Siniša Mihajlović

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Ailing Mihajlovic coaches Bologna during leukemia treatment

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ROME (AP) A hospital band was on his right wrist and a bandage was visible on the left side of his neck.

Sinisa Mihajlovic was visibly thinner and his face was drawn, too.

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The once robust Bologna coach’s determination remains, though, and that was clearly apparent when Mihajlovic surprised his team by showing up for the squad’s Serie A opener Sunday in his first public appearance following a month of chemotherapy after being diagnosed with leukemia.

“He had promised us he would be here but when we saw him in the hotel, we couldn’t believe it,” Bologna midfielder Andrea Poli said after the 1-1 draw at Hellas Verona.

There was speculation that Mihajlovic would coach the team from a special box in the tribune but he spent nearly the entire game on the touchline, leaving a minute before the end to be shuttled back to the hospital.

“He spoke to us via video conference during the week and said he wasn’t 100 percent. He told us a month ago that he wanted to be here for this game, but we didn’t think he really would be,” Bologna winger Riccardo Orsolini said.

“It was a big boost. We’re just sorry that we didn’t give him the victory,” Orsolini added. “He’s lost a bit of weight, but the grit, determination and passion were the same as always.”

Mihajlovic yelled at his players as usual and gestured with his hands in protest to the officials.

“Sinisa wasn’t very happy at the end,” Bologna sporting director Riccardo Bigon said. “Actually he was angry (over the result).”

The 50-year-old Mihajlovic was a standout player for Sampdoria and Lazio – he still shares the Serie A record for free-kick goals at 28 with Andrea Pirlo – before beginning his coaching career a decade ago in his first stint at Bologna.

Mihajlovic was rehired by Bologna in January to replace Filippo Inzaghi and engineered a complete turnaround for a team that was battling off relegation, leading the club to a 10th place finish.

When Mihajlovic announced in July that he had an acute form of leukemia, the club said it would still keep him in charge.

Up next for Bologna is its home opener against Spal on Friday and it remains to be seen if Mihajlovic will appear at that match.

PENALTY ERROR

Referees director Nicola Rizzoli has acknowledged that Napoli should not have been awarded a penalty in its wild 4-3 win at Fiorentina on Saturday.

The penalty was awarded after Napoli forward Dries Mertens theatrically dragged his leg as he jumped over a defender who was already on the ground.

Lorenzo Insigne converted the ensuing penalty to put Napoli up 2-1.

“Something didn’t work in the collaboration between the referee and the VAR,” Rizzoli said Monday. “Clearly everyone has seen the error.”

Rizzoli added that he would review whether the referee and VAR official involved would sit out next weekend.

“A coach uses the players who are in the best form and the moves that we make will go toward putting them in the best condition to officiate,” Rizzoli said. “We’ll evaluate their psycho-physical conditions.”

NO FEMALE REFS

While French referee Stephanie Frappart recently directed the UEFA Super Cup in the highest-profile men’s game for a female referee, don’t expect to see any women on the pitch in Serie A soon.

“I hope it happens in two or three years,” Italian referees association president Marcello Nicchi said last week when he presented the 21 referees – all male – for this season.

Rodrigo TO RODRIGO

Rodrigo Becao’s first profession goal was all Udinese needed for a 1-0 win over AC Milan.

The tall defender headed in following a corner from fellow Brazilian Rodrigo De Paul, whose assist came on his first touch of the season – 25 seconds after coming off the bench.

Milan had no shots on goal and lost its opener for the fifth time in the last eight seasons.

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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.

AC Milan boss calls out “overweight” Balotelli, demands improvement

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When Mario Balotelli moved to AC Milan this summer, he was warned it was his last chance.

After a miserable year at Liverpool, Milan took a flyer on the 25-year-old striker, who was in some of the best form of his career when he played for the Italian club a few years ago.

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However, after playing for the AC Milan reserves, first-team boss Sinisa Mihajlovic called out Balotelli for being a bit overweight, and said he still needs to improve before earning a promotion from the reserve side.

I have doubts in every area of the team… Today those who haven’t played much were given a chance and they showed why they are reserves.

I’m not talking about anyone in particular but about everyone. Balotelli? We played against a Serie C side. He is not in good shape and has to improve, just like all the others, otherwise he won’t play.

He’s not played for a while and he still has to improve.

He’s training well and his physical tests are satisfactory, but he’s three kilograms overweight: he’s on a diet and when he’s ready he will play.”

Mihajlovic was angered with the entire team’s play after barely scraping a 3-2 win over third-tier side Mantova FC, but to publicly comment on Balotelli and his weight is not a good sign.

[ RELATED: Paul Pogba turned down Chelsea move despite offer of $275,000 per week in wages ]

Statistically, Balotelli had a strong game, scoring a goal and assisting on another, while drawing a penalty that resulted in the third.

It’s possible that Mihajlovic is just playing “bad cop” with Balo to keep him in line, but it’s also very possible he isn’t currently up to his manager’s standards. Either way, he has to improve to stop his career’s downward trend.

Sinisa Mihajlovic set to take over at AC Milan

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Sinisa Mihajlovic is considered the front runner to be named the new manager at AC Milan, and the former Sampdoria boss has all but confirmed the speculation.

When asked about the rumors by Italian news outlet Sportmediasetthe Serbian said “It’s going fine, within two weeks I will be the new Rossoneri coach.”

[ REPORT: Blatter reconsidering resignation ]

While the club is yet to make an official announcement, it now seems certain Mihajlovic will be in charge at the San Siro quite soon.

Rafa Benitez was rumored for a possible return to the club, but after agreeing to terms with Real Madrid, Mihajlovic jumped to the top of the list.

The man who once played for AC Milan’s cross-town rivals Inter, Mihajlovic released a statement earlier this week that he would be leaving Sampdoria after leading the club to seventh-place in Serie A, the best finish in club history.

[ RELATED: Gianluigi Buffon pulls out of Italy squad after suffering injury vs. Croatia ]

AC Milan on the other hand, finished tenth in the league, the club’s worst season in 17 years. The club told BBC Sport last week that Filippo Inzaghi would not return as manager, after just one season in charge.

Mihajlovic will be tasked with bringing European football back to the San Siro as the seven-time Champions League winners didn’t even qualify for the Europa League. With the past two seasons ending in eighth-place and tenth-place finishes in Serie A, the Serb must turn things around for one of the most historic clubs in the world.

Is Eto’o leaving Sampdoria after just one week on the job?

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It hasn’t been a great year for Samuel Eto’o.

After Cameroon had an embarrassing run-up to the World Cup and a tournament to match, Eto’o struggled through a half-season at Everton before transferring to Sampdoria.

[ MORE: Tim Cahill leaves NYRB ]

And now, after a single week and just one substitute appearance for the Serie A club, the 33-year-old Eto’o may be moving on again.

Even if this is just a minor issue, it certainly isn’t the fresh start Eto’o had in mind.

From Sky Sports:

Sampdoria manager Sinisa Mihajlovic subsequently ordered the squad to attend an extra training session – sparking a row with former Cameroon star Eto’o, who allegedly refused.

The club have refused to confirm the incident, which further reports claim could lead to the termination of Eto’o’s contract after just one week.

Sampdoria president Massimo Ferrero said: “It was only a difference of opinions and, truthfully, a small one too. We are calm. Samp is very stable.”

Let’s reset: You’ve just joined a new club and the manager asks the entire team to train a second time. It’s probably not a good sign if you’re answer is, “No thanks, pal. I’m outta here.”