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The Archive

May 2002

Clarence Seedorf's career
31.5 || scharatz

Clarence Seedorf is the 9th Dutch footballer to wear the red-and-black shirt. Frank Rijkaard was his first and most convinced sponsor. Together (with Ajax) the two conquered a European Cup against AC Milan (in 1995). On the following season Seedorf moved to Sampdoria and was later called up to Madrid by Fabio Capello. With the ‘Merengues’ Clarence Seedors won the Champions League (in 1998 against Juve in Rotterdam).

He was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, on April 1,1976, and proved a very eclectic footballer, as he can play in any midfield position. He made is professional début with the Ajax shirt when he was only 16 (77 caps, 11 goals).

He moved to Sampdoria in 1995: in his first Italian season he played 32 matches, scoring 5 goals. He found his consecration with the Real Madrid shirt. In the Liga he collected 127 caps (18 goals) and won the Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup.

He got back to Italy (Inter Milan) at the end of 1999. Curiously, he socred his first goal with the black-and-blue against AC Milan (Seba Rossi was the goalie) in an Italian Cup match (Jan. 13, 2000).

Here is the list of the Dutch players who wore the red-and-black shirt before Seedorf:
François Menno KNOOTE

Milan's Awesome Reputation Will Precede Them
30.5 || scharatz

An article from Rangers FC official site:

AC MILAN will arrive at Ibrox with a team full of superstars in July as Alex McLeish seeks to test his squad to the limit before embarking on his first full season in charge.

Rangers have secured the Italian giants, with ex-Ranger Rino Gattuso in their squad, as one of their pre-season opponents in a glamour friendly that is sure to capture the imagination of the fans.

Milan are a club saturated in history with five European Cups in the San Siro trophy room. Add to that 16 Italian titles, two European Cup Winners’ Cups and four triumphs in the Coppa Italia and you begin to understand the strength of this famous institution.

World-renowned names like Franco Baresi and Marco van Basten will forever be synonymous with the red and black stripes.

From yesteryear, great players like José Altafini, current manager Carlo Ancelotti, Romeo Benetti and Lorenzo Buffon have all played for Milan.

Today's side ended season 2001-02 by finishing fourth in Serie A and will take their place in the UEFA Cup next season alongside Rangers.

Interestingly, Ancelotti will bring with him the man who shattered Rangers’ European hopes two seasons ago – Marco Simone.

The 32-year-old striker scored the second goal for Monaco at Ibrox in a 2-2 Champions League draw in November 2000, effectively killing the club’s dream of progressing to the second group phase.

A face liable to receive a warmer reception is that of Gattuso, the no-nonsense midfielder who became a hero with the Ibrox faithful five years ago when Walter Smith signed him as a 19-year-old from Perugia.

Gattuso arrived at Rangers as the debris from the nine-in-a-row celebrations was still being cleared and wasn’t expected to make an immediate impact due to his youthfulness.

However, his commitment and attitude were so strong that manager Smith couldn’t leave him out the side and his tenacious tackling soon elevated him to cult status.

Sadly Gattuso left Rangers just nine months later for Salernitana in a £3.5million deal. Again his outstanding contribution at a smaller club was noted and that prompted Milan to pay £8million for his services in the summer of 1999.

Gattuso said: "It was disappointing to leave Ibrox but it will be great to return and see the place again, although many of the players I played with have gone.

"Playing for Milan in the San Siro is amazing but I will always have strong memories of Ibrox and I’m looking forward to seeing the fans again."

These days, instead of having nine-in-a-row heroes Ally McCoist, Richard Gough and Paul Gascoigne for team-mates, Gattuso mixes with stars like Paolo Maldini, Andrei Shevchenko and Pippo Inzaghi.

At the age of 24 he is now a full Italian international and is currently in Japan and South Korea with his national team, who are amongst the favourites to lift the World Cup.

Gattuso’s return will be eagerly anticipated by everyone at Ibrox, but McLeish and the players cannot allow that to cloud the fact that Milan are a top-level side who can totally destroy any opponent.

Christian Abbiati is their goalkeeper with solid and reliable defenders like Maldini, Argentina’s Jose Antonio Chamot and Denmark’s Thomas Helveg protecting him.

Ancelotti’s midfield is littered with talent and threat. Manuel Rui Costa, Fernando Redondo, Andrea Pirlo, Demitrio Albertini and Brazilian star Serginho all compete alongside Gattuso for a place.

And up front there will be no mercy for Rangers either for as well as Shevchenko, Simone and Inzaghi, Milan can call upon Spaniards Javi Moreno and Jose Mari.

OFFICIAL: Coco-Seedorf swap
30.5 || scharatz

Milan and Inter have reached an agreement, but the players must still give their consent to the move.

This story has been in the press for several months and on Thursday evening Rossoneri Vice-President Adriano Galliani confirmed a breakthrough in negotiations.

“The two clubs have agreed a straight swap between Francesco Coco and Clarence Seedorf,” he revealed on the official Milan website.

“The only issue remaining is the wages for the two players. We have authorised each other to contact the respective players.”

“Milan will speak with Seedorf, while Inter can now conduct talks directly with Coco.”

The Italian international should strengthen the Nerazzurri defence, while for him it is a return to the San Siro.

The winger was on loan at Barcelona, but the Spaniards do not appear intent on taking up their option on the player – an option that expires on Friday.

While Coco does not need convincing to move across the city, Seedorf may be a little more difficult to tie down.

The Dutchman is said to fear that he may not find space in a team that already boasts Manuel Rui Costa and Andrea Pirlo in midfield.

“Seedorf’s arrival absolutely does not put Rui Costa’s position into doubt,” assured Galliani.

“The move is a straight swap and neither club will discuss the value placed on the players’ heads.”

Earlier this month the Milan director had revealed that the dire financial situation of the club would see only free transfers or straight swaps to reinforce the squad for next season.

“This deal had no bearing on our financial situation,” maintained the Vice-President. “This was purely a technical decision.”

Redondo ready for Milan return
29.5 || scharatz

Milan have announced that Fernando Redondo will be ready for next season after months of injury agony.

“He is in Buenos Aires at the moment,” revealed Vice-President Adriano Galliani. “I spoke to both him and his agent recently and things are going well.”

“Redondo will be with the team on July 1, when the new squad is presented to the press at the Milanello training ground. We hope he can return to being a Milan player.”

The Argentine midfielder was considered one of the world’s best players when he signed for the club in September 2000 from Real Madrid.

However, he ruptured knee ligaments in his first training session and has never actually stepped onto the field for the team.

The 32-year-old even offered to go without pay until he was able to play football at a professional level.

Meanwhile, Milan have fired fitness Coach Vincenzo Pincolini after an unprecedented series of injuries within the team last season.

Pincolini, a former Inter fitness Coach, has been replaced by Daniele Tognaccini.

The club also installed a new state of the art monitoring system, called ‘Milan Lab’, which will analyse every detail of a players’ condition and training methods in a bid to reduce injuries.

Maldini on the defensive
29.5 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has backed Coach Giovanni Trapattoni’s likely decision to change tactics for Italy’s first World Cup match.

Trap is set to shelve his 3-4-1-2 formation in favour of a more safety first 4-4-2 system – with Francesco Totti playing as the second striker.

"Considering the difficulties we’ve had in our opening games in recent World Cups, I think it is better that we remain cautious," said the captain.

Some sections of the Italian media have claimed that the proposed formation will make Italy a less entertaining and attacking outfit. Something Maldini disagrees with.

"Switching from three to four defenders doesn’t really make that much difference. People that say 4-4-2 is less spectacular are wrong because I’ve seen many sides entertain playing that way. Just look at Sven Goran Eriksson’s Lazio," he added.

"And if Cristiano Doni is selected to play on the right wing then we will have an extra quality midfielder that has the ability to score goals."

The left-back, who will be appearing at his fourth World Cup, believes he and his defensive colleagues will have a major role to play in Japan and Korea.

"From 1988 until today I’ve always played in extremely strong rearguards and that will be the same in this tournament," he raved.

"This current national defence is as good as the Milan block of players that starred for Italy during USA ’94. We hardly ever conceded back then.

"I can’t say which set of defences was stronger but I believe that we are as good as eight years ago."

Probable Italy line-up for Ecuador game: Buffon; Panucci, Cannavaro, Nesta, Maldini; Doni, Di Biagio, Tommasi, Zambrotta; Totti, Vieri

Coco deal not done says Galliani
29.5 || scharatz

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has denied speculation that the Francesco Coco and Clarence Seedorf swap deal has been concluded.

Reports recently have suggested that Coco will return to Milan from Barcelona and then in turn be handed to Inter for midfielder Seedorf.

"We have yet to reach agreement with Inter or either players over the move," said Galliani.

"Another thing I want to underline is that Coco still belongs to Barcelona. They have up until July 31 to decide what to do with him. If they don’t want him then Coco will belong to Milan."

The Azzurri international’s future at the Nou Camp is in doubt after the return of Louis Van Gaal as the Coach. Even if Coco could be needed for the future with the news that veteran full-back Sergi will be released.

"I still feel like a Barcelona player and I don’t know anything about the stories that Barca want to release me," said a mystified Coco.

"In the last month and a half, I have spoken to Barca officials on at least 20 occasions and they’ve always said they want to keep hold of me."

The major stumbling block seems to be Coco’s transfer fee of around £10m, which has reportedly put off the Liga side.

Inzaghi set for Ecuador clash?
29.5 || scharatz

Italy striker Pippo Inzaghi may recover from injury in time to face Ecuador on Monday.

The Milan man was initially ruled out of the Azzurri opener after he picked up a knee problem in the 2-1 friendly win against Kashima Antlers on Sunday.

However, the former Juventus man has returned to training and is hoping to prove his fitness for the game against the South Americans.

"I’m feeling good and that is the most important thing at the moment," he revealed. "I don’t know whether I can play against Ecuador. I’ll talk to the medical staff and the Coach before deciding."

There were fears that Inzaghi’s tournament could have been over after he underwent surgery on the same knee at Christmas.

"I’m delighted to still be here because at the time of the problem I was so scared that my World Cup had come to an end," he added.

"Maybe my fears were a little over elaborate and a lot of the squad were really worried. But don’t forget that I damaged knee ligaments earlier this season and that was in my mind."

It seems unlikely that Coach Giovanni Trapattoni will field Inzaghi from the start in their opener.

Training sessions in the past few days have suggested that Italy will play a 4-4-2 against Ecuador with Francesco Totti partnering Christian Vieri in attack.

Inzaghi could sit on the bench alongside Alex Del Piero and Vincenzo Montella.

Italy Must Reach Final For Maldini To Break Appearance Record
29.5 || scharatz

Italy captain Paolo Maldini is aiming to break Lothar Matthaus's record of having played 25 games at the World Cup.

The Milan defender is currently on 19 appearances meaning he needs seven more to beat the German's record. He has announced that he is to retire from international football after the World Cup meaning it is touch and go as to whether he will make it.

"This is an important milestone," said Maldini. "Breaking the record would mean that Italy had reached the final."

AC Milan and Juventus Pondering Del Piero-Rui Costa Swap Deal
29.5 || scharatz

Sources close to sister site are reporting that Milan and Juventus met to discuss an incredible swap deal involving Alessandro Del Piero and Manuel Rui Costa.

The two Serie A giants are still far from an agreement, but there is no doubt Juve would like to get rid of their super-expensive skipper, despite the fact that he helped the team clich their 26th Scudetto in May.

On their part AC Milan are afraid they are not the team for Rui Costa, and are therefore desperately looking for a valid replacement for the Portugal international.

Del Piero might be the perfect answer for the Rossoneri, however there are still many obstacles to surmount before the deal can become reality.

Liverpool, Milan And Bayern Munich To Take Part In Real Madrid Tournament
29.5 || scharatz

Liverpool have confirmed that they will be joining AC Milan and Bayern Munich in taking part in Real Madrid's Centenary Tournament during the first weekend in August.

Liverpool will play Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will play Milan on Saturday 3rd August.

The two losers and the two winners will then meet the following day.

Inzaghi: I Feel Good
29.5 || scharatz

Still bothered by an injury to his left knee, Filippo Inzaghi is expected to miss Italy's World Cup opener against Ecuador. However, Milan's striker is recovering much faster than expected.

"I feel good and this is the most important thing" Inzaghi said today.
"Maybe I could make it for the opening match, but we'll decide in these days with Trapattoni and the doctors. Right now I'm very happy, I was really scared when I picked up this injury. Maybe I worried too much, but everybody remembers how many matches I missed this season, following the ligament trouble I suffered some months ago...".

OPINION: Francesco Coco Can Go To Hell
29.5 || scharatz

AUTHOR: Lo Scrivano

I have been an AC Milan fan as far back as I can remember watching football. And, the most important thing I have learnt is that no player is greater than the team…ever! Believe me, it is hard for me to say this after seeing the likes of Francesco Baresi, Marco Van Basten and Paolo Maldini don the red and black shirt, but that doesn't change anything. Look at Roy Keane, the most inspirational midfielder in the world and leader of Ireland. He is sitting at home today because at some point he stopped caring about the team and started to think of himself as an individual and not as a member of that team. Francesco Coco is showing day by day that he is made of the same material.

A true thoroughbred of the Milan youth system, Coco arrived on the big stage with a bang in 1994, replacing an injured Paolo Maldini and becoming a hero almost overnight with his impressive displays at left-back. Coco was groomed for that position and was tipped to take over when Maldini quit, but that obviously was not about to happen anytime soon and so the story goes. Coco was loaned out a couple of times, and after three years in oblivion (primarily due to injury), he came back to Milan in 2000 to stake his claim in the side he professed his love to. Coco rose to dizzy heights yet again, scoring twice in the Champions' League. And a match winning display at the Nou Camp finally earned him a call to the Azzurri.

However, the lad has gone awry since then. He fought with Milan coach Fatih Terim after Terim told him that he was to play either at left-back or as second fiddle to Brazilian Serginho. Coco told Milan that he no longer wished to stay at the club and left for Barcelona claiming, "My aim is to play in the World Cup and for that I must get first team football."

While Coco could have thrived at Milan replacing the glorious, yet erratic and inconsistent Serginho, he chose to move to Barcelona, a move that he surely must regret in retrospect. Coco spent most of the season on the bench and even when Barca left-back Sergi was injured, Coco saw little action. What's more, all this did little to hamper his World Cup place, as he is the only real left wingback of International quality in the country at the moment. Cristiano Doni, his only competition for that position is a far more attack-minded player.

But a year later, his tune hasn't changed a bit. Barcelona have refused to keep him (probably because of his nonsensical attitude) and he is back in Milan. At a point like this one would think that he would try and win back his fans and earn a starting spot at the club to try and settle his haphazard career. But, no! Coco has now announced his relish at the thought of joining deadly rivals Inter Milan and has all but transformed every ounce of love every AC Milan fan had for him in to hate. "I do not want to stay at Milan. The club does not interest me", Coco was cited as saying.

AC Milan may tolerate poor form, but they definitely do not tolerate misbehavior (as don't most respectable clubs). Coco is a brat with the brain of a child (no offense to any intelligent children out there) and should he succeed in lobbying for a cross-city move, he can add the title of "traitor" to that resumé too. Coco's career at Milan may already be over, but if he wants to truly realize his dreams of being a key member of the Azzurri, he better get his act together now. Ironically, he may receive a blessing in disguise if his transfer to Internazionale does go through. For in Hector Cuper, the disciplinarian, he will have met his match.

Gattuso Promises Self-Control
29.5 || scharatz

Italy midfielder Gennaro Gattuso has sworn to not let his temper get the better of him at the World Cup. Gattuso who was picked for the World Cup after impressing for AC Milan in a season where most of the club's players performed below par. Nicknamed "the mastiff" and "The White Davids", Gattuso has made a name for himself for being a bully on the pitch. Rival fans have often claimed that he is too dirty a player to be on the pitch and mocked him for his ability to give up fouls all over the pitch. However, the fact remains that Gattuso has excelled as a ball winner and gives his all to the team running non-stop the entire time he is on the pitch.

Earlier this year Trapattoni stated, "Well, let's say that Gattuso is an ugly player, but his work rate alone is worth his presence in the side." Similar compliments have also been showered upon Gattuso by his three coaches at Milan: Zaccheroni, Terim and Ancelotti.

Gattuso will most likely not start a single World Cup game with the likes of Di Biagio, Tommasi and C. Zanetti ahead of him in the pecking order. Yet, the truculent 24-year old thinks he may be in for a tough time should he be given his chance. "Yeah, I'll have to control myself. Italian referees know I am a nice guy, but at the World Cup, my aggressiveness may be misinterpreted."

Gattuso's most notorious brawl took place at the last edition of the Olympic games in Sydney when he had a bust up with Spaniard José Mari (incidentally his teammate at AC Milan) over a foul committed by the latter one of Gattuso's fellow countrymen. However, he has since improved in leaps and bounds and has let his aggression show only in his play and not his words. Should he continue on in this manner, he is sure to have a bright and wonderful Azzurri career ahead of him.

Javi Moreno move completed
28.5 || scharatz

Javi Moreno has agreed a move to Atletico Madrid, it was confirmed today.

The 27-year-old striker had for some time been linked with the newly promoted club and will put pen to paper after undergoing a medical.

