Juventus in turmoil as sudden Andrea Agnelli departure marks end of an era | Juventus

News that the entire Juventus board had resigned on Monday appeared, in the Italian phrasing, like lightning from a calm sky. Even the official statement published on the club’s website just before 10pm local time buried the departures of the club president, Andrea Agnelli, and his team of directors 10 paragraphs deep in a summary of their meeting that evening.

No major news outlet had anticipated the decision. This has been a complicated season for Juventus from a sporting perspective, beginning with two wins from their first seven league games and continuing through a Champions League group-stage exit lowlighted by defeat against Maccabi Haifa. Yet a sense of optimism had returned before the World Cup break, a run of six straight wins and clean sheets lifting them to third in Serie A.

Improving results distracted the public’s attention from a different cloud on the horizon. Last year, a major investigation was opened into Juventus’s accounting practices and financial reporting. In October 2021, Covisoc – Italian football’s industry watchdog – raised concerns about what it perceived as unrealistic player valuations being used to achieve “plusvalenze (capital gains) on various clubs’ balance sheets.

A list of 62 transfers was passed to the domestic football federation (FIGC), 42 of which involved Juventus. Many were exchange deals, such as the one that took Miralem Pjanic to Barcelona in a swap for Arthur Melo, at list prices alleged to have been artificially inflated.

In April, Juventus, and 10 other clubs, were cleared of wrongdoing by the FIGC’s disciplinary commission, who cited the difficulty of assigning objective values to footballers. In the meantime, however, a parallel investigation had been opened by the public prosecutor’s office in Turin, focusing on Juventus’s published accounts for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021.

The Prisma investigation deployed wiretaps to intercept communications between decision-makers at the club. Last November, a warrant was obtained for financial police to search Juventus’s training facilities as well as offices in Turin and Milan, seizing relevant documents. Sixteen individuals were placed under scrutiny, including Agnelli, his vice-president (until Monday), Pavel Nedved, and the club’s former chief football officer, Fabio Paratici, now the managing director of football at Tottenham.

Pavel Nedved and Andrea Agnelli talk before a Juventus match against Sampdoria
Pavel Nedved (left) and Andrea Agnelli have resigned along with the rest of the Juventus board. Photograph: EPA

Prosecutors concluded their inquiries last month, filing accusations of false accounting, market manipulation and false financial statements. Beyond plusvalenze, Juventus were alleged to have made misleading claims about an agreement by players to waive part of their salaries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, the club released a statement reporting a pay cut equivalent to four months’ wages – saving €90m. Instead, players are said to have foregone one month’s salary.

The club denies wrongdoing but Monday’s resignations made plain how seriously these charges are being taken. “Given the centrality and the relevance of the pending legal and technical/accounting matters,” reads one passage, “[it was considered to be in the] best interest of the company that Juventus provided itself with a new board of directors to address these matters.”

Prisma has passed its findings to the FIGC’s disciplinary commission, who will consider whether to revisit its case against the club or to open a new one. The sporting code provides for fines and a potential points penalty if Juventus are found guilty of breaking the rules around player contracts. It is unclear what criminal proceedings could be pursued by the Turin prosecutors.

La Liga, the body which organises top-flight football in Spain, issued a statement of its own on Tuesday demanding “immediate sporting sanctions” against Juventus. It had already lodged an official complaint against the club with Uefa in April, citing the Prisma investigation.

Juventus announced on Monday that new financial statements will be released for last season, guided by “new legal and accounting opinions from … independent experts.” On Tuesday, the club named Gianluca Ferrero, a corporate adviser and auditor, to replace Agnelli as president. The existing chief executive, Maurizio Arrivabene, will stay on in the short term to oversee day-to-day running of the club while the board is replaced.

Agnelli’s departure marks the end of an era. Juventus achieved unprecedented results under his leadership, winning nine consecutive league titles and 10 further domestic trophies, as well as reaching the Champions League final twice.

A modernising push that was launched with the move into the Allianz Stadium in 2011 led to Juventus expanding their reach with documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as the launch of a new logo in 2017. The signing of Cristiano Ronaldo allowed the club to build its social media following.

But the Portuguese forward, and the failed launch of the Super League project, also symbolises a complicated legacy. Agnelli could hardly have predicted the global pandemic that was about to arrive when he signed Ronaldo in 2018, but the financial burden of his transfer fee and salary played its part in growing deficits. Juventus’s recorded losses for the past three seasons amount to more than €550m.

That figure may grow with the revising of the last year’s financial statements. John Elkann, the chief executive of Exor, the holding company that owns Juventus on behalf of the Agnelli family, stressed on Tuesday that the first task of the new board will be to restore stability while resolving the legal issues faced by the club, saying he had trust that “the club will demonstrate it always acted correctly.”

Entire Juventus board including president Andrea Agnelli resigns | Juventus

The entire board of Juventus, including president Andrea Agnelli, have announced their resignations.

It comes after Juventus’s financial statements underwent scrutiny by prosecutors and Italian market regulator Consob in recent months for alleged false accounting and market manipulation. The company has denied any wrongdoing.

Agnelli and vice-president Pavel Nedved, who is also stepping down, were among those under investigation. The Serie A club finished fourth in the league last season and made a €254.3m (£220m) loss – a record in Italy.

A statement from Juventus said the board have stepped “having considered the centrality and relevance of pending legal and accounting issues” in reference to the ongoing police investigation.

The outgoing board “considered to be in the best social interest to recommend that Juventus equip itself with a new board of directors to address these issues,” the statement added.

CEO Maurizio Arrivabene will remain in his role for an interim period while a new board is brought together.

Maradona revisited: on his drugs ban, Berlusconi and ‘the suffocating love of Naples’ | Diego Maradona

In March 1991, after a game Napoli had played against Bari, Diego Maradona failed a drug test. The Italian football authorities banned him for 15 months. He fled to Buenos Aires, where the Argentinian law authorities subjected him to continual harassment and surveillance, including a short spell in jail. Maradona called those 15 months “among the most terrible of my whole life”.

