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The Archive

December 2007

AC Milan's fresh Shevchenko offer
29.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Unsettled Chelsea hitman Andriy Shevchenko is set to discuss a January return to Milan, according to the English Press.

The Ukrainian international was a hero at San Siro between 1999 and 2006 when he found the net 127 times in 208 outings.

Despite President Silvio Berlusconi’s best efforts to keep him, Sheva decided to join Chelsea for £31m but hasn’t looked the same player in the Premier League.

According to The Sun, agent Ernesto Bronzetti will arrive in England within the next week to discuss the possibility of the 31-year-old making a £14m move to Milan.

Relations between Shevchenko and the Diavolo have remained warm and Berlusconi is godfather to Andriy’s eldest son Jordan.

Rumours that Chelsea boss Avram Grant has asked owner Roman Abramovich to sign Bolton’s goal machine Nicolas Anelka are said to have exacerbated Sheva’s unease in London.

It remains to be seen whether a financial settlement can be agreed, but the struggling striker would surely relish the chance to return to the scene of the most prolific period of his career.

It is also unclear whether Shevchenko or Ronaldinho will take priority in the world champions' winter transfer campaign.

AC Milan and Ronaldinho to tie knot?
29.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Respected agent Ernesto Bronzetti insists that Milan are closing in on a deal for Ronaldinho. “They are like an engaged couple.”

Diavolo President Silvio Berlusconi has long been an admirer of the Brazilian ace and has been waiting for a chance to bring the former PSG man to San Siro for months.

In recent times, Ronaldinho’s relationship with Barça has soured and it is now believed that he could leave the Nou Camp, with Chelsea ready to battle Milan for his signature.

“Berlusconi has clearly said that he wants Ronaldinho and the Rossoneri are in pole position if he becomes available,” Bronzetti told Sky Sport Italia.

“They are like a couple waiting to get married, but it isn’t certain that the wedding will go ahead.

“It’s clear that ‘Dinho would choose Milan, rather than England, given the affection that Berlusconi has for him and it could happen in January.”

As one Selecao star is linked with a move to Italy’s fashion capital, another could be headed for the exit door.

Struggling striker Ronaldo has been blighted by injury in recent times and there are growing whispers that he could return to his homeland with Flamengo, but Bronzetti concluded by denying such talk.

“Adriano Galliani has told the truth,” he claimed. “There have been no negotiations or meetings between Milan and Flamengo.”

Gattuso returns to Rangers
29.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Gennaro Gattuso has found an unusual way to spend his winter holidays. While teammates have flown to Florida for a warm Christmas, he has returned to Scotland to train with Rangers.

The Milan midfielder, who played for the Ibrox outfit in 1997-98, is in Glasgow to visit the family of his wife Monica and has been allowed to train with the Scottish team, and will do so until his return to Italy next week.

The 29-year-old defensive midfielder has previously stated that he would like to play once again with Rangers before the end of his career.

The Rossoneri fly to Dubai on January 2, where they will resume training and play a friendly match.

Meanwhile, Milan agent Leonardo is trying to sort out some problems with the contract of Alexandre Pato.

The Brazilian youth should make his debut with the Rossoneri on January 13 against Napoli, but his contract hasn’t yet been given to the Lega Calcio.

The Milanisti could hand in the contract on the January 4, but the Brazilian Federation may make them wait. If so, Pato would have to wait one more week before kicking his first ball at San Siro.

Father: Ronaldo wants Flamengo
27.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Ronaldo’s father has fanned the flames by claiming that his son is eager to sign for Brazilian side Flamengo.

The Brazilian has struggled to overcome his injury problems with Milan this season and has made just one appearance so far.

Currently sidelined with a thigh strain, the Selecao star is spending the holidays in Brazil before joining up with his teammates for their January training camp.

However, Flamengo President Kleber Leite caused controversy earlier this week by telling the Brazilian Press that they had been given permission to discuss personal terms with Ronnie.

Those claims were later denied by Milan with an official statement on their website, but Ronaldo’s father, Nelio, says that he is keen to return to Brazil.

“He’s always talking of his desire to move to Flamengo, who he supports, and sooner or later he will do so,” he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Rossoneri have insisted that they will not allow their No 99 to leave in January, but he could well depart Serie A when his contract expires in the summer.

AC Milan deny Ronaldo deal
27.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan have released a statement denying the rumours that Ronaldo will return to Brazil with Flamengo.

It had been claimed that the striker’s frustrating second spell in Serie A was all set to end in January with the Rossoneri reportedly agreeing a deal with Flamengo.

However, a brief statement on the club’s official website has dismissed the rumours. “Milan denies having started negotiations with Flamengo for Ronaldo’s transfer.”

The Brazilian Press had quoted Flamengo Vice-President Kleber Leite earlier in the week as claiming that the Diavolo had given him permission to discuss personal terms with the 31-year-old.

Ronnie had even reportedly passed a medical with flying colours, despite managing just one appearance for Milan this season due to injury.

The ex-Real Madrid and Inter star has struggled to shake off a thigh injury and has been sent home to Brazil for Christmas before rejoining the squad for their January training camp.

Although the Rossoneri seem unlikely to sell Ronaldo in the winter transfer window, the former Selecao striker’s current contract expires in June.

Benzema wants AC Milan move
27.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

French starlet Karim Benzema would be the perfect January signing for Milan according to the Lyon forward’s agent.

The 20-year-old has quickly become one of Europe’s hottest properties this season after rising to fame in Ligue 1 and some impressive performances in the Champions League.

With the Rossoneri’s current crop of strikers struggling to make an impact in front of goal, several players have been linked with a winter switch to the San Siro, but Claudio Pasqualin feels Benzema would be the ideal signing.

“It’s hard to find the right reinforcement for a team that doesn’t need it. However, the Frenchman would increase the potential of any team,” explained the agent.

Milan do have Brazilian youngster Alexandre Pato available from January and Vice-President Adriano Galliani has insisted that there will be no new arrivals in the transfer window.

However, with Ronaldo’s injury problems continuing, it is thought that the Diavolo could swoop to beat the likes of Juventus, Arsenal and Real Madrid to Benzema’s signature.

Lucio on AC Milan list
24.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan are reportedly pondering a bid for Lucio after the stopper admitted that he could leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

The big Brazilian suggested on Thursday that he had dreams of playing in Spain or Italy and a number of Serie A outfits have taken notice.

Although Juventus and Roma are set to revive the interest shown in him prior to his 2004 Bayern move, it’s understood that Milan are in a great position to net the defender.

Milan will need a new centre-back for 2008-09 seeing as Paolo Maldini will bring his illustrious career to an end in the summer.

The 29-year-old has the characteristics and experience which could serve the Rossoneri well next term.

Lucio would be welcomed with open arms by a number of his prospective new teammates at Milanello given the heavy Brazilian influence already at the club.

Bayern are understandably keen to keep a tight grip on the former Bayer Leverkusen man who is tied to them until June 2010.

Ibrahimovic: Inter are the best
24.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan may officially be European and world champions, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic insists they’re not even the best team in their own city.

The Rossoneri returned to Serie A action on Sunday just a week after beating Boca Juniors for the Club World Cup in Japan, but immediately fell to a 2-1 defeat against San Siro rivals Inter.

“Milan started the game well and more brightly than ourselves,” noted the Nerazzurri striker. “But we then improved to illustrate that we are a better team than they are.

“We have really been excellent over the last six months and we must mirror that in the second half of the season and in the Champions League.”

Ibrahimovic has been Inter’s key man so far this term, but the inspirational Swede failed to get on to the scoresheet against the Diavolo.

“I didn’t score, but Julio Cruz and Esteban Cambiasso put the ball in the back of the net,” added the former Juventus player.

“In all honesty, it doesn’t matter if I score for Inter or not. The most important thing is for the side to keep winning.”

Marco Materazzi was also understandably pleased with the victory and was happy to be involved after he was thrown on following the injury to Walter Samuel.

“To win a derby is something delightful,” added the man who scored for Italy in the 2006 World Cup Final.

“I liked the hunger and desire with which the side played, especially when we were defending the result against an attacking Milan.

“It was a great Christmas present for not only the fans, but for the players too.”

Ancelotti curses errors
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti insists Milan did enough for a draw in the derby, as he felt there was a penalty on Kaka.

“It was a very balanced encounter that was decided by some individual incidents,” he said after the 2-1 defeat to Inter.

“We were more than equal to Inter and are missing a point here, as the draw would have been the right result.”

Andrea Pirlo had given the Rossoneri the lead, but Julio Cruz and Esteban Cambiasso – with the aid of a Nelson Dida howler – overturned the result.

“Inter played a more physical game, as they have the characteristics to do that. We are certainly struggling more in Serie A than in other competitions and I hope from January to start a new training regime to fix everything, including having all four strikers back in action.”

There will be at least new development in 2008, as teenage prodigy Alexandre Pato becomes available.

“Pato is not just an important arrival for me and for Milan, but for all of Italian football.”

Ancelotti also complained about the referee after Cambiasso’s rather clumsy challenge on Kaka.

“There was definitely a penalty on Kaka and in the second half we created many scoring opportunities. Admittedly, we did our part with a lot of mistakes, especially on Cambiasso’s shot that did not seem irresistible.”

Meanwhile there was more bad news for Milan, as Ronaldo’s cousin has been shot dead in Rio de Janeiro.

Igor Nazario de Lima was killed along with two other people during a shoot-out when he was standing outside a shop in the north of the city.

Ronaldo is currently in Brazil for treatment on his mysterious calf injury.

Mancini: We deserved it
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Roberto Mancini believes the derby victory was deserved and hailed his Winter Champions.

“We only struggled a little in the final stages of the second half, but controlled the game and deservedly won,” he said of Inter’s 2-1 result over neighbours Milan.

“In the first half they did very little to take the lead, as Andrea Pirlo made the difference with that free kick.”

The Nerazzurri fought back with Julio Cruz and Esteban Cambiasso to turn the match in their favour.

“Zlatan Ibrahimovic may not be 100 per cent fit, but when he has the ball he is always fearsome. Cambiasso is in good shape physically and in an exceptional period of form.

“In these opening five months of the season you could safely say everyone in the team has been great and contributed to our success.”

This is the 15th time Inter have been crowned Winter Champions and in the previous 14 occasions they have always gone on to take the Scudetto.

They achieved it despite the absence of Dejan Stankovic, Olivier Dacourt, Patrick Vieira and Luis Figo, while Walter Samuel was stretchered off.

“We think Samuel has sprained his knee, but we hope it is nothing too serious,” added Mancini.

The Coach also explained why the ‘home’ team stood outside the players’ tunnel before kick-off to applaud the Milan squad as they walked on to the pitch.

“It was not forced upon us, it came naturally. I thought it was the right thing to do.”

The rapport between the clubs has been increasingly tense and Mancio was accused of trying to belittle Milan’s Club World Cup triumph last week, so this was an important gesture to bridge that gap.

Internazionale 2:1 AC Milan - match report
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Pirlo 18 (M), Cruz 36 (I), Cambiasso 63 (I)

Inter secured the Winter Champions title two rounds early after fighting back to beat Milan 2-1 thanks to a Nelson Dida howler.

The champions of Italy took on the newly-crowned Club World Cup kings in one of the biggest Derby della Madonnina games ever. Milan's Serie A form had been disastrous without a single win and it was their first domestic game since a 0-0 with Juventus on December 1, as they had been in Japan to prepare for that tournament. Ballon d'Or and FIFA Player of the Year Kaka faced off against Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Dejan Stankovic, Olivier Dacourt, Luis Figo, Patrick Vieira and Ronaldo were out injured.

With Inter as the home side, this fixture last ended in a draw with a 2-2 result in 1999. There was fair play before kick-off with the Inter squad standing by the entrance to applaud 'visitors' Milan as they walked on to the field.

Ibrahimovic had the first chance after four minutes with a sensational volley that skimmed the crossbar. At the other end Pippo Inzaghi just failed to get his toe to a Clarence Seedorf searching pass.

It was Milan who opened the scoring with an ex-Inter player. Inzaghi was brought down by Ivan Cordoba inside the D and Andrea Pirlo curled a perfect free kick into the near top corner, leaving Julio Cesar rooted to the spot.

Inter fought back immediately as Nelson Dida only touched a Julio Cruz cross into the path of Luis Jimenez, the Chilean thumping the crossbar.

Dida smothered a Cristian Chivu free kick and Kaka went on a mazy run that drove rings around Walter Samuel, but the defender suffered a knee injury in that move and was stretchered off.

Inter drew level with Il Jardinero's 10th goal in 13 Serie A games. Cruz managed to squeeze his left-foot shot in at the near post despite being surrounded by Milan defenders.

The Nerazzurri had penalty appeals for a Kakha Kaladze handling offence that the officials considered to be involuntary, but Milan were furious with the referee when he did not give the advantage as Kaka shook off a Marco Materazzi foul.

Javier Zanetti flashed a right-foot shot across the face of goal. After the restart Alberto Gilardino and Emerson replaced Inzaghi and the fiery Gattuso, who had been an injury doubt for this game. Kaladze had to time his tackle perfectly to block Ibra's counter, while Chivu did the same on Gilardino.

The Rossoneri wasted a golden counter-attack chance, as Pirlo's dummy failed to reach Seedorf, the Italian should have gone for goal on Kaka's assist.

Esteban Cambiasso volleyed wide and Milan made their third change, Serginho replacing Seedorf, and within seconds he had created two dangerous opportunities.

However, just as Carlo Ancelotti's men were pushing, Cambiasso turned the game around completely. Paolo Maldini's headed clearance became an assist for Cambiasso's left-foot effort that Dida completely misjudged, going the wrong way despite the fact there was no deflection.

Julio Cesar was at full stretch to palm away a Kaka piledriver and from the resulting corner Alessandro Nesta and Pirlo couldn't quite get the final touch.

Inter clammed up to defend the advantage in the tense closing minutes and Massimo Ambrosini went up as a striker, but arrived early from six yards and almost fell on top of Serginho's cross rather than turning it in unmarked.

There had to be several minutes of stoppages, as referee Morganti required treatment for a calf problem. On the counter Ibra blasted over from David Suazo's assist.

Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Cordoba, Samuel (Materazzi 37), Maxwell; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Chivu; Jimenez (Pele' 79); Cruz (Suazo 86), Ibrahimovic

Milan: Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso (Emerson 46), Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kakà, Seedorf (Serginho 58); Inzaghi (Gilardino 46)

Ref: Morganti

San Siro fans in silent protest
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

The Milan derby will be silent as the Ultra of Inter and Milan unite in protest against the enhanced anti-hooliganism laws.

“A derby without freedom to celebrate does not deserve our warmth,” read a statement released in conjunction by the Curva Nord Milano 1969 and Milan’s Curva Sud.

