Reggina 0:1 AC Milan - match report
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Scorer: Gilardino 18 (M)
Alberto Gilardino's goal proved enough to maintain Milan's climb up the table as they conquer Reggina 1-0 in a rescheduled Week 15 tie.
This match was rescheduled from December 9, 2007 due to the Rossoneri's participation in the Club World Cup in Japan. Nelson Dida, Ronaldo and Pippo Inzaghi were injured, so Alexandre Pato partnered Alberto Gilardino just three days after the Brazilian teenager bagged both goals in the 2-0 victory over Genoa. Reggina were fresh from a 2-2 draw away to Atalanta, where they fought back from 2-0 down, but Emil Halfredsson and Nicola Amoruso were sidelined.
Gennaro Gattuso scored a rare goal against Atalanta last week, albeit with the aid of a deflection, and he tried to repeat the trick with a fierce right-foot drive that the 'keeper palmed out for a corner. Pato, Kaka and Reggina's Emmanuel Cascione had efforts from distance.
Milan broke the deadlock after 18 minutes with under-fire Alberto Gilardino. An Andrea Pirlo cross found Gila unmarked at the back post and although Andrea Campagnolo got a hand to it, the free header was too powerful and squeezed in. It was the former Parma striker's seventh Serie A goal of the season, all of them away from home.
Moments later Gilardino nodded a Pirlo free kick just over, but he was in an offside position. Alvarez did well to close down Kaka as he ran on to an inspired chipped Pirlo pass, but Gattuso had another two attempts from the edge of the box, the second bringing a save out of Campagnolo.
Reggina's first real scoring opportunity was on 32 minutes, as Fabio Ceravolo got away from Alessandro Nesta and tested Zeljko Kalac at the near post.
Pato fired over from the D and Kaka drilled just wide before the break, while Gattuso and Simone Missiroli had long-range efforts after the restart.
The Amaranto threw on January signing Cristian Stuani and Campagnolo fingertipped a Pirlo set-piece out for a corner.
In the space of 20 seconds Milan had two fantastic opportunities to double their advantage. First Pirlo's free kick was curled over the wall and on to the crossbar, then as the move continued Campagnolo performed an incredible point-blank reaction save on Emerson.
A splendid Pato volley flashed wide of the near post, but the 18-year-old wasted a counter with a terrible finish. Gilardino was at full stretch to toe-poke a Massimo Oddo cross just past the far post.
Substitutes Cristian Brocchi and Yoann Gourcuff kept the Reggina defence busy late on.
Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Favalli; Gattuso, Pirlo (Brocchi 82), Emerson; Kakà; Pato (Gourcuff 82), Gilardino
Reggina: Campagnalo; Lanzaro, Cirillo, Aronica; Alvarez, Cascione (Barreto 68), Cozza, Modesto; Vigiani (Montiel 74), Missiroli; Ceravolo (Stuani 61)
Ref: De Marco
Ulivieri plots AC Milan miracle
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Struggling Reggina will need a heroic performance to stop Milan in tonight’s rescheduled Week 15 clash, but boss Renzo Ulivieri is quietly confident.
Milan will be determined to make up for their defeat against Atalanta in a postponed Week 12 fixture as they travel to Calabria for another game in hand.
Reggina showed great spirit to bounce back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Atalanta last weekend, but they are still embroiled in a relegation dogfight and are badly in need of points.
With Emil Hallfredsson, Franco Brienza, Joelson, Nicola Amoruso and Carlos Valdez all out, Ulivieri is relieved to welcome back veteran Francesco Cozza.
“Cozza will come back in as a starter,” the wily tactician declared. “But the rest of the selection decisions will be made shortly before kick-off.”
Ulivieri’s men take on Torino in a crucial six-pointer this weekend, but the Rossoneri are occupying the ex-Bologna boss’ mind for now.
“From Thursday we will be thinking about the Torino clash, but without a doubt all our focus is on Milan at the moment,” he said.
“We will have to be determined and play a tight game against such strong opposition. We don’t have the luxury of playing open football against Milan.
“They are a side of champions who have represented Italy so well in Europe and in the world and we have to show them respect for that.
“However, we have set our sights on picking up points and that goes for this game too.”
Reggina (probable): Campagnolo; Lanzaro, Cirillo, Aronica; Vigiani, Barreto, Cozza, Tognozzi, Modesto; Ceravolo, Stuani
Ronaldo injury reassurance
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Ronaldo has reassured fans he only has a slight muscular twinge and hopes to play against Fiorentina this weekend.
The Milan star was forced out of the 2-0 victory over Genoa after picking up another thigh problem, but insists it is nothing compared to his earlier injuries.
“It was just a stiffening of the muscle,” pointed out the Brazilian. “This wasn’t like the other times when I felt a real pulling sensation.
“It just makes me slow down a little bit, but there is nothing to worry about. I hope to be back this weekend, as there are many games now and Milan need everyone’s help, but only if there are no risks.”
Ronaldo has only played three official games this season due to a series of setbacks and has no intention of repeating that error.
“We made mistakes already this season, so we cannot and will not make them again. There is no time left for that.”
Alexandre Pato has filled in admirably, scoring a brace in the victory over Genoa on Sunday, but the ‘veteran’ has lost none of his enthusiasm.
“I still feel like a player and know I can be of use to the team. I hope to give so much more, to score many goals, to play well, be consistent – the real thing I’m lacking – and to win the Champions League.”
Due to his injuries, Ronaldo is yet to make a single European appearance for the Rossoneri, as he was cup tied when he joined from Real Madrid in January.
Il Fenomeno also had some advice for teammate Alberto Gilardino, who has dropped further down the pecking order at San Siro.
“Each of us can have good moments and difficult ones, but we have to get it into our heads that the main thing is that the team does well.
“Milan had a terrible start to the season and now we are getting back on track with help from everyone, including Gilardino, who came off the bench and scored a decisive goal against Udinese. He took centre stage and we were all happy for him.
“There will be other days in which he is not as happy, but he has to get into the team mentality and be content that we won, even if he didn’t give the contribution he wanted to. It happened to me many times and will do again. The important thing is to put Milan above any individual needs.”
Carletto shows Gilardino trust
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Ronaldo won’t be fit for Milan’s rescheduled Week 15 game against Reggina tomorrow, so Carlo Ancelotti will turn to Alberto Gilardino.
Gilardino’s future is up in the air as he seems to have been displaced by Brazilian starlet Alexandre Pato.
As reports that the former Parma man may quit the club circulate, Ancelotti is keen to reiterate his faith in the struggling marksman.
“He was angry at being brought on two minutes before the end against Genoa, not because he didn’t play,” the Rossoneri tactician insisted.
“He didn’t play because we wanted to play in a different way with players who play further forward than Gilardino – that’s why I chose Pato and Ronaldo there. If you want to play a more physical game then Gila is ideal.
“I can understand why he could be unhappy, but even if he is coming on late he can be useful.
“I want to state again that there is no problem between me and Alberto and I think that he is doing very well.
“He has given so much and he will continue to give so much. I have the greatest trust in him and I think he will continue to grow.”
Shevchenko: Pato is the new me
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Former Milan striking ace Andriy Shevchenko claims that Rossoneri starlet Alexandre Pato is his heir at San Siro.
Since arriving from Brazilian side Internacional in January, the 18-year-old Pato has won plaudits all over the peninsula with his impressive performances and fired a match-winning double against Genoa last weekend.
The last time the Milan faithful embraced a new arrival with such fervour was Shevchenko, who also made a fast start to his career when he scored his first Champions League goal for Dynamo Kiev at the age of 18.
“Pato does resemble me because he likes to play from deep,” Sheva told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“He isn’t a first striker and he is similar to me in the way he plays as he reads the play and attacks the spaces. I like how Pato always moves forward rather than laterally.
“I was exactly like him in that I was dangerous but I missed lots of chances. I improved over the years, but Pato is lucky to have arrived at Milan so early.
“It’s not too soon to come to Milan as he has teammates who will help him to grow. These are players with a different view of the game to others, men like Andrea Pirlo, Kaka and Clarence Seedorf and playing alongside those kind of stars is a guarantee for a striker. Pato will write his story just like I made mine.
“It doesn’t matter how many goals he scores as long as he is growing. Pato is perfect for Milan’s style of play and they need a player like him – it is the perfect marriage.”
Although it seems increasingly unlikely that Shevchenko will ever return to San Siro, he still has great affection for his former side.
“I am happy with the time I spent at Milan, as they were seven fantastic years and it was my best period of my career,” he reflected.
“Even the difficult seasons were good and that will stay with me. I love Milan and I love Italy as it gave me so much.”
Kaka triumphs at Oscars
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It was another golden evening for Milan’s Kaka last night as the Brazilian swept the board at the 2007 Calcio Oscars.
The Rossoneri ace added the prize for Absolute Best Player and Best Foreign Player to his Ballon d'Or, FIFA World Player of the Year and FIFPro awards earned last year.
The Calcio Oscars are voted for by the players of Serie A and are presented at a ceremony in Milan.
Francesco Totti received the honour for best Italian player ahead of Roma teammate Daniele De Rossi and Milan’s Andrea Pirlo.
Luciano Spalletti won the Best Coach prize beating competition from Fiorentina’s Cesare Prandelli and Carlo Ancelotti.
The awards in full:
Best Italian Player: Francesco Totti
Best Foreign Player: Kaka
Best Young Player: Riccardo Montolivo
Best Goalkeeper: Angelo Peruzzi
Best Defender: Marco Materazzi
Best Coach: Luciano Spalletti
Best Referee: Roberto Rosetti
Champion of Champions (chosen from 10 winners between 1997 and 2007): Ronaldo
Pippo: Gilardino must stay
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Milan striker Pippo Inzaghi has stressed his support for struggling teammate Alberto Gilardino. “He has to stay.”
With Alexandre Pato winning the hearts of the Milan faithful and wowing boss Carlo Ancelotti, Gilardino seems to be fading into the background at San Siro.
In recent weeks, the former Parma man’s future has been the subject of intense speculation as he is left to cool his heels on the bench, but Inzaghi insists that Gila can play a crucial role for Milan.
“I advise Gilardino to stay and he knows that I think that,” the Azzurri hitman revealed on Sky Sport Italia. “We have a great friendship on and off the pitch.
“At his age every player suffers a little, just as I did at Juventus where I ended up on the bench at times despite my goals.
“Nobody likes being on the bench and it’s normal to get angry as long as you vent it in the right way.
“But he has to believe in his potential and know that everyone wants him here. There’s nowhere better to be than Milan and he knows that.
“He has age on his side, he has the numbers that mean he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. He has to stay and I’m sure he will. Gila and Pato are the future of Milan and they can inspire this side.”
Inzaghi also took time to join the many voices praising Pato after the starlet’s brace against Genoa last weekend.
“I agree with Carlo Ancelotti that I have never seen a player this good at 18-years-old,” he admitted.
“With Kaka, Gilardino and Pato, Milan are set for the next 10 years, but for a bit longer they will have Ronaldo and myself as well.”
Pippo concluded by discussing the return of his brother Simone for Atalanta after an injury-plague spell.
“Simone is better than me, but he has had physical problems that have stopped him,” he claimed.
“He is still the only player ever to score four goals in one Champions League game and that is the new record I’m looking to beat.”
Zambrotta plans Italian swansong
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Gianluca Zambrotta remains tight-lipped on a possible move to Milan, but the Azzurri defender admits that he wants to end his career in Italy.
There have been regular reports linking the former Juventus man with a move to San Siro and President Silvio Berlusconi has claimed that a deal is as good as done.
However, Zambrotta has stressed his desire to achieve success at current club Barcelona for the time being, even if he expects to return to the peninsula at some stage.
“I’d rather not comment on a possible move to Milan,” the 30-year-old said in an interview with Italian lifestyle magazine Tu.
“I can only say that this period abroad is a life choice for me and is a new experience.
“Of course I won’t discount anything for the future though. I have never made a secret of my desire to finish my career in Italy.”
Sources have suggested that Gianluca’s wife Valentina is feeling homesick in Spain and itching for a transfer, but it seems that the defensive star has his emotions in check.
“I miss Italian people and the food a bit,” he admitted. “Most of all though, I miss my family and friends, but I think that is normal for every Italian who lives abroad.
"Nonetheless, in an hour and a half by plane I can be home and that allows my wife Valentina and I to come home to Como regularly. I am enjoying my life here.”
Oddo's pride at Genoa showing
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Milan defender Massimo Oddo hopes that his strong showing against Genoa is the foreshadowing of a return to form.
Oddo has looked a shadow of his former self this term and has received widespread criticism in the Italian Press.
However, having returned from the bench, the former Lazio man looked assured in the right-back role in the Rossoneri’s 2-0 win over Genoa and the 31-year-old hopes it is a sign of things to come.
“Personally, I think it was one of my best performances of the season,” Oddo declared.
“I found space when it was there and at other times when there was none I looked for other solutions.
“I was able to get to the by-line and send in some dangerous crosses while we were careful not to over-stretch ourselves.
“As a team, I think that from now on we need to try and be more ruthless and take better advantage of the chances we get,” he stressed.
Ancelotti hails super Pato
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Carlo Ancelotti was very proud of Alexandre Pato’s two goals, while Gian Pieri Gasperini commented on the referee.
The Brazilian’s brace allowed Milan to defeat Genoa 2-0 and he has now scored three goals in two home games.
“I am very happy that Milan won the match playing good football. It was difficult, but I remained relaxed and scored,” said 18-year-old Pato.
“I do my talking on the field, play football and that is all there is to it, I don’t focus on tactics. Serie A is very difficult and I am playing alongside so many world class players, so I know I shall always improve.”
Ancelotti has put a lot of faith in the teenager, although he missed several golden opportunities in this match.
“Pato is young, so you can understand if he does not have the clinical finishing and cool head that comes with experience, but he certainly has quality,” said the Coach.
“We didn’t play well in the first half and were too slow, but after the break we turned up the tempo. It is the first time we have fielded Pato as a lone striker, even if he prefers to start from deep. The extra midfielder allows us to run fewer risks.”
Genoa were defeated 2-0 and saw goalkeeper Rubinho sent off for handling the ball outside the box.
“We played well and are satisfied with the performance, but in these games you cannot make the slightest mistake. The decisive incidents did not go our way,” said Coach Gasperini.
“The referees are in a tough situation and the decisions here were difficult to call, so there is no controversy here. It is irritating to always see 50-50 challenges go against us, though.
“I have to focus on this season and there is a long way to go in a balanced and difficult campaign. We have spirit and confidence.”
AC Milan 2:0 Genoa - match report
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Scorer: Pato 68, 82 (M)
Alexandre Pato bagged his first Serie A brace in a difficult victory over 10-man Genoa.
The Rossoneri's hopes of fighting back to a top four finish were dealt a heavy blow with their rescheduled Week 12 defeat to Atalanta midweek. The Brazilian trident system was shelved due to Ronaldo's injury, so Clarence Seedorf returned to a Trequartisa role. Zeljko Kalac deputised for the injured Nelson Dida. Genoa had won their last three on the trot and had Milan-owned striker Marco Borriello on stunning form with 11 goals, but only three of them outside Marassi. Domenico Criscito sat out a ban.
