Inter do not need to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic to challenge in the Champions League and close the gap on Juventus in Serie A, according to Antonio Conte.

After going unbeaten in their opening seven matches under Conte, the Nerazzurri have lost their last two fixtures - against Barcelona in the Champions League before they went down 2-1 to Juve prior to the international break.

Injuries to Stefano Sensi and Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, have depleted Conte's squad heading into Sunday's meeting with Sassuolo.

Former Inter striker Ibrahimovic - whose contract with LA Galaxy expires in December - has claimed he would be open to a return to Serie A, though Conte does not believe his side need a player of the Swede's quality to push on.

"I do not talk about players that are not mine. It would not be respectful," Conte told a news conference when asked if Inter could move for Ibrahimovic.

"I have respect for Ibra of course, he is a quality player. He has made history in this game.

"I respect him and rate him but it is not right to talk of others, also because I have lots of faith in my players and I have so much respect for my squad. We will get better and keep improving. From these setbacks against Juve and Barca we must come back stronger.

"We need to keep being consistent, we need consistency in displays and training, we must improve every day, this is what I want. If we do this we will take the next step.

"In every match there are areas to work on. We always analyse the good and the bad. We have highlighted areas to work on. I cannot expect miracles."

Sanchez had started promisingly for Inter since arriving on loan from Manchester United, but is now expected to miss up to three months after undergoing surgery on an ankle injury sustained while on international duty with Chile.

"I am upset to lose him. We are all disappointed," Conte said.

"He is a player we thought was back to his best. He was doing well and I was pleased. Now he is injured, it is a real shame also for him.

"He arrived full of enthusiasm and was doing well. He was showing he is the Sanchez of old.

"However, he is now injured and that is part of the game, I had lots of injuries as a player, but each time you come back stronger."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic claimed he would still score 20 goals a season in Serie A as he talked up his chances of a return to Italy's top flight.

But Ibrahimovic labelled former club AC Milan "a disaster" in a wide-ranging interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, while also poking fun at Inter forward Romelu Lukaku's first touch.

Former Sweden striker Ibrahimovic was discussing his options for a next move as his LA Galaxy contract expires in December following the MLS playoffs.

The 38-year-old has been linked with a return to Manchester United, but he suggested Serie A, where he represented Juventus and both Milan clubs, might be his preferred destination.

"I am 38 years old and have the enthusiasm of a kid, with that same desire to win. That, for me, is everything," Ibrahimovic said.

"Italy is my second home. I will listen to all offers, but I want to fight for the maximum target. If I were to come back, I'd want to challenge for the Scudetto, not just be signed by someone because I am Ibrahimovic.

"I can still make the difference. I'm not a zoo animal to be put on display for people to see. I can still get 20 goals in Serie A."

Milan, who are 13th in Serie A with nine points from seven matches, would not appear to be an option, though, and Ibrahimovic picked out Paolo Maldini for criticism.

"Milan are a disaster. They're all talk and no action," he said.

"This is not the club everyone fell in love with, in Italy and all over the world. Perhaps there are too many wrong people who should be elsewhere.

"Paolo Maldini doesn't have what it takes to be a director, whereas in his playing career he was one of my all-time favourites."

Meanwhile, the striker revealed a mooted bet with former team-mate Lukaku, whose touch was maligned by some supporters during his time at United.

Ibrahimovic explained: "At Manchester United, we made a bet, 'I'll give you £50 for every decent first touch you make'. He replied: 'What do I win if I get them all right?'

"I told him nothing, he would simply become a better player. For the record, he never accepted the bet! Perhaps he was afraid of losing."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has backed Jose Mourinho to prove a success in his next position, but the ex-Barcelona striker remains less enamoured with Pep Guardiola.

Mourinho and Ibrahimovic forged a strong bond during spells together at Inter and Manchester United.

The divisive former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has not held a managerial job since parting ways with United in December 2018 but appears to be edging closer to a coaching comeback.

Mourinho recently rejected the chance to hold talks with Lyon as he "has already chosen another club," the Ligue 1 side's president, Jean-Michel Aulas, said earlier this month.