“Atletico Madrid and Milan have reached a verbal agreement for Moreno,” read a statement on the official Liga club website. “The player will soon sign a three-year contract.”

Moreno shot to fame last year with Alaves, scoring 22 goals in 34 games and reaching the UEFA Cup Final, but he has not impressed since his move to Serie A.

Atletico are stocking up on Serie A stars to celebrate their return to the Spanish top flight. A triple deal is at an advanced stage with Lazio, bringing Claudio Lopez, Diego Simeone and on-loan Gaizka Mendieta to the club.

Friendly Match: Zenit 6-5 AC Milan (p)
28.5 || scharatz

Last match before the summer break for the kids, today. In St. Petersburg AC Milan faced Zenit to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the city foundation. At the Petrovsky Stadium the host team won over the Rossoneri after the shoot-out.

Zenit took the lead after 19 minutes with Ranjelovich, who easily found himself all alone in front of Sebastiano Rossi (AC Milan captain, today) and pierced him with a right-foot shot.

Ancelotti’s men react and repeatedly threatened Zenit’s goal with Brocchi and Josè Mari. AC Milan levelled in the dying minutes of the first half thanks to an Orlandini’s left-foot shot.

After the break, Kaladze hit the woodworks (64 min.), but the goal that took the Rossoneri ahead came 4 minutes later thanks to Aubameyang, who had just entered the field.

When only 8 minutes still to play, the referee Mr. Levnikov conceded a penalty kick to Zenit, for aa foul committed by Kaladze on Astafiev. From the spot Mudrinich beats Rossi and seals the regular time result (2-2).

Zenit won the match, 6-5, after the shoot-out. For the Rossoneri, Kaladze, Brocchi, Ba and Orlandini scored their penalty kicks, but Shevchenko (coming back after the nose operation) missed the last one.

ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG - AC MILAN 6-5 (half time: 1-1) (full time: 2-2)
Scorers: Ranjelovich 19, Orlandini 44, Aubameyang 68, Mudrinich 82 (pen.).

ZENIT: Malafeev, Ovsepian, Cvetkov, Igonin, Spivak (sub. Bistrov 58), Konoplev, Katulski, Gorovoi (sub. Mudrinich 60), Astafiev, Ranjelovich (sub. Makarov 67), Arshavin.
Coach: Biriukov.
Substitutes not used: Davidov, A. Makarov, Tarasov, Lazarev.

AC MILAN: Rossi; Daino, Domoraud (sub. Sarr 77), Kaladze, Tonetto; Ba, Brocchi, Ambrosini (sub. Donadel 69), Orlandini (sub. Aubameyang 65); Josè Mari (sub. Sammarco 77), Shevchenko (sub. De Martin 73).
Coach: Ancelotti.
Substitutes not used: Fiori, Costacurta, Kutuzov.
Referee: Nikolai Levnikov

Booked: Ambrosini (M), Brocchi (M), Arshavin (Z).

Milan chief riles Chelsea over Dalla Bona demands
28.5 || scharatz

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has attacked Chelsea's demands for want-away midfielder Sam Dalla Bona. "I hope he won't cost a single penny. That is what it cost Chelsea when they took him away from Atalanta," Galliani declared.

The Premiership club are anxious the £6 million-rated midfielder does not leave on a Bosman free when his contract expires next summer and have threatened to banish him to the reserves if they cannot find a buyer.

Galliani admitted he was disgusted with Chelsea's treatment of the 21-year-old, who Milan want to bring to the San Siro.

"Chelsea say they are frightened that an Italian club could steal him for nothing," he said. "They are having a moan but they didn't want our money, so I hope it will be tit-for-tat."

Chelsea put the former captain of Italy's youth team on the transfer list last week and issued a statement that looks to have started the war-of-words with Milan.

"One Italian club is interested in buying Dalla Bona but they are trying to offload an over-aged, over-paid player in part exchange," the statement said.

"Chelsea are somewhat puzzled by Sam's attitude," it went on. "We agreed a transfer to Venezia last summer, a club that is very near his family home, which he has made clear is important to him.

"So we are at a loss to understand why he turned that down but is willing to go to a club in Milan or Rome, a long distance from his family."

Dalla Bona joined Chelsea as a 17-year-old from Atalanta in 1998, and was a fixture in the team under Claudio Ranieri before informing the club he wanted to be nearer his family.

Inter join chase as Barca let Coco go
28.5 || scharatz

Francesco Coco is set for a return to AC Milan after Barcelona ended his unhappy one-year loan spell in Spain, but city rivals Internazionale are preparing to swoop for the World Cup wing-back.

The player's father, Antonio Coco, admitted talks with Inter were underway, and claimed his son did not want to play for Milan.

"I can't deny we have seen Inter executives," he said. "It would be a great choice for us, but it depends on Milan. On Thursday we will meet Milan's executives and things will be made clear.

"The only thing I can say for sure is that Francesco doesn't want to come back and play for Milan."

Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf may be used by Inter to sweeten the deal for Milan, who have already expressed an interest in the Holland star.

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti is a known-admirer, and the club's vice-president Adriano Galliani said: "I like very much Seedorf, but we have to talk with Inter about him."

One stumbling block to the Seedorf move could be Inter's demand for money, as well as Coco, but that looks negotiable.

Inter are also believed to be chasing Valencia midfielder Kily Gonzalez, and on Monday they signed 18-year-old Levski Sofia striker Dimitar Makriev.

Inzaghi relief at injury status
27.5 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi has spoken of his relief after tests revealed that his World Cup was not over.

The striker picked up a knee injury in the 2-1 friendly win over Kashima Antlers. But tests have confirmed that there is no ligament damage and he will be fit for Italy’s second group game against Croatia.

"I feel a lot better," said the Milan man. "The pain has decreased and the swelling has gone down."

The former Juventus star, who played at France ’98, added: "I got quite a fright yesterday and felt very down because missing the World Cup would have been a massive blow for me.

"I felt a lot calmer after the first examination and now I’m already working to get back to full fitness. I want to thank my teammates, friends, fans and the journalists who have been splendid through this."

Inzaghi, who was set to partner Christian Vieri against Ecuador, will miss the next two days of training but should return on Thursday.

Contra and Redondo set for action
27.5 || scharatz

Milan have announced that Cosmin Contra and Fernando Redondo should be fit for pre-season training.

The Romanian international underwent a minor knee operation on Monday and will be out of action for the next five weeks.

The full-back was operated on by professor Marc Maertens in Antwerp after the former Alaves man picked up a slight problem in his meniscus.

Meanwhile, Argentine Redondo should be set to return to full training after missing the last two seasons with a knee problem.

The former Real Madrid player has yet to play for his new side after damaging knee ligaments in one of his first training sessions at the San Siro.

"Fernando Redondo will start training with the rest of the squad from July 1, 2002," maintained Rossoneri chief Adriano Galliani.

Contra Out Five weeks
27.5 || scharatz

Milan full-back Cosmin Contra has been ruled out for five weeks after undergoing an operation on his left knee.

The Romanian, whose country failed to qualify for the World Cup, is hopeful of returning to training before the start of the season.

Coco To Return To Milan
27.5 || scharatz

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has announced that Francesco Coco will return to Milan after Barcelona failed to agree to the Rossoneri's asking price.

The Italian international has been on loan at the Nou Camp all season and Barca were keen to secure his long-term future.

However, they claim that the San Siro club are asking too much for the full-back and the deal is now off.

"From the first of June, Coco will be a Milan player again," Galliani told the club's official site.

Inzaghi's World Cup continues
27.5 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi will remain with the Azzurri squad after tests confirmed that his knee injury wasn’t as bad as feared.

The Milan striker limped off in the 2-1 friendly win over Kashima Antlers on Sunday with an injury that could have jeopardised his tournament.

But tests on the forward this morning have confirmed a bad sprain – rather than ligament damage – and he should be available for selection for Italy’s second game against Croatia.

"Inzaghi is much better and after further examinations we are all calm about his recovery," stated doctor Andrea Ferretti. "His injury was on the same knee that he had surgery on earlier this season but he’s OK."

Inzaghi was expected to partner Christian Vieri in Italy’s opening game against Ecuador on Monday. Now Coach Giovanni Trapattoni will be forced into a rethink.

"At this moment in time I haven’t decided who will partner Christian Vieri out of Alex Del Piero and Vincenzo Montella," explained the Coach.

"I’ll probably make up my mind by Thursday who to play. Whoever is in better form will be chosen as Ecuador are a good side who are in good physical shape at the moment."

Commenting on Inzaghi’s injury, Trap remained cool. "I was already rather hopeful yesterday that it wasn’t anything too serious.

"He’ll take the next two or three days off before getting back to training. He should be available for the Croatia game on June 8."

Meanwhile, Italy, Japan and Korea were all subjected to random FIFA drug tests on Monday. Four players from each nation had urine samples taken for analysis.

Kaladze sure Sheva is staying
26.5 || scharatz

Georgia midfielder Kakhaber Kaladze has claimed his AC Milan team-mate Andriy Shevchenko will remain at the San Siro next season.

"Everyone says he is leaving, but I can tell you he is not going anywhere," Kaladze said.

Real Madrid are understood to have targeted the Ukrainian striker as their big-name signing for the summer, but Kaladze was insistant on Sunday.

"He is saying in Milan," he added, before denying that Shevchenko had a below-par campaign for the Rossoneri last season.

"I don't agree with people who say that Andriy played poorly," said Kaladze. "How can people say that about him when, of Milan's 47 goals, he scored 14?"

Italian clubs are looking to slash wage bills and trim transfer expenditure, so many of Serie A's top names have been linked with moves to Spain and England over the summer.

Shevchenko has confirmed that, if he leaves Milan, he will also leave Italy, scotching rumours that he could be involved in a direct swap for Internazionale's Christian Vieri.

Inzaghi escapes ligament damage
26.5 || scharatz

Filippo Inzaghi has not suffered ligament damage, but the striker must wait 24 hours before the extent of his knee injury is revealed.

The striker limped off 29 minutes into Sunday’s 2-1 win over Japanese club Champions Kashima Antlers.

The Milan man was clutching his left knee, the same that underwent surgery for ruptured ligaments in December.

“He has a problem with his left knee,” revealed Dr. Andrea Ferretti, “but it’s difficult to say any more right now. We will do tests tomorrow for an initial diagnosis.”

A preliminary test was conducted this evening and the Azzurri medical staff were able to confidently rule out damage to ligaments or the meniscus.

However, a sprained knee could nonetheless keep Inzaghi on the sidelines for at least two weeks.

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has spoken to his player on the phone and revealed that the latest test results left him more optimistic.

“Thankfully Pippo is alright,” Galliani told the press, “as the ligaments have not been affected.”

“It is a heavy blow to the knee and one that causes pain, but when there are no lesions the pain is sure to subside.”

When asked if there was a chance Inzaghi could be sent home from Japan, the Vice-President hesitated.

“The decisions will be made by the Italy medical staff. From where I am standing, and having spoken to him on the phone, I can assume that within a few days Inzaghi will be alright.”

“I therefore have strong hopes that Pippo will play this World Cup.”

Parma striker Marco Di Vaio is on stand-by in case tomorrow’s test results prove disappointing. Italy can change a player due to injury up until June 2.

Inzaghi is not the only World Cup star keeping his country on tenterhooks.

Zinedine Zidane limped off during France’s 3-2 win over South Korea today. The former Juventus midfielder has suffered a left thigh problem.

“He has a small tear,” admitted Coach Roger Lemerre, “and slight pain in the thigh muscle.”

“When the muscles are involved you cannot help but be worried as you never know how long it will take to heal.”

Real Madrid star Zidane arrived at the French training camp two days late due to the birth of his third child and did not take part in their home defeat against Belgium for that same reason.

Inzaghi injury worries Italy
26.5 || scharatz

The Azzurri’s World Cup preparations took another blow on Sunday as despite beating Kashima Antlers 2-1, Pippo Inzaghi limped off the field.

The Milan striker was assured a place in the starting line-up against Ecuador on June 3 and had in fact opened the scoring in this tie.

However, he was forced to take no further part in the match as on the half-hour mark the former Juve man walked off clutching his thigh.

More tests will be needed to ascertain the extent of the damage, but should Inzaghi not make the World Cup opener then Vincenzo Montella looks likely to partner Christian Vieri.

Giovanni Trapattoni can be relatively content with the 2-1 friendly victory in Tokyo. Kashima Antlers, Coached by former Sampdoria man Toninho Cerezo, are Champions of the Japanese J-League.

Francesco Totti played the opening 45 minutes – his first match situation in two months due to a recurring thigh problem – and it was his corner that allowed Inzaghi to nod in on 13 minutes.

Totti was impressive despite his lack of match-fitness and made several illuminating passes for his teammates.

Christian Vieri netted Italy’s second soon after. Inzaghi held up Gianluca Zambrotta’s long ball forward for the Inter hitman’s close range half-volley.

On the half-hour mark Inzaghi limped off and was replaced by Totti’s Roma teammate Montella.

Tiredness from jet lag and the hard training regime the Azzurri have been subjected to in the last week saw their performance dip in the second half.

Kashima pulled one back soon after the break when Hirase took advantage of a short Fabio Cannavaro clearance to drill home.

Trap began several experiments, including the four-man defence with Christian Panucci on the right and Paolo Maldini filling the role he had as a youngster on the left.

This move also reshuffled the midfield, with Juventus winger Zambrotta unusually pushed into the centre.

Tellingly, when Totti was replaced by Alessandro Del Piero at half-time, the Juve captain was fielded as a Trequartista. His protests that he only wished to play as a support striker were evidently ignored.

Trap may be able to convince Del Piero to change his mind, as the makeshift creative midfielder impressed behind the front two.

One particularly fine assist for Damiano Tommasi towards the end of the match could easily have seen Italy score a third.

Marco Materazzi stepped onto the field late on and saw his header tipped onto the crossbar by Japanese goalkeeper Shinichi Shuto.

Kashima Antlers: Shuto; Narahashi, Ikeuchi, Fabiano, Augusto; Kumagai (Ishikawa 81), Honda (Uchida 56), Aoki, Nozawa

Italy: Buffon (Toldo 46); Panucci, Nesta (Materazzi 85), Cannavaro, Maldini (Coco 62); Zambrotta (Di Livio 76), Tommasi, Di Biagio (Gattuso 62); Totti (Del Piero 46); Inzaghi (Montella 29), Vieri (Zanetti 76)

Ref: Kiyoshi Ota (Japan)

Hubner splits the San Siro
26.5 || scharatz

Dario Hubner looks set to play in Milan next season, but whether it is Rossoneri or Nerazzurri colours remains to be seen.

The Piacenza veteran claims he is ready for a big club after topping the Capocanonniere charts alongside Juve’s David Trezeguet on 24 goals.

At first Milan appeared to be in pole position as he travelled to the USA with Carlo Ancelotti’s men on a tour of the States.

However, he did not impress during that test run and the Rossoneri have considerably cooled their interest.

Now Inter are closing in on the former Brescia star as a more reliable alternative for the injury-prone Ronaldo and Christian Vieri.

Adriano has been loaned out to Parma for the season, while Nicola Ventola is also set to leave this summer.

It has been reported that the San Siro side is willing to offer Bernardo Corradi – currently co-owned with Chievo – to Piacenza on loan as part of the move for Hubner.

Corradi is currently in talks to resolve his future with the Nerazzurri and after scoring ten goals this season with surprise protagonists Chievo.

The Flying Donkeys would favour taking defender Vratislav Gresko as part of the deal to sell back their half of Corradi’s contract.

Inzaghi on top of the World
26.5 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi’s confidence is sky high after he was handed the coveted spot alongside Christian Vieri.

The Milan star has beaten down competition from Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Montella to start Italy’s World Cup opener against Ecuador.

Giovanni Trapattoni has publicly confirmed that although he is experimenting with various tactical solutions, the front two are assured.

“I feel great, both athletically and physically,” said the striker. “I am more than happy to be alongside Vieri. He’s a great player and a good friend.”

In fact the two forwards share the same room in the Japanese hotel that hosts the Azzurri.

Superpippo Inzaghi missed much of the season with ruptured knee ligaments, but has hit form at the right time for this tournament.

Inzaghi once again finds himself as a rival to Del Piero. While at Juventus the two teammates were openly hostile to one another and former Bianconeri Coach Carlo Ancelotti recently revealed that he was forced to pull the battling pair apart.

Recent training sessions have seen Italian Champion Del Piero shuttled down the standings to fourth choice striker behind Vieri, Inzaghi and Montella.

In his first World Cup in 1998 the Juventus captain was also forced to fight off rivalry from Roberto Baggio, and the tension clearly affected his confidence.

Hard training in preparation for the tournament is taking its toll on Italy’s current condition.

“The next week will be crucial for our preparation,” explained Inzaghi. “We are not yet as sharp as we’d like, but we are already better than against the Czech Republic.”

Azzurri captain Paolo Maldini disagreed with those who suggest the training regime is too tough.

“The truth is that all of us, for one reason or another, have come from a very tough season. But I know Giovanni Trapattoni’s technique and that of our fitness Coach.”

“I know we will be ready at the right time.”

The Italy squad took the bullet train to Tokyo where they will face Japanese club champions Kashima Antlers, Coached by former Sampdoria star Toninho Cerezo.