Genoa had not scored in this Serie A fixture for their last three visits, nor earned a point since the 1-1 draw in November 1991. Their most recent victory at San Siro was a 5-1 result in May 1958.
Seedorf's first touch wasted a great chance set up by Paolo Maldini's backheel flick, then Pato fired wide on the bounce after running on to a Kaka searching pass.
Pato had another chance moments later, outspriting his marker to flash a shot across the face of goal, but he wasted a golden opportunity on the half-hour mark. Kaka's deflected effort fell to the teenager from eight yards, but he toe-poked the ball straight at Rubinho.
Andrea Pirlo's right-foot rocket from distance dipped just over the bar, while Fabiani was off target for the Grifone and Alessandro Nesta's error almost gifted Borriello an opener, testing Kalac at the near post.
In the second half both teams appeared to wake up. Seedorf fired over and Kalac proved decisive on Borriello following Kakha Kaladze's error. A splendid Kaka first touch caught Massimo Oddo's pass and Rubinho did well to smother the shot with his body.
From the resulting corner Milan wanted a spot-kick for an Abdoulay Konko handling offence to charge down Maldini's effort, but the referee waved play on.
It was now a very open game and Borriello shook off Kaladze to volley over the bar. There were dozens of chances with Pato, Kaka and Ambrosini.
They eventually managed to make their opportunities count with Pato's second goal in as many home games. Seedorf held up Maldini's cross for Pato to loop a header across the face of goal.
Moments later Pato was running clear on goal and Rubinho rushed out of the area to block the lob with his arm, an inevitable red card offence. Substitute Alessio Scarpi came on for Omar Milanetto and his first task was to watch Pirlo's free kick skim the near post, but soon after smothered a good Pato opportunity.
Yet Genoa threatened an equaliser with a classic counter-attack, Oddo bravely flinging himself in the path of Borriello's finish.
Seedorf sent Pato clear again and although Scarpi got a hand to his lob, he could do nothing on the follow-up in front of an open goal.
Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo (Emerson 83), Ambrosini; Kakà, Seedorf; Pato
Genoa: Rubinho; Santos, Bovo, Danilo; Konko, Milanetto (Scarpi 71), Juric, Fabiano; Rossi (Figueroa 71), Borriello, Sculli
Sent off: Rubinho 70 (G)
Mancini snubbed in Players' Awards
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In a shock snub, record-breaking Scudetto winner Roberto Mancini is not among nominees for Coach of the Year in the Oscar del Calcio awards.
The nominations for the Assocalciatori (Players’ Association) awards were revealed today ahead of Monday night’s Oscar del Calcio ceremony.
Despite winning the title with a record number of points and consecutive victories, Inter boss Mancini is not short-listed for the best Coach award.
He was left out in favour of Champions League victor Carlo Ancelotti of Milan, Roma’s Luciano Spalletti and Cesare Prandelli of Fiorentina.
The snub comes in the same weekend as Mancini complained of “prejudice against Inter in the media” and can only increase the tension between the club and the rest of Serie A.
In this case, the players made the votes during the summer pre-season training camps.
Inter are included in other categories, as Julio Cesar battles it out with Sebastien Frey and the now retired Angelo Peruzzi for the Best Goalkeeper award.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic challenges Milan’s Kaka and Adrian Mutu of Fiorentina for the Best Foreigner prize, while Marco Materazzi is up against Philippe Mexes and Alessandro Nesta for Best Defender.
Roma dominate the Best Italian nominees with Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti up against Milan midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo.
In a good sign for the future, all the nominations for Best Young Player are homegrown – Viola duo Riccardo Montolivo, Giampaolo Pazzini and former Parma starlet Giuseppe Rossi.
As this is the 11th edition of the Oscar del Calcio, there will also be a special Champion of Champions award based on the 10 winners of the Best Player award from 1997 to 2007.
The viewers of Sportitalia will also vote on the night for Best Goal of 2007 and the Fan Award for favourite player.
Oscar del Calcio 2008 nominees
Best Coach: Ancelotti, Prandelli, Spalletti
Best Referee: Rizzoli, Rosetti, Saccani
Best Goalkeeper: Frey, Julio Cesar, Peruzzi
Best Young Player: Montolivo, Pazzini, Giuseppe Rossi
Best Defender: Materazzi, Mexes, Nesta
Best Italian: De Rossi, Pirlo, Totti
Best Foreigner: Ibrahimovic, Kaka, Mutu
Best Player of 2007: Picked between the winners of Best Italian and Best Foreigner
Ronaldo suffers new injury
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Ronaldo has been ruled out of Milan’s encounter with Genoa due to a new muscular problem, so there’ll be no Brazilian trio.
Il Fenomeno has been struggling with muscular injuries throughout his stay at the club and has barely featured since August 31.
He had been on fine form since returning to full fitness after the winter break training camp in Dubai, scoring two goals against Napoli and hitting the post with Udinese.
However, he has not even been called up for this weekend’s Serie A match due to a muscular problem.
Pippo Inzaghi is also sidelined with his on-going ankle trouble, so the only strikers available are Alberto Gilardino, Kaka and Alexandre Pato.
It has been rumoured Carlo Ancelotti will revert back to the Christmas Tree formation of Clarence Seedorf and Kaka behind a lone forward and in this situation Pato would be that striker.
Paolo Maldini returns to the team after a bout of flu. The Rossoneri also played on Wednesday evening, when they lost the rescheduled Week 12 tie with Atalanta 2-1 at the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia.
Nelson Dida, Marek Jankulovski and Serginho are long-term absentees.
Milan squad: Kalac, Fiori; Cafu, Favalli, Kaladze, Maldini, Nesta, Oddo; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Emerson, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Pirlo, Seedorf; Gilardino, Kakà, Pato.
Ancelotti demands AC Milan win
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Carlo Ancelotti has told his Milan players to forget about the reverse to Atalanta in a bid to get their Champions League push back on track.
The Rossoneri lost 2-1 in Bergamo on Wednesday in their re-arranged League game which severely dented their hopes of finishing the season in the top four.
Although they still have two games in hand, the European and world champions are a massive 10 points away from the zone that matters.
“We’re looking to get back on track against Genoa tomorrow, a path which we started on with wins against Napoli and Udinese,” said Ancelotti.
“The loss against Atalanta was a horrible blow which we were not expecting. We are now obliged to respond immediately.”
Ancelotti will make changes to his starting line-up, one of which is set to be Clarence Seedorf’s omission from the side. “He’s being rested in view of our next few games,” the tactician insisted.
In attack, Ancelotti is set to field his Ka-Pa-Ro trident – Kaka, Alexandre Pato and Ronaldo.
“Pato needs to play in order to get fully accustomed to the team,” the former midfielder added despite Pato’s costly error against Atalanta.
“He has no psychological problems. He missed a chance against Atalanta, but that happens to all attackers.
“Ronaldo? The next six months will be decisive for his future. He’s doing well and is training with consistency.”
Ancelotti added that goalkeeper Nelson Dida could possibly return to the side if he’s passed fit, but Marek Jankulovski, Serginho and Pippo Inzaghi are all out.
One man who Milan will have to be aware of at San Siro is Marco Borriello – a striker who is still co-owned by the Rossoneri.
“He also showed his ability with us here,” stated Carletto. “I’m happy that he’s having a good campaign. It’s good for us too.
“If he keeps on doing well then he could force his way into the national side. I’m sure that Roberto Donadoni is following him.”
An inevitable Ronaldinho question was also fired at Ancelotti in his pre-match Press conference, but he insisted that the Barcelona man would not arrive.
“Ronaldinho is not part of Milan’s future, but another player is…”
Galliani admits Ronaldinho defeat
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Adriano Galliani has insisted that it will be impossible for Milan to sign Ronaldinho. “Barcelona don’t want to sell him,” he noted.
The Brazilian has been linked with the Rossoneri for some time after the Italian club made it perfectly clear that they were interested in him.
Rumours of £50m bids have been heard over the last 24 months given President Silvio Berlusconi’s admiration for the star, but a move doesn’t seem on the horizon.
“I like Ronaldinho, as I do all great footballers, but he isn’t for sale,” Galliani noted on Saturday. “[Barca President Juan] Laporta has told me that he doesn’t want to sell him.”
The former Paris SG fantasista’s future at the Nou Camp is unclear and Milan would be keen if he became available.
However, Milan no longer seem in a privileged position to net the South American given the recent speculation that Chelsea and Inter are also sniffing around.
One Barca player who is likely to be swapping La Liga for Serie A is Gianluca Zambrotta, though, as Galliani suggested.
“He is a player who we are interested in and we’ve made that clear to Laporta too,” continued Galliani. “If Barcelona decide that they are prepared to release him then we will buy him.”
Milan are looking for a high-profile full-back seeing as Marcos Cafu and Paolo Maldini will be leaving Milanello at the end of the season.
Zambrotta, who left Italian football following Juventus’ Calciopoli demotion, can play both on the right and left.
Ebouè: AC Milan and Juve want me
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Arsenal full-back Emmanuel Ebouè reveals he has received offers from both Milan and Juventus.
The 24-year-old has been a regular starter for the Gunners since joining from Beveren in 2005, originally as a right-back but more recently in right-midfield.
Speaking to skysports.com from the African Cup of Nations, the Ivory Coast international confessed he had been approached for a January move to Italy.
"I didn't want to talk about that. What I can say is that many big clubs spoke to Arsenal about a transfer in the January transfer window," said Ebouè.
"But for me, it is Arsenal for the moment. I did not put a transfer request in. I like Arsenal. However, you never know [what might happen].”
Ebouè is set to face the Rossoneri in the Champions League second round next month.
Claudio Ranieri’s Juve are at the centre of an injury crisis in defence, but Ebouè would also be useful to fill in for long-term absentees down right midfield, Mauro Camoranesi and Marco Marchionni.
Kaladze: I blew it in Bergamo
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Kakha Kaladze has claimed full responsibility for Milan’s defeat against Atalanta on Wednesday night. "It was all my fault."
The Diavolo fell to a 2-1 reverse at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri in a rescheduled Week 12 fixture.
It was a slip-up that could prove costly in the race for Champions League qualification, but Kaladze was surprisingly willing to admit his culpability.
“I accept all the blame,” the Georgian defender insisted.
“Everyone makes mistakes and I’d rather make them against Atalanta than in the game against Arsenal or the Champions League Final, even if it was important to take three points home.”
The Rossoneri must now try and bounce back against a Genoa side on superb form after three consecutive wins.
Milan shrugged the Grifoni aside on the opening day in a 3-0 win at Marassi, but Kaladze isn’t expecting his side to have things all their own way at San Siro.
“It’ll be a very different game to the away game,” he stated. “It won’t be easy but we are going out for the win. We will need to watch Marco Borriello who is playing well and scoring lots - I’m very pleased for him.”
Kaladze ended the interview by discussing striking starlet Alexandre Pato who missed a golden chance against Atalanta.
“He’s only 18 and he is playing very well,” Kaladze enthused. “Maybe he just needs to get used to playing for a side that have matches every three days.”
Kalac explains Dida demons
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Milan reserve goalkeeper Zeljko Kalac believes that first choice Nelson Dida is struggling due to psychological factors.
Kalac filled in for yesterday’s 2-1 defeat against Atalanta as Dida is still sidelined with injury.
After costly mistakes in several games this term, Dida’s claim to the No 1 shirt has been called into question and Kalac thinks he understands why the Brazilian shot-stopper is struggling.
“Perhaps Dida is mentally tired,” the Australian international suggested. “Concentration is the most important thing as you can’t have a good game without it.
“That’s the only reason I can come up with because we are working well physically in training.
“I believe that a goalkeeper needs to be relaxed and calm and it’s different at a big side like Milan to the smaller teams.
“The pressure is four times greater when you play for Milan because this is a club built to win and so any error represents points lost.
“You have to be a bit mad to be a goalkeeper because you get a lot of stick that other players avoid.”
While Carlo Ancelotti has reiterated emphatically that Dida remains top of the pecking order at San Siro, Kalac concluded by insisting that there was strong competition for the Rossoneri gloves.
“Physically, I’ve never been in better condition in my career and I am at my best right now,” he grinned.
“Here at Milan there are three good ‘keepers as there is also Valerio Fiori in addition to myself and Dida. In my opinion Fiori would be first choice at any other squad.”
Kalac is set to start between the posts as the world champions entertain Genoa this weekend.
Konko won’t underestimate AC Milan
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Genoa winger Abdoulay Konko is expecting to face a hungry Milan side this weekend after the Rossoneri’s defeat against Atalanta.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side started 2008 positively by thrashing Napoli and beating Champions League qualification rivals Udinese.
However, the wheels came off for the world champions last night as they lost 2-1 in their rescheduled Week 12 fixture against Atalanta.
Now Genoa will look to repeat the Orobici’s heroics and are confident after three consecutive wins, but Konko is preparing to face a wounded animal.
“We mustn’t be fooled by the defeat against Atalanta,” he explained. “We will be facing a Milan side on the up who want to reassert themselves and secure a place in the Champions League.
“These three wins have been a tonic,” the Frenchman continued. “But we will have to play without fear on Sunday and show determination to prove ourselves.
“They may be a better side on paper, but that doesn’t always play out on the pitch.
“But that doesn’t mean that we should hope for them to have two bad games in a row as that isn’t very likely.”
Genoa have four new recruits during the January transfer window – Juventus defender Domenico Criscito, Fiorentina’s Belgian winger Anthony Vanden Borre, young Brazilian Wilson and Uruguayan midfielder Matias Masiero, who has been sent on loan to Serie B outfit Bari.
Atalanta 2:1 AC Milan - match report
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Scorers: Gattuso 16 (M), Langella 42 (A), Tissone 68 (A)
Milan dominated possession, but Alexandre Pato's misses proved decisive as Atalanta emerged with a shock 2-1 victory in the rescheduled Week 12 game.
This match was abandoned on November 11 after just eight minutes when Atalanta fans threatened to riot if play continued despite the death earlier that day of a Lazio supporter. When it was replayed behind closed doors, Alexandre Pato had become an official Milan player and partnered Alberto Gilardino, who was fresh from a winning stoppage-time goal away to Udinese this past weekend. Zeljko Kalac filled in for the injured Nelson Dida, while Andrea Pirlo returned from suspension.
Cristiano Doni fired over from a promising position, while Fernando Coppola rushed out to close down Pato. Milan started to pile on the pressure as Kakha Kaladze had a great chance from a corner and Clarence Seedorf's follow-up from the edge of the box was turned out for another set-piece.
Moments later the Rossoneri took the lead with an unlikely hero. Gennaro Gattuso's cross-shot took a deflection off Doni to fly past a helpless Coppola. If it is eventually credited to Gattuso, it will be only his seventh Serie A goal.
Milan continued to dominate with Pirlo's free kick and a Gilardino header off target before Coppola palmed Pato's snapshot from a tight angle round the post.