Ibrahimovic is adamant the Portuguese's next employers will enjoy the best of his abilities.

"He had an incredible impact on my career," the LA Galaxy striker told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"He is still 'the Special One', a winner. I hope he will back on a bench soon and I am sure he will start winning immediately."

Guardiola, however, does not occupy the same place in Ibrahimovic's heart.

The pair shared a famously dysfunctional relationship over the course of the Swede's single season with Barca, which featured 16 LaLiga goals and a title triumph.

"We never had a direct confrontation because of him," Ibrahimovic said of Guardiola, who is now in charge of Manchester City.

"When we faced each other, he hid. He waited for me to leave and then left the dressing room. As a coach he is a phenomenon, but as a man..."

Inter midfielder Stefano Sensi is set to miss out on a reunion with Sassuolo after suffering another injury to his right thigh.

The on-loan Italy international was being reintegrated into training ahead of this weekend's Serie A fixture when he reported a "small" problem, according to an Inter statement.

An MRI scan on Friday detected a strain in the same thigh he injured in the 2-1 loss to Juventus before the international break.

Sensi lasted until the 34th minute of that match and could now miss next week's crucial Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund, along with Sunday's trip to face the club he left in July.

"Today's tests revealed a strain to the psoas muscle," Inter's statement read. "His condition will be assessed in the next few days."

Sensi is on loan at Inter from Sassuolo but is widely expected to make the move permanent for a reported €25million fee at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has been one of the key factors in the Nerazzurri's strong start under Antonio Conte, scoring three goals in seven league appearances.

The transfer window may be shut, but Paul Pogba's future is still making headlines.

Pogba – who is set to miss the Premier League showdown against Liverpool due to injury – reportedly eyed a Manchester United exit and a move to Real Madrid.

A switch to the Santiago Bernabeu could be on the horizon after Pogba was snapped with Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane in the United Arab Emirates.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA MEETS ZIDANE IN DUBAI

Pogba has been linked with a fresh move to Madrid after the United star was pictured with Zidane, reports The Mirror.

Pogba wanted to leave United during the previous window, with LaLiga giants Madrid and former club Juventus the two favourites to sign the Frenchman, but a move did not materialise.

However, Pogba – recovering from a foot injury – was seen with Madrid head coach Zidane during his trip to Dubai, fuelling fresh speculation over his future at Old Trafford.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to 90min, United are monitoring Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani. The 32-year-old Uruguay international is out of contract at this season's end and has been linked to Juve, Atletico Madrid and Inter Miami.

- Inter are chasing Brescia sensation Sandro Tonali and Atalanta's Dejan Kulusevski, says Calciomercato. Both players are 19 years of age and attracting interest in Serie A.

- Calciomercato also reports Tottenham are ready to send Christian Eriksen to Juventus in exchange for Adrien Rabiot. Eriksen's contract expires at the end of the season and has been linked to the likes of Madrid and United, while Rabiot only moved to Turin from PSG at the end of 2018-19.

- Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, United, Spurs and Inter have been credited with interest in Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, according to Bild.

- Manchester City have emerged as favourites to sign Hearts teenager Aaron Hickey, claims the Daily Star.

Inter forward Alexis Sanchez has undergone successful surgery on his injured left ankle, the Serie A club have confirmed.

Sanchez was substituted late in Chile's friendly win over Colombia on Saturday, with a dislocated joint causing damage to his peroneus longus tendon.

The 30-year-old travelled to Barcelona on Wednesday for a consultation with professor Ramon Cugat and it was decided the issue should be operated on.

A statement on Inter's official website read: "The visit [with Cugat] confirmed the diagnosis of the Inter medical staff and the decision was made to proceed with surgery on the left ankle.

"The operation was performed in the afternoon on the peroneus longus tendon and it went exactly as planned."

Sanchez, who joined Inter on a season-long loan from Manchester United in August, is expected to miss three months of action.

The ex-Arsenal star has made four appearances for Antonio Conte's side this term, scoring one goal in Serie A, though he was sent off later in the same match against Sampdoria.

Mauro Icardi rejected criticism of Romelu Lukaku's performances since joining Inter and expects the Belgium striker to find form for the Nerazzuri.