Franco Baresi - The Captain of the Invincibles
26.5 || scharatz

At his first season as a starter with the Red-and-blacks he won the Scudetto: he was 18, and his team-mates called him el piscinin (that in the Milanese dialect means ‘little boy’, but also ‘shop boy’). From 1978 on, he reached an incredible series of victories. On Oct. 28, 1997, Franco Baresi played his last celebrative match at the San Siro, and AC Milan awarded him a Golden ball for his career with the Rossoneri and decided not to use the shirt no. 6 anymore.

Number 6 on the back, the captain band on his arm, the shirt out of the pants. Three little clues for a very big name: Franco Baresi. As he’s set to leave for London, to take over Fulham’s general management, we reviewed Baresi’s career with the red-and-black shirt.

He was born in Travagliato (near Brescia), on May 4, 1960, and got for the first time at the Milanello in 1973, when he is still 13. He made his debut with AC Milan on Apr. 23, 1978, in Verona (Verona - AC Milan 1-2).

At his first season as a starter (1978-79) he won the 10th long-awaited Scudetto. But the real turning point was 1986, when Silvio Berlusconi took over AC Milan. One year later (1987/88) Sacchi arrived on the Rossoneri’s bench, and AC Milan won the 11th Scudetto. ’We were quick and aggressive for the whole 90 minutes, imposing ourselves even when we played away from the San Siro. We also took risks, but people (not only the red-and-black fans) were enthusiastic about it’.

Franco Baresi was AC Milan symbol, defensive pivot of an incredibly famous group of champions. After the 11th Scudetto, the Rossoneri ended two times in the second spot of the League standings (1989/90 and 1990/91), but most of all they won 2 European Cups (1989 in Barcelona against Steaua; 1990 in Wien against Benfica) and 2 Toyota Cups in Tokyo (in 1989 against National Medellin and in 1990 against Olimpia Asuncion).

When Sacchi (1991/92) becomes Italy’s coach, Fabio Capello arrives on AC Milan bench. With him the Rossoneri won 3 Championships in a row (1991/92, 1992/93 e 1993/94) and succeded in winning the Double (Championship and European Cup) in 1993/94 (even though Baresi didn’t play in Athens against Barcelona because he was suspended).

He went close to winning the World Cup with Sacchi’s Italy (USA ’94), and cried after missing a crucial penalty in the final shoot-out. However, he’s always had a very strong temper and was a reassuring point of reference for his team-mates. He retired from football at the end of the 1996/97 season.

The Capitano played a tribute match at the San Siro on Oct. 28, 1997, and from that day on no-one in AC Milan ever wore the shirt with the number 6 on the back. And no-one probably will.

Here is the complete list of all the victories Franco Baresi gained with AC Milan:






Cannavaro staying say Parma
24.5 || scharatz

The Fabio Cannavaro transfer saga has taken another twist with Parma stating that they now intend to keep the player.

The Italian international waved goodbye to the Tardini faithful at the end of the season but the Gialloblu now claim that they will keep the star after failing to attract high enough offers.

"At this moment in time Parma are complete and our best signing is Cannavaro," said President Stefano Tanzi.

"I can say that at this present time I am 100 per cent certain that Cannavaro and Marco Di Vaio will play for us next season.

"The latter could form a wonderful partnership with Adriano who we signed yesterday. We have great belief in their capabilities."

Juventus and Milan are the primary clubs in the chase for Cannavaro but as yet neither side have or are showing any intention of matching Parma’s 35m Euro asking price.

Samuele Dalla Bona transfer listed by Chelsea
24.5 || scharatz

Parma are the latest club to be linked with Samuele Dalla Bona – who has today been transfer listed by Chelsea.

The Italian youngster has turned down a contract extension at Stamford Bridge and has been put up for sale as he only has a year left on his current deal.

"Seeing as Sam Dalla Bona has refused a contract extension, stating that he wants to return to Italy to be closer to his family, we can say that he has played his last game for Chelsea," read a club statement.

"He has been immediately placed on the transfer list and if no offers are made then he will be forced to see out the rest of his deal with the reserve team."

Chelsea have confirmed that they have received an offer from an unnamed Italian side but turned it down because of the conditions. The Italian side – thought to be Milan – wanted a straight player exchange which was rejected.

Parma are looking to take the youngster as they look to build for the future.

They may have a slight advantage over other clubs because new boss Cesare Prandelli coached Dalla Bona while with the Atalanta Primavera side.

The Tardini outfit could tempt Chelsea to release their star by including Hidetoshi Nakata in the move after his unimpressive campaign last term.

Nevertheless, Milan, Inter and Juventus are all keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old who last year turned down a move to Venezia.

No super swoop for Real
24.5 || scharatz

Real Madrid have distanced themselves from possible moves for Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo.

The European Cup winners have been linked with both strikers in recent months but director general Jorge Valdano has claimed that a big money swoop is not on the agenda.

"Real haven’t the intention of making a signing this summer like those in the past when getting Luis Figo or Zinedine Zidane," he stated.

"We already have a very big squad at the moment and our primary aim is to sell a number of players first.

"We will only consider an important signing if the World Cup springs up a surprise. But don’t expect us to buy a new Maradona because they simply don’t exist."

The Spanish side have admitted interest in Milan’s Shevchenko in the past. However, they are strongly tipped to land Crespo this summer who is set to be sold by Lazio.

Fabio in come and get me plea
24.5 || scharatz

Fabio Cannavaro has told clubs interested in his signature to open their wallets and put their money on the table.

Talks for the Parma stopper have stalled after the Tardini side have yet to receive a high enough offer for the want-away stopper.

"Whoever wants me will need to show Parma the colour of their money," said the Azzurri star. "The club have decided to put a 35m Euros price tag on my head and they won’t lower that amount."

Italian giants Juventus and Milan seem to be the only real clubs in the running for the 29-year-old, but they seem intent on not offering more than a reported 23m Euros.

Parma have admitted that they could keep the ex-Napoli player if a big enough offer is not received. Something that Cannavaro doesn’t want to happen.

"Parma have shown with the signing of Adriano that they are basing their future on youth and spending less. I on the other hand want to fight for the Scudetto," he added.

Only Milan for Shevchenko
24.5 || scharatz

Andriy Shevchenko has rubbished talk of a move to Inter by declaring he will never play for another Italian side if he left Milan.

The Ukrainian was linked in an unlikely swap with the Nerazzurri’s Christian Vieri this week. But the striker claims that he could never see himself in another team’s colours.

"With all due respect to Inter, who are a great club, if I had to leave Milan then I would only do it to go and play abroad," he maintained.

"I have developed an amazing relationship with the club in the last three years and I could never turn my back on them for another Serie A side."

Shevchenko has been linked on numerous occasions with a move to Spain and Real Madrid this summer, but the former Kiev man knows what he wants.

"The only thing I’m thinking about at the minute is to forget about the season that has just finished and focus on the new campaign ahead with Milan."

The international striker had to pull out of Milan’s recent US tour because of a nose operation but he will be back in Italy on Friday to join up with the club.

"I’m not totally fit yet and every now and then my nose does hurt," he added. "But hopefully I’ll be back to myself soon."

Coco wants Barca future
24.5 || scharatz

Francesco Coco has stated that he wants to stay with Barcelona next summer despite talk of a return to Italy.

The international full-back has been linked with numerous Italian sides after failing to really settle at the Camp Nou.

However, the former Under-21 international has warned prospective buyers that he’s ready to stay in Spain despite collecting just 28 appearances in the League and Champions’ League last term.

"I’ve spoken with new boss Louis Van Gaal and he has expressed his belief in me. I’m happy with that and therefore want to remain at Barca," he said.

Inter seemed to be the team most interested in the 25-year-old but Coco has closed the door on a San Siro switch. "I’ve been linked with the Nerazzurri for the past three years but nothing has happened," he added.

However, Coco could still be forced to move out of Spain. Barca have an option to sign the player for 15m Euros, a price seemingly too high.

Should they not pay up then the left-back will return to Milan who will then probably swap him with their city rivals Inter for Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf.

Baresi Confirms Switch To Fulham
23.5 || scharatz

Franco Baresi has confirmed he will be Fulham's Director of Football from June 1.

The former Italy and AC Milan defender had played down reports earlier this week that he had agreed to take up the position.

However, the 42-year-old has signed a one-year deal with Mohamed Al Fayed's expensively assembled club that were playing in the third division just over five years ago.

Baresi said: "I cannot believe that I am leaving AC Milan after so long. Al Fayed's programme, serious and ambitious, has convinced me."

Current manager Jean Tigan will continue to control the first team, but will be assisted by Baresi, who will be involved in the scouting and the recruitment of players.

Maldini bets on Italy
23.5 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini is optimistic that he can end his international career with the only trophy that has escaped him - the World Cup.

“We have everything necessary to be protagonists in this tournament,” commented the captain ahead of his fourth edition.

Many have claimed that the side is dependent on Francesco Totti, but the Milan star assures this is a tactical and not psychological issue.

“Our team set-up is shaped for a Trequartista behind the front two, so it’s obvious that without Totti or Cristiano Doni the side does lose something in its creativity.”

Giovanni Trapattoni has also addressed this issue following the disappointing performance against the Czech Republic.

“I could try a 4-4-2,” confirmed the Coach ahead of a friendly with Japanese club side Kashima Antlers. “I have adaptable players with a thousand different possibilities, even after the game has already started.”

Nonetheless, Maldini claims that the Azzurri’s foundations have little to do with Totti. “You will see that our real strong point is the defence.”

“Italy have this great talent in the back line,” he explained, “and at last defenders are beginning to be regarded as valuable on the transfer market. It is a change from my generation.”

Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro are indeed the most sought-after stars of the summer with between £35m and £40m price tags.

“This is why clubs that have strong defenders are holding on tight to their stars. You will see,” repeats Maldini, “our defence will make the difference.”

The Azzurri captain prepared wise words for his teammates ahead of this competition in Japan and Korea.

“No-one likes sitting on the bench, I understand that perfectly. But, and especially in such an important tournament as a World Cup, everyone must get used to thinking as a team rather than individuals.”

Maldini himself could be psychologically torn in the Quarter-Finals as it is possible he will come face to face with his father.

Cesare Maldini has taken charge of the Paraguay team and could set up a family feud on the field if Italy play the South Americans.

“On the one hand,” he explains, “I would like to avoid playing against my father. After having lived with him as a son and had him as a Coach, the only relationship we’re missing is as opponents.”

“On the other hand, I obviously hope that he can do well and therefore go as far as possible in the tournament.”

Maldini concluded his press conference in Sendai with a send-off to another Azzurri and Milan legend.

“I wish Franco Baresi well in his new adventure at Fulham. On a personal level I am very disappointed to see him go, but as a professional I understand.”

The former defender had assured that a deal was not yet done, but his fellow Rossoneri appear certain Baresi will accept Fulham’s proposal to become Director of Sport.

“After 30 years of Milan it’s only right that he changes scenery and tries something else. His plans and those of the club were different and Franco did well to seek satisfaction elsewhere.”

“It’s not out of the question that, sooner or later,” confessed Maldini, “I could try a similar experience.”

Milan leave Cannavaro chase
22.5 || scharatz

The Rossoneri have again conceded that £37m rated Fabio Cannavaro is beyond their means, leaving the defender to Juventus.

“Juve are rich and can afford to spend money,” said Vice-President Adriano Galliani.

“As for us, we have Paolo Maldini, Jose Chamot, Roque Junior and Martin Laursen, all of whom will be in the World Cup. I’d say our defence is sorted.”

Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti disagrees with that particular theory. “We certainly need a new central defender,” warned the tactician, “but I and the club are working on it.”

This is the second time in several days that Galliani has publicly ruled out a bid for the Parma stopper due to financial difficulties.

“Once again we have ended the season in the red and if the club is able to carry on at all it is thanks to the enthusiasm of President Silvio Berlusconi,” he said.

“The market prices must drop, and drastically, because we cannot spend £37m on a player including his wages.”

Juventus have hit back at Galliani’s hints that Cannavaro would be set for a move up north.

“No-one here is rich,” assured President Vittorio Chiusano, “but these are the current market prices.”

Bianconeri director Antonio Giraudo added, “At these prices I fear that Alessandro Nesta and Cannavaro will remain at their clubs.”

Cannavaro himself is watching the situation closely despite his presence in Japan for the 2002 World Cup.

“Juventus or Milan is fine by me,” said the Neapolitan. “These are two great clubs. If you say that Juve have the advantage then that makes me happy.”

Galliani: Rui Costa Not For Sale
22.5 || scharatz

Milan vice-president Adrano Galliani has told the Gazzetta dello Sport that Portuguese international Manuel Rui Costa is not for sale.

Reports in Italy had suggested that the midfielder's name had come up in the Rossoneri's transfer meetings with Inter.

Barcelona and Liverpool were also said to be interested in the player but it looks as though he will now be given another season to prove his worth at the San Siro.

Roque Junior sick of the brickbats
22.5 || scharatz

Brazil defender Roque Junior announced on Tuesday that he is fed up of being singled out for criticism.

"It seems I'm guilty of every mistake we make," he said in Kuala Lumpur, where Brazil are training before the World Cup. "I can take some criticism but I don't know what to do anymore.

"Surely these journalists should be more intelligent and know when the time is right to carp."

The Brazilian press have been campaigning for the full-back to be replaced in Luiz Felipe Scolari's starting XI by Lyon's Edmilson.

Junior is currently Scolari's first-choice in a back three with Anderson Polga and Lucio.

He made 18 appearances for AC Milan last season and is being lined up as a make-weight in a move which could see Fabio Cannavaro sign from Parma.

Inzaghi: I will be star of World Cup
22.5 || scharatz

AC Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi has predicted he will become one of the leading figures at the World Cup by shooting Italy to victory. "I believe this will be my tournament. I'm the right age and have a lot of experience," he reasoned.

Giovanni Trapattoni looks set to partner Inzaghi with Internazionale frontman Christian Vieri in Italy's opening game against Ecuador.

"I have dreamt about this moment since I was a baby. I have always wanted to do something important with Italy, it's an honour just to wear the shirt," said the former Juventus star.

At one stage, Inzaghi looked set to miss the tournament altogether, as he sat out several months of the Serie A campaign through injury. Now he believes this may work to his benefit, as he will be fresher than other members of the squad.

"I missed a lot of games, but I've had time to rest and recover. Now I'm at the very peak of my fitness and I hope that will last until June 30 [the date of the World Cup final], if Italy last with me.

"I have scored a lot of goals under Trapattoni and Italy are really maturing as a group. Of course we have to win our group first, then we will think about other opponents.

"But I would especially like to get my revenge on France after they knocked us out of the 1998 World Cup and beat us in the final of the 2000 European Championships."

Inzaghi believes Francesco Totti will also be influential for Italy this summer. The Roma captain missed Italy's 1-0 defeat to the Czech Republic and Trapattoni's team looked lost without him.

"It's logical that we should miss him. We are used to having a player like Francesco in the last third. Maybe Cristiano Doni of Atalanta could replace him. But Francesco is our champion, our destiny depends on him," said Inzaghi.

Italy are in World Cup Group G with Ecuador, Mexico and Croatia.

Azzurri given World Cup send-off
22.5 || scharatz

Italy’s World Cup experience begins today as the Azzurri met with President Ciampi and flew out to Japan.

Their final day in Rome was a packed schedule, completed by a training session in the Flaminio Stadium watched by over 10,000 fans.

Two Tifosi ran onto the field to hug Giovanni Trapattoni and Christian Vieri before a final peaceful pitch invasion after the training had been completed.

The day had started with an audience with Italy’s President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. The Azzurri handed him a shirt with the Number 9 and his name on the back.

“I don’t want to be a Coach,” said Ciampi, “but I do want to tell you this: Play by thinking of nothing but the game you are in, do not try to spare yourselves effort for the upcoming match.”

“When you are on the field then give 100%, as energy comes back after a while.”

Ciampi looked forward to the tournament in Japan and Korea by thinking back to his time as a boy.

“I still remember the team that won that first World Cup for Italy in 1934,” said the President before reciting the entire squad.

Giovanni Trapattoni was particularly pleased with this act. “I was not surprised he remembered the entire squad,” said the Coach, “but I was very moved by it.”

“Ciampi evidently recalled the names because it was a shock that Italy won the trophy that year. Let’s hope to imprint the 2002 team on his memory as well.”

Ciampi continued his wise words ahead of the squad’s trip to the Orient.

“Aim high, possibly even as far as winning this trophy. But remember,” he added, “that what the Italians want most of all is players who will be worthy representatives of their country.”

“Do not forget that Italy is your nation and the tricolour flag is on your chest.”

The controversy over the players’ refusal to sing the national anthem before games was also touched upon once more.

“You sing the anthem when it comes spontaneously, not when it is forced upon you. But remember,” he admonished, “that this anthem was created in a time of rebirth and awakening that brought Italians to their freedom.”

The day continued as another meeting was held with Italy’s Prime Minister, and Milan President, Silvio Berlusconi.

He too was handed an Azzurri jersey with his name and the Number 10, but Berlusconi tracked back to Euro 2000.

“Remember,” he warned, “if you face France in the tournament then put a man marker on Zinedine Zidane. I recommend Gennaro Gattuso for the job.”