The 18-year-old should have done better on 34 minutes, as he pounced on Moris Carrozzieri's error only to fire wide with only the goalkeeper to beat. Pato also failed to make the most of a Kaka cross that Gila had dummied for the youngster at the back post.
These proved to be costly errors, as just before the break Atalanta equalised. Guarente held up the ball for Antonio Langella to dribble past two defenders with a smart feint and rifle his finish past Kalac.
Langella went on the counter and just failed to double his tally, while Gilardino's goal was disallowed for a clear offside position. There were penalty appeals for Carrozzieri's clumsy challenge on Gilardino, but the referee waved play on.
Ronaldo replaced the disappointing Pato, who had wasted so many good chances in the first half, while Doni went off with a thigh problem.
Atalanta focused mainly on pressuring Milan all over the park and it's a tactic that paid off on 68 minutes. Bellini's pass over the defence cut out Kakha Kaladze, so substitute Simone Inzaghi drew out Kalac and rolled across for Fernando Tissone to tap into an empty net.
Inzaghi fired straight at Kalac on the counter and a Carrozzieri daisy-cutter skimmed the base of the near post.
On 76 minutes Ronaldo pounced on a terrible backpass and was clear on goal, but blasted the ball at goalkeeper Coppola from point-blank range. It was another costly miss from the wasteful Milan strikers.
Atalanta thought they had put the win beyond doubt, but when Tissone's screamer ricocheted off the crossbar and was tapped back in by Sergio Floccari, the former Messina striker was offside.
Coppola kept his men in front with a desperate save on Kaka, put through by Seedorf. In stoppages Massimo Oddo drilled over from a corner kick.
Atalanta: Coppola; Rivalta, Carrozzieri, Pellegrino, Bellini; Ferreira Pinto, Tissone (Padoin 80), Guarente, Langella (De Ascentis 65); Doni (S Inzaghi 54); Floccari
Milan: Kalac; Bonera (Oddo 71), Nesta, Kaladze, Favalli; Gattuso (Gourcuff 83), Pirlo, Seedorf; Kakà; Pato (Ronaldo 64), Gilardino
Milan giants for Mascherano duel?
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Inter and Milan could do battle for Argentine ace Javier Mascherano after his agent revealed that Liverpool haven’t made a bid to keep him.
Mascherano joined the Reds on a long-term loan from West Ham last summer but Liverpool have been told they will need to pay around £17m to keep him.
While a deal in instalments could be arranged, the club’s owners seem to have other issues to deal with and have no agreement in place, leaving Mascherano looking for a new team.
“Liverpool haven’t made any offer at all for Javier and it is likely that he will move to Italy next season,” agent Walter Tamer stated.
Juventus had been favourites to table a summer bid for Mascherano, but the Old Lady have turned their attentions to Mohamed Sissoko, who is expected to join the Bianconeri within the next week.
Inter and Milan are reportedly watching the situation with interest and there may be some kind of bidding war between the two rivals.
While neither side will be keen to shell out £17m, Mascherano could become an alternative to Ronaldinho, should the Brazilian star decide to remain at Barcelona.
Milan plan Ronaldo extension
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Milan are set to extend Ronaldo’s contract as the Selecao star moves closer to full fitness.
There had been doubts over El Fenomeno’s future when a series of injuries ruled him out for the first half of the season, but the former Inter man is back in action and looking sharp.
Ronnie celebrated his return to the fray with a brace in the Nerazzurri’s 5-2 triumph over Napoli and is training hard to reach optimum fitness.
He has always insisted that he wants to earn an extension to his contract - which is set to expire in June – rather than be handed one on the basis of his past achievements.
Sources suggest that the new contract will keep him at San Siro until 2009 with an option for an extension to 2010.
The 31-year-old is unlikely to receive a pay rise, but he will continue to claim 100 per cent of his image rights – a key factor in convincing him to move from Real Madrid where the rights are shared with the club.
Ronaldo is likely to sit on the bench for tonight’s rescheduled Week 12 clash against Atalanta with Alberto Gilardino, Kaka and Alexandre Pato ready to start.
Amauri exit already agreed
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Palermo striker Amauri will leave the Sicilian club at the end of the season, his agent has confirmed.
The Brazilian-born player is known to be on the transfer wish list of some of Europe’s biggest sides and a summer move is now inevitable.
“We already reached an agreement with Palermo in August that Amauri would be transferred to one of the big clubs in July of this year,” Vittorio Grimaldi told TV station Sport Italia this evening.
Although the representative admitted that Amauri – who could still play for Italy at Euro 2008 if he nets Italian citizenship – will be packing his bags, his destination is as yet unclear.
“Nothing has been decided yet,” continued Grimaldi. “The Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona, are courting him. In Italy, Milan and Juventus are in the frame.
“An agreement will only be ironed out in June, therefore only after the player is certain that he will be playing in the Champions League.”
The Rosanero, who signed the former Napoli player from Chievo Verona in the summer of 2006, are expected to demand a fee of around £16m.
Juventus recently confirmed their interest in the forward and they could offer a player plus cash deal for the South American.
Pato nets Brazil call
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Brazil boss Carlos Dunga has included Milan’s Alexandre Pato in his squad for the forthcoming friendly against the Republic of Ireland.
The 18-year-old has played just two Serie A games for the Italian club, but he’s already done enough to catch the eye of the former Fiorentina and Pescara midfield enforcer.
Pato, who was signed in the summer for £15m but unable to play until January, scored on his Italian debut against Napoli before struggling against Udinese on Sunday.
But Pato, uncapped by the Selecao’s full side, could make an appearance for his country in the Dublin test on February 6.
Dunga has picked 10 players under the age of 23 as he’s looking at his options for the 2008 Olympic Games in the summer.
Other Serie A players in Dunga’s party are Milan’s Golden Ball winner Kaka, as well as Inter rivals Julio Cesar and Douglas Maicon.
Brazil will also play a London friendly against Sweden on March 26 in a repeat of the 1958 World Cup Final.
Ancelotti on top of the world
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Milan’s Carlo Ancelotti was the best Coach in the world in 2007, according to the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.
The football statisticians have already named Juventus’ Gigi Buffon as the top goalkeeper and rated each tactician through numerical analysis.
Champions League and Club World Cup winner Ancelotti finished a distance ahead of second-placed Sir Alex Ferguson with Inter’s Roberto Mancini languishing in eighth.
England manager Fabio Capello was rated 11th, despite delivering the La Liga title for Real Madrid and Roma’s Luciano Spalletti finished in 15th.
The top 10 in full:
1. Carlo Ancelotti (Milan)
2. Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
3. Juande Ramos (Tottenham Hotspur)
4. Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
5. Jose Mourinho (Without a club)
6. Rafael Benitez (Liverpool)
7. Frank Rijkaard (Barcelona)
8. Roberto Mancini (Inter)
9. Miguel Angelo Russo (Boca Juniors)
10. Gustavo Alfaro (Arsenal di Sarandi)
AC Milan will fight for Ronaldinho
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There are suggestions that Milan have redoubled their efforts to add Ronaldinho to their ranks by preparing a mega bid to dwarf that of rivals Inter.
Rossoneri President Silvio Berlusconi has made no secret of his desire to bring Barcelona’s Brazilian ace to San Siro, but such a deal has presented massive complications.
While Barça seem willing to part with the former PSG man and Chelsea appear to have dropped out of the race, Inter dropped a bombshell when they admitted they had entered the frame.
However, it seems that the world champions are ready to table an offer that cannot be matched.
Press reports state that the Diavolo are willing to pay Barcelona £25m and Ronaldinho would receive a £5m per season as well as keeping complete control of his image rights.
While Italian taxes are stricter than those in Spain, ‘Dinho is currently giving half the money earned by his image to Barcelona, so he would earn marginally more in Milan.
The 27-year-old’s brother Roberto Assis has previously revealed that the former FIFA World Player of the Year would welcome the chance to wear the Milan shirt and a transfer could be completed this summer.
Sources suggest that Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani is lining up a meeting with Assis where FIFA agent Ernesto Bronzetti will act as a middleman.
Samir sick at AC Milan defeat
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Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic can’t hide his disappointment at losing to Milan, but he is looking ahead to Wednesday’s Coppa Italia clash.
The Zebrette were stunned by a last-gasp Alberto Gilardino goal as they fell to a potentially costly defeat against Champions League qualification rivals Milan.
“There’s a lot of bitterness, especially as the same thing happened against Empoli when a good result became a bad one in the last few minutes,” Handanovic explained.
“We lost precious points and we deserved to win as much as they did. We played excellently, but we have to accept the verdict on the pitch.
“Now we have to look forward and luckily there isn’t much time to think because we are back on the field for the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.”
Udinese edged out Palermo with a late Antonio Floro Flores header in the last 16 and have been rewarded with a tie against Catania in the quarter-finals.
“The Cup is an important competition and we are hoping to get through the quarter-finals,” the Friulani No 1 insisted.
“We just have to go forward with the same spirit as usual, even if we know that Catania won’t be easy at all.”
While many players and Coaches have been happy to criticise the standard of refereeing in Serie A after a controversial weekend, Handanovic refused to add his voice to the debate.
“I don’t like to comment on the refereeing – that’s not in my nature,” he said. “In Italy the officials are discussed too much and I would rather not enter into it.”
It is a demanding week for Udinese as they face Catania at the Stadio Friuli on Wednesday before hosting leaders Inter in Serie A action at the weekend.
"It's true" - Inter in Ronaldinho talks!
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Milan transfer guru Adriano Galliani confirms he knows Inter “are in negotiations with Ronaldinho,” but it doesn’t bother the Rossoneri.
The Barcelona star had been the prime target for President Silvio Berlusconi over the past two years, but in recent weeks they have dropped their interest entirely.
Yesterday Inter boss Roberto Mancini told the media they were looking to sign Ronaldinho and would have no problem in settling him in.
“I know that there have been meetings and they are talking,” confessed Rossoneri Vice-President Galliani when asked about the rumours.
“I don’t need to look to reports, I got the information straight from the source. In any case, we are happy the way we are.”
This confirmation suggests negotiations for Ronaldinho are at an advanced stage, as he is unsettled at Barca and is looking for a move away.
Up until now the only real options were considered to be Milan and Chelsea, but now that the Rossoneri have pulled out, Inter are stepping into the race.
President Massimo Moratti has hinted he will make a spectacular signing for the club’s centenary year and Ronaldinho fits the bill.
“I did tell you before, but everyone thought I was joking,” smiled Mancio in the Press Conference.
AC Milan cheer for Gilardino
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Alberto Gilardino was heading for the exit, but after his winner at Udine Carlo Ancelotti and the club crowd around their ‘new’ star.
“It was a very exciting moment for me and it means I have remained ready throughout,” said the striker after Milan’s 1-0 victory at the Stadio Friuli.
He had been roundly criticised for his recent performances and dropped in favour of Alexandre Pato, but came off the bench to secure a stoppage-time strike.
“There wasn’t long to go, but I came on and guaranteed the game three very important points to climb back up the table.
“I have never abandoned Milan and over the years I’ve been here I have scored a few crucial goals. All I can do is give 100 per cent.”
Vice-President Adriano Galliani was quick to reassure the former Parma hitman on his future.
“We told his agent that we will meet again to discuss the situation at the end of March. Now we have a packed fixture list and two great players for every position. Gila is as important as Ronie, Pato and Pippo Inzaghi.”
There were reports of a January sale to Fiorentina in exchange for goalkeeper Sebastien Frey, but now Coach Ancelotti is holding Gilardino close.
“We start again from a great Gilardino introduction, as he scored a decisive goal in a crucial match. He made the most of the moment, but had never been shelved. There is merely more competition in the team,” said the tactician.
“He has certainly ‘suffered’ the return to fitness of Ronaldo and Pato’s arrival, but he will have his space. The Coach has to make decisions and in the final minutes Gilardino was more suited to a long ball than Ronaldo.”
Udinese are one of the main contenders for a top four finish, so this victory could prove very important.
“It was a good game, Udinese are very vivacious and dangerous on the break. We did some good things, but at times were very slow. Udinese proved they deserve their position in the table.”
Ronaldo hit the woodwork on the day he unveiled a new cornrow hairstyle.
“It was a surprise he turned up like that,” smiled Ancelotti. “It’s an interesting look. Having said that, if he were my son and had that haircut, he wouldn’t be allowed to sit at the dinner table.”
Udinese 0:1 AC Milan - match report
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Scorer: Gilardino 92 (M)
Under-fire Alberto Gilardino came off the bench to grab a stoppage-time victory for Milan that could prove crucial in the race for a top four finish.
The spotlight was on Alexandre Pato again as the Rossoneri faced a head-to-head battle for fourth place with high-flying Udinese. Milan finally broke their San Siro taboo with last week's 5-2 drubbing of Napoli, but crashed out of the Coppa Italia to Catania and had Andrea Pirlo suspended. The Friulani saw Diaz Felipe sit out a ban after they managed to win at Cagliari despite his dismissal just 30 minutes in and Gokhan Inler was also suspended.
The Rossoneri had won their last two visits to the Stadio Friuli with an aggregate score of 7-0 and were undefeated here since January 2003. Paolo Maldini missed out on the 23rd anniversary of his Serie A debut - also against Udinese - because of flu, while Nelson Dida had a knee injury.
Ronaldo sported a new hairstyle, twisting his curls into cornrows, and after 17 minutes he used it to head a free kick towards the near post, bringing a desperate save out of Samir Handanovic.
Zeljko Kalac smothered a Fabio Quagliarella strike, while Kaka's fine solo run created a good chance for Pato.
Milan were very unlucky not to take the lead on 26 minutes, as Ronaldo's snapshot cracked against the base of the upright and hit Handanovic on the way.
However, moments later Kalac fingertipped a Simone Pepe angled drive inches past the far post, then needed a one-handed save to deny Antonio Di Natale.
Ronaldo sprung the offside trap and blasted just over the bar from a tight angle, while Kaka set up a Massimo Ambrosini volley that was well over. Kalac continued to stay busy on Quagliarella's left-foot strike, but after the restart Handanovic was again tested by Ronaldo at the near post.
Quagliarella missed the volley from a Di Natale cross and Handanovic got down well to deny Clarence Seedorf. Udinese came so close to an opener on the hour mark, a corner not dealt with effectively and Quagliarella ballooned over from six yards.
Milan were clearly missing the suspended Pirlo, who usually dictates the tempo, so they had difficulty changing gear. Pato tried a solo run and Ambrosini's shot was deflected wide.
The Rossoneri had a great chance in the final minute, Seedorf's free kick skimming the near post with Handanovic beaten.
In stoppages the deadlock was finally broken by substitute Alberto Gilardino, who has been under fire recently for his poor form. Pato dispossessed Christian Obodo, Kaka's backheel sent Gila clear for a cool finish.
Udinese: Handanovic; Zapata, Coda, Lukovic; Mesto, D'Agostino, Eremenko (Obodo 51), Dossena; Pepe, Quagliarella, Di Natale
Milan: Kalac; Bonera, Nesta, Kaladze, Favalli; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Kakà; Pato, Ronaldo (Gilardino 83)
Carletto expects Friuli spectacle
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Carlo Ancelotti is disappointed to be missing Paolo Maldini, but believes Milan are in great shape for today’s showdown with Udinese.
