Mattia Destro

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Serie A Roundup: Napoli stays on top, Juventus spanks Chievo

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The Serie A title race this season is the most exciting it’s been for a while, and it stayed that way this weekend.

Juventus trounced Chievo Verona 4-0 in the early fixture to temporarily go top of the table, but Napoli laid the hurt on Empoli 5-1 to regain first place. Other than a 3-2 Bologna win over Sampdoria in an important lower-half battle, there was little other excitement across the fixtures.

Chievo Verona 0-4 Juventus

Alvaro Morata scored twice and Paul Pogba was in beast mode as Juventus jumped into the league lead temporarily. Read about it in full here.

Napoli 5-1 Empoli

Maurizio Sarri pulled his side back atop the league standings with a monstrous second half. A critical own-goal by Empoli’s Michele Camporese on a cross from Jose Callejon put Napoli 3-1 ahead just six minutes after the break. Callejon hit for a pair of his own late to add icing on the cake. The win keeps pace with Juventus and while the Bianconeri have won 12 in a row, Napoli has put together a tidy six-game league winning streak to stymie their challengers.

Bologna 3-2 Sampdoria

In a battle of teams looking to pull away from the relegation zone, Sampdoria fought back from 2-0 down only to fall on an 87th minute penalty by Mattia Destro as Bologna pulled seven points clear of the drop. That’s two wins in a row for Bologna, with summer newcomers Destro and Emanuele Giaccherini providing winning goals in each.

Torino 0-0 Hellas Verona

Genoa 0-0 Fiorentina

Udinese 0-0 Lazio

Welp. The rest of the Italian slate today was a dud. Fiorentina could not keep pace with the top two in Juventus and Napoli, and their draw at 16th placed Genoa really hurts, as they fall six points back of Napoli and see Inter catch up. Lazio had a shot to jump to eighth or even sixth, but failed to capitalize on the road. Torino also could have jumped into the top half, but instead were held by the bottom-dwellers in Verona, who have scored just 14 goals in 21 matches this year.

La Liga & Serie A: Inter Milan go top again, Napoli take a tumble

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights:

Villarreal 2-1 Rayo Vallecano

If any side is to break up the three-team peloton presently pacing La Liga, it’ll likely be Villarreal, who needed a late winner from Cedric Bakambu (his second goal of the game) to knock off 15th-place Rayo Vallecano. In other words, don’t count on Villarreal, who are currently six points off the pace of third-place Real Madrid and eight behind second-place Atletico Madrid, breaking up La Liga’s triopoly this season.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Sociedad 2-1 Eibar
Sporting Gijon 3-1 Las Palmas
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Malaga

Inter Milan 1-0 Genoa

While the top-three runs away with La Liga once again, there’s no danger of anything of the kind happening in Serie A, where seven points separate the league’s top six teams. On Saturday, Inter Milan topped Genoa on a 59th-minute goal scored by Adem Ljajc to reclaim the league’s top spot after falling from their porch with a loss to Napoli on Monday. All the would need was for Napoli to lose or draw on Sunday to stay there.

Bologna 3-2 Napoli

After going top of the league on Monday for the first time in 25 years, Napoli fell away to Bologna on Sunday, 3-2, despite another brace of goals scored by Gonzalo Higuain (back-to-back braces, including four goals in his last two games, 10 in his last nine and and 14 in his last 14). Mattia Destro scored a brace of his own for the home side and Luca Rossettini added one of his own. With the defeat, Napoli tumble from first to third, now two points behind Inter.

Fiorentina 3-0 Udinese

Meanwhile, Fiorentina continue to quietly hover around the top-two places. The Viola hammered Udinese on Sunday, thanks to goals scored by Milan Badelj, Josip Ilicic and Gonzalo Rodriguez. After 15 rounds of league games, Fiorentina sit second in the league, a single point behind Inter.

Lazio 0-2 Juventus

Juventus’ resurgence and rapid climb up the Serie A league table continued on Friday, as Massimiliano Allegri’s side went away to Lazio and ground out a thoroughly professional 2-0 victory. The bianconeri went ahead through an own goal scored by Santiago Gentiletti and capped off their latest win (five straight in the league) with 22-year-old Paulo Dybala’s seventh league goal of the season (below video), his first with Juve.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Torino 1-1 Roma
Atalanta 3-0 Palermo
Frosinone 0-2 Chievo
Verona 0-1 Empoli
Sampdoria 1-3 Sassuolo

DONE DEAL: Mattia Destro, Juan Agudelo sign with new clubs AC Milan, New England Revolution

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What went down on Thursday, the 29th day of this January transfer window?

