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The Archive

March 2008

Preziosi: We'll fight for Borriello
31.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Genoa President Enrico Preziosi has promised he will do everything he can to secure the signature of Azzurri striker Marco Borriello.

The 25-year-old arrived from Milan in a co-ownership deal last summer after a chequered spell at San Siro, but he has proved to be a revelation.

Borriello hit his 18th goal of the campaign against Reggina last weekend and is sitting proudly atop the Capocannoniere chart, prompting suggestions that Milan will outbid Genoa for his full rights.

“We will do everything we can to sign him,” Preziosi revealed on Radio Kiss Kiss.

“Marco is attached to the Genoa shirt and I think that there is potential for an agreement with Milan, even if the Rossoneri are obviously stronger than us financially.

“There are few players in Italy with the technical ability, speed and strength of Borriello.”

Preziosi also spoke of his pride at the way his newly promoted side have acquitted themselves in Serie A and guaranteed survival.

“We have exceeded the expectations we had at the start of the season,” he declared.

“The side have achieved important results and the credit for that should go to the players and Coach Gian Piero Gasperini.

“We have secured survival and it is right to celebrate because staying in Serie A is our Scudetto.

“No we are going to Roma to play our game and we will have the advantage of playing free of pressure.”

Oddo: We deserved defeat
31.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan defender Massimo Oddo admits that the Rossoneri deserved to lose to Atalanta yesterday.

The Rossoneri’s chances of finishing fourth and securing Champions League qualification were dealt a severe blow when they were stunned 2-1 by the Orobici at San Siro.

Although Fiorentina also lost, Udinese have now leapfrogged the world champions and Milan are reeling.

“We have to face up to what happened and take responsibility,” Oddo lamented.

“We played badly and we deserved to lose. Our performance was poor, we lacked grit and the will to win.”

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani hit out at the referee after the game and Oddo agreed that the Diavolo were harshly treated.

“There were some huge oversights from the referee,” the ex-Lazio man stressed.

“For the first goal I felt like I was being brought down. Maybe the referee didn’t see it, but I think that it should have been flagged with the linesman’s help.”

Oddo concluded by hitting out at the lack of belief from the Milan fans and suggested that they should watch the Premier League for inspiration.

“The atmosphere at San Siro isn’t great these days,” he moaned. “It’s like that in Italy, it’s not like England where even if you lose and you are already relegated they still applaud you.

“As we welcome the joy of the fans when we win, we have to also accept the whistles. But maybe if they had come at the end of the first half or at the final whistle it would have been better.”

Galliani rages at referee
31.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has blamed referee Christian Brighi for his side’s shock defeat against Atalanta.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men were humbled by the Bergamo boys 2-1, but the Rossoneri felt the officials’ decisions didn’t help their cause.

“The match was completely decided by the referee,” Galliani raged on the Milan Channel.

“The first half was our fault, but then Brighi made three consecutive mistakes and that proved fatal.

“One error penalised us and the other two favoured them, but there is no point complaining because we are told that everything is fine these days.

“Sergio Floccari’s foul on Massimo Oddo for the first goal was incredible. Clarence Seedorf’s disallowed goal was valid. It’s amazing how the linesman next to Antonio Langella didn’t notice that he was playing Clarence onside.

“And then of course, Massimo Ambrosini’s goal was legitimate. But at the end of the day we have unfortunately lost at home once again.”

Milan are now in sixth place, but their deficit on Fiorentina remains four points after the Viola were beaten by Udinese.

Ancelotti: Never again!
31.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti is furious with his squad over “the usual mistakes” and demanded changes in attitude. “No more second chances.”

Milan’s Champions League hopes are evaporating as despite Fiorentina’s loss away to Udinese today, they dropped into sixth place and are still four points adrift of fourth.

“I know my players and what they can do from here until the end of the season. We still have a possibility, but there are no more second chances after this. We must not look for alibis.

“We are aware of the difficult moment we’re going through and will try to get out of it. Not qualifying for the Champions League would weigh heavily on us. We have a possibility and must make the most of it.”

This loss to Atalanta was Milan’s second consecutive 2-1 defeat at San Siro after an identical dismal performance against Sampdoria 10 days ago.

“We made the usual mistakes that we tend to make at home,” admitted Ancelotti. “It was a bland start and a bit lazy, so in the end we paid the price. In some situations we were very distracted, just as we were against Samp.”

The Rossoneri had two goals controversially disallowed for a Clarence Seedorf offside flag and Massimo Ambrosini’s push, but the Coach did not look for excuses.

“The referee was on a par with our performance today, but having said that we certainly didn’t lose because of him.

“Our entire game is to be wiped off the slate, there was nothing to be salvaged from it. In the second half we tried with a bit more grit, but left ourselves very open to the counter.”

Andrea Pirlo has been on very poor form recently and saw his last-minute penalty saved by Ferdinando Coppola, while the absence of the injured Kaka, Pippo Inzaghi and Ronaldo is making itself felt.

“Now we have to make changes,” slammed Ancelotti. “We cannot carry on like this. We hope to have Kaka back for the next game, but at the moment we are not defending well and not attacking well either.

“Something will change, but I am not so much talking about the players as the attitude. We’ll see what happens on Saturday.”

The Rossoneri welcome on form Cagliari to San Siro next weekend and then travel to Juventus on April 12.

Meanwhile, for Atalanta it was a glorious afternoon and their first Serie A victory here in 17 years.

“It was an almost perfect performance,” smiled assistant manager Francesco Conti, as Coach Gigi Del Neri sat out a touchline ban.

“At the end we suffered under Milan’s siege, but did well to react. It’s true we were a little lucky, but you need that to win in football.”

AC Milan 1:2 Atalanta - match report
30.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Floccari 32 (A), Langella 42 (A), Maldini 84 (M)

Andrea Pirlo's last-gasp penalty was saved as another disastrous Milan home performance further dampened their Champions League hopes.

The Rossoneri lost to local rivals Atalanta in January's rescheduled game and were desperate to avoid a similar outcome with the Champions League spots four points away going into this weekend. Kaka, Ronaldo, Pippo Inzaghi, Marcos Cafu, Emerson, Marek Jankulovski and Serginho were in a packed treatment room, while Moris Carrozzieri and Coach Gigi Del Neri sat out bans for the visitors. Atalanta's last Serie A victory here was a 1-0 result on March 17, 1991.

Gennaro Gattuso scored against Atalanta in January and almost did it again after eight minutes, but he blasted a poor clearance over the bar from the D.

Alberto Gilardino nodded over when Massimo Ambrosini was in a better position behind him, then Gattuso flicked on an Alexandre Pato cross a little too long for Clarence Seedorf to go clear on goal.

Gilardino had not scored at San Siro in nearly a year and chested down the ball to test Fernando Coppola at the near post.

Instead, Atalanta took the lead with their first real chance. Ferreira Pinto got away down the right and rolled across for the unmarked Sergio Floccari to come sliding in. Zeljko Kalac got a touch to the first effort, but could do nothing on the second as the Milan defence was caught ball-watching. Massimo Oddo claimed he had been fouled in the lead-up, but the linesman and referee waved play on.

Thomas Manfredini replaced the injured Leo Talamonti, but the San Siro crowd was jeering a dreadful Rossoneri performance. Andrea Pirlo tested Coppola with a free kick, but they had precious little to offer.

In an almost identical move to the one Sampdoria scored in their 2-1 win here a fortnight ago, Atalanta struck again on the counter. Floccari drew three defenders and passed for Antonio Langella to beat an Oddo challenge and fire past Kalac at the near post!

It should have been 0-3 in stoppages, but Ferreira Pinto ballooned over totally unmarked from Langella's cross. Carlo Ancelotti made two changes with Alberto Paloschi and Kakha Kaladze coming on.

Seedorf was already celebrating an equaliser after the restart when Coppola palmed Paloschi's shot into his path, but the Dutchman was flagged offside. However, replays suggest Langella was keeping Seedorf in play.

Soon after Coppola parried a Gattuso effort and Pato passed straight to the goalkeeper from Paloschi's headed assist. Milan looked like a different team and were pouring forward in waves, but this left space for the counter-attack and Cristiano Doni incredibly fired over when totally clear on goal from nine yards on Ferreira Pinto's assist.

Paolo Maldini had to clear from six yards when Langella was allowed all the space and time he wanted to go on the counter, while Kalac was at full stretch to deny another shot from the former Cagliari winger.

Pato scuffed a volley and Seedorf's shot was deflected out for a corner. Massimo Ambrosini thought he had got them back into it on 77 minutes with a header from a corner kick, but it was disallowed for a push on goalkeeper Coppola. Ambrosini was also booked for dissent.

Soon after Ambrosini nodded over the bar, but the goal came with six minutes to go. It was an unusual scorer, as Maldini got a free header from eight yards on a corner that squirmed through Coppola's hands at the near post.

Yet Simone Inzaghi went on the counter and brought a difficult save out of Kalac. It was a chaotic finale, as Alessandro Nesta was sent off for dissent and moments later Ambrosini was brought down by a Guarente sliding tackle. The referee pointed to the spot without hesitation and Pirlo stepped up, but his penalty was well saved by Coppola!

Milan: Kalac; Oddo (Brocchi 59), Nesta, Maldini, Favalli (Kaladze 46); Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf; Pato, Gilardino (Paloschi 46)

Atalanta: Coppola; Rivalta, Pellegrino, Talamonti (Manfredini 33), Bellini; Ferreira Pinto, Tissone, Guarente, Langella (Padoin 69); Doni; Floccari (S Inzaghi 82)

Ref: Brighi

Sent off: Nesta 87 (M)

Missed penalty: Pirlo 89 (M)

Pato: The agony and the ecstasy
30.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Alexandre Pato gives himself “eight out of ten” for his performance so far this season and reveals the shocking illness that almost ended his career.

The Milan hitman started his campaign in January due to a legal loophole over his age, but has already netted seven Serie A goals.

“I give myself eight out of ten, but it would have been more if I had been able to score against Arsenal,” said the 18-year-old.

“I promise the fans that I will take Milan to fourth place. I am very happy here, as I have the most enjoyable job in the world.”

Pato is famed for always scoring on his debut – doing so for Milan, the Brazil youth team and earlier this week the senior Selecao squad too.

“I hope to keep that trend up and score in my first derby!” he told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

Pato debuted that goal celebration after his first Serie A goal – holding his hands up to create a heart.

“When I score, the heart is for my girlfriend Sthefany and the smile is for the fans. It is a nice gesture, as I like to be at peace with the world. Sthefany and I love each other and we want to get married, but not this year.

“It hasn’t been easy for me growing up without my family around me. At 16 I saw my mother five times in 12 months. It was tough for both of us, but I shall always thank them for giving me the opportunity to choose.”

Pato also revealed a shocking moment in his life that almost cut short his playing career before it had even begun.

“In 2000 I had a tumour removed from my left arm. I broke my arm when playing with a friend and they didn’t put the cast on properly.

“When they looked deeper into it they saw a tumour. The doctor Paulo Roberto Mussi operated on me and said if they’d caught it two months later my arm would have been amputated. I was very fortunate.”

Del Neri eyes AC Milan double
30.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Gigi Del Neri thinks Atalanta can repeat January’s result by beating Milan at San Siro today.

The Orobici saw off the Rossoneri 2-1 in a rescheduled Serie A match that had been postponed from December due to the Club World Cup commitments.

“Milan are a super squad. They have so many quality players who can make up for the absence of injured stars.

“Alexandre Pato has technique and pace, he is simply fantastic. An 18-year-old is an adult and one needs to put faith in the young.”

Del Neri is an expert in getting the best out of promising players, having nurtured many talents at Chievo and now Atalanta.

“With our players, we can put Milan under real pressure,” added the Coach.

Carlo: Shevchenko doesn't fit anymore
30.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

While reports in Italy circulate that Andriy Shevchenko is returning to Milan on loan, Carlo Ancelotti warns he wouldn’t suit Alexandre Pato.

Tuttosport among others insist that a deal has been struck with Chelsea to take Sheva on a free loan for a year so the Rossoneri will only need to pay his wages.

These too will be decidedly reduced from the deal he has at Stamford Bridge, essentially following the pattern set by Chelsea in their loans of Hernan Crespo and Juan Sebastian Veron to Inter in recent years.

“I don’t think he would make an ideal partnership with Pato, as their characteristics are too similar,” pointed out Ancelotti in today’s Press Conference.

“There would be a much better and more balanced pairing between Pato and Marco Borriello, as they have different characteristics, yet they are compatible.”

Genoa hitman Borriello is co-owned by the Rossoneri and could return to base at the end of this season.

Ancelotti also commented on Shevchenko in an unusual setting, as he was interviewed by comedy show Le Iene this week.

He was asked to pass judgment on a series of figures, not naming which one he was actually referring to, but it was quite simple to spot Sheva in these statements.

“He played a nasty trick on us, yet it is difficult to speak ill of him even now because of the great affection everyone had for this person. In a word? Traitor.”

The tactician is looking ahead to Sunday’s clash with Atalanta and the fourth place finish that could decide whether he stays on the bench next term.

“The club has been very clear, my future is not tied to fourth place,” insisted Ancelotti.

“It will be a difficult game, because we cannot afford to make any more slip-ups. We are still four points adrift of Fiorentina and that is a big gap.

“There were positive signs in our victory at Torino and we hope to continue along that path. Atalanta have characteristics that make them very dangerous on the counter.”

Atalanta already beat Milan 2-1 in the rescheduled Serie A game back in January at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.

Preziosi enjoys Borriello bounty
29.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Genoa chief Enrico Preziosi has put a price tag on striking star Marco Borriello and expressed his delight at the Rossoblu’s progress this term.

Preziosi deserves the credit for the transfer swoop of the summer when he bought a 50 per cent share in Milan hitman Borriello.

Despite his promise, the 25-year-old had been through a miserable time at San Siro, including a failed drugs test.

However, Borriello has been a revelation at Marassi and is Serie A’s Capocannoniere with 17 goals to his name.

“He is worth £14m,” Preziosi insisted. “I am happy with the season that he is having and obviously glad that we gambled on the lad.”

Milan and Genoa will have to resolve Borriello’s co-ownership this summer, but if both sides want to keep him they will have to go through a blind auction with bids in sealed envelopes.

It has been a thoroughly positive campaign for Preziosi’s newly promoted side as they are almost guaranteed to stay up with 39 points already to their name.

“The team is over the moon at the moment,” he admitted. “We are very calm, but at the same time determined to finish as high as possible.

“We have some tough games waiting for us, but we will be hungry for points and able to get the wins.”

Tears of joy for Pato
29.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan starlet Alexandre Pato was moved to tears after finding the net on his Brazil debut on Wednesday evening.

The 18-year-old took just 12 minutes to hit the target against Sweden at the Emirates Stadium and has been reaping the plaudits since.

“I called my parents straight after the game and I was crying with the emotion,” the former Internacional man revealed on Milan’s website.

“There’s nothing you can say. I was so emotional and I wanted to thank my parents, as they deserve the credit for everything that I am achieving because of the education they gave me, and the fact that they were always close to me.

“There’s a great feeling of joy at having made my Brazil debut. I would have had this chance before but I was denied by an injury.”

Pato has been widely compared to Selecao legend Pelè in his homeland’s Press, as the great man was the last player to score on his Brazil debut.