Maldini was set to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of his Serie A debut, but a flu virus ruled him out of the match. Nelson Dida is also out with a knee injury, while Andrea Pirlo is suspended.
“It’s a shame for Paolo, but he’ll just have to celebrate next year,” smiled the Coach, fully aware the captain will hang up his boots at the end of this season.
“Dida had a problem with his right knee in training and it will be resolved in two or three days. He wanted to come, but we opted to avoid taking risks. He will visit Professor Martens to be on the safe side.”
This means Zeljko Kalac will start between the posts at the Stadio Friuli, faced with the prolific trident of Antonio Di Natale, Fabio Quagliarella and Simone Pepe.
“Udinese are direct competitors for fourth place and they are very dynamic and fast. We are in great shape too, though, and can play a fantastic game. Pirlo’s absence means we are a little limited in creating play from deep, but we have other alternatives.”
Those include the Brazilian trio of Kaka, Ronaldo and Alexandre Pato, who tore Napoli apart 5-2 last Sunday.
“Ronie started training on Thursday because he seemed tired and I preferred to rest him. We thought over this week how to give more balance to the team with Pato and asked all the strikers to come back quicker. As for going forward, he already has a very clear idea of what he needs to do.”
Ancelotti looked ahead to next season, when a rejuvenation and renewal process at Milan is inevitable.
“A lot of our players will retire this summer and the defence needs to be looked at in particular, while the midfield is less of an emergency. Next term we’ll also have Darmian in the first team and need four youth team players for the Champions League squad.”
Marino does AC Milan homework
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Pasquale Marino is aware of Udinese’s dismal record against Milan and focused on every detail in preparing this game.
The Rossoneri have won their last two visits to the Stadio Friuli with an aggregate score of 7-0 and are undefeated here since January 2003.
“We prepared for this match by examining every detail. Milan have a squad of great champions who can turn the game at any moment. We have to maintain balance and stop them running into space.”
Milan are revitalised after Alexandre Pato scored on his Serie A debut, a 5-2 victory over Napoli.
“They are a different team compared to two months ago and were given a new lease of life by the Club World Cup win. Last Sunday Carlo Ancelotti’s men showed all their true worth.”
Both sides are missing important midfield figures, as Andrea Pirlo and Gokhan Inler are suspended.
“Pirlo is a crucial player for Milan, because he dictates the tempo, but they have so many stars that they can find alternatives. I don’t think an individual will decide this match, but rather an overall tactical approach.”
Milan have three Serie A games in hand, but are still trailing well behind Udinese in the race for a Champions League spot.
“Fourth place is an important position and we will do all we can to stay in the top group,” added Marino.
“We have not changed our objectives, though, and must continue to take it one game at a time. We have seen before that Udinese cannot afford to lose concentration or take the wrong approach.”
Shevchenko: Oh how I miss AC Milan!
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Andriy Shevchenko admits he misses Italy, Milan and Serie A football as the regrets of walking out for Chelsea’s millions finally hit home.
“I feel nostalgic for Italy. I miss my friends and certain things about the country — the food for example,” the £30m signing told The Sun newspaper.
“And then I miss the atmosphere and high tension of Italian games. Things are more relaxed over here.”
Sheva made the switch to Stamford Bridge only to see his old Rossoneri teammates lift the Champions League and Club World Cup trophies a year later.
“Italian football is fantastic. It is all about tactics and intelligence. Italian people appreciate great champions and good football.
“English football is faster and more physical. The smaller teams try to cut the gap between themselves and the big clubs by playing with great strength.
"I could sum it up by saying Italian football is about finishing and logic, a bit like chess, and the English game is based on speed and instinct.”
Shevchenko does not disguise his love for Milan and will be cheering them on against Arsenal when the two clubs meet in the Champions League next month, while he tips Liverpool to struggle against Inter.
“Arsenal’s team strikes me as still a bit too young for certain competitions,” he added in the interview with The Sun.
"Meanwhile, Liverpool are having a number of problems, and not playing consistently.”
The Ukrainian had moved to England claiming he wanted to learn the language to better communicate with his American wife and two children, but things have not gone to plan.
“I can understand most things in English but I find it hard to speak. I prefer Italian,” confessed the 31-year-old.
“My real problem is I have not been able to achieve any continuity. This season I was doing well, I had scored seven goals in my last 10 games, then all of a sudden back problems have got in my way.
“I’ll have to be out for a month. I’d like to be back playing regularly once again before people pass judgment on me.”
Genoa vs. Tottenham opens Viareggio
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Genoa-Tottenham will open the world famous Viareggio Coppa Carnevale youth tournament with Daniele De Rossi at the ceremony.
The competition reaches its 60th edition and will involve 48 youth teams from all around the world.
Players eligible for the trophy must have been born between January 1, 1988 and December 31, 1992.
Last year’s winners Genoa will open the contest by taking on the Tottenham youth team on January 28.
The opening ceremony sees an important figure read out the pledge of fair play and sportsmanship and this year it will be performed by Roma star De Rossi.
The World Cup winning midfielder first burst on to the scene when he starred for the Giallorossi in the 2002 Viareggio tournament.
It is considered a classic shop window for young talent to find a new club and agents from all over the globe will be in attendance. The Final is on February 11.
New York Stars
Citta’ di San Benedetto
Serie D Representatives
Maldini misses historic game
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Paolo Maldini and Francesco Totti are out of Sunday’s games due to flu, so the Milan captain misses the 23rd anniversary of his Serie A debut.
It had all been set up perfectly for Maldini to mark the occasion when he ran out for the first time on January 20, 1985 against Udinese.
The Rossoneri were once again to face the Friuli outfit, but destiny had other plans in store and Maldini won’t be able to celebrate this historic date.
The defender has been bed-ridden by a bout of flu and is not even in the squad travelling to Udine.
“He’ll have to wait until next year to celebrate,” joked Coach Carlo Ancelotti, aware the 39-year-old will hang up his boots at the end of this season.
Maldini is not the only one suffering from the flu virus sweeping Italy, as Totti has also been ruled out of this Sunday’s Serie A match.
The Roma hero scored his 200th goal for the club during the midweek Coppa Italia victory against Torino and was set to receive a special prize in a ceremony before kick-off.
However, he won’t be there for Roma’s game against Catania and neither will the injured Juan or suspended Christian Panucci.
As for Milan, goalkeeper Nelson Dida will miss out on Udinese after sustaining a sprained right knee in training, so Zeljko Kalac takes the gloves.
Milan squad: Kalac, Fiori, Offredi; Bonera, Digao, Favalli, Kaladze, Nesta, Oddo, Simic; Ambrosini, Brocchi, Emerson, Gattuso, Gourcuff, Kakà, Seedorf; Gilardino, Pato, Ronaldo
Dida and Gilardino face Frey threat
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Milan director Piersilvio Berlusconi warns Alberto Gilardino and Nelson Dida time is running out, while Fiorentina reveal how they could release Sebastien Frey mid-season.
The son of President Silvio Berlusconi made the statements at the presentation of new television channel Premium Gallery.
“I continue to think that Gilardino has not yet given what he truly can,” said the businessman who has been tipped to take over from his father in the future.
“Dida is going through a difficult time and we hope it will pass. He has given so much to Milan, so it is right he remains the first choice.
“We need to give him a little more time, but if the situation does not change then it’s good to look around and see what the alternatives are.”
The warning is stark and it is reported the Rossoneri have already found a replacement in Fiorentina shot-stopper Frey.
So far the Viola have refused to consider releasing him, but there are claims on Firenzeviole.it today that a proposal was put on the table by President Diego Della Valle.
Fiorentina allegedly told Milan they would hand over Frey in January in exchange for Gilardino and midfielder Cristian Brocchi.
However, the Rossoneri turned it down because Frey would not be eligible for the Champions League, as he has already played in the UEFA Cup with his team this season.
It is an issue that can be picked up again in the summer, though, so time is running out for Dida and Gila to prove themselves.
“I think we above all need to reinforce the defence and I definitely like Philippe Mexes and Gianluca Zambrotta,” continued Berlusconi.
“The midfield also requires new signings, but from what I’ve been told that won’t happen immediately. As for Ronaldinho, I have always been cold on him. He’s far too expensive.”
Milan have semi-officially dropped their interest in the Barcelona star, leaving him to Chelsea.
Ancelotti bets on Pato
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Carlo Ancelotti looks ahead to the showdown with Arsenal and thinks it’ll be a great season for Milan with a top four finish and 10 goals from Alexandre Pato.
“Will we end up in the top four? It’ll be difficult, but we can bet on it,” smiled the Coach on Sky Italia.
“As for Pato, he can score 10 goals in the next six months. I have never seen a player so young and already so talented. I can say that without a shadow of doubt.”
The 18-year-old made a stunning Serie A debut by scoring in the 5-2 win over Napoli and neutrals are already salivating at the thought of Pato taking on Arsenal in February’s Champions League.
“They are a team who play very well, are extremely young and have enthusiasm. Their football is about quick passing and you have to take them away from that comfort zone, basically keep them away from the ball!
“Arsenal remain very compact despite keeping their defence high to push up with the midfielders, so they do leave space at the back. The counter-attack can cause them real problems.”
Rivals Inter also face an English opponent as they will take on Liverpool, the team Milan defeated in the Athens Final in May.
“In games like this current form counts, but so does tradition and in that respect Liverpool are stronger than Arsenal. Plus they have Fernando Torres, who has been a valuable addition this season.”
Ancelotti is focused almost entirely on Europe after slipping behind in Serie A and crashing out of the Coppa Italia to Catania midweek.
“Perhaps we did snub this competition, but that is partly because the first leg was three days after the Club World Cup Final and two days before the Milan derby. This inevitably caused problems, not least with jet lag.”
Still, Ancelotti can be happy with what he has achieved in his career so far, especially at Milan where he proved decisive in their record 18 international trophies.
“I worked it out over the past few days. As a player I won six – two European Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and two European Super Cups. As a Coach we took home five international trophies. I’d say that’s not bad.”
Finally, Ancelotti refuted allegations he had been offered the England job before the FA turned to Fabio Capello.
Maldini's ambition after 23 years
19.1 || webmaster
Paolo Maldini comes full circle with the 23rd anniversary of his Serie A debut, but still has ambitions. “I want my swansong to be the Champions League Final.”
“Nils Liedholm means a lot to be, because he gave me my debut and taught me so much on a professional and human level,” said the Milan legend.
Liedholm was on the bench when he let the precocious young defender on to the field on January 20, 1985 against Udinese.
“As for Carlo Ancelotti, I was his fan when he was playing for Parma alongside my father, then he was my opponent, teammate and eventually my Coach.”
In a bizarre twist of fate, Maldini marks the 23rd anniversary of that day by facing the Friulani again this Sunday, January 20, 2008.
“Udinese are a team who play good football and have many different options in attack. I noticed they don’t tend to start matches very well, but always have the strength to get back on their feet.
“Antonio Di Natale is one of the best Italian talents out there right now and I think Udinese are a direct competitor for a Champions League spot next season.”
It is an opportunity to look back over his career, but also forward as Maldini won’t hang up his boots until June.
“In the past 23 years football has changed a great deal. Now every game is live on television, the style of the sport is far quicker and more physical. Training regimes are continually developing. This sport still gives me special emotions.
“I have not yet decided what to do at the end of my career. I hope to continue with this club that has given me so much. I’d need more experience and to go around the world to become a director, but I’d prefer to stay in my home town.”
Maldini may be pushing 40, but he still has ambitions for his final six months as a player.
“The greatest memories are certainly the eight Champions League Finals I was able to play. It seemed like a dream to win it in Athens last year, but life is made of dreams and I’d like to reach the Final in Moscow this May. Why not try again this year?”
The full-back spent his entire career with the Rossoneri jersey on his back, so does he regret not attempting another overseas experience?
“I never felt the need because I’ve always had the good fortune to play in my home town where my father was crowned Champion of Europe. If I really had to change, then I would’ve gone to Spain,” explained Paolo.
“In the moments of difficulty I had my family and friends around me in Milan to lean on. For a foreign player who is overseas it must be more complicated to get through the tough times. My advice is not to read the newspapers.”
Perhaps his one regret is retiring from international duty before Italy’s 2006 World Cup triumph.
“I can’t complain. Some journeys went all the way to their ultimate destination, others did not, such as the my Nazionale career.
“In any case, my experience has been wonderful and full of satisfaction. I had everything with Milan, including a goal in the Champions League Final! What am I still missing? The Final in Moscow.”
AC Milan dominate UEFA Top Team
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There are four Serie A players in the UEFA Top Team of 2007, three of them from Champions League winners Milan.
More than 3.75 million votes were cast in the poll on uefa.com and the most, 220,333 of them, went to Champions League top scorer Kaka.
It’s another prize for the Milan star who was also in the line-up for 2006 and has won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award.
He is joined by Rossoneri teammates Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf in the top team of 2007.
Another Serie A entry resides at San Siro, although on the other side of the city, as Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic was voted in after his fine performances for the club this season.
Despite their 5-3 aggregate walloping to Milan in the Champions League semi-finals, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is named top Coach.
UEFA.com users’ Team of 2007: Casillas (Real Madrid); Alves (Sevilla), Nesta (Milan), Terry (Chelsea), Abidal (Barcelona); Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd), Gerrard (Liverpool), Kaka (Milan), Seedorf (Milan); Ibrahimovic (Inter), Drogba (Chelsea)
Coach: Ferguson (Man Utd)
Agent: AC Milan won’t sell Gilardino
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Alberto Gilardino’s position at Milan seems to be unstable, but the striker’s agent insists that the club aren’t looking to sell him.
The former Parma man has struggled for form this term and doesn’t look the same player that burst the net so regularly at the Stadio Tardini.
With the arrival of Brazilian starlet Alexandre Pato, Gila’s chances of securing regular first-team football have diminished and there have been rumours linking him with Fiorentina, but his agent isn’t worried.
“Milan have no intention of selling Gilardino,” Beppe Bonetto stressed.
“Will Alberto go to Florence in a swap deal with Sebastien Frey? At the moment that is impossible and not just because of problems with the wage bill.”
It is believed that Gilardino earns more than double the annual salary of Viola stars Frey, Adrian Mutu and Christian Vieri.
It seems almost certain that the unsettled hitman will have to settle for a seat on the bench this weekend as Milan travel to Champions League rivals Udinese.
Kaka: Now for fourth
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Milan star Kaka believes the Rossoneri can now focus on Champions League qualification and is delighted with his fellow Brazilians' performances.
The world champions exited the Coppa Italia at the hands of Catania last night, but Carlo Ancelotti has clearly set his sights on League success rather than Cup glory.
Kaka didn’t feature at the Stadio Massimino and is still happy with the way his side are playing.
“We worked hard during the camp in Dubai and the game against Napoli couldn’t have gone better – now we have to find some momentum,” he stated.
“Now we have so many games to haul our way up the table and achieve our objective of securing Champions League football.