“This is a decision that troubled us, but has been made by the two organised fan groups as a provocation to force people to reflect on the perseverance of a repressive approach that is mutilating, if not completely annihilating, the healthy aspects of the Ultra.”

This suggests that not only will the two Curve – the ends of the stadium where the hardline fans sit – be silent during the match, but they will also refuse to bring out the choreographed giant banners and pyrotechnics that make the Milan derby such a spectacular event.

It is a protest against the new laws brought into effect after the rioting that followed the accidental shooting of Lazio supporter Gabriele Sandri.

Some of the moves were clampdowns on organised groups of supporters travelling to away games, while others required a fax to police several days before the match confirming what banners would be displayed.

The shock announcement comes during the same weekend that FIGC President Giancarlo Abete opened the door to an easier rapport with the Ultra.

“We intend to dialogue with the non-violent Ultra to overcome the difficulties that we have had to face in recent years,” he told ‘Sport 2000.’

“2008 will be a difficult year and one of recovery as we try to get back the important values in football. Violence must be removed from stadiums and the sport become an event to be celebrated.

“Those who makes mistakes will pay, they cannot think of living in an Eden outside of reality.”

Gattuso eyes more 2007 glory
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Gennaro Gattuso is an injury doubt for the derby, but hopes to end a glorious 2007 with another prestigious Milan victory.

“Only a club with great history and a fair slice of luck can think of taking on the same teams against whom they lost the Champions League and Intercontinental Cup, being able to put those things right,” he told ‘Il Giornale.’

In 2005 the Rossoneri lost the European trophy on penalties to Liverpool, but secured a 2-1 victory in May.

Their last trip to Japan in 2003 had also ended in defeat to Boca Juniors, but last Sunday the Argentines were crushed 4-2.

However, more than any other side, Gattuso feels the rivalry with their neighbours Inter and that has only intensified after Calciopoli.

“I did get rather irritated when I read Inter want more Scudetti handed to them. If there is a club that can ask for retribution, it is Milan. We were considered done for in December 2006, but got all the way to Japan. We never say die.”

Inter boss Roberto Mancini’s comment that the new format of the Club World Cup made it “look like a friendly tournament” also stirred up controversy.

“At the start I was extremely annoyed, but then Mancini qualified his statement. The media had presented it to us in a certain way to create trouble.”

The two rivals go head to head this afternoon at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and Gattuso does not want to hear about jetlag just days after flying back from Yokohama.

“No excuses. We are facing Inter, a side that has done incredibly well in Serie A and we must respect them. Milan have been equal to them over 90 minutes, but over the distance we fell behind. It will be a great challenge.”

The Nerazzurri have gone seven points clear at the top of the table despite losing Dejan Stankovic, Luis Figo, Patrick Vieira and Olivier Dacourt to long-term injuries.

“If you take away Andrea Pirlo and Kaka in one fell swoop, then Milan are ruined,” confessed Rino.

“If you take half of Inter’s midfield away, they still keep getting results.”

Gattuso is not 100 per cent sure to start this match, as he limped off during the 4-2 win over Boca Juniors and has barely trained all week.

If the World Cup winner does miss out, Cristian Brocchi is expected to take his place.

Moratti: AC Milan envy us
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Inter patron Massimo Moratti cranked up the tension ahead of the derby by teasing rivals Milan over their Serie A slip-ups.

The Rossoneri hit the headlines last week by adding the Club World Cup to their Champions League and European Super Cup titles for 2007.

“Do we envy Milan? No. Perhaps they envy us because last season they finished 30 points behind us and are again trailing well behind this year…”

The two clubs have been increasingly at loggerheads with the rivalry becoming more bitter, but Moratti tried to calm the situation.

“All joking aside, we admire Milan. They have achieved great success that nobody expected. It is true that I personally called Silvio Berlusconi to compliment him on the victory against Boca Juniors. Milan deserved it.”

Moratti is a little less torn that last year, as his former favourite Ronaldo is out injured for the Rossoneri.

“Ronaldo is a player to be feared, as he can always pull something out of the hat. Not having to face him is an advantage for us.

“I wouldn’t want to send a message to Il Fenomeno, as I don’t want Milan to get jealous! I will only add he has the intelligence and the professional attitude to get out of this difficult time.”

Trap's derby predictions
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Giovanni Trapattoni has won the title with both clubs and gives his opinion on the most unpredictable Milan derby.

“It is now a cliché to say that the derby could end up with absolutely any result,” the Salzburg boss told Sky Italia.

“Both the teams, in different ways, are able to win this match. Milan can do so through their creativity, Inter with the many talented individuals who make up their side.”

Although it is true that the Rossoneri have three games in hand, they are 22 points off the leaders going into this showdown.

“I think the gap in the table can perhaps prove psychologically important, because Inter have this power, confidence and run of extraordinary results behind them,” continued Trap.

“Milan on the other hand are fresh from the prestigious Club World Cup victory and certainly have the pride to come out and prove themselves the way they haven’t had the chance to so far in Serie A.”

Mancini expects derby fireworks
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Inter boss Roberto Mancini assures the Milan derby will be “spectacular,” but that he feels no rivalry with their cousins.

“It is a derby, so as always there will be a special atmosphere,” said the Coach ahead of the Sunday afternoon showdown.

“It is the meeting of two great teams and there will be some spectacular football on show. Both of us have the players who can make the difference at any moment.”

This would usually be an evening kick-off, but as it is the last game of 2007 the big match takes on an extra layer of significance.

“A derby is always important and these are two of the most successful sides in the world going face to face, but the fact it is on December 23 makes it a little different to usual.”

The Rossoneri are feeling the pressure to get back into Serie A contention after winning the Club World Cup in Japan, but Mancini insists it is he who must shoulder the greatest burden.

“We are top of the table, so we are the ones who have the most to lose in this encounter.”

The lead-up to the game has been particularly tense, with Mancini and his men accused of belittling the Club World Cup and other achievements of their neighbours.

“There is absolutely no rivalry between myself and Carlo Ancelotti. It is only normal that there should be some rivalry between the teams, but I don’t even feel it. My real rivalry is from when I was a player for Sampdoria against Genoa, so nothing bothers me now.”

There is some good news for the Inter boss, as Luis Jimenez returns to the squad after time out with an injury.

Dejan Stankovic, Olivier Dacourt, Luis Figo and Patrick Vieira remain sidelined. It is believed Mancini will scrap the trident attack and return to a more solid system with Jimenez supporting Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Julio Cruz.

Inter squad: 12 Julio Cesar, 22 Orlandoni; 2 Cordoba, 4 Zanetti, 6 Maxwell, 13 Maicon, 16 Burdisso, 23 Materazzi, 24 Rivas, 25 Samuel, 26 Chivu; 11 Jimenez, 19 Cambiasso, 21 Solari, 30 Pelè, 31 Cesar; 8 Ibrahimovic, 9 Cruz, 18 Crespo, 29 Suazo

Ancelotti: All or nothing
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti warns Milan must put in a perfect performance or risk humiliation in the Derby della Madonnina.

“It is our duty and desire to close the gap. We need a perfect performance, because Inter are so strong that if you do not play to your best then you risk humiliation,” said the Rossoneri Coach.

“At this moment the Nerazzurri have a few injury problems in midfield, but they manage to cover that with a formidable defence and attack.”

It will be a battle between the reigning Scudetto holders and the newly crowned champions of Europe and world club football, so picking a favourite to win will be tough.

“Perhaps Inter do have some weak points, but they are very good at hiding them. The atmosphere of a derby is always wonderful and it’s great to go head-to-head like this.”

It will be Milan’s first Serie A match since the 0-0 with Juventus on December 1, as they have just returned from Yokohama, where they beat Boca Juniors 4-2 last Sunday to win the Club World Cup.

“That victory in Japan was very important and allowed us to prepare for this derby with greater optimism. It will not be a Final, but a crucial game for our season.”

Gennaro Gattuso is a major injury doubt for the clash, as he limped off during the Boca match.

“Gattuso has not trained all week, so we will have to see. Cristian Brocchi could be the alternative,” commented Ancelotti.

“My doubts are on the wings, between Massimo Oddo and Daniele Bonera on the right and Marek Jankulovski and Paolo Maldini for left-back. Alessandro Nesta and Kakha Kaladze are reliable in central defence and we must not allow Zlatan Ibrahimovic to go one-on-one.”

The stars of the show are set to be Ibrahimovic and Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka.

“Both Ibra and Kaka have a profound impact on the success of their teams. Will Inter use a trident attack? I don’t know, but Milan always field three forwards.”

In truth Ancelotti is referring to the Christmas Tree formation with Clarence Seedorf and Kaka supporting Pippo Inzaghi.

Milan have put the Club World Cup up for the public to view in the Cova bakery in the Via Montenapoleone shopping district.

Ranieri: Forza Milan!
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Claudio Ranieri has not lost hope of the Scudetto as the Juventus boss will be cheering on Milan this Sunday.

“If I had to choose a derby winner, I am always in favour of slowing down those who are in the lead. At least I admit it with a smile on my face,” said the Bianconeri Coach.

Inter are seven points clear at the top and eight ahead of third placed Juve, but face their biggest test yet in the local derby.

Ronaldinho storms off to San Siro
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Ronaldinho has had another public bust-up with Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard, so a January switch to Milan is increasingly plausible.

The Brazilian has been unsettled at the Nou Camp for some time now and his rapport with the Coach, teammates and fans is deteriorating fast.

He was caught on camera during yesterday’s training session as Rijkaard berated him for not putting more effort into the work.

Ronaldinho did not seem best pleased and just a few minutes later walked off the field complaining of a mysterious pain in his left leg.

The Spanish and Italian media claim this was a ‘diplomatic’ injury, as the former Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year would only have been left on the bench against Real Madrid.

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has made it clear on numerous occasions that he wants to bring Ronaldinho to San Siro.

A summer swoop was what everyone expected, but with the tension at breaking point at Barca and Ronaldo’s injury worries stretching on in Italy, the Rossoneri could prepare an audacious January bid.

Berlusconi has to move fast, as Chelsea and Roman Abramovich’s millions are also keeping a close eye on the situation.

Ronaldinho would be available for a January switch despite Alexandre Pato taking the final non-EU member spot in Milan's squad, as the Barca star has a European passport.

Sheva: I miss the Milan derby
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko claims the Milan derby is “one of the greatest things I’ve seen in football,” while the Rossoneri concede his return isn’t out of the question.

“The Milan derby is one of the greatest things I have ever seen in football. I tell my friends in London all the time about how the fans prepare months in advance. It is a very special atmosphere,” he told Sky Italia television.

“In psychological terms both Milan and Inter are really charged up, because a derby is always a derby. As for the winner, I guess it will depend on who is in better physical shape.

“Carlo Ancelotti has already done so much in his coaching career, not just in Italy but in the world. Roberto Mancini is a fine tactician and is on the right track, but he still has to prove himself in Europe.”

The Chelsea striker was often a hero in the Stracittadina, scoring 13 goals in 10 different derby games.

“Milan’s most dangerous player is always Kaka, but I don’t think they are focusing so much on individuals and are more of a team,” continued Sheva.

There had been reports over the past few months that the Ukrainian was looking for a return to San Siro after his disappointing spell at Stamford Bridge.

This week Milan transfer guru Adriano Galliani added fuel to that particular fire.

“I cannot explain the reason behind his difficulties in England. I don’t follow Chelsea’s internal matters, but I think he never felt truly loved there,” commented the Vice-President.

“Could he return to us? I wouldn’t rule it out. However, he is a non-EU player and next summer we could only sign one more before filling our quota.”

A January transfer is impossible because Brazilian Alexandre Pato will take that spot.

Galliani pulls rank on Gunners
23.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan transfer guru Adriano Galliani trusts his “old men” to best Arsenal’s young prodigies, especially with Alexandre Pato joining the side.

“The Gunners are doing well, but our ‘old men’ have reached three Champions League Finals in the last five years,” pointed out the Vice-President.

The Rossoneri are the reigning champions of Europe and conquered the world title in Japan by beating Boca Juniors 4-2 last Sunday.

Their squad will be strengthened before the February trip to the Emirates Stadium, as Brazilian teenager Pato turns of age and can sign a professional contract with the club.

“Last season Ronaldo arrived in January and gave us a crucial hand to reach fourth place in Serie A, then he had the fitness problem that has basically kept him out since July 31,” added Galliani.

“We hope Pato can have an impact by coming into the team mid-season. I think he reminds me of the young Alessandro Del Piero, but Carlo Ancelotti tells me the Brazilian is faster.”

The atmosphere is hotting up ahead of Sunday afternoon’s Derby della Madonnina with arch rivals and Serie A leaders Inter.

“I expect Milan’s race towards the top four places to begin this weekend. There is a big gap, but football has accustomed us to all sorts of events. Rather than catch Inter to win the Scudetto, I’d rather lift the Champions League again.”

Arsenal are well aware of the fact they are on the opposite end of the experience scale from their knockout opponents, but that does not worry Arsene Wenger.

"It's an interesting draw," said the Frenchman. "I believe we can do it if we play at our best. It's a good target for us to get stronger for the match.

"It's an exciting draw. If you look at last season's results then it's the hardest draw because they are the champions.

"It's a big challenge, but if you ask me do we have a chance to knock them out then I say 'yes'. If you want to win the Champions League then you have to beat the biggest clubs. AC Milan are a very big team - world and European champions. But we can do it."

Matrix: AC Milan are favourites
21.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Marco Materazzi has surprisingly declared his Inter side to be underdogs in Sunday’s Milan derby.

The pugnacious stopper is nearing full fitness after a long period suffering with an injury sustained during Italy’s friendly with Hungary in September.

Inter won both derbies during last term’s Scudetto procession, but Materazzi is adamant that they don’t approach the game as favourites.

“They are the favourites,” the ex-Everton man told Sky Sport Italia. “Milan are the champions of the world and we will have to be at our best.

“But both sides go into this game on level terms and taking on the best will be a big incentive for me.

“On a personal level, my fitness is good. A player like me can’t be 100 per cent physically. You just have to use the mentality, the drive and the passion to make up for it.”

Materazzi scored the winner in Inter’s dramatic 4-3 win last year and dedicated the goal to his son.

“It was special because my son had asked me for a goal and it’s tough for a defender to score in any game, let alone the derby,” he recalls.

“However, I think that it was fate. I hope that this year destiny has reserved me another important role in this game.”

Carletto wary of Gunners
21.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti admits that Arsenal are a fearsome proposition in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The Rossoneri avoided old enemies Liverpool, but they have a considerable task ahead when they play the Premier League leaders.

“They are one of the scariest sides in this draw,” Ancelotti remarked to journalists.

“They are technically superior to Liverpool, but they don’t have the same level of experience in this competition.