Lukaku has replaced Icardi at the head of the Inter attack, signing a five-year contract with the Serie A club in a reported €80million transfer from Manchester United in August.

He has scored only three goals in eight appearances but Icardi, who last month left Inter for Paris Saint-Germain in a loan deal that can be made permanent, does not believe Lukaku has endured a poor start to life in Italian football.

"It doesn't seem to me that he's experiencing a moment of difficulty," Icardi told Gazzetta dello Sport. "In fact, I think he's started well, scoring a couple of goals immediately.

"It's not easy for anyone to play in Italy. Serie A is the most defensive championship in Europe.

"Maybe he needs a little more time to settle in, but he's already scored a lot of goals in his career. And he will do it again."

Icardi is not focused on what his future may hold, instead concentrating solely on his form for PSG. The Argentina international has scored two goals in four games for the defending Ligue 1 champions.

"This year, I'm at PSG and my goal is to give my best for this shirt," Icardi added,

"Then at the end of the season, around May or June, we'll see what happens. It's still too early to say anything."

Alexis Sanchez may require surgery after suffering an ankle tendon injury while on international duty with Chile, Inter have confirmed.

Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda had suggested Sanchez – who is on loan at Inter from Manchester United – could be set to miss "two to three months" after suffering an ankle injury in Saturday's friendly with Colombia.

The forward had further tests upon his return to Milan, with the results of those examinations confirming Sanchez has dislocated his ankle.

"Sanchez underwent medical tests earlier this morning at the Humanitas Institute in Rozzano," read a statement from Inter. 

"Results revealed a joint dislocation in his left ankle which has caused damage to the peroneus longus tendon."

Sanchez will now travel to Barcelona for consultations with professor Ramon Cugat, who has often treated injured Manchester City players, including Benjamin Mendy and Kevin De Bruyne, to determine whether an operation will be required.

Former Arsenal star Sanchez has made four appearances for Antonio Conte's side this term, scoring one goal in Serie A, though he was sent off later in that match against Sampdoria.

With Edinson Cavani's contract set to expire, a move away from the French capital has been mooted.

The Paris Saint-Germain veteran has been linked to David Beckham's incoming MLS expansion franchise Inter Miami.

However, Cavani reportedly wants a return to Serie A and the titleholders stand out.

 

TOP STORY – CAVANI EYES JUVE SWITCH

Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani wants to join Serie A champions Juventus, according to Calciomercato.

Cavani – who has become PSG's all-time leading goalscorer since arriving from Napoli in 2013 – is out of contract at season's end.

With limited progress on a renewal, the 32-year-old's representatives have reportedly reached out to Juve over a return to Italy.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Sky Sport in Germany, Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng is eyeing a move to Serie A or LaLiga. The 31-year-old was linked with PSG during the last transfer window.

- Former France and PSG head coach Laurent Blanc is keen on a job in the Premier League, reports in France say. Blanc was linked to the Lyon vacancy but the Ligue 1 strugglers have opted for ex-Marseille boss Rudi Garcia.

- Passione Inter claims Crystal Palace are looking to sign Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa. The 23-year-old Brazilian is starring on loan at Flamengo, having struggled to establish himself with Inter.

Inter and AC Milan are both interested in Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil, Calciomercato says.

- Calciomercato reports Manchester United are competing with Milan for Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

Alexis Sanchez could be sidelined for "two to three" months after sustaining a potentially serious ankle injury, according to Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda.

Sanchez was substituted late in Chile's goalless friendly draw with Colombia on Saturday after suffering what the Football Federation of Chile described as a "dislocation of left ankle peroneal tendons".

The forward, who is on loan at Inter from Manchester United, will undergo further tests in Milan, with Rueda suggesting he could be out of action for the foreseeable future if surgery is required.

"If the club operates, we could be without him for two to three months," he told a media conference. "It is a pity. He had been regaining form for his club and played in the Champions League.

"Now we have to wait for these crucial hours to know what decision the club will take."

Sanchez has scored one Serie A goal since leaving United for Inter, his sole strike coming in a win away to Sampdoria, during which he was sent off.

Where will Fabian Ruiz be playing by the end of January?