“It’s always nice to play alongside great players. Here at Milan there are so many champions and it’s good to have so many Brazilians around.”
Ronaldo impressed with a brace in his return against Napoli and Kaka holds his Selecao colleague in the highest regard.
“I had the chance to line up next to Ronaldo for the national side a few times and he really is a phenomenon because he can always make a difference,” the Ballon d’Or winner said.
However, the main source of column inches has been Alexandre Pato’s lightning start to his Milan career.
“I am happy with the way his debut went,” Kaka grinned. “All strikers dream of scoring on their debut and he managed it at the San Siro in front of our fans.
“We all hope that he can carry on like that and settles in well.”
Kaka finished the interview by discussing his brother Digao’s improved performance at the heart of the Milan defence in Catania last night.
“I was happy for him because yesterday evening as he showed that he is working really hard,” he insisted.
“It was an important game to develop a personality in people’s eyes that isn’t just Kaka’s brother.”
Coppa Italia: Catania 1:1 (3:2 on agg.) AC Milan - match report
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Milan crashed out of the Coppa Italia with a 1-1 draw at Catania after a tense game with red cards for Andrea Sottil and Gennaro Gattuso.
The Sicilians had already won the first leg 2-1 at San Siro and were determined not to throw that result away, coming out strong against a second string line-up.
Gionatha Spinesi cracked a shot against the woodwork in the opening 10 minutes and moments later Giuseppe Mascara’s corner kick fell to Vargas for an absolutely spectacular strike from 30 metres that whizzed into the bottom corner.
There was a brief pause in play when the floodlights went out, but it didn’t help shake Milan out of their stasis, only Andrea Pirlo testing goalkeeper Bizzarri.
Yoann Gourcuff skimmed the woodwork and Martinez showed great fair play when putting out the ball on the counter so that Gourcuff could receive medical treatment.
Gourcuff was able to continue and after the break his header again went close, then the young Frenchman sent Alberto Gilardino through only for the striker to fire straight at the goalkeeper in a one-on-one situation.
Gourcuff and Massimo Oddo threatened from set-pieces until youth team player Alberto Paloschi scored his first goal in a Rossoneri jersey. Gilardino sprung the offside trap on Cristian Brocchi’s pass and rolled across for Paloschi’s tap-in.
Oddo’s error nearly handed Martinez a goal and Brocchi tested the goalkeeper from distance, but the game ended on a sour and tense note.
Andrea Sottil was shown a straight red card for bringing down Gourcuff as he was charging towards the goal, but moments later Gennaro Gattuso – who was suspended for the Serie A win over Napoli at the weekend – received his second booking. The World Cup winner had only been on the pitch for 13 minutes.
Gourcuff continued his impressive individual performance, as a dipping shot cannoned against the crossbar and Bizzarri did well to parry Marcos Cafu’s follow-up.
Gilardino brought another tough save out of the Catania shot-stopper, as Milan were unable to get the goal that would take this tie to extra time.
Catania go through to the Coppa Italia quarter-finals, where they will face Udinese.
Catania 1-1 Milan (3-2 on agg)
Scorers: Vargas 12 (C), Paloschi 68 (M)
Sent off: Sottil 76 (C), Gattuso 79 (M)
Catania: Bizzarri, Sottil, Stovini, Vargas, Edusei, Mascara, Baiocco (Izco 46), Tedesco, Silvestri, Spinesi, Martinez (Gazzola 77)
Milan: Kalac, Oddo, Digao, Simic, Favalli (Bonera 46), Cafu, Pirlo (Paloschi 46), Emerson (Gattuso 66), Brocchi, Gourcuff, Gilardino
Zambrotta cools AC Milan talk
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Azzurri defender Gianluca Zambrotta is flattered by Milan’s interest, but insists that he is focused on life at Barcelona at the moment.
Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has made no secret of his desire to sign the former Juventus stopper and is confident that a deal can be reached in the summer.
“Zambrotta wants to come to Milan and I don’t think that we will have trouble coming to an agreement with Barcelona,” the Rossoneri chief stated recently.
However, it seems that the man himself is less desperate to make a move, despite reports that his wife Valentina is suffering from homesickness.
“I was pleased to hear that Berlusconi and Ancelotti want me, but I am still a Barcelona player,” he asserted.
“I have a contract there until 2010 and at the moment I don’t want to think about a future away from here.
“We will see what happens, but at the moment I don’t intend to talk about a possible move.
“Perhaps Berlusconi was carried away after Milan’s win over Napoli and he exaggerated the link to me.”
Carletto prepares the reserves
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Milan must reverse a 2-1 deficit in Catania to progress from the last 16 of the Coppa Italia, but Carlo Ancelotti won’t be sending in his strongest side.
A second-string Rossoneri side lost 2-1 at San Siro in the first leg, but Serie A remains the priority and Carletto is set to turn to his reserves once more tomorrow night.
“We don’t want to take any risks in this game so the players who are starting on Sunday will be staying at home,” the Diavolo boss revealed.
Youth team hitman Alberto Paloschi was the hero for Milan in the first meeting between the sides when he hit the net to reduce the arrears.
“Alberto Gilardino will be in attack and Paloschi will start alongside him if I opt for two strikers.
“Andrea Pirlo will be there and the players that didn’t play against Napoli like Massimo Oddo, Marcos Cafu and Gennaro Gattuso. Marek Jankulovski may be playing a half.
“It won’t be easy to get through, but we will try.”
All the recent Press has focused on Alexandre Pato’s dream debut against Napoli and there is speculation that Gilardino’s days at the club could be numbered.
“We need to introduce Pato gradually,” Ancelotti warned. “He had a good game but we need to teach him how to play in this team.
“Gilardino will get games and he will be useful. He is like Pippo Inzaghi in that way. We need to get the most out of all our four strikers.
“Gilardino knows that Milan will keep the faith in him for a long time and he doesn’t have to see every game as an exam – that would be a mistake.”
Gattuso hints at quit date
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Milan midfield dynamo Gennaro Gattuso has suggested a rough timescale for his retirement from the game.
The pugnacious Azzurri star is in his ninth year with the Rossoneri and has played nearly 250 games for the San Siro outfit.
The 30-year-old ex-Rangers man isn’t planning on following in the footsteps of veteran teammate Paolo Maldini and playing until the age of 40.
“These days they wouldn’t miss me much,” he said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I’ll play for another three or four years and then I’m hoping to finish my career in the Milan shirt.”
Gattuso is expected to feature in the Diavolo's Coppa Italia last 16 second leg clash against Catania on Wednesday evening as he missed out on the world champions' Serie A win over Napoli on Sunday due to suspension.
Borriello admits AC Milan dream
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Marco Borriello is becoming a Genoa hero after a match-winning brace against Lazio took his tally to 10 goals, and he hopes Milan are watching.
The 25-year-old signed for the Rossoblu in a co-ownership deal with the world champions having failed to make an impression at San Siro.
Borriello failed a drugs test at Milan in January 2007 and arrived at Marassi needing to prove himself.
He has done just that with his prolific first half of the campaign and admits that he would love another chance with the Diavolo.
“I’m happy with Genoa and I have been welcomed like a son, but if Milan wanted to take me back I don’t think that there would be problems finding an agreement,” Borriello explained on Sky Sport Italia.
“I was certainly happy to hear praise from Silvio Berlusconi in recent weeks.”
However, for now the Neapolitan hitman is focused on helping Genoa avoid the drop.
“I want to thank Genoa and especially the President Enrico Preziosi who signed me when I was on a low,” he stated.
“Preziosi always said that he wanted to buy out my contract, but he had to wait because of the price.
"At the moment I am only thinking of keeping Genoa up and I am 100 per cent committed to the Grifone cause.”
Super Pato's debut plaudits
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Alexandre Pato was the star of the show in his Milan debut against Napoli last night and he won praise from Ronaldo and Partenopei boss Edy Reja.
All eyes were on the Brazilian teenager whose arrival has caused frenzied excitement amongst the Diavolo faithful and he didn’t disappoint.
Pato scored once and had a number of efforts saved during a sparkling performance in a 5-2 win at San Siro and impressed strike partner, and idol, Ronaldo.
“I would give him 10 out of 10 given the expectations and the pressure on him,” El Fenomeno told Sky Sport Italia.
“For an 18-year-old lad, dealing with a packed San Siro isn’t easy, but he was superb.”
Napoli Coach Reja was clearly disappointed with the result, but insisted that Pato’s masterful performance was a big factor in his team’s reverse.
“I thought he would show some of the naivety of youth, but instead he showed a great personality and maturity,” the Vesuviani tactician bemoaned.
“Obviously you can’t protect yourself when you run into a Milan side like that. I thought we would be able to keep in it for longer after the break and keep the result in the balance, but we gave them too many chances.”
Berlusconi: Zambrotta yes, Ronaldinho no
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Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has announced that Gianluca Zambrotta will move in June, but left Ronaldinho to Chelsea.
“I definitely think Zambrotta will be joining us in June. He would love to come here and it shouldn’t be too difficult to reach an agreement with Barcelona,” he told Sky Italia television.
The Rossoneri had already been heavily linked with World Cup winner Zambrotta in 2006 and again last summer, but it seems as if the transfer will finally be completed before Euro 2008.
Former Juventus man Zambrotta is a key figure for Carlo Ancelotti’s plans, as he can play as a full-back on either flank or in a more advanced position.
Milan gave Alexandre Pato his Serie A debut in Sunday evening’s 5-2 victory over Napoli, where he played alongside fellow Brazilians Kaka and Ronaldo.
Berlusconi has always maintained his prime target on the transfer market is Ronaldinho, but there are reports from Spain that he is very close to Chelsea.
“In all honesty, I am not disappointed by this news,” insisted Berlusconi. “We never said we’d do anything for him.
“I believe a great champion can always find space in a squad, but with the stars we have now that could create some difficult situations in the locker room. He is not going through a good period of form and is even disappointing the Barca fans.
“Besides, we have Yoann Gourcuff who is like a new player and he’ll certainly have more space in the future.”
The patron was overjoyed at seeing the ‘Trio delle meraviglie’ of Kaka-Ronaldo-Pato together lighting up San Siro.
“We were waiting for this evening. Aside from Pato we also got the return of Ronaldo, who remains an extraordinary player who still has many years ahead of him.
“We wanted to create this Brazilian super trio and for the first time that dream came true before our very eyes. The result also proved it is a good system.
“In 20 years we have become the most successful club side of all time with 18 international trophies. I pledge to the fans we can continue that success for the next 20 years.”
Pato: My dream debut
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Serie A’s newest starlet Alexandre Pato admits his debut for Milan alongside hero Ronaldo was a dream come true.
“I dedicate the goal to my family and my girlfriend,” said the 18-year-old after netting in the 5-2 win over Napoli.
San Siro was packed out to see the Brazilian talent open his account in a trident attack with fellow Selecao stars Kaka and Ronaldo.
“The team played very well and it was an excellent game of football. Ronaldo remains the Fenomeno. I am just very happy to have scored.
“Ronie was always my hero growing up and it is a dream to play in the same team as him.”
President Silvio Berlusconi said that Pato will go on to score dozens of goals in the Milan jersey, but the teenager is keeping his feet on the ground.
“How many goals can I score? I’ll sleep on it and then I’ll tell you,” beamed ‘The Duck.’
Ancelotti enjoys Rossoneri firecrackers
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Carlo Ancelotti hailed Alexandre Pato and Ronaldo, confirming Milan will continue to use this all-attack formation.
“We had a risky approach, but that was necessary at this stage of the season to get the victory and the team responded well, especially Ronaldo,” he said of the 5-2 win over Napoli.
“Napoli’s first goal came because we were unbalanced, the second was Kakha Kaladze’s error for the penalty.
“This was a system we had never really tried before, especially with these particular players, but we will certainly continue honing and using it. They proved they can combine brilliantly on the field and get some great results.”
Pato had his Serie A debut and was on target, but so was Kaka and Ronaldo bagged a brace with all three in the Brazilian trident hitting the back of the net.
“Pato has pace, the ability to turn and shoot. We could see that in training as well, so now we have to work on how to provide him with better service. He certainly has the talent.
“Ronaldo only started training on January 2 after basically six months out injured. There’s nothing else to say – he is a phenomenon and proved that even when not 100 per cent fit.
“I am happy for him, as he has suffered more than anyone in this season with so many injuries.”
Ancelotti admits he faces a tricky job in making this team work now that Pato and Ronaldo are available.
“Massimo Ambrosini obviously has to put even more work in with this system and it’s tough. He did a lot better in keeping his position in the second half. Ronaldo and Pato have never played together, so a few risks were bound to be taken.”
The other goal was scored by Clarence Seedorf, who was pushed further back into midfield to make way for the new arrival.
“I would always like to see Seedorf play with this spirit and he was probably Man of the Match for me. He was involved in every move and we all have to be very alert to make the most of this system.”
Gennaro Gattuso was suspended for this game, so when he returns there will be even more competition for places.
“It is a problem we have to face in the future and it won’t be an easy decision, as we have a great midfield and wonderful strikers. In some games we will need someone to step aside and will use those occasions so that players can have a breather to be fresh all the way to the end of the campaign,” added Ancelotti.
“Seedorf feels he is a Trequartista and played a crucial role in winning the Champions League last year. He is not the only one who must make a sacrifice for the team, but everyone has to work together for the squad.”
Before kick-off President Silvio Berlusconi told Sky Italia television that Gianluca Zambrotta “would love to join Milan and I don’t think we’ll have too many problems reaching an agreement with Barcelona.” Ancelotti was told about the comments and responded with a smile.
“He wouldn’t be a bad signing, would he?” grinned the Coach.
AC Milan 5:2 Napoli - match report
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Scorers: Ronaldo 16, 46 (M), Lavezzi 28 (N), Seedorf 31 (M), Domizzi pen 38 (N), Kaka 68 (M), Pato 74 (M)
Alexandre Pato had a sensational Serie A debut with a goal, Ronaldo bagged a brace and Milan ended their taboo with a 5-2 demolition of Napoli.
The Stadio Meazza was packed out to see teenage sensation Pato's first game in a Rossoneri jersey. Although he joined from Internacional in the summer, he only turned 18 in September and so could not register his contract until the January transfer window opened.
As Pippo Inzaghi was out injured, Pato got his first start in a Brazilian 'Trio della Meraviglie' with Kaka and Ronaldo. Gennaro Gattuso, Manuele Blasi and Marcelo Zalayeta were suspended, but Napoli hoped for their first victory here since 1986. Milan were still without a home win in Serie A this season, picking up 13 of their 18 points on their travels.
Pato received cheers at every touch of the ball in the opening minutes, as the expectation around this teenager with braces on his teeth has been at fever pitch.
Kaka rolled out for Ronaldo to test Gennaro Iezzo at the near post, while Kaka then fired over the bar from the D. However, Ezequiel Lavezzi was causing problems at the other end with his pace.
Milan opened the scoring in chaotic circumstances. Ronaldo combined with Pato and Andrea Pirlo threaded through for Il Fenomeno. Iezzo got a foot to it, but the looping ball was cleared off the line by Cupi only after it had gone over. Pato tried to get his head to it, but was anticipated by Cupi and the goal goes to Ronaldo.