In July 1992, with the ban over, Maradona was determined to “detach [himself] from Napoli”. He joined Sevilla, managed by Carlos Bilardo, who was in charge of Argentina for the 1986 and 1990 World Cups.

Just after his arrival in Sevilla, he spoke with Bruno Bernardi, a legendary journalist for the Turin daily La Stampa whom Maradona admired deeply.

Carlos Bilardo gives instructions to Diego Maradona
Carlos Bilardo coached Maradona at Sevilla after he joined in 1992. Photograph: El Grafico/Getty Images

Bernardi: Would you have returned to Naples?

Maradona: When I was desperate – against Claudia’s [Claudia Villafañe, his wife], Franchi [Marcos Franchi, his manager] and the doctor’s advice – I wanted to play again, even in Naples. I made the last attempt with the 21 conditions that concerned the man more than the money. I didn’t even owe Ferlaino [Corrado Ferlaino, the owner of Napoli] a dollar because with the new contract I had already played three seasons. Rather, it was Napoli that owed me $7m, a figure that also includes the advance for 1992–93. A little goodwill would have been enough. When Careca, Crippa and De Napoli [teammates at Napoli] phoned me, they touched the depths of my heart. In Naples I have many friends, inside and outside of football. And it’s only Ferlaino’s fault if I’m at Sevilla.

Bernardi: Ferlaino wished for you a future as an executive.

Maradona: If I ever become one, I will not collaborate with Ferlaino. He and I are too different.

Bernardi: Naples has given you so much but what did it take away from you?

Maradona: Naples loved me in a suffocating way, without ever a moment of peace to let me breathe. I hoped, and they promised me, that after two or three years it would change, but instead the pressure increased. I don’t blame the Neapolitans. I seized on the promise Ferlaino made me that if we won the Uefa Cup he would release me a season early. He took it back. And that was when I freaked out.

Bernardi: Juventus would have done anything for you that season. Gianni Agnelli [Juventus’s owner] let it be understood, and [the Juventus executive] Giampiero Boniperti said you are the only great champion who hasn’t worn the black and white jersey. You were almost on the verge of coming to Turin: what would have changed in Maradona’s history if you had signed that contract?

Diego Maradona with Juventus player Antonio Cabrini
Maradona was close to completing his ‘great dream’ of joining Juventus during his career. Photograph: Juventus FC/Archive/Getty Images

Maradona: Juve was my great dream and I would have been the player who keeps talking and screaming on the pitch, dragging his teammates, the type of player missing since the days of Roberto Bettega and Marco Tardelli, when Juve won everything. In Turin I would have collected titles, I would still be in a city where you can walk quietly down Via Roma without being harassed, like when I was in Italy those first few months, yet in Naples I couldn’t leave the hotel. Roberto Baggio is a champion, perhaps the only one along with Claudio Caniggia, who can become my heir, but he must suffer as he is currently doing for a couple of more years to gain experience and maturity. Juve is an extraordinary club and you have to take your hat off to the Avvocato [Agnelli]. He is too strong, miles away from [Milan’s owner Silvio] Berlusconi.

Bernardi: Now it is Milan that dominates and allows itself the luxury of sending Ruud Gullit to the stands.

Maradona: Absurd. I have a lot of anger towards Berlusconi: he is an egoist who has six foreigners not so much for strengthening Milan, but to weaken the competition. He is killing football. I understand the power of what has hurt me so much but Gullit doesn’t deserve a similar treatment. And in addition to Ruud, the public is penalised by being deprived of seeing an ace like the Dutchman who brings them so much joy. If he is not needed, they should give him to Sevilla.

Bernardi: In Milan, Lentini’s market price [For a brief period, Gianluigi Lentini was the world’s most expensive player, moving from Torino to AC Milan for 18.5bn Italian lira] dwarfs the one paid by Napoli to sign you from Barcelona eight years ago. Is that right?

Maradona: It is a consequence of the demands that [Lentini’s club] Torino made. Lentini already seemed to belong to Juve and Berlusconi took him away with a contract that could not be turned down. I gather Lentini earns even more than I do. He is certainly a great forward but he’s not a phenomenon.

Bernardi: So is Milan unassailable?

Maradona: They can win the Scudetto again. Juve remain Milan’s nemesis, however, and they cannot afford to think of the future by acquiring young players; it must think about winning immediately and strengthening themselves with players full of personality. To be clear, the club needs a Carlo Ancelotti type who dominates the pitch and puts psychological pressure on his teammates and on his opponents. The other teams are not ready to compete with Milan. Not Inter, which lacks a Lothar Matthäus from their best days to hope to win the Uefa Cup. Not Napoli: Ferlaino no longer wants to make it a winning team. Neither Sampdoria that lost Gianluca Vialli. Not the Roma of my friend Caniggia. Not Toro that has a good squad, but doesn’t need the scudetto.

Bernardi: Do you miss our Serie A?

Maradona: Very much. But now I’m in Spain. I am thinking about Sevilla’s game tomorrow against Matthäus’s Bayern: you will see a great Maradona. I have also invited King Juan Carlos. And I’m thinking about my debut in La Liga on 7 October.

Diego Maradona - The Last Interview book cover
Diego Maradona – The Last Interview book cover

Bernardi: Are you not aiming for USA 94?

Maradona: It’s early, and I have so many doubts. First, I have to regain my place in the national team for the World Cup which would be my last and which could be distorted by differences in climate and time zones. At Italia 90 we went to the final because [Italy coach Azeglio] Vicini didn’t play Pietro Vierchowod: if he had played in defence, we would never have drawn [and reached the final on penalties]. And I pray to God that Sacchi’s Azzurri do not reach the heights of Milan, otherwise they will become the strongest and there will be nothing for anyone.