Berlusconi’s complaints that a lack of solid marking on Zidane lost Italy the Euro 2000 Final was named as the main reason Dino Zoff quit his position as Azzurri Coach.

Meanwhile, Trapattoni gave an interview to German newspaper ‘Die Welt’ this week.

“My objective is to reach at least the Semi-Finals,” said the tactician. “In any case, that still won’t be enough for the Italians.”

“We are a strange nation and there is too much expected of us, even if no-one will recognise that. If you win then you are a hero. If you finish second then you’re a failure. The World Cup will not be a walk in the park.”

Trap did confirm that Christian Vieri and Filippo Inzaghi are the first choice front two, but that “I aim to use Vincenzo Montella as support striker for some games. I think Montella could be the great surprise of this tournament.”

Baresi joins Fulham
21.5 || webmaster

Italian World Cup winner Franco Baresi has joined Fulham Football Club as Director of Football.

The 42-year-old former AC Milan star will form a formidable partnership with manager Jean Tigana as he takes on a range of duties including scouting, recruitment of players, the academy and the development of women's football.

Jean Tigana will concentrate on his primary responsibility for the first team and in particular player coaching.

A delighted Fulham Chairman, Mohamed Al Fayed, said: 'This is the next step in realising my dream of making Fulham one of the foremost clubs in the world.

'Two years ago I was fortunate enough to attract an international manager with the proven qualities of Jean Tigana and now we have doubly strengthened our team with a man who is not only admired as a world-class footballer but also widely recognised for his knowledge of the game at the highest levels.'

The appointment is part of a planned restructuring of senior management at Fulham in line with the club's ambition to become a major force in world football.

Mr Bruce Langham is also to join the club as Chief Executive Officer after a distinguished career with Telewest Communications plc where he was a group managing director.

Mark Collins, who has held the post of Acting Managing Director since last September will resume his permanent role as Managing Director of Harrods Estates. Mr Collins will remain a director of Fulham Football Club and continue to be actively involved in the management of the club.

Franco Baresi, who is currently Vice President of AC Milan with responsibilities for coaching, scouting and worldwide PR and Marketing, will take up his post on June 1.

Captain of AC Milan for sixteen years and Italian national captain for four years, Baresi played in three World Cups receiving a runners-up medal in 1994 and winning in 1982. He won the European Cup three times, the European Super Cup three times, the Intercontinental Cup twice and the Italian Championship six times.

During a career in which he played 760 games for AC Milan and won 88 caps for Italy, Baresi earned the nicknames The Steel Man and Il Capitano. A legendary figure in world football, he was widely regarded as the greatest Italian defender of all time.

Bruce Langham, 55, held a number of management posts in the airline industry until he joined Telewest Communications in 1991 as General Manager for Scotland. He became Group Managing Director of the Residential Division in 1998 and has been running his own telecommunications consultancy service since August 2000. Mr Langham takes up his post on June 10.

Last night Mr Langham said: 'I am delighted to be joining such a progressive and dynamic organisation as Fulham Football Club and I am looking forward to working with the team to take the business forward and realise the vision of the Chairman, the management and the fans.'

Sheva sale could be for Real
21.5 || scharatz

Andriy Shevchenko’s agent believes that a move to Real Madrid is not out of the question despite Milan’s claims that he is not for sale.

The Ukrainian striker is being linked with a move to the European champions and agent Oscar Damiani has told a Spanish newspaper that a deal could be done.

"I’ve read the interest in Shevchenko from Real but no one from the club has contacted me or the player," he told ‘Marca.’

"I think that the transfer would be difficult but not totally out of the question because nothing is impossible in the transfer market. Just look at what happened with Zinedine Zidane last summer.

"Even Juventus didn’t want to release him, much like Milan and Shevchenko, but like I said anything can happen in this world."

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has maintained that the former Kiev forward would not leave the club, repeating that statement last night after Shev was linked with an unlikely move to Inter.

"Milan see Shevchenko as one of the focal points of their future and that is why it will be difficult to see Shev wearing a different shirt. Then Andriy is happy in Milan and wants to improve on his past couple of seasons," Damiani added.

"But it is also obvious that he would be happy to play for Real Madrid because I believe that there isn’t a player in the world who could resist a move to this great club."

Vieri-Sheva swap denied
21.5 || scharatz

Milan and Inter have hastily denied reports that a possible swap deal between Andriy Shevchenko and Christian Vieri was on the cards.

Italian news programme TG5 claimed that the two clubs were discussing the move but both have labelled the stories as pure fantasy.

"This swap deal will not happen," said Milan’s Adriano Galliani. "Sheva will definitely stay at Milan. It is my job to officially deny this story.

"I want to tell all the fans that they can sleep peacefully because this transfer will never occur."

Inter also responded quickly to the speculation. "This story is without foundation," it said on the official club website.

The two clubs have held transfer talks in recent weeks over possible deals involving Francesco Coco and Clarence Seedorf.

Meanwhile, other news suggests that Seedorf could be heading to Barcelona in exchange for Dutch winger Marc Overmars.

Baresi in shock Fulham link
21.5 || scharatz

Franco Baresi could be about to turn his back on Milan and make a surprise move to Premiership side Fulham.

Reports have suggested that Fulham owner Mohammed Al Fayed wants the Italian to join the London outfit and Italian newspaper ‘Corriere Della Sera’ claims that the Milan legend will accept the switch.

The former Italian international will receive his Coaching licence in June from the Coverciano training centre.

And he could put it into immediate use by leaving the Rossoneri after over 20 years of service.

Baresi, now 42, is one of three Vice-presidents at the San Siro but also overseas the youth sector for the Italian giants.

His possible role at Craven Cottage is still unclear after the club seemed to confirm that Coach Jean Tigana would remain in charge after speculation linking Ruud Gullit with his job earlier this season.

Baresi won 18 major trophies with Milan, which included six League titles and three European Cups.

He was also a first team regular with the Azzurri for over a decade. He made his debut in 1982, making 81 appearances and scoring one goal.

Trap receives Mexico warning
21.5 || scharatz

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has warned Italy that Mexico could cause them problems in the 2002 World Cup.

The Rossoneri faced Italy’s group rivals in a friendly in Los Angeles and were defeated 2-1 by an outfit that Ancelotti rates highly.

"The Mexicans are an expert side that are well organised," he stated. "They are very good in defence and on the wings."

The former Juventus boss continued: "Italy definitely have the upper hand in the quality of players but they will need to remain focused for the whole 90 minutes."

Ancelotti’s warning came just days after the Azzurri put in a desperately disappointing show in Saturday’s 1-0 loss against the Czech Republic.

Milan also played Ecuador – another of Italy’s group rivals – earlier this month but Ancelotti maintained that Italy had little to fear. "The Azzurri are definitely much stronger than the South Americans," he commented.

The Azzurri will kick off their World Cup campaign on June 3 against Ecuador. They then face Croatia on June 8 before playing Mexico five days later.

Mexico 2 - 1 AC Milan - match summary
20.5 || webmaster

Mexico 2 - Braulio Luna 9, Cuauhtemoc Blanco 11
AC Milan 1 - Serginho 55 pen
Half time: 2-0, attendance 50000
Stadium: Coliseum
Referee: Ricardo Valenzuela (USA)

MEXICO: Oscar Perez (Osvaldo Sancez, 56), Manuel Vidrio, Rafael Marquez, Melvin Brown (Francisco Gabriel de Anda, 84), Salvador Carmona (Luis Hernandez, 71), Gabriel Caballero, Rafael Garcia (Ramon Morales, 58), Braulio Luna (Alberto Garcia Aspe, 76), Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Jared Borgetti (Juan Francisco Palencia, 62), Gerardo Torrado (German Villa, 78)

MILAN: Valerio Fiori, Massimo Ambrosini (De Ascentis, 68) Leonardo (Serginho, 46), Contra (Daino, 46), Adar Sarr (Savino, 46), Cristian Brocchi, Lamberto Zauli (Orlandini, 81), Jose Maria (Massimo Paganini, 16), Dario Hubner, Kakhaber Kaladze, Max Tonetto.

Chamot takes pay cut to stay in Milan
20.5 || webmaster

AC Milan's Argentinian defender Jose Antonio Chamot has taken a 20 percent pay cut to stay with the Italian first division club, Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has revealed.

Galliani made the revelation in remarks reported in Corriere dello Sport newspaper.

"Antonio Chamot has renewed his contract for another season, giving up 20 percent on what he earned before," said Galliani of Chamot who will represent his country in the forthcoming World Cup.

It is not the first gesture of such a kind by an AC Milan player.
Chamot's compatriot Fernando Redondo last season, who has had an injury-plagued two years since joining Milan from Real Madrid of Spain, renounced his salary.

Galliani, like senior directors at other top clubs, has been at the forefront of a recent awareness that Italian football is living beyond its means and is an advocate of sound finances.

Pirlo primed to prove his point
20.5 || webmaster

There was no doubting Andrea Pirlo's determination as Italy salvaged a draw with Portugal in their opening game of the European Under-21 Championships on Friday.

The Italian captain was at the heart of every move by his side, often winning the ball back himself before launching counter-attacks into Portuguese territory.

And if there was a criticism that Pirlo perhaps tried to do too much, it was also abundantly clear that he takes this captaincy business very seriously. But, then, this is a young man who still believes he has a point to prove - and plays every game accordingly.

In fact, the attack-minded playmaker has already silenced many critics by emerging as a shining light in AC Milan's inconsistent campaign this season.

The 22-year-old, who started his career with home-town club Brescia, regularly filled in for the injury-prone Rui Costa, playing a crucial role in the team's push for a Champions' League place, most notably with vital goals against Parma and Verona.

But, his current standing as a key component of the Milan midfield is in stark contrast to his status during his first attempt at cracking the 'big-time' with San Siro rivals Internazionale.

Having joined Inter from the youth ranks of Brescia in 1998, he struggled to establish himself as a first-team regular with the likes of childhood hero Roberto Baggio, France international Youri Djorkaeff and Uruguayan sensation Alvaro Recoba all ahead of him in the pecking order.

"I have bad memories of my experience with Inter," he told "They never showed trust in me and that forced me to change club."

The promising star was farmed out to on loan to Reggina where he made 28 appearances and scored six goals during season 1999-2000 and then back to Brescia where he played ten matches without finding the net.

Despite picking up valuable first team experience and proving himself as a combative performer in Italy's top flight, Inter continued to ignore the hard-working youngster and in July 2001 he was allowed to join Milan in a deal that saw Andres 'Guly' Guglielminpietro move in the other direction.

Pirlo's belief that he was a commodity worth taking a gamble on had been endorsed by Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti and the door was now open for the next stage of his development to begin.

Although not thrust straight into first-team action, Ancelotti regularly used Pirlo from the bench and in February 2002 he gave him a rare start, in the Uefa Cup against Dutch side Roda JC.

Taking the place of the injured Rui Costa, Pirlo produced a cultured display full of inventive passing and intelligent running as Milan beat a solid opponent 1-0.

Up until that point, with Milan struggling for form in Serie A, Pirlo had been seen as a luxury Ancelotti's team could ill afford.

However, following his mature performance, few doubted his ability to slot into the Milan midfield on a more regular basis.

Indeed, his increased involvement with the first team in the second half of the season coincided with Milan's up-turn in form and subsequent claiming of a Champions' League spot.

His displays in the matches against Parma, when he came on for Serginho to score one and set up another in a 3-1 win, and against Verona, when he was again on the scoresheet, not only provided Ancelotti with a welcome selection headache, but gave Pirlo a much-needed top-up of self confidence.

Reflecting on his transformation at Milan, he said: "This season I have had the opportunity to play a lot more games and often from the beginning.

"I have tried to create a problem for my coach by convincing him that he can count on me. Since my first day here, I tried to give my very best because I felt that this could really be the turning point of my career.

"Now I'm mature, I have more confidence in my capabilities and my team-mates are respecting me. I can and I must improve.

"I was so lucky to find such a great club as Milan and now I can hope one day to become the future captain of I Rossoneri."

While many see him as a natural successor to Rui Costa as the creative force in the Milan midfield, Pirlo prefers to keep an open mind on the subject.

"I don't feel I am in competition with Rui Costa," he argued. "We can play together because I have shown I can play in the middle or in a wider position."

Pirlo's experience with Milan towards the end of last season bodes well for a fruitful future at the San Siro and also spells bad news for those hoping to wrestle the European Under-21 crown from Italy's grasp.

He also led the side when Italy won the title in 1998 and he is desperate to retain the trophy in what will be his Under-21 swansong.

And despite being drawn in a group that includes two fancied teams in England and Portugal as well as hosts Switzerland, he is confident of going out on a high.

"England and Portugal have a great tradition of strong teams and we faced David Platt's side last March and achieved a good draw," he explained.

"Switzerland have not got the same qualities as us but they will play at home and that is a big advantage.

"But it's four years now that we have been champions of Europe and I don't want to give this up."

Pirlo is one of only a handful of Italian players to have played at two European championships at Under-21 level and he will sign off having established himself as the most prolific scorer in the team's history ahead of Gianluca Vialli and Christian Vieri.

He added: "I can be satisfied with what I have achieved. I have played 29 matches and scored 14 goals.

"Nobody has been able to do that in the history of the Under-21's and I'm proud of it. I'm happy to have my name in the history of this squad.

"And after this I can start to concentrate on the full Italy squad. I don't think I was ready for it in the past but after this season I'm starting to get closer."

OFFICIAL: Market News
18.5 || webmaster

The club management have issued a press conference regarding the transfers market. Here are the main news:

> Shevchenko & Rui Costa: not for sale

> Coloccini: on loan to Atletico Madrid with a purchasing option availble until the 31st of March 2003

> Kutuzov: confirmed for next season

> Javi Moreno: sold to Atletico Madrid

The new Milan takes shape
18.5 || scharatz

Vice-President Adriano Galliani has confirmed certain transfer dealings, denied others and admitted that their long-awaited defender may never come.

The club has engaged in a long distance battle with Juventus for Parma defender Fabio Cannavaro, but this afternoon Galliani poured cold water over the fans’ ardour.

“The negotiations for Cannavaro are just talk. . The transfer market needs to be shaken up, and quickly.”

“I don’t want to lead the fans on,” sighed the de facto President. “I don’t know if we will sign a central defender this summer. I will not rule it out, but I won’t confirm it either.”

The Rossoneri have struggled considerably in defence this season and this was considered one of the key areas for reinforcements.

“We currently have eight defenders under contract with this club and they are all very good players: Paolo Maldini, Cosmin Contra, Jose Chamot, Thomas Helveg, Kakha Kaladze, Martin Laursen, Roque Junior and Mohamed Sarr."

"In the next few days we will decide what to do with Billy Costacurta.”

“One thing is for sure,” continued Galliani, “if a central defender does join the squad then another must leave.”

The club is rumoured to have £100m in debts and the director did not deny the situation is far from stable.

“Once again we have ended the campaign in the red. If the club can continue at all it is only thanks to the enthusiasm of President Silvio Berlusconi.”

The situation will force massive changes in the club structure and transfer dealings, a tendency that will trickle through most Serie A sides.

“The transfer market nowadays will be one of exchanges and players who are out of contract. Look around you and you’ll see a similar trend."

"So far this summer the only buys have been free, such as Jon Dahl Tomasson to Milan, Inter have taken Carlos Alberto Gamarra, while Juventus have signed both Salvatore Fresi and Antonio Chimenti for nothing.”

Galliani also took the opportunity to deny Milan had been in talks with Gamarra before he agreed a deal with rivals Inter.

The debt-ridden club will also introduce a new wage structure, stopping just short of a salary cap.

“The new contracts will consist of a basic wage plus a performance-related bonus. Obviously the ones that have already been signed will remain the same.”

“In any case,” he added on the official Milan website, “Chamot has just renewed his deal with us for another year and has accepted a pay cut of 20% without problems.”

Galliani explained the official line behind many of the transfer rumours surrounding Carlo Ancelotti’s squad in the close season.

“Andriy Shevchenko and Manuel Rui Costa are not for sale,” he assured despite reports linking the pair to Real Madrid and Lazio respectively.

“Barcelona have until May 31 to take up their option on Francesco Coco, but they asked for a massive discount on his price tag.”

Javi Moreno has been sold to Atletico Madrid and he will be joined by Fabricio Coloccini.

The Argentine defender was out on loan to Alaves, but has been again handed out on a one-year deal with an option to buy at the end of the season.

Kutuzov had been linked with Piacenza in a swap deal for Dario Hubner, but the club has confirmed the young striker will be part of the Rossoneri first team from 2002-03.

From Newcastle to Milan: in-form Tomasson ready to star for Denmark
18.5 || scharatz

The boos and catcalls of a traumatic season with Newcastle have long since been forgotten by Jon-Dahl Tomasson as he prepares to spearhead Denmark's World Cup campaign.

From being disparaged as a 2.5 million-pound (3.6 million dollar) flop after moving to St James Park in 1997, Tomasson is now one of Europe's most sought-after attackers.

His goals this year helped Dutch side Feyenoord win the UEFA Cup - and earned the 25-year-old a big-money move to the bright lights of Italy and AC Milan.

The transfer to Milan - who beat off a stiff challenge from Barcelona for Tomasson's signature - marks a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for the skilful Dane, written off during his Newcastle nightmare.