Play had to be halted for several minutes as there was a hole in the Napoli net, but when it resumed Iezzo beat away a Pato attempt and Ronaldo's header looped wide.
Kaka's shot was charged down, but Napoli equalised with a classic counter-attack from their own South American contingent. Lavezzi volleyed a cross into the centre for Roberto Sosa to tap in from six yards, an all-Argentine goal.
Milan restored their lead and Pato almost got his first goal, but was twice in quick succession denied by Iezzo's point-blank reaction saves. Even the goalkeeper could do nothing on Clarence Seedorf's follow-up under the bar, though.
Iezzo denied Pato again moments later, the young Brazilian's spectacular control and left-foot half-volley at the near post. Pato's spectacular flick over a defender created a chance that Ronaldo wasted with his second touch.
Lavezzi was the troublemaker again, though, as he was bundled over by a clumsy Kakha Kaladze for a penalty. Maurizio Domizzi took responsibility and got his spot-kick past Nelson Dida despite the goalkeeper guessing the right corner.
Pirlo was booked for an elbow on Sosa and will be suspended for Milan's next match. Giuseppe Favalli came on for Paolo Maldini, who was struggling with a fitness problem.
Just 29 seconds after the restart Milan went 3-2 up! Seedorf chipped in a cross from the left for Ronaldo's glancing header from seven yards. This was only his second official game of the season, the other being the 2-1 win away to Cagliari on November 25.
It remained an extremely entertaining match and Dida palmed a Garics snapshot over the bar from distance and Walter Gargano drilled wide.
Kaka scored an absolutely sensational goal on 68 minutes. Seedorf's backheel for Favalli was immediately touched on for the Brazilian, who turned and unleashed a rocket from 22 metres that whistled past Iezzo at the near post. Before this match, Milan had only ever scored a maximum of one goal per home game in Serie A this season with a grand total of three.
Ronaldo is not fully match fit and made way for Emerson, so Seedorf moved up with Kaka to support Pato.
It did the trick, as on 74 minutes Pato marked his Serie A debut with a wonderful goal to bring down San Siro. A long Favalli ball over the defence saw him take out a defender with a perfect first touch and sidefoot home with the inside of his right foot. Pato was so moved by the moment that he shed a tear.
Pato almost had a second - and Milan's sixth - as he got away between two defenders down the right flank and his powerful strike was beaten away at the near post, Emerson missing the follow-up. The Duck was fired up and curled just wide and then almost won a penalty as he slipped and got straight back up when rounding Cupi.
Pato was brought down for Gargano's second bookable offence, as Napoli became visibly frustrated.
Milan: Dida; Bonera, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini (Favalli 46); Seedorf, Pirlo (Gourcuff 80), Ambrosini; Kakà; Pato, Ronaldo (Emerson 69)
Napoli: Iezzo; Cupi, Cannavaro, Domizzi; Garics, Hamsik (Dalla Bona 78), Gargano, Bogliacino (Montervino 60), Savini (Capparella 70); Sosa, Lavezzi
Sent off: Gargano 91 (N)
Pato leads Selecao trio
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Milan unleash Alexandre Pato on Serie A in an all-Brazilian attack with Kaka and Ronaldo from the start against Napoli this evening.
The Rossoneri are giving the 18-year-old talent from Internacional his debut six months after completing the £10m move.
‘The Duck’ was not eligible for official competition before the January transfer window because he only turned 18 in September.
Pato was expected to start upfront with Alberto Gilardino, but Ronaldo’s return to fitness has prompted Coach Carlo Ancelotti to go with the Selecao selection instead.
San Siro is packed out for tonight’s clash with Napoli, as Milan fans hope to witness their first Serie A home win of the season.
There is a special atmosphere at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, as the stadium is also hosting a celebration with a parade of their 18 international trophies.
We’ll have half-time and full reports plus post-match comments from Milan-Napoli, so keep checking back on the Football Italia website!
Milan: Dida; Bonera, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Seedorf, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kakà; Pato, Ronaldo
Napoli: Iezzo; Cupi, Cannavaro, Domizzi; Garics, Hamsik, Gargano, Bogliacino, Savini; Sosa, Lavezzi
AC Milan's £100m facelift
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There are reports Milan will use £100m from a sponsorship deal with Adidas to revamp the squad with Ronaldinho, Sebastien Frey, Gianluca Zambrotta and Amauri.
The Rossoneri need to rejuvenate their side as several players are nearing retirement age, most notably Paolo Maldini and Marcos Cafu.
The ‘Corriere dello Sport’ claims this weekend that there will be huge changes over the summer, ending a period of relatively careful spending by the holders of the European and World club titles.
The funding will come from a contract with Adidas and whole new marketing strategy that would bring in up to £100m to be poured back into the transfer kitty.
The first target is Ronaldinho, whose position at Barcelona is increasingly untenable after disagreements with the club, teammates and coaching staff.
The Brazilian would cost around £40m and encourage more stars to join the San Siro giants, including his Barca colleague Zambrotta at £7m.
World Cup winning full-back Zambrotta had already been heavily linked with the Rossoneri for the past two seasons.
A new goalkeeper is needed to replace the under-fire Nelson Dida and the prime candidate is Fiorentina’s Frenchman Frey.
Parma midfielder Andrea Dossena and French international Willy Sagnol could arrive for a combined £6m and a bid for Catania defender Vargas – who is thought to be closer to Roma – is on the cards.
Midfielders are in short supply as Yoann Gourcuff and Emerson have so far failed to make an impact.
Lyon’s Swede Kim Kallstrom is available for £7m and Dynamo Zagreb talent Modric is another alternative for the same price.
In attack Milan are in the race with Juventus, Inter and Roma for Palermo starlet Amauri.
Ancelotti puts faith in Pato
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Carlo Ancelotti is confident Alexandre Pato will live up to the hype on his debut, but reveals Ronaldo could partner the Brazilian against Napoli.
All eyes will be on 18-year-old sensation Pato for his Serie A debut at San Siro on Sunday evening.
“I have always said he is a very good player and will prove that on the pitch. That’s not putting pressure on him, I just said what I think and I confirm that with his character he will prove it very soon,” said the Milan boss.
“Pato is cool-headed and balanced, he won’t have problems with nerves. I have never given a debut to one so young before, but we’ve had time to help him settle and he knows what to do.”
Although the teenager signed for the club in the summer, he was ineligible until the January transfer window because he only turned 18 in September and so his contract could not be registered.
He is finally set to make his official debut on Sunday night against high-flying Napoli.
“We think it was wise to bring him in earlier, as it gave him time to know his teammates and settle in. With his characteristics and pace he can play with any of our strikers, whether they be Alberto Gilardino, Pippo Inzaghi or Ronaldo.”
It was expected that – with Inzaghi injured – Gilardino would be the one partnering Pato with support from Kaka.
However, Ancelotti revealed that another Brazilian could well join the trident attack.
“Ronaldo worked hard in Dubai and can play 45-60 minutes. I don’t know whether that’ll be from the start or in the second half.”
Aside from the pressure on Pato, it is a must-win tie for Milan, who with three games in hand are already 25 points off leaders Inter.
“These are the most important matches for our recovery in Serie A, as it is crucial to do well against Napoli. They have been inconsistent on their travels, but the more time passes they become more reliable.”
It is particularly important to start 2008 on the right foot, as the Rossoneri have not won a single home game all term.
“We certainly don’t feel nervous playing at San Siro, as we consider it our home and would love to get back to winning ways. We can’t wait to end this inexplicable taboo.”
Sosa warns Rossoneri
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Roberto Sosa leads the line for Napoli on Sunday evening and insists they will do everything possible to spoil Milan’s party.
“I am certain this is going to be a spectacular game,” smiled the Argentine ahead of this weekend’s clash at San Siro.
“Clearly we are playing against a great side that is celebrating the new year and their Club World Cup victory.
“We’re going into an historic stadium with the whole planet watching. It will be an important night for us and we have no intention of being bit-part players in Milan’s party. Football is great because anything can happen.”
It will also be the day of Alexandre Pato’s Serie A debut and all eyes are on the Brazilian teenager.
Napoli must do without suspended hitman Marcelo Zalayeta, so ‘Pampa’ Sosa is expected to take his place upfront alongside Ezequiel Lavezzi.
“Milan have great champions, but we have players of quality as well who could become world class in the future. We are preparing for this match intensively precisely because we want to be up to the task of this huge fixture.”
The rivalry between the clubs stretches back to their Scudetto clashes in the 1980s and ‘90s, although Napoli have been in Serie B for the past seven years.
“Once we are there, with everything we have done to get back onto the main stage of Italian football, we certainly don’t want to look bad,” continued Sosa.
“In fact, we intend to take our chances and really go for it. We are not supporting artists here, we want to be protagonists. I also don’t deny that the Argentina-Brazil element creates extra motivation, too. What you have seen of Lavezzi so far is just a taster.”
Meanwhile, Napoli have announced that midfielder Fabio Gatti has been sold to Serie B outfit Modena. The player, who turned 26 last week, has played for Perugia, Catania and Cremonese.
Pato laughs off debut nerves
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There will be 70,000 fans waiting for Alexandre Pato’s Serie A debut on Sunday evening, but the 18-year-old Milan starlet is not remotely nervous.
“I have many years ahead of me to prove myself a talent. First of all I will focus on scoring my opening goal, then I’ll think about many more to follow,” said the teenager ahead of Sunday night’s big match against Napoli.
“We will see if my first goal comes this weekend. Right now I am very relaxed and happy to be a Milan player who has the chance to face Napoli.”
Pato has been with the Rossoneri since the summer after his £10m move from Internacional, but because he only turned 18 in September his contract could not be ratified until the January transfer window.
This will be his first official game for the club and already the expectations around ‘The Duck’ are extraordinary.
“Ronaldo gives me good advice,” he told Sky Italia television. “He always tells me to relax, not think of the many people who talk about me and to prove who Pato really is.”
The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza looks set to be sold out on Sunday evening, partly due to the sheer curiosity value of seeing Pato’s debut.
Milan have not won a single Serie A home game this season – the first time this has ever happened so far into the campaign – and teammates are also looking to the Brazilian for inspiration.
“Alexandre is a great talent and what really surprises is that he is still only 18,” said Marek Jankulovski.
“In training he has done some marvellous things. Everyone now expects a lot from him and I think the moment he gets the opportunity, Pato will show all his worth on the field of play.”
Seedorf fears for Pato
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Milan talisman Clarence Seedorf is excited by new teammate Alexandre Pato’s potential, but worried about the hysteria surrounding his debut.
Pato arrives with a huge weight on his shoulders as Milan look to turn their Serie A fortunes around in the second half of the season and he may start his first game against Napoli.
The 18-year-old has played fewer than 50 professional games in Brazil, but has been tipped by President Silvio Berlusconi to hit 30 goals before June – a figure Pato’s former boss at Internacional has scoffed at.
“There is too much pressure being put on Pato,” Seedorf stated cautiously.
“Our responsibility as the old hands in this group is to protect him so that he can play calmly.
“I am hoping that he can fit in as well as possible because his talent isn’t in question.
“With him on the pitch I don’t know whether my sphere of influence will be the same, but I don’t think that my position is in jeopardy.
“I have been playing the trequartista role for a long time and I think that my performances have made it clear that I shouldn’t be played in any other position.
“But obviously all of us here at Milan are ready to do whatever the Coach asks us to.”
The Diavolo have the added pressure of trying to overcome their San Siro hoodoo against Napoli – the world champions are the only side in the top flight without a home win this term.
“We want to break the curse and we also want to get the year off to as good a start as possible,” Seedorf insisted.
“We need to always be looking to the future and not just living on past triumphs. Our League position is misleading, but we know that we can’t afford to slip up.
“The most difficult thing is to play under this pressure and stay calm, but we need to do just that and take the three points to climb the table.”
Gilardino on target in Dubai
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Alberto Gilardino scored both goals as Milan defeated the United Arab Emirates 2-0, but Ronaldo showed he has a long way to go.
The Rossoneri concluded their mid-season training camp in Dubai with a friendly victory over the UAE national side at the Al Maktoum stadium.
Gilardino came on for the second half and bagged a brace in the final 12 minutes, at full stretch to meet a Kaka cross-shot and then firing in at the near post.
These goals and a good overall performance boost Gila’s chances of starting Sunday night’s big match against Napoli.
Although Ronaldo started the match and lasted for the opening 45 minutes, he did not look in great shape and still needs time if he is to make only his second official appearance since July 31.
Il Fenomeno has been struggling with a recurring calf problem and now the main issue remains his overall fitness levels.
Pippo Inzaghi is also a major doubt for this weekend, as he has just been released from hospital with a painful kidney stone injury.
It is increasingly likely that Gilardino will partner 18-year-old debutant Alexandre Pato with support from Kaka against Napoli.
Pato is already at the Milanello training ground and underwent a special double session today in a bid to be at full fitness for this Sunday.
Other impressive performances in Dubai came from Zeljko Kalac and Yoann Gourcuff, the Frenchman going close to a goal and creating a great chance for Marcos Cafu.
UAE: Majed Naser; Fahed Masoud, Rashid Abdulrahman, Mohammed Qassim, Saleh Obaid; Subait Khater, Hilal Saeed, Darwish Ahmed; Mohamed Alshihi, Ismael Matar, Ahmed Mohamed.
Milan: Dida; Oddo, Maldini, Kaladze, Serginho; Cafu, Gattuso, Pirlo, Gourcuff; Seedorf, Ronaldo
Agent admits Amauri doubts
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Amauri’s future is in doubt once more as the Palermo star’s agent admits that he is speaking to several top clubs.
The Brazilian hitman has become one of Italy’s most wanted men with Milan and Juventus both believed to be lining up bids.
While the former Chievo man looks almost certain to stay in Sicily at least until June, nothing is guaranteed at the moment.
“It’s hardly news that Amauri is a transfer target,” representative Mariano Grimaldi told Radio Kiss Kiss.
“There’s a lot of negotiation at the moment, but he should stay at Palermo until the end of the season, even if things are so variable at the moment.
“Amauri’s own desire can’t be ignored. It’s certain that he would rather stay in Italy, even though there have been lots of offers from abroad
“The Spanish League is a big one and so is the English Premier League, but at the moment Amauri isn’t an EU player, so Barcelona wouldn’t be a sensible solution.”
Amauri is currently training with his teammates in Seville where the Rosanero are preparing to take on Real Betis B in a friendly tomorrow afternoon.
Veteran goalkeeper Alberto Fontana has a knee injury and won’t feature, while Fabrizio Miccoli may also miss out as he struggles for fitness.
Kaka in injury scare
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Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti faces a nervous wait to see whether Kaka will be fit for Sunday’s game against Napoli.
The Ballon d’Or winner was injured after a collision with teammate Yoann Gourcuff in training yesterday.
The Selecao star reported a shoulder pain overnight and had to pull out of today’s friendly against the United Arab Emirates national side.
