Amid the furore of Real Madrid's quite astonishing great escape in the Champions League – well, their latest – it's easy to forget they only won the Spanish title last weekend.

Of course, it had been long foreseen, but Madrid's 35th LaLiga crown was secured with their 4-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, leading to a party that had Marcelo climbing statues, Carlo Ancelotti smoking a cigar and David Alaba getting his chair out again.

With a record-extending 17th Champions League final appearance wrapped up, Madrid can turn their attention back to LaLiga knowing they still have a reason to keep themselves sharp, and they could yet equal their best points tally (93) since reaching 100 in 2011-12.

Fittingly, their first league match as champions comes against the team they ousted, with bitter rivals Atletico Madrid playing host to Los Blancos at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

While that match has taken a back seat over the past few days, in Spain there has been a debate centred on the derby rumbling in the background for some time now.

As champions, Madrid might feel entitled to a pasillo, or 'guard of honour' – but they won't get one.

'A public toll'

While the guard of honour is a tradition with deep roots in sport, there's little doubt that it's a polarising gesture.

A mark of respect, perhaps, but more and more it is seen as a tool of humiliation, particularly when expected in such contests between major rivals.

The decision was down to Atletico's decision makers rather than the players, though captain Jan Oblak made his feelings perfectly clear after their defeat to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

He said: "As captain, I'm one of those who doesn't like to give or receive the guard of honour, but the club will decide and we'll do whatever is necessary."

Atletico subsequently released a statement on Monday confirming they'll not participate, with their strong response claiming the recent debate was stirred purely to stoke anger between fanbases.

They said: "Some want to turn what was born as a gesture of recognition for the champion into a public toll that their rivals must pay, also impregnated with the aroma of humiliation. Under no concept are Atletico Madrid going to collaborate in this attempt at derision in which the true values ​​of sport are completely forgotten and tension and confrontation between the fans is encouraged."

Additionally, Atletico suggested there was no such debate around Celta Vigo's decision not to give them a guard of honour at the start of this season, with the controversy around the upcoming derby "exaggerated and artificial".

Some might feel Atletico's disdain for the tradition is disrespectful, but there is refreshing sentiment behind their stance as well: not every mark of respect needs to be accompanied by a performative gesture.

In this age of obsessing over social media engagement, there seems a need to turn normal behaviour into a song and dance, the classic example being the tidy changing room photo. "That's class" or "respect [clapping emoji]" litter the replies on Twitter – it's not, it's just common courtesy.

If Atletico players, officials, coaches or fans wish to congratulate Madrid, it doesn't require a forced gesture.

Madrid's refusal

This is by no means the first time Madrid have been involved in guard of honour controversy. Four years ago, the debate around the pasillo was arguably at its zenith.

Barcelona had won the