“This Milan side has never encountered a side from London. Arsenal have a very young team, full of promise and quality.

“At the moment they are leading the League, but after a very positive start to the campaign they have slowed a little.

Ancelotti concluded by choosing the man he sees as the Gunners’ most dangerous threat.

“I especially have great respect for Cesc Fabregas who is think is one of the best midfielders in the world at the moment,” Carletto said.

AC Milan bemoan 'hardest' draw
21.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan director Umberto Gandini believes that the Rossoneri have the toughest draw of the last 16 as they are paired with Arsenal.

The world champions avoided their English rivals Liverpool, but they now must take on the Premier League leaders.

Had the Diavolo finished second in the Group things would not have been any easier as Celtic drew Barcelona.

“There were better draws,” Gandini moaned. “We got the most difficult side that we could have been given.

“But the history books are positive as we beat them in the European Super Cup in 1994 and I hope that augurs well.

“Nonetheless, Arsenal are an excellent side that reached the Final in Paris when they lost to Barcelona.

“They have a Coach with great experience and a mixture of young and veteran players.

“Arsenal have used a French system and have built a side with a good present and a bright future.

“On the other hand, they will be worried about our players too. We are world champions and we will be looking to get through to prove that Milan are the rulers of Europe.”

CL Draw: AC Milan vs. Arsenal
21.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan and Inter face Arsenal and Liverpool respectively in the Champions League last 16 as Roma take on Lazio's conquerors Real Madrid.

The Milanese giants went into the draw as Group winners and hoped for slightly more forgiving opponents as second-placed Roma feared the worst.

Roma's fears were confirmed when they were paired with Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have already knocked city rivals Lazio out of the competition.

Milan avoided drawing old rivals Liverpool, but they won't be much happier with Premier League leaders Arsenal.

Inter did get Liverpool and know that they will have the sternest of tests ahead.

The Nerazzurri may bitterly reflect on the irony of seeing Fenerbahce, who finished second in their Group, receive the more favourable draw of Sevilla, who are languishing in ninth place in La Liga.

The draw in full:
Celtic v Barcelona
Lyon v Manchester United
Schalke v Porto
Liverpool v Inter
Roma v Real Madrid
Arsenal v Milan
Olympiacos v Chelsea
Fenerbahce v Sevilla

Carletto calm before derby
21.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has taken a look ahead to the weekend’s derby against Inter and stresses his faith in Ronaldo.

The Rossoneri have returned from Japan with the Club World Cup trophy and are determined to turn their stuttering League campaign around.

“It would have been more problematic to approach this game after an important defeat, but instead we approach with more optimism, and tranquillity,” Ancelotti told Sky Sport Italia.

“It has been an amazing year – everyone knows that. We will do what we can to make 2008 a year to remember like 2007.

“But first, we have to think about preparing for the derby. I think that it has been so much simpler to adapt to the change in time zone coming back, so the players should be in excellent condition.

“I don’t think that it will be an easy game as they are such a strong side, especially going forwards.

“However, I think that the victory in Tokyo could be the springboard that brings us back into the title race and helps us reduce the distance between Inter and ourselves.”

Ronaldo’s future is up in the air after the Selecao star returned home early to begin his recovery from a calf injury. While he has been linked with a move to Fenerbahce, Ancelotti concluded by explaining his situation.

“Ronaldo isn’t better yet. Now we are looking for him to turn up in good condition for January 2 when we start preparation after the break,” he said.

Coppa Italia AC Milan 1:2 Catania - match report
21.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Spinesi 19 (C), Mascara 26 (C), Paloschi 58 (M)

Catania beat a weakened Milan side 2-1 at San Siro in tonight's Coppa Italia last 16 first leg clash.

Carlo Ancelotti fielded a completely different side from the Rossoneri 11 that captured the Club World Cup last Sunday.

There was a chance for wantaway French midfielder Yoann Gourcuff and young strikers Wily Aubameyang and Alberto Paloschi.

Aubameyang started brightly and served Gourcuff to force a corner after seven minutes.

Emerson had an impressive first period, but his excellent through balls were wasted by Gourcuff and Paloschi.

Against the run of play, Catania took the lead through Gionatha Spinesi who took advantage of some poor defending to get hold of Giuseppe Mascara's long ball and slide past Zeljko Kalac.

Kaka's brother Digao was left red-faced just minutes later as his sloppy ball from inside his own box found Mascara to convert with ease for 2-0.

The Rossoneri nearly pulled one back on the stroke of half-time as the ball bobbled around the Catania box, but they trooped off dejectedly at the break.

Things nearly got worse in the 47th minute as Mascara's 25-yarder clipped the woodwork.

Milan responded with Serginho finding compatriot Emerson in the area, but the ex-Juventus man delayed too long and Argentine 'keeper Albano Bizarri dived on the ball.

Kalac made a superb save to stop Mariano Izco making it 3-0 on the break before Milan hit back.

Dario Simic's long ball found Paloschi who beat Gennaro Sardo and hit the net.

Digao nearly made ammends for his defensive blunder when his header was tipped away for a corner by Bizarri.

Sardo saw red for a brutal challenge on Sergino with 15 minutes left, but Milan couldn't take advantage of the extra man.

Ancelotti's side now have a tough task in Sicily, while Catania will return home jubilant after the Elefanti's first ever win over the Diavolo.

Milan 1-2 Catania
Scorers: Spinesi 19 (C), Mascara 26 (C), Paloschi 58 (M)
Sent Off: Sardo 75 (C)
Milan: Kalac; Cafu, Digao, Simic, Favalli; Emerson, Brocchi, Serginho; Aubameyang (Umunegubu 45), Gourcuff (Darmian 87), Alberto
Catania: Bizarri; Sardo, Sottil, Stovini, Vargas; Izco, Edusei (Colucci 63), Baiocco (Martinez 52), Biagianti, Mascara (Sabato 73), Spinesi
Ref: Bergonzi

Ronaldo wanted by Fenerbahce
20.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Fenerbahce have renewed their interest in Milan flop Ronaldo, according to whispers in the peninsula.

The Turkish giants had a bid for the Brazilian rejected last summer and now stories circulating in northern Italy claim that they are ready to launch a fresh January approach.

It has been claimed that Fenerbahce will offer the Rossoneri a fee of around £5m to sign the injury-plagued striker and offer the player himself a contract worth £3m a season.

Those figures are somewhat surprising given that he has played just one Serie A game so far this term and Ronaldo would be available on a Bosman at the end of the season.

Despite the cash incentive, it is understood that the Rossoneri have no intention of releasing the former Inter man before June.

Milan have been struggling for attacking options so far this season and although Alexandre Pato will be available from January, the San Siro outfit don’t want to reduce the number of their strikers.

Ronaldo too is keen to remain at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the hope that his performances in the second half of the season will be enough to convince the club to offer him a new contract.

The World Cup winner is again currently sidelined with a calf problem that he picked up while warming up for the Champions League game at Benfica.

It is hoped that Ronaldo will be back at the disposal of boss Carlo Ancelotti for the January 13 Serie A tie against Napoli.

Real: We don't need Kaka
20.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

The President of Real Madrid may have been chasing Kaka for over a year, but he now claims the Milan man wouldn’t even get into their side.

“I might appear arrogant, but Kaka would perhaps not get a starting shirt in the current Real Madrid team,” Ramon Calderon astonishingly insisted.

“The side is very complete as it is today and it would be extremely difficult to make it even better.”

Calderon’s statement is somewhat surprising given that Kaka is widely recognised as the best player on the planet.

He helped the Rossoneri win the Champions League last season and has this month been handed the Golden Ball and named as the FIFA World Player of the Year.

It is also somewhat ironic given that the Spanish chief built his successful 2006 Presidential campaign with the promise of signing Kaka if he was elected Real No 1.

Kaka, still just 25-years-old, has been made non transferable by Milan who are expected to hand him a contract extension until 2012 or 2013 at the end of the season.

Real are currently four points clear of closest rivals Barcelona in the Spanish championship ahead of this weekend’s Nou Camp encounter between the two.

Clarence awaits daunting D-day
20.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan midfield ace Clarence Seedorf is expecting a bitter derby struggle this weekend but sees a Rossoneri side boosted by their world title.

The Diavolo lost out to Inter twice last term – a 2-1 defeat and a spectacular 4-3 reverse – and are hungry to regain Milanese bragging rights.

Memories of a miserable start to their Serie A campaign have faded somewhat with victory in the Club World Cup on Sunday.

“We have always been able to have big dreams and to realise them through hard work, will to win and the right level of humility,” Seedorf stated.

“It’s great to have the Cup in our hands as it is also recognition for the whole of Italian football.”

The European champions emphatically triumphed over South America’s finest Boca Juniors in Japan, but the Dutchman refused to be drawn on whether his side can repeat the dose against Europe’s form side.

“Is it more difficult to beat Boca or Inter? We will see after the game on Sunday,” the former Nerazzurro said.

“All I know is that it will be very tough as the Beneamata are the strongest side in Italy, if not Europe, at the moment.”

Berlusconi: Let's get Ronaldinho!
18.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has unveiled a cunning plan to lure Barcelona into selling them Ronaldinho.

“If, by chance, the deal could be done and the price-tag wasn’t too exaggerated….” mused the patron today on radio station Rtl 102.5.

“I have an idea: why don’t we start a collection among all the Rossoneri fans? That way the supporters could give themselves and their President a wonderful Christmas present!”

Berlusconi is more than happy to stump up the cash himself, as he has said on numerous occasions that he would break the bank to sign the Brazilian.

A transfer is more likely than ever right now, as Ronaldinho is unsettled at the Nou Camp and has been dropped, while the fans are also turning on their former hero.

“I hear news from Barcelona that the player is not going through the best time at the moment,” continued the media magnate.

“Milan are already protagonists on the world stage, but us fans would not reject the chance to have a champion like Ronaldinho as well.”

Berlusconi may have joked about his plans, but Vice-President Adriano Galliani points out there is more than a kernel of truth to it after their Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup triumphs.

“We are receiving calls from many top players, some of them unexpected, and even more agents,” explained the transfer guru.

“A team that has won as much as Milan is enticing to players, but we have a starting XI without equal in the world and it will be very difficult to improve upon this squad.”

Changes will be forced in defence, though, as Paolo Maldini has confirmed he will retire in June and Marcos Cafu could follow.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Alexandre Pato will finally be available from January, as he turned of age after the September transfer deadline and so was ineligible.

Kaka wins FIFA award
17.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan star Kaka has been awarded the FIFA World Player of the Year award at a ceremony in Zurich this evening.

The Brazilian ace can add the honour to the Ballon d’Or and the FIFPro World Player of the Year prize that he has already secured this year.

Kaka beat competition from fellow finalists Barcelona striking starlet Lionel Messi and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Brasilia-born Rossonero credited his teammates for helping him secure the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

“I became a great player because I play for a great team,” he grinned.

“The way my teammates played has dragged my performances up to the highest level.”

The award caps a fantastic year and a glorious week for the 25-year-old who was instrumental in Milan’s Club World Cup triumph in Japan on Sunday.

“We won in Tokyo and that was because of Milan, not because of Kaka,” he insisted. “In football there are no individual prizes.”

There were inevitable questions regarding his future, but Kaka once more refuted talk that he will relocate to Spain.

“The football in La Liga is amongst the most attractive in the world,” he admitted. “But I’m happy playing for Milan and it would be very difficult for me to leave here.

“I have already turned down the possibility of moving to Spain and I did so because I like playing for Milan so much.

“I didn’t think that I would realise my dreams so quickly. I’ve won the Champions League and so much more since I arrived in Milan when I was very young.”

The former Sao Paulo man concluded by looking ahead to the weekend’s crunch derby against leaders Inter.

“We want to play well against Inter, as it is a great chance to claw points back,” he stated.

Silvio makes Pato prediction
17.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has added to the hype surrounding the arrival of Brazilian starlet Alexandre Pato. “He’ll score 30 goals.”

The Rossoneri signed the 18-year-old from Internacional this summer, but he will only officially join Milan on January 3.

With the European champions’ Serie A campaign struggling to get off the ground so far, the weight of expectation on Pato is immense.

“We are expecting a great champion who will bring some life to the squad,” Berlusconi told the Milan Channel.

“I spoke to Carlo Ancelotti about what Pato could bring to Milan and he told me that if he continues to do what he does in training he will get 30 goals by June.”

As Pato’s career takes off, compatriot Ronaldo seems to be in decline after persistent injury problems.

“We are all waiting for Ronaldo,” the Milan chief maintained.

“In the last six months he has barely played, despite his respectable wages. The tests haven’t managed to find a cure, but there is something troubling him and if this carries on I will have to take him to Lourdes!”

Paolo Maldini has announced his expected retirement at the end of the season and Berlusconi had high praise for a great servant.

“He has the career of an extraordinary man and an extraordinary champion,” he enthused.

“You couldn’t ask for more. He has made Milan history and he will forever remain in Rossoneri hearts. I hope that he will remain at the club in some capacity.”

Finally, Berlusconi was asked to comment on next weekend’s crucial Milan derby and the Diavolo’s chances of stopping a formidable Inter side.

“A prediction? After a great victory there’s naturally a relaxation, but the game against Inter is always different from the others,” he explained.

“I’m sure that the lads will go out there with belief and play to control the game and win.”

Inter hitmen line up AC Milan
17.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Inter’s goal heroes Julio Cruz and David Suazo were delighted to extend their lead at the top and are looking ahead to next weekend’s Milan derby.

The Nerazzurri have extended their lead at the top of the Serie A table to seven points with a 2-0 win in Cagliari as Roma were held by Torino.

After a tense first period, Argentine star Cruz opened the scoring after 57 minutes with his ninth goal of the campaign.

“The team is playing well and I am scoring goals, but more important than me scoring is that Inter are winning,” the former Bologna man grinned.

“In the first half we struggled a bit, but after the break things went well. It’s great to pull away from Roma and the others.”

Honduran hitman Suazo made an emotional return to the city where he made his name and hit the second goal to wrap up the points.

“I’m happy that we managed to get these three vital points after the way the games went this afternoon,” he said.

“Now we need to continue to play with this kind of intensity because we like being up here.
“It wasn’t easy to beat Cagliari as they had a good rearguard, but we still managed it and played well.”

Before the relaxation of the Christmas break, Inter have some serious business to attend to as they face city rivals Milan next weekend.

“It will be a special game and not just because we are top and they are world champions,” Cruz asserted.

“The derby is a game that everyone wants to play in. If the boss calls me, I will be ready,” Suazo agreed.

Kaka awaits world crown
17.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Kaka is set to complete a stellar year by claiming today’s FIFA World Player of the Year award.

The Brazilian star was Milan’s hero once again in their Club World Cup Final win over Boca Juniors yesterday with a goal and an assist.