“Without a doubt the comparisons make me happy,” Pato admitted. “He is an idol to me, and a phenomenon.”

The precocious hitman returned to Milanello yesterday and received a hero’s welcome from his teammates.

“Now it’s time to think about Milan again and the objective is obviously to finish in fourth and get into the Champions League,” Pato explained.

“It’s crucial to beat Atalanta and claw back Fiorentina.”

Carlo Ancelotti may opt for a young partnership of Alberto Paloschi and Pato, as Kaka and Pippo Inzaghi are out and Alberto Gilardino has ‘flu’.

Pato makes dream debut
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan’s teen sensation Alexandre Pato marked his Brazil debut with a goal against Sweden last night.

The former Internacional man opened his international account just 12 minutes after his entry at the Emirates Stadium when he took full advantage of goalkeeper Rami Shaaban’s mistimed charge.

It has been almost 40 years since a Selecao player scored on his debut and the Brazilian Press have already started comparisons between Pato and that man, Pelè.

“It was a performance that was reminiscent of the early days of Pelè, Zico, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho,” Globoesporte raved.

“Pato was clearly more dangerous than Luis Fabiano, despite playing for half the time,” O Globo insisted.

Brazil Coach Carlos Dunga was also delighted with the way the 18-year-old dealt with the spotlight.

“Pato has only played 40-odd games as a professional, but he is already a great,” he enthused.

Meanwhile, Inter defender Nicolas Burdisso found the target for Argentina in their 2-0 friendly win over Egypt, but it was a frustrating night for Napoli marksman Ezequiel Lavezzi, who spent the entire evening on the bench.

Tissone eyes AC Milan scalp
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Atalanta midfielder Fernando Tissone is hoping his side can defy the odds to do the double over Milan.

The Orobici travel to San Siro on Sunday to take on a Rossoneri outfit, who are desperate for points to aid their bid for Champions League qualification.

Atalanta seem to have little to play for with their season objective of survival as good as secure and a UEFA Cup place beyond their reach, but Milan are local rivals and Tissone is determined to repeat their unlikely 2-1 triumph in Bergamo.

“Playing against the big sides always brings strong emotions and a special motivation with it,” the Argentine ace explained.

“In the first game we played excellently and got the win, even though we were unable to enjoy it with our fans as it was behind closed doors. Now we are looking for a good result at San Siro.”

It is a demanding period for Atalanta, who must also face Inter at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia in Week 32.

“These are important games for Milan and Inter because they will influence their League position,” Tissone said.

“But for us it is as simple as continuing to give 100 per cent in every game as we always do.”

Ronaldo comes off crutches
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Ronaldo’s recovery from severing a knee tendon is ahead of schedule and the striking star is walking unaided.

There were fears that El Fenomeno’s career was over when he severed a tendon in his knee in a game against Livorno in February.

However, after a successful operation on February 13 and 41 days of physiotherapy, things are looking more positive and Ronnie is now walking without the aid of crutches and has an almost complete range of motion.

“I am really happy with how things are going and because I don’t feel any pain now,” the 31-year-old declared to journalists.

Physiotherapist Bruno Mazziotti is also delighted with the speed of the former Real Madrid man’s recovery.

“We are working slowly but surely to get the best results possible. Ronaldo is increasing in confidence and taking a more independent approach,” he revealed. “In the coming weeks we will start to work with weights.”

Ronnie is set to meet Gerard Saillant – the head of the surgical team that performed the procedure – on April 3, but he will attend training at Milanello to see his teammates this week.

Emerson ready for AC Milan rally
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Brazilian midfielder Emerson is nearing a return to action for Milan and is demanding a final push from his teammates to secure fourth place.

The Rossoneri trail Fiorentina by four points and must overhaul the Tuscans if they are to play a part in next season’s Champions League.

The next test for Carlo Ancelotti’s men is Atalanta at home and they could welcome back Emerson after a long-term injury.

“Our objective is fourth place,” the former Roma man said on the Milan Channel.

“All we can do is hold up our part of the bargain and hope that sooner or later Fiorentina slip up and we can close the gap.

“We have to change our attitude in the first 20 minutes of the game and show our will to win.

“We are a technical side who pay differently to the other teams in Italy. We have to show grit and determination as well as skill so we can get the right results.

“We have to take advantage of this game at home and take the points. Unfortunately, we haven’t had the best results on home soil this year, but that can change because of the importance of the support at San Siro.

“Personally, I feel fine and now that we have a week to prepare for games I feel I can work better.

“I will be ready if the Coach needs me for Atalanta and we can have a great game,” he concluded.

Pippo backs home remedy
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan striking veteran Pippo Inzaghi has implored the Rossoneri not to look abroad for forward options this summer but to trust the men they have.

The world champions are being linked with a host of foreign stars, including Didier Drogba, Emmanuel Adebayor, Dimitar Berbatov and Mario Gomez as they look to increase their firepower.

However, Inzaghi believes that the best options may lie closer to home with men already under contract at San Siro.

‘In my opinion, Milan only need to make a few slight modifications this summer,” the 34-year-old claimed.

“There’s no need for any revolution, especially in attack. We already have Alexandre Pato, Alberto Gilardino and Alberto Paloschi guaranteed to be here.

“Marco Borriello is doing so well at Genoa and I would not hesitate in recalling him. He is strong, powerful and has developed very well during the season.

“I repeat – I don’t want any foreign marksmen. Milan already have stronger players than many other sides and they just need to be given confidence.”

However, there is still speculation that the unsettled Gilardino will quit the club in the summer as he continues to receive irregular starts.

Genoa prepare Borriello bid
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Genoa are set to begin negotiations for the permanent signature of co-owned Azzurri striker Marco Borriello.

Borriello joined Genoa in a co-ownership arrangement with Milan after a miserable spell at San Siro that was blighted by a failed drugs test in December 2006.

The 25-year-old has undoubtedly been the surprise package of the season and leads the Serie A Capocannoniere chart with 17 goals to his name, but the Rossoneri are expected to try and bring him back to base in the summer.

“President Enrico Preziosi has said that he wants to negotiate for Borriello,” Rossoblu Vice-President Giovambattista Pastorello told Radio Kiss Kiss.

“Preziosi gambled on him at the start of the season and he repaid us with 17 goals.”

In the event that Milan and Genoa don’t come to an agreement, both sides will have to put offers in sealed envelopes and Borriello’s rights will be given to the highest bidder.

There have been rumours that talented French youngster Abdoullay Konko could be used as bait in the Borriello negotiations and a number of big sides are said to be tracking him.

“Konko? It makes us very happy to see big clubs in Italy and abroad chasing our players,” Pastorello enthused.

With survival as good as guaranteed, there is an air of contentment in the Grifone camp.

“We are very happy with the campaign that we are having,” Pastorello declared.

“The fact that we are almost mathematically safe after 12 years outside the top flight is a reason for satisfaction.”

Agent: Barzagli is for sale
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Palermo are ready to sell star defender Andrea Barzagli, the player’s agent has revealed.

The summer is likely to see a clearout at the Stadio Renzo Barbera after a terribly disappointing season for the Rosanero.

With UEFA Cup football out of the question, striking ace Amauri is ready to move to one of the peninsula’s giants and it seems that Azzurri stopper Barzagli will join him in heading for the exit.

“I can say that unlike last year, Barzagli is officially for sale and the club are ready to deal,” agent Claudio Orlandini said to

Fiorentina failed in bid for Barzagli last summer and there are also rumours that Milan and Juventus are tracking the 26-year-old.

“However, I can confirm what I said before and there is no news and the last transfer negotiations ended last summer,” Orlandini continued.

“Newspapers and websites continue to talk, but it’s just speculation as there has been no contact.

“I am not sure at this point whether Fiorentina are interested in Andrea and I also haven’t heard from Milan or Juventus, as reported.”

La Gazzetta dello Sport suggests that Fiorentina will move for Barzagli again and will table a part-exchange deal involving defender Dario Dainelli.

Ranocchia's Rossoneri dream
27.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Italy Under-20 defender Andrea Ranocchia is expected to find a Serie A club this summer and has asserted that his heart is set on joining Milan.

Ranocchia is currently plying his trade with Serie C outfit Arezzo, but is seen by many as one of Italy’s hottest defensive prospects.

The 20-year-old was expected to join Fiorentina in January, but the Viola’s failure to secure his signature could prove to be Milan’s gain.

“Fiorentina’s option to buy my rights ran out in January and nothing happened,” Ranocchia explained. “Therefore I am on stand-by, given that there is interest from other sides.

“If not Fiorentina, then I want to join another top-flight side where I would get a game. But if I could choose, I would go to Milan.

“However, I would stay at Arezzo if they climbed back to Serie B because I love wearing the Granata shirt.”

Milan will look to rejuvenate their ageing defence at the end of the campaign and Ranocchia may be one of their investments for the future.

Zapata weighs up options
25.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Udinese defender Cristian Zapata’s agent insists a host of clubs are chasing the Colombian’s signature, but he's in no rush to leave the Zebrette.

At the tender age of 21, Zapata has already played nearly 100 games for Udinese and is seen as one of Serie A’s brightest defensive prospects.

Juventus reportedly had advances rebuffed last summer, but it seems that the Old Lady is just one of a number of suitors.

It’s natural that a player with Zapata’s characteristics is appealing - it would be worrying if there weren’t any approaches,” agent Daniel Vidal told

“Therefore it’s not a mystery that clubs like Milan, Juventus and even Roma have shown an interest. The new name perhaps is Arsenal, but English clubs usually look around a lot.”

While it is widely seen as inevitable that Zapata will leave Udine for a bigger club this summer, Vidal doesn’t think his client’s future definitely lies away from the Stadio Friuli.

“He has never thought about leaving Udine where he loves life,” he stated. “The city and the club are perfectly on his wavelength.

“I think that Udinese would also be very happy to have him stay and there have been no concrete talks.

“But it’s hard to say what will happen in March, especially with a player who was listed in The Times’ 50 most wanted in the world.”

Kaka stresses AC Milan devotion
25.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Kaka has reiterated his attachment to Milan and feels he is “in debt” to the Rossoneri.

The Brazilian ace has thrived at San Siro and won a devastating array of individual awards last term, but he hasn’t enjoyed such success on a team level.

The Rossoneri are in danger of missing out on next season’s Champions League as they trail fourth-placed Fiorentina by four points, but Kaka is still in love with his club.

“I wanted to play at one of Europe’s great clubs and Milan were the only ones to make an offer,” the Brasilia native recalled on Spanish radio show Onda Cero.

“This club gave me the opportunity to realise my full potential and changed my life – I owe them for that.”

Real Madrid have made no secret of their desire to lure Kaka to La Liga, but the 25-year-old stressed that he wouldn’t instigate any deal.

“I have always said that there would need to be an agreement between the two sides for me to change clubs.” he said “I am happy in Milan and I feel at ease here.

“Real have never spoken directly to me, but they have been in contact with my agent who told them that they needed to sort things with the club first.”

Kaka has been sidelined since limping off after just 10 minutes of the Diavolo’s Week 29 defeat against Sampdoria.

“I am recovering and I’m over the problem,” he explained. “Luckily for me I have never had a really serious injury in my career.”

Gattuso bored by Donadoni talk
24.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Italy’s Gennaro Gattuso has admitted that he’s found the Roberto Donadoni contract saga all rather unsavoury.

The Italian Football Federation and the national Coach have been trying to reach a compromise over an extension ever since the Azzurri qualified for Euro 2008.

The situation has understandably received widespread coverage and the Milan man isn’t too happy about it.

“The longer it goes on, the more uglier it is getting – it’s not nice to hear things about Donadoni’s contract on a daily basis,” the World Cup winner told Sky Italia.

“However, as the Coach has already demonstrated, he is someone who likes to work hard and get his team working just as hard.

“All I can say is that he should look to the future and not think about his contract. He just needs to focus on the team and I’m certain that a new deal will follow.”

Donadoni signed a two-year contract in 2006 just days after Marcello Lippi resigned following Germany 2006 glory.

The FIGC want to hand him a new deal, but are keen to include a rescission clause which would annul terms if Italy flopped at Euro 2008.

It’s now expected that the Federation and the former Milan winger will postpone contract talks until after the Swiss and Austrian Finals.

Ancelotti 'frees' Gilardino
23.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti realises it was “an important victory” and admits Alberto Gilardino could request a transfer.

“I liked the way Milan played today and we slowly got into the game,” said Ancelotti after a 1-0 win at Torino ended their run of two straight defeats.

“It was an important match and an equally important victory. We struggled to break the deadlock and had several chances with Gilardino, Alexandre Pato and Clarence Seedorf.

“We had to win today at all costs. We must focus on our own path but also those in front of us, as Fiorentina also won.”

The gap from the Viola in fourth place remains four points, so their hopes of a Champions League place are still timidly alive.

Gilardino was particularly wasteful, although he did set up the winning goal for Pato.

“He had an excellent game and held up the ball when it reached him, but was not sharp in his finishing. He did very well in the goal. Will he be sold? If it’s up to us then we are keeping him for next season, but what counts are his wishes.”

Torino 0:1 AC Milan - match report
22.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorer: Pato 66 (M)

Alexandre Pato grabbed a decisive goal as Milan get back on track following two defeats on the trot, but relegation is becoming a real threat for the Granata.

These were desperate times for both teams after two straight losses. The Rossoneri's midweek home defeat to Sampdoria not only left them four points adrift of fourth place, but also put their UEFA Cup spot under pressure. Toro had Nikola Lazetic suspended and Matteo Sereni injured, while Kaka, Pippo Inzaghi, Ronaldo, Marcos Cafu and Serginho were sidelined.

Milan had not lost in Turin since November 2001, winning both their following visits. Torino had the first chance when Roberto Stellone held off Kakha Kaladze to thump the side-netting.

At the other end Alberto Maria Fontana beat away a deflected Andrea Pirlo free kick, then he flew to palm Clarence Seedorf's set play out from under the bar.

Another Pirlo free kick tested Fontana as he seemed to know little about the trajectory, while Seedorf's impressive scissor-kick was palmed round the near post.

Paolo Maldini dribbled down the left channel for his cross to be touched on by Alberto Gilardino, but Alexandre Pato's shot was deflected over the bar. From the resulting corner a looping Alessandro Nesta header hit the roof of the net.

Gilardino should have done better on the counter, but went for glory rather than rolling to the unmarked Pato.

Alessandro Rosina had a great chance smothered by Kakha Kaladze's perfectly timed challenge from eight yards. At the other end Fontana did well at full stretch to smother a deflected cross for Pato that came off Marco Di Loreto.

Seedorf was totally unmarked from nine yards for a right-foot sweeping shot on the volley that cracked against the underside of the crossbar from Pato's assist.

Gilardino wasted another golden opportunity when one-on-one with Fontana.

Milan finally broke the deadlock on 66 minutes. Gilardino gathered Seedorf's pass and with his back to goal managed to draw out the goalkeeper and swing across for Pato to prod the ball over the line. He was not in an offside position, as the Brazilian was clearly behind the ball.

Pato went forward and set up Seedorf, bringing a tough save out of Fontana's outstretched leg.

Toro threw on Alvaro Recoba and Nicola Ventola in a bid to get level. They went close too on 77 minutes, but Zeljko Kalac rushed out to flap the ball of Stellone's feet and Ventola fired the follow-up wide.