This is an edited extract from an interview which was first published in La Stampa in September 1992. It appears in Diego Maradona: The Last Interview & Other Conversations, available now from Melville House. Translation by Allegra Donn

Milan late show keeps them in distant contact with Napoli’s ‘Martians’ | Serie A

It was the 91st minute at San Siro when Milan scored the goal that might have rescued the Serie A title race. Technically the Fiorentina defender Nicola Milenkovic scored it for them – deflecting Aster Vranckx’s cross into his own net – but few were dwelling on the fine details as Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400, a German dance track older than some players on the pitch, blared out across the public address.

A crowd of 73,000 danced and sighed with relief. Milenkovic’s own goal secured a 2-1 win and kept Milan ‘only’ eight points behind Napoli at the top. The league leaders hold a double-digit advantage over every other side in the division heading into the World Cup break.

Napoli deserve every bit of their advantage, having played the best football in Italy this season by a distance. On Saturday they collected their 11th consecutive league win, beating Udinese 3-2 in a game less close than that scoreline implies. They were three goals up after an hour against opponents who had previously beaten Roma 4-0 and Inter 3-1.

It was yet another occasion to marvel at the outlandish talent of Victor Osimhen. He scored the first goal with a piece of classic centre-forward play, attacking the space behind his marker and glancing a header home from Eljif Elmas’s cross. The timing of his run and leap were everything. Osimhen appeared a foot taller than Jaka Bijol; in truth, he stands a couple of inches shorter.

Napoli’s second goal was a scintillating team move, Piotr Zielinski playing the ball out from the left corner of his own penalty box and finding Osimhen in the middle of the park. The forward turned and took two Udinese players with him as he drove toward the right wing before wrongfooting them with a no-look backheel to Hirving Lozano.

He, in turn, angled inwards before switching play back to Zielinski, who had run the length of the pitch. The Polish midfielder took one touch to wrongfoot the player tracking him and another to settle the ball before sweeping a shot into the bottom right corner of the net.

That was the 31st minute, and Elmas added a third goal for Napoli in the 58th, converting André-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s through-pass after beating Bijol one-on-one. Still, Napoli came forward, and only some sharp saves by the Udinese goalkeeper Marco Silvestri kept the margin at three.

Luciano Spalletti and Victor Osimhen, Napoli coach and striker.
Coach and star striker, Luciano Spalletti and Victor Osimhen, touch in as Napoli sign off with 41 points. Photograph: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images

Udinese’s counter-punch did not arrive until the 79th minute, though it was another goal to marvel at. Roberto Pereyra chipped the ball in from the left, Isaac Success weighted a pass just right with his chest and Ilija Nestorovski drilled a first-time half-volley into the bottom of the net.

Three minutes later, Udinese scored again. Kim Min-Jae blundered to get caught in possession by Lazar Samardzic, who punished the mistake fully with a ruthless finish. A quick-fire double might have induced panic in a less confident side. Napoli calmly steadied the ship and sailed home. Udinese managed one further shot in the game, and that from outside the box.

Quick Guide

Serie A results


Empoli 2-0 Cremonese, Napoli 3-2 Udinese, Sampdoria 0-2 Lecce, Bologna 3-0 Sassuolo, Atalanta 2-3 Inter, Monza 3-0 Salernitana, Roma 1-1 Torino, Hellas Verona 1-2 Spezia, Milan 2-1 Fiorentina, Juventus 3-0 Lazio

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Victory meant Napoli finished this season’s first chapter on 41 points. They have won 13 out of 15 matches – something that no other club besides Juventus had ever done in the history of Serie A. The Bianconeri have, admittedly, done it four times. Unsurprisingly, they finished top on each occasion. (One of those, it should be said, was the 2005-06 season for which they would later have their title stripped.)

Journalists continued to ask at full-time whether Napoli were ready to start talking about themselves as potential Scudetto winners for the first time since 1990. Frankly, at this point, it would be ludicrous to pretend otherwise. Nobody knows how a World Cup interruption will impact this season but at this moment Napoli are clear favourites for the plain and obvious reason that they have been much better than anyone else.

“It makes no difference to me if you talk about the Scudetto or not,” said Luciano Spalletti on Saturday. “I know that there are 69 points left to play for this season and that is an ocean. The only thing for us to do is to keep our gaze clear in the fog that other people want to create.”

What a way to lose the match! 😭

Fiorentina were left heartbroken after Nikola Milenković put the ball in the back of his own net 🥅

A crucial goal in the title race 🏆 pic.twitter.com/kgCm8TWFFk

— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 13, 2022

He thanked his squad for “playing like Martians” but the manager deserves just as much credit for keeping them on track even when key performers have been absent. Saturday’s game was the third in a row for Napoli without Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, the breakout star of this Serie A season, yet his replacement Elmas rivalled Osimhen for man of the match, overlapping fluidly with another squad player, Mathías Olivera, who was filling in for Mário Rui at left-back.

Contrary to interrupting his team’s rhythm, Spalletti said he was looking forward to the World Cup giving his players a chance to rest and get together for a midseason training camp. Only five are heading to Qatar. Osimhen’s Nigeria and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s Georgia both failed to qualify, while others, such as Mário Rui for Portugal, were simply overlooked.

Spalletti’s perspective is not shared by everyone. The Lazio manager, Maurizio Sarri, told reporters last week that he would likely not even watch a World Cup that he described as an “insult to football”, adulterating an entire season in his mind.

His team entered into the break on a less positive note, beaten 3-0 by Juventus. Lazio were the one other team who could have stayed within eight points of Napoli, but instead were leapfrogged by their opponents. Who would have dared to predict that Juventus would reach the World Cup in third place, after they opened the campaign with two wins in their first seven games?

Six consecutive clean sheets have allowed a rapid ascent, and performances are starting to catch up to results. The gradual return of Federico Chiesa, who set up the third goal off the bench against Lazio, offers further optimism for them of a stronger second part to the campaign.