The Brasilia native has already clinched the Ballon d’Or and FIFPro World Player of the Year titles, largely for his efforts in helping the Rossoneri secure the Champions League last season.

The winner of the Ballon d’Or has also won the World Player of the Year for six of the past 10 years and reports suggest that Kaka will edge out Manchester United’ Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona striking star Lionel Messi.

Fabio Cannavaro was the recipient in 2006 and Kaka will become the ninth Serie A player to claim the honour if he is triumphant in Zurich later this afternoon.

Current Dutch national Coach Marco Van Basten and Liberian legend George Weah are the only two Milan players to have won the World Player of the Year to date in 1992 and 1995 respectively.

Mancini: I didn't offend AC Milan
17.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Roberto Mancini concedes Inter didn’t put in their best game of the season and insists he never meant to snipe at rivals Milan.

The Coach caused controversy this week when he said he did “not care” who out of Boca Juniors and Milan would lift the Club World Cup, likening the tournament to “a friendly.”

The Rossoneri fans did not take kindly to this suggestion and after the 4-2 victory in Yokohama this morning celebrated with effigies of the trophy in front of the Inter headquarters.

“I want to compliment Milan and Carlo Ancelotti,” assured Mancini. “I did not want to offend anyone. I never said Milan were playing a friendly, but rather that the old format with a one-off match was much more enjoyable.”

This is the first time a European club has won the competition since it was made into a tournament with sides from various different confederations.

“I think Milan think the same way. A scandal was blown up out of nothing at all. When I am involved the media always try to twist my words and create trouble.”

The controversy could not be more ill timed, as next Sunday the Milan derby pits the two ‘cousins’ against each other at San Siro.

“I don’t want to say anything more about Milan. I will point out though that the League is a different mentality to Cup competitions.”

Inter have surged seven points clear at the top of the Serie A table after a tough but effective 2-0 victory at Cagliari.

“Cagliari were set out really well and put pressure on us. We didn’t do as well with the trident attack as we had done midweek at PSV Eindhoven,” he continued.

“The team was too static in the first half. Cristian Chivu is a great player who, like Nicolas Burdisso and Javier Zanetti, can take on a number of different roles. With so few midfielders at my disposal right now, he represents a good alternative.”

There is an injury crisis within the side ahead of their showdown next Sunday afternoon – the Milan derby.

“I doubt we’ll get any of them back by next week, but the real problem is Dejan Stankovic. If the tests don’t go to plan, he’ll need surgery and could be out for two months.”

Maldini: Time to call it a day
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Paolo Maldini has lifted his third Club World Cup at the age of 39 and announced his retirement.

“I think it is tough for someone to reach 39 and still play for the top trophies,” said the Milan captain after he starred in the 4-2 win over Boca Juniors.

“I am satisfied with what I have achieved today and throughout my career.”

There were reports Maldini would hang up his boots straight after this Final in Yokohama, but he sets a firm date for his retirement.

“In June I will retire and certainly have no regrets. It is a struggle now and I have niggling pains, but I still have so much fun on the pitch.”

He has played for the club since 1984, winning seven Scudetti, five Champions League trophies, three Intercontinental Cups, four European Super Cups, the Coppa Italia and five Italian Super Cups.

Ancelotti's perfect 2007
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti has won every major club trophy with Milan, but insists his time isn’t over. “We’ll try again in 2008!”

The tactician oversaw a 4-2 triumph over Boca Juniors in the Club World Cup Final in Yokohama, adding to the Scudetto, Champions League, European Super Cup and Coppa Italia.

“It has been a perfect 2007 and we maintained the promise we made to our President. Now we’ll try again in 2008!”

The Coach and staff made it clear from the start that this trophy was their primary objective for the campaign and preparing for it has forced Serie A to take a back seat.

Although Ronaldo was unable to recover in time, the Rossoneri still dominated the match against the Argentine champions.

“It was a bit of a struggle, but we played a truly perfect game in the second half,” added Ancelotti.

“We prepared well for this match and brought home a wonderful triumph for all of Italian football.

“It is the best way to end a marvellous year, with the most important and brilliant game.”

It is the first time since the Intercontinental Cup’s format was changed that a European side has won.

In all Milan have four editions under their belts – after 1969, 1989 and 1990 – the eighth for an Italian club.

Now that this competition is out of the way, Ancelotti can turn his attention back to domestic concerns, where Milan are well off the title pace.

“In January a whole new season kicks off and will see us as protagonists in Serie A and Europe.”

Inzaghi: It was our destiny
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Filippo Inzaghi finishes 2007 having scored decisive goals for the Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup.

“I am speechless,” he said after bagging a brace in Yokohama to defeat Boca Juniors 4-2.

“I thought that destiny had already given me so much after Athens, Montecarlo and beating Gerd Muller’s record, but it had even more in store for me. I cannot express how this feels.”

SuperPippo has been one of the key figures in Milan’s incredible year, which saw them go from Calciopoli outcasts to the top club in the world.

“I am in good shape physically and when playing with this team it all becomes easier for me,” he said of his understanding with Clarence Seedorf and Kaka.

“It is the perfect closure to a fantastic era that has come full circle. We have honourably represented Italy in the world.”

Berlusconi: Nation behind AC Milan
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi hit back at Inter by assuring all Italians should support them in the Club World Cup Final.

Nerazzurri boss Roberto Mancini took a swipe at their cousins when he suggested the new-look tournament was “basically a friendly” and that he would not be cheering on either Milan or Boca Juniors.

“All Italians should be proud of the fact one of their teams is competing against the South Americans for the title of top club in the world,” replied Berlusconi.

“If Inter or Juventus were in the Final, then I would cheer them on. This is a very important trophy.”

Italy have won the Intercontinental Cup seven times and Milan represent three of those editions.

The Final is also a battle between the world’s most titled clubs, as both the Rossoneri and Boca Juniors have 17 pieces of silverware in their trophy cabinet.

The referee assigned to the game in Yokohama is Mexican Marco Antonio Rodriguez Moreno. Kick-off is at 10.30am UK time.

Ronaldo will not be able to take part after failing to recover from his long-running injury worries, even though tests have shown no damage to the ankle or calf.

“Ronaldo is a mystery. Nobody is able to understand what is wrong with him. Clinically there is no problem, so there is something psychological we hope to confront and resolve.”

Alexandre Pato will only be able to play in official competition with Milan after his contract is deposited in January, but there is another Brazilian on Berlusconi’s wish list.

“Carlo Ancelotti guarantees me that Pato will score a truckload of goals. He is extraordinary.

“Ronaldinho? If the Coach believes he is necessary to help the squad then we will discuss it, just as we always have done over these 25 years at Milan.”

Club World Cup Final: Boca Juniors 2:4 AC Milan - match report
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Scorers: Inzaghi 21, 71 (M), Palacio 23 (B), Nesta 50 (M), Kaka 62 (M), Ambrosini og 85 (B)

Pippo Inzaghi’s brace, Kaka and Alessandro Nesta gave Milan the Club World Cup after 17 years, crushing Boca Juniors 4-2 despite Kakha Kaladze’s dismissal.

This was their fourth Intercontinental Cup, the first since 1990, and made them the world’s most successful club side with 18 recognised international trophies.

The Rossoneri last took part in this tournament when it was still a one-off game known as the Intercontinental Cup, losing to Boca Juniors in 2003, but since the new format was introduced no European clubs had won it.

With Ronaldo injured, Inzaghi started upfront with support from Clarence Seedorf and Ballon d’Or Kaka. Alexandre Pato and Juan Roman Riquelme were ineligible for the two teams.

Both sides were aggressive from the start in Yokohama and after Kakha Kaladze closed down Rodrigo Palacio, Inzaghi’s angled drive skimmed the far post. The Italians kept the pressure on with Inzaghi and Seedorf, but Nelson Dida almost gifted Boca a goal on 11 minutes.

The ‘keeper completely missed the ball and was fortunate that Alvaro Gonzalez incredibly failed to get his finish on target.

Carlo Ancelotti switched tactics just 13 minutes in, pushing Kaka further up to partner SuperPippo with Seedorf in the Trequartista position. Kaka had a shot charged down by Gabriel Paletta, while Dida was at full stretch to capture Martin Palermo’s effort.

The deadlock was broken when the ball ricocheted around the box and Kaka threaded through for Inzaghi to take another of his classic poacher’s goals.

However, the lead lasted all of 120 seconds before some dismal defending allowed Palacio to equalise. A short corner was crossed in to find Palacio’s free header, as six Milan defenders remained static.

Gonzalez also found a ridiculous amount of space to nod just past the post soon after, while the impressive Gabriel Paletta continued to clamp down on Kaka. Inzaghi had timid penalty appeals waved away, Dida grabbed a deflected Ever Banega free kick and Neri Cardozo’s shot was charged down for a corner.

A Kaka screamer from the edge of the area was deflected and from the resulting corner there were more penalty appeals for pushing.

On the stroke of half-time Seedorf went on a surging run and his strike was too central to truly trouble Mauricio Caranta.

Milan were more determined after the restart and within five minutes restored their advantage with an unexpected hero. Andrea Pirlo’s free kick got a touch off Massimo Ambrosini and Alessandro Nesta came charging in with a powerful finish.

Pirlo had another penalty shout, then Kaka and Inzaghi combined in the box to test Caranta. But Boca were very unlucky not to equalise once again on 58 minutes, as Hugo Ibarra’s fantastic long-range effort cracked against the far post and the rebound was just beyond Palermo.

Milan took the hint and extended their lead in curious circumstances. Paolo Maldini was on the ground injured, but Gennaro Gattuso passed forward for Kaka to sprint to the byeline, confuse the defender and place the ball between Carente and the near post from the tightest of angles.

Gattuso took a knock and limped off for Emerson, while Boca introduced Pablo Ledesma and Leandro Gracian.

Palacio fired a half-volley over as Ambrosini came tearing in, but moments later Milan made it 4-1 with a classic counter attack. Seedorf ran forward from the centre circle, rolled across for Kaka who instead of shooting provided a perfect assist for Inzaghi to sweep home totally unmarked.

Kaka was about to grab a fifth as he surged between defenders and Paletta cynically shoulder-charged him off the ball in the D. Pirlo tried to curl the free kick under the wall as it jumped and it was just wide of the target.

The drama was not over yet, as 13 minutes from time Kakha Kaladze was shown a straight red card for a mistimed tackle that went studs-up on Palermo’s ankle. Morel curled the resulting free kick over and Dida blocked a Palermo header and Palacio stinger as Boca saw their hopes suddenly revived.

Although playing with 10 men, Kaka threatened a fifth goal by nodding Marcos Cafu’s cross over the bar from seven yards.

Once again Milan struggled to defend from a set-piece, particularly with Kaladze off the field, as a corner kick was not dealt with effectively. Dida did well to parry a powerful Sebastian Battaglia effort from the edge of the box, but could do nothing on Paletta’s follow-up deflected off Ambrosini.

The referee evened out the red cards with a straight dismissal for substitute Ledesma, who had only been on the field for 20 minutes, for a very high challenge on Kaka.

In stoppages Cristian Brocchi – who had just replaced Seedorf – threaded through for Kaka and Caranta blocked the shot with his legs.

In the other match, Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds ensured third place by squeezing past Tunisians Etoile du Sahel on penalties after it had ended 2-2.

Boca 2-4 Milan
Scorers: Inzaghi 21, 71 (M), Palacio 23 (B), Nesta 50 (M), Kaka 62 (M), Ambrosini og 85 (B)
Boca Juniors: Caranta; Ibarra, Maidana, Paletta, Morel Rodriguez; Gonzalez (Ledesma 67), Battaglia, Banega, Cardozo (Gracian 68); Palermo, Palacio
Milan: Dida; Bonera, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso (Emerson 65), Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kakà, Seedorf (Brocchi 86); Inzaghi (Cafu 76)
Ref: Rodriguez Moreno (Mex)
Sent off: Kaladze 77 (M), Ledesma 86 (B)

Pippo prepared to make sacrifices
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Pippo Inzaghi has one target on his mind – winning the Club World Cup – and would gladly forgo a goal to get his hands on the trophy.

“I hope to get some sleep before such a big match,” he said on the eve of Milan’s Final against Boca Juniors.

“We are all aware this is an incredible opportunity. To be here challenging for the Club World Cup is very satisfying. We are ready and hope to play a great game.”

The two teams do battle in Yokohama at 10.30am Sunday, UK time, and Inzaghi hopes to make his mark again after bagging a brace in the Champions League Final in May.

“I try to be as relaxed as possible and prepare as best I can. Obviously you need a little bit of luck and a great Milan performance, but we are ready and hope to bring the trophy home.”

SuperPippo is famous for his eternal goal hunger and a centre-forward’s selfishness, but insists that is not always the case.

“What would I give for a goal? The trophy would be worth a lot more to me, the goal takes a back seat compared to that.”

Mancio scorn on AC Milan cup
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Inter boss Roberto Mancini stoked the rivalry with Milan by suggesting the Club World Cup is little more than a friendly tournament.

“I am not supporting one side or the other. I cheer on Inter and could do for Sampdoria and Lazio, the two teams I played for, but I watch the others simply because I enjoy football,” said Mancio ahead of Sunday’s Final between the Rossoneri and Boca Juniors.

The format of the competition has changed since Milan’s last participation in 2003, as it now involves clubs from the different confederations in Asia and Australasia.

“I think it was better when the Intercontinental Cup was a one-off match between the champions of Europe and South America. Done this way it looks like a friendly tournament.

“It seems absurd to me playing six games for this contest. There are only two teams that deserve to play in the Final.”

Ancelotti eyes AC Milan utopia
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

The Club World Cup would finish a sensational 18 months for Milan, who created “a utopia” out of chaos, insists Carlo Ancelotti.

The side were kicked out of Europe and forced to start Serie A with an eight-point penalty after the Calciopoli scandal, but went through the preliminary rounds after an appeal to win the Champions League and European Super Cup.

“In the summer of 2006, which was a time of great suffering for us, nobody could imagine we were about to begin an adventure that would take us to the Final of the Club World Cup. We are proud to have achieved this utopia.”

The last stumbling block to what was once known as the Intercontinental Cup is Boca Juniors, who take on the Rossoneri in Yokohama on Sunday at 10.30am UK time.

“I have clear ideas on who to field, but I will keep them to myself. The only certainty is that we will play a Final with a great deal of confidence and hunger for victory,” continued Ancelotti.

“It will be a game played more with our quality than physical strength. Boca are particularly smart in midfield where Banega, Neri, Cardozo and Palacio are all very dangerous.

“A Final can be decided by many factors, like concentration, motivation, tradition and experience. Milan feel they are very strong and know how to handle the pressures of a big game like this. We are in excellent condition going into the match.”