"This season has given me my confidence back after a difficult spell at Newcastle in England," Tomasson said after scoring one of the goals in Feyenoord's 3-2 UEFA Cup final win over Borussia Dortmund.

"I was appreciated here, made to feel welcome. When you've had a dip in form that is so important. I'll never forget the club and the supporters - they've been fantastic."

An unremarkable career in Denmark's amateur ranks was followed by a move to Dutch side Heerenveen shortly after he turned professional in 1994.

His goals for the unfashionable Dutch side attracted the attention of Newcastle, confident they had snapped up the next Michael Laudrup when he signed for the Tynesiders in 1997.

But after enjoying a career trajectory that had moved steadily upwards, Tomasson's fortunes suddenly nose-dived.

In theory, the physically imposing Tomasson should have been tailor-made for the cut-and-thrust of the English Premiership.

But several nervy displays where his first touch looked poor saw him branded as technically sub-standard and Newcastle wasted no time in off-loading the Dane a year later.

A chastened Tomasson returned to Holland, this time to Feyenoord, wondering how he could relaunch his career.

His goal-scoring touch returned at Feyenoord - but for Denmark he was still regarded as too clumsy to trouble international defences.

It all changed during qualifiers for Euro 2000, Tomasson breaking his international goal duck and going on a run of six goals in seven matches.

Since then he hasn't looked back and another fine display through the World Cup qualifiers, where he netted four more goals, has firmly cemented his place in the side, where he forms a useful attacking partnership with Ebbe Sand.

150,000 mourners see Sheva honour Lobanovskyi
17.5 || webmaster

AC Milan forward Andriy Shevchenko has led the tributes at Valeriy Lobanovskyi's funeral in Kyiv. "Be remembered forever, my father and my teacher," he said in front of 150,000 mourners.

Shevchenko fought back tears as he paid his personal tribute, adding: "For many players, Lobanovskyi has given them the pass to their lives."

The former Ukraine coach was posthumously awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine by president Leonid Kuchma as well as the highest possible Uefa title, the Ruby Order.

The Kyiv public turned up en masse at the Baikove cemetery to mourn Lobanovskyi, who died on Monday after suffering a stroke and brain haemorrhage.

As well as being honoured by president Kuchma, Dynamo Kyiv shareholders announced that the club's stadium would be renamed after him and a commemorative statue erected at the ground. There are also plans to rename one of Kyiv's main streets after Lobanovskyi.

Addressing the crowds, Kuchma said: "Lobanovskyi was one of the builders of independent Ukraine. He made our football famous all over the world."

Uefa's Eastern Europe delegate Eric Epple added: "Valeriy Lobanovskyi was the symbol of football and sport in general and it's a pity that it is impossible to present him with the Ruby Order personally, which was merited by his talent, skills and work."

Dynamo vice-president Yozef Szabo, who played alongside Lobanovskyi in the 1961 title-winning Dynamo side, added: "He was always firm and stood up for his ideas.

"He was driven out and criticised many times but later the same people begged him to return and praised him.

"At the same time he was always calm, simply developing and realising his ideas and plans. He was and forever will be a great man, player and coach."

Following the ceremony, Lobanovskyi's coffin was committed to the earth as the national anthem was played, although thousands stayed to hold vigil long into the night.

NY Metrostars 1 - 1 AC Milan - match report
17.5 || webmaster

Christian Brocchi captained Milan for the first time in Friday's friendly against the Metrostars, which finished level at the Giants Stadium in front of 30,000 fans.

"It was very emotional to do the job Franco Baresi once filled and Paolo Maldini holds now," he explained. "I played with a lot of concentration and, like all my team-mates, I'm disappointed about the result."

Despite its friendly tag, the game was competitive from the start and Milan took the lead on 24 minutes when Jose Mari, whose future with the Italians is uncertain, beat Howard with a powerful shot after exhilarating build-up play from Serginho.

The Spaniard displayed a vest as he celebrated which read: 'That was for you, Frankie', a dedication to the Rossoneri's tour operator in the States.

Metrostars equalised on 58 minutes when Tab Ramos finished clinically from Serna's pass.

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti returned to a stadium he visited as assistant coach to Arrigo Sacchi in USA 94 and said: "It was a great sensation.

"Obviously the atmosphere was completely different than during a World Cup, but I saw my players give their best. It was a proper match and we should have won."

Leonardo, back in Milan colours for the occasion, added: "It's always a pleasure to be with my former teammates and wear the red-and-black shirt.

"I spent great times at the San Siro and this tour of America is giving me the chance to relive happy memories."

Metrostars: Howard (Grafer 46), Addo, Jolley, Petke, Moore (Anderson 65), Kamler (Diop 59), Hernandez (Paule 65), Ziadie (Forko 68), Ramos (Davis 61); Faria (Serna 52), Lewis (Lisi 50)

Milan: Taibi; Contra (Paganin 46), Sarr (Daino 64), Tonetto (Savino 59), Kaladze; Brocchi, De Ascentis (Conticchio 64), Serginho (Ba 46); Leonardo (Zauli 59); Jose Mari (Orlandini 46), Hubner

Booked: De Ascentis, Brocchi (Milan)

Referee: Gerry Corrie

Attendance: 30,000

Maldini blasts chief Galliani
17.5 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has hit back at Milan chief Adriano Galliani who accused him of interfering with the club’s transfer plans.

Galliani attacked the club captain after Maldini was quoted talking about Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro and Bayer Leverkusen stopper Lucio.

"I’m amazed that a great communicator like Galliani, who holds three Press conferences a week, didn’t read between the lines," Maldini stated.

"It was never my intention to give any advice to the club regarding transfers. I was simply asked what I thought about Lucio and Nesta.

"What was I supposed to say? That I thought they weren’t that good? I simply gave my opinion adding that Milan needed quality players."

The Rossoneri have not been that active on the market to date.

So far they have only signed Jon Dahl Tommason from Feyenoord, even if they are in talks for Fabio Cannavaro from Parma.

Agent denies Rui Costa sale
17.5 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa is staying at Milan according to his agent. Speculation had suggested that the Portuguese star could be sold after a disastrous season at the San Siro.

"There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that Rui Costa will leave after just one year at Milan," said Carlo Pallavicino.

"I too have read the papers recently but maintain that there is no truth in the stories whatsoever."

The playmaker signed for the giants last summer after he left his beloved and debt-ridden Fiorentina in a £27m deal.

However, his stay at Milan – who beat Lazio for his signature with a last minute offer – has been plagued by injury and poor form.

And with Italian youngster Andrea Pirlo starting to show signs of his potential in Serie A, it was rumoured that the ex-Benfica starlet could be sold as he was no longer required.

The 30-year-old midfielder has been in Italy since 1994. He’s currently on international duty with his country as they prepare for the 2002 World Cup Finals.

Milan chief advises Maldini to keep quiet
16.5 || scharatz

AC Milan president Adriano Galliani has told Paolo Maldini to concentrate on his game after the club captain drew up a wish-list of summer signings.

"We don't like our players talking about potential transfers. That's not their job," snapped Galliani after Maldini stated he would like to play alongside Bayer Leverkusen defender Lucio and Lazio stopper Alessandro Nesta next season.

"Every day I read these suggestions in the newspapers," said Galliani. "Players are paid well to play and coaches to coach. Only the club decides what happens in the transfer market - we don't need any help."

Despite not being named specifically, the Italy veteran took the criticism to heart. "I didn't intend to make suggestions," said Maldini. "I only said that I thought Nesta and Lucio were good players in answer to a journalist's question.

"What was I supposed to say? That they are not good players? Frankly, I'm amazed at what Galliani said. I don't think he understood what I was saying."

Dalla Bona set for Bridge exit
16.5 || scharatz

Samuele Dalla Bona is to quit Chelsea in favour of a return to Italy according to his agent.

Claudio Pasqualin says he is certain that the midfielder will secure a move to a Serie A club in the next few weeks.

"Dalla Bona will definitely play in Italy during the next campaign," he said. "His contract with Chelsea expires in June 2003 and it is therefore in Chelsea’s interest to sell him as soon as possible.

"If they don’t act soon then he will leave next summer on a free transfer. The Stamford Bridge side will conclude a deal with an Italian side in the near future."

The former Atalanta youngster has been linked with Inter and Milan over the past year. And Pasqualin believes he knows Dalla Bona’s probable destination.

"Samuele wants to play in Italy in order to try to win international honours. I think that Milan are in pole position to sign him at the minute."

Milan admit Cannavaro problems
16.5 || scharatz

Signing Parma defender Fabio Cannavaro is turning out to be a struggle according to Milan chief Adriano Galliani.

The Italian defender has asked his current club to be sold but as yet neither Juventus nor Milan have managed to conclude for the stopper.

"Talks for Cannavaro are languishing and I think that market values need to decrease drastically and quickly," stated Galliani.

Milan had seemingly taken the advantage over Juventus for the former Napoli man but Galliani’s comments seem to have put the Bianconeri back in the driving seat.

Meanwhile, Galliani held a two-hour meeting with Inter President Massimo Moratti last night over possible transfer dealings.

It has been confirmed that the Nerazzurri are interested in Francesco Coco – who will return to Milan from Barcelona after his loan spell.

He could be included in a swap deal which will see Clarence Seedorf move from the blue to the red half of the city.

Inter are also said to have requested Serginho but have been told that the Brazilian is unavailable for transfer.

Galliani was also asked about the transfer speculation surrounding Alessandro Nesta. "We could buy him with Inter and whoever plays at home could use him," he joked.

G14 clubs want salary cap
15.5 || scharatz

The use of a salary cap is edging nearer after it was revealed that Milan and Juventus are just two of the G14 clubs pushing for its introduction.

A report in the Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday highlighted that the powerful union of clubs were looking to make several changes to the running of the game in a battle to solve increasing economic problems.

"It is considered right to reduce squad sizes to just 25 players and to fix a salary cap for each club," Thomas Kurth, general manager of the G14 group, told the Gazzetta.

"The plan is aimed at reducing costs and will be perfected on August 30 in Monaco, but in substance the philosophy is operational immediately."

G14, whose clubs also include Real Madrid, Manchester United and Ajax, are also looking to introduce a transfer code of conduct in a bid to keep prices down.

Kurth added: "The first aim is to reduce the competition between G14 clubs in the transfer market. It is important to avoid auctions on a player because it has an effect of raising the prices even of lower quality players.

"The plan should not only concern G14 clubs, but it could be considered more important for the rest of football because it suffers more from the crisis of revenues that have stabilised and labour costs that continue to rise."

All 14 clubs will also look to lower their minimum wage structure which would see players rewarded with bonuses relating to their performance.

Inzaghi: Italy are unbeatable
15.5 || scharatz

Filippo Inzaghi claims this Azzurri line-up has no weak points as they dive into the World Cup competition.

“We are working very well and I am convinced we will enter the tournament with the right spirit and form. Already during this week we are recuperating all the energy spent during the hard season.”

Inzaghi suffered less tension than his teammates as the striker was on the sidelines for several months after rupturing knee ligaments.

“I feel great and refreshed,” assured Inzaghi, “and this is the only consolation for having suffered that terrible injury."

"I think that I can give a lot of energy and enthusiasm during this competition, even if a World Cup always brings the best out of you.”

The Milan hitman should partner Christian Vieri for Saturday’s friendly in the Czech Republic, although he faces stiff competition from Vincenzo Montella and Alessandro Del Piero.

“No-one is certain of their place at the moment. There are many of us fighting for a spot in the starting line-up and we are all very talented.”

“This is a positive aspect as we can all contribute something to the campaign. It will be up to Coach Giovanni Trapattoni to decide.”

Optimism for a glorious tournament in Japan and Korea is growing and Inzaghi is one of those claiming Italy are among the favourites.

“I repeat that this team does not have weak points, and I am not saying that to hide something from our opponents.”

“The truth is I am convinced we can do well, even if we’ll need that extra bit of luck. None of us has forgotten that our last three World Cups were lost on penalties.

Even without Lady Luck smiling on the Azzurri, the former Juventus star looks at the solid side around him.

“Another important aspect of this team is that the group dynamic is very strong, compact and compatible. Believe me, this is a great advantage when going into a tournament like the World Cup.”

Rui Costa forgets Milan strife for World Cup tilt
14.5 || scharatz

Portugal midfielder Manuel Rui Costa is optimistic that he will be back to his best for the World Cup, despite a troubled season with AC Milan.

"This is a new phase of the season and I will try to forget everything I've been through this year," he said. "We still have a month to go and I'm not worried about the form I'll be in by the first game."

The former Fiorentina playmaker has seen his season ravaged by ankle and elbow injuries. He is yet to rediscover the kind of form that persuaded Milan to shell out £27 million on him last summer.

Portugal kick off their World Cup campaign against the USA in Suwon on June 5 and, from a group that also includes Poland and hosts South Korea, Rui Costa is optimistic of progressing.

"Even the worst team in the World Cup will think they are capable of reaching the final and, although we know it will be difficult, we believe we can do it," he said.

"It's reasonable to dream and work for it. We have to believe it is possible and the way we played in Euro 2000 fuels our hope, which gives us a responsibility and a pride to play in this team.

"We want the world to look on us as a great team, with a pleasant image."

The semi-final defeat to France in Euro 2000 was Portugal's best finish in a tournament since 1966 and there is still a sense that the World Youth Cup-winning teams of 1989 and 1991 have yet to fulfil their potential.

But Rui Costa is optimistic that this side can still reach the heights. "The adventure is just starting," he said. "It's never too late to make history - and this generation of players has been trying to do that for the past ten years."

Any Powerhouse Will Suit Me, Says Cannavaro
14.5 || scharatz

Fabio Cannavaro is open to offers from inside and outside of Italy, the Azzurri and Parma defender made known from the Coverciano training ground today.

"I think I'll remain in Italy, but if I Real Madrid make a formal offer, well it will be hard to say no to such a fascinating team," said 'Canna', who is certain to leave Parma over the summer.

Despite Cannavaro is open to possible moves outside of the Italian borders, it appears he will probably end up joining one of the Serie A's Northern giants.

"Milan and Juventus are both great teams and will both participate in next years Champions League, so one or the other really doesn't make a big difference to me. I also want to say that Sacchi told me a third Italian club are interested in signing me," added the Italy international.

Pirlo admits Under-21s face tough task
13.5 || scharatz

After captaining Italy's Under-21s to European Championship success two years ago, Andrea Pirlo believes they now face an even tougher task.
"Our group is difficult," admitted the defending champions' skipper. "However we've got all that it takes to get to the final of the tournament."

Of their first opponents, Portugal, in a group that sees the Azzurrini also facing England and Switzerland, Pirlo says: "We have watched the last few games played by Portugal and we know that they are a very technical team.

"I'm sure they'll give us a hard time.

"However, I want to do well because this is my last year with the Under-21s even if, of course, I hope that there will be a place for me in the senior squad."

Pirlo added he was happy after achieving Champions League qualification with AC Milan in Serie A, but said they will be aiming for the title next season.

He said: "I'm glad for how things ended and I hope I'll be able to play more next season as well.

"We will try to achieve an important goal next year.

"I don't really care what role I play in as long as I do play."

Serginho ponders 'good opportunity' at Inter
13.5 || scharatz

AC Milan wing-back Serginho has refused to rule out a move to rivals Internazionale, who are courting him as a possible replacement for Vratislav Gresko.

"At the moment I don't want to leave AC Milan but
Inter could be a good opportunity," he said. "I feel great with the red and black shirt but players do not always get a say in their future.

"This team is like a family to me but it is useless to say I will always be at AC Milan. 'Forever' is not a word in football," added Serginho, who is tipped to move to Inter in a swap-deal involving Clarence Seedorf.

The player added that he had taken his omission from Brazil's World Cup squad in good grace. "I am not disappointed to be missing the World Cup," he said.

"Some time ago I talked with the coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. He asked me to play in the defensive line but I refused because it's not my position."

Serginho had a torrid start to his Milan career after a £5 million move from Sao Paulo two seasons ago, but has since found his feet to become one of the hottest properties in Serie A.

Maldini has Croatia fears
13.5 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has named his favourites for the World Cup but admits that group rivals Croatia could prove a handful.

"My favourites are France, Argentina and Brazil. But I also fear Croatia who we play in the Group stages," said the Azzurri captain.

"Even if the loss of Igor Tudor will be a massive blow for them because he was a fundamental member for them."

Maldini has proved his fitness to be included in the 23-man squad after missing most of the second half of the season with injury. But he’s back and focused on one aim.

"My objective is to win the World Cup. I’m set to star in my fourth consecutive tournament and this is the last chance for me," he added. "Italy have rarely failed in the World Cup and I think we can finish in the top four this time around too."

The international legend, winner of a record 121 Azzurri caps, also commented on the decision to leave out Roberto Baggio for the Japan and Korea tournament.

"There have always been controversies about squad selections on the eve of the Finals," Maldini commented.

"And I’m not surprised this time around because Baggio is a player that always gets people talking. I think, without his injury problems, Trap could have called him up."

Milan lead in Cannavaro chase
13.5 || scharatz

The tug of war between Juventus and Milan for Fabio Cannavaro seems to have swung into the Rossoneri’s favour.