They are not the only ones who have picked up momentum in recent weeks. Inter finished their year with an impressive 3-2 win away to Atalanta, giving them six wins from their last seven. The problem for all of them, as Juventus’s Massimiliano Allegri pointed out, is that Napoli are setting an impossible pace, on track to hit 52 points by the season’s midway stage.

It was left to the Milan director Paolo Maldini to strike a defiant note. “Of course we believe we can catch Napoli,” he said after his team’s last-gasp win over Fiorentina. “When we played the derby last year we were seven points behind Inter and then we managed to win. We know very well that it’s not easy to keep up this rhythm all the way to the end.”

The familiar sound of a two-decades-old dance track at San Siro on Sunday evening was a reminder of the enthusiasm that swept Milan to their first title in 11 years last season, and a warning that they have not given up on defending it just yet.

European roundup: Bayern ensure top spot, Napoli cling on for nervy victory | European club football

Bayern Munich eased past Schalke 2-0 to make sure of top spot going into the World Cup break as they hunt a record-extending 11th straight Bundesliga crown. The Bavarians, who fielded a starting lineup consisting entirely of World Cup-bound players, scored once in each half, through Serge Gnabry and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, with the Germany international Jamal Musiala delivering both assists.

Bayern’s sixth consecutive league win – and 10th across all competitions – lifted them to 34 points, six ahead of second-placed RB Leipzig. Freiburg and Union Berlin, both on 27, face each other on Sunday.

Bayern had the upper hand from the start but it was not until Musiala, who at 19 is the youngest Bayern player to reach 100 matches, combined well with Ganbry for the lead in the 38th minute.

“Jamal has played an outstanding first half of the season and will hopefully play even better at the World Cup and the second half of the season,” Julian Nagelsmann, the Bayern coach, said of his attacking midfielder. “He listens well and he wants to develop. He just has a lot of talent. He also has improved defensively.”

Musiala, who also has nine league goals, delivered his sixth assist of the season for Cameroon’s Choupo-Moting to tap in seven minutes after the restart and leave Schalke in last place following their eighth loss in the last nine matches.

RB Leipzig muscled their way past their hosts, Werder Bremen, 2-1 to finish the year with their fourth consecutive league victory. Leipzig, who had a bad start to the season with only one win in their first four league matches, have recovered in recent weeks with six consecutive wins across all competitions and a 13-game unbeaten run.

André Silva put the visitors in front in the 31st minute but a deflected shot from Christian Gross drew Werder level in the 56th. Leipzig, however, were sharper up front and Silva superbly flicked the ball to Xaver Schlager, charging into the box, to snatch the winner in the 71st minute.

Xaver Schlager watches his shot go into the net against Werder Bremen
Xaver Schlager (left) scores the winner at Werder Bremen. Photograph: Fabian Bimmer/Reuters

The Bundesliga goes into a prolonged break after this weekend’s matches, resuming on 20 January.

Napoli’s nervy 3-2 win over Udinese highlights how the Serie A leaders cannot take their position for granted, their coach, Luciano Spalletti, said. Spalletti’s side almost squandered the chance of setting a club record of 11 consecutive Serie A victories within a season when Udinese substitutes Ilija Nestorovski and Lazar Samardzic both scored late in the game.

“Every victory is a struggle, and the final 15 minutes of this game help to underline just how much these players have achieved so far is not to be taken for granted,” Spalletti told DAZN. “We thought the game was over and took our foot off the gas, but the game is never over because when you can introduce players off the bench like Nestorovski, they can find a way through if you don’t keep the tempo up.“

Napoli go into the World Cup break top of the Serie A standings, with their next game to come in early January, but Spalletti was still cautious about talk of winning the league. “There are six challengers and they are all close by, because it just takes a couple of incidents, a couple of minutes to create problems,” he said.

“This afternoon’s match will help us because it hasn’t happened so far, but we need to be even more determined and committed to the end in every match.”

Roma’s early momentum dissipates to leave Mourinho pointing the finger | Serie A

The players were in the tunnel ready to emerge for the second half at the Mapei Stadium, but José Mourinho was headed in the opposite direction, returning from the dugout to the changing room. Roma were drawing 0-0 with Sassuolo but just for a moment that was not his priority, as he went to retrieve a team shirt to give to a young supporter in a wheelchair he had noticed beside the pitch.

This gesture could not surprise anyone who has followed Mourinho in his career. This is the man who gave a Manchester United supporter the jacket off his own back, and who had Inter staff send him the first person in the queue for Champions League final tickets so he could give them two free of charge. Such generosity with individuals has always been part of his nature. And so has a habit for singling out scapegoats when things go wrong.

By full-time, we had progressed to the latter. The game ended 1-1, Tammy Abraham putting Roma ahead in the 80th minute before Andrea Pinamonti equalised in the 84th. Despite briefly leading, Mourinho’s team deserved no more than a draw, showing commitment in the tackle but little inspiration on the ball. The better chances fell to their hosts.

More compelling than the game itself was the post-game press conference that followed. “Our efforts were betrayed by a player with an unprofessional attitude,” said Mourinho. “Mistakes are part of the game; footballers know they can mess up. But I don’t like unprofessional attitudes. I had 16 players on the pitch: I liked the attitude of 15. The other one, not so much.”

He declined to name names but said he had done so in the changing room, inviting the target of his ire to find a new club. “You have never seen me be critical of Rui Patricio who made a mistake here last year or [Lorenzo] Pellegrini who missed a penalty against Juve. You have never seen me be critical of any player. I make mistakes too and as a family we need to support each other.

“But attitude is a different story. When you’re a professional in something, not only in football, you need to respect who you represent, the people who work with you, giving your all like everyone else. That’s the only reason I’m unhappy, because I feel this sensation, and because I know the process behind that attitude.”

