Stramaccioni message to rivals

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 Gazzetta.it.

“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.