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Napoli, loading up to dethrone Juve, sign defensive rock Manolas

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Napoli have seen enough of Juventus waltzing their way to Serie A title after Serie A title — eight straight of them, to be specific — and Carlo Ancelotti’s side appear hellbent on doing everything in their power to end their nearly decade-long reign.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

On Saturday, Napoli, who have finished second behind Juve three of the last four seasons, announced their $41-million signing of Roma defender Kostas Manolas, one of the Italian league’s most consistent performers the last few seasons. Not only is Napoli’s squad strengthened by the addition, but Roma’s squad is weakened by the subtraction.

Manolas, 28, made more than 200 appearances in five seasons at Roma.

Following the arrival of James Rodriguez last month, Napoli clearly believe they can close the gap, which finished at 11 points last season, on Juve and make a legitimate title challenge.

[ MORE: Matthijs de Ligt left off Ajax roster for start of preseason ]

The only problem is: while Napoli have made a large signal of intent by signing Manolas, Juve appear set to make a gigantic move for Matthijs de Ligt, one of the highest rated prospects to play the same position in quite some time.

It’ll be an uphill battle, as always, but Napoli aren’t shying away from the challenge.

Bologna manager Mihajlovic announces he has leukemia

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BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) Bologna coach Sinisa Mihajlovic says he has leukemia and will continue working while undergoing treatment.

The 50-year-old Mihajlovic announced the news at a press conference on Saturday.

An emotional Mihajlovic said: “When they told me, it was a huge shock. I spent two days in my room crying … they are not tears of fear, I know I will win.”

Mihajlovic said that he has regular tests as his father died of cancer. The leukemia was discovered shortly before pre-season training.

He added: “It’s a treatable form, you can recover. And I will beat it.”

Bologna team doctor Gianni Nanni said Mihajlovic has “acute leukemia” and that the Serbian coach will start treatment on Tuesday.

Mihajlovic replaced Filippo Inzaghi as Bologna coach in January and steered it from the Serie A relegation zone to a 10th-place finish.

Mihajlovic, who had a previous spell in charge at Bologna in 2008-09 for his managerial debut in Serie A, has also coached Catania, Fiorentina, Serbia’s national team, Sampdoria, AC Milan and Torino.

Messages of support have been flooding in from other soccer clubs and players on social media.

Matthijs de Ligt left off Ajax roster for start of preseason

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Matthijs de Ligts name was very noticeably absent from the 28-man list of players headed to Austria for the first leg of Ajax’s preseason preparations, further fueling speculation that a transfer to Juventus is nearing completion.

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Alderweireld to Roma, Haller to West Ham ]

Ajax announced the squad on Saturday with while the likes of fellow rising stars Donny van de Beek, David Neres and Nicolas Tagliafico also not included, though transfer rumors involving players not named De Ligt have been much fewer and farther between.

De Ligt, the captain and remaining crown-jewel prospect, has appeared headed for the exit door since for quite some time.

[ MORE: Atletico Madrid to legally contest Griezmann’s transfer to Barcelona ]

Juventus are reportedly ready to pay $84 million for De Ligt’s services, making him the second-most expensive defender in the history of transfers, behind only Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk.

Transfer rumor roundup: Man Utd eye Lazio star, PL clubs duel for Joelinton

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Rampant links with transfer targets happen every summer at Manchester United, especially when a manager is involved with his first transfer window.

Throw in the Red Devils recent spells outside the UEFA Champions League, and there are plenty of wrinkles this go-round.

[ MORE: Latest on USMNT’s Cameron ]

For great players on middling clubs like Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, however, Europa League football is a step up considering Lazio’s underwhelming 2018-19 season.

Lazio slapped a nine-figure price tag on the exceptional 24-year-old center midfielder; Milinkovic-Savic was the club’s top performer last season, and chipped in offensively with five goals and three assists.

That was a far cry from his 12-goal 2017-18 season, but he’s only gotten better in his defensive contributions. Sky Sports says the player likes the idea of moving to United, but would also be happy to spend another season in Rome.

Hoffenheim’s big, young Brazilian striker Joelinton is looking to take the next step in his career, with both Wolves and Newcastle interested in the 22-year-old.

Joelinton scored seven times with seven assists in his return to the Bundesliga, which came after two loan stints with Rapid Vienna. He posted a combined 15 goals and six assists in league matches with the Austrian powers.

Newcastle is in dire need of a center forward, with Salomon Rondon reportedly on the verge of a move from West Bromwich Albion to Dalian Yifang in China.

Wolves would add a target forward with playmaking abilities much like Raul Jimenez, who is 28 and will need relief with the West Midlands club eyeing up a Europa League campaign.

Lukaku misses Man United training as Inter talks continue

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Romelu Lukaku didn’t train with Manchester United in Australia on Thursday as Inter Milan continue with talks to sign the Belgian forward.

It has been reported that Piero Ausilio, Inter’s sporting director, is meeting with Man United officials in London over the next 24 hours and the fact that Lukaku didn’t train with the Red Devils squad on Thursday in Australia will certainly raise eyebrows.

The reason given for Lukaku’s absence was that he was completing a gym session while the rest of the squad trained out on the pitch in an open session in front of fans.

Lukaku, 26, has spoken about his love for Italy and Serie A in the past and it is believed that Inter’s new head coach Antonio Conte wants to make Lukaku his main man up top.

It is believed that Inter have offered an initial two-year loan of Lukaku which would then see them buy him in the summer of 2021 for $78 million. That means United will recoup the vast majority of the $90 million that paid Everton for Lukaku in the summer of 2017, but they will have to wait for the cash.

Per reports, Inter will pay $13 million this summer, then two instalments of $32.5 million over the next two summers. Transfer deals are usually structured in a way where fees are paid in instalments over a period of time, so this isn’t surprising. Inter may also have certain financial fair play requirements they have to met considering they have already spent over $69 million this summer on new players.

Lukaku was surplus to requirements for a large chunk of last season at United as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard became mainstays under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

With Alexis Sanchez also set to be given a fresh start, now seems like a good time for Lukaku and United to part way. The Belgian forward was heckled by his own fans at times last season and despite his impressive return of 42 goals in 96 games in all competitions, his hold-up play and consistency against the top six teams continues to be questioned.

The sooner this deal gets done the better, as United will be able to use the cash to strengthen in other areas. They are well-stocked in attack and need reinforcements at center back and in central midfield. Selling Lukaku makes sense.