Torino: Fontana; Diana, Natali, Di Loreto, Pisano; Rosina, Corini (Ventola 70), Grella, P Zanetti; Stellone, Di Michele (Recoba 73)

Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso (Brocchi 66), Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf; Pato, Gilardino

Ref: Saccani

Luis Fabiano star eyes Italy
21.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan and Roma are expected to compete for Sevilla striker Luis Fabiano after his agent revealed that the Brazilian’s future lies in Italy.

The 27-year-old built a reputation on a phenomenal strike rate at Sao Paulo where he rattled the net 118 times in 160 games between 2001 and 2004.

Since arriving in La Liga via Porto, Fabiano has become a Sevilla hero averaging a goal every other game, but he is looking for a fresh challenge.

“I have just returned from Italy where I had at least three or four concrete offers,” agent Josè Fuentes claimed.

Real Madrid have reportedly been in the frame, but the latest revelations make Italy’s giants favourites.

Roma and Milan are both lacking strikers, while Juventus look likely to pursue Amauri and Inter may opt for Ricardo Quaresma.

Luis Fabiano’s contract at Sevilla expires in 2009 and he is unlikely to accept a renewal, which will almost certainly prompt the Andalusian outfit to cash in their asset before next season.

Carletto demands AC Milan reaction
21.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

After losing to Sampdoria, Carlo Ancelotti is expecting an immediate response from his side against Torino on Saturday.

The Rossoneri’s 2-1 home reverse at the hands of Samp on Wednesday evening has left the world champions’ Champions League hopes looking faint.

Milan trail Fiorentina by four points and are now just a single point ahead of Doria.

“We suffered a bad blow, but we have the chance to immediately react as we are playing on Saturday,” Ancelotti explained on Sky Sport Italia.

“The worst thing about the Sampdoria game was the poor first-half performance. There was a reaction after that, but it wasn’t enough. Our start was worse in terms of attitude than quality.

“But against Torino, we will find the right motivation to give the right response. Motivation is a big factor and the Champions League is a major target.

“Whatever results we have been getting this season, Milan will be major contenders next year as they always have been in the Silvio Berlusconi years.

“I don’t have to prove myself to anyone because I have achieved everything here and besides I hate summing up the season when there are nine games left.”

Ancelotti will have to do without star man Kaka in Turin, as the Brazilian is sidelined for at least 10 days.

“Kaka won’t be there on Saturday,” the former Juventus boss admitted. “But we hope to have him for the home game against Atalanta.

“In Turin I want to see a determined side from the first minute and not a team waiting to concede as we did in midweek.”

While Torino approach the game in wretched form, Ancelotti has a lot of respect for the opposition.

“We are playing a side that are struggling and have just lost at home to Udinese, so they will be feeling the same pressure that we are,” he said.

“Walter Novellino has always done really well. He has always maintained the same system and is very well prepared with it.

“They have had a tough time, but I think they will come out of the season fine and relaxed.”

Pato pride at European adventure
20.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Alexandre Pato claims that playing Champions League football was a dream come true, despite Milan’s last 16 exit at the hands of Arsenal.

The Brazilian hitman has quickly settled in to life in Serie A and also impressed on Europe’s biggest stage.

“Playing in the Champions League was always a dream of mine,” the former Internacional man told

“My friends used to play the official UEFA anthem to me, to give me an idea of what it would be like to be there.

“Now my objective is to work hard and win trophies for Milan. I want to become a great player in Italy and be recognised all over the world.”

Prior to his arrival, there was a heavy weight of expectation on Pato’s shoulders after President Silvio Berlusconi predicted he would hit 30 goals.

“I was happy listening to people saying I was a great player,” Pato insisted.

“I thank the people at Milan for looking after me, on and off the pitch, and for being my friends. It makes you want to do your best for them.

“These are the players I used to see when I was playing on the Playstation and watch on television.

“They all surprised me when I arrived as they were all humble and friendly and gave me the support I needed. It was also great to play alongside my idol Ronaldo,” he concluded.

Paloschi stays humble
20.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan starlet Alberto Paloschi found the net against Sampdoria last night, but he isn’t letting himself get carried away. "I'm still a youth player."

The Rossoneri fell to a 2-1 defeat at home to Samp last night and their Champions League qualification chances look increasingly slim.

“There’s some regret that we didn’t get three points yesterday evening,” Paloschi told the Milan Channel.

“The way that the game went, a point would have been good, but we didn’t manage it.”

Paloschi’s strike was a bright spot on a bleak evening for the world champions and helped assert the 18-year-old’s credentials for a more active role in the first-team next term.

“One of my characteristics is that I keep believing to the end and chase every ball until it is off the pitch or the goalkeeper has it,” the prodigious marksman explained.

“At half-time yesterday, Pippo Inzaghi advised me to play between the two central defenders and a little deeper. He is always right and his words mean a lot to me.

“I see the youth team as my squad. I didn’t expect to make so many appearances in the first-team this season because at the start of the campaign I was struggling to even get into the Primavera. I have worked hard and slowly arrived at this point.”

Sporting chance for Grimi
20.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Reports in the Portuguese Press suggest that Sporting Lisbon want to buy co-ownership of Milan wing-back Leandro Grimi.

At 23, Grimi is seen as a prospect for the future and was sent to Siena to gain experience last term.

The Argentine star is currently in Lisbon on loan and has settled quickly with the Lions, with suggestions that he would be happy to stay at the club in the long term.

According to newspaper A Bola, Sporting aren’t ready to pay the £2.2m required to buy Grimi’s full rights, but they are willing to part with the £1.1m needed to share Milan’s forgotten man.

A deal is likely to be drawn up next month when Grimi’s agent Marcelo Simonian comes to Europe to discuss his client's future.

The potential stumbling block may lie in Milan's desire to keep a majority share in Grimi as they look to reduce the average age of their defence.

Ancelotti: Unforgivable!
20.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti was furious at Milan’s “unforgivable” errors in the home defeat to Sampdoria, but insists he won’t hand in his resignation.

“This is not good,” said the Coach shaking his head after the 2-1 loss at San Siro. “We went 2-0 down in scandalous fashion.

“We made two unforgivable mistakes and then it became very difficult to make up for them. The approach to the game was totally wrong.

“Admittedly Kaka going off after nine minutes weighed on the team, but we really got it all wrong tonight.”

This was meant to be the game that propelled the Rossoneri towards the top four, but they seemed sluggish and complacent.

“Perhaps the team is getting a bit tired and old in terms of mentality, but we should wait until the end of the season to discuss this. They are considerations we must make in June.

“Tonight Sampdoria were far more determined. The problem we’ve had this year has been on home turf, where we always struggled. In any case, I am not thinking of leaving my post.”

The Blucerchiati are now just one point adrift of mighty Milan and Walter Mazzarri could not be happier.

“The team is improving and playing excellent football,” said the tactician. “In the second half we fell behind a bit, but the first period was wonderful to see.

“Now we are focusing on the next match, as they are all difficult and we cannot afford to look too far ahead. We’ll see where we are at the end of the season.”

AC Milan 1:2 Sampdoria - match report
19.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Maggio 12 (S), Delvecchio 25 (S), Paloschi 71 (M)

Milan tumbled to a shock home defeat that sees Sampdoria close to within a point and the Champions League dreams perhaps evaporate completely.

Few would have expected it at the start of the season, but this was effectively a head-to-head for UEFA Cup football. Just two points divided the teams going in. Milan were still smarting from their 2-1 loss at Roma and were without Ronaldo, Pippo Inzaghi, Marcos Cafu, Serginho and Yoann Gourcuff. Antonio Cassano continued to sit out his five-match ban and was joined by Daniele Franceschini on the naughty step.

Samp had not won here since a 3-2 result on February 2, 1997. Zeljko Kalac recovered from injury to start this game and took the sting out of an early Emiliano Bonazzoli attempt.

Milan were forced to change their tactics when Kaka limped off after just 10 minutes to make way for teenage striker Alberto Paloschi.

The Blucerchiati were more confident and took a deserved lead after 12 minutes. The Milan defence was caught napping, as the ball took two touches from Sampdoria players in the box before Christian Maggio's tap-in from five yards.

Massimo Ambrosini had penalty appeals waved away for a Maggio shirt tug and Paloschi fired wide of the near post from Clarence Seedorf's pass.

Instead, Sampdoria doubled their lead. Seedorf's backheel for Alexandre Pato was intercepted and they completed a classic counter-attack with Gennaro Delvecchio's finish.

Sergio Volpi's fierce free kick flashed across the face of goal with several Samp players flying in to get the decisive touch.

Alessandro Nesta had a rare crack at goal from 30 metres that was not too far off the target, then Seedorf was flagged offside - incorrectly - and fired wide anyway with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Maggio could so easily have made it 3-0 on the counter only to blast over the bar.

A well-timed Daniele Gastaldello tackle stopped Paloschi from scoring just inside the box. Alberto Gilardino came off the bench at half-time for a more attacking formation and with his first touch had a header deflected over from a corner. Gila also felt he deserved a penalty for a Stefano Lucchini challenge.

Milan were unlucky not to re-open the game as Pirlo's free kick smacked the base of the upright thanks to a Castellazzi fingertip save.

The Rossoneri finally got a goal back through their liveliest and most effective player - 18-year-old Paloschi - who got a glancing header to a Pato cross on 71 minutes.

Kakha Kaladze had more penalty appeals for a shirt-tug and Giuseppe Favalli's snapshot flashed past the near post.

Lucchini saw red in stoppages for a second bookable offence and Pirlo's free kick took a series of deflections in front of the goal.

Gennaro Gattuso was so nearly the San Siro hero with the captain's armband on, but Castellazzi did well to palm his shot out for a corner.

Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Jankulovski (Favalli 55); Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini (Gilardino 46); Kaka (Paloschi 10), Seedorf; Pato

Sampdoria: Castellazzi; Lucchini, Gastaldello, Accardi; Maggio, Sammarco, Volpi, Palombo, Pieri (Zenoni 74); Delvecchio (Ziegler 88), Bonazzoli (Bellucci 76)

Ref: Banti

Sent off: Lucchini 91 (S)

Seedorf's Dutch courage
19.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan midfield ace Clarence Seedorf has discussed Holland’s chances at Euro 2008 and the prospect of facing his Azzurri teammates.

While the former Inter wizard has been keen to stress his the importance of securing fourth place with the Rossoneri in recent weeks, he cannot entirely banish thoughts of international glory.

Seedorf’s Holland have a tough Group, which sees them face France, Romania and Italy – a side with many familiar faces.

“At the moment I really don’t know how it will be to face my teammates, but it will certainly be good to take part in the tournament,” he told

“We were knocked out of the World Cup and didn’t win our European Championships qualification Group so we are fully aware that it will be difficult.”

Unlike Milan, Holland have a very young squad, but Seedorf isn’t convinced that is an advantage.

“We will have to see because there are a lot of talented players who could become champions,” he said.

“Only a few of them actually do make it. For example, at Milan we have Alexandre Pato and we need to ensure that he develops away from pressure. He needs space to grow and learn from his mistakes.

“However, age isn’t a key factor – the desire to be competitive is. Look at Paolo Maldini – he’s 40 and is still the best.

Seedorf, like any Dutchman, will hope that his men don’t need to rely on penalty kicks in Austria and Switzerland, given their exit on spot-kicks at Euro 96 and 2000.

“I don’t like to dwell on the bad things,” he insisted. “I focus on the good memories and positive moments.

“I always try to be optimistic and I think that overcoming difficulties helps you grow.”

Shevchenko in AC Milan loan link
19.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Reports in Italy state that Andriy Shevchenko will return to Milan on loan next season and that a deal is already taking shape.

Shevchenko left Milan for Chelsea in the summer of 2006 after a phenomenal period at San Siro that saw him hit 127 goals in 208 games.

Despite the record-breaking fee of £30m, the Ukraine international has failed to settle in the Premier League and has seen his career stall at Stamford Bridge.

Sheva is highly likely to seek a new club at the end of the season and he has been sighted in Milan in recent weeks, where he is said to be house hunting.

There have been suggestions that a deal is already being discussed with Chelsea - who are unlikely to oppose the 31-year-old's departure.

Milan are looking to strengthen their front line with Ronaldo sidelined for at least another nine months and have been linked to a host of top names.

While Tottenham’s Dimitar Berbatov is reportedly an option, the vast sum needed to prise him away from White Hart Lane may be a stumbling block.

A loan may prove the ideal bridging solution for both sides and Sheva would be guaranteed the warmest of welcomes from the Milan faithful.

AC Milan in for Berbatov?
19.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Tottenham star Dimitar Berbatov’s agent admits that his client could be lured by a summer switch to Milan.

The Rossoneri need to add some firepower ahead of next season after losing Brazilian hitman Ronaldo to a long-term knee injury.

While a host of names have been suggested, including Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Palermo hero Amauri, Berbatov has climbed the wish-list in recent days and it seems the Bulgarian could be tempted by a move to the peninsula.

“If there is any interest from Milan, there has been no contact with his club,” agent Emil Dantchev told Setanta Sports News.

“But the Diavolo are one of the biggest clubs in Europe and I would discuss any possible move with Dimitar.

“At the moment, Dimitar is concentrating on doing his job with Tottenham, but there is plenty of time before the transfer window reopens.

“Just because a player is happy doesn’t mean that he cannot be happy anywhere else.”

Spurs are very reluctant to sell their prized asset and it has been suggested that Milan would have to find around £20m to change their minds.

Carletto: No more slip-ups
19.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti knows that Milan can’t afford any more dropped points as they host Sampdoria tomorrow, but there’s good news from the medics.

The world champions slipped to four points behind fourth-placed Fiorentina with a 2-1 defeat against Roma last weekend.

The prospect of UEFA Cup football next term is unappetising for the Rossoneri, but they have it all to do if they are to secure a spot in the Champions League.

“It was a comfort to see an excellent Milan against Roma,” Ancelotti maintained.

“We looked a lot better in the way we played. What’s worrying is that after Fiorentina’s win, one slip-up from us could be costly.

“Despite their youth, Fiorentina are going very well and have proven themselves to be able to compete at the top.”

Sampdoria arrive at San Siro fresh from wins over Parma and Catania, but they are still without suspended striking star Antonio Cassano.

“They are four points behind us and that shows that this side are to be feared,” Carletto claimed.

“They lose a bit of quality without Antonio Cassano, but the dynamic of the side remains the same and we will need to pay attention to Christian Maggio.”

With Alexandre Pato set to start alone up front, Ancelotti took time to praise another young star in Alberto Paloschi.

“Next season we will have five strikers and Paloschi will be one of them,” he explained.

“He has shown that he can co-exist with Pato, even if it is still early for him and there is a certain hierarchy. And we also have players who are out on loan and ready to return to base.”

Despite injury problems, Clarence Seedorf, Kaka and Zeljko Kalac have all been passed fit to play.

Paolo Maldini is likely to rest, leaving Kakha Kaladze and Alessandro Nesta likely to man the centre of defence. Marek Jankulovski is likely to be fit, but Giuseppe Favalli may stand in on the left side.

Milan (probable): Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Jankulovski; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka; Pato

Kaka wins popularity contest
18.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Kaka has been voted the most popular player in Italy in a survey conducted by publisher Panini.

