions League and I hope to win it over the next few years. Juventus are certainly building towards that.”


Juventus 2 Verona 1: Buffon signs off on a high

Gianluigi Buffon signed off in style as Juventus celebrated their seventh straight Serie A title with a 2-1 victory over relegated Verona.

Having already wrapped up the Scudetto, it was party-time in Turin for Massimiliano Allegri’s men, with Buffon taking centre stage on his final game for the Bianconeri.

The Italy goalkeeper announced on Thursday that he would be calling time on his 17-year Juve career at the end of the campaign, although it is not yet clear whether he will retire altogether.

And the 40-year-old provided the highlight of a sluggish opening period, making a fine save to parry away Mohamed Fares’ strike, while Paulo Dybala clipped the woodwork at the other end.

Juve wasted little time in asserting their authority following the restart, however – Daniele Rugani capitalising on Nicolas’ error in the 49th minute before Miralem Pjanic converted a superb free-kick.

Buffon stole the limelight just after the hour, receiving a standing ovation as he made way for debutant Carlo Pinsoglio and bid an emotional farewell to the Bianconeri faithful. 

Alessio Cerci pulled one back for Verona before Stephan Lichtsteiner – also making his final Juve appearance – failed to convert from the penalty spot as the Serie A champions ended another successful campaign in winning fashion.

Buffon was called into action on 16 minutes, reacting sharply to keep out Fares’ curling effort – much to the pleasure of the home faithful.

Mario Mandzukic should have put Juve ahead shortly after, only for the Croatia striker to head straight at Nicolas following good work from Douglas Costa.

Refusing to be outshone by his illustrious counterpart, Nicolas was also on top form just after the half-hour, lunging to his right to tip Mandzukic’s acrobatic strike over.

Dybala nearly grabbed the opener with a wonderful attempt just before the interval – Nicolas only able to watch on as the playmaker’s delicate chip rebounded away off the crossbar, while Mandzukic’s poor showing in front of goal continued as he hooked over from close range.

Juve did not have to wait long after the restart, though, as Rugani tucked home on the rebound after Nicolas had spilled Costa’s low strike.

The floodgates were open, and Pjanic netted Juve’s second three minutes later with a sublime free-kick that nestled into the top-left corner.

Buffon had to be alert on the hour, rushing out to prevent Ryder Matos going through after Rodrigo Bentancur conceded possession.

That was to be Buffon’s final act in a Juve shirt, the veteran making way moments later to a standing ovation from the crowd, a guard of honour as he reached the touchline and tears in the stands.

Juve’s hopes of setting a new Serie A clean sheet record were ended in the 76th minute, Cerci taking advantage of sloppy defending to nudge home from close range.

Enrico Bearzotti was harshly adjudged to have handled in the area with five minutes to go, handing Lichtsteiner the opportunity to end his Juve career with a goal, but the full-back’s tame effort was easily kept out by Nicolas.

While the match continued, Buffon was embarking on a hand-shaking mission among the Juve fans with Lichtsteiner also afforded a late send-off.