Roma coach Spalletti warns suitors off Premier League target Manolas

Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea have all shown interest in the Greece international, but the Serie A side will not give him up without a fight

Roma head coach Luciano Spalletti insists that Kostas Manolas is happy at the club and will not be sold in the transfer window.

The Greece international has been linked with a number of Premier League sides, with his agent claiming that Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea were all monitoring his situation in the Italian capital.

However, Roma president James Pallotta said last week that there was no reason for the centre-back to leave as he was enjoying life at the Stadio Olimpico.

And Spalletti has echoed those comments, saying Manolas will not be sold even though rumours in the media have created “problems”.

“I think it’s easy for those of you [journalists] who are here in close contact with the team to see that there’s no pressure,” he said. 

“Manolas is a good player, like many others, and it’s normal that other clubs should be interested in good players. But the lad’s intentions are very clear – there’s no pressure there.

“When people start talking about pressure it creates problems even when there isn’t actually any. Manolas is staying at Roma.”

Despite his stance on Manolas’ future, Spalletti remains on the look-out for potential reinforcements in defence before the start of the season.

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“We already have a very well-equipped squad but obviously if opportunities arise we’ll try to improve it,” he said. “We’ll probably see if we can bring in another defender but that would be above and beyond what we already have here – which is a well-rounded squad.”

Serie A champions Juventus appear set to sign Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli for a fee in the region of €94million, having already bought Miralem Pjanic from Roma for €32m as part of an extensive recruitment drive.

Spalletti expects Juve to remain a fearsome opponent irrespective of Higuain’s future, or that of Paul Pogba, who remains heavily linked with a world-record move to Manchester United.

“Juventus will become what they already were before: an extremely good team,” he added.

“They will remain an excellent team regardless of whether or not they sell Pogba and whether or not they sign Higuain.

“Juventus have sold top players in the past who they then replaced. Napoli will do likewise and so will Roma, as we’ve sold some players. The wheels of the transfer market need to keep turning and that means there are always opportunities.”

Why Juventus are willing to pay €90 million for Higuain

The Bianconeri are ready to make the Argentine the third most expensive player in history in the hope of ending their two-decade wait for Champions League glory


Juventus want to win the Champions League at all costs – even if that means paying €90 million for a player who will turn 29 before the turn of the year.

The Bianconeri’s decision to activate the buy-out clause in Gonzalo Higuain’s Napoli contract, which could yet see other players moving in the other direction, has shocked some observers given their previous parsimony in the transfer market. However, this is a club driven by the desire to return to the summit of European football and they are prepared to make some calculated gambles in order to make that happen.

It is now 20 years since Juventus last lifted the Champions League, which is an agonising drought for a club of their size. They have been beaten finalists four times in the interim, losing in 1997, in 1998, on penalties to AC Milan in 2003, and suffering a 3-1 defeat to a brilliant Barcelona side in Berlin just over 12 months ago.

Juve’s run to the final of 2014-15 final was a surprise, with the Old Lady overcoming Real Madrid in the semis, but it convinced everyone at Corso Galileo Ferraris that they were just one or two world-class players away from continental glory.

Signing Miralem Pjanic was a masterstroke. The Bosnian playmaker is, at 26, at the peak of his powers and offers the kind of craft and ingenuity that Juve have been lacking in midfield – particularly since the departure of Andrea Pirlo. Landing a player of such quality for €10m less than Manchester United paid Borussia Dortmund for Henrikh Mkhitaryan represents a bargain in the current market.

The same could not be said of the signing of Higuain. The Argentine has been acquired with the sole intention of winning the Champions League. It has long been felt that Juve have been lacking a prolific No.9. Now they have the man who broke the single-season goalscoring record for Serie A.

But Juve have not made Higuain the third-most expensive player of all time to win a sixth successive Scudetto. They will privately view another domestic title as a formality. The former Madrid man has been brought on board to deliver the Champions League, with the Bianconeri confident that he will form a formidable frontline with compatriot Paulo Dybala, the 22-year-old livewire who enjoyed a sensational debut season in Turin following last summer’s switch from Palermo.

“Higuain is a great player who guarantees an important step up in quality for Juve,” Italy icon Paolo Rossi told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Sunday. “Now they can really go on to win the Champions League.

“Dybala is extraordinary and can play alongside anyone, so I’m sure he’ll form a crazy partnership with Higuain. They can become one of the best strike partnerships in Bianconeri history.”

The imminent departure of Paul Pogba to Manchester United threatened to undermine Juve’s attempts to re-establish themselves among Europe’s elite and Manchester City’s interest in Leonardo Bonucci also suggested the Bianconeri were a big fish swimming with sharks.

The Italian champions are presently in the process of tying Bonucci the latter down to a new deal, one that will earn the play-making centre-half €5m season after tax, but it is the move for Higuain that is of greatest significance.