Over the course of two months, over 50,000 people were asked to select their favourite 11 and Kaka received more votes than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gigi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti.

The side consists of three Juventini, three Milan stars, three Inter men and one player from Roma and Genoa.

Genoa’s former Azzurrini midfield talent Marco Rossi is the most surprising selection.

The Panini “Top Team”:

Goalkeeper: Gigi Buffon (Juventus)
Defenders: Marco Materazzi (Inter), Paolo Maldini (Milan), Javier Zanetti (Inter)
Midfielders: Kaka (Milan), Marco Rossi (Genoa), Gennaro Gattuso (Milan), Pavel Nedved (Juventus)
Strikers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Francesco Totti (Roma)

AC Milan angry at Kalac reports
18.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan have hit out at La Gazzetta dello Sport after the paper claimed that Zeljko Kalac had been awarded a lucrative two-year contract extension.

Kalac has become Milan’s No 1 in recent weeks as Nelson Dida struggles with form and injury problems.

Reports in La Gazzetta this morning stated that the Australian international had signed until 2010 in a deal worth around £2.5m, but the Rossoneri refute this.

“Once again, La Gazzetta dello Sport is notable for its inaccuracy,” a Diavolo statement reads.

“The figures and the terms of the contract were wrongly published and showed a lack of knowledge.

“If the person who wrote this had been better informed, he would have given his readers better information. Now, we have to point out the mistake to the Milan fans.”

Seedorf keeps fourth faith
18.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf is adamant that Rossoneri will finish in fourth place, despite last weekend’s defeat against Roma.

The Diavolo saw a 1-0 lead evaporate in a dramatic 2-1 defeat away to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday night.

The world champions’ misery was intensified by victories for Juventus and Fiorentina on Sunday and now Milan trail the Champions League qualification places by four points.

However, Seedorf, who was the Rossoneri’s outstanding player in the capital, is keeping the faith that Milan can avoid the unthinkable of settling for a UEFA Cup spot.

“I think that with conviction and determination this side will manage to finish in fourth,” the Dutch international told the Milan Channel.

“As far as our morale is concerned, if we were expecting a series of Finals before the Roma game then now we are expecting it to be harder still.

“But I don’t think that there is any other side in Italy who know how to play a Final better than we do.”

Ronaldo laughs off Pele forecast
17.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Ronaldo has reacted with good humour to Pelè’s suggestion that he may never return to football after his horror injury.

The Seleção star’s career is in jeopardy after he severed a tendon in his knee during Milan’s game against Livorno in February.

After a successful operation in Paris, the 31-year-old has begun the pain-staking process of re-educating his knee and may return to the pitch within the next year if things go according to plan.

However, Brazilian legend Pelè recently suggested that Ronnie would never be the same player again – a comment that El Fenomeno has taken with a pinch of salt.

“I am glad that he said I would never return because his predictions are always wrong,” Ronaldo told O Rei.

“Everyone knows that Pelè isn’t any good at forecasting things – they exact opposite always happens.

“I’m not angry – it doesn’t bother me. Pelè is an absolute idol and he gets asked questions about everything, so sometimes he gets himself into trouble trying to answer on difficult topics.”

AC Milan's relief for star duo
17.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti receives a huge boost ahead of Milan’s midweek test against Sampdoria with the news that Kaka and Clarence Seedorf will be fit.

Milan’s Stadio Olimpico defeat at the hands of Roma on Saturday had threatened to be damaging on two fronts as Kaka and Seedorf limped off in the closing stages.

Seedorf suffered a thigh injury during the Diavolo’s draw with Lazio back in Week 26 and there were fears that he had aggravated the existing problem.

However, reports from Milan’s medical staff indicate that the Dutchman was simply suffering from a mild strain and will be fit for Wednesday evening’s engagement.

Kaka left the pitch after complaining of back pain, but the Brazilian star has shrugged off the problem.

Ancelotti is also hoping that key stopper Alessandro Nesta can return after more than a month on the sidelines and regain his place at the heart of the defence.

Marek Jankulovski, Yoann Gourcuff, Pippo Inzaghi, Cafu and Serginho are all out of action, but Samp will be without Antonio Cassano, who still has three games of a five-match ban to serve.

Ambrosini's still Rome sick
17.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini admits that there is still a bitter taste after losing to Roma last Saturday.

The world champions spurned a host of chances while they were leading 1-0 and paid the price as the Giallorossi struck twice in quick succession to steal the spoils.

Milan’s Champions League qualification hopes are now hanging by a thread as they trail fourth-placed Fiorentina by four points and their defeat in Rome could prove costly come the end of the season.

“There is a lot of disappointment because games in Rome are special,” Ambrosini explained.

“We know that we played better, but at the same time we picked up nothing.

“Roma played their game and we tried to limit the counter-attack by taking advantage of out strikers’ abilities. It was a hard defeat to accept.”

Milan must now pick themselves up for the midweek visit of Sampdoria and a trip to Torino next weekend.

“We have to take the positives from the game and move on,” the 30-year-old insisted.

“We have two tough tests this week so we must recharge the batteries and show more than we did against Roma.”

AS Roma 2:1 AC Milan - match report
15.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Kaka 56 (M), Giuly 78 (R), Vucinic 81 (R)

Ludovic Giuly and Mirko Vucinic overturned Kaka's goal in three minutes for Roma's 2-1 victory over Milan.

There was a great deal at stake at the Olimpico, as the Giallorossi needed to keep up the pressure on Inter and the visitors had to maintain their race for a top four finish. Gennaro Gattuso returned from suspension, but Alessandro Nesta, Nelson Dida, Serginho, Marek Jankulovski, Ronaldo, Pippo Inzaghi and former Roma hero Marcos Cafu didn't make the trip. This meant Carlo Ancelotti - an ex-Giallorossi hero as a player - was able to field a Christmas Tree formation.

Christian Panucci performed a perfectly-timed challenge to tackle Kaka in the box, while Giuseppe Favalli had to clear for a corner when a dangerous Amantino Mancini cross found the Milan defence unprepared.

Zeljko Kalac's poor clearance was straight at Simone Perrotta and risked giving away a goal, but 30 seconds later Alexandre Pato's chipped cross was just too high for Clarence Seedorf.

The first real chance was on 25 minutes when De Rossi's cross was flicked on by Totti and Mancini's acrobatic scissor-kick was over the bar. Moments later Milan threatened too, as Seedorf went past two defenders and Alexandre Doni plucked Kaka's header out of the air.

Totti found space from nine yards on a chipped Rodrigo Taddei pass over the defence, but flashed his shot across the face of goal.

Seedorf dribbled past four defenders to enter the area, but eventually Taddei managed to cut off his path as the last man with a crucial intervention. Kaka nodded a Favalli cross wide of the far post.

Totti rolled back for the unmarked David Pizarro, but his scuffed shot and a Juan attempted deflection were off target.

Max Tonetto's cross from the left was a couple of inches too high for Totti to connect a header from six yards in first half stoppages. At the half-time whistle Totti and Luciano Spalletti were furious, as a corner was halted for an irregularity.

Straight after the restart Seedorf slipped a pass through the crowd of defenders for Kaka, but the Brazilian had a powerful effort parried from seven yards by one strong Doni hand.

Moments later Doni was again called into action with a low one-handed save at the near post on Seedorf, as Milan were far more aggressive in the second half.

Milan were piling on the pressure and opened the scoring on 56 minutes. Massimo Oddo had acres of space down the right channel to run onto Andrea Pirlo's pass and crossed for Kaka to smash under the bar from eight yards with the inside of his left foot.

Totti had a great chance to equalise, but the move was halted for an evident handling offence.

The Rossoneri really should have been 2-0 up on the hour mark. Seedorf combined brilliantly with Pato and the Dutchman squirmed past Doni, but lost his footing from that challenge and Cicinho was able to get back for a goalline clearance.

Ludovic Giuly and Mirko Vucinic were introduced to spice up the Roma attack, but Milan kept pushing and Pirlo's pass over the defence found Kaka totally unmarked for a half-volley that Doni palmed over the bar.

Zeljko Kalac smothered a Vucinic snapshot, but on the counter Pato skipped past Juan and jumped over Doni, earning only a booking for simulation. Emerson replaced Seedorf and was greeted with jeers by the Roma crowd, as he had left the club controversially to join rivals Juventus.

Totti's backheel sent Vucinic clear and he fired over, while Pato selfishly went for goal.

Roma equalised in chaotic circumstances 12 minutes from time. The ball ricocheted around and Perrotta eventually managed to thread a pass through for the utterly unmarked Giuly to volley in from eight yards.

Paolo Maldini's challenge prevented Perrotta from giving them the lead 60 seconds later, but Vucinic turned the game around completely! He sprung the offside trap on a De Rossi ball from the right to slide an angled drive past Kalac.

It wasn't over yet and Totti's lob was just too wide and it was end to end stuff in these final minutes. There was more bad news for the Rossoneri, as Kaka pulled up with lower back pain, something that has been troubling him for some time.

Kalac saved from Giuly and Totti didn't get enough power to a header from Vucinic's cross, but in stoppages Milan players were queuing up and couldn't make contact with Oddo and Pirlo crosses, as Alberto Gilardino took it off Alberto Paloschi's head. The last kick of the game was a Pirlo free kick over the bar.

Roma: Doni; Cicinho, Panucci, Juan, Tonetto; De Rossi, Pizarro (Giuly 62); Taddei (Aquilani 72), Perrotta, Mancini (Vucinic 56); Totti

Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Maldini, Kaladze, Favalli; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini (Gilardino 85); Kakà (Paloschi 87), Seedorf (Emerson 72); Pato

Ref: Rizzoli

De Rossi plays Diavolo's advocate
15.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Daniele De Rossi asks Milan what they’d rather have – a Champions League spot or the satisfaction of seeing Inter throw away the Scudetto?

The joking comment came ahead of tonight’s Stadio Olimpico showdown between Roma and the Rossoneri with both sides chasing crucial points.

“If I were Milan, I’d play a ‘relaxed’ game,” he told Roma Channel, grinning from ear to ear.

“Between fourth place and the satisfaction of making Inter lose the Scudetto, I’d have no doubts what I would choose!”

The Nerazzurri seemed to have the title sewn up, but in recent weeks Roma have cut their lead down to just six points.

Roma need a victory to maintain the pressure at the top, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side also require points to chase Fiorentina for a spot in next season’s Champions League.

“We hope to win,” added De Rossi in a more serious mode. “We did so in the away leg earlier this season, but Milan have only one objective left and so it will be even tougher.”

AC Milan focus on 2009 Scudetto
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Football Italia

Adriano Galliani reassures fans that in 2008-09 Milan will make the Scudetto their number one priority – alongside the Champions League.

For the past few years the Rossoneri have made no secret of their focus on Europe and Cup competition, whether it be the Champions League or the Club World Cup won in December.

However, their second round exit to Arsenal and the struggle to even finish in the top four in Serie A has forced a change of tack.

“We are well aware that the fans are asking us for this, so the Scudetto will have a very high place in our priorities next season. It will be top, or at least joint top in cohabitation with the Champions League.”

Milan have not won the Serie A title since 2003-04 and this season are 18 points adrift of leaders Inter.

Their only remaining objective for this term is to earn a top four finish, though they face a battle to the last with Juventus and Fiorentina.

“We will take every possible course of action and squeeze every last drop of effort into a very simple task – finishing ahead of Fiorentina. Now we are concentrated on this, then we’ll focus on our transfer campaign to remain the most successful club in the world. We’ll see whether that means a reduced squad or one with younger players.”

Their choices and budget depend on qualification for Europe, so beating Roma tomorrow is going to be potentially decisive in the race to re-enter the Champions League.

Galliani hopes the Giallorossi can fly the flag for Italy on the continent now that they are the only Serie A side left.

“I hope they manage what we had against Liverpool. We were beaten in Istanbul, then we found them in Athens and got our own back,” said the general manager.

“Roma had a negative incident with Manchester United last year and I hope they can repeat what we achieved with Liverpool.

“After a few turbulent years with Roma, our rapport with the club is excellent. We made peace with Franco Sensi and his daughter Rosella.

“In fact, I’d say we share many views and there is an unofficial agreement not to invade each others’ transfer territory.”

Seedorf returns for Roma
15.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti is breathing a sigh of relief with the news that Clarence Seedorf will be fit for Milan’s crunch match against Roma tomorrow.

With the race for Champions League qualification finely poised, Milan know that they need to return from Rome with something to show for their efforts.

Fiorentina host Genoa on Sunday and it is essential that the Diavolo don’t allow the Tuscans to extend their single-point advantage in fourth place.

Seedorf has been a costly absentee for Ancelotti since picking up a thigh injury against Lazio at the start of the month and was sorely missed during Milan’s Champions League clash with Arsenal.

Now, the Dutchman is set to start at the Stadio Olimpico and Ancelotti is expected to return to a Christmas Tree formation.

The news will come as a disappointment to Alberto Gilardino and Yoann Gourcuff with the duo set to sit on the bench in the Eternal City.

Abbiati's settled in Spain
15.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan-owned goalkeeper Christian Abbiati is enjoying life with Atletico Madrid and doesn’t expect to depose Nelson Dida at San Siro.

The talented shot-stopper was sent out on loan to Juventus for the 2005-06 campaign and spent last term with Torino.

In the summer, Abbiati chose to move to La Liga rather than fight for the Rossoneri No 1 jersey, but he doesn’t regret leaving the peninsula.

“It has been fantastic,” the 30-year-old told Calcio 2000. “I only regret not having had the courage to move to Spain a few years ago.

“The difference is in the mentality. For example, before the game we listen to loud music in the dressing room until a few minutes before kick-off – that would be unthinkable in Italy.

“Of course results are important here, but there is less tension. At the moment I am having a great time and playing for a club with such history in the capital. My family are settled and the climate is nicer than Milan’s.”

With Dida’s future in jeopardy and Zeljko Kalac not seen as a first-choice custodian, Milan are expected to go in search of a new No 1 in the summer market, but there have been suggestions that Abbiati could step into the breach.

“I have been loaned out for the last three seasons and that will probably happen again,” he insisted.

“At the start of this term I wanted to stay, but they renewed three ‘keeper’s contracts. Maybe one day I will go back not just to play third choice.”

Seedorf issues Pato warning
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Football Italia

Clarence Seedorf has warned Milan’s fans not to put too much pressure on Alexandre Pato and reiterated the importance of securing fourth place.

Teen sensation Pato has made a lightning start to life in Italy and is already a crucial figure at San Siro, but there are fears that he has too great a burden on his young shoulders.

“He is a fantastic talent, but we already knew that,” the Dutch midfielder told Sky Sport Italia.

“I have always tried to calm the hysteria, but not because I don’t want him to be praised.

“Look at what happened to Adriano – he became the Emperor of Inter at 22-years-old, but he didn’t have the moral or mental capacity to be a leader and now look at where he is.”

This weekend sees a huge clash between Roma and Milan and a win is vital for the world champions’ bid to take part in next season’s Champions League.

“We are proud of what we have achieved, but now we are obviously thinking about finishing fourth and building a future,” Seedorf stressed.

“From next season we want to be competitive in Europe and also in the other competitions.