Ronaldo has dropped out after failing to recover from a mystery muscular problem, but FIFA President Sepp Blatter praised the Rossoneri for fielding six Italians and another three on the bench for the semi-final win over Urawa Red Diamonds.

“We are an Italian club who maintain an Italian tradition, but the foreign players also settled into our mentality and group ethic.”

All eyes will be on Kaka, who aims to finish off 2007 with another trophy to add to his Ballon d’Or.

“Kaka is in good shape, he still has a little bit of pain in his toe, but will not have problems tomorrow. I don’t know if he’ll be man-marked, but I can predict he’ll be given special treatment by Boca.”

The last time Milan played in this tournament, they lost to Boca Juniors in 2003, so is this a revenge mission for Ancelotti?

“It is a completely different game and we hope this time it’ll go in our favour. This is the most difficult competition in the world because to get here you must overcome so many obstacles.”

Some have said the Rossoneri are too old to keep up their winning cycle and should renew the squad, but their Coach disagrees.

“I think a side that reaches the Club World Cup Final is alive and kicking. The nucleus of the team is young and at the same time has had consistent experience at the top of the sport. This group can continue the era and our story continues.”

Kaka sees open Boca clash
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

With 24 hours to go before the Club World Cup Final against Boca Juniors, Milan hero Kaka warns the result will be anyone’s guess.

“It is a Final, so it’s difficult to say who is the favourite. Both clubs have a good chance of victory,” he told Argentine newspaper ‘Ole.’

“It is a shame for the fans that Juan Roman Riquelme is not eligible to play, but better for Milan this way, as he is a fantastic player who knows when to be decisive.”

The midfielder completed his transfer from Villarreal after the deadline to provide their squad list to FIFA, so Riquelme cannot take part in this tournament.

Both sides successfully negotiated the semi-finals, Boca beating Etoile 3-1 and the Rossoneri seeing off Urawa Red Diamonds with a Clarence Seedorf strike.

“This is the only trophy that I have not yet won in my career, so it has a very special meaning for me,” continued Kaka.

The Brazilian sustained a painful toenail injury during the semi-final and has not been taking part in full training sessions, although he is expected to recover in time for Sunday’s decider.

Kaka has been crowned with the Ballon d’Or, voted World Soccer’s player of the year with over 50 per cent of the total votes and is the hot favourite for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

“We hope to take control of the tempo and therefore the match.”

Inzaghi injury scare
16.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Pippo Inzaghi had an injury scare ahead of the Club World Cup Final with Boca Juniors, but Carlo Ancelotti is confident he can start.

The Milan striker clattered into goalkeeper Valerio Fiori during training in Yokohama this evening and stayed on the ground for several minutes requiring treatment.

However, he was able to continue and went on to score two goals in the game between ranks, while Kaka and Andrea Pirlo are recovering from their fitness concerns.

The only confirmed absentee for Sunday’s Final is Ronaldo, who has not even been included in the squad list after failing to overcome a mystery calf problem.

“We are all sad for him,” said Ancelotti. “We hope to have him back for the restart on January 13.”

The Coach remained tight-lipped on his choices for the big game against Argentina’s Boca Juniors.

“We need a side that is strong and concentrated. We’ll try to identify and then make the most of Boca’s weak points.

“Above all what is necessary is a squad that is focused and convinced of its chances. As for the starting XI, we’ll only decide that on Sunday.”

Maldini plots Boca payback
14.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Paolo Maldini insists that Milan are ready to take their revenge against Boca Juniors in Sunday’s Club World Cup Final.

The Rossoneri were beaten by the Argentine giants in a penalty shoot-out in the 2003 Intercontinental Cup and are determined to get their own back.

“This game will be a different story from 2003, just like the Final in Athens against Liverpool was different from Istanbul,” Maldini told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It’s the game that everyone is waiting for, as its South America v Europe.”

Milan have been greeted by hysterical support in Japan and were given a warm welcome as they beat Urawa Red Diamonds.

“Here in Japan there is so much enthusiasm and support for me that I nearly feel embarrassed,” Maldini continued.

“I can see it from the huge number of shirts with my name on the back that I see outside our hotel.

“The atmosphere at the game yesterday was unique. Their fans were very noisy, but they were different from ours. There isn’t really a home advantage in Japan.”

Maldini concluded with a word on Kaka, the star of Thursday’s win who has been winning comparisons to Marco Van Basten.

“Kaka and Marco are different players,” the veteran stopper maintained. “But the Brazilian has reached an extraordinary level – he has already won a World Cup and so much with Milan, even though he is still young.”

The Ballon d’Or winner has been limping in training today as he is suffering from a damaged toe caused by playing with a broken toenail.

However, he will be ready to face Boca on Sunday morning. Kick-off is set for 10.30am.

Boca have AC Milan plan
14.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Boca Juniors Coach Miguel Angel Russo believes that he knows how to stop Milan in this Sunday’s Club World Cup Final.

South America’s representatives squeezed past Tunisian side Etoile du Sahel 1-0 as Milan saw off Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds.

The Rossoneri are eyeing revenge for Boca’s Intercontinental Cup triumph over them in 2003 – a 3-1 penalty shoot-out win – but the Argentine side are full of confidence.

“We know how to play this game,” Russo stressed in his Press conference. “We will try and put lots of pressure on Milan’s front men.

“We have prepared for a game where we keep possession and we are focused on shutting down the Diavolo’s most dangerous players. But the players are calm and we believe in ourselves.

“The semi-final wasn’t an easy game for us, but Milan’s wasn’t easy for them either. They are a great side and on the world’s podium, but so are we.”

The Final is set to receive a bumper Japanese TV audience. Milan’s game against the Urawa Red Diamonds was watched by 30m – 23% of the viewing public – and was the most watched TV programme in 27 years.

Galliani's Japanese delight
13.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani was delighted by today’s victory over Urawa Red Diamonds and has spoken about Ronaldo’s future.

The Rossoneri have set up a Club World Cup Final against Boca Juniors on Sunday after dominating proceedings in Yokohama.

Kaka and Clarence Seedorf were the stars of the show as Carlo Ancelotti’s men put in an impressive performance.

“Kaka had an extraordinary game, despite having a broken toe nail. He’s the best in the world,” Vice-President Adriano Galliani beamed after the final whistle.

“I spoke to President Silvio Berlusconi and he was very happy with the result and the way the side played.

“The players said that this was a very tough game against a home side playing the game of their lives.

“Now we face Boca and we are hoping that it will be just like when we met Liverpool in the Champions League Final last year after they had beaten us in 2005.”

There had been whispers that Ronaldo may leave Japan early and quit the club after his latest injury woes, but Galliani poured cold water on the suggestion.

“Ronaldo is very disciplined,” he explained. “He is devastated by what has happened, but he will stay here and stay with Milan.

“He’s going back to Milan and then to Brazil for a holiday and he will return to train with the team.

“Next year, we will have two great strikers in Alexandre Pato and Ronaldo and we have faith and respect for the two.”

Club World Cup Semifinal: Urawa Red Diamonds 0:1 AC Milan - match report
13.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorer: Seedorf 68

Milan have booked a date with Boca Juniors in the Club World Cup Final after beating Urawa Red Diamonds 1-0 at Yokohama International Stadium.

The pressure was on Carlo Ancelotti’s men to deliver and take the Press attention away from the absent Ronaldo.

It was mission accomplished for the European champions as they dominated from start to finish and could easily have won by a greater margin as Kaka and Clarence Seedorf shone.

The only goal came courtesy of Seedorf after 68 minutes when Kaka found the ex-Inter star after an impressive run and he slotted home.

Milan had controlled a one-sided first period with an Andrea Pirlo free-kick tipped over the bar by Urawa ‘keeper Tsuzuki and Massimo Ambrosini grazing the bar with a header from the resulting corner.

The Japanese outfit had no answer to Kaka and Seedorf and the latter saw two shots saved and blasted into the side-netting from 10 yards out.

Marek Jankulovski grazed the post and Alberto Gilardino was denied by Tsuzuki before being replaced by Pippo Inzaghi.

Urawa rarely called Nelson Dida into action, but Abe had a goal-bound effort cleared by Alessandro Nesta.

Milan kept pushing for a second goal in the latter stages and Pirlo came close with an 84th minute free-kick and a deflected effort a minute later.

The 1-0 score-line didn’t reflect Milan’s supremacy and Ancelotti’s side will face Boca Juniors with confidence.

Scorer: Seedorf 68

Urawa Red Diamonds: Tsuzuki; Tsuboi, Tulio (Yamada 76), Nene; Hosogai, Suzuki, Abe, Soma (Hirakawa 81); Hasebe, Nagai, Washington

Milan: Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Jankulovski (Maldini 80); Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Kaka, Seedorf (Brocchi 90); Gilardino (Inzaghi 63)

Ref: Larrionda (Uru)

CL: Italians risk tough draw
13.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Now that the group phase is complete, Roma risk facing Chelsea, Real Madrid or Barcelona, while Milan and Inter could draw Arsenal or Liverpool.

Tonight’s games finalised the order of the teams going through to the knockouts of the Champions League and those who are re-routed to the UEFA Cup.

The next step is the draw on December 21 and all three Italian clubs still in contention risk dangerous opponents.

Having topped their group, Milan will take on one out of Liverpool, Schalke 04, Olympiacos, Lyon, Fenerbahce and Arsenal.

Inter also won their section, so their potential rivals are Liverpool, Schalke 04, Olympiacos, Lyon, Arsenal and Celtic.

Roma are the most at risk, having qualified second behind Manchester United. This means the Giallorossi will meet one of the top seeds.

The options are Porto, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla.

Lazio are the only Italian entries to the Champions League to crash out, having failed to even grab third place for a UEFA Cup spot.

Group winners:
Porto (Portugal)
Chelsea (England)
Real Madrid (Spain)
Milan (Italy)
Barcelona (Spain)
Manchester United (England)
Inter (Italy)
Sevilla (Spain)

Group runners-up:
Liverpool (England)
Schalke 04 (Germany)
Olympiacos (Greece)
Celtic (Scotland)
Lyon (France)
Roma (Italy)
Fenerbahce (Turkey)
Arsenal (England)

Olimpique Marseille (France)
Rosenborg (Norway)
Werder Bremen (Germany)
Benfica (Portugal)
Rangers (Scotland)
Sporting Lisbon (Portugal)
PSV Eindhoven (Holland)
Slavia Prague (Czech Republic)

AC Milan await Diamond day
13.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

The mood in the Milan camp is optimistic ahead of tomorrow’s Club World Cup semi-final against Urawa Red Diamonds.

The Rossoneri are under pressure to return home from Japan with the silverware after a miserable period in the League.

Georgian defender Kakha Kaladze is certain that the European champions can step up to the mark and deliver.

“We have prepared well and we are ready for the Club World Cup,” he stated enthusiastically.

“Today we did the classic pre-game training and we are hoping to prove ourselves tomorrow so that we can get to the Final on Sunday.

“We all want to be a winning Milan side and we are ready to give our all.”

Urawa Red Diamonds earned the right to challenge Milan by beating Iranian outfit Sepahan in the quarter-finals.

“The Japanese side is strong, but they are a team we should beat,” Kaladze maintained.

“They will be playing at home and will have the fans on their side, so it’s up to us to show more charisma and will to win. I’m convinced that if we play like Milan tomorrow, we will win.”

However, Carlo Ancelotti’s men will have to manage without Brazilian striking star Ronaldo after he failed to recover from a calf problem in time to be included in the list of 23 eligible players.

“His absence will weigh heavily because we know how valuable Ronaldo is, even if he hasn’t shown his true potential this term as he has played very little,” Massimo Oddo admitted on Sky Sport Italia.

“However, we have valid alternatives and I don’t think that there will be problems.”

Should Milan triumph over Urawa at Yokohama’s International Stadium, they will meet Boca Juniors in Sunday’s Final after the Argentine giants squeezed past Etoile du Sahel.

Milan (probable): Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Jankulovski; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Kaka, Seedorf; Gilardino

Boca Juniors reach Final
13.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Argentine giants Boca Juniors have booked their place in the Club World Cup Final with a 1-0 win over Etoile du Sahel.

A 36th minute goal by Neri Cardozo proved to be the only difference between the two sides as the South Americans defeated their Tunisian opponents in Tokyo.

Boca, who had Vargas sent off, will now face either Milan or Urawa Red Diamonds for the title. They meet in tomorrow’s semi-final.

Ancelotti: No way Jose
13.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti claims that he isn’t worried by speculation that Jose Mourinho could replace him in the Milan hot seat.

Mourinho ruled himself out of the frame for the England national side and reports suggest that he has already been offered a post at a top European club.

Inter President Massimo Moratti angrily refuted whispers that the side in question were the Nerazzurri and now the media glare has moved across Milan.

“I read an article in a newspaper about Mourinho and how Milan have offered him my job,” Ancelotti admitted.

“They may have done, but I haven’t been told by the club that there has been a formal offer.

“If Mourinho does want the job then it just gives me extra motivation. Talk from outside doesn’t give me any added pressure.”

Despite Carletto’s protestations, the current crop of rumours will surely give an added significance to the Rossoneri’s Club World Cup campaign.

There have been suggestions that the competition could decide Ancelotti’s fate after a disappointing start to the Serie A campaign.

Milan start their Japanese adventure at 10.30am tomorrow as they take on local heroes Urawa Reds in Yokohama’s International Stadium.

Arsenal line up Gourcuff
11.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Arsenal are being linked with a big money swoop for Milan’s midfield misfit Yoann Gourcuff.

The French Under-21 international arrived at San Siro from Rennes in the summer of 2006, but he has found little space in the Rossoneri side.

Despite his billing as ‘the new Zinedine Zidane’, Gourcuff is surplus to requirements in Milan and it has been suggested that he could return to France on a loan basis.

PSG and Lens are believed to have already made contact with the European champions with an eye to agreeing a temporary deal.

However, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Arsenal are ready to put around £15m on the table to try and lure the talented midfielder to the Emirates Stadium.

With Brazilian starlet Alexandre Pato eligible from January 3, the future looks increasingly bleak for Gourcuff and he would be expected to jump at the opportunity to move to London.

AC Milan receive Ronaldo boost
11.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Ronaldo is back in training and Milan teammate Andrea Pirlo hopes he can lead the Diavolo to Club World Cup glory.

The Rossoneri start their bid for world supremacy against Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds on Thursday morning.

Ronaldo isn’t expected to feature, but he could play in the Final on December 16 as he has shaken of the worst of a calf injury sustained in the warm-up at Benfica a fortnight ago.

“He has such a desire to return and he has been very close to us over the last few days as we really need him, but he is especially important on the pitch,” Pirlo told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“He is a player who can make a difference. I hope that he can increase his training this week and also play.