[ MORE: Thursday’s transfer RUMOR roundup ]

The big capture of the day saw an Italian youngster move from one Serie A club to another, as AC Milan announced the signing of Roma forward Mattia Destro, 23, on loan until the end of the 2014-15 season. Destro scored 13 league goals in 20 appearances last season, but has struggled to secure regular first-team minutes this season, despite scoring five goals in his eight league starts. Destro’s loan agreement reportedly has an $18-million clause that allows Milan to sign the player on a permanent basis.

Juan Agudelo has officially returned to the New England Revolution and Major League Soccer, the player tweeted on Thursday. Out of contract since May 2014, Agudelo undoubtedly makes a still-intact Revolution squad heavy favorites to repeat as Eastern Conference champions.

[ MORE: All of Wednesday’s DONE DEAL transfer action ]

Elsewhere in MLS, Toronto FC have signed French midfielder Benoit Cheyrou from Ligue 1 side Marseille, where the 33-year-old has spent the last seven years. Cheyrou, who is expected to pair with Michael Bradley in the center of midfield, will join his TFC teammates in Orlando in the coming weeks.

Bundesliga side Hannover 96 announced the signing of starting Portuguese right back Joao Pereira after La Liga side Valencia agreed to terminate his contract, which had six months remaining. Pereira, 30, started all three of Portugal’s games at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Forward Peter Crouch signed a two-year contract extension with Stoke City, putting to bed ongoing speculation he could return to Queens Park Rangers under Harry Redknapp.

Crystal Palace announced the signing of free-agent forward Shola Ameobi, who spent 14 years at Newcastle United before being released at the end of the 2014 season, including the final five seasons under current Palace boss Alan Pardew.

Spurs in contact with Roma for Mattia Destro swap

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Still looking for attacking depth, Tottenham is reportedly in contact with Serie A side Roma for Italian striker Mattia Destro.

The talented yet enigmatic Italian striker would be a solid addition to the London club, but questions remain about his character.

With just the Emmanuel Adebayor, Harry Kane, and the struggling Roberto Soldado for striker depth, Spurs are looking to at the least upgrade and maybe even add to their ranks.

According to journalist Tancredi Palmeri, Spurs contacted the Italian club about Destro and offered to swap with Soldado, and Roma are now pondering the offer.  Palmeri reports that the Roma front office will meet with manager Rudi Garcia to see if Soldado is a player who would fit his plans.

The 23-year-old striker enjoyed a prolific season last year, with 13 goals in 20 Serie A matches, but he also raised some questions about his character.

Destro missed out on World Cup selection by former manager Cesare Prandelli thanks to an incident where he punched fellow Italian Davide Astori during a Serie A match, and the young striker has had anger flareups in the past.

Prandelli publicly said Destro was not selected because he didn’t want to take three strikers to the competition, but the Roma man wasn’t even named as a reserve, suggesting Prandelli was concerned about his standing among the rest of the dressing room.

This isn’t an entirely new rumor, as there were rumblings of it in the Italian media back in July.

Rumors have flown all summer about Soldado’s exit from White Hart Lane. Most have involved his native country of Spain, but after showing a lack of finishing quality last year, the more free-flowing Italian game might suit his talents well.

Saturday, The Express placed Destro’s price tag at around $40 million, although it remains to be seen if the two clubs see the pair of players at equal value or if there would be money changing hands if a swap ends up going through.

Italy 23-man World Cup roster announced


Italy has announced the 23 players that will be on the plane to Brazil. The biggest surprise? Giuseppe Rossi is not included.

The Jersey-born forward made the decision to represent Italy, and would’ve gone to the 2010 World Cup had he not been injured. Now, injury keeps him from Brazil as well – Rossi was spectacular for new side Fiorentina in the first half of the season, but missed the second half, and looked a shadow of his former self when taking on Ireland on Saturday.

Roma forward Mattia Destro also didn’t make the cut, despite scoring 13 goals in 20 appearances. It’s a reminder that Cesare Prandelli places a heavy emphasis on team discipline, and Destro’s decision to punch Davide Astori during a league game probably didn’t sit well with the Italy coach.

Noted bad-boy Mario Balotelli did make the squad, however.

Also left behind are defenders Christian Maggio, Andrea Ranocchia* and Manuel Pasqual and Brazilian-born midfielder Romulo. Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo was ruled out with injury after breaking his leg during the Ireland match.

*Ranocchia will travel with the azzurripending fitness of Gabriel Paletta and Andrea Barzagli

Italy 2014 World Cup Squad

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St. Germain)

Defenders: Ignazio Abate (Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Gabriel Paletta (Parma)

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris St. Germain), Marco Parolo (Parma), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Marco Verratti (Paris St. Germain)

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)