“When you are in the top few you always have a chance and our winning cycle won’t be over. But there won’t be a future if we aren’t in the Champions League.”

Ancelotti promises 'new AC Milan'
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Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti is adamant that we will see a much-improved Milan performance against Roma on Saturday.

Milan struggled past Empoli last weekend and have been low in morale since their Champions League defeat against Arsenal.

This weekend sees a crucial battle against second-placed Roma and the Diavolo can’t afford to lose any further ground on Fiorentina.

“It’s tough to play in Rome, especially after they got through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and their enthusiasm at reopening the title race,” Ancelotti admitted.

“But what happened in Empoli was left in Empoli. In Rome we will see a different Milan side because our condition has improved markedly and we are improving technically.

“Roma are the team in the best physical state and a six-point gap doesn’t seem unassailable.”

Milan have had some injury worries in recent weeks and Carletto discussed the situation in the infirmary.

“Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf and Marek Jankulovski are working to get fit, but they are still training on their own. It is hard to say if they will make it.

“Ronaldo? It’s too soon to say how he is doing, but from what I have seen I think he will play again.”

Pato's at home in Milan
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Football Italia

Brazilian prodigy Alexandre Pato seems to have quickly adapted to life at San Siro and claims Milan is “like a family.”

At the tender age of 18, Pato is carrying the weight of Diavolo expectations on his shoulders but has hit a remarkable six goals in 10 games since arriving in January.

“I chose Milan because they are a great team and everybody told me that I couldn’t choose a better club,” Pato explained.

“This side is like a family. There are lots of Brazilians here and so many people to keep me calm.

“Marcos Cafu is always around me and talking to me and is a reference point for any Brazilian who arrives at Milan.

“My compatriots are great examples for me from Ronaldo to Emerson and Kaka to Serginho – they have won so much and I admire them lots.

“Personally, I still have lots of things to improve, including my Italian, which I am studying hard every day,” he continued.

Pato’s form has earned him a call from Carlos Dunga for Brazil’s friendly against Sweden in London on March 26.

“I am Brazilian and it’s very important to me to wear the Selecao jersey. I am very happy to be picked and also delighted that Kaka will be there,” Pato grinned.

Rino welcomes Sheva talk
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Football Italia

Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso has supported the idea of re-signing former star Andriy Shevchenko.

The Rossoneri are struggling for striking options after Ronaldo severed a tendon in his knee.

Young gun Alexandre Pato has stepped up to the mark, but Milan seem to be lacking a reliable finisher to do the job Sheva used to do.

“If the club wanted to sign Shevchenko, he would be a good addition,” Gattuso said at the presentation of FIFA Street 3.

“He hasn’t succeeded to play at the top of his abilities in England, but if he returned he would have such a great hunger and would be good for the atmosphere.

“I have heard that Sheva doesn’t want to return, but the important thing is that we bring in a top striker and other champions.

“Didier Drogba is the kind of man who can make the difference and Luca Toni is also a match-winner.”

Despite his hopes for reinforcements, Gattuso also expressed his sympathy for fallen comrade Ronaldo.

“It has upset me to see him out of action,” he stressed. “He is football and he shouldn’t have to be reduced to watching.

“His future? I can’t make judgements but I’m sure that he will only sign a renewal to his contract if he manages to recover.”

Ronaldo attended training with his Milan colleagues today for the first time since his injury, but he will be on crutches for another few weeks.

AC Milan prepare Pelizzoli money?
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Football Italia

Former Roma goalkeeper Ivan Pelizzoli is the latest name in the frame to replace Nelson Dida between the posts for Milan.

The Rossoneri seem to have lost faith in Dida during this season after a campaign blighted by errors and injury.

Zeljko Kalac has impressed when called upon to stand in, but most experts believe that the world champions don’t see the Australian international as a permanent first-choice.

Fiorentina’s Sebastien Frey has been touted as Dida’s successor at San Siro, but the French star insists that he is staying in Florence and the search has widened.

Pelizzoli is currently plying his trade in Russia for Lokomotiv Moscow after signing from Reggina for around £2m in January 2007.

An Atalanta youth product, the 27-year-old spent five years at Roma and made 73 appearances before losing his grip on the No 1 jersey.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Diavolo have been watching Pelizzoli and are weighing up a sizeable offer.

While Pelizzoli would surely jump at the chance to move to Milan, one stumbling block may be finding a suitor for Dida, who would need to be sold.

Ronaldo: I'll be back
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Football Italia

Ronaldo has confirmed he will try to get back to full fitness and professional football after his latest devastating injury.

“I am feeling better and the worse is behind me,” he told Milan Channel after returning from a month in Paris.

“I no longer feel pain and can now walk a bit better. In a little while I can definitively leave behind the crutches, naturally respecting the timetable we have set.”

Il Fenomeno conceded his career could well have been over when the tendon in his left knee snapped and was unsure whether or not to fight his way back through nine months of rehabilitation.

He returned to Italy this week after 26 days in the clinic in Paris and immediately felt more positive.

“It is great to be here today. Returning to Milanello, seeing my friends again and the fact I don’t feel pain are all positive.

“It is still early to talk about a decision, but I am preparing for this great challenge that is getting back to football.”

It is the third time in his career that he has undergone surgery on a knee tendon, although the previous two occasions were in his right leg.

Maldini reconsiders retirement
12.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan veteran Paolo Maldini has hinted that he may not retire this summer as planned.

The defensive legend had indicated that this would be his final season as a player, but it seems that he is having second thoughts.

“I am leaving every door open regarding my future,” the 39-year-old revealed.

“I was convinced before that I wanted to quit at the end of the season, but lately I have received lots of praise and my physical condition is better than it has been for a year."

On Saturday, Milan will need a vintage Maldini performance as they take on second-placed Roma at the Stadio Olimpico.

“We are expecting a real struggle against the Giallorossi,” Maldini stressed.

“They play the best football in Italy and have managed to find some consistency, even after a few delicate moments recently.

“They progressed in the Champions League where we didn’t and showed that they have a stronger character than Real Madrid.

“We will be up against a strong unit with big players such as Francesco Totti, Mirko Vucinic and Amantino Mancini and we will need to chase everything down.”

Teammate Andrea Pirlo complained today about fatigue amongst the Diavolo ranks and Maldini admits that it has been a demanding season.

“We aren’t in top condition,” he conceded. “But the trip to Yokohama demanded an amazing show of strength.

“History tells us that teams who take part in competitions like the Club World Cup find it hard in the League.

“But we just have to keep working and the win over Empoli was certainly a boost and showed that we can keep getting good results.”

'Tired' Pirlo battles on
12.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo admits that he is feeling the strain in the second half of the season, but he is focused on the battle for fourth place.

The Rossoneri were dumped out of the Champions League by Arsenal after last week’s defeat at San Siro and now have solely League commitments to occupy them.

Milan’s aim is to overhaul Fiorentina in fourth place and ensure a return to European football’s biggest stage next term, but the demands of a long season are catching up with an ageing side.

“Personally, I’m a bit tired,” Pirlo admitted. “But now I have the chance to get a little rest and work better so that my condition can improve with every day.”

Milan left it late to secure a 3-1 win over Empoli last weekend, but Pirlo believes the three points can be a useful springboard.

“It was crucial that we won against Empoli last Sunday after a gruelling week with the Champions League elimination,” Pirlo insisted.

“Now we can focus on improving and getting fourth place. We are determined to achieve our objective and we will fight to the last minute.”

Milan will need to be at their sharpest for this Saturday’s fixture – a daunting trip to Roma.

Brocchi: We're in trouble
12.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan’s Cristian Brocchi concedes that the Rossoneri are struggling as Ronaldo returns to Italy after his treatment in Paris.

It has been a tough season for Milan and their Champions League exit at the hands of Arsenal has eroded memories of their Club World Cup triumph back in December.

The Diavolo struggled to a 3-1 win over Empoli last weekend to keep their bid for a fourth-placed finish on track, but Brocchi admits that these are testing times at San Siro.

“It’s useless to deny that we aren’t in the best way at the moment,” he said on the Milan Channel.

“We have players who aren’t in top condition physically and others who aren’t having the best time on a mental level.

“Therefore, we are lacking a bit of calm and look less fluid on the pitch so sides can put us in trouble, however strong or weak they are.

“Going out of Europe hurt all the players, as well as the club as a whole. However, we should look back with happiness at everything Milan have achieved over the last six years as it is unrivalled.

“Our target is one again to qualify for next season’s Champions League because this team needs to be in that competition and I am sure that our pride will help us reach that objective.”

There was a stark reminder of Milan’s injury woes this afternoon as Ronaldo landed at Linate Airport.

El Fenomeno will be out of action for at least nine months after severing a tendon against Livorno and is back in the peninsula after an operation and 26 days of therapy in Paris.

Marseille gunning for Gourcuff
12.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

French giants Marseille have set their sights on luring Milan benchwarmer Yoann Gourcuff this summer.

Despite arriving at San Siro with the nickname “Le Petit Zidane” and being touted as a key figure for the Rossoneri’s future, Gourcuff has struggled to show his talents in Serie A.

As the 21-year-old’s frustration mounts, he has been linked with a move to Ligue 1 to jumpstart his career and it seems that Marseille would welcome the former Rennes man with open arms.

“It’s true that Gourcuff is on our list,” sporting director José Anigo admitted on Radio RTL.

While it had been suggested that Gourcuff was being lined up as a replacement for talented midfielder Samir Nasri, who is a summer target for Inter, it seems that the two men may form a mouth-watering duo.

“I am sure that Nasri will renew his contract beyond 2009,” Anigo insisted. “We can’t be certain that he will be here next season, but it would be better for him and us if he stayed for another season or two.”

Since arriving at Milan in the summer of 2006, Gourcuff has made just 34 appearances and nine of his 13 outings this term have been as a substitute.

AC Milan assess Flamini option
10.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan have joined Juventus in the reported race to sign Arsenal midfield starlet Mathieu Flamini.

The young Frenchman, still just 24, may be up for grabs on a Bosman at the end of the season after failing to agree terms with the London club over an extension.

Juventus, despite publicly insisting that they are not tracking the midfielder, have been linked and the Rossoneri are now said to be keen too.

The latest transfer whispers doing the rounds in the streets of Europe’s fashion capital suggest that the San Siro giants are prepared to offer him a four-year contract worth £2m a season.

Flamini, who impressed Milan scouts during Arsenal’s victorious Champions League ties against the Italians recently, is being viewed as a possible replacement for Yoann Gourcuff.

The latter, heralded as the new Zinedine Zidane, could be on his way out of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza after failing to deliver on his potential.

In an odd twist, Gourcuff may actually end up at the Emirates Stadium given Arsene Wenger’s understood admiration for the former Under-21 French international.

Borriello reveals Euro dream
10.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Marco Borriello has revealed that it would be a dream come true to make the Italy squad for this summer's European Championship.

The Genoa striker has been in scintillating form this season and is Serie A's Capocannoniere with 16 goals in just 24 starts.

Borriello's performances have not gone unnoticed as he was capped for the first time by Azzurri Coach Roberto Donadoni in February against Portugal, coming on as a sub for Luca Toni.

“These next two months will be crucial if I am to earn myself a call-up to the Nazionale,” he revealed to Italian magazine Tu.

“I dream of going to Euro 2008 but I don't know how much chance I have.”

The Neapolitan has had a controversial career so far after being banned for three months last year following a failed drug test while at Milan.

However, since moving to Genoa in a co-ownership deal last summer his career has thrived, but his loyalty is far from beyond reasonable doubt.

“I would like to stay here, but if the Rossoneri were to take me back I would certainly not fall on bad times because they are a great team,” he concluded.

Ancelotti's chicken soup win
10.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti admits it wasn’t a vintage Milan performance. “We’re still on the road to recovery.”

The 3-1 victory away to Empoli put them within a point of fourth place, but they needed two goals in the last five minutes to achieve the result.

“Aside from the points, I didn’t like Milan today,” confessed the Coach. “We are still on the road to recovery.

“We can’t seem to play with fluidity, but thankfully this was the last game in a packed fixture list and from tomorrow we will be able to train normally.”

Ancelotti has blamed their poor form and Champions League exit on the fact the Club World Cup revolutionised their calendar, forcing the team to play twice a week since January 13.

“We struggled to get these three points, but it was very important to win today. It was also a fortunate round considering Fiorentina lost at Siena, but there’s a long way to go yet.

“It is not something I’ve had to say in recent years, but we don’t have to play Cup games and that can be an advantage.”

Roma are the only Italian side still in the competition, awaiting Inter’s second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday.

“Now it is inevitable we’ll all be cheering on Roma. They have more experience to do better than before. I am an ex-Giallorossi player, so it’s no problem for me to admit I hope they win more than Inter.”

Ancelotti has been put under the microscope following the defeat to Arsenal and it’s reported next year’s revolution will include a new Coach.

“We are building the future together. I am in sync with the club and we agree on everything, including the fact that a total revolution is unnecessary. Let’s not lie – a few players will change, but that’s it.”

Alberto Malesani is under pressure amid rumours defeat today would see him sacked and replaced by his predecessor Gigi Cagni.

“I would make all the same choices again,” assured the Empoli boss. “Milan only changed the game in the final minutes when our players were struggling with cramp.”

Ancelotti 'thanks' Arsenal
9.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti is trying to find the positive side of Milan’s Champions League exit. “We can focus on recapturing a top four finish.”

The reigning European champions bowed out in the second round after a 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal and must close the four-point gap from Fiorentina if they are to enter the competition again next season.

“Tomorrow our chase for the Champions League begins. We will have an advantage both physically and in terms of quality of football by the fact we won’t play midweek games,” assured the Coach.

“We can train regularly, get some injured players back in shape and use our energy wisely. It is disappointing to be eliminated, but there is also the desire to get back on our feet and start running again.”

More was expected of the Rossoneri in those two legs with Arsenal, but Ancelotti feels meeting the Gunners so early was decisive.

“In previous years we had won twice, played another Final and a semi-final. We have to accept the verdict – last season we had a favourable draw with Celtic, this year less so, but we have no regrets.

“I don’t think Tuesday’s exit can prove Milan’s philosophy is wrong and Arsenal’s is right.”

This European failure has been seen by many as an alarm bell forcing the team to renew and rejuvenate its ranks.

“This squad is still very competitive and I am sure over the next 12 games it will prove that. Every day we hear the same things as three or four years ago, but in my view the structure of the side is perfect.”

President Silvio Berlusconi has publicly suggested bringing Andriy Shevchenko back from Chelsea in the summer.

“There is no point talking about this now,” snapped Ancelotti when asked about the Ukrainian’s chances of a comeback. “We can discuss it at the end of the season, not before.”

Meanwhile he is preparing for Sunday’s encounter with Empoli and knows another negative result will make a push for fourth place extremely difficult.

“It will be a tough game. Empoli are a dynamic and young side, but Milan must focus on playing better and with more tempo.

“With more time to train, we can get back to playing the way we know how. This season our style of football has left something to be desired.”

Empoli 1:3 AC Milan - match report
9.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Scorers: Pato 19 (M), Busce' 24 (E), Ambrosini 85 (M), Kaka 89 (M)

Milan are back in business, but needed two goals in the last five minutes to see off Empoli.