Reports over the weekend had suggested that the Bianconeri had virtually wrapped up the deal for the Parma stopper.

However, fresh information implies that Milan President Silvio Berlusconi has personally contacted Parma technical director Arrigo Sacchi for the stopper in the hope that their close friendship could be favourable.

The San Siro giants are set to offer cash and midfielder Massimo Donati in a deal reportedly worth around £33m.

The latter, an established Under-21 international, is ideal for the Gialloblu who are looking to base the future of their club on youth development.

This latest twist could see Juventus up their offer for Cannavaro after their recent failure in trying to land Alessandro Nesta.

The Delle Alpi side made another approach for the Lazio defender yesterday but it seems that the capital club have no intention of selling their captain.

Friendly match - Ecuador 2:1 AC Milan
12.5 || scharatz

Southampton striker Agustin Delgado scored his second goal in two games and Carlos Tenorio hit a late winner as World Cup participants Ecuador beat AC Milan in a friendly on Saturday night.

Milan, who finished fourth in Serie A to qualify for the Champions' League, scored the opening goal on 24 minutes when Massimo Ambrosini, who just missed out on Italy's World Cup squad, struck.

However, Delgado scored four minutes before the break and Carlos Tenorio hit the winner for Ecuador with nine minutes remaining.

It was Ecuador's second win in four days after Hernan Dario Gomez's team beat Yugoslavia 1-0 thanks to another Delgado effort.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti let Dario Hubner play the second half as the Brescia forward has joined the team for their American tour.

Ecuador: Cevallos, M. Ayovi, Hurtado, Porozo (C Tenorio 68), Guerron (A Ayovi, 46), Sanchez (Aguinaga, 61), Burbano (Mendez 61), E Tenorio (Obregon 61), Gomez (Asencio 61), Kaviedes, Delgado

AC Milan: Fiori, Daino (Contra 66), Tonetto, Brocchi (Orlandini 55), Paganin (Savino 46), Kaladze, Ba (De Ascentis, 46), Ambrosini (Conticchio 57), Jose Mari (Hubner 46), Kutuzov, Serginho (Zauli 46)

Referee: Kennedy

Rui Costa to inspire Owen?
11.5 || scharatz

Reports are emerging that Liverpool have requested unsettled Milan star Manuel Rui Costa.

The Portuguese international has not settled at the San Siro and has been struggling with a succession of injuries since his £27m move from Fiorentina.

His departure is not out of the question as Under-21 captain Andrea Pirlo has proven a more reliable and younger alternative in midfield. has suggested that Reds boss Gerard Houllier has contacted the Rossoneri to inquire about Rui Costa.

The 30-year-old is considered to be a perfect addition to the Liverpool midfield, able to thread through passes in for Michael Owen.

There are also reports that Fatih Terim, who brought the best out of him at Fiorentina, has placed Rui Costa on his hitlist at Galatasaray, but the Rossoneri do not appear content with this option.

Meanwhile, it’s claimed that Milan have zeroed in on Reggina goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi to be Christian Abbiati’s understudy next season.

Other options include Udinese veteran Luigi Turci and Brazilian Dida, whose loan spell at Corinthians expires this summer.

Coloccini Fancies Barca Move
10.5 || scharatz

Alaves' on-loan Milan centre-back Fabricio Coloccini says that he would relish the prospect of joining Barcelona.

The Catalans have been linked with a move for a player who has greatly impressed in the Alaves shirt this season.

"I'd be really happy to play at Camp Nou with Javier Saviola," he told Dariosport. "Barca are one of the best clubs in Spain and in Europe."

The ultimate decision will be down to incoming coach Louis Van Gaal who is expected to complete his shock return to the club next week.

Coco Attracted To Inter
10.5 || scharatz

Barcelona's on-loan Milan defender Francisco Coco says that the thought of a move to neighbours Inter is an attractive one.

Nerazzurri coach Hector Cuper is looking to strengthen the left side of his defence after some dCoco Attracted To Interecidedly unconvincing performances from Vratislav Gresko.

"Inter want me. And it is something that I want to take into serious consideration. I feel that they have much confidence in me," he said.

"They have followed me for a long time, since January, and now they are also demonstrating an interest in me. I do not feel the same will from Milan.

"I would not want to go to the World Cup without knowing exactly where my future lies and that is why I must take Inter into serious consideration."

Ancelotti: Hubner Could Stay At Milan
10.5 || scharatz

Piacenza's striker Dario Hubner, the Serie A topscorer with 24 goals, has joined Milan for the tour in the United States, where the Rossoneri will play three matches against Ecuador, New York Metrostars and Mexico.

Hubner is not the only player on loan: together with the "Bison", Milan obtained Zauli from Bologna, Paganin and Taibi from Atalanta, De Ascentis from Torino, Savino, Conticchio and Tonetto from Lecce and Orlandini from Brescia.

However, according to coach Ancelotti's words, the veteran striker could be the only one with a chance to stay. "Dario has always scored plenty of goals in his career, he could be useful for us. He's a very good player, we'll see how he will merge with the rest of the team".

Precisely the 35 year-old striker recently revealed that both the Capital teams, especially Roma, are interested in him for next season.

Pirlo eyes legend status
10.5 || scharatz

Andrea Pirlo has revealed that he wants to write his name in the Milan history books.

The Under-21 international, currently preparing for the U-21 European Championships, has stated that he wants to become a Rossoneri legend.

"I want to stay at Milan for as long as possible because I love it here," he stated. The talented playmaker has struggled in recent seasons to prove himself at the highest level despite his undoubted potential.

Pirlo started his career at Brescia where he quickly caught the eye of Italy’s top clubs. Inter won the race to sign the starlet but his three-year San Siro stay was divided with loan spells at Reggina and Brescia.

With the Nerazzurri unable to guarantee the fantasista regular action he surprisingly signed for city rivals Milan last summer in a £10m deal.

And despite the arrival of Manuel Rui Costa, Pirlo did feature heavily in the second part of the campaign as the side secured a Champions’ League spot for next term.

"We managed to achieve that objective despite the fact that at one stage it seemed impossible for us to do so," added Pirlo. "We were rewarded for our belief that we could do it."

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has confirmed on a number of occasions in the past few months that Pirlo, nicknamed ‘Riverino’ after Milan great Gianni Rivera, will be kept by the giants.

AC pleased with new player's showing
9.5 || scharatz

Following last night's UEFA Cup Final, Carlo Ancelotti is clearly satisfied with the decision to sign Jon Dahl Tomasson for the next season.
"I'm very happy because I saw him playing a great game last night," he said. "He has avenged our knock-out with Borussia Dortmund.

Ancelotti has also added that he is sure that he'll keep on leading the Rossoneri for the next season as well.

"We have accomplished our task, which was to secure a Champions League Berth, so I am very much at ease. Being in this competition however means that we'll face the strongest clubs in Europe."

The Rossoneri, expect for those playing with their national team, are about to leave for a tour of the USA, where they will play New York.

Other player from smaller Serie A Clubs such as Perugia, Piacenza and Lecce will also tag along with the Rossoneri.

Simone return could hasten Deschamps exit
9.5 || scharatz

Monaco boss Didier Deschamps has hinted that he will quit the club if the president Jean-Louis Campora agrees to bring veteran forward Marco Simone back from his loan spell at AC Milan.

Deschamps has had a turbulent start to his coaching career, clashing with several high-profile players and only managing to lead Monaco to 15th place in league during his first season at the helm.

Reports in France have suggested that Campora is keen for Simone to return to the Louis II Stadium in a coaching capacity, but Deschamps insisted that he would find to impossible to work alongside the Italian.

"Simone could only think of his personal interests while he was here," Deschamps fumed. "The president knows my position on Simone and I don't need to remind you guys of it. If he wants Simone back then that's his problem."

Deschamps, who compared taking over at Monaco to "being handed an apple with a worm in the middle", was adamant that he is making progress despite the poor results on the pitch.

"I know that the president is far from happy," Deschamps said, "but I had a lot of rot to cut out before we could get anything moving here and by that time Europe was beyond our reach."

Deschamps clashed publicly with Simone and Germany international Oliver Bierhoff on several occasions this season.

The former France captain has been most scathing of Simone, who is still held in high regard by the Monaco fans after inspiring the club to the title in 2000 and has a particularly close relationship with Campora.

"On a human level, Marco Simone is a zero," blasted the Monaco coach in December. "He says I came here to fill my pockets - that's a joke."

Simone, meanwhile, has made no secret of the fact that he is not prepared to play under Deschamps. "He simply has no idea how to be a manager," raged Simone. "I'm really hoping that he will be kicked out. His management technique is catastrophic."

Deschamps stepped up his war of words with Bierhoff earlier this months by admitting that he should never have signed the striker. "He accused me just to cover up his poor performances on the pitch. He never played as you would expect from a player like him," Deschamps said.

However, Deschamps insisted that it was not his idea to send Italy defender Christian Panucci on loan to Roma. "Panucci and I got on fine, he fell out with the club," explained the former Juventus midfielder.

"Christian will almost certainly be staying on at Roma. As for Bierhoff, if he didn't get a game it was because we had better players."

No Ambrosini in the Azzurri squad
9.5 || scharatz

Cristiano Doni and Angelo Di Livio celebrate their tickets to Japan and Korea, but Massimo Ambrosini, Roberto Baggio and Stefano Fiore admit their disappointment.

It will be a particularly interesting trip for Atalanta star Doni as it was in November’s friendly against Japan that he scored on his international debut.

“It is very satisfying and fills me with pride,” said the midfielder. “My responsibilities to my country have increased and I hope to reach the tournament in the best possible condition.”

It has been quite a season for the 29-year-old. “My career is moving forward in leaps and bounds, but the call-up to the World Cup is the real icing on the cake.”

“Now I must only think of training hard and not let transfer talk distract me. I am mature now and am able to block out all that surrounds me. I only hope that my future can be made official as soon as possible.”

He has been linked with Juventus, but after Luciano Moggi officially pulled out of talks his most likely destination is Roma.

“I just want a club that believes in me and can get the very best out of me,” concluded Doni.

A surprise name in the 23-man squad is Angelo Di Livio. The veteran has played for strugglers Fiorentina this season and is called in to replace the injured Gianluca Pessotto.

“I am happy to be a part of the World Cup team,” commented the veteran. “This in part repays me for the bitterness and disappointment of the Viola’s relegation.”

The former Juventus star will be 36 in July but is an old favourite of Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni.

“Our objective is to reach at least the Final. I am just pleased to be here and will take on any role in order to ensure the team is compact and morale is high.”

Among the celebrations there are several players who were unexpectedly left at home. Roberto Baggio’s inclusion was always considered to be a long shot, particularly after suffering a career threatening knee injury in February.

Despite his world record breaking recovery, the Divine Ponytail will not be seeing his fourth World Cup.

“I had always hoped, just like all the other players,” Baggio told Radio RTL tonight. “I did what I could and that is the important thing for me. It went like that. Never mind.”

“Now I shall continue to work on my recovery process,” commented the Brescia star, “before going on holiday.”

One of the biggest surprises is the absence of Massimo Ambrosini, even if the succession of injuries during the last two seasons have not helped his case.

“I knew this would happen,” said the Milan midfielder. “Some of the FA directors gave me the news before the names were announced.”

“I am upset and annoyed to be left at home. I always maintained hope until the very end. I was wrong.”

Lazio’s Stefano Fiore and Alessio Tacchinardi, fresh from a Scudetto with Juventus, have also been left out.

Fiore, who had a pivotal role in the Azzurri’s Euro 2000 campaign, is in the list of reserves along with Marco Di Vaio, Giuseppe Pancaro and Ambrosini.

“I hope not to become part of the squad if it means one of my teammates suffers an injury,” said Fiore. “It’s only normal that I am a little disappointed, but at the end of the day I’d say Trap’s choices were correct.”

The poor campaign by the entire Lazio team may well have damaged his chances of World Cup glory.

“I accept responsibility for how my season started out. In general I tend to criticise my own actions and do not search for alibis. It is however true that in some circumstances there were people who did not help me.”

The comment was clearly aimed at the Biancocelesti fans who hurled insults at their new player throughout the season.

“I did well in the second half of the season,” continues the former Udinese midfielder. “The start was a bit difficult and I found myself on the bench or in a position that did not suit me. I always tried to point that out, but everyone sees football in a different way.”

“My favoured role has always been in the middle of the park or behind the two strikers. Instead Alberto Zaccheroni insisted on fielding me on the wing.”

Goalkeepers: Buffon (Juventus), Toldo (Inter), Abbiati (Milan)

Defenders: Nesta (Lazio), Cannavaro (Parma), Maldini (Milan), Materazzi (Inter), Iuliano (Juventus), Panucci (Roma), Coco (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Zambrotta (Juventus), Di Livio (Fiorentina), Di Biagio (Inter), Zanetti (Inter), Tommasi (Roma), Gattuso (Milan), Doni (Atalanta)

Forwards: Totti (Roma), Inzaghi (Milan), Del Piero (Juventus), Montella (Roma), Delvecchio (Roma), Vieri (Inter)

Rui Costa wants countryman Beto at Milan
8.5 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa has urged AC Milan to follow up their interest in international team-mate Beto.

"He is a great player and has all it takes to be a top central defender. I would like to have him playing alongside me," said the Portugal midfielder.

Beto's future has been in doubt since Sporting coach Laszlo Boloni began playing him out of position at right-back.

The Romanian preferred Andre Cruz and Phil Babb as his central-defensive pairing as Sporting began their run to the title, leading to speculation that £10 million-rated Beto would leave.

Milan and Real Madrid were watching the 26-year-old last season and the San Siro giants are still understood to be eying the defender.

"I don't need to compliment Beto," explained former Fiorentina star Rui Costa. "He is a talent, an excellent player."

Milan are in the market for a top-class defender and captain Paolo Maldini recently urged the club to buy Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Lucio after his starring role in the Champions' League victory over Manchester United.

Beto came through the ranks of Portugal's successful youth teams and, despite struggling to break up the veteran pairing of Fernando Couto and Jorge Costa in the senior side, he has shown he can perform at the highest level.

Meanwhile, after a disappointing first season with Milan, Rui Costa is hoping to show his true worth in the World Cup. "I will do everything to play at my best because it will be the most important competition of my career," he said.

Hubner Among Milan Trials For USA Tour
8.5 || scharatz

The official club pages of AC Milan today announced the squad that will play three friendlies in the United States. The squad includes several players from other Serie A sides that will be on trial with Milan in an attempt to impress coach Carlo Ancelotti and earn a permanent move to the San Siro. Among those is Piacenza's Dario Hubner who notched 24 goals this season and wants to play for a "big club" before retiring from football. The legendary George Weah will also make the trip, probably to satisfy the thousands of Milan fans in the United States in the absence of other big names.

The complete list:
GOALKEEPERS: Fiori, Taibi (Atalanta)

DEFENDERS: Contra, Kaladze, Paganin (Atalanta), Savino (Lecce), Sarr

MIDFIELDERS: Ambrosini (unless Trapattoni call him for the World Cup), Ba, Brocchi, Conticchio (Lecce), Daino, De Ascentis (Torino), Orlandini (Brescia), Serginho, Tonetto (Lecce)

FORWARDS: Hubner (Piacenza), Kutuzov, Josè Mari, Shevchenko, Weah, Zauli (Bologna)

Milan will play three matches:
SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2.30 PM: Ecuador-AC Milan
Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT

THURSDAY, MAY 16, 9.30 PM: NY Metrostars-AC Milan
Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NY

SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2.00 PM: Mexico-AC Milan
Los Angeles Coliseum, Los Angeles, California

Desailly detests facing 'cheat' Inzaghi
7.5 || scharatz

France defender Marcel Desailly has admitted he hates facing Filippo Inzaghi because the Italy forward would rather dive than get involved in a physical battle.

"The strikers I least like marking are Inzaghi and Hernan Crespo," he said. "I don't like any players why try to escape physical combat. For me it's a need, especially during big competitions when the adrenaline is high.

"That man-to-man battle is what I want and if they try to run away from it, that really winds me up.

"I adore Christian Vieri, Gabriel Batistuta and Patrick Kluivert as they impose a physical presence. But Inzaghi goes off crying and cheating, while Crespo prefers to make himself discreet and stay on the verge of offside."

Desailly will marshal the France defence at the World Cup this summer as his country attempt to make it a hat-trick of major tournament wins.

And the Chelsea star, a losing FA Cup finalist at the weekend, added that he was still driven on by the tragic death of his brother.

"When I was at Nantes, I was a real fighter, a scrapper, but I soon understood that in football it had to stop after the intimidation stage," he explained.

"I always give the impression of being calm and serene, but sometimes it's just an illusion. I often have self-doubt and a kind of shyness. I've never really talked about it, but I used to have a complex about my physique.

"Maybe it's an unconscious reference to my older brother Seth, who I idolised. I think I've got over all that now, but I remember it very well," he added to L'Equipe.

Terim starts GS overhaul with Umit swoop
7.5 || scharatz

Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim has announced he will make AC Milan midfielder Umit Davala his first signing after returning to the club he led to Uefa Cup glory in 2000.

"If you want names at this stage, I can give you Umit Davala," said Terim, who has been out of a job since he was sacked by Milan in November.

