Romelu Lukaku

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The buzz is back at Inter Milan, on and off the field

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MILAN — The differences between the two Milan clubs could not be starker — on and off the field.

[ MORE: Liverpool fixture congestion presents serious conundrum ]

The clubs held their annual shareholders’ meeting almost simultaneously on Monday, but while Inter Milan congratulated itself on record revenue, AC Milan was reporting record losses.

Inter’s turnover grew by 20 percent in relation to last season, to $465 million, and has more than doubled since Chinese owners Suning Group took over in June 2016.

Financially-troubled Milan reported a deficit of $161.2 million — the worst in the club’s history — from its first season under the ownership of American hedge fund Elliott Management.

And while Milan is languishing in the middle of the standings, Inter is going toe-to-toe with eight-time defending champion Juventus at the top.

“Our constant improvement both on and off the field makes us very proud and gives us added incentive,” Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta said. “Inter has laid solid foundations for the growth of the club in the sporting field.

“The choice of one of the world’s best coaches in Antonio Conte and his winning mentality, the strength of a close group, made up of many Italian players, will enable us to reach our objectives.”

[ MORE: Erling Braut Haaland drawing scouts from more than 20 clubs ]

The unity of the group is easy to see. Forward Romelu Lukaku took the squad out for dinner on Wednesday, and gave a speech thanking his teammates.

A win at Brescia the previous night had put Inter back at the top of the standings, albeit temporarily because Juventus also won (while the Nerazzuri were having their dinner) to move a point clear.

Inter’s goals in Tuesday’s 2-1 win were scored by Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, who are rapidly developing an impressive partnership.

The duo have scored 10 of Inter’s last 12 goals. Lukaku has netted seven times in Serie A since joining from Manchester United in the offseason for a club record transfer fee of about $73 million plus up to $15 million in bonuses.

Lukaku was just one of the players the club brought in as Inter invested heavily in the offseason. Inter said that expenditure explains its loss of $54 million.

Inter could invest more in January as it continues to battle in the Serie A, Champions League and Italian Cup, with Conte warning that his team can’t keep up if they play a match every three days on average.

Some of the players have appeared visibly fatigued and injuries to either Lukaku or Martinez could cost the team dearly.

“Conte can be worried when there are moments of difficulty,” Marotta said. “There have been injuries that have taken away players from us, but every member of the club knows that difficulties are a part of life.

“We look forward to the January transfer window with great optimism. We know that there are economic aspects to be respected, but we are ready to seize any opportunities that arise.”

Man United boss Solskjaer hails Harry Kane

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Roy Keane had a simple solution to solve Manchester United’s struggles: Sign Harry Kane.

It appears Man United’s manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be more than happy to do so, and why wouldn’t he be?

[ MORE: Kane to become NFL kicker? ]

Speaking as an analyst for our partners Sky Sports in the UK last weekend, Keane didn’t beat about the bush when he suggested that United should just go out and buy Kane.

Solskjaer was asked about those comments and is clearly a huge fan of the Tottenham and England star.

“Roy’s quite straightforward, isn’t he? For us, it’s working hard. Getting Anthony back is going to be a massive boost for us and I’m sure when Anthony comes back that’ll help Marcus (Rashford) as well,” Solskjaer said. “With the forwards we’ve got, with the pace and the skills, I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. There aren’t many (Robert) Lewandowskis and Harry Kanes. They’re like (Alan) Shearer, (Ruud) Van Nistelrooy – fantastic goalscorers. Ours are different types of players, but I have to say I like someone who can finish half a chance and he does that. He’s one of the best, but he’s a Tottenham player.”

Reading between the lines here, here’s what it sounds like Solskjaer is saying.

‘We would absolutely love to sign Harry Kane. We have a few very different forwards in Rashford and Martial who would compliment a center forward like Kane perfectly. After losing Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, you owe me a few strikers, Mr. Woodward. And if you’re listening, please ready that checkbook. We need to sign Kane.’

It would take a monster bid from anyone, let alone United, to sign Kane. The Spurs academy product is under contract until 2024 and seems perfectly happy leading Spurs, but the allure of being the player to wake up a sleeping giant has certainly intrigued players of his caliber in the past.

Remember, this is purely Solskjaer responding to questions about a suggestion from one of his former Man United teammates due to their lack of potency in attack so far this season. But Solskajer’s answer is intriguing and Tottenham’s fans are probably raising an eyebrow or two.

