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Report: West Ham has $45m striker bid rejected

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Duvan Zapata’s career half-year has made him an almost inexorable force in Serie A.

[ MORE: Juve wins again ]

The 27-year-old’s four-goal haul this weekend led him atop the Italian top flight in goals, level with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella.

Here is where it’s appropriate to pause and note that Quagliarella is going to turn 36 this month and we still think that number is too low. Didn’t he partner with Roberto Baggio or something?

His productivity has West Ham idealizing him as a fitting replacement for Marko Arnautovic, whether immediate or for next season, and Atalanta has reportedly spurned a $46 million offer for Zapata.

The five-times capped Colombian has 10, 11, and 14 goals in his last three Serie A campaigns, and the last number folds into his 17 across all competitions for Atalanta this season.

It would’ve essentially been a pound-for-pound deal for West Ham, who could allow Arnautovic to fly the coop for China.

Serie A: Napoli builds cushion, Zapata scores four in Atalanta win

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Napoli afforded itself even more space at second place in the Serie A table with a big 2-1 win over Lazio.

Jose Callejon scored just past the half-hour mark on the break, slotting inside the right post on the low feed from Dries Mertens. Just three minutes later, Arkadiusz Milik buried a free-kick into the top-right corner from just outside the box, doubling Napoli’s lead.

After Callejon hit the post with a header past the hour mark, Ciro Immobile brought Lazio one goal back as he worked Raul Albiol one-on-one. However, the visitors would fall a man down as Francesco Acerbi received a second yellow card and Lazio was unable to draw back level with the disadvantage. The sending off is significant for the record books, as Acerbi had played a full 90 minutes in 148 straight matches, but his suspension next week against Juventus means he will fall just 13 matches short of Javier Zanetti’s Serie A consecutive appearance record.

Elsewhere, Atalanta went to Stadio Benito Stirpe and obliterated Frosinone 5-0 behind four goals from Duvan Zapata. Gianluca Mancini opened the scoring in the 11th minute, but the second half was the Zapata show. He scored his first just a minute before the break on a towering header powered past Marco Sportiello. After halftime, it took just three minutes for Zapata to grab his second, finishing off great individual work by Berat Djimsiti who twisted through defenders.

His third came as he beat Luka Krajnc and took a header from Hans Hateboer to strike home, and for his fourth he got position on Edoardo Goldaniga and headed in a Matteo Pessina cross. The win pushed Atalanta up to seventh on 31 points, just two back of Roma in fourth.

Fiorentina earned an exciting 3-3 draw at home against Sampdoria, falling a man down in the 39th minute but sticking with it during a roller coaster final 10 minutes plus. Holding a 2-1 lead thanks to a brace from debutant Luis Muriel, Fiorentina suddenly found itself trailing 3-2 thanks to 81st and 85th minute goals by Fabio Quagliarella including one from the penalty spot. Thankfully for the home side, German Pezzella was on hand to grab the equalizer in the 93rd minute, powerfully holding up the ball one-on-two in the penalty area and turning to slot home the late effort.

Cagliari also worked a late draw at home thanks to Diego Farias who struck a 91st minute equalizer to finish 2-2 with Empoli. Three of the four goals in that game were scored in the second half with Cagliari up 1-0 at the break.

Finally, Rodrigo Palacio and Jasmin Kurtic cancelled out as Bologna drew 1-1 with SPAL in Ferrara. The match was even on just about all accounts, with the shots 16-14, the possession 53-47 in the home side’s favor, and the teams separated by just two points in the table. The visitors came out the most disappointed with the result, still in the relegation zone on 14 points.

Conflicting reports on Ramsey signing with Juventus

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Aaron Ramsey been the focal point of countless rumors this winter, as his Arsenal contract is set to run out in July and the club has failed to come to an agreement with the Welsh international about an extension, meaning he will almost surely leave this summer on a free transfer.

For weeks Juventus has been considered the frontrunner for Ramsey’s signature after his Arsenal contract expires, with rumors even suggesting he could leave in the January transfer window as Arsenal looks to secure some kind of monetary return for his departure.