“This is a trophy that lots of my teammates and I are lacking. We have had the chance to play in this competition and we want to go the whole way.”

Milan have been careful not to underestimate Thursday’s opponents after Urawa beat Iranian side Sepahan.

“We watched them yesterday and they were aggressive and had good players and fans,” Pirlo stressed.

“I was really impressed by their striker Washington, Tulio and the left winger with the No 1 shirt Soma who was at the heart of everything his team created.”

FIFA intend to use the Club World Cup to experiment with new goal line technology, using a microchip in the ball.

“The referees and Adidas officials have come and explained everything,” the Azzurri midfielder explained.

“Near the two goals there are magnetic sensors that will let the referee know when the ball completely crosses the line.

“In any case, putting a microchip in the ball won’t influence the shape or feel of the ball in any way.“

Pirlo concluded by revealing the difficulties he has experienced in changing time zone.

Ronaldinho wants AC Milan
11.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Italian Football Federation Vice-President Demetrio Albertini insists that Ronaldinho is keen to relocate to Milan.

Rossoneri President Silvio Berlusconi has made no secret of his desire to lure the Brazilian star and ‘Dinho reportedly would choose the Diavolo over Chelsea.

Barcelona have rejected suggestions that they are prepared to sell the Selecao ace, but Albertini believes the European champions can overcome the obstacle.

“I would sign Ronaldinho right away, even if I don’t think he would leave Barça before the end of the season,” the former Milan midfielder stated.

“He may seem happy on the pitch, but he is a lot more introverted in the dressing room and he told me at my farewell game that he is in love with the fans and the stadium in Milan. If he had to choose another side, it would be a great club like the Rossoneri.”

There have been rumours that Berlusconi is ready to table a bid of around £12m for the ex-PSG man – a figure that could be accepted due to the reportedly strained relations between Ronaldinho and Coach Frank Rijkaard.

However, the 27-year-old found a place in the starting 11 for last weekend’s win over Deportivo La Coruna and he seems highly unlikely to quit Catalonia before the summer.

Barcelona: Hands off Ronaldinho
10.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Barcelona have rejected suggestions that they are prepared to sell Ronaldinho to Italian giants Milan.

The Brazilian is known to be President Silvio Berlusconi’s No 1 transfer objective and whispers recently claimed that the South American’s stint at the Nou Camp was coming to an end.

However, Barca chief Joan Laporta has insisted that the former Paris SG star will continue to be a key man for the Spanish giants.

“We are not in contact with Chelsea, Milan or any other team because we are not going to sell Ronaldinho,” stated Laporta.

“We are counting on Ronaldinho and you could see that against Deportivo as he fought like the rest of the players.”

The Selecao star, 27, returned to the Barca starting line-up at the weekend for their 2-1 victory after being used as a substitute by Frank Rijkaard in recent weeks.

Ronaldinho’s present contract in Catalonia expires in 2010 and Milan have often made it clear that they would be in pole position to sign him should he leave Barcelona.

AC Milan dealt Red Diamonds
10.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Japanese outfit Urawa Red Diamonds will be Milan’s opponents on Thursday and Massimo Ambrosini can’t wait to get started.

The J-League runners-up saw off Iranian side Sepahan 3-1 in this morning’s quarter-final to book a place against the Rossoneri.

Sepahan had beaten New Zealanders Waitakere United in a preliminary encounter, but they couldn’t repeat the feat against the Saitama side.

Milan have had to wait for their first test in Japan and Ambrosini is raring to go.

“If you don’t get excited by an event like this, you should retire,” he declared. “It would be so important to bring home a Cup like this to Italy.

“The wait for the first game has been long and after a week of training we are waiting with such enthusiasm.

“The tension and the pressure is increasing and talking to each other we are getting so excited at the chance of turning our season around.”

Although the European champions have fallen back in the Scudetto race, Ambrosini is full of optimism for the second half of the season.

“To be 19 points behind is too many. Inter have shown a glaring superiority over everyone,” he admitted.

“We will need to make small steps to close the gap, but we have made too many mistakes in the League, unlike the Champions League.”

The 30-year-old concluded by stating that he believes the last year to be the most productive of his career.

“I have to say that so far this has been the best year of my career and of my life,” the former Cesena man said.

The first Club World Cup semi-final is on Wednesday morning as Tunisians Etoile du Sahel try to pull off a shock against Boca Juniors.

Milan kick off against Urawa Red Diamonds at 10.30am on Thursday.

AC Milan stars root for Ronaldo
10.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

The Milan camp has rallied round the injured Ronaldo and hope that he will play some part in the Club World Cup.

El Fenomeno hasn’t trained with the Rossoneri in Yokohama due to the calf injury he sustained during the warm-up for the Benfica game a fortnight ago.

The European champions face the winner of today’s Urawa Red Diamonds-Sepahan clash on Thursday, but will have to do so without a restless Ronaldo.

“What irritates him is that he doesn’t feel like part of the squad when he isn’t playing,” Kaka told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“During training we talk to him so that he feels involved. We don’t now how long he will stay out of action, but we haven’t lost hope of seeing him play in this tournament.

“The calf is still hurting him, but the doctors are doing everything they can to cure him.”

Captain Paolo Maldini is also feeling the loss of the former Real Madrid star, but he has every faith in the Diavolo’s medical team.

“His injury was really unlucky, but he is a player with enormous experience and we want to see him back on the pitch as soon as possible,” the veteran stopper insisted.

There are also fears that goalkeeper Nelson Dida may miss the opening game as he has been absent from the last two training sessions with a back problem. Zeljko Kalac is ready to stand in should the giant Brazilian fail to recover.

Gattuso: Blame Domenech!
9.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Gennaro Gattuso has told Raymond Domenech he is the cause of Italy’s increasingly ugly relationship with France.

The two sides have been bitter rivals since the 2006 World Cup Final and the situation deteriorated after the Euro 2008 qualifiers and their draw in the same group for next summer’s European Championship.

It prompted Gattuso to state he was glad they’d be facing France again so they could “teach them a lesson,” but in an interview with Canal+ attempted to calm the waters.

“In France the only person who talks rubbish is Domenech. He is the only one pitting the two countries against each other,” insisted the Azzurri champ.

“The thing that really disappoints me is the fact all this rivalry is unnecessary. Yet a few words too many, said by a single person, created an ugly situation that I do not like.”

Domenech fell foul of UEFA when he received a one-match touchline ban for making unfounded allegations about Italy “buying the referee” during an Under-21 international match against France.

The Bleus Coach was unrepentant and recently told journalists: “The Italians provoke me and then blame me for everything.”

Dida adds to AC Milan concerns
9.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

As Ronaldo continues to sit out Milan’s Club World Cup training sessions, Nelson Dida has also picked up an injury.

There are now few doubts that Il Fenomeno will not be able to play in the tournament in Japan, as for the fourth day on the trot he failed to take part in training due to a calf problem.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti has another concern to contend with, as today Dida was out of action after suffering from lumbago.

This is a recurring problem for the Brazilian goalkeeper and Zeljko Kalac is on stand-by should he fail to recover in time for the semi-final.

The good news for Ancelotti is that Emerson and Marek Jankulovski have fully recovered from their injuries and are available.

This week Milan have been on a staggered training schedule as they adapt to the time difference in Yokohama, but from Monday they return to a normal set of two sessions per day.

The preliminary rounds of the Club World Cup are in full swing and there has already been a surprise, as Tunisians Etoile eliminated Mexican favourites Pachuca 1-0.

The Central Americans hit the crossbar with Gimenez in the first half and Balbouli denied Caballero, but just as extra time was looming Ogunbiyi Ola held up the ball for Narry’s daisy-cutter.

Etoile will go on to face Boca Juniors in the semi-final on Wednesday.

Kaka shoulders the burden
9.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Ballon d’Or winner Kaka insists he enjoys the responsibility of leading Milan to Club World Cup glory.

“This is a very important trophy for the South Americans, so myself and my teammates will do everything we can to win and write our name in the history of football,” said the Brazilian.

He was in the side that lost to Boca Juniors in 2003, but four years on he has become a key figure in the Rossoneri line-up.

“I like responsibility. I know I am here and what is expected of me, so it is true that things are different for me compared to the last time I played in this tournament,” said Kaka, who could face Boca Juniors again in the Final.

“Right now we are focusing only on the semi-final. As for the rest, I don’t like the idea of revenge. In 2003 Boca won and that is all there is to it. We have to look forward.”

Milan enter from the semi-finals and do not yet know the name of their opponents. Sepahan defeated Waitakere United 3-1 and the winner of their match with Urawa Red Diamonds will decide who goes on to face the Italians.

“We watched the game to get a good idea over our next opponents and will be careful to take notes during Monday’s quarter-final.”

Kaka will have even more pressure on him to deliver, as Ronaldo looks set to miss out completely after failing to train for the past three days.

“He has overcome more difficult moments than this, when he was out for two years with that knee injury. I hope he can return soon and get a string of games under his belt.

“The thing that is troubling him is the feeling he’s not part of the squad because he can’t play in the matches. This is why we all talk a lot during this training camp in Japan, as we want to show him he is part of the side.”

It is increasingly unlikely Il Fenomeno will be back in action before the Milan derby on December 23.

“We don’t know when he’ll be back, but when we talk – and we often do – we don’t discuss injuries. His calf muscle is still troubling him, but that is for the medical staff to think about. We take care of Ronaldo the man and our teammate.”

Ronaldo out of Club World Cup?
9.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Ronaldo’s hopes of playing in the Club World Cup are in tatters after he failed to train for the third day running.

He had targeted the competition in Japan as his primary goal for the season, even after making just a couple of official appearances since picking up an injury in August.

However, since flying out to Yokohama for the tournament he has not trained at all with the rest of the Milan squad.

This is the third day of training and Il Fenomeno has still not taken part due to pain in his calf muscle, although it is reported tests have shown no actual damage.

It is now extremely unlikely he can recover in time to play either the semi-final on Thursday or the Final on Sunday December 16.

The next target he can set to achieve full fitness is the Milan derby on December 23.

Serginho also failed to take part in today’s training session, but Clarence Seedorf did work with the rest of the squad and seems to be recovering well from an ankle problem.

Marcos Cafu was particularly impressive in the game between ranks, while Pippo Inzaghi hit the back of the net.

Berlusconi's Ronaldinho wish
8.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has confessed he is ready if Barcelona are willing to sell Ronaldinho in January.

There has been increasing newspaper talk in both Italy and Spain that the Brazilian is ready for a transfer mid-season to escape his Nou Camp nightmare.

When asked about the rumours that a January swoop would be possible, club patron Berlusconi’s response to journalists was clear: “If only!”

The story emerged after legendary transfer guru Ernesto Bronzetti admitted the deal was very much on the cards.

“Never has a President expressed more desire for a player than Berlusconi has for Ronaldinho,” he told Radio Centro Suono Sport.

“There are links with Chelsea and Manchester United, but at Milan there is a hardcore of Brazilians and the Diavolo are in pole position if he chooses to quit Barça.

“It’s the fifth year of his contract at the Nou Camp and he wants between £5m and £7m annually, which would be a huge investment for the club.”

While Milan have said they won’t be able to bring back Andriy Shevchenko from Chelsea because he is a non-EC player, the same does not apply to Ronaldinho.

As he has been living in Spain for several years, he has an EC passport and would not be restricted by Italian rules limiting the number of players coming in from other continents.

Their one place per season will be taken up by Alexandre Pato, the 18-year-old Brazilian who due to his age cannot register for the club until January.

Iranians get AC Milan chance
8.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan are a step closer to knowing their Club World Cup opponents after Iranians Sepahan beat Waitakere United 3-1.

The tournament brings together the winners of each major confederation competition in Japan and the Rossoneri are representative of Europe after capturing the Champions League in May.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men will only enter at the semi-final stage – as will South Americans Boca Juniors.

The Club World Cup kicked off today with Sepahan defeating New Zealand’s Waitakere United 3-1 in the Tokyo National Stadium.

It took just four minutes for Ema Mohammed to bag a brace and Abu Al Hail put the result beyond doubt straight after the restart. Bazeley netted for Waitakere at the 74th.

This means that Iranian outfit Sepahan go through to the quarter-finals, where they will face Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds on Monday.

The winner of that tie will take on Milan in the semi-final in Yokohama on Thursday December 13.

On the other side of the draw, Tunisians Etoile du Sahel clash with Mexico’s Pachuca on Sunday to decide who will go through to face Boca Juniors on Wednesday December 12.

The Final of the Club World Cup is in Yokohama on Sunday December 16.

Meanwhile, the Lega Calcio has confirmed that the Rossoneri’s three Serie A games have been rescheduled.

Atalanta-Milan was called off after just seven minutes on November 11 due to home fans protesting at the death of Gabriele Sandri by knocking down a Plexiglas barrier.

That tie will now take place behind closed doors at the Stadio Azzurri d’Italia on January 23, kick-off 19.30 UK time.

The two Serie A rounds postponed so that Milan could play in the Club World Cup are also late starts.

Reggina-Milan has been switched to January 30 at 19.30, while Milan-Livorno will be on February 13, also an evening fixture.

Maldini denies quit talk
8.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan veteran Paolo Maldini has refuted suggestions that he is planning to retire immediately after the Club World Cup.

There have been reports that the 39-year-old will make the Diavolo’s adventure in Japan his last as a player, but he insists that isn’t his intention.

“I have absolutely no intention of hanging up my boots yet,” Maldini told journalists.

“I have a contract until the end of June 2008 and that will be the end of my career.”

Maldini has had to bounce back from a serious ankle injury, which caused him to miss the start of the campaign, but he is back to full fitness now.

“After five months of rehabilitation, it would be absurd to give up on the season now that I’m healthy,” he said. “I want to enjoy myself until the end of this term.”

Milan are looking to improve on their poor record in the Club World Cup’s predecessor the Intercontinental Cup.

“I have lost a lot of Finals, but this time we have reached the conclusion of two years of work,” Maldini explained.

“Every time I have come to Japan and been beaten, I thought that I would return.

“Defeats are never easy to get over, especially those in the Intercontinental Cup where we lost to two sides we should have beaten, especially Velez Sarsfield.”

The former Azzurri stopper finished by giving his view on Ronaldo, who still isn’t training with the side due to his calf problem.

“It seemed that his problems were over, but after Lisbon he was very sad,” Maldini recalled.

“We are gutted for him on a personal level and also a technical one because it isn’t easy to do without a champion like him.”

Silvio is desperate for Ronaldinho
8.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Respected agent Ernesto Bronzetti insists that Milan President Silvio Berlusconi is trying to snare Brazilian star Ronaldinho.

Ronaldinho is going through a tough spell at Barcelona and is reportedly keen to quit Spain.