The Champions League exit to Arsenal left the Rossoneri with only fourth place to aim for, but were coming off three draws in four games. They were without Pippo Inzaghi, Clarence Seedorf, Marek Jankulovski, Nelson Dida, Serginho, Marcos Cafu and the suspended Gennaro Gattuso. Empoli had lost their last two on the trot and were missing banned Davide Moro and Lino Marzoratti, but had beaten Milan at San Siro in Week 8.

Sebastian Giovinco wanted a penalty for Massimo Ambrosini's early shoulder-charge, while at the other end Kaka and Alexandre Pato combined well with the youngster's shot beaten away by Davide Bassi.

Milan took the lead in curious circumstances. Bassi's howler as he went to grab a cross saw him clatter into Alberto Gilardino and drop the ball to a grateful Pato.

Gila should have made it 2-0, but completely missed Kaka's cutback from eight yards.

Only a few minutes later Empoli were level again. Luca Antonini's cross went past everyone to reach the unmarked Antonio Busce' at the back post. Alberto Malesani took the opportunity to protest with the referee about the earlier incident and was sent off.

Gilardino hit the back of the net on Yoann Gourcuff's pass over the defence, but it was correctly disallowed for an offside flag. The former Parma striker was onside this time, but his weak lob was straight at Bassi after Andrea Pirlo's pass over the defence.

Moments later Francesco Pratali was left unmarked to fire a corner kick over from six yards. Empoli's tails were up and Luca Saudati flashed a shot across the face of goal after Davide Marchini's through ball.

Abate was allowed all the space he wanted to blast over from the edge of the box and Kaka required treatment for a shoulder problem after he tested Bassi.

Empoli threatened to take the lead on the stroke of half-time, but Saudati turned past the near post from close range on Busce's assist.

Carlo Ancelotti made two changes at the break and it seemed to wake them up, as Bassi smothered a Pato diving header from six yards and then Gilardino's header looped over the bar.

Empoli were only denied by the woodwork when Marchisio was given plenty of space to unleash a right-foot snapshot on to the upright from 25 metres.

18-year-old Alberto Paloschi replaced the disappointing Gilardino for the final minutes.

Pato fired a left-foot strike over the bar from the edge of the box, but five minutes from time Kaka chipped up a cross to the eight yard mark where Massimo Ambrosini's looping header beat Bassi.

Kaka should have put the game beyond doubt when running the entire length of the pitch, but opted to go for glory rather than pass to Pirlo.

The Brazilian made up for it moments later. Pato went on the counter and Paloschi rolled back to the D for Kaka to control and sweep low into the bottom corner with the inside of his right foot.

Empoli: Bassi; Raggi (Tosto 63), Piccolo, Pratali, Antonini; Abate (Marianini 51), Buscè, Marchisio, Budel; Giovinco (Giacomazzi 57); Saudati

Milan: Kalac; Oddo (Bonera 46), Maldini, Kaladze, Favalli; Gourcuff (Brocchi 46), Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kakà; Pato, Gilardino (Paloschi 79)

Ref: Farina

AC Milan bid for Brazilian Nedved
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Football Italia

Milan are once again looking to Brazil for their summer shopping with Fluminense midfielder Thiago Neves – nicknamed the new Pavel Nedved.

According to Brazilian newspaper O’Globo, the 23-year-old is the ideal figure to rejuvenate their ageing midfield.

Neves has already impressed with his club in the Copa Libertadores, has scored 20 goals in 60 games and is an Under-23 international.

The Rossoneri are eager to snap him up before he appears in the Beijing Olympics in August, as his price-tag could shoot up with a good showing.

Neves is a versatile player, as his fans have played on his tactical resemblance to Juve’s Czech hero by calling him Thiago Nedveds.

He could play out wide on the left, which is a role that has traditionally been problematic in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad.

Fluminense Vice-President Tote Menezes has boosted talk of negotiations by publicly urging Milan to “make a formal offer.”

Inter sorry for AC Milan slur
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Inter have apologised to Milan after the Rossoneri took affront at “inelegant comments with a short memory.”

The Nerazzurri are celebrating their centenary this weekend and President Massimo Moratti took the opportunity to extol the virtues of his club’s history.

“Inter are known throughout the world as the prestigious team of Milan, not only for what they have won but because they have never had any problems with the law,” insisted Moratti.

“With me, I have always had people who have followed correct behaviour without ever being sly, cutting corners or influencing referees.

“The shame of having to defend yourself in front of deplorable circumstances is an unpleasant thing in the history of any club.”

Milan took this to be a direct swipe at themselves, as they are the other side in the city of Milan and were recently embroiled in the Calciopoli scandal.

“Milan denounce Moratti has an extremely short memory when he says they never had any problems with the justice system and is also notably imprecise when placing themselves in the hierarchy,” said a statement.

“Despite the understandable affection Moratti has for his squad, it seems truly exaggerated to affirm they ‘have always been considered the prestige club in Milan’ when there is another side that has won a great deal more in Italy and internationally.

“It is ironic that these comments come on the day that Milan – the other club – received the Golden Collar from the Olympic Committee. This is the maximum sporting honour that can be given to clubs that have honoured the history of Italian sport.

“In any case, we wish to congratulate our Nerazzurri cousins and Inter for their 100 years.”

Inter have taken note and publicly apologised, assuring on their official website that no insult was intended.

“What was reported took on a different meaning and did not represent the thoughts expressed by President Moratti.

“In the overall statement he intended to refer exclusively to the historic achievements of the Nerazzurri outfit without any intention of referring to the equally glorious history of Milan.”

Last night Moratti also spoke with Milan general manager Adriano Galliani to calm the situation and apologise for the misunderstanding.

Budel targets angry AC Milan
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Football Italia

Alessandro Budel has claimed Empoli will be up for a fight when they host Milan on Sunday afternoon.

The 27-year-old midfielder is confident that he and his teammates will be able to stop the Rossoneri at the Stadio Castellani.

“On Sunday we will face an angry Milan side after their midweek Champions League exit. They will want to ensure they make a top four finish and will be looking for a victory,” he said. “On the other hand, we need points to avoid relegation. So it won’t be easy for them.”

Budel joined Empoli on a free transfer after cutting his ties with Cagliari last January, and the blond midfielder also gave his opinion about the controversial case which involved his former teammate Davide Marchini, who had reportedly been attacked by a friend of Pasquale Foggia.

“I wasn’t there when it happened. The only teammates there were him, Robert Acquafresca and Foggia plus a guy called Marco,” he said.

“That afternoon Marchini came to my house, just after he had been attacked. He was hurt so I took him to the hospital. I am really sad for what happened to him and also because he won’t be able to play until June,” he concluded.

Seedorf wants AC Milan reaction
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Milan veteran Clarence Seedorf has declared that he wants a positive reaction from his teammates when they play Empoli on Sunday afternoon.

The Rossoneri crashed out of the Champions League against Arsenal on Tuesday and the Italian Press are talking of a crisis at Via Turati.

“We are content and focused on getting things back in order as quickly as possible,” Seedorf told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“We have to find the strength to go forward until the end and we certainly cannot think of our trip to Empoli as a walk in the park.”

The European Cup holders lost 1-0 to the Tuscans at San Siro in October, but Seedorf is keen to look at the bigger picture.

“We have to believe in ourselves,” the Dutchman reiterated. “Last year we did even more complicated things. Now we will have the possibility to train ourselves and recover our injured.

“I am confident that at the end of the season we will achieve our major objective in the championship.”

Despite his intention to move on from Milan's midweek defeat by the Gunners, the 31-year-old is struggling to come to terms with it.

“There is a lot of disappointment and sadness, but also a consciousness that we have given our all and more pride for having done well over the years,” he insisted.

The Rossoneri No 10 was also grateful of the support given to the players by the club's President and Vice-President.

“We are happy because Adriano Galliani and Silvio Berlusconi have thanked each and every one of us,” he insisted.

“We are also thankful to the fans for their applause. For three years people have said something should change, but it is not like this.”

Seedorf defended the club's directors and reserved special praise for Silvio Berlusconi.

“We have an intelligent President, in a position to understand what it takes to be competitive in the future. Berlusconi has made this the most successful club of the last 20 years.”

The four-time Champions League winner also felt inclined to comment on the prospect of former teammate Andriy Shevchenko returning to Milanello.

“It is right to talk of Sheva because he has done a lot for Milan in the past and is still among the best strikers in the world. But I do not believe it will happen.”

Finally, the Dutchman was cautious over the future of Paolo Maldini, who told journalists yesterday that he was reconsidering his retirement plans.

“At 40, only he can decide if to continue or not - for us it would be a pleasure to still have him around.

“If he decided to continue all the team would be happy and do everything to ensure he finished his career in the best way.

“In the last two games with Arsenal he was the best player on the pitch. It is not a question of age, but motivation, courage and discipline.”

Ancelotti wanted by Real
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Carlo Ancelotti has been linked with Real Madrid amid speculation that he will lose his job at Milan after their Champions League exit.

The Rossoneri's bid to retain the European Cup came crashing to halt against Arsenal on Tuesday evening as the Gunners emerged from San Siro with a 2-0 victory.

There have been calls for revolution at Milanello and members of the playing staff are not the only personnel expected to be purged.

According to Marca, Carletto and Jose Mourinho are favourites to take over at Real Madrid as the Spanish champions' directors grow tired of Bernd Schuster.

The German tactician saw his team knocked out of the European Cup by Roma on Wednesday night and has seen the Merengues' lead cut at the top of La Liga in recent weeks.

Los Galacticos President Ramon Calderon is said to be unhappy at the playing style under Schuster, who was hired to make Real more exciting than Fabio Capello's boring but victorious side.

Carletto has been courted by the Spaniards in the past. After Milan's Champions League defeat to Liverpool in 2005, sporting director Predrag Mijatovic was reported to have approached him.

With rumours linking World Cup winning Coach Marcello Lippi with the Rossoneri, the Spanish Press believe Ancelotti would be willing to consider any proposition from Los Merengues.

Maldini reconsiders retirement
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Milan legend Paolo Maldini has sensationally admitted he may reconsider his retirement at the end of this season.

He turns 40 in the summer and had said repeatedly he would hang up his boots in 2008, but a resurgence of form and lack of injury worries might make him change his mind.

“I have a lot of energy left. One must be consistent, but at the same time only an idiot doesn’t change his mind,” smiled Maldini.

“In these last few months my knees are no longer hurting very much. The club and fans are pushing me to play for another year.

“I have to admit, three months ago I was in a much worse condition and had to stay out for five months following surgery. Now I feel better and am even playing in a role I hadn’t tried for quite a while.”

Due to injury problems throughout the side, Maldini has returned to the left-back position and performed admirably against the youngsters of Arsenal.

“That was a painful defeat, but it is easier to accept when you have achieved so much,” he said of the 2-0 Champions League exit.

“I think the fans understood that too. Arsenal deserved to win. They play beautiful, fast, total football.

“That competition has given me so much. The first trophy was the most exciting, then the first I lifted as a captain, as it came nine years afterwards.”

With this second round elimination, many have urged the Rossoneri to completely revolutionise the squad.

“I don’t think that’s necessary. We need the right men, going for quality not quantity. Our past is not so remote, as in the past 12 months we have won the Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup.

“If we look at what we have achieved over the past 20 years compared to Arsenal, there is a huge difference.”

Maldini has been at the forefront of that winning era and spent his entire career with this club.

“I never considered leaving. I was born here in a football sense and never really thought about a change of scenery.

“In the past there was contact with Chelsea. I was coming off a disappointing season and asked myself some questions, but at the end I decided to stay.”

Could the man with the most Italy caps in history come out of international retirement for Euro 2008?

“No thanks.”

AC Milan seek French goalkeeper
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Football Italia

Milan are looking to sign a French goalkeeper for next season after an uncertain year between the sticks.

While Zeljko Kalac has impressed of late, few believe him to be the Rossoneri’s long-term first-choice stopper.

Former number one Nelson Dida hasn’t started since January 13 against Napoli and is no longer considered reliable enough to play consistently.

The Diavolo have identified two players, Sebastien Frey and Hugo Loris to add stability behind a creaky defence.

Frey has been courted by the Milanisti for a long time but has reiterated that, while flattered, he is happy at Fiorentina.

“Milan is one of the greatest teams in the world. Certainly, to go to a big club is a challenge and I would like to face that reality.

“But now I think only about doing well for Fiorentina and of doing my best in this championship with the Viola.”

Loris, another Frenchman, has made clear his intention to leave Nice at the end of the season and join a top-side.

The 21-year-old’s agent Stephane Courbis was at San Siro on Tuesday night to watch Milan play Arsenal.

“Now is not the best time to speak of Hugo’s situation. He wants to concentrate on his football and Nice. We will evaluate his future in a little while.”

Silvio wants Shevchenko return
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Football Italia

Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has announced that he intends to bring Andriy Shevchenko back to the club amid a goalscoring crisis.

The Diavolo were knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday night having failed to score against Arsenal over two legs.

Sheva, who became the Rossoneri's second all-time highest goalscorer in February 2006 after netting 127 times in 208 matches, has struggled since moving to Chelsea three months later.

The Ukrainian, who was playing for the Blues' reserves this week, has never hidden his desire to return to Milan.

“I regularly hear from Andriy,” Don Silvio told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “And I believe that Roman Abramovich will have no difficulties letting him go.”

Il Cavaliere is not worried by suggestions that Milanisti would begrudge the return of the former FIFA World Player of the Year.

“The fans should understand that it would be the right choice. Andriy is a personable player and represents the best solution for us.”

Milan, who fielded a team with an average age of 32 against the Gunners, have also been linked with younger names like Lyon's Karim Benzema to help out on the goals front.

Final Countdown for Galliani
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Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has insisted that the Rossoneri have to treat their last 12 Serie A games like Cup Finals.

The European and Club World Cup champions were defeated by late goals from Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor to end their hold on the Champions League on Tuesday.

“I didn't sleep last night,” explained Galliani. “But this morning I wanted to thank everyone for six wonderful years in the Champions League. By Sunday we have to have a positive attitude.”

Referring to the Diavoli's remaining fixtures in Serie A and their quest for fourth place, the former surveyor announced: “Twelve Cup Finals await us.

“We will play to the death and hope to find ourselves listening to the same old Champions League music. This is our objective.”

The 63-year-old looked to take the weight off his players by acknowledging the difficulties faced this season ahead of their match away to Empoli at the weekend.

“To win two consecutive European Cups is almost impossible,” he concluded.

AC Milan prepare summer changes
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Milan President Silvio Berlusconi is set to open his wallet this summer after what looks likely to be a season of disappointment at San Siro.

The Rossoneri went out of Europe's premier club competition last night following a 2-0 aggregate defeat to Arsenal in the second round.

The Champions League and Club World Cup holders have also disappointed domestically - the Diavoli are currently fifth - and need fresh investment if they are to challenge for honours next term.

To stop the decline, Milan's director general Ariedo Braida is targeting three players, most notably Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.

The Ivorian has interested the Via Turati club for some time and, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, a bid is being prepared to entice the unsettled hitman away from Stamford Bridge.

Earlier this season DD revealed the Rossoneri had made an offer for him in the past. “Milan came in for me last summer and it was very tempting,” remarked the 29-year-old.

The Diavoli have struggled for goals this season - Ricky Kaka is the club's top scorer with eight in Serie A - and need a prolific target man. Drogba has netted 14 times so far in 2007-08.