[ MORE: Thursday rumors | Hudson-Odoi to Bayern? | Navas to Arsenal? ]

Thursday morning, reports in Italy have claimed the transfer is complete and Ramsey has signed a Bosman with Juventus, allowing him to leave Arsenal in the summer for Turin. Italian publication Sportmediaset was the first to the news, claiming Ramsey has signed a five-year contract worth around $7.5 million base salary plus appearance bonuses. The report even suggests that Ramsey’s departure in January remains in play.

However, after news from Italy came out that Ramsey’s contract is signed, Sky Sports Italy has returned to claim that while Juventus is still an overwhelming favorite for the 28-year-old’s signature, the contract is not done and dusted yet. “Reports that he [Ramsey] has signed a pre-contract agreement are premature,” Sky Sports wrote on Twitter and then soon after in their Transfer Center. Sky reports that Ramsey has not yet completed the required medical, leaving open the possibility of other end results.

Juventus essentially confirmed its interest in Ramsey on Wednesday, or at least, as much as you’ll get publicly from big clubs working on high profile transfers. “Ramsey is a very good player who has been playing at a high level for many years and who plays for an important club. For now, that’s it,” Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici told Sky Sports Italy“He is a player whose contract is going to end and we always pay great attention to the situations offered by the transfer market because it is our duty, so we also pay attention to Ramsey.”

Asked about Ramsey’s situation in his press conference Thursday morning, Arsenal manager Unai Emery said, “I don’t know. I want his focus every day with us on training and thinking for the next match, which is against Blackpool. I am looking at him and he’s very concentrated with us now. On Tuesday [against Fulham], he scored when he played 15 minutes, and he gave a good performance. I want that from him, and also he needs to [look] at his future.”

Serie A: Ronaldo scores twice as VAR helps Juventus

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ROME (AP) Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as runaway leader Juventus escaped with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria in Serie A on Saturday with help from the VAR.

Ronaldo’s second goal, a penalty, was awarded by the VAR for a questionable handball. Then Sampdoria had a stoppage-time goal chalked off by the Video Assistant Referee.

Sampdoria thought it had become the first visiting Serie A club to score more than one goal at the Allianz Stadium in more than a year when Riccardo Saponara’s shot went in off the underside of the crossbar, but replays showed the play was offside.

“I like (the VAR) a lot because it reduces the number of mistakes,” Ronaldo said. “It’s not easy for the match officials to analyze everything that goes on. We just have to let them get on with their jobs.”

Ronaldo had put Juventus ahead two minutes in with a bouncing shot and Fabio Quagliarella equalized with a penalty before the break to become the first player to score in nine consecutive Serie A matches since David Trezeguet accomplished the feat with Juventus in 2005.

Ronaldo’s decisive penalty came in the 65th after the VAR decided that Alex Ferrari had used his arm, even though it appeared as if the defender kept his arm next to his body and didn’t move it toward the ball.

The double gave Ronaldo 14 goals in 19 matches this season to move one ahead of Genoa’s Krzysztof Piatek atop the league scoring chart.

Aiming for a record-extending eighth straight league title, Juventus set a record of 53 points at the season’s halfway mark with 17 wins, two draws and no defeats. The Bianconeri remained nine points ahead of second-placed Napoli, which beat Bologna 3-2, and 14 points ahead of third-placed Inter Milan, which won 1-0 at Empoli.

“The first half of the season has gone really well,” Ronaldo said. “We’ve won nearly all our games and we’re a solid side but there’s still a long way to go. We must stay focused and keep working away if we want to achieve great things.”

Napoli fans and players showed their support for defender Kalidou Koulibaly during the win over Bologna after the Senegal international was subjected to racist chants this week.

With Koulibaly suspended, Napoli fullback Faouzi Ghoulam warmed up wearing the Senegal international’s No. 26 shirt.