Kane is unlikely to move away from Spurs anytime soon but if he did, surely United would be right at the top of his list as he could play alongside the likes of Rashford, Martial and Daniel James in an exciting, young attack. It would also depend on the Red Devils being back in the top four and this young side progressing as Solskjaer hopes they will.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and others are likely to come calling for Kane too, but United could pay the transfer fee and wages and now they’ve sorted out their defense, they need a talisman to score the goals to lead them back to glory.

Serie A: Lukaku brace helps Inter win shootout, AC Milan caught late

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Inter Milan kept pace with Juventus atop the Serie A table with an exciting 4-3 win on the road at Sassuolo. Romelu Lukaku scored a brace, as did Lautaro Martinez to go up 4-1 with 20 minutes to go, although the visitors nearly coughed up the big lead.

Martinez opened the scoring just two minutes in with a far-post snipe, but Domenico Berardi leveled things back up before the 20-minute mark. Lukaku put Inter back in front on 38 minutes, taking a feed down the center from Stefan de Vrij and posting up Federico Peluso before producing a strong turn and finish. He hit again from the penalty spot just after halftime after Martinez was hauled down in the box, and the Argentinian got his second also from the spot on 71 minutes to go three goals in front. The win moved Inter back to just a point behind leaders Juve.

Krzysztof Piatek struck in the 81st minute to seemingly rescue AC Milan, but Lecce hit back in the 92nd minute to earn a 2-2 draw at the San Siro. Goals from Hakan Calhanoglu and Khouma Babacar had cancelled each other out by the hour mark, but Piatek was on hand to bag his third of the season after Calhanoglu did the hard work down the right. Marco Calderoni was on hand to pip the hosts, however, with a last-gasp strike from distance that found the back of the net and gave AC Milan yet another disappointing result, having won just once in its last five games.

Roma was held to a scoreless draw on the road at Sampdoria, with Justin Kluivert seeing red on a pair of cautions and leaving the visitors to finish the match with 10 men. Roma held 65% possession throughout the match, but managed just a single shot on target amid their nine efforts. Edin Dzeko began the match on the bench, and while he came on at halftime, he did little to change Roma’s fortunes. The draw leaves Roma with just one win over its last four matches, sitting sixth in table, nine points back of the top.

Parma hammered Genoa 5-1 behind a hat-trick from Danish international Andreas Cornelius. The 26-year-old came on in the 12th minute for an injured Roberto Inglese and scored all three goals in an eight-minute stretch that bracketed halftime. The second was a vicious half-volley that impressively rippled the netting. He got his third in the 50th minute by beating Ionut Radu at his near post with a low blast.

Cagliari continued its impressive start to the season with a comprehensive 2-0 win over SPAL. The first goal came inside the opening 10 minutes on a rip-roaring thunderbolt by Radja Nainggolan from miles out, a candidate for Goal of the Season. You can watch the goal here.

Udinese pulled away from the bottom third with a 1-0 win over Torino at home. 30-year-old Stefano Okaka scored the game’s lone goal just before halftime, nodding in with his head while essentially standing right on top of the left post after Rolando Mandragora sent a looping header of his own that way.

Early Euro qualifiers: Belgium, Netherlands, Russia all win

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In the early slate of Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers, there were little surprises as Belgium, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Scotland all found the winner’s column.

Liverpool midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum bagged a first-half brace, including an absolute rocket, as the Netherlands held on for a 2-1 win over Belarus. BATE Borisov midfielder Stanislav Dragun grabbed one back for Belarus soon after halftime, but the visitors held on in Minsk.

[ WATCH: Wijnaldum scores ripper for Netherlands ]

Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt partnered in defense yet again, as they have for 17 of the last 19 Netherlands games, conceding just 17 goals in those 17 matches. Thanks in part to that stellar partnership, Jasper Cillessen had little to do, with Dragun’s headed goal the only shot on target for Belarus in the match, while the Netherlands put seven of their 21 shots on frame.

Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier both found the back of the net as Belgium topped Kazakhstan 2-0 in Astana to remain perfect in qualifying action and keep pace with Russia in Group I. Batshuayi was filling in for an injured Romelu Lukaku, and he latched onto a low back-post cross from Dennis Praet for the opener 21 minutes in. Meunier’s 53rd minute poke came off an absolutely stunning long delivery from Eden Hazard to the far post placed perfectly over the head of the defender. Belgium held 66% possession throughout the match, and while they were only able to put three shots on target, they scored on two of them and held the hosts to just one. Belgium has now scored 30 goals in Euro qualification while conceding just one.

Russia also continued to surge ahead in Group I play one game back of Belgium with a 5-0 demolition of Cyprus in Nicosia. Denis Cheryshev struck nine minutes in to put Russia ahead as he pilfered the ball off the Cyprus back line. The hosts lost Standard Liege defender Konstantinos Laifis to a straight red card, and the rest was elementary. Magomed Ozdoev, Artem Dzyuba, and Aleksandr Golovin all found the back of the net before Cheryshev finished it off with his second of the game in stoppage time. Russia and Belgium have both qualified for the finals, with Russia sitting in second three points behind the perfect group leaders.

Hungary scored 10 minutes in and hung on for a 1-0 victory at home over Azerbaijan. 30-year-old Mihaly Korhut struck a long-distance ripper from well outside the box that appeared to catch goalkeeper Emil Balayev off guard, and the Hungary defense did the rest. RB Leipzig captain Willi Orban and Sporting Kansas City defender Botond Barath held Azerbaijan to just four total shots, including two on target. Meanwhile, despite splitting the possession nearly halfway, Hungary ripped off 23 shots, putting six on target.

Scotland hammered San Marino at home 6-0 behind a first-half hat-trick from Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. In the pouring rain in Glasgow, McGinn opened the scoring 12 minutes in for his second international goal on a simple cutback and shot from Ryan Christie which clipped McGinn on its way inside the far post. He hit for a second just before the half-hour mark as he poked home a cross by Scott McTominay that was saved into no-man’s land by a diving San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini. The third featured the highest degree of difficulty as a set-piece delivery into the box was headed by Stuart Findlay towards the far post and McGinn ripped it home on the doorstep under pressure. Lawrence Shankland, Findlay, and Stuart Armstrong finished off the scoreline in the second half, although Scotland has still long been eliminated from qualification in the top-heavy Group I.

Can Man United buy its way back to glory?

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By all accounts, Manchester United is having a woeful start to the Premier League season. However, the front office reportedly believes it can solve the crisis at the club with strategic purchases over the next two seasons.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Manchester United is looking to make eight signings spread through the next two summer transfer windows. The report claims they’ve already created a shortlist of targets and one may even be acquired in the upcoming winter transfer window in January. Players like Leicester City’s James Maddison and Ben Chillwell have been rumored to be on Man United’s radar in recent days, as it looks to improve its squad.

[READ: Maddison pulls out of England squad]

There’s no doubt that Man United’s team is in dire straights. From the days of Sir Alex Ferguson where the team had Cristiano Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand and many others, the current squad absolutely pales in comparison.

This summer was supposed to be a massive one for the club after another season outside the top four. And yet, the only major signing was Harry Maguire. Ironically, one of the summer’s first signings for current manager – for how long, who knows? – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Daniel James, has been very good when fit.

While on defense Man United is decent, in the final third, the Red Devils are woeful. With Anthony Martial still out injured and the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez this summer, Marcus Rashford looks too under pressure to handle all the responsibility right now. Man United has only scored one goal from open play in the last five games, and it’s not looking like things will improve that much even when Paul Pogba and Martial return from injury.

So it raises the question: Can Man United buy its way out of trouble? The answer, is maybe.

Manchester City spent boatloads of money, and it did end up with a first Premier League-era title in 2012. Only Micah Richards was from the club’s youth system in the squad. The latest smart purchases from Man City has put the club on a path to long-term success.

And yet, it’s not like Man United hasn’t spent a ton of money over the last decade chasing success. Since Ferguson retired, millions were spent on signing so many players, some of whom turned out to be good, but none turned out to be great. There was Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. Then Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, and Angel Di Maria. Then Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin, and Anthony Martial. Soon after it was Pogba and Eric Bailley and don’t forget Henrik Mkhitaryan. How much did Victor Lindelof, Lukaku and Sanchez cost Man United?

I could go on even further, but the point is made. Man United has spent tons, and it seems like with no plan.

The only way this new plan works is if they buy smart and buy players who fit well in a system, not just the ones who are shining in other systems.