Reports in La Gazzetta dello Sport had suggested that Ancelotti would hand newcomer Alexandre Pato his debut in a Brazilian trident with the newly fit Ronaldo and Kaka.
However, while the Diavolo medics await the results of scans taken this morning, Kaka is unlikely to start at San Siro.
Milan side to face United Arab Emirates: Dida; Oddo, Maldini, Kaladze, Serginho; Cafu, Gattuso, Pirlo, Gourcuff; Seedorf, Ronaldo
Gourcuff's AC Milan resolution
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Milan midfield starlet Yoann Gourcuff insists that he will stay at San Siro and fight for a first-team place.
The 21-year-old joined the Rossoneri from Rennes in the summer of 2006, but he has played just 26 games since.
Having failed to make the impression expected when he was presented at the club as the heir to Zinedine Zidane, Gourcuff had been linked with a return to France on loan, but he is determined to earn his place.
“I am very happy with the kind words that Carlo Ancelotti has had for me recently,” Gourcuff stated.
“It has been a true source of satisfaction to be at my best in training in Yokohama and during the winter break.
“When the championship restarts we will have a heavy workload and perhaps there will be chances for players who haven’t had that much playing time.
“When the boss calls on us to step in and replace the regulars, it is important that we are ready to show our abilities and that we win his trust.
“Personally, I am happy here and I am hoping to improve with each day so that I can become a starter.”
Gourcuff certainly seems to have no regrets at his decision to leave Ligue 1 for the pressure cooker of Milan.
“Here, we are always involved in important games such as the Champions League encounters, which you can’t experience at a smaller side,” he explained.
“It’s an inevitable side-effect that playing at Milan brings with it the difficulty of having to win each game and always having to play well.”
Milan kick off 2008 by hosting Napoli this weekend.
Carletto: I'm a believer
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Carlo Ancelotti is optimistic ahead of a crucial period in his side’s Champions League and Serie A campaigns.
The world champions have it all to do in Serie A after a disappointing first half of the season and face a stern test in Europe against Premier League leaders Arsenal.
With rumours that Jose Mourinho will be approached for the hot seat in June, Ancelotti could be forgiven for feeling the pressure, but he seems relaxed and confident.
“I have had important responses from players who haven’t had a lot of playing time,” he revealed at Milan’s training camp in Dubai.
“This is clearly a crucial period for these lads as the fixture pile-up will give them opportunities.
“As I have already said in the days gone by, the last 16 game against Arsenal will be extremely difficult, but getting to the Final in Moscow isn’t an unrealistic dream.
“We are the reigning European champions and the chance to retain the Champions League is a great stimulus.”
The addition of Brazilian attacking ace Alexandre Pato is a huge boost for the Rossoneri and Carletto hinted that he will may flex his tactical muscles.
“We will finally have four strikers at our disposal when the Serie A season restarts and we can try to fulfill the objectives we had at the start of the campaign,” he grinned.
“There will be several different ways to play now. Sometimes we will certainly go back to two strikers, but it depends on the opposition’s tactics.”
Pato's raring to go
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Alexandre Pato is ready to make his Milan debut on Sunday and doesn’t seem to be feeling the weight of expectations.
The 18-year-old was signed from Brazilian side Internacional in the summer, but he only became eligible to play in competitive matches from January 3.
With the Rossoneri stalling in the League, the pressure on Pato is immense, as he has been touted as the Diavolo’s striking saviour.
With Pippo Inzaghi in hospital to be treated for kidney stones, Pato could start on Sunday against Napoli, but he isn’t letting the pressure get to him.
“I’m ready to get started and to play,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Of course there is some emotion, but at heart I am calm.
“I don’t feel any excess pressure. I am adapting well to Milan and I have my teammates to thank as they are very close to me and are giving me their support.
“Will I start against Napoli? The boss will choose whether I play or not and who I start alongside up front.
“I have a week of training ahead of me where I have to work hard if I am to play from the first minute,” the man nicknamed ‘The Duck’ concluded.
AC Milan set for Chelsea two?
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There are renewed reports that Jose Mourinho is set for the Milan job this summer and that he will bring Chelsea star Didier Drogba with him.
The pressure is mounting on Carlo Ancelotti in the Rossoneri hot seat as he prepares to try and remedy a stuttering start to the Serie A campaign.
Despite delivering the Club World Cup in December, Ancelotti has been heavily criticised as his side have fallen out of Scudetto contention.
Mourinho is waiting to return to management and there were whispers that he turned down the England job as he had already agreed a deal with a top European side.
The Portuguese tactician has hinted that the Diavolo have approached him and according to the People, his arrival could attract the unsettled Drogba to San Siro.
The prolific Ivorian hitman was one of Mourinho’s most committed disciples and admits that he is headed for a Stamford Bridge exit.
“At the moment I think that at the end of the season I want to leave Chelsea,” Drogba told Eurosport.
“I have played here for two or three years already and the departure of Mourinho certainly didn’t help me. On the contrary, it made my desire for a fresh start still greater.”
The People suggests that Milan would need to table an offer of £40m to convince Chelsea to relinquish their grip on Drogba.
Kaka: English clubs "are easy"
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Kaka has reiterated he wants to wear the captain’s armband at Milan and suggested it was “easy” to defeat Liverpool and Manchester United last year.
The 2007 Ballon d’Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year has rejected a series of offers from Real Madrid and assures he’ll continue to wave them away.
“I have a contract with Milan until 2011 and, as I have already said many times, my intention is to stay at this club for as long as possible,” said Ricky.
“I confirm my desire to one day become the captain of this team, of course while respecting the natural hierarchy within the squad and all my teammates who are ahead of me in that pecking order.”
Paolo Maldini is the current captain, but he has announced he’ll hang up his boots at the end of the season, so the next figures along the line would be Massimo Ambrosini and Gennaro Gattuso.
Kaka’s stature within the side has grown considerably over the past year with his maturation and 10 goals in the Champions League.
The Brazilian proved decisive in knocking out Manchester United and Liverpool in the final stages and hopes to repeat the trick against Arsenal in February.
“Just because we beat Manchester and Liverpool with relative ease does not mean it will be equally simple playing against the Gunners,” continued Kaka.
“They are a very dangerous team and we have to hold them in high regard, but certainly the fact we are Milan means we have a very good chance of qualifying.”
The Rossoneri lost 3-2 at Old Trafford in the semi-final before a crushing 3-0 result at San Siro, while they saw off Liverpool 2-1 in the Athens Final with a Pippo Inzaghi brace.
Inzaghi has now been released from the American Hospital in Dubai after treatment for painful kidney stones and he will be able to resume training over the next few days.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo took part in the game between ranks and scored for the second consecutive day.
Pato replaces hospitalised Pippo?
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Alexandre Pato could be pushed into his Serie A debut sooner than expected, as Pippo Inzaghi is hospitalised with kidney stones.
Milan are currently in Dubai for a mid-season training camp that will set their fitness levels for the rest of the campaign.
Inzaghi did not take part yesterday and was taken to the American Hospital for tests which confirmed the presence of kidney stones.
The official club website released a statement assuring it was “not serious” and that SuperPippo would be back in training “in the next few days.”
As Ronaldo has only just started training and made one appearance since July 31 due to a series of calf problems, it is increasingly likely that Pato will be thrown in at the deep end when Serie A resumes on January 13.
Milan welcome Napoli to San Siro in next Sunday’s evening kick-off and 18-year-old Pato could get his debut from the start.
Although he signed for the Rossoneri in the summer, his age meant he could only deposit the contract during the January transfer window and he is now finally eligible for official competition.
It is possible Carlo Ancelotti could introduce the young Brazilian in the starting XI against Napoli in a trident with Alberto Gilardino and Kaka.
Pay-per-view revolution in Serie A?
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Serie A fixtures could soon be spread out over the weekend in similar style to the Premier League, if new proposals are accepted.
Currently the Italian top flight games are staggered over four different kick-off times to placate pay-per-view television companies.
There is a game at 17.00 UK time (18.00 in Italy) on Saturday, evening starts on both Saturday and Sunday and the rest of the matches are in the traditional 14.00 Sunday slot.
However, clubs eager to get more money from the television stations are considering a new proposal.
From next season we could see these fixtures plus a Sunday midday start and another game squeezed in at 16.30.
This has been experimented once before with a Parma-Juventus encounter on January 9, 2000 at 13.00 local time, but it was not repeated.
Lega Calcio President Antonio Matarrese is reported to be enthusiastic about the plan and it could go to a vote relatively soon.
Ronaldo rediscovers the net
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Ronaldo is back in full training with Milan after six weeks and scored a goal in today’s game between ranks.
Il Fenomeno had not trained with the ball between his feet for 38 days, as his mystery calf problem had kept him on a succession of tests and physiotherapy tables.
The trip to Brazil seems to have done him good, as Ronnie was in good shape when he resumed training with his teammates in Dubai.
He took part in two sessions and the game between ranks, his first since November 27, when the calf twinge prevented him from stepping on to the pitch as a substitute against Benfica in Lisbon.
Despite flying to Japan for the Club World Cup, he had been unable to take part in any of the training sessions.
Reports suggest that in Dubai today Ronaldo was able to sprint on the sand and even managed to score with a left-foot angled drive.
“It’s going better,” he smiled to journalists. It remains to be seen when he will be ready for a match situation, but it is progress for the man who has played once since July 31.
Maldini's Moscow swansong
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Paolo Maldini is planning the perfect final match to his career – the Champions League Final in Moscow.
The Milan captain has confirmed he will hang up his boots at the end of this season after more than 20 years at the top level.
“Am I already picturing my farewell game? Yes, it will be played in Moscow,” he smiled.
In order to get there, the Rossoneri must eliminate Arsenal in February’s second round of the competition.
“It will be a very difficult and spectacular test. Arsenal have great quality and unpredictability, while nobody can match us in terms of experience. We have no reason to fear any opponent.”
Maldini has made it clear that when he does retire, it will not be to follow in his father’s footsteps as Coach of Milan and Italy.
“I cannot say what I will do, but I can quite safely confirm what I do not want to do, and that is coaching. It could be interesting to work with the youth sector, especially as Milan have not been churning out as many homegrown talents as they used to and with the new international rules it will become very important.”
Il Capitano is currently in Dubai with his Rossoneri teammates for a mid-season training camp that should restore their fitness after a woeful start to the Serie A season.
“Right now we feel free from any pressure. It is pointless denying the first match back will be a very important test for us,” added Maldini.
“It is difficult to understand how Milan can play so well away from home and yet struggle badly in their own stadium. We’ve got to beat that taboo and Napoli, who are doing very well, when we get back to San Siro.”
This is the first time in Serie A history that Milan have failed to win any of their first seven home games.
Milan derby for Berbatov
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There is a Milan derby on the transfer market for Dimitar Berbatov, as both San Siro giants send representatives to White Hart Lane.
The Bulgarian hitman alerted clubs all over Europe when his agent pointed out a move was on the cards.
“Dimitar wants to fulfil his potential and win trophies now,” agent Emil Dantchev told the BBC.
“Time is running out for him to play for a club that can match his ambition. I would like to stress this is not about money. This is about sporting ambition.”
Both Milan and Inter have reacted immediately and, according to ‘Tuttosport’ newspaper, have sent representatives for negotiations with his Italian agent Roberto De Fanti.
It is likely a move will only occur in June, as Spurs do not want to sell their star striker mid-season, but neither Italian outfit wants to pay the full £18m asking price.
Former Bayer Leverkusen hero Berbatov netted 90 goals in all competition during his time in Germany and this season already has 17 under his belt.
Milan need a new forward to rejuvenate their squad, as Pippo Inzaghi and Ronaldo do not have the stamina or fitness to maintain an entire season at the top level.
Inter have a selection of strikers, but Adriano is increasingly unlikely to return even after his six-month loan spell at Sao Paolo expires, while Hernan Crespo’s injuries have made him a marginal figure this term.
Zamparini doubts AC Milan stamina
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President Maurizio Zamparini is not hedging his bets. “I know one thing for sure – Palermo will finish ahead of Milan this season.”
The Rosanero patron is known for his boundless ambition and, just weeks after firing Coach Stefano Colantuono to bring back Francesco Guidolin, he is aiming high.
“I know one thing for sure – Palermo will finish ahead of Milan this season,” he told ‘Radio Radio.’
“I am in love with this sport and want to continue going forward, even if we need new blood in the Federation. The Sicilian fans have no need to worry.”
Palermo are currently in sixth place on 25 points, but Milan have 18 points and three games in hand.
Zamparini is nonetheless confident they can keep that gap thanks to the presence of Brazilian striker Amauri, who is a known transfer target for the Rossoneri and Juventus.
“I have not received offers for Amauri, while I only talked over some details about Andrea Barzagli with Juventus.
“As for our signings, we are looking for some interesting young talent from overseas.”
Pato begins AC Milan career
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This evening Alexandre Pato’s contract was finally deposited, so he is officially a Milan player six months after arriving in Italy.
The Brazilian teenager – full name Alexandre Rodrigues Da Silva – had put pen to paper during the summer, but was not legally allowed to play for the club because he only turned of age after the August 31 transfer deadline.
Today Milan deposited his contract with the Lega Calcio confirming his permanent move from Internacional.
This means that from January 4 Pato is eligible to play for the Rossoneri in official competition.
That includes the Champions League, as the club has already announced it will add him to the squad list.
Although he has not been allowed to play in tournaments, Pato has been training with his new teammates for the past six months and played in some friendly games.
Nesta stands up for Dida
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Milan defender Alessandro Nesta believes that the critics should leave struggling goalkeeper Nelson Dida alone.
The much-maligned Dida has been in the firing line this term after some costly errors - most critically against Inter - and made a shaky start to 2008 by conceding six times in a training match in Dubai.
The rumour mill has been working overtime to suggest alternative names for the Rossoneri No 1 shirt, including Celtic’s Artur Boruc and Fiorentina’s Sebastien Frey, but Nesta believes in the current custodian.
“We could have won the game against Inter, but Dida has done well to bounce back from his error and turn up at training in the right frame of mind,” the former Azzurri star claimed.
“He is a good teammate and he deserves protection from the Press criticism.”
Nesta was also keen to defend struggling hitman Ronaldo, who has been written off by many after recent injury woes.
“He is training with great enthusiasm,” he revealed. “We don’t really know his physical condition at the moment or what chance he has of making his return soon, but I am convinced that he will be back for Milan.”
While his colleagues struggle, Nesta is in superb form and couldn’t hide his satisfaction at finding the net in December’s Club World Cup Final.
“That goal was important for me because it came in open play,” he admitted.
“It may not have been a life-changing goal, but at that moment I thought of nothing – I was just happy as if I had wiped away the memory of not playing in the World Cup Final.”
AC Milan's Dida doubts grow
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The pressure continues to build on Milan goalkeeper Nelson Dida after a poor start to training in 2008, but Marcos Cafu is standing by him.
The giant Brazilian custodian has been heavily criticised this term for his costly errors – most notably in the Champions League defeat at Celtic and the derby defeat against Inter.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti issued an ultimatum last week when he stressed that Dida couldn’t afford any more slip-ups, but yesterday he looked vulnerable in training.