It is a statement signing; a message to the rest of Europe’s elite that Juve mean business. Big business, as underlined not only by the €90m transfer fee but also the fact that Higuain will earn €7m after tax for the next four years.

It is a colossal investment in a 28-year-old who has a reputation for missing big chances in big games – but, as far as Juve are concerned, if Higuain fires them to Champions League glory, it will be money well spent.

Maradona 'hurting' as Higuain closes on Juventus move

The Argentina legend insists the striker is not to blame but believes the Napoli fans will be hurt by the striker’s sale

Former Napoli star Diego Maradona says he is “hurting” at the prospect of Gonzalo Higuain joining Juventus.

Widespread reports in Italy on Saturday suggested the Argentina striker is poised to move to the Serie A champions after they agreed to meet his release clause of just over €94 million.

The staggering sum would make Higuain the second most expensive transfer in history, behind Gareth Bale, who left Tottenham for Real Madrid for €100m in 2013.

Italiano | Castellano Mi dispiace che Higuain vada da una rivale diretta come la Juventus. Ma non si può neanche dare…

Posted by Diego Maradona on Saturday, 23 July 2016

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis said this week that the pursuit of the striker was “a lost battle”, given that Juve general director Giuseppe Marotta had himself stated that they would not trigger the release clause.

However, with the 28-year-old reportedly having undergone a Juve medical in Madrid on Saturday, Napoli fans led a minor protest against De Laurentiis outside the club’s training base, furious at the prospect of losing last season’s Serie A top scorer to their title rivals.

And Maradona, who inspired Napoli to two Scudetti, the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup, feels supporters are being overlooked by “those fat cats of business” – though he said Higuain himself is not to blame.

“This Higuain affair is hurting me because he is going to a direct rival like Juventus,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. “But we cannot blame the player either.

“A player has a responsibility to himself and it is those fat cats of business that are grinning the most in this case. Nobody thinks of the fan.

“I’m tired of saying that today it seems to be more important to be a good businessman than a good president. This did not happen in my time. Too bad that FIFA continues to sleep.”

Higuain’s predicted move is likely to accelerate rumours surrounding Paul Pogba, with Manchester United reported to have reached an agreement with Juve to sign the France international for a world-record fee of close to €120m.

Higuain closes in on Juventus move as fee agreed

The Argentina international is edging nearer to a move to the Italian champions after 36 Serie A goals in 35 games for the Naples side last season

Gonzalo Higuain has undergone a medical with Juventus and agreed personal terms as he closes in on a move to the Serie A champions.

Goal understands the Bianconeri have agreed to pay the Argentina international’s €94 million release clause, with Napoli set to receive the money in two sets of €47m installments.

Higuain will sign a four year-contract with the Turin outfit, with his deal worth €7m-a-year.

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The transfer may pave the way for Paul Pogba’s world record move to Manchester United, with the Italian champions having funds left over to find a direct replacement.

Higuain’s 36 Serie A goals last season, in just 35 games, equalled an 87-year-record.

Napoli rejected Atletico bid of '€60m plus two or three players' for Higuain

The Argentina international is a wanted man this summer and his club have revealed they have already been forced to turn down one approach from Diego Simeone’s side

Napoli rejected an offer from Atletico Madrid of €60 million “plus two or three players” for Gonzalo Higuain, according to club president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

The Argentina international’s future has been the subject of intense speculation in recent weeks, with Atletico, Juventus and Arsenal all heavily linked with an interest.

Juve held talks with their Serie A rivals over the striker this week, though De Laurentiis – who is demanding that any suitors meet Higuain’s €94m release clause – claimed the deal was dead in the water.

Manchester United’s reported interest in Paul Pogba has reignited speculation that Juve could return with an offer close to that amount, but De Laurentiis remains convinced that the 28-year-old will stay after revealing he has already rejected a major bid from Atletico.

“Even if Juventus were to come back into the picture, they’d need Higuain’s consent,” he said. “You can’t profess yourself one of the curva, singing Napoli songs and then go to Napoli’s historic rival.

“The game of games has always been with Juventus. I haven’t spoken to Higuain, so all these suggestions are coming from different agendas within the media.

“The only offer I’ve had was from the Atletico president [Enrique Cerezo] a month ago and I told him we couldn’t do it. He offered me €60m plus two or three players and I said no.

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“Leaving would be a contradiction; Juve and Napoli are likes cats and dogs. It would be the height of absurdity if he did something like that.”

De Laurentiis did suggest that Napoli’s ambitions would not be damaged if they were to cash in on Higuain, however, as he outlined plans to make up to 10 signings ahead of next season.

“We’re working on various areas of the pitch,” he said, with the agent of Mainz defender Giulio Donati having already confirmed talks with the club.

“We’re after Donati and 10 others. We need a right-back – maybe it’d be better to have someone who can play either side – then we need one or two midfielders.

“Then we’ll see if we’ll need a replacement for Higuain or not. Even without Higuain, we came second in 2013.”