"Umit is now on vacation in Izmir but will be in Istanbul on Thursday to sign a two-year deal. I can also tell you that he is a present to me and Galatasaray from Milan after my time there."

Umit scored the last-minute penalty against Milan in 1999 that kept Galatasaray on the road to their Uefa Cup win and Terim signed him for the Rossoneri after taking over in the summer of 2001.

But the midfielder has failed to break into the Milan side under new coach Carlo Ancelotti and will be delighted to return to Istanbul.

Terim replaced Mircea Lucescu as coach of GS just a week after the Romanian led the club to the Super League title.

The news delighted Galatasaray fans and players as Terim has an unrivalled record at the club, which he led to four successive championships between 1997 and 2000.

His return was confirmed on Monday following a five-hour meeting with chairman Ozhan Canaydin, other members of the board and Lucescu, whose contract at the club had expired.

Inzaghi injury cost us say Milan
7.5 || scharatz

Milan would have been title contenders had Pippo Inzaghi not missed three months of the season, according to club chief Adriano Galliani.

The striker underwent knee surgery after sustaining ligament damage in the game against Chievo just before Christmas. And by the time he returned the Rossoneri were already out of the Scudetto running.

"Milan averaged two points a game with Inzaghi and that would have made us title contenders. With him on the field our season would have been so much more different," he said.

"Inzaghi was absent for 14 consecutive games while captain Paolo Maldini out of 121 training sessions and games under Ancelotti, was out for 90 of them.

"We must also remember that Manuel Rui Costa missed 28 games for us this season, something that he had never done in his seven years with Fiorentina.

"Add to those the physical problems encountered by people like Massimo Ambrosini, Demetrio Albertini and Billy Costacurta."

Galliani concluded: "This is a side that when all of its squad was available was travelling at the same pace as Juventus, Roma and Inter. For 20 games we were in the hunt and we will use that as a platform for the new season."

Milan ended the campaign in fourth to secure a place in the Champions’ League next term.

Milan 3-0 Lecce - post-match comments
6.5 || webmaster

Carlo Ancelotti: We were kick-started by that defeat at Bologna. We wanted this fourth place and are very happy to have achieved the club’s aim. It was a complicated season with many injuries and we did not play good football. Now we have rediscovered everything we had lost sight of and are pleased to end the season on a high note. This team needs both Andrea Pirlo and Manuel Rui Costa. Next season both of them will be indispensable.

Delio Rossi: There is a great deal of bitterness, but also the knowledge that we did our duty. We must now start off again from Serie B with the right mentality. The club has clear plans for the future which involve building the team from youngsters.

Milan 3-0 Lecce - match report
5.5 || webmaster

Scorers: Kaladze 7 (M), Ambrosini 43 (M), Shevchenko 49 (M)

Milan have struggled a great deal this season, but a late burst of results has catapulted them into that precious fourth and final Champions’ League spot.

The deadlock was broken on seven minutes when Kakha Kaladze was at full stretch to toe-poke in an Andrea Pirlo free kick from close range.

Filippo Inzaghi had the chance to make it two soon after, but he just failed to meet Andriy Shevchenko's assist. The former Juve hitman also thumped the crossbar with the outside of his right foot.

Massimo Ambrosini eventually doubled their lead just before the break with a free header on Serginho's cross.

The points were made safe by Shevchenko, who tapped in another Pirlo centre for his first goal from open play for several months.

Milan: Abbiati; Contra, Chamot, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso (Donati 76), Ambrosini, Pirlo (Brocchi 68), Serginho (Rui Costa 58); Inzaghi, Shevchenko

Lecce: Frezzolini; Juarez, Silvestri, Savino; Giorgetti (Billy 68), Superbi, Piangerelli, Tonetto; Giacomazzi, Vugrinec (Vucinic 76); Chevanton

Ref: De Santis

The current squad- An opinion
4.5 || Rab

Here is an opinion on the current squad, as voiced prior to the final game of the season.

1. Sebastiano Rossi. An aging gangster, or so he seems to think of himself. Too old and disruptive, if his behaviour a couple of seasons ago is anything to go by. Release into retirement/oblivion.

2. Thomas Helveg. I'm just not sure on him. I believe he is little more than a glorified journeyman, the old adage "jack of all trades but a master of none" applies to him. Can anybody say he is a genuine international quality full back? He works hard, which is admirable, but we can surely do better.

3. Paolo Maldini. The legend. One last season before retirement, in my opinion. Otherwise he may embarass himself, as did Baresi. He hasn't looked as sharp since his injury either.

4. Demetrio Albertini. I'm going to get slaughtered for this, but nobody usually pays me any attention so I might get away with it. In my mind Albertini is way past his best. He hasn't particularly sparkled for five years, in my opinion. Too often he is anonymous. I believe his position is almost unsuitable for Milan. At the moment, we have Rui Costa/Pirlo acting as an advance playmaker, while he lies deep. I always reckoned the best way was for a destructive duo of Ambro-Rino. I never saw him as a great anyway, more of a player who cannot defend (witness Chievo's recent goal) and who could produce one decent pass a season.

5. Alessandro Costacurta. Retire into the system. We cannot afford to rely on 36 year olds. He has had his day, and a glorious retirement next week would be ideal.

7. Andriy Shevchenko. Ask him if he really wants to stay. Then, if he wants to go to Real, sell him. We don't need players who don't want to play for the club. Anyway, his performances over the last few games have been pathetic. He looks to have lost a yard of pace, or otherwise he's not fit. I want him to stay, but not at all costs. He seems to have suffered from playing under Ancelotti.

8 Rino Gattuso. Now here's a player who you could rely on in a war. The sort every team needs. In every pub team, there is always a player who is ready for the game, but also the fighting afterwards in the changing rooms. We need someone with toughness. Lets not forget, he played for Rangers, and you have to be bloody tough to win respect from the Shankill RSC. A hard tackler is essential in every midfield. Rui, Pirlo and Serginho make about two tackles a season between them. He is the sort of player opposing teams fear, for the sake of their shins if nothing else. Give him the captaincy after Maldini retires as well.

9. Filippo Inzaghi. When Milan signed him, I cursed the idea. What a waste, I argued. But he has done well since arriving. The petulant whining and diving has lessened, although not the irritant cockiness. But he has won over the fans, and his partnership with Sheva has been reasonably productive. But he still misses far too many chances.

10. Manuel Rui Costa. This is going to be controversial. When we signed him I temporarily rejoiced, as at last we appeared to have a genuinely world class playmaker to replace the aging Boban and Leonardo. But I was also aware that, at 29, he wasn't one for the long term. My fears appear to have been born out. His form has at best been average, he has suffered minor injury after minor injury (strangely enough, he was barely ever injured in seven years with the Viola) and worst of all, he seems to be pining for Fiorentina. A big club just wasn't right for him. If a player starts suffering from niggles at 29 it's a very bad sign. If we do sell him, however, we won't get too much back.

11. Mohammed Aliyu. Injured all season, but showed loads of promise for us three years back against Bologna. Now next season he needs to start delivering. His loan spell last season was a bit of a disaster, as he was sent off a couple of times for a dire Monza team. But he undoubtedly has talent, although he needs to produce it when it really matters. Maybe a loan spell in Serie A would be a good idea.

12. Valerio Fiori. A good reserve, so why bother with a Serie B level keeper when we have him, who played well when he was with Piacenza in Serie A. Why he isn't a regular on the bench I don't know, as he always was underrated.

13. Kakha Kaladze. I'm tired of saying it, but he really is the Baresi of the Caucausus. He should be playing at centre back, in my opinion, as we need someone in the role that Franco used to play. However, he hasn't been the same since his brother's kidnapping, and has also suffered from being shuffled around. He's played almost everywhere since he arrived. But give him a decent run in the side at centre back, and try and sort out the personal issues in his life, and we could be landed. At all costs he must be kept.

14. Jose Mari. I actually like Jose Mari. There, I've said it. I believe that if he is played in his best position, right wing, then he can have anb impact for us. However, he's been here two years and has done frankly bugger all for most of that. At times he has been sensational, others dire. We need to find some consistency in his game. He isn't 19 anymore, and needs to realise what it takes to be a world class player. Nobody denies that he has the talent. Maybe it is in his mind, maybe he lacks confidence on the pitch. Carlo is no use as a motivator, that we know, so maybe a move would be the best thing for his career. However, I would like him to stay at Milanello.

15. Massimo Donati. Retain at all costs. Here we have the perfect replacement for the declining Albertini. But Carlo has absolutely no faith in him whatsoever. Donati indicated that life under Terim was more happy, and maybe he has been blacklisted for his support for the Turk. His form during his time at Atalanta was always good, however, and surely he should be given time to rediscover it. Perhaps a loan move would be ideal, to wherever Terim coaches next season.

16. Jose Antonio Chamot. He will be 33 in the summer, and his best days are definitely behind him. I know that he has done reasonably well this season under Carlo, but surely we need to build for the future. I never really rated him anyway. He always was a bit dirty, and prone to really bad gaffes. He also lacks a bit of pace, and his attempts to be a plausible left back were rather laughable. Maybe Carletto was having a laugh with us there. Seriously, if we can get £1 million for him, we'll be doing well.

18. Christian Abbiati. Milan's goalkeeper for the next twelve years, if we keep him and don't try and pathetically raise funds the way Parma did with Buffon. He has unquestionably been our player of the season, and I must admit my belief that if it wasn't for him we might be fighting relegation. His emergence has been a surprise for me since his debut after Rossi went berserk in 1999. But he should go to the World Cup this summer, as third choice. However, surely he must have a future international career. Rossi kept goal for a decade for Milan without ever being capped. I hope the same thing doesn't happen to Abbiati.

19. Javi Moreno. When he arrived, I believed he could provide genuine competition for Inzaghi alongside Sheva. After all, he had been top scorer in La Liga the previous season, and had made a good impression in his early games for Spain. However, he has probably been the biggest disappointment of the season, alongside Rui. His form has been poor, and whereas he couldn't miss for Alaves, at Milanello he couldn't hit a barn door. Remember the misses against Juve, both in Serie A and the Coppa Italia? He also looks to have lost a bit of pace from his time in Spain. A noticeable fact is that last season we hired Inter's disastrous failure of a fitness trainer, who had failed to get Vieri back to fitness. Now he has been abysmal at Milan. Add to this Moreno's lack of enjoyment of Italian life and you get the distinct feeling both parties would be better off with a parting and subsequent move to Spain. Atletico Madrid, whom we have excellent relations with, beckon for him.

20. Mohammed Sarr. The future of our defence. He made his debut in Europe under Terim, and scored on his first start. He looked very composed for a 17 year old. Ancelotti eventually began listening to me after I barracked him for not giving youngsters a go- Sarr came on for the last few minutes against Roma. And he didn't take long to make his mark, although it was on Cassano's shin. Mind you, we've all wanted to kick Antonio Cassano at one point or another. He has loads of potential, but at the same time doesn't really have the nous required to be a top Serie A defender. Yet. During the Roma game, I noticed him get frequently caught out of position, something which can be punished. A year on loan to a smaller Serie A side, such as Piacenza or Como next season would really be good for him. However, semi-regular games next season could also be good. Either way, he needs games.

21.Andrea Pirlo. Must play. He was signed before Rui Costa, now it appears that he must play before Rui Costa. He is 22 now, and can't afford to fart around as a "star of the future" anymore. What he must get now is regular football at a big club, which in turn will surely lead to a national team call up. Play him instead of Rui Costa, and we will reap the long term rewards. Next season, the man should have the number 10 shirt.

22. Cosmin Contra. A Something of an enigma in a Milan shirt, he has at times been excellent and at other abysmal. He seems to struggle from a disputed identity- he sees himself as an attacking right back, the position throughout his career, while Carlo sees him as a winger. Personally, I've always believed in overlapping full backs, and here I stick to my principles. He must be retained, as quality players like him don't come along too often. However he has shown indications of wanting a move, and Liverpool are hovering with intent. I have a distinct feeling Milan will wave him goodbye this summer, although I don't want to see it.

23. Massimo Ambrosini. Along with Gattuso and Donati, the future of Milan's engine room. Like Gattuso, he is a real fighter, good at winning the ball although with slightly more creativity and the ability to occasionally score spectacular goals. However, Gattuso is better in the tackle and less injury prone. Max seems to have struggled with his knee an awful lot, something which has probably prevented him from becoming an international regular. He needs to get fit and stay fit, because at 25 good fitness is essential. However, you don't let go of committed, talented players like him.

24. Martin Laursen. Here is a player who seems set to leave, probably for the Premiership. At times this season he has been exceptionally good, at others exceptionally bad. Remember the game against Chievo at the San Siro? Personally I think he should stay, as he is a more than useful man marker when deployed against big men such as Corradi. However, at times he has been cruelly exposed. Milan look set to cash in on him as they are in need of funds, and in my opinion England will be a likely destination.

25. Roque Junior. By a distance, probably the most unpopular player at Milanello after Moreno. Yet I like him. He always seems to lack consistency, at times being very good and at times making rash tackles. However, I have repeatedly defended him, as with good coaching I see no reason why he cannot be the next Costacurta. He can head, mark and occasionally tackle well, which is the basis of a quality player. Yet again I have the distinct feeling that the club are looking to cash in on him. Players like him often can haunt you, so I'd give him another season. He can also act as cover in midfield.

26. Vitaly Kutuzov. He arrived from BATE Borisov last autumn, and hasn't been given too much of a chance since. But on his few appearances he has shown a few good touches. With Sheva, Inzaghi and Tomasson now set to be at Milan next season, he will surely struggle from a lack of oppurtunities except off the bench, so perhaps a loan move elsewhere in Serie A would be a good idea.

27. Serginho. Our only genuine winger, and without him we are left with an enormous hole on the left wing. Again, like so many of the squad he has suffered from inconsistency this season, despite his penalty taking abilities being far superior to those of Shevchenko. Rumours continue about a move back to Brazil, as Carlo continues to believe that he cannot play in the same team as Rui/Pirlo. Add to this his age (31 in June) and a suspicion remains that we may wave goodbye to him. The fans have been on his back as well. But everybody here knows only too well what he is capable of. Watch the video of a match which took place almost a year ago, on 11/5/01. He was the only difference between the two Milan clubs in a derby which we won 6-0. I genuinely believe that that performance was one of the best ever given by a winger. Retain him for another season, please, and we won't regret it. The best combination around was Serginho- Sheva. Serginho crossed, Sheva got behind the defence to score. Let's continue that way.

30. Fernando Redondo. Does this man exist? I haven't seen him. We paid Real Madrid, where he had fallen out with the incoming president, £11 million for his services, yet he wrecks his knee in his first training session and never plays. Florentino Perez must have laughed all the way to the bank. Now is surely the time to cut our losses on the Argentine. We have Donati, Ambrosini and Gattuso, all younger, in his position and I genuinely believe he won't ever recover from his injury. Pay up his contract, or claim the insurance, and let the 33 year old retire to a farm on the Pampas. What an absolute disaster.

32. Christian Brocchi. Why exactly was he signed? Here was a player who had been frequently outstanding at Verona, valued at an immense fee, then moved to Inter and made a complete fool of himself. Add to this his denunciation of Milan when he signed for the Nerazzurri and you have the sort of player you know won't fit in. Anyway, he's hardly covered himself in glory this term. The best thing for him to do would be to move to a smaller, provincial, Serie A club and try and rediscover his form, because he has failed at the big clubs. Sell this summer.

33. Ibrahim Ba. Oh, this is going to be fun. What an utter waste of space. Five years ago he signed for Milan as a promising French international winger with a dire hairstyle. Now, he is a fat lump built like a prop forward who wasn't wanted by Marseille, Perugia or any of the other clubs who tried to revive his career. It's a case of simply telling him to clear off in no uncertain terms. His form for Marseille was poor, and he returned to Milan at least four stone overweight. A dire attitude is responsible. Personally, a mutual cancelling of contract would be ideal in my opinion.

34. Umit Davala. A jack of all trades. And a master of none. He is one of those "fill in" players clubs are so fond of, the kind who can play in loads of positions but none of them very well. Milan's Jamie Carragher, if you like. His form has been little more than average, and Carletto doesn't seem to rate him at all. Looks like a return to Turkish football is the best option for both parties. A shame, as he looked a good player in Istanbul.

55. Marco Donadel. He hasn't really had much in the way of oppurtunity since making his debut against Parma on my 18th birthday. Now I'm 19 and he's the same, so the best thing for him would be a loan move to either another Serie A club or a Serie B/ English First Division side. The latter would be ideal, as it would toughen him up something powerful. He has some ability, and should be given a chance in due time.

69. Marco Simone. Possibly the biggest disappointment of the season. He returned in a wave of glory, as everybody here seemed to believe that here was a Milan legend. However, his form has been dire, and he has broken one of the golden rules of football, never go back. Send him back to Monaco as we need a younger squad, not a 33 year old.

83. Catalina Aubameyang. Hasn't had much oppurtunity, but should be given a few chances next season on the right wing. Don't waste him. Perhaps, like so many others, a loan spell would be worthwhile.

Those on Loan/without numbers.

Francesco Coco. Hmmmm. His attitude and cockiness leave a lot to be desired, and he would need to apologise before he returned after his appalling behaviour last September. But he remains a talent good enough to make the Azzurri side, and could be a useful addition. Unsure.