Corriere dello Sport reported that he had been talking about Rick Karsdorp. Other outlets soon followed suit, although there remains no confirmation that the Dutchman had been the subject of his wrath. Karsdorp, who replaced Zeki Çelik at right wing-back in the 65th minute, was at fault for the equaliser, tracking back lazily as Sassuolo broke down his flank. Giorgos Kyriakopoulos floated a pass down the line to Armand Laurienté, who cut it back for Pinamonti to flick home.

Heartbreak for Roma 💔

Just moments after Tammy Abraham scored what looked to be the winning goal, Sassuolo’s Andrea Pinamonti pokes home an equalizer 🤯 pic.twitter.com/mU7HmznDYj

— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 9, 2022

Mourinho had defended Karsdorp at the weekend, after the player responded to his substitution in the Rome derby by walking straight down the tunnel without acknowledging his manager or teammates. “He returned [a few minutes later] with some ice,” pointed out the Portuguese. “I don’t know if it was for his knee, his hamstring or his fever. He’s had a lot of problems this year.”

With hindsight those words might be framed in a different light. Was Mourinho trying to tell us even then that this is a player who always has an excuse not to train at 100%? Or was it all just another act of misdirection by a master of the art, whose team had dropped five points in four days? Gazzetta dello Sport defined Mourinho as “an exceptional snake charmer, quickly finding the way to shift everybody’s attention”.

Sassuolo celebrate after Andrea Pinamonti’s equaliser.
Sassuolo celebrate after Andrea Pinamonti’s equaliser. Photograph: Serena Campanini/EPA

The momentum that seemed to accompany his club in the summer, as they followed up their Europa Conference League celebrations by presenting Paulo Dybala to a crowd of thousands on the steps of the Colosseo Quadrato, has dissipated. Roma are not exactly having a bad season – they are a point better off than at the corresponding point last term – but nor have they shown any real signs of progress.

Mourinho had pointed to Dybala’s absence after defeat in the derby, naming him as the only forward on Roma’s books with the creativity to open up a low block. The next player he might turn to for inspiration, Pellegrini, was forced off with an injury of his own in the second half.

To lose such players would be a blow to any team. Dybala is the team’s top scorer, and Roma have also had to do without their other big-name summer signing, Georginio Wijnaldum, who fractured a tibia 10 minutes into his Serie A debut against Salernitana back in August.

Then again, were Lazio not also missing their two most influential players, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile? And ought the risk of injury not have been baked into any consideration of Dybala’s role? He missed 39 games for Juventus over the past two seasons, many of them due to muscle strains similar to the hamstring issue which has sidelined him since 9 October.

His absence cannot explain the poor form of others. Abraham scored 17 times last season, but has only three so far in this campaign. Mourinho dropped him to the bench against Sassuolo, and his well-taken goal, stealing in front of his marker to head home Gianluca Mancini’s cross, reflected a hungry performance.

A November World Cup has disrupted this season in too many ways to count, but the question of whether Abraham’s anxiousness to claim a spot in England’s squad for the tournament had impacted his play hung in the air. “Probably there was too much pressure,” he said post-match. “I really wanted to score a goal, that started a vicious cycle.”

Quick Guide

Serie A results


Fiorentina 2-1 Salernitana, Inter 6-1 Bologna, Torino 2-0 Sampdoria, Lecce 2-1 Atalanta, Sassuolo 1-1 Roma, Cremonese 0-0  Milan, Napoli 2-0 Empoli, Spezia 1-1 Udinese.

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Abraham had begun by apologising to fans, teammates and coaches for not being “the best I can be”, yet if one thing is clear with this Roma team it is that the supporters are sticking behind them. Derby defeats have produced mutinous reactions many times, but on Wednesday the away section was packed out, with a banner at its centre inviting critics to silence in crude terms, and backing “Mourinho to the bitter end”.

We are a long way from that yet. The chasing pack behind Napoli at the top of Serie A are so closely clustered that Roma could yet finish the year anywhere from third to eighth. It will be fascinating to see how they approach the January transfer window as they weigh their pursuit of a top four finish. Mourinho will agitate for reinforcements, as well as for Wednesday’s scapegoat to be sent on his way.

European roundup: Napoli sink Atalanta to stretch lead at top of Serie A | European club football

Napoli extended their Serie A winning streak to nine games when first-half goals from Victor Osimhen and Eljif Elmas secured a 2-1 comeback victory at second-placed Atalanta, stretching the victors’ lead to eight points, at least until Milan’s late game against Spezia.

Luciano Spalletti’s men played without their exciting young winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who was out due to acute lower back pain that he felt in training on Friday.

The home side’s Ademola Lookman opened the scoring after 19 minutes with a penalty after handball by Osimhen. Napoli’s 23-year-old Nigerian international made amends four minutes later when he headed home Piotr Zielinski’s cross.

In the 35th, Elmas put the visitors in front after taking a pass from Osimhen inside the box, with his effort flying into the net via a slight deflection off Atalanta’s Hans Hateboers.

The hosts started the second half aggressively, chasing an equaliser. Joakim Maehle’s shot after 55 minutes was saved superbly by Meret and Lookman hit the rebound against the bar. That was as close as Atalanta came.

Bayern Munich’s Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored twice in two minutes to lead the champions to a nervy 3-2 victory at Hertha Berlin as they went top in the Bundesliga, with the previous leaders, Union Berlin, playing at Bayer Leverkusen on Sunday. The 33-year-old Cameroon forward is in scintillating form less than three weeks before the World Cup, having netted for the seventh consecutive game in all competitions and the fourth straight in the league.

Jamal Musiala gave the visitors an early lead, rifling in after 12 minutes. In a frenzied end to the first half Choupo-Moting slotted in their second goal in the 38th before pouncing on a bad clearance to knock in another a minute later to make it 3-0.