Press reports state that the former PSG man would rather move to Milan than Chelsea and Bronzetti believes that Berlusconi will do whatever he can to make it happen.

“Never has a President expressed more desire for a player than Berlusconi has for Ronaldinho,” he told Radio Centro Suono Sport.

“There are links with Chelsea and Manchester United, but at Milan there is a hardcore of Brazilians and the Diavolo are in pole position if he chooses to quit Barça.

“It’s the fifth year of his contract at the Nou Camp and he wants between £5m and £7m annually, which would be a huge investment for the club.”

Milan officials are expected to meet with Ronaldinho’s agent and brother Roberto De Assis in January to discuss what would be one of the biggest swoops in recent history.

Galliani: Japan comes first
8.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani claims that the Club World Cup is the Rossoneri’s primary objective this season.

The European champions have arrived in Japan to compete for the world crown and are hoping to detract attention from their miserable League campaign.

Although Champions League success remains a major objective, it seems that Galliani has set his heart on a new honour.

“Everyone at Milan knows that this is our club’s main priority for the season,” the Milan man insisted. “We will do everything we can to win this prestigious Cup.

“We are here in Japan for the sixth time and it’s something special. Last night we were saying on the plane that of the many sides in Europe only one gets to come to Japan at the end of the year and we are very happy to represent our continent.

“From the coach, to the ceremonies, to this Press conference we have noticed that we aren’t playing in the old Intercontinental Cup. This Club World Cup is something different.”

Milan open their campaign at the semi-final stage on December 13 when they face one of Iranian outfit Epaphan, New Zealand’s best Waitakere United or Japanese champions Urawa Red Diamonds.

AC Milan 1:0 Celtic - match report
4.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorer: Inzaghi 70 (M)

Pippo Inzaghi gave Milan a 1-0 victory over Celtic with his record-breaking 63rd European goal, beating Gerd Muller's UEFA total. The Scots also celebrate, as they qualify for the knockouts thanks to Shakhtar Donetsk's 2-1 home loss to Benfica.

Although the Rossoneri were already qualified, a defeat here would give Celtic the group and have important repercussions for the draw. Nelson Dida was strategically rested after his embarrassing antics in Glasgow - where he picked up a one-match ban for feigning injury in a clash with a local supporter - and the entire defence was reshuffled for this game. It was Kaka's first match since winning the Ballon d'Or on Sunday and he paraded the trophy around San Siro before kick-off.

Clarence Seedorf marked his 100th Champions League appearance and his touched-on free kick was charged down by the defensive wall. McManus performed a decisive tackle to close down Kaka as he charged towards goal, while Massimo Ambrosini drilled off target.

Seedorf's snapshot struck defensive bodies, but Celtic were almost made to pay for a woeful McManus error when he gave the ball straight to Kaka and the Brazilian blasted wide of the upright.

Pippo Inzaghi just failed to get a toe to Giuseppe Favalli's cross. Dario Simic made a rare start, but pulled up with a groin injury after just 29 minutes and made way for Kakha Kaladze.

Inzaghi was desperate to score so that he could officially surpass Gerd Muller's all-time UEFA scoring record, but kept losing his footing on the slippery San Siro turf. Massimo Donati charged down an effort from ex-Rangers man Gennaro Gattuso and Celtic's first shot on goal after 39 minutes was comfortably smothered from Jarosik.

Inzaghi was a little too desperate to net, as he took on Marcos Cafu's cross when Ambrosini was in a much better position right behind him, so the veteran sent the header sailing over the bar.

The Rossoneri moved a corner around well with Favalli and Seedorf's shot flashed over the target.

After the restart Andrea Pirlo's free kick curled just past the far post with Artur Boruc rooted to the spot. Moments later Kaka's shot on the spin was deflected into the path of Inzaghi, but Boruc managed to narrow the angle enough to prevent a goal.

Scott Brown got on the end of a splendid pass over the defence, but kicked the volley into the ground with only Kalac to beat. At the other end Milan had a period of sustained pressure and Caldwell flung himself at Seedorf's strike.

Inzaghi really should have scored on the hour mark after a wonderful team move. He must've assumed Favalli was offside when he got on the end of a Kaka pass and so SuperPippo headed it straight to Boruc from six yards! Yoann Gourcuff allowed Seedorf to rest for the final 20 minutes.

Inzaghi finally got his record-breaking 63rd goal in European club competition. Kaka combined with Cafu and Pendolino cut back for SuperPippo to sweep in from five yards with the inside of his right foot. It wasn't a total disaster for the Scots, as they would qualify for the knockout as long as Shakhtar Donetsk did not beat Benfica in the other game.

Kalac plucked a McGeady free kick out of the air and Cafu's snapshot was smothered. In one move there were several Milan shots on goal, but all were charged down from Cafu and Kaka until Gourcuff blasted over.

Boruc had to keep his wits about him with a splendid double save on both Cristian Brocchi and Inzaghi's follow-up from point-blank range.

Kalac denied Brown Celtic's first away goal of the campaign as the strike stung his palms at the near post. Boruc parried another Brochi long-ranger and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink nodded a good Gary Caldwell cross wide of the target.

Kaka almost scored a glorious goal in stoppages. A Celtic corner kick was cleared and he picked the ball up in his own half, charged past several defenders and the goalkeeper only for Sno to charge down the finish.

Milan: Kalac; Cafu, Simic (Kaladze 30), Bonera, Favalli; Gattuso, Pirlo (Brocchi 74), Ambrosini; Kakà, Seedorf (Gourcuff 69); Inzaghi

Celtic: Boruc; Caldwell, Pressley, McManus, O’Dea; Hartley, McGeady, S Brown, Donati (Sno 70), Jarosik (Zurawski 78); McDonald (Vennegoor of Hesselink 65)

Ref: Ovrebo (Nor)

Van Basten quits for AC Milan?
4.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Marco Van Basten has confirmed he’ll quit the Dutch team after Euro 2008, which could have major repercussions for Milan’s coaching situation.

The three times Ballon d’Or winner will not be renewing his contract to take charge of Holland, announced director general of the Dutch FA Henk Kesler this evening.

There had been rumours this would be the case, but the news is now official, so the race is on to see which club side Van Basten will move to next.

The main options are Milan and Barcelona, but either decision could have repercussions for Carlo Ancelotti.

It is reported that if Van Basten takes over at Barca, this will free his former Rossoneri teammate Frank Rijkaard to come back to San Siro as Coach.

Euro 2008 is the key turning point here, as if Roberto Donadoni – another member of Il Grande Milan under Arrigo Sacchi – does not impress with Italy in the summer tournament, then Ancelotti is the hot favourite to replace him at the Azzurri.

Van Basten’s management career has been relatively unsuccessful, as he was appointed to Holland in July 2004.

They were eliminated from the 2006 World Cup in the second round by unfancied Portugal in an extraordinarily ill-tempered encounter, while they only qualified for Euro 2008 behind Romania.

Van Basten’s fate is inevitably linked to his adopted homeland, as Holland take on Italy in the ‘Group of Death’ at Euro 2008 along with France and Romania.

Dida avoids Celtic reunion
4.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Nelson Dida will not face Celtic this evening, as Milan completely reshuffle their defence, but Kaka, Clarence Seedorf and Pippo Inzaghi lead the charge.

Dida has seen out the one-match ban he received for feigning injury after he was tapped on the cheek by a Scottish supporter who ran on to the pitch in the 2-1 defeat in Glasgow.

However, perhaps to avoid potential anxiety or cat-calls from the crowd, Dida has been rested for tonight’s San Siro encounter, so Zeljko Kalac takes the gloves.

The entire defence has been reshuffled with Marcos Cafu, Dario Simic, Daniele Bonera and Giuseppe Favalli receiving rare starts, but from the midfield up it is business as usual.

It will be Kaka’s first match since receiving the Ballon d’Or on Sunday and he will show the trophy to fans before kick-off.

Celtic will start with Massimo Donati, who was up until this summer’s £3m move to Scotland owned by Milan.

A draw will be enough to qualify both teams and ensure the Rossoneri win the group.

Although Carlo Ancelotti’s men are already into the knockouts, defeat would see them finish as runners-up and therefore second seeds in the draw.

Thousands of Scottish fans are thought to have arrived in Milan for tonight’s game and reports suggest they have been well behaved.

However, a tragic accident happened in Via Orefici, near Piazza del Duomo, as a 38-year-old Celtic supporter was run over by a tram and lost a foot.

Milan: Kalac; Cafu, Simic, Bonera, Favalli; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kakà, Seedorf; Inzaghi.
Milan bench: Fiori, Kaladze, Gilardino, Gourcuff, Brocchi, Oddo, Aubameyang

Celtic: Boruc; Caldwell, Pressley, McManus, O’Dea; Hartley, McGeady, S Brown, Donati, Jarosik; McDonald
Celtic bench: Brown, Balde, Zurawski, Vennegoor of Hesselink, Sno, Killen, Caddis

Simic nears Moscow move?
4.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan defender Dario Simic is set to quit the Rossoneri and Lokomotiv Moscow is the most likely destination.

The 32-year-old is surplus to requirements at San Siro and has made just two appearances as a substitute this term.

The Croatia international declared earlier in the season that he would leave unless he played “at least 30 games” – a figure that now looks unrealistic.

Simic is hoping to represent Croatia at Euro 2008 and is searching for first-team football to ensure that he is prepared for the big event.

Lokomotiv Moscow are preparing to lose Serbian defensive starlet Branislav Ivanovic – with Juventus amongst the interested parties – and are believed to be considering Simic as a short-term replacement.

Pippo orders three points
4.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Pippo Inzaghi could break Gerd Muller’s European goal record this evening against Celtic, but he is focused on securing a win.

The Rossoneri are already through to the last 16, but they need to avoid defeat in order to secure top spot.

Inzaghi goes in search of European goal number 63 tonight to become the all-time leader in continental competition, but he has other priorities.

“I sincerely believe that the most important thing for us is that we finish first,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“Obviously a goal would see me overtake the record and to do so at San Siro would be special, but we will have to see.

“It makes me happy that it could happen to an Italian as it has never happened before and I will be delighted if it does.

“It’s clear that I have to thank all the teammates I have had as I wouldn’t have been able to score these goals without them.”

If Milan finish top of Group D they will be assured home advantage in the second leg of their last 16 game – a crucial advantage in Superpippo’s eyes.

“We will be running a serious risk if we lose this game and finish second as whenever we have been eliminated in recent years we have played the first game at home and the second away,” he warned.

“We really want to play the second leg at San Siro because our fans give us an extra lift. We need to win and we will give our all.”

AC Milan to enter Ronaldinho auction?
4.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan have their eyes trained on Ronaldinho after the Brazilian star threatened to use FIFA Article 17 to quit Barcelona.

Milan have been regularly linked with Ronaldinho, but have seen past advances rebuffed as the former PSG man was a pivotal figure at the club.

However, the Porto Alegre native has fallen out of favour and was only on the bench for the Champions League game against Lyon and last weekend’s Espanyol derby day.

“My brother will leave if he isn’t wanted, even if he has to leave for free,” ‘Dinho’s agent and brother Roberto Assis warned.

FIFA Article 17 states that a player can unilaterally buy out his contract after three years of service if he pays a compensation sum to his club, based on his wages.

Chelsea have made no secret of their desire to bring the 27-year-old to Stamford Bridge and there could be a dramatic bidding war between the West London giants and the Rossoneri as both sides look to lure 'Dinho with a bumper contract offer.

There are also whispers that Juventus could enter the auction, but it is believed that they lack the funds to compete.

Celtic: We must stop Kaka
4.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Celtic arrive in Milan needing a point to secure qualification to the knockout stages and they have identified Kaka as the main threat.

The Brazilian star won the Ballon d’Or award on Sunday and was on target from the penalty spot in the first meeting between the two sides.

“We’ve got to find a strategy to stop Kaka and try and keep the ball away from him,” Bhoys defender Gary Caldwell explained.

Celtic boss Gordon Strachan also has a great deal of respect for the Selecao wizard.

“He deserves the Ballon d’Or, not only for how he plays football, but also for how he conducts himself off the pitch,” he insisted.

“The best player has to be a role model, and Kaka is that due to his conduct on and off the field.”

Despite having only picked up one point from 14 away Champions League clashes, Strachan believes his side can deliver.

“We are in a situation now where my players don’t have any fear of games like this one,“ he maintained.

“It is a challenge and my players enjoy playing against the best. We have been in adversity recently, but we handled that and this is another challenge for us to handle.”

Milan (probable): Dida; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Kaka, Seedorf; Gilardino

Baldini blasts 'unprofessional' Ronaldo
3.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Former Real Madrid official Franco Baldini has criticised Ronaldo’s behaviour during his time at the Bernabeu.

The Brazilian star left the Spanish champions in last January when his relationship with Coach Fabio Capello became untenable.

Ronaldo is currently struggling with injury problems, but Baldini believes that the Selecao hitman’s attitude is much improved in Italy.

“Since arrived in Milan, he has been a different player,” Baldini stated. “You can see that just from watching him with the ball.

“At Madrid he didn’t have a professional attitude and was a negative influence on the rest of the squad.

“The metamorphosis in Ronaldo is complete, but it hasn’t surprised me.”

El Fenomeno is facing a race against time to overcome a calf injury ahead of the Diavolo’s trip to Japan for the Club World Cup later this month.

Former Real Madrid official Franco Baldini has criticised Ronaldo’s behaviour during his time at the Bernabeu.

The Brazilian star left the Spanish champions in last January when his relationship with Coach Fabio Capello became untenable.

Ronaldo is currently struggling with injury problems, but Baldini believes that the Selecao hitman’s attitude is much improved in Italy.

“Since arrived in Milan, he has been a different player,” Baldini stated. “You can see that just from watching him with the ball.

“At Madrid he didn’t have a professional attitude and was a negative influence on the rest of the squad.

“The metamorphosis in Ronaldo is complete, but it hasn’t surprised me.”

El Fenomeno is facing a race against time to overcome a calf injury ahead of the Diavolo’s trip to Japan for the Club World Cup later this month.

Carletto focused on Celtic
3.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti insists that his Milan side are focused on beating Celtic tomorrow to secure top spot in Champions League Group D.

The European champions are already guaranteed a place in the knockout stages, but they need to avoid defeat against Celtic to finish top.

December will be a crucial month for Milan as they prepare to travel to Japan for the Club World Cup, but Carletto denies suggestions that the Rossoneri may relax in their final Group D encounter.

“At the moment we aren’t thinking about Tokyo, but about winning the Champions League Group,” Ancelotti stressed.

“We want to keep hold of first place. We will do our duty and we have the utmost respect for everyone.

“Celtic are a lot more experienced than in past years. They are physically and technically strong and can hurt you.

