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Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010

Leonardo named new Inter manager

MILAN, Italy (AP) Former AC Milan manager Leonardo was named coach of city rival Inter Milan on Friday.

The European and Italian champion announced Leonardo's appointment on its website, a day after Rafa Benitez's contract was terminated by mutual agreement. Leonardo's contract starts Dec. 29 and runs until June 2012.

His first match in charge will come against second-place Napoli when Serie A resumes Jan. 6.

Benitez led Inter to the Club World Cup title last weekend, but the team is languishing in seventh place in Serie A, 13 points behind leader Milan. Benitez lasted only six months after taking over from Jose Mourinho, who left for Real Madrid following last season's historic treble.

Leonardo's only head coaching experience came last season when he led Milan, but the term ended abruptly when the 41-year-old Brazilian clashed with club owner and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

In its statement, Inter said it was "convinced that he'll be able to put his class, experience as a champion and mentality to the service of the club to get the results that Inter and its fans want."

Leonardo becomes the fifth coach to make the move from Milan to Inter, following Giuseppe Bigogno, Giovanni Trapattoni, Ilario Castagner and current Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni.

He played for Milan for four years between 1997 and 2001 before returning to Brazil and working in a scouting role, and helped secure the signings of Kaka and Alexandre Pato.

In 2008, he was appointed as Milan's technical director, then received his first coaching position in the wake of Carlo Ancelotti's departure to Chelsea.

After a difficult start last season, including a 4-0 rout by Inter, Leonardo began to build success with Milan by relying on an attack-oriented 4-2-1-3 formation that allowed players like Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Ronaldinho to line up together.

Now, Leonardo will be charged with restoring Inter to last season's form.

Bruce chases Fergie

LONDON (AP) Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is an admirer of the job done by Steve Bruce as Sunderland boss, but intends to put a dent in his protege's progress when the teams clash in the Premier League on Sunday.

Sunderland has risen to sixth in the standings by winning four and losing only one of its past eight matches, and goes to Old Trafford with more confidence than usual at the intimidating venue.

Bruce, who featured in three of Ferguson's title-winning sides, has molded a young side into potential Europe qualifiers during his two years in charge.

The pressure is on United to capture three points with second-place Arsenal taking on Chelsea the following night.

Manchester United tops the table by two points, thanks in no small part to Sunderland having beaten title aspirants Chelsea and Manchester City while holding Arsenal to a draw.

"Steve's changed the club around," Ferguson said. "He's brought different types of player in. He's brought in (Darren) Bent and (Asamoah) Gyan, he's brought through the boy (Jordan) Henderson who's doing fantastically well, he's brought back (Lee) Cattermole and he's shaped his own team."

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