Borussia Dortmund fans hold banners in protest to the World Cup in Qatar.
Borussia Dortmund fans hold banners in protest to the World Cup in Qatar. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

But Hertha, whose fans unfurled a banner reading “Boycott Qatar 2022” over the Gulf state’s human rights record, still had time to score twice before the break. Dodi Lukebakio volleyed in at the far post in the 40th and Davie Selke converted a 45th-minute penalty to cut the deficit. The pace dropped off after the break with Bayern doing enough to protect their slim lead.

The World Cup hopeful Youssoufa Moukoko scored twice as Borussia Dortmund cruised past local rivals VfL Bochum 3-0 to take over third spot. The 17-year-old Moukoko could not have delivered a better pitch ahead of Germany coach Hansi Flick’s squad announcement next week, confirming his outstanding form when he rifled in from 18 metres to give Dortmund the lead in the eighth minute.

Moukoko, who became the youngest player to reach 10 career goals in the Bundesliga, added another on the stroke of halftime, after Gio Reyna had made it 2-0. He audaciously lobbed the ball over out-of-position keeper Manuel Riemann for his sixth league goal of the season.

There was more good news for Dortmund early in the second half when captain Marco Reus made his comeback from injury, just in time for the World Cup squad announcement.

Borussia Dortmund fans had a banner showing German television’s test card and the message: “Switch off Qatar”.

This story will be updated

Diogo Dalot’s revival sums up Erik ten Hag’s work at Manchester United | Manchester United

Manchester United are far from the finished article but, after a rocky start to the season in which they lost to Brighton and Brentford, conceding six goals in the process, the signs are positive for Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman must have been worried about his team after the first two weeks of the campaign, but they have recovered well and sit just a point below the Champions League places with a game in hand on fourth-placed Newcastle.

After a barren run – they have not won a trophy since José Mourinho guided them to success in the Europa League more than five years ago – Ten Hag seems to be getting United back on track. Fans now go to Old Trafford confident that the team will pick up all the spoils, as they have done in four of their last five games, with Newcastle the only side to leave Manchester with a result in that run.

The new additions deserve praise. There were plenty of doubts about Lisandro Martínez given his height, but he has adjusted well to the Premier League and is showing why he is nicknamed “the butcher”. Casemiro and Christian Eriksen have improved the midfield in different ways, while Antony has proven an enjoyable and prolific right winger for United, scoring three goals in just six league appearances.

Ten Hag has also made his mark on the old guard at Old Trafford. United had become stagnant before the manager arrived in the summer. Cristiano Ronaldo has been demoted, the Portuguese forward starting just three league games under Ten Hag, but there are others who had become far too comfortable in their surroundings.

United were not threatening enough from wide positions last season and needed more attacking impetus from their full-backs. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is defensively solid, but he does not contribute enough offensively; in 127 games for United he has only scored twice and provided 10 assists. He made 26 appearances for the club last season and picked up more red cards (one) than he contributed goals or assists (none). The 24-year-old has not developed the offensive side of his game and has been duly restricted to just four minutes of action this season.

Wan-Bissaka has had to watch on as Diogo Dalot has taken his place and excelled under Ten Hag. Right-back was a problem position for United, who were linked with moves for the Dutch defenders, Denzel Dumfries of Inter and Jurrien Timber of Ajax, but Dalot is making the spot his own. Competition was hardly rife given Wan-Bissaka’s offensive shortcomings, but Dalot has thrived down the right flank. Only Bruno Fernandes (29) has created more goalscoring chances than Dalot (20) for United in the league this season. United tend to attack more down their left side – 41% of their attacks go down their left flank compared to just 32%, the joint-lowest in the Premier League, down their right flank – but Dalot makes the most of his opportunities to get forward.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Dalot at United and one that nearly had a premature end last year. José Mourinho signed him from Porto in 2018 for £19m. “The chance of coming to the biggest club in the world is something I just couldn’t turn down,” said the 19-year-old full-back. He struggled with injuries and his appearances were limited under Ole Gunnar Solskjær, who preferred the solidity that Wan Bissaka gave the defence.

Dalot spent the 2020-21 season on loan at Milan and, while not a first-team regular for the Rossoneri – just 10 of his 21 appearances in Serie A came from the outset – the club saw enough to try to sign him permanently. Dalot says he enjoyed his time in Italy but, when the loan spell finished, he turned down the chance to extend his stay and instead returned to England and vowed to fight for his place. “In the end I decided to stay at United and it was the right decision,” he said in September.

Dalot enjoyed more opportunities towards the end of last season under Ralf Rangnick and he showed positive signs that he could be the attacking outlet United need at right-back. He has also improved the defensive side of his game, which he credits to his time in Italy. “If I’m a better defender, I owe it to Milan,” he says. “Italian football is different from the Premier League. I had to adapt in just one year and playing in Serie A has helped me a lot.” He is being dribbled past just 0.7 times per 90 minutes this season.

Dalot looks like a player who is full of confidence. He is contributing in the final third, with more touches than any other United player this season, and is doing his bit in what has become one of the tightest defences in the league. United are unbeaten in their last eight games and have only conceded four goals in that run. They look like a very different team to the one that conceded four goals in 25 minutes against Brentford in August.

It’s still early days in Ten Hag’s rebuild, but there is a semblance of an identity returning to United, which has been missing in recent years. Rather than dread the weekend’s fixtures, fans are excited about what to expect from their side. A work in progress, yes, but Dalot encapsulates perfectly what Ten Hag is looking for in his squad – an exciting youngster who is keen to develop and offers more than the player he replaced.

Sarri full of rage and remorse after Milinkovic-Savic ‘mess’ costs Lazio | Serie A

Maurizio Sarri had wrestled all week with the question of whether to start Sergej Milinkovic-Savic against Salernitana. His Lazio team were soaring, up to third in Serie A and boasting the best defensive record in the division. A 2-0 win over the previously undefeated Atalanta, richly deserved despite the absence of top scorer Ciro Immobile, had put the manager back in the spotlight, the national media celebrating a rebirth of “Sarrismo” – Sarri-ism, often translated as Sarri-ball.