Napoli will be hoping Fabian remains at Stadio San Paolo.

However, LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona are determined to bring the former Real Betis midfielder back to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID SURPASS BARCA IN BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Madrid have moved ahead of Barca in the race for Napoli star Fabian and want to sign the midfielder in January, according to Marca.

Fabian has attracted plenty of interest since swapping Betis for Serie A side Napoli, where the Spaniard has starred since his €30milion arrival in 2018.

Barca have been keeping tabs on the 23-year-old, but rivals Madrid have reportedly jumped to the front of the queue.

 

ROUND-UP

- While Fabian is of interest, Tuttosport says Barca are eyeing Inter star Lautaro Martinez, who has a €111m release clause.

- There is plenty happening at Camp Nou. Mundo Deportivo reports Barca are willing to let Ivan Rakitic and Carles Alena leave in January. Barca are also reportedly not interested in signing a new centre-back as they trust Jean-Clair Todibo or Ronald Araujo, with Marca saying right-back is an area they are looking to strengthen.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Fiorentina are targeting in-demand Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali. The 19-year-old has been linked to Juventus and Manchester United.

- AS claims Madrid are considering a move for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen in January, before his contract expires at the end of the season.

Hakan Calhanoglu's time at AC Milan could be coming to an end, with Calciomercato reporting the struggling Serie A side may sell the 25-year-old. Calhanoglu has struggled for consistency since joining from Bayer Leverkusen in 2017.

Barca are lining up an approach for PSV sensation Donyell Malen, according to Sport. It comes as AS reports Ernesto Valverde's side are set to hand contract extensions to Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Nelson Semedo.

Juventus and Inter could well wage a title battle this season but Gianluigi Buffon holds no animosity towards former boss Antonio Conte for crossing the Derby d'Italia divide.

Conte took charge of Inter in May and guided the Nerazzurri to six straight victories in a blistering start to the new Serie A season.

The winning streak came to an end in a sobering 2-1 defeat to Juve, the team the former Italy boss captained and coached with distinction for a combined period of more than 15 years.

Ahead of the meeting, Conte hit out at the "ignorant" Juve fans who campaigned for his star on the club's Walk of Fame to be removed as a result of his switch to their bitter rivals.

"He was my team-mate and my captain at Juventus and then he was my manager for Juve and Italy," Buffon said at the Festival dello Sport.

"I know what type of person and professional he is, that's why I cannot blame him for any decision he takes in his career.

"He is an extremely passionate professional and he is always fair to the team and the players he works with.

"He is an extraordinary football teacher and puts all of himself into what he does. He cannot sleep at night if his team doesn't perform as well as he wants them to."

Juve's victory over Conte's side at San Siro saw the champions reclaim top spot going into the international break.

The match was billed as a test of Inter's title credentials and while Maurizio Sarri's men succeeded in restating their authority, veteran goalkeeper Buffon believes the manner of the win was worth more than three points.

"I don't think the victory over Inter had a huge importance [in terms of the title race] but I believe instead it was massively significant for the way we got the result," he said.

"In this case, we can say the way we played to win the game was more important than the victory itself."

Juve have attempted to cultivate a more fluid, positive approach since Sarri replaced Massimiliano Allegri, resulting in six wins and a draw from their opening seven Serie A matches.

Alexis Sanchez will leave international duty to have an assessment on a potentially serious ankle injury, the Football Federation of Chile (ANFP) has confirmed.

Sanchez was substituted late in Chile's goalless draw with Colombia in an international friendly on Saturday.

The forward, who is on loan at Inter from Manchester United, will travel back to Milan for tests on an injury that may require surgery.

Sanchez has suffered a "dislocation of left ankle peroneal tendons", according to the ANFP, and will miss Tuesday's game against Guinea.

"Tests with magnetic resonance imaging and dynamic echotomography will be carried out to make the best therapeutic decision," said an ANFP statement.

Sanchez has scored one Serie A goal since leaving United for Inter, his sole strike coming in a win away to Sampdoria, during which he was sent off.

The 30-year-old may be a doubt for an upcoming Champions League double-header against Borussia Dortmund.