In a session at the Rossoneri’s Dubai camp, Dida was beaten six times with braces from Alberto Gilardino, Yoann Gourcuff and Cristian Brocchi while youth ‘keeper Daniel Offredi remained unbeaten at the other end.
Dida’s compatriot Cafu was quick to stress his full support for the under-fire shot-stopper.
“Nelson is a strong person who will be able to put his difficulties behind him and move forward,” he insisted.
“He always works so hard. He is a marvellous person, an extraordinary man and I believe him to be the world’s No 1.
“Anyone can make a mistake – we all do it. In the past I have seen so many other goalkeepers commit errors,” he said.
However, reports in the Corriere dello Sport suggest that Milan see PSV’s Heurelho Gomes and Celtic’s Artur Boruc as possible replacements.
Fiorentina’s French ‘keeper Sebastien Frey is also believed to be a target and one more shaky performance could spell the end of Dida’s six-year reign in the Diavolo net.
Toni: I signed for AC Milan
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Azzurri striking star Luca Toni has revealed that he put pen to paper with Milan last summer before joining Bayern Munich.
The towering 31-year-old left Fiorentina for the Bundesliga for around £7m, but he had been contacted by a number of Serie A clubs during his time in Tuscany.
While interest from Inter and Juventus never developed into concrete offers, it now seems that Toni had practically signed for the world champions.
“Everyone knows that I nearly joined Inter two years ago and that Juventus were interested in signing me,” the ex-Brescia man told Il Giornale.
“However, with Milan it went a lot further – I had already signed a contract. I could also have been a Roma player as they nearly signed me when I was playing for Cisco Roma.”
Toni has impressed in the Bundesliga, despite Bayern’s recent woes, but he is still following Serie A with interest.
“Inter are the strongest side and they have a bit more than Roma and Milan,” he stated.
“The Nerazzurri are certainly a better side than the Rossoneri and it isn’t just the derby that shows us that.”
The Modena native’s thoughts then turned to Euro 2008 and Italy’s Group of death with France, Holland and Romania.
“I’m raring to go, but we can feel the responsibility on our shoulders,” he explained.
“It’s not a Group of iron as much as a Group of steel and we can get through. The important thing is to get to the game against France with qualification already assured.”
Toni concluded by giving the peninsula’s giants his tip for the winter transfer window.
“Sign Diego from Werder Bremen,” he commanded. “He is a very, very good player and one of the few fantasistas still around who can decide a game.”
Amauri rules out January move
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Highly rated marksman Amauri is definite that he will stay at Palermo until June, despite the advances of Milan and Juventus.
The former Chievo striker has emerged as one of calcio’s hottest properties in attack and the Brazilian-born star is considering naturalising to make himself available for Azzurri selection.
While Rosanero President Maurizio Zamparini is willing to negotiate with Serie A’s giants after placing a £15m price tag on Amauri’s head, the 27-year-old doesn’t seem ready to leave Sicily just yet.
“It’s a great honour to be linked with such great clubs as Milan and Juventus and it is another source of motivation to keep doing well,” Amauri told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“However, I won’t be leaving Palermo in January. We will have to wait and see what happens in June.
“I get on very well with my fellow strikers Fabrizio Miccoli and Edison Cavani. The former packs the crucial punch and has helped me express myself fully and the latter runs tirelessly and creates so much space.”
It seems increasingly likely that Amauri will give up his chance to represent Brazil in order to play for Italy given Roberto Donadoni’s reported admiration for the powerful front man.
“It gives me enormous pleasure that Donadoni holds me in high regard and would consider me for a place in the world champions’ squad,” he continued.
“For the moment there is no news on the passport situation and the whole business isn’t simple. All I can do is wait.”
Carlo Ancelotti: Ronaldo stays
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Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has rubbished reports that Ronaldo has asked to be allowed to join Flamengo.
The Brazilian star has made just one appearance this term due to injury problems and there has been speculation that he may quit Serie A.
Flamengo have openly admitted their desire to bring El Fenomeno to the Maracana, but Ancelotti isn’t concerned.
“Ronaldo has never expressed any desire to leave Milan in my presence,” he told journalists at the Rossoneri’s camp in Dubai.
“The talk about a possible move to Flamengo has been concocted entirely in Brazil and has nothing to do with the player’s wishes.
“He is completely committed to Milan and he will continue to give his full commitment to trying to restart training with a ball.”
Another Brazilian with a lot to prove is goalkeeper Nelson Dida and Ancelotti hinted that he is running out of patience with the error-prone custodian.
“I don’t think that he has any psychological problem,” Carletto said. “I think that his injury problems have hampered him, but he absolutely must stop making these errors.
“Nonetheless, I’m happy to say that Dida will be in goal against Napoli – that’s certain.”
All Diavolo eyes will be on young striking ace Alexandre Pato who is now available to play, as the world champions look unlikely to add any other new faces in the transfer window.
“I have never asked the club to sign new strikers, even if Ronaldo’s recovery isn’t quick,” Ancelotti insisted.
“The addition of Pato will give us different options and I’m convinced that we will remain unchanged at the end of the month.”
Flamengo prepare Ronaldo proposal
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Brazilian outfit Flamengo are looking to finalise their offer for Milan outcast Ronaldo before the end of the week.
The Selecao star returned to his homeland in December after making just one appearance since the start of the season due to a series of injury problems.
El Fenomeno has received treatment for a calf complaint and met up with his Rossoneri teammates in Dubai today, but Flamengo are intent on luring him away from the harsh environment of Serie A.
“I think that the club will have everything in place by the end of the week,” Flamengo director Ricardo Hinrichsen revealed to Globoesporte.
“We will be needing some form of financial support if we are to approach Ronaldo with a serious offer.
“Some companies seem to be interested, but so far we don’t have any concrete deals on the table – finance is the only complicated issue.”
Brazil’s third side in 2007 insist that Ronaldo is keen to move to the Maracana in principal and it is believed that they are currently in talks with Nike over the possible sale of image rights.
Pippo: My dream 2007
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Milan striker Pippo Inzaghi believes that 2007 was the best year of his career and admits it will be a tough act to follow.
The 34-year-old enjoyed a stellar end to the year as he lifted the Champions, League, Club World Cup and broke Gerd Muller’s European goal scoring record.
“Last year was the best and unfortunately I think that it will be unrepeatable,” Inzaghi told Sky Sport Italia.
“I’m sorry that 2007 is over as it was a triumphant year for me with events in Athens and Yokohama and breaking Muller’s record.
“Fate has handed me so many unforgettable nights and achievements that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.
“I’m nearly 35-years-old and I’m just so proud to be able to keep giving my all. I still have such belief and passion and it makes things so much easier playing for such a great side.
“I can only hope that this year gives me just as much satisfaction.”
Milan kick off 2008 by hosting Napoli at San Siro on January 13.
Clubs queue up for Amauri
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Milan, Juventus and Barcelona are all set to fight it out on the summer transfer market for Palermo ace Amauri.
The attacking sensation is again underlining his pedigree as one of the peninsula’s most gifted strikers and it’s no surprise that he’s caught the eye of Europe’s big boys.
Having been compared to Didier Drogba by current Palermo boss Francesco Guidolin on a number of occasions, Amauri is set to be sold for around £16m in the summer.
Reports in Italy on Wednesday claim that it will be an Italian tussle between Milan and Juventus for the former Chievo man.
It’s claimed that the Rossoneri already have an agreement in place with his agent, Mariano Grimaldi, but Juventus are on better terms with Palermo President Maurizio Zamparini.
The latter would be keen to sell to the Bianconeri seeing as he could also cash in on Andrea Barzagli to the Turin giants as part of a bigger deal.
Juventus’ interest in the powerful forward was confirmed by respected football agent Vincenzo Morabito over the Christmas period.
“Juventus are already preparing a David Trezeguet-Amauri pairing for June,” he stated. “He is wanted as he already knows how the Italian championship works.”
However, contrasting whispers from the peninsula this morning are claiming that Barcelona are in with a chance of luring Amauri.
The Nou Camp outfit are reportedly ready to pump in the cash necessary for the Brazilian hitman who struggled to impress during spells at Piacenza and Napoli.
Amauri, who has also been linked with Liverpool recently, is on the verge of gaining an Italian passport which would give him EU citizenship.
The paperwork would also make him eligible to represent Italy should the Azzurri call and Carlos Dunga continues to snub him for Brazil.
Zamparini opens AC Milan door
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Palermo chief Maurizio Zamparini has rejected rumours that he would refuse to sell star man Amauri to Milan.
Reports in the peninsula today claimed that Zampa would prefer to sell the Brazilian hitman to Juventus rather than the Rossoneri.
But the fiery chief has this evening insisted that he would be ready to sell to whoever if an adequate offer was tabled.
“It is not true that I have vetoed an Amauri transfer to Milan,” he stated. “That is also because I haven’t received an offer from them – or Juventus for that matter.
“I only know that a few foreign sides are interested in him, but nothing will happen until the summer at the very least.”
Zamparini has also been forced to put the record straight regarding whispers that he was ready to reward Amauri for his efforts by increasing his salary.
“I will do all that I can to keep Amauri here, but it is false to suggest that we will soon double his wages,” he added.
Amauri is today being heavily associated with Milan, Juventus and Barcelona.
AC Milan surge for Ramos
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Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos is a contender to replace Paolo Maldini at Milan when the legendary stopper quits the game at the end of the season.
The Rossoneri are considering their options for the post-Maldini era and the Spanish centre-back is being heavily linked with the club this morning.
Spanish newspaper Marca today claims that the European and world champions are “obsessed” with the talented defender.
Milan are said to be pondering a swoop after the intervention of former Diavolo boss and Real sporting director Arrigo Sacchi.
The latter is understood to have spoken at length about Ramos to both President Silvio Berlusconi and Vice-President Adriano Galliani.
Sacchi was instrumental in convincing Real to sign Ramos for around £20m after a string of impressive and commanding displays at Sevilla.
The proposed move does have a number of obstacles though seeing as the 21-year-old is still contracted to the Bernabeu outfit who wouldn’t want to sell.
It’s also expected that Real would insist that Kaka be involved in any Ramos sale which Milan wouldn’t take into consideration at this stage.
Rui Costa sets quit date
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Serie A legend Manuel Rui Costa has announced that he will be hanging up his boots at the end of the current campaign.
Now back in Portugal with Benfica, the classy playmaker is best remembered for his club stints in Italy with firstly Fiorentina and then Milan.
Rui Costa became a crowd favourite in Tuscany after spending seven years with the Viola in which he won the Italian Cup [1996 and 2001] and the Italian Super Cup .
In 2001, Manuel took the painful step of leaving the Artemio Franchi for Milan and was rewarded for his five years of service with a Champions League , a Scudetto  and a European Super Cup .
However, Rui Costa was mainly utilised as a squad player from 2004 onwards given that he was squeezed out of the starting line-up by current Golden Ball winner Kaka.
The midfielder, capped 94 times by Portugal, rejoined Benfica in 2006 after initially leaving the giants in 1994 for the Viola.
“I have always said that I wanted to quit the game by wearing the Benfica jersey and I’m delighted that will be the case,” he admitted.
“I’m very happy with what I have achieved in the world of football and that I have demonstrated myself to be a good professional.”
Although the 35-year-old only has five months of football left in him, he admits that he’d like to stay involved in the game.
“I still feel the need to smell the odour of the changing rooms,” he noted. “That’s why I see myself as a good sporting director for Benfica.
“However, let me just stop playing football first and then we’ll see…”
AC Milan go for goalkeeper Gomes
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Nelson Dida appears to have lost Milan’s confidence and after Sebastien Frey the latest target to take over is PSV Eindhoven’s Heurelho da Silva Gomes.
Dida’s position at San Siro has become untenable after a series of catastrophic errors, culminating in the woeful howler that allowed Inter to win the derby 2-1.
A new shot-stopper is among the first priorities for the January transfer market and Fiorentina’s Frey had been suggested as a front runner.
Today the ‘Corriere dello Sport’ suggests that there is another candidate making waves – fellow Brazilian Gomes.
The goalkeeper will turn 27 in February and has been consistently impressive for PSV Eindhoven in both domestic competition and the Champions League.
He has been in Europe since the summer of 2004, switching from Brazilian club Cruzeiro to Dutch outfit PSV.
Gomes helped Eindhoven to the last three Eredivisie titles on the trot and this month extended his contract until 2013.
However, he would be more than happy to accept a step up to the European and World champions with a price-tag hovering around £5m.
Meanwhile, former Milan star Manuel Rui Costa has announced his retirement at the end of this season.
The 35-year-old spent seven terms at Fiorentina and five with the Rossoneri before returning to his hometown club.
“I had always desired to end my career at Benfica and I am proud to have achieved that,” he told local newspaper ‘Record.’
“I am happy with what I have done in my career and proved I am a real professional.”
Flamengo: Ronaldo wants us
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Flamengo insist Ronaldo wants to join them in January, but that he must buy his way out of the Milan contract first.
Despite several denials of these reports, the Brazilian club continue to maintain an agreement has been reached.
“The interest is reciprocal,” explained Flamengo President Kleber Leite. “I have already spoken to Ronie, he wants to play for Flamengo. In two weeks we will present a final offer.”
The fact the Rossoneri have announced they won’t negotiate a transfer does not seem to pose a problem with Leite.
“We have nothing to say to Milan, we won’t negotiate with them,” he told ‘Estado do Sao Paolo.’
“It is up to Ronaldo to buy out his contract and conclude his deal with Milan. Our project is for him to sign with us until 2010 and after the end of his career become ambassador for Flamengo, primarily in charity events in favour of children.”
Ronaldo is currently in Brazil to continue treatment on a mysterious calf injury that has seen him make just one appearance since July 31.
Medical staff assured he would be back in Milan’s ranks from January 2, but Flamengo have other ideas.
“We will not go crazy,” added director of marketing Ricardo Hinrichsen. “We will pay Ronaldo figures that reflect the reality of our football.
“The difference between our wages and what he currently receives at Milan will be compensated by the ownership of his image rights. Just having his name would guarantee us a return far superior to our investment.”
Ronaldo 'ready' for AC Milan return
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Ronaldo is on the road to recovery and will train with Milan in Dubai from January 2, insists his doctor.
Il Fenomeno has been in Brazil for most of this month to undergo specialist treatment with Selecao consultant Jose Luis Runco in a bid to solve an injury crisis that has seen him make just one appearance since July 31.
“He had a first grade calf strain, but now it is healed and we are in the final phase of physiotherapy,” noted Runco.
“On January 2 he will be in Dubai to train alongside the other Milan players.”
This is reassuring news for the Rossoneri, who feared having to bring in another striker during the January transfer window to replace Ronaldo.
There had even been talk of an extended stay in Brazil with Flamengo so that he could rediscover his form.
Milan will begin a special mid-season training camp in Dubai on January 2 to prepare for the rest of the campaign in the best possible physical condition.
They had a similar routine last year and, after a poor start, went on to win the Champions League and finish in the top four of Serie A.
This camp will also see Alexandre Pato join the team for the first time, as he will be eligible to play in official competition from 2008.