The manager was unaffected. In one interview he defended his enduring preference for wearing tracksuits, describing it as “the most natural thing in the world” to dress appropriately for your workplace and ridiculing under-19 coaches who wore jackets and trousers. In another he was asked to define Sarrismo. “I wouldn’t know what to call it,” he said. “Maybe my wife is the one who knows best how to define me: a grumpy man and a bit of a dickhead.”

Perhaps so, but Sarri was showing himself once again to be an extremely effective manager. A Lazio side which conceded 58 goals last season and lost starting centre-back Francesco Acerbi to Internazionale late in the summer transfer window now boasted the tightest defence in Serie A. The aggregate score for their last six league games was 16-0.

Sunday’s match against Salernitana, however, presented a conundrum. Milinkovic-Savic had been booked in the final moments of the win over Atalanta, meaning he was now just one yellow card from a suspension. The next game after this one was the derby against Roma.

Sarri: “Sometimes I go to watch U19 games on shocking pitches and I burst out laughing when I see coaches in club suits. We work on the pitch, so I wear a tracksuit. When I worked in finance I’d turn up suited and booted. Wearing a tracksuit seems perfectly normal to me” pic.twitter.com/QAhSi7rBic

— Patrick Kendrick (@patrickendrick) October 30, 2022

To play without Milinkovic-Savic would be a big risk. Immobile was still out with a hamstring injury. Could Lazio afford to face a competitive Salernitana side without two of their most important players? Sarri decided they must. He weighed not only the booking but also fatigue. Milinkovic-Savic, who had started every domestic game so far, played a full 90 minutes against FC Midtjylland in the Europa League on Thursday night.

By half-time it looked as though the gamble was paying off. Sarri swapped his usual 4-3-3 for a 4-4-2 with Pedro and Mattia Zaccagni playing as a tandem of false nines. After a cautious opening, Lazio gradually started to take control of the game, with the first of those two players hitting the post shortly before the second put them in front in the 41st minute.

The Biancocelesti ought to have doubled their lead after the interval when Felipe Anderson headed the ball down for Matías Vecino, who failed to beat the keeper from point-blank range. Instead, they were pegged back in the 50th minute by a beautifully taken goal from their former player, Antonio Candreva.

It was a move straight off the training ground. Salernitana’s manager, Davide Nicola, had moved Candreva in from his usual spot at wing-back in a 3-5-2 to play on the right-hand side of the midfield three instead. From there he found the space between Lazio’s defenders, receiving a floated pass from his outside replacement, Pasquale Mazzocchi, taming it with one touch and chipping the keeper with the next. “We did what we prepared during the week,” said Nicola afterwards. “The goal that Candreva scored on Mazzocchi’s ball forward was a solution we tried on Friday in practice.”

This was the first league goal Lazio had conceded in more than 600 minutes, and they did not respond well. Sarri summoned Milinkovic-Savic from the bench to fix things. Yet the Serbian was powerless to stop a former Roma player, Federico Fazio, from scoring at the back post a few minutes later after Lazio failed to clear a cross.

Worse was yet to come. In the 72nd minute, Milinkovic-Savic was attacking the Salernitana box with the ball when Dylan Bronn stepped out to challenge him. The Lazio player offloaded possession at the last second before they collided. Milinkovic-Savic’s boot landed on top of Bronn’s. On slow-motion replays it looked painful, but in real-time it was hard to see what else the Lazio player was supposed to do. He had full possession before Bronn lunged in. The Salernitana player was a fraction late and never touched the ball but happened to place his boot right where his opponent’s studs were headed.

Milinkovic-Savic shrugs in frustration
Milinkovic-Savic struggles to comprehend his booking. Photograph: Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

The referee, Gianluca Manganiello, had no hesitation in showing Milinkovic-Savic a yellow card. Lazio’s players, aware of the consequences for next week’s derby, immediately went to pieces. Amid furious protests they allowed Salernitana to score again, Domagoj Bradaric picking out Boulaye Dia for a close-range finish despite their being three Lazio defenders and nobody else to threaten them inside the box.

By full-time of a 3-1 defeat, Sarri was a blend of rage and remorse. He claimed not to have seen a decision like the one against Milinkovic-Savic in half a century of involvement in football and hinted at dark conspiracies, pointing out that the same referee had booked Zaccagni, leading to a suspension, right before Lazio played Roma this March. Sarri asserted that: “If I say what I think about the referee they will ban me for six months.”

Yet he also suggested it had been a mistake not simply to field Milinkovic-Savic from the start. Points won against Salernitana would have counted just as much for the standings as any taken off Roma. “When you want to try to manage these situations [with suspensions] you always end up with a mess,” he said. “I’ve rarely made choices of this sort, but the derby gets into your head a bit. Thinking back, I would act differently.”

Absolutely sublime 💫

Salernitana have been unlocked by a beautiful through ball by Luis Alberto that has the Stadio Olympico on their feet 👏

Wonderful pass! pic.twitter.com/1u2Uk7QhR5

— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 30, 2022

The other side of this setback for Lazio, however, was a famous win for Salernitana. Last December they stood on the verge of being tossed out of the league because their then owner, Claudio Lotito, also happens to own Lazio. He had gained one exemption after another to maintain control of both clubs but eventually ran out of rope.

His relationship with Salernitana is complicated. He rescued them from bankruptcy in 2011 and brought them all the way up from Serie D to the top flight in the decade that followed. Yet Lotito was accused of dumping unsuccessful Lazio players into the club and disrespecting its history.