Inter host the Bundesliga side on October 23 then travel to Dortmund for the reverse fixture in Group F two weeks later.

Either through injuries or dips in form, Luis Suarez has started to show signs of regression at Barcelona and they are planning for a future without him.

The Uruguayan striker has been a remarkable player for Barca, but at 32 he is approaching the twilight of his career and the Blaugrana have been considering who they might want to replace him with when the time comes.

Meanwhile, one player recently heavily linked with Barca could be signing a new contract with his current employers.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DRAW UP STRIKERS SHORTLIST

Barca have significantly strengthened several areas of their team in recent transfer windows, with Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Neto bolstering their options.

They are now beginning to turn their attentions to the central striker role, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The publication reports Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is the ideal target, though Barca are said to be hopeful of getting him on a cut-price deal in 2021 after he has entered the final year of his contract, assuming he does not sign an extension in the meantime.

England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane is also said to be high up their list, despite their being acknowledgement that his wages would be more of an issue than the transfer fee.

The other two reportedly being considered are Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Inter's Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca missed out on securing the return of Neymar in the most recent transfer window and, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, PSG are now planning to offer the Brazilian a new bumper contract.

- The LaLiga champions are also looking at midfield reinforcements with potential. Napoli's Fabian RuizEduardo Camavinga of Rennes and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz are all being considered, though Mundo Deportivo say Real Madrid are also tracking the trio with intent.

Christian Eriksen's future has been a hot topic for the last few months, with the Tottenham midfielder's contract ending next year. Sport1 in Germany claim Bayern Munich have already been in touch with him.

Liverpool are hoping to sign Brighton and Hove Albion-owned centre-back Ben White, 21, according to the Sun. The defender is impressing on loan at Leeds United and the Reds see him as a replacement for Dejan Lovren, who is said to be eager for a move to get first-team football.

- Despite languishing 12th in the Premier League after a wretched start to the season, the Daily Mail say Manchester United will not be splashing the cash in the January transfer window.

- But the Daily Express report United have reached a "verbal agreement" with Mario Mandzukic of Juventus, who are said to be demanding £10million for the Croatian forward.

Another day, another rumour about Christian Eriksen.

The soon-to-be free agent Eriksen wants a new challenge after flagging his intent during the previous transfer window.

A move to LaLiga appeals and a Spanish giant from the capital are reportedly ready to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID EYE ERIKSEN 

AS and Marca claim Real Madrid are ready to make a move for Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen in January.

Eriksen is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Spurs star has been linked to the likes of Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Inter.

However, Madrid are reportedly unwilling to wait until season's end as they look to strengthen their midfield.

ROUND-UP

Inter are eyeing Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, says FC Inter News. Matic has found himself out of favour under United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and a switch to Serie A could be on the cards for the Serbia international, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

- According to Calciomercato, Serie A champions Juventus are looking to sign Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri. The Italy international worked with Maurizio Sarri during the former Chelsea boss' time at Stamford Bridge.

Massimiliano Allegri has handed United a "deadline" for him to be given the job at Old Trafford, says La Gazzetta dello Sport. Solskjaer is under growing pressure, with the Red Devils enduring a difficult season and former Juventus boss Allegri has emerged as a possible replacement.

- Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil fears he has played his last game for the Gunners, according to the Mirror. Ozil has struggled to establish himself since Unai Emery's arrival and the former Germany international has been linked to MLS outfit DC United and Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

- Le10Sport claims former Chile, Sevilla and Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli is on the shortlist to fill the Lyon vacancy following Sylvinho's sacking. Sampaoli is in charge of Brazilian side Santos.

- Gianluca Di Marzio reports Claudio Ranieri is in the mix to take over at Sampdoria, who sacked Eusebio Di Francesco prior to the international break. Ranieri – who sensationally led Leicester City to Premier League glory in 2015-16 – last oversaw Roma on a temporary basis last term. Ex-AC Milan coach Gennaro Gattuso reportedly turned down the job.

- Manchester United are among the admirers of rising Mexico star Sebastian Cordova, reports Record. The 22-year-old America playmaker made his international debut for El Tri last week. The attacking third and midfield are areas of concern for United, who have also been linked to Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic and Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic.

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