Another contender to partner Alexandre Pato is Lyon sensation Karim Benzema, but he has seemingly ruled out a move to San Siro.

“I want to stay at Lyon next year - there are still many things I want to do there,” the French forward insisted.

Azzurri star Gianluca Zambrotta has also been linked with a switch to the club, as Milan are looking to sturdy their defence in view of Paolo Maldini's retirement in May.

The Rossoneri have also highlighted Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastian Frey as a replacement for the out-of-favour Nelson Dida.

Adebayor on the defensive
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Emmanuel Adebayor has hailed Arsenal’s ability to get past three of the best stoppers on the planet to secure safe passage to the Champions League quarter-finals.

“I was facing three of the best defenders in the world in Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze and Paolo Maldini,” noted the man who sealed his side’s victory.

“Maldini may be 40, but he has great experience, the ability to play football and he had a good game.”

Arsenal eventually broke down Milan at the San Siro after striking late on thanks to goals from Cesc Fabregas and Adebayor.

It was the latter’s 20th goal of the season, but only his first in the Champions League after the crossbar in the first leg had denied him.

“Of course this feels special, as I have been looking for this goal for a long time,” he continued.

“I am very happy and pleased with myself, but the most important thing is that Arsenal won and got through.

“I think the way we played over the two legs made it difficult for Milan and we had more chances than them to win the game. We had more desire too and in the end won the match.”

AC Milan: Ancelotti going nowhere
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Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has insisted that Carlo Ancelotti will stay with the Rossoneri despite the club’s early exit from the Champions League.

Il Cavaliere made the claim to journalists soon after the European giants lost 2-0 to Arsenal at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.

“Ancelotti stays,” he underlined. “I am absolutely convinced of that fact, also because of the emotional closeness between us.

“He has brought many victories to Milan. Carlo has the complete trust of the club and will remain with us.”

Taking time out from his campaign trail Berlusconi offered a caveat to go with his endorsement of Carletto.

“I say this despite the respect I have for Marcello Lippi, who I consider to be a great trainer,” he concluded.

Ancelotti’s position had been called into question after another poor season in Serie A.

The Diavolo are well and truly out of the title race, 18 points adrift of rivals Inter, and were dumped out of the Coppa Italia by lowly Catania in January.

The former Roma and Milan midfielder has added two more European Cups to the Rossoneri’s trophy cabinet as a Coach, but hasn’t won the Scudetto for four years.

A lack of domestic success has met with speculation that World Cup winning tactician Lippi could end his 18-month sabbatical and take up the reins at Via Turati.

The Rossoneri didn’t concede or score in London and Tuesday’s defeat to Arsenal at the San Siro could still decide Ancelotti’s long-term fate.

If Carlo were to lose his job, Serie A would also wave goodbye to its longest-serving Coach currently in activity. The Emilian has been at Milan for the last six and a half years.

Kaka rings the changes
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Football Italia

A desperately disappointed Kaka admits Milan must make changes at the end of this season to revitalise the squad.

“At the end of the season many players reach the end of their contracts and the club will decide what signings to make,” he commented.

The European and World Player of the Year saw his dreams of a second consecutive Champions League collapse with a 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal.

“Tomorrow and the day after will be the most difficult. The Champions League was our objective and now that is gone we must focus on at least trying to achieve fourth place.

“This team has done a great deal over the past few years for its fans and players. Unfortunately this season it went this way.”

Carlo Ancelotti fielded a trident attack, but in 180 minutes they failed to score, even with Pippo Inzaghi and Alexandre Pato spearheading the front line.

“Arsenal played very well in both legs and we lost against a team that played better than we did. When I got the ball and tried to run forward on the counter, myself, Pippo and Pato weren’t sharp enough to do anything better.

“It is an unfortunate setback, but these defeats help you to mature.”

With Milan’s exit there are two Italian sides left in the competition, but both face extremely difficult second legs.

“I think Roma have a good chance of qualifying. They’ll struggle against Real Madrid, but won the home leg and are playing excellent football right now,” said Kaka.

“Inter have less possibility of going through, as we have faced Liverpool twice and they are a very tough team to beat.”

Galliani: We chose World Cup
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Football Italia

Milan general manager Adriano Galliani insists this is not the end of an era and it was “a choice” to focus on the Club World Cup.

“This is not the end of an era. We put the priority on Japan and winning the Club World Cup. It was our choice.

“We knew it would cost a great deal in terms of physical and psychological energy, but it remains an historic season and there is no need to change.”

The Rossoneri were the reigning Champions League winners and also took the Club World Cup and European Super Cup, but exited the competition 2-0 to Arsenal.

“I believe Arsenal played better than we did over the 180 minutes and so deserved to go through. No club has won the Champions League twice in a row since us in 1990-91, so we couldn’t break that taboo,” said Galliani.

“We did really well in the opening 15-20 minutes and there was a period of Arsenal pressure, but we conceded a goal right when Arsenal seemed to be on a downward spiral.

“Unfortunately it was decided in midfield and we had some players returning from injury, others out completely like Clarence Seedorf, so it was very bad timing.

“This is football and we must focus on our next challenge. Let’s not forget we are the club with the most trophies in the world and in 2007 we won three prestigious cups.”

There were reports Carlo Ancelotti would be sacked if he failed to reach the Champions League semi-finals, but Galliani painted a different picture.

“Our President Silvio Berlusconi is fantastic and told the players that we can’t always win in football, so we have to keep going.

“It is a great shame that after so many years we went out in the second round, but we were unlucky to pick Arsenal so early.

“We did our duty and won our group, but Arsenal came second in theirs, so we crossed paths.”

Always the superstitious type, the Milan transfer guru looked to the future.

“We have reached the Champions League Final in odd years – 2003, 2005 and 2007 – so we book our ticket for 2009.”

Ancelotti admires Arsenal
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Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti admits Arsenal deserved to qualify, as Milan were in no condition to do any more over the two legs.

“I think over the 180 minutes they were able to play the way they know how and Milan didn’t achieve that with consistency. The credit goes to Arsenal, who pushed us all over the field and kept the pressure up,” said the Coach.

The Rossoneri had the upper hand after a goalless first leg, but Cesc Fabregas scored from 25 yards with just six minutes to go and Emmanuel Adebayor sealed the 2-0 result.

“We tried and then conceded just as things seemed to be going our way. It’s a shame.

“There are no regrets. I don’t think we could have done anything more tonight, as Arsenal packed the midfield and made it very difficult for us to play, so everyone did all they could at this moment in time.”

Milan were the reigning European and World champions, but have been disappointing over the past few weeks in Serie A and the Champions League with fatigue taking its toll.

“We’re disappointed, but this is football, some you win and some you lose. We have to get back on our feet and keep going.

“The team did all it could tonight, so now we must focus on the future objective, which is fourth place.”

Ancelotti usually favours a Christmas Tree formation, but opted for a trident with Kaka supporting Alexandre Pato and Pippo Inzaghi.

“Because Clarence Seedorf was injured and others like Emerson weren’t 100 per cent fit, the most reliable line-up I had was two strikers plus Kaka. We struggled because the Arsenal midfield maintained constant pressure on us and that’s what decided the match.”

Now Milan must focus on achieving a top four finish in Serie A, but they have fallen behind Fiorentina.

“I think in terms of fitness and injuries this exit represents an advantage, as we can now work during the week and can find a much sharper and more entertaining squad in the future.”

Ancelotti was asked if his team had not been suffering from so many niggling injuries and tiredness – as they had to play every three days since January 13 to recover the games postponed for the Club World Cup – he remained diplomatic.

“It’s hard to say. Arsenal are very strong, young and enthusiastic. A Milan side at 100 per cent would have been able to challenge, but in our current condition it was tough to do anything more.”

Meanwhile, President Silvio Berlusconi moved to immediately quash reports Ancelotti would be fired for failing to progress past the second round.

“Arsenal played very well and deserved to go through. They played great football, had immense strength and at one stage didn’t let us see the ball,” said the patron.

“Will Ancelotti stay? Absolutely.”

AC Milan 0:2 (0:2 on aggregate) Arsenal - match report
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Football Italia

Scorers: Fabregas 84 (A), Adebayor 92 (A)

Cesc Fabregas performed a goalline clearance and scored Arsenal's late winner, as Milan's defence of the Champions League is ended.

With the first leg ending goalless, the Rossoneri needed a victory to qualify and threw on a trident attack with Kaka and Alexandre Pato supporting Champions League Final hero Pippo Inzaghi. Clarence Seedorf was not even fit for the bench, joining Marek Jankulovski, Serginho, Nelson Dida and Ronaldo on the sidelines. Arsenal made the trip without Eduardo, Tomas Rosicky and Kolo Toure', but Manuel Almunia returned between the posts.

Alexander Hleb blasted well over from distance, but the first real chance on seven minutes saw Pato dribbled past four Arsenal defenders and his left-foot strike was deflected out for a corner off Sagna.

From the resulting spot-kick the ball squirmed all the way through and Cesc Fabregas required a goalline clearance at the near post. The move continued and a cross was pushed off the head of Kakha Kaladze from seven yards.

Almunia rushed out to clear from Pato outside the box and on the counter Abou Diaby curled past the far post. It was mostly Milan in the opening stages and Inzaghi couldn't get enough power on his volley to truly trouble Almunia.

The Rossoneri had a fantastic chance on 19 minutes with Kaka sprinting away from Fabregas and crossing for the unmarked Pato at the back post, but the youngster hesitated and chipped a weak effort straight at Almunia.

Moments later Inzaghi was sent clear on goal by a Philippe Senderos header, but Gael Clichy dived in with a crucial clearance. From the corner Inzaghi's free header was off target.

Oddo held up the ball for Kaka to cut in from the right channel and hit a low snapshot inches past the base of the near post. Alessandro Nesta was struggling with a right thigh injury and passed straight to Emmanuel Adebayor, his strike fingertipped over the bar by Zeljko Kalac.

Hleb was harshly booked for simulation as he fell under a Nesta challenge just outside the box. Arsenal started to come out of their shell and Fabregas cracked a right-foot shot from the D against the bar with Kalac beaten.

Adebayor lost his footing in the box and allowed Gennaro Gattuso to clear, then the Arsenal striker scuffed from another good position. Kaka was clearly not 100 per cent fit yet after his injury worries and opted to pass to Pato rather than aim one of his trademark runs straight at the defence in acres of space.

Milan started the second half in similarly shaky fashion, as a corner came all the way to the back post for Senderos to fire straight at a grateful Kalac.

Pato drilled well wide from distance, but Andrea Pirlo gave the ball away to Adebayor foolishly in the D and Milan were fortunate Emmanuel Eboue' fired wide with only Kalac to beat.

The Rossoneri fought back as a dipping Pirlo free kick bounced just in front of Almunia and he pushed it round the upright with his forearm. Kaka went on a slalom dragging two Gunners behind him and fired wide of the near post, while Pato also shot off target.

Alberto Gilardino replaced Inzaghi and Theo Walcott came on for Eboue', as both sides tried to inject some fresh legs into attack with 20 minutes remaining. A corner was cleared to Oddo, whose snapshot hit Gilardino in front of Almunia.

There was absolute chaos in the Milan box, though. A free kick ricocheted around the area and Kalac used his legs to block Walcott's shot, eventually managing to smother it at the feet of Adebayor.

Pato didn't realise he was on side and a good counter was wasted, but soon after he skipped past Clichy and flashed a left-foot shot across the face of goal with a deflection, though the corner was not given.

Pato attempted an audacious curling shot from the edge of the area and it was easy for Almunia when he should perhaps have passed to Gilardino.

It needed a moment out of nowhere to break the deadlock in this tie and it came from Fabregas. He unleashed a sudden snapshot from 25 yards that may have taken a deflection off Nesta's elbow. on its way past Kalac at the near post.

This meant Milan needed two goals in the last five minutes to qualify, but their heads were down now and Arsenal found it easy to get a second on the counter. Kaladze failed to stop Walcott down the right and he crossed for a simple Adebayor tap-in.

Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kaka; Inzaghi (Gilardino 69), Pato
Arsenal: Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy; Eboue’ (Walcott 70), Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby; Hleb (Gilberto 89); Adebayor
Ref: Plautz (Aus)

Pippo and Pato face Arsenal
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Football Italia

Clarence Seedorf is not even fit for the bench, but Milan are unleashing a trident attack on Arsenal with Kaka, Pippo Inzaghi and Alexandre Pato.

The line-ups for tonight’s Champions League clash at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza have been confirmed and Carlo Ancelotti is going for broke.

The Rossoneri must win to go through after the 0-0 draw at the Emirates in the first leg a fortnight ago, but are without Seedorf, Nelson Dida, Marek Jankulovski and Ronaldo.

Seedorf was a major doubt after limping off against Lazio on Saturday evening with an ankle problem.

Champions League Final hero Inzaghi is given the nod to partner 18-year-old Pato with support from World and European Player of the Year Kaka.

Paolo Maldini impressed more in central defence in London, but due to a lack of alternatives is at left-back in this match, so Massimo Oddo is expected to do most of the pushing down the right channel.

Arsenal are without Tomas Rosicky, Kolo Toure’ and the unfortunate Eduardo da Silva, but Robin Van Persie is on the bench and could play for the first time in two months.

Former Milan goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is relegated back to the sidelines to make way for Manuel Almunia.

Check back on the Football Italia website for half and full-time reports as well as extensive post-match comments.

Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Kaka; Inzaghi, Pato
Milan bench: Fiori, Emerson, Gilardino, Simic, Favalli, Gourcuff, Bonera

Arsenal: Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Senderos, Clichy; Eboue’, Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby; Hleb; Adebayor
Arsenal bench: Lehmann, Van Persie, Denilson, Gilberto, Bendtner, Hoyte, Walcott

Ref: Plautz (Aus)

Carletto wants Manchester United repeat
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Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti is hoping his side can repeat last season’s heroics and see off Arsenal at San Siro in their Champions League last 16 second leg.

The Diavolo unexpectedly triumphed over Manchester United last term when they reversed a 3-2 deficit by stunning the Red Devils 3-0 in Milan.

“We have made no promises this time around, but we can go far in the Champions League,” Ancelotti stated.

“A lot depends on tomorrow’s game, but it’s good that we are playing it in front of our fans instead of in London.”

Milan have been struggling of late with a series of injuries and tiredness has set in during recent games, prompting suggestions that they will flag against the youth of Arsenal.

“It doesn’t annoy us when people talk about the age of our side because we are used to it and we see ourselves as experienced rather than old,” the Rossoneri tactician insisted.

‘“I am comforted by the fact that I know this team well and I know how to prepare for this game and that makes me more optimistic.

The dream is to repeat the game against Manchester United when we played an unexpectedly good game.

“If we play with that character and determination then we can shock people again. I don’t think that it is impossible to do it again.”

Ancelotti is hoping to welcome back some key names for the crunch encounter and is only likely to be without Marek Jankulovski and Clarence Seedorf.

“The players that didn’t play against Lazio have recovered and they are all match-fit,” he boasted.

“They have all put in excellent work in the week to get ready for this game. We have had enormous problems in recent weeks due to these injuries. We have paid for the absence of quality players.”