Quick Guide

Serie A results


Torino 2-1 Milan, Lazio 1-3 Salernitana, Spezia 1-2 Fiorentina, Cremonese 0-0 Udinese, Empoli 0-2 Atalanta, Internazionale 3-0 Sampdoria, Lecce 0-1 Juventus, Napoli 4-0 Sassuolo

Monday: Verona v Roma, Monza v Bologna

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One particular phrase has never been forgotten, Lotito responding to critics by asserting that the Salernitana would be “playing in Serie Z if it wasn’t for me, without so much as a rocking horse”. It was a riff on the seahorse which adorns the club’s badge. Little wonder that local newspaper La Città should run with a front-page headline on Monday celebrating “revenge” over their former owner.

Nicola will be less interested in any such discussions than the steady improvement of the side he rescued from relegation last season. This was a third win in four matches for Salernitana, lifting them into the top half of the table.

The sight of Franck Ribéry, recently retired from playing and now a part of his coaching staff, enthusiastically dispensing instructions from the sidelines as Lazio fell apart felt like another sign of this club’s growing ambition. Sarrismo, despite Sunday’s setback, remains a force to be reckoned with in Italian football. But could the unlikely alliance of a Champions League winner and Serie A’s great escape artist produce further surprises down on the Amalfi coast?

European roundup: Osimhen hits hat-trick for flying Napoli, Bayern score six | European club football

Victor Osimhen struck a hat-trick as Napoli extended their unbeaten Serie A run to 16 matches with a 4-0 thrashing of Sassuolo.

Osimhen put Napoli ahead in the fourth minute after latching on to a pass from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and flicking it into the net. The 23-year-old Nigerian made it 2-0 in the 19th minute when he connected to another Kvaratskhelia pass and fired the ball behind the Sassuolo keeper, Andrea Consigli. Kvaratskhelia continued the rout in the 36th minute before Osimhen completed his hat-trick in the 77th minute by intercepting a poor Sassuolo pass and lobbing the ball over Consigli.

Napoli have a six-point lead in Serie A with 32 points from 12 games, six points ahead of second-placed Milan, who face Torino on Sunday. Sassuolo are ninth with 15 points.

A late goal by the half-time substitute Nicolò Fagioli earned Juventus a 1-0 victory at Lecce as Massimiliano Allegri’s side took their third consecutive win in Serie A. Juve moved up two places to sixth on 22 points, one ahead of both Udinese, who travel to bottom side Cremonese on Sunday, and Internazionale before they host Sampdoria later on Saturday.

Juventus’s Nicolò Fagioli celebrates his goal against Leece with his teammate Matías Soulé.
Juventus’s Nicolò Fagioli celebrates his goal against Leece with his teammate Matías Soulé. Photograph: Alberto Lingria/Reuters

After a dull first half with no threat to either goal, the Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot came close to nodding in a corner from Filip Kostic just before half-time but the Lecce goalkeeper, Wladimiro Falcone, dived full-stretch to deny him.

Three minutes into the second half Falcone kept out a header by the defender Federico Gatti from Juan Cuadrado’s free kick. Allegri’s side could have taken the lead in the 53rd minute but a back-heel from close range by the striker Arkadiusz Milik was saved by Falcone. The Poland forward had another chance in the 64th minute when he struck from the edge of the box but was again denied by the in-form Falcone.

The 21-year-old Fagioli secured the win with his first Serie A goal after 73 minutes when his curled shot from the edge of the box bounced in off a post after an assist by his fellow substitute Samuel Iling-Junior, who had just come on.

Lecce came close to levelling just before the final whistle but the midfielder Morten Hjulmand struck a post.

Bayern Munich demolished visitors Mainz 6-2, with Sadio Mané scoring once and setting up two more goals, to take over the lead in the Bundesliga. The Senegal international, who scored in Bayern’s 3-0 midweek win at Barcelona in the Champions League, also missed a penalty.

Sadio Mané fires home Bayern Munich’s third goal against Mainz.
Sadio Mané fires home Bayern Munich’s third goal against Mainz. Photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala and Leon Goretzka were also on target for Bayern along with the substitute Mathys Tel and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Mainz briefly cut the deficit twice, with goals from Silvan Widmer and Marcus Ingvartsen, after also missing a penalty.

The champions are now two points clear at the top of the table with 25 points. Union Berlin, in second place on 23, are in action against Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday. Mainz drop to eighth on 18.

The England international Jude Bellingham rifled in his third league goal of the season to give Borussia Dortmund a 2-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt that lifted them into third.

Bellingham fired Dortmund back in front in the 52nd minute with a low shot but his side had the goalkeeper Gregor Kobel to thank for protecting their lead with a string of superb saves in the second half.

Dortmund took a 21st-minute lead through Julian Brandt but Frankfurt levelled five minutes later when Daichi Kamada rifled in from 18 metres for his seventh goal of the campaign. After Bellingham’s goal Frankfurt pushed forward and forced Kobel to pull off save after save, twice denying Randal Kolo Muani and Jesper Lindstrom and coming to the rescue several more times.

Lionel Messi grabbed a goal and an assist to inspire Paris Saint-Germain to a 4-3 comeback victory over Troyes as they restored their lead at the top of Ligue 1 to five points. Mama Baldé gave Troyes the lead twice before Messi assumed control to score his seventh league of the season and take his tally of assists to 10 – a league high.

Troyes needed just three minutes to stun the crowd at the Parc des Princes as Abdu Conté raced down the touchline to send a cross into the box where Rony Lopes set up a chance for Baldé to volley in.

In the 24th minute Neymar scooped a ball into the box for Carlos Soler, who rounded the keeper to score, but Baldé restored Troyes’ lead seven minutes into the second half after firing low past the goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Messi then stole the show, first by equalising from long range with a sizzling strike before turning provider minutes later with an incisive ball for Neymar to score as PSG went ahead for the first time. Gallon then brought Soler down in the box and Kylian Mbappé converted the penalty.

Troyes pulled one back through an Ante Palaversa header but PSG held on. The visitors remain in 11th place with 13 points.

This story will be updated