Oliver Bierhoff. Put him out to pasture. He's well and truly finished.

Andrea Rabito. Excellent early in the season for Modena. Poor ever since. Let him stay there on loan in Serie A.

Mattia Graffiedi. Poor at Napoli. Let him go on a free.

Clayton. The successor (hopefully) to Maldini. Keep him as cover.

Fabrizio Coloccini- Bring him back if he really wants to, or if we still can.

AC Milan to face US MetroStars
4.5 || scharatz

AC Milan will travel to North America to face US side New York/New Jersey MetroStars on May 16 at Giants Stadium.
With the US facing Jamaica on the same date, The MetroStars will be looking to repeat their victory over Bayern Munich - which was achieved just after they had captured the Champions League title - in what is now a high-class international doubleheader.

The squad that Milan will bring is to be decided, although fans in Giants Stadium can look forward to seeing one of the best teams in Europe in action.

Milan have been linked with asking Perugia to make enquires about MetroStars striker Clint Mathis - who they will not face, as he will be in action for the US - although the San Siro club do find it hard to stay out of the Italian media.

Inzaghi wants to do without play-offs
4.5 || scharatz

AC Milan forward Filippo Inzaghi underlined the importance of the match his team will play tomorrow against Lecce. Milan need 3 points in their last game to secure a Champions League place for the next season.

Inzaghi said: "I hope we can end the season without play-offs. We are concentrated on our match, and don't think about the fixtures of our rivals."

The Italian international added he is satisfied with his first season at San Siro, despite being ruled out for a long time with a knee injury.

Galliani calls for last effort
4.5 || scharatz

AC Milan high official Adriano Galliani expressed his opinion about his side's season.

He indicated on the club's official website: "AC Milan can reach Champions League, UEFA or Intertoto, so we must do our best in the last tie against Lecce. We have to fight for all 90 minutes". Asked about his expectations of the next season, Galliani added: "The team we have is a competitive one and I don't think we'll sign many new players.

"Media links us with numerous players, and I can only say that names like Cannavaro, Nesta and Thuram exceed our actual budget. I think that all teams will have financial problems during the summer".
Thus, it seems that Milan will pull out of talks with Bayer Leverkusen over their Brazilian star Lucio.

Cannavaro agrees Milan deal
3.5 || webmaster

Reports suggest that Fabio Cannavaro has agreed a summer move to Milan in a £25m deal.

The Parma defender is one of the hottest properties on the transfer market and is sure to be sold as the club cuts its wage bill.

As part of this cash-cutting exercise, the Gialloblu should also send Alain Boghossian to Tottenham Hostpur.

Juventus, Inter, Roma, Lazio, Real Madrid and Manchester United were tracking the Italian international, but it would appear the Rossoneri have the upper hand.

Juve were said to be in pole position, but pulled out last month by turning their attention towards Lazio’s Jaap Stam, Alessandro Nesta, Bayer Leverkusen’s Brazilian Lucio or Parma midfielder Sabri Lamouchi.

Meanwhile, Milan continue to restructure the side after this disappointing season. Feyenoord hitman Jon Dahl Tomasson has already been signed, while it was confirmed that Francesco Coco will return from his loan spell at Barcelona.

Bologna’s talented Under-21 international Matteo Brighi is set to return from his loan year to Juventus. However, the Rossoneri are ready to take him away in exchange for ex-Atalanta midfielder Massimo Donati.

Brighi is likely to push for the San Siro switch as he was a childhood fan of Milan.

Milan confirm Coco comeback
3.5 || scharatz

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani has confirmed claims that Francesco Coco will return to the club at the end of this season.

The Italian international is currently on loan at Barcelona, but the Spaniards will not take up their option on the winger.

“My information tells me that Barca have no intention of extending their deal with Coco,” explained Galliani, “so he will return to the San Siro.”

Coco himself admitted this week that his future would be decided within the next ten days.

Milan have struggled in defence this season and the return of Coco will boost their uninspiring squad.

There are very strong reports that Parma’s Fabio Cannavaro is to be another addition to the defence at Coach Carlo Ancelotti’s disposal.

Galliani also told the press at the Milan Business Forum that Thomas Helveg would extend his stay with the Rossoneri.

The Danish defender was sold to Inter last year, but loaned out to their local rivals for a season.

New Wallpaper
3.5 || webmaster

after months of basically not adding anything to our wallpaper section, we've just made a new wallpaper. You can download it from:

It is not quite new actually. I've made it about two months ago and I have waited for the best moment to launch it. Unfortunately, the best moment refused to come, and here I am, launching it right before the most important game of the season.

Featuring: Pippo Inzaghi, Rui Costa, Cosmin Contra and Shevchenko a bit in the background.

I hope you like it... it looks kind of 'dirty'.


Tomasson overjoyed by move to AC Milan
3.5 || scharatz

Jon Dahl Tomasson revealed his joy and relief at his dream transfer to AC Milan after a training session with Feyenoord yesterday. The 25-year-old Danish striker has signed a four-year contract at the Milan club, but he first has the small matter of competing in the UEFA Cup final to deal with. Tomasson said, "it all went good again. It has been difficult for me. There were always those annoying questions about my future, while there was no certainty. Now I've been cleared of that, just in time. Now I can prepare for the UEFA Cup final".

Tomasson will leave Feyenoord because the Rotterdam club took a 'no player is bigger than the club' approach about the seemingly endless saga of his higher wage demands. Tomasson could choose between a number of top European clubs, because of he was available on a free transfer. The Danish international explained his choice for Milan by saying, "I have been given a contract that you don't give to somebody unless you really want them. Everything seems to point to the fact Milan chose me especially. I'm very proud of that".

Tomasson added, "I will always love this club. I've had four wonderful years at Feyenoord. I would have loved to stay longer, but that did not turn out to be the reality. Now I want to ensure that the high-point of my career until now - the UEFA Cup final, also becomes the high-point of my career. I want to win the Cup and go to the Coolsingel. That would be a farewell in style".

Milan vs. Lecce - final match preview
3.5 || scharatz

Milan face already relegated Lecce at the San Siro in a game where victory could send the rossoneri into Champions' League next season. AC Milan have recovered from a below par season and have the ultimate chance to exorcise the ghost of a horrific UEFA Cup exit by beating Lecce to at least guarantee them a play off versus Bologna, who themselves face a less-than-easy task of beating relegation-threatened Brescia. Lecce meanwhile have little more than pride to play for.

AC Milan last 6: WWDLDW
The sole defeat came at the hands of Juventus (which was a rather fortuitous win for Juve to say the least). Milan must win this game and they should have no problem judging by how well they have been playing, especially at home where they thrashed Parma and Dortmund of late. Last week's win over Verona only emphasizes their desire to end up fourth.

Lecce Last 6: LWLLDL
Had Lecce not already been condemned to Serie B, I would have not put it past them to upset Milan. All the games that they have lost of late have been brave efforts in which they have lost only by the odd goal. But, playing in the hostile San Siro against a Milan side that must win at all costs to save their season, Lecce have little chance. I wish them luck in Serie B!

Ancelotti will go with his best available men as he did in Verona last week. The only decision he will have to make will be whether to continue with the miraculous Pirlo or start with Rui Costa who is fit. Helveg is suspended and hence, the more attack-minded Contra will replace him, rather than Roque, Jr.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Contra, Chamot, Maldini, Kaladze; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Serginho; Pirlo; Shevchenko, Inzaghi

Rossi has huge injury problems, though with nothing to play for that should hardly matter. Popescu, Vugrinec, Chimenti, Cirillo & Balleri are all highly doubtful for the match. But, back-up keeper Frezzolini, who was at Milan three years ago will look to impress in the hope of nailing down a starting spot for next season as Chimenti is tipped to be on his way out.

Lecce (3-4-2-1): Frezzolini; Stovini, Silvestri, Savino; Juarez, Conticchio, Piangerelli, Tonetto; Giacomazzi, Vucinic, Chevanton

Milan must land Lucio, says Maldini
3.5 || scharatz

AC Milan star Paolo Maldini has drawn up a wish-list of defenders he wants at the San Siro next season, with Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Lucio at the top.

"I am so impressed by him. Milan must buy him immediately," he urged. "It's not easy to find experienced, talented players like Lucio and, when you do, you have to get them on board."

Maldini could be the last defender from Milan's golden era still at the club next season if Alessandro Costacurta cannot overcome his injury problems.

Franco Baresi and Mauro Tassotti are long-since retired, of course, and the Italy skipper is on the look-out for players of similar quality whom Milan can build their Serie A title tilt upon next year.

"Fabricio Coloccini is doing great things with Alaves. He is on loan from us, but has shown he is ready for AC Milan. Adama Sarr is probably a bit young. He has excellent qualities, but needs time to grow up.

"I also hope that Francesco Coco comes back from Barcelona and I still regret that we lost Christian Panucci. I believe the club were in too much of a rush to sell him," he said.

Milan are still in the running for a place in the Champions' League, despite another disappointing season, and victory on the final day would put them in a strong position to achieve that goal.

"We have to beat Lecce and that's not impossible," said Maldini. "We have made a long and tiring recovery, so it could be a pity to stop now.

"We must beat Lecce and, at the same time, support Brescia against Bologna. If we finish in fourth position, we will salvage our season," he added.

Coco decision edges nearer
2.5 || scharatz

Barcelona defender Francesco Coco has revealed that his future should be sorted out in the next 10 days.

The Italian, on loan at the Spanish side from Milan, has long been linked with a return to Serie A and a number of clubs are lining up for his signature.

"Before I can make a decision about next season I need to wait until the end of this campaign," he said.

"Once that occurs I will talk to the club to assess my options. But in the next 10 days everything should be concluded."

Milan, Inter and Juventus have all expressed an interest in the player that starred for Barca in last night’s aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions’ League.

"It was a fundamental game for us and we tried to overturn the first leg defeat at the Nou Camp," he added.

"But we exited the tournament with our heads held high. We wanted to win and I think we demonstrated that fact."

New forums launched
2.5 || webmaster

We would just like to inform you that we have just launched a better and totally revamped version of our forums,

Get involved and make a difference!


Alaves miss out on Coloccini
2.5 || scharatz

Alaves will return Argentine central defender Fabrizio Coloccini to AC Milan at the end of the season after failing to make his loan permanent.

Coloccini, 20, has been one of the revelations in La Liga during his year loan at the Mendizorroza and has attracted attention from the likes of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Juventus. However, it seems that the shaggy-haired stopper will be going back to Milan as the deadline to hand over the £15 million transfer fee expired last night.

At the moment, Atletico Madrid are leading the pack to sign Coloccini for their return to La Primera next season. The player himself admitted that his chances of spending another year on loan are looking slim.

"My agent is keen to avoid more loans, he wants to secure a straight sale or to see me hold down a regular place at a club. I'm in agreement with him because I've spent time at San Lorenzo, Milan and Alaves and now it's time to settle at one place and develop as a player," he said.

Kaladze: My words about playing for the Ukrainian team was a provocation
2.5 || scharatz

Two months have passed since the time AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze announced on his official web site he is going to stop playing for the Georgian national team until his brother Levan, who was kidnapped on May 23 2001, is found. His ultimatum brought some results though. Kakha commented on the current situation in his

"Firstly, I'd like to thank the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia and personally the minister Koba Narchemashvili for the endeavors to find Levan. It's difficult, however, to speak on any tangible results today. I want to underline that I made the statement not for quitting the Georgian team and playing for Ukrainian squad. I whish everybody understands; I was patient for 9 months, waiting and hoping, waking up every morning with a prayer for my brother. But during these 9 months nothing happened and I decided to make such a statement.

Now I want to confess to all Georgian people that the phrase about my possible move to Ukrainian team was a provocation. Those words were my last arguments and my last attempts to stir up Georgian security services. And I am glad it worked. At the same time, I am proud of being a Georgian. I promise never to play for any other team national team, even if they are titled and rich, except for the Georgian. And I promise to return to my national team as soon as my brother Levan is found.

During the last 10 months I often felt my life is being like a hell. It's hard to describe how painful it is in reality. Therefore let any of you simple men and not ministers and politicians, by analyzing the past and the present, decide for himself who is to blame in this situation and who is not."

Rui Costa’s season regrets
2.5 || scharatz

Portuguese playmaker Manuel Rui Costa has spoken of his disappointing first season with Milan.

The midfielder arrived at the San Siro last summer after a £27m move from Fiorentina. But his campaign has been marred by injury and poor form.

"I came to Milan with lots of hopes but my injury problems have never really allowed me to play with any consistency," he said.

"I’m very disappointed because this was the most important season of my career. I have a great desire to just start from scratch."

The Rossoneri did begin the season as realistic title contenders but their inconsistent form saw them fall behind title chasing trio Inter, Juventus and Roma.

"I have great belief in this squad when all the components of it are available. Something that we have rarely had this season," Rui Costa added.

"We’re hoping to end the term in the best possible manner and I hope to be able to give my contribution to the side on Sunday. We want to get into the Champions’ League and reach an important objective for us."

However, one player that is rather more upbeat about Milan’s season is defender Cosmin Contra.

"It has not been that bad. Taking into account all our injuries we got to the semi-finals of both the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup, and are very close to getting that fourth place spot for the Champions’ League," said the Romanian.

OFFICIAL: Milan sign Tomasson
1.5 || webmaster

Milan have officially signed Feyenoord hitman Jon Dahl Tomasson.

The former Newcastle star put pen to paper on a contract holding him to the club until June 30 2006 after undergoing a successful medical exam.

"I am very proud to be here at one of the most important clubs in the world," said Tomasson on his arrival this evening.

"I hope to repay Milan for having put their faith in me. Everything seems organised down to the last detail here, and I was immediately impressed by the club set-up."

We reported earlier this week that Tomasson was snatched from a proposed move to Barcelona when the Rossoneri showed interest in the Dane.

The deal has now been completed and he will be at the disposal of Coach Carlo Ancelotti from June 30.

"I am pleased to be here with my fellow Danes Thomas Helveg and Martin Laursen," explained the future World Cup star. "I am optimistic and cannot wait for next season to start."

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani revealed that although this move appears to have been swift, there was a great deal of planning behind it.

"We have been tracking this player for some time," said the de facto President. "We feel that he has the perfect characteristics for this club."

"Tomasson is an eclectic striker who can score goals and provide assists, while he is also able to play behind the front two when needed. I think he will do very well here."

Tomasson can next be seen in action when Feyenoord take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Cup Final.

Milan beat Barca to sign Tomasson
1.5 || scharatz

AC Milan are poised to beat Barcelona in the race for Feyenoord striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, who is expected to sign a four-year deal with the San Siro club on Wednesday. "We just need to finalise a few details and then I shall have a medical," he said.

"When that has been completed, the plan is for me to sign on Wednesday.

"Milan have have treated me well during talks and really wanted me," the Denmark international told Politiken. "They think that I can fit into the side and the way that Milan play."

Tomasson, who is out of contract at the end of the season, was strongly linked to Barcelona after he failed to reach agreement with Feyenoord over terms of a new contract.

The striker is in his fourth season at Feyenoord, having joined the club from Newcastle United in 1998. Although he scored just three times during his one-year spell in England, Tomasson has been prolific since moving to Rotterdam.

The 25-year old struck 38 times during his first three seasons and has added 17 goals to his tally this term.

He has also scored four times during Feyenoord's European campaign, including a goal against Milan's rivals Internazionale in the semi-final of the Uefa Cup.

His last game for Feyenoord will now be the Uefa Cup final at the Dutch club's De Kuip stadium on May 8 against Borussia Dortmund.

"He talked to his Denmark team-mates Martin Laursen and Thomas Helveg and they have convinced him to go," Tomasson's agent Emile Miedema confirmed.

"The first conversation [with Milan] took place on April 10," Miedema told Voetbal International. "The negotiations went smoothly at that time and I hope that the same will be the case this week."

Javi Moreno wants Milan stay
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Milan flop Javi Moreno has stunned fans by claiming he wants to stay with the club next season.

The Spaniard, who arrived in Italy for £6m from Alaves last summer, has struggled to adapt to Italian football and was expected to head back to his homeland.

But despite previously confirmed interest from Atletico Madrid, the pint-sized forward maintains he is happy where he is.

"I’ve not had the pleasure of speaking to anyone from Atletico and for the time being I want to stay where I am," he said.

"We’ll just have to wait and see what Milan want to do with me. I’m happy that Atletico are back in the top flight but I can confirm I haven’t spoken to anyone."

Meanwhile, Atletico are believed to have made a bid for Lazio striker Claudio Lopez. The capital outfit are expected to allow the deal to go through.

Kaladze - Injuries prevented title challenge
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Khaka Kaladze believes that if Milan had not had so many injuries, they could have been fighting for the title with Inter, Juve and Roma.
AC Milan's Georgian defender said: "It is hard to tell who'll win this season because all three clubs will fight till the end. However, one thing is for sure.

"If AC Milan had not had so many injured players and if we had always played the way we have recently, we could have competed with anyone."

However, now all that is left for Milan to battle for is a Champions League spot, and Kaladze added: "Winning our last match was crucial as it allowed us to get into fourth place and continue our hopes of securing a Champions League berth.

"Now we must do our best to win the match against Lecce and hope that Bologna lose their game with Brescia."

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