Fans held up photos of Koulibaly and anti-racism banners with the hashtag label (hash)SiamotuttiKalidou, which translates as “We’re all Kalidou.”

Koulibaly had monkey noises directed at him throughout a match against Inter Milan on Wednesday at the San Siro Stadium.

Against Bologna, Dries Mertens scored the winner two minutes from time with a shot from beyond the area after the hosts had twice given up the lead.

Arkadiusz Milik scored twice for Napoli but Federico Santander replied to his first and Danilo equalized after his second.

The victory meant Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti got the better of Bologna counterpart Filippo Inzaghi, his former striker at AC Milan.

Serie A wrap: Juve rescues draw; Inter strikes late v. Napoli

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A rare Juventus draw opened the door for the Serie A’s hopeful contenders, and many of them punted their chance to gain ground on The Old Lady.

[ RECAP: Watford 1-2 Chelsea ]

In fact, the nearest chaser allowed Juve to add to its table lead!

Atalanta 2-2 Juventus

An own goal put Juve aside inside of three minutes, but a double from Colombian forward Duvan Zapata — his eighth and ninth goals of the Serie A season — had the Old Lady’s unbeaten league record in question with 34 minutes to go.

Georgio Chiellini set up substitute Cristiano Ronaldo for a 78th minute equalizer to grab a point for Juve, who was down a man from the 53rd minute on thanks to a second yellow handed to Rodrigo Bentacur.

Juve now leads second place Napoli by nine points and third place Inter Milan by 14 because…

Inter Milan 1-0 Napoli

Inter found a dramatic late winner against the second place Neapolitans.

A rapid fire pair of yellow cards to Kalidou Koulibaly sent Napoli down to 10 men for the final 10 minutes, and Lautaro Martinez took advantage with a stoppage time goal.

When your match’s other top moment may’ve been inside the first 10 seconds, this game needed the goal.

Sampdoria 2-0 Chievo

Southampton outcast Gaston Ramirez and 35-year-old Fabio Quagliarella scored to bring Sampdoria into the Top Five.

Elsewhere
Frosinone 0-0 AC Milan
Bologna 0-2 Lazio
Roma 3-1 Sassuolo
SPAL 0-0 Udinese
Torino 3-0 Empoli
Cagliari 1-0 Genoa
Fiorentina 0-1 Parma

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Juventus 18 16 2 0 36 10 26 8-1-0 8-1-0 50
 Napoli 18 13 2 3 34 15 19 7-2-0 6-0-3 41
 Inter Milan 18 11 3 4 30 14 16 7-1-1 4-2-3 36
 Lazio 18 9 4 5 27 20 7 5-2-2 4-2-3 31
 Sampdoria 18 8 5 5 31 21 10 5-2-2 3-3-3 29
 AC Milan 18 7 7 4 24 19 5 5-2-2 2-5-2 28
 Roma 18 7 6 5 32 24 8 5-3-1 2-3-4 27
 Torino 18 6 8 4 23 18 5 4-1-4 2-7-0 26
 Atalanta 18 7 4 7 33 25 8 4-2-3 3-2-4 25
 Fiorentina 18 6 7 5 25 18 7 5-2-2 1-5-3 25
 Sassuolo 18 6 7 5 28 26 2 3-5-1 3-2-4 25
 Parma 18 7 4 7 17 21 -4 3-4-2 4-0-5 25
 Cagliari 18 4 8 6 17 23 -6 3-5-1 1-3-5 20
 Genoa 18 5 4 9 25 35 -10 4-3-2 1-1-7 19
 SPAL 18 4 5 9 14 25 -11 2-4-3 2-1-6 17
 Empoli 18 4 4 10 22 36 -14 4-1-4 0-3-6 16
 Udinese 18 3 6 9 14 23 -9 2-2-5 1-4-4 15
 Bologna 18 2 7 9 13 26 -13 2-3-4 0-4-5 13
 Frosinone 18 1 7 10 12 36 -24 0-5-4 1-2-6 10
 Chievo 18 0 8 10 13 35 -22 0-4-5 0-4-5 5