Serie A

Stramaccioni message to rivals

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Sat, 05 Jan 2013 11:38:00

The agent of reported Tottenham target Leandro Damiao says he expects a 'big European club' to come knocking for the Brazilian, but is unsure whether it will be this month.

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has made no secret of his admiration for the Internacional frontman and has long been linked with a move for his signature.

The 23-year-old is contracted at the Brazilian club until 2015 but his agent, Vinicius Prates, is not ruling out him making a European switch.

However, Prates is unsure whether clubs will follow up their interest this month due to the nature of the market.

He told Zero Hora: "European clubs are paying attention.

"I think a big European club will come. But, on the other hand, in January - their winter, our summer - the clubs don't invest much. The big signings are made in the mid-year window, in August."

Asked about Tottenham's reported interest, Prates added: "While Leandro Damiao stays at Internacional, Tottenham will always be interested.

"Andre Villas-Boas has liked him since he was Chelsea's manager."

Prates says Damiao is happy at Internacional and intends to stay until the World Cup in 2014, but admits a move is a possibility.

Asked if the striker will leave, he said: "I can't say, the market changes a lot. But the project is to stay until the World Cup.

"Leandro Damiao is doing well at Internacional, he is happy there."

Guzan has been between the posts while Villa have let in 17 goals in the last four Barclays Premier League games against Chelsea, Tottenham, Wigan and Swansea.

But Lambert is full of praise for the American's individual performances, even though Shay Given could come into contention for Saturday's FA Cup tie with Ipswich.

Given has played in Villa's Capital One Cup ties during their march to the semi-finals.

Lambert said: "I think it might have been harder for Brad if he was a young guy, but Brad is a top professional and really mentally strong.

"From that point of view, yes of course it hurts losing goals, but I don't think it will affect him, not knowing him the way I do.

"I certainly wouldn't put Brad out of the team for what has happened.

"I don't think it's Brad Guzan's fault for the 17 goals we've let in. If it was not for Brad Guzan, it might have been 34."

Given made himself available this week to play for the Republic of Ireland again after announcing his retirement in the aftermath of the European Championships.

And Lambert believes the veteran is still playing well enough to represent his country.

He said: "If that's Shay's thinking, then fine. For me, the way he's trained and the way he's played in the games has been excellent.

"He is no doubt good enough to come back and play for Ireland and has played well in the Capital One Cup matches.

"I'm just fortunate to have two such fine keepers available to choose from."

Lambert concedes that he would like to rest striker Christian Benteke once Gabriel Agbonlahor and Darren Bent return from injury.

Benteke has endured a heavy schedule and played in all four of Villa's games over Christmas and the new year.

Lambert said: "I'd like to rest Christian because he's played a lot of games. He's played a lot of games for Belgium and his season with Genk had started before he joined us in August.

"But with Gabby and even Darren out injured, it has not been great. There have been a lot of injuries up front."

The best is yet to come, according to Inter Milan head coach Andrea Stramaccioni, as the Nerazzurri bid to make a convincing start to the new year with victory at Udinese.

Stramaccioni's men spent much of the autumn hot on the heels of reigning Serie A champions and league leaders Juventus, but defeat at Lazio and a disappointing home draw with Genoa left Inter nine points adrift on Christmas Day.

Nevertheless, Stramaccioni remains enthusiastic, telling the Corriere dello Sport: "Now comes the fun part.

"I ended the year by congratulating my boys based on how we well had laid the foundation for this project.

"We arrived at the halfway point in good shape. We want to be protagonists both in Italy and in Europe and are working hard to do so.

"We want to put that little bit of bad luck behind us and move forward with our heads held high."

Striker Tommaso Rocchi has arrived from Lazio to bolster Inter's renewed push for the Scudetto, while Stramaccioni struggles to manage a long injury list.

Midfielders Philippe Coutinho, Gaby Mudingayi, Dejan Stankovic and Ricky Alvarez are all on the treatment table, with defender Andrea Ranocchia suspended as the future of World Cup runner-up Wesley Sneijder remains in the balance.

Reports surfaced linking the Dutch playmaker to Barclays Premier League strugglers QPR this week, but Sneijder's agent Soren Lerby was quick to rule out any switch to Loftus Road.

"He is definitely not interested in QPR," he told "We have heard nothing directly from that club. England has probably the best league in Europe, so going there could be a happy solution.

"But Wes wants to play for a top team."

Despite some inconsistent results from the early exchanges, Udinese finished 2012 much as they started it, in impressive fashion.

A four-match unbeaten run saw the Bianconeri end the year in 10th place, and head coach Francesco Guidolin is confident of booking a European place for a third season in a row.

He told La Repubblica: "2012 was great, especially the first six months in which we managed to finish third in the league.

"We are playing the way I like and we are hitting my original targets. I think the second half of the season could be much better than the first."

Midfielder Alexander Merkel could make his debut following his part-exchange transfer from Genoa, which saw striker Antonio Floro Flores move in the opposite direction.

The recent history of this fixture favours Inter, who have claimed nine points from the last 12 made available to them at the Stadio Friuli.

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