“They have put in very good performances at home and have improved so much, but they are less strong away from home.”

Milan will also be motivated by the desire for revenge after their devastating defeat in Glasgow on a night that saw Nelson Dida vilified for overreacting to an attack from a fan.

“Dida is clam and the episode in Glasgow is over,” Ancelotti insisted. “He has admitted his responsibility and it finished then.”

Pippo Inzaghi could overtake Gerd Muller’s record of 62 European Cup goals if he finds the net and the Milan boss finished with a thought for the prolific hitman.

“That record is very important to Pippo and he can get there,” he stated.

“We hope that he will get there tomorrow evening, but if he doesn’t he will get there another time.”

Ronaldo to return for Japan
3.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has confirmed that Ronaldo will travel to Japan for the Club World Cup.

The Brazilian star returned from a long-term thigh injury on November 25, but he reported a mysterious calf pain while warming up for the Champions League tie against Benfica.

While El Fenomeno missed out on the San Siro crunch match against Juventus and his return date is uncertain, he will be part of Milan’s squad in Tokyo.

“Ronaldo has reported a small contraction,” Galliani explained. “But he will surely go to Japan even though I’m not sure if he is training today.”

On the weekend that Kaka picked up the Ballon d’Or award, the discussion turned to the Brasilia native.

“Kaka is a champion on and off the pitch,” Galliani beamed.

“I think that it was right to give him the prize because he is also an example of sportsmanship.

“He has always said that he wants to stay at Milan, even if nobody knows the future.”

Kaka parades Ballon d'Or
2.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Kaka has paraded his Ballon d’Or trophy in Milan’s Piazza Duomo and pledged to stay for many years.

The Brazilian was in Paris this morning to pick up the ‘France Football’ award for Player of 2007, but came straight back to Italy to celebrate.

He leaned over the balcony in Piazza Duomo and showed the Golden Ball to over 2,000 fans who waited for him in the square.

“I want to win a lot more with this club and double all the trophies I have so far, from the Champions League to the Ballon d’Or,” he told Italia 1.

“This is my fifth season here. I have had many opportunities to walk away, but it is only normal that a Milan player is highly sought after.

“I want to become the captain of this side and a symbol. My future will be here and I am happy at Milan.”

Ricky has been the subject of a series of bids from Real Madrid, going up to a reported £80m, but insists he has no intention of walking away.

“I have a great rapport with my teammates and the club. Why would I want to change?”

Galliani: We're keeping Kaka
2.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Adriano Galliani has “guaranteed” Kaka will remain at Milan after becoming the sixth player from the club to win the Ballon d’Or.

“It is a fantastic story,” grinned the Vice-President. “We have had Gianni Rivera, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten won it three times, George Weah, Andriy Shevchenko and now Kaka. I thank him and his family.”

The Brazilian has been the subject of world record shattering transfer bids from Real Madrid and Chelsea, the Spaniards alleged to have offered £80m.

“He will remain at Milan. I can guarantee it,” assured Galliani.

Kaka’s family was in attendance at the ‘France Football’ ceremony in Paris, including younger brother Digao, who also plays for Milan.

“It is very exciting being here. To see my brother receive this trophy and know he is the Number One makes me very proud,” said the defender.

Digao gave Ricky his football nickname, as when he was young he was unable to pronounce Ricardo and could only say ‘Kaka.’

“He makes so many sacrifices and works extremely hard. He really deserves it. Clearly, I want to win one as well now!”

Kaka’s mother Cristina was in Paris beaming with pride. “It is a great moment of achievement. Since he was a little boy I have seen our son work hard. I thank God and Kaka, because he is fantastic.”

This week Kaka confirmed to the media that he was trying to have a child with wife Caroline.

“It is a great honour to be Kaka’s wife at a ceremony like this,” she said. “I know how important this trophy is for my husband. Above all, we thank God.”

Ballon d'Or: Kaka crowned
2.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

It is now official – Milan star Kaka is the 2007 Player of the Year after he was assigned the Ballon d’Or.

The Brazilian had been the over-riding favourite since voting began among the journalists all over the continent.

Previously known as the European Player of the Year award, organisers ‘France Football’ have recently extended the competition to those all over the world.

He absolutely dominated with 444 votes, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, 277) and Lionel Messi (Barcelona, 255). The same trio are shortlisted for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

The other Serie A representatives in the top 10 are Milan teammate Andrea Pirlo in fifth position, Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic in seventh place and Francesco Totti in 10th.

“It was an exceptional year and the Ballon d’Or crowns an extraordinary 2007,” said Kaka as he accepted the award in Paris.

“I want to thank God who allowed me to be here today. I thank my wife, my parents and Milan, the team that allowed me to win.

“I also thank my teammates, both at Milan and Brazil, and all of the fans.”

Kaka was the hot favourite after winning the Champions League – where he was top scorer with 10 goals – and the European Super Cup with the Rossoneri.

"It's the top prize around and the only way to win something like this is to play for a team like Milan," he said. "It's great to be part of a team that wins."

In October Kaka was named FIFPro World Player of the Year, voted for by 45,000 members of the players' union.

‘Ricky’ succeeds Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro, who won both the 2006 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year trophies after his World Cup triumph.

In all eight Ballon d’Ors have gone to Milan players after Gianni Rivera (1969), Ruud Gullit (1987), Marco van Basten (1988, ’89, ’92), George Weah (1995) and Andriy Shevchenko (2004).

“I have always said I want to become a symbol for Milan, the captain of this squad and I believe the best person to learn from is Paolo Maldini, who has played for the same club his whole life and won so much,” continued Kaka.

“I have just started my career, I am winning and he can set the best example for all of us here, as we are all winners.”

Since joining the Rossoneri for under £6m in the summer of 2003 Kaka has won the Scudetto, Champions League, two European Super Cups as well as three Oscar del Calcio – including 2006 Serie A Player of the Year – and UEFA 2007 Player of the Year.

“I am more mature, have more experience and learned so many things. I can put all that on to the field and this is why I score more goals and can play with more consistency, but that can only improve over time.”

The only trophy missing from the prodigious 25-year-old’s mantelpiece is now the Club World Cup, which Milan will aim for later this month.

“The competition in Japan is all I am missing now. This is the most important for a South American, as I grew up knowing this is the best there is, as you can only play in it if you win the Copa Libertadores. I lost in 2003, but now I want to win.”

Kaka was among the Rossoneri who lost the Intercontinental Cup to Boca Juniors in December 2003.

1) Kaka` (Brazil, Milan) 444 points
2) Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal, Manchester United) 277
3) Leo Messi (Argentina, Barcellona) 255
4) Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast, Chelsea) 108
5) Andrea Pirlo (Italy, Milan) 41
6) Ruud van Nistelrooy (Holland, Real Madrid) 39
7) Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden, Inter) 31
8) Cesc Fabregas (Spain, Arsenal) 27
9) Robinho (Brazil, Real Madrid) 24
10) Francesco Totti (Italy, Roma) 20
11) Frederic Kanoute` (Mali, Sevilla) 19 u`
12) Ronaldinho (Brazil, Barcellona) 18
13) Steven Gerrard (England, Liverpool) 17
14) Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina, Boca Juniors-Villarreal) 15
15) Daniel Alves (Brazil, Siviglia) 14
16) Filippo Inzaghi (Italy, Milan) 12
17) Franck Ribery (France, Marseille-Bayern Munich) 10
18) Paolo Maldini (Italy, Milan) 8
19) Gianluigi Buffon (Italy, Juventus), Petr Cech (Czech Republic, Chelsea), Gennaro Gattuso (Italy, Milan), Thierry Henry (France, Arsenal-Barcelona), Clarence Seedorf (Holland, Milan) 7
24) Fabio Cannavaro (Italy, Real Madrid), Michael Essien (Ghana, Chelsea) 5
26) Wayne Rooney (England, Manchester United) 4
27) Casillas (Spain, Real Madrid), Rogerio Ceni (Brazil, San Paolo) 3
29) Younis Mahmoud (Iraq, Al-Gharafa) 2
30) Dimitar Berbatov (Bulgaria, Tottenham), Samuel Eto`o (Cameroon, Barcelona), Ryan Giggs (Wales, Manchester United), Guillermo Ochoa (Mexico, America Mexico), Carlos Tevez (Argentina, West Ham-Manchester United), Robin van Persie (Holland, Arsenal) 1.

Ancelotti enters record books
2.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti believes Milan should have had a penalty as their draw with Juventus sets a new club record.

“We struggled in the first half, but after the break Juve’s pressure dropped and we took control,” said the Rossoneri boss after tonight’s 0-0 at San Siro.

This result set a new club record, as Milan had never before gone nine consecutive home games without a victory.

“The statistics say we don’t score often enough at home. Today we had some good chances and have nothing to reproach ourselves for,” insisted Ancelotti.

“We could have been a little luckier and there was a penalty incident on Alberto Gilardino.”

Gila seemed to be tugged back by his shorts when stretching to get on the end of a dangerous Kaka cross, but the referee waved play on.

“Juventus are a very compact side and they kept a lot of pressure on Andrea Pirlo. Ronaldo? We have time to get him back into shape.”

Their form is causing concern ahead of the Club World Cup, which starts next week.

“We are doing better than last season before the Christmas break, even if there are some players – especially in midfield – who must play continually. I think we have time to prepare for Japan.”

Meanwhile, Juventus Coach Claudio Ranieri has his own theory on Milan’s shortcomings at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

“I can see why they are having problems here, as the pitch is like soap. For a highly technical team like Milan, it is the worst kind of environment.”

Ranieri admires Juve grit
2.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Claudio Ranieri was content with Juventus’ aggressive and determined approach in the 0-0 draw away to Milan.

“I am happy with the character we showed against the reigning champions of Europe. Milan do not deserve their current position in the table,” said the Coach.

He had hinted at a trident attack, but left Alessandro Del Piero on the bench for a 4-4-2 system.

“Vincenzo Iaquinta was having problems because he was closed down by Kakha Kaladze and Alessandro Nesta. He is good at sacrificing his own performance for the team in finding space, even if he doesn’t have Del Piero’s technique.

“We tried to get the victory at the end and I thought with Ale, Raffaele Palladino and Marco Marchionni we’d manage it at the end. To play here with a trident would have been a real gamble.”

Juventus are still in the Scudetto race and have now drawn all four of their meetings with the other big clubs.

“When you take on Inter and Milan, you feel the strength of your opponents. Fiorentina are growing, while Roma have the characteristics and quality to be a title contender. As for us, every game is a test.”

Ranieri was asked about the many transfer rumours circulating around the Bianconeri ahead of the January window.

“This summer we tried to sign players who would fit into the existing group. There are players who are a little late in gelling completely, but I believe in them all,” added the former Chelsea boss.

“I don’t think we’ll bring anyone in during January. I also believe in Tiago and Sergio Almiron, two players with great potential.”

AC Milan 0:0 Juventus - match report
1.12 || webmaster

Football Italia

Only the frame of the goal and some fantastic goalkeeping ensured the big game Milan-Juventus ended in a stalemate.

These two sides dominated Serie A in the 1990s, but this was a head-to-head battle to stay in the Scudetto race, especially for a Milan outfit that had not won a single domestic game at San Siro this season. Ronaldo, Marek Jankulovski, Mauro Camoranesi and Zdenek Grygera were sidelined and Claudio Ranieri surprisingly chose to drop Alessandro Del Piero.

It was immediately a very aggressive and fast-paced game. Vincenzo Iaquinta chested down the ball for David Trezeguet to drill wide, but the move was stopped for an incorrect offside flag.

Trezeguet went even closer on 11 minutes, as Cristiano Zanetti won back the ball in midfield and placed the searching pass over the defence for the Frenchman's volley to smack against the base of the near post.

Gigi Buffon slapped a corner kick off Kakha Kaladze's head at the back post, then Clarence Seedorf toe-poked the ball inches past the upright. Nelson Dida smothered a Zanetti volley and Kaladze required a perfectly-timed intervention to prevent Iaquinta going clear on goal.

Alberto Gilardino was halted for a very tight offside flag and Nicola Legrottaglie was booked for stopping a Kaka counter. Buffon got down well to block an Andrea Pirlo snapshot that bounced just in front of the goalkeeper.

Cristian Molinaro did extremely well to take Pirlo's long pass off Kaka's feet in the D, then Pavel Nedved cut back past Kaladze with a dummy and slipped as he pulled the trigger from 10 yards. Alessandro Nesta had penalty appeals for a Jonathan Zebina embrace, but Trezeguet's first-time pass set Nedved free and Serginho nodded out for a corner before Iaquinta could pounce.

Straight after the restart Juventus had perhaps their best chance so far. Hasan Salihamidzic skipped past Serginho with some wonderful footwork, his fierce rising strike bringing a brilliant one-handed save out of Dida. The move continued and Nedved's follow-up was charged down.

Moments later Buffon was also called into a fantastic reaction save with his shin from Kaka's volley. Gilardino put the loose ball into the net, but he was flagged offside.

Gilardino was furious when he just failed to get on the end of Kaka's cross, as he felt he was held back by Legrottaglie as the two came sliding in to the six-yard box.

Dida got down well to capture a touched-on Iaquinta free kick, while Buffon had difficulty spilling a Pirlo set-piece and grabbing it at the second attempt after it had looped into the air. Molinaro exchanged passes with Nedved, but the taut cross flashed across the face of goal with Iaquinta and Trezeguet unable to get the final touch.

Carlo Ancelotti went for experience, introducing Pippo Inzaghi and Paolo Maldini for Gilardino and the disappointing Serginho. Zebina slipped and almost left Kaka clear on goal before Legrottaglie cleaned up.

Kaka turned between three defenders and had his shot charged down by Legrottaglie. Inzaghi showed he can still ride the offside flag as his powerful effort was parried by Buffon at point-blank range.

Ranieri also made a double substitution with Del Piero and Marco Marchionni on for Salihamidzic and Iaquinta. Nesta intercepted a pass just before Del Piero could bury it, then veteran Maldini skipped between two defenders for Seedorf's cross-shot.

Maldini was almost the unlikely match-winner in the final minute, his strike whistling over the bar from the edge of the box.

In stoppages Massimo Ambrosini rolled a ball across the box for Inzaghi, but Buffon stood his ground and managed to use his legs to shield the goal.

A minute later it was Legrottaglie's turn to charge down a Kaka curler from the edge of the penalty area.

Milan: Dida; Oddo (Bonera 78), Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho (Maldini 63); Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf, Kaka; Gilardino (Inzaghi 63)
Juventus: Buffon; Zebina, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro; Salihamidzic (Marchionni 71), Nocerino, Zanetti; Nedved (Palladino 81); Trezeguet, Iaquinta (Del Piero 71)
Ref: Morganti

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