Milan: (probable) Kalac; Oddo, Nesta, Kaladze, Maldini; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Kaka; Inzaghi, Pato
Arsenal: (probable): Almunia; Sagna, Senderos, Gallas, Clichy; Eboue, Flamini, Fabregas, Diaby, Hleb; Adebayor

Berlusconi: Adriano not Cassano
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Football Italia

Silvio Berlusconi has insisted that he would rather sign Adriano for his Milan side than equally troubled marksman Antonio Cassano.

Adriano’s career is hanging by a thread as he has been threatened with the axe at Sao Paulo, where he is rebuilding his career on loan from Inter.

After a dismissal for a head-butt, skipping training and an altercation with a photographer, L’Imperatore’s future is in doubt, but Berlusconi would happily see him in the Rossoneri side.

“Adriano is a great player with such physical ability,” the media tycoon stressed.

“I’m sure that Milan would be the ideal environment for him to return to being the Adriano that played for Parma.

“I hope that this period in Brazil can put him back on the right track, but I think it is unlikely that Inter would agree to sell him to us.”

Sampdoria striker Cassano’s temper is also ruining his career and the gifted hitman faces a long spell on the sidelines after throwing his shirt at the referee yesterday following a dismissal for dissent.

Unlike Adriano, it seems that Berlusconi wouldn’t be willing to gamble on the Bari native.

“What a shame to see a talented player behave in such a way,” the Diavolo chief said.

“He has such potential, but he just doesn’t have the ability to behave like a normal person.”

Berlusconi concluded his interview by commenting on the rumour that Marcello Lippi will replace Carlo Ancelotti should Milan lose to Arsenal in tomorrow night’s Champions League last 16 clash.

“Going out of the Champions League will not lead to Lippi being brought in,” he maintained.

“I have great respect for Lippi and consider him to be a great Coach, but Ancelotti will stay.”

Kaladze sees San Siro effect
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Football Italia

Milan defender Kakha Kaladze is expecting a tight battle against Arsenal tomorrow, but expects the Rossoneri to prevail at fortress San Siro.

The world champions host Arsenal with everything to play for after the first leg finished goalless at the Emirates Stadium.

Milan have looked tired in recent weeks, but Arsenal also haven’t been at their best and Kaladze thinks home advantage could be a factor.

“It will be a difficult game for both sides,” the Georgian international stated.

“We are in good shape, especially mentally, and we are expecting a lot from this game.

“I don’t know what the atmosphere will be like, but it will be an advantage for us to have our home support.

“We have always shown good form in this competition at home and we will give the maximum, even though it won’t be easy against a top-quality Arsenal side.

“Arsenal have lots of young players such as Emanuele Adebayor, Cesc Fabregas and Alexander Hleb and they are very fast. But we have seen lots of strong sides come to San Siro and have difficulty.

“We have welcomed several important players back from injury and I am happy to see them doing well. Us players will do everything we can to get through.”

Austrian referee Konrad Plauts will take charge at San Siro tomorrow evening.

AC Milan vs. Chelsea for teen star
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Football Italia

Milan seem set to beat Chelsea to the signature of Slovenian striking starlet Uros Palibrk.

The 15-year-old is being tracked by a host of top European clubs and recently impressed on a successful trial with Chelsea.

But despite the Blues’ attempts to make his presence permanent, Palibrk is playing with Milan’s youth side and seemed settled after scoring the only goal in a friendly against Sampdoria.

“At Chelsea I trained for a week and played against Fulham and Swindon managing to score three goals,” Palibrk explained.

“But Milan wanted to see me in action and I must admit that Italy, besides Spain, has my favourite League.”

The prodigious hitman is currently owned by Slovenian outfit Triglav Kranj, but the club are ready to cash in their prized asset.

“We believe in Uros – he is a natural born goalscorer,” director Miran Subic stated.

“The fact that he scored in an important game for Milan is just further proof of his abilities and we all want the best for him.”

The Rossoneri are ready to begin talks over a transfer that would be completed in the summer.

Kalac expects Arsenal improvement
2.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

As injury problems pile up on Milan, Zeljko Kalac trusts his team will “do better” against Arsenal.

The goalkeeper was again called to perform heroics in the 1-1 draw with Lazio last night and has taken the first choice spot from Nelson Dida.

“I am happy because I made three decisive saves in the space of only a few minutes. It’s a shame we didn’t win, but we are focusing on Tuesday and hope to play a very different level of football,” said the Aussie.

Carlo Ancelotti and Vice-President Adriano Galliani have said the Club World Cup in December and having to catch up on missed Serie A games have left the team exhausted.

“For quite a while now we have been playing twice a week and are paying for the fact we cannot train regularly. Nonetheless, I am certain we will do better against Arsenal.”

Clarence Seedorf is a major injury doubt for the Champions League encounter, as he limped off during the first half of the Lazio game with a thigh problem.

Marek Jankulovski and Emerson also finished the match with some fitness worries, while Kaka was rested so he could fully recover from a knee injury.

The Arsenal clash will be refereed by Austrian Konrad Plautz, who has already officiated the European Super Cup victory over Sevilla earlier this season.

Meanwhile, there was good news for Rossoneri hitman Alberto Gilardino, whose partner Alice gave birth to their first daughter – Ginevra – this morning.

Seedorf out of Arsenal clash
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Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti admits Milan aren’t at their best right now and Clarence Seedorf is out of action against Arsenal.

“I am only worried by the fact we are going into a match with a very strong team in what is not our best form,” said the Coach after their 1-1 draw with Lazio.

It was a second consecutive Serie A stalemate after the midweek 1-1 at Catania and Massimo Oddo’s penalty was needed to fight back from a Rolando Bianchi opener.

The first half performance in particular was very poor and the tempo was kept sluggishly slow.

“I have to say, though, that I don’t see teams in Italy and Europe who are much sharper than we are at the moment.”

During this evening’s encounter Seedorf went off with a thigh problem in the first half and Ancelotti confirmed the Dutchman would not be available for Tuesday’s encounter with Arsenal.

Meanwhile, Lazio President Claudio Lotito – still the only member of the club who will speak to the media – complained that the penalty incident was unfair.

“I saw that at least four Milan corner kicks should have been retaken because the ball was outside the line and that includes the one that led to Oddo’s equaliser.

“We deserved to win, especially considering all the chances we had at the start of the second half. Milan only avoided defeat thanks to Zeljko Kalac’s great saves. He was decisive.”

AC Milan 1:1 Lazio - match report
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Football Italia

Scorers: Bianchi 54 (L), Oddo pen 66 (M)

Massimo Oddo earns a draw against his old club Lazio, as Milan are held at San Siro and lose Clarence Seedorf to injury.

The Rossoneri rested several stars in preparation for the Arsenal clash, giving Clarence Seedorf the opportunity to play as a Trequartista. The midweek 1-1 at Catania lost them fourth place, so a win was needed and they hoped for a repeat of the 5-1 thrashing of Lazio in October. The Biancocelesti were struggling to avoid the relegation zone, but Delio Rossi fielded a surprise trident attack system.

Lazio have not won here in Serie A since September 3, 1989 - the day after Alexandre Pato was born. 'The Duck' had the first chance comfortably blocked by Marco Ballotta, while at the other end Kakha Kaladze did just enough to put off Lorenzo De Silvestri.

Rolando Bianchi infuriated his teammates when he went for glory with a weak strike when Goran Pandev and Tommaso Rocchi were getting into promising positions.

Pato scored a splendid long-range effort against Catania on Wednesday and attempted a similar strike, but this time Ballotta was ready for it. It was a rare spark in a sluggish first half from both sides.

There was bad news for the Rossoneri as Seedorf limped off with a thigh problem and had to make way for Alberto Paloschi in a new 4-3-3 system. This puts the Dutchman - who had already been struggling with injury - in real doubt for the Champions League decider with Arsenal.

Ballotta plucked a header from Paloschi out of the air, as the 43-year-old goalkeeper suddenly found himself facing two 18-year-old strikers.

For the second half Carlo Ancelotti completed his substitutions with Massimo Ambrosini and Digao - Kaka's younger brother - coming on. Rocchi got in front of Kaladze to turn a Pandev cross wide of the near post.

Rocchi went closer than anyone so far at San Siro with a cracking shot from the edge of the box, but Zeljko Kalac used one strong arm to knock it out for a corner. From the resulting set-piece the Australian goalkeeper again did well to capture Rocchi's header.

It was increasingly busy in the Milan box, moments later Pandev at full stretch on the ground to fingertip a Pandev turn round the base of the post.

Lazio made the pressure count by taking the lead on 54 minutes. Once again Rocchi was involved, flicking an Ousmane Dabo pass through two defenders into the path of Bianchi who anticipated Massimo Oddo at full stretch. It was the former Manchester City man's first goal from open play in a Biancocelesti jersey.

Milan fought back with Yoann Gourcuff's cross volleyed into the ground and wide by Pato.

The referee pointed to the spot as Valon Behrami hauled Kaladze to the ground when a corner was whipped in. Former Lazio captain Oddo took penalty-taking duties in the absence of Kaka and, although his old teammate Ballotta got the right corner, beat him at the near post.

The tide of the match had changed and Gaby Mudingayi's perfectly timed tackle stopped short a Pato slalom, then Paloschi dispossessed Emilson Cribari at the byeline and Mudingayi again cleared the danger from Gilardino.

Lazio covered up with midfielder Christian Manfredini for Bianchi, but Milan kept pushing as an odd acrobatic Ambrosini attempt was off target. The Rossoneri were furious when Pato skipped past defenders and was clear on goal, but the referee halted play because he was still noting down a booking for Mudingayi.

Gourcuff got a lucky ricochet and fired a powerful but central strike from the edge of the area. Teenager Paloschi did brilliantly to turn Sebastiano Siviglia, but Cristian Ledesma came sliding in to block the shot.

Pato looked ready to run the entire length of the field as he intercepted a Lazio corner and had gone past several players before De Silvestri felled the Brazilian with a horribly cynical tackle. A red card was inevitable, as he showed no interest in getting the ball.

Gourcuff had an audacious strike from all of 35 metres that Ballotta smothered with some difficulty. In the third minute of stoppages Gilardino nodded a corner kick off target at the back post.

Milan: Kalac; Oddo, Bonera, Kaladze, Jankulovski (Digao 46); Gattuso, Emerson (Ambrosini 46), Gourcuff; Seedorf (Paloschi 37); Pato, Gilardino

Lazio: Ballotta; De Silvestri, Siviglia, Cribari, Radu; Behrami (Rozenhal 88), Ledesma, Dabo (Mudingayi 60); Pandev; Rocchi, Bianchi (Manfredini 76)

Ref: Celi

Sent off: De Silvestri 84 (L)

Kaka: I'm the Daddy!
1.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Kaka’s new contract is only the start as he puts down roots – and a new family – in Milan. “I want to be a symbol, like Paolo Maldini.”

This week the Ballon d’Or winner finally silenced transfer rumours by penning a new deal until 2013.

“I remember last year Milan Channel asked me if I felt ready to say I would remain here for life. In that instance I didn’t have the right confidence and belief, but today I do,” he told the club’s official television station.

“Now I can and want to say it – I want to remain Rossonero for the rest of my career and to stay here for life.”

His attachment to the side was no doubt boosted by their victories in the Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup over the past nine months.

“This renewal has charged me up. I am thinking about the future and I know I will stay here, forever in this winning team that always goes out there to get the best. For a player that is a great sensation.

“This is my fifth season at Milan and I want to become a symbol. One day I will be the captain of this club, naturally respecting the hierarchy within the team. This day will come and to replace Maldini will be a great responsibility, but there are others for that role before me and I respect that.”

Kaka is also putting down roots in Milan with his private life as well as his professional career.

“In a few months I will become a father. Caroline and I are waiting for that moment and it’s all so exciting. Every day she feels something new and special. I accompany her on every appointment and it’s wonderful to know we’ll soon have our first child.”

Ricky has confirmed they are expecting a boy in May and his first gift will be a Milan jersey. “It would be wonderful to win the Champions League a second time around the same date as the birth of my son. I’m dreaming of a magical spring.”

The Brazilian has also learned the lesson of his former teammates, most notably Chelsea flop Andriy Shevchenko.

“This fourth contract signature is a lifestyle choice for me. I’ve seen players leave – and I’m not just referring to Sheva – who later told me to consider my choices very carefully because Milan are different.

“At this club you really experience sensations and affection, these are values that matter to me. I am happy to live through my career here.

“When my contract expires I’ll be 31 and can picture myself still at Milan in great shape. After all, I have some great examples to follow, like Rogerio Ceni who spent his whole career at San Paolo and of course Maldini.

“I want to be like them. It won’t be easy to reach what Paolo has achieved, but I’ll try to go as close as possible to his statistics. My objectives are to score many goals, win trophies and become part of this club’s history.”

Kaka has been struggling with a knee injury over the past few weeks, though insists he will be ready to face Arsenal on Tuesday night.

“I feel much better. I won’t be available against Lazio, but I am very confident for Tuesday,” he told Milan Channel.

“This has not been a good period of form for me, as physically I have not been at my best for a month. This week I was able to train a lot and it helped.

“I am putting in so much effort to be in great shape for Tuesday and to do what everyone expects of me. It will be a special game against Arsenal, as I can picture the packed out San Siro, like it was against Celtic last season.”

The first leg of that tie also ended goalless and Kaka booked the Rossoneri’s passage into the quarter-finals with a goal in extra time.

“At the end that proved to be an unforgettable night. I hope Tuesday is, too. Arsenal are strong, but in the crucial moments Milan never betray their fans.”

AC Milan feel the strain
1.3 || webmaster

Football Italia

Milan are starting to become very tired ahead of the big games with Lazio and Arsenal, warns Adriano Galliani.

“I am fairly worried, as we are tired and that is because we have played more than anyone else this season,” said the general manager.

The Rossoneri have been playing every three days in 2008, as they had to catch up the Serie A rounds they missed while in Japan for December’s Club World Cup.

“We knew the trip to Japan would cost us. Just look at what we have done since January 13 – we have played something like 13 games in 40 days. It is verging on the impossible.

“We hope to find energy from somewhere to face difficult encounters like Tuesday’s with Arsenal.”

The first leg ended 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium, so the tie is delicately poised ahead of the final clash at San Siro.

Kaka has been struggling with a knee injury and will be rested for tonight’s Lazio match. He signed a contract extension until 2013 this week, but Galliani denied reports of princely wages. “In Italy there are players who earn much more.”

Lazio have not conquered San Siro since September 3, 1989 and have lost their last four visits on the trot.

“Delio Rossi’s team is getting back on its feet and paid the price for not being used to the demands of the Champions League.

“Preparing for the preliminary round caused a lot of problems, but they have an excellent Coach and great players. They play good football and we will see a different game to the others we’ve had recently.”

Milan had climbed into fourth place, but lost it again a few days later with their goalless stalemate at Parma’s Stadio Tardini.

Alberto Gilardino is expected to start upfront, while Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo are rested.

“Gilardino is one of the few players we have who is in good shape, so he could definitely play,” said Coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Milan squad: Fiori, Kalac, Offredi; Bonera, Darmian, Digao, Jankulovski, Kaladze, Maldini, Oddo; Ambrosini, Caraglia, Emerson, Gattuso, Gianola, Gourcuff, Seedorf; Aubameyang, Gilardino, Inzaghi, Pato, Paloschi.

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