Kovacic: Ronaldo joked with me in Italian

The midfielder has revealed how Real Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer welcomed him to the club and says training was “boring” at Inter

Mateo Kovacic says Cristiano Ronaldo welcomed him to Real Madrid by cracking jokes in Italian.

The Croatia international became Rafa Benitez’s first major signing when he joined the club from Inter in August for €35 million.

He told Sportske Novosti: “[Luka] Modric introduced me to all the guys in the Real team and they are great, big stars, but yet so simple.

“Ronaldo first approached me in the locker room and started to make jokes in Italian! And after that he explained to me what kind of pressure Real players face.

“He is very funny, likes to joke, and of course he enjoys a special status, he is the best player in the world!”

Kovacic’s move came as a surprise after two-and-a-half years at San Siro, where he took 20 months to score his first goal, and struggled in a number of different positions.

However, the midfielder is certain of his best position and took a swipe at Inter for playing him out of position.

“I prefer playing as holding midfielder,” he added. “I’ve played an an offensive midfielder and a left winger – it was not bad, because now I know how to play [those positions], too.

“But, I believe Inter made a mistake with me, moving me and changing my natural position. And that is what Luka and [Toni] Kroos play at Madrid and [Andres] Iniesta at Barcelona.”

Kovacic, who has made nine appearances in all competitions for Madrid, also noted the difference in training at Madrid compared to what he was used to at Inter.

“Training at Madrid is great,” he continued, “we do everything with a ball, it is never boring. They are shorter [sessions] than at Inter, but with higher intensity.

“In Italy it was more boring because we had some training sessions just practicing formations, with no ball-play.”

The former Dinamo Zagreb man concluded by revealing there was no love lost between himself and Inter boss Roberto Mancini.

“I am not sure whether Mancini wanted me at Inter or not! We had no relationship, not good, not bad,” he explained.  

“I don’t know what he thought and in the end I was glad to leave because I don’t know what would have happened to me.

“Mancini never told me anything. In fact, he did, when I was leaving, he told me he was sorry that I was going. But, honestly, I never saw or felt that while I was at Inter.”

Jovetic slams 'absurd' injury reports

Rumours in Italy have claimed the on-loan Manchester City striker is in dispute with the Nerazzurri over a medical issue, speculation he angrily dismissed

Stevan Jovetic has hit out at reports claiming he is embroiled in a dispute with Inter and the club’s head coach Roberto Mancini over an injury problem.

Mancini denied last week that he was angry with the Montenegro national team for naming Jovetic in their latest squad despite the forward struggling with a hamstring problem.

Reports in Italy have since alleged the injury is more serious than the club is letting on.

The media have claimed the 25-year-old, on loan in Serie A side from Manchester City, flew to Germany against Inter’s wishes in order to seek treatment at the clinic of former Bayern Munich doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.

Jovetic, however, has strenuously denied the claims and has dismissed any suggestion of a falling-out with Mancini.

“I keep reading crazy things about me that, frankly, I don’t understand,” he wrote on his official Facebook page. 

“I want to clearly specify that there’s no problem with Inter and Mr. Mancini.

“I wasn’t on some secret trip into Germany, it was a visit which was controlled and authorised by my club.

“Now I’m obliged, like everyone here, to be at Montenegro’s disposal. I’m here, I’m training and we’ll monitor my fitness day by day.”

Montenegro face critical games against Group G leaders Austria and second-placed Russia as they bid to qualify for Euro 2016.

Branko Brnovic’s team are fourth in the group, two points behind Russia and one back from third-placed Sweden, with automatic qualification or a play-off berth still a realistic ambition. 

Inter have faith in Mancini – Zanetti

Roberto Mancini has the full support of Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti, who is sure he is the right man for the job.

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti has backed coach Roberto Mancini and is confident that he is steering the club in the right direction.

The Italian, who took the San Siro side to three consecutive Scudetti in his first spell at the helm, saw his club knocked off top spot in Serie A at the weekend.

Inter’s 1-1 draw with Sampdoria enabled Fiorentina to move two points clear at the summit with a victory over Atalanta, but Zanetti is still pleased with their start to the season.

“We are a team that can improve even more and Mancini is doing a fantastic job,” he told Radio Rai.

“We have a lot of faith in what Roberto is doing.”

Having failed to qualify for Europe last season following Mancini’s arrival in November 2014, Zanetti is hopeful of a more fruitful campaign this time around.

However, he did concede that the team needs time to gel following a number of new additions.

“It is proving to be a hotly-contested championship this year and it’s too early to talk about the title. Our objective is to be back among the contenders,” the former full-back added.

“I want us to fight until the very end, but we still have some growing to do as a team because there have been a lot of changes in the squad.

“When so many new faces arrive some of them need time to adapt and some have come from different leagues.

“We need to work together and when things don’t go our way, we must keep our cool and trust in the work we are doing.”

Mancini: Kondogbia doesn't understand Italian football yet

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Sampdoria 1-1 Inter: Perisic leveller earns point for Mancini’s men

The Nerazzuri managed to keep within touching distance of top of the table Fiorentina with a late equaliser from the Croatian forward, recently signed from Wolfsburg

Ivan Perisic salvaged a 1-1 draw for Inter in Sunday’s Serie A encounter versus Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

Walter Zenga’s men dominated proceedings in the opening 45 minutes and Joaquin Correa in particular looked dangerous on a number of occasions, although he was guilty of an astonishing miss.

The Argentinian should have broken the deadlock shortly before the break, yet somehow missed from three yards out in front of an open net.

The hosts would go a goal up shortly after the break, however, when Luis Muriel got his name on the scoresheet from Pedro Pereira’s cross.

Fredy Guarin was Inter’s biggest threat, but it was Perisic who would eventually level with less than 15 minutes left on the clock, before Inter withstood some late Samp pressure to hold onto their point.

Sunday’s draw sees Inter return to the top of the table with 16 points from seven games, although their stay may be short-lived with Fiorentina in action against Atalanta later on.

Samp made a fine start to the game and nearly opened the scoring after just three minutes when Ervin Zukanovic beat his man to the ball after a corner, yet the centre-back’s attempt went narrowly wide.

Correa was next to try his luck, but twice the Argentinian saw his efforts thwarted by Samir Handanovic.

Alex Telles was the first one to threaten on Inter’s behalf, but his 25-yard strike lacked the power to worry Emiliano Viviano.

Rodrigo Palacio looked dangerous for Roberto Mancini’s men halfway through the first period, but his shot from close range was kept out by Viviano, before Guarin wasted Inter’s best chance of the half in the 30th minute when he blasted an acrobatic effort over the crossbar.

At the other end, Eder had an opportunity to gift his side the lead after being set up by Muriel, only for his shot to graze the post.

Samp should have gone a goal up in the 38th minute via Correa. The forward saw his first attempt kept out by Handanovic, but as the rebound fell kindly at his feet he somehow shot wide of the gaping goal from inside the six-yard box.

The home side got the goal they deserved shortly after the interval when Pereira sent in a cross toward the back post and Muriel was at hand to slide in and open the scoring.

The opening goal served as a wake-up call for Inter and Guarin got a chance to restore parity in the 57th minute after a cross from Telles, only to steer his effort wide.

A looping header from Perisic on the hour mark looked dangerous, but Niklas Moisander eventually got back in time to clear the Croatia international’s attempt.

Inter would eventually get the equaliser in the 76th minute, though, when Perisic stabbed home from close range after being set up by Mauro Icardi, thus preventing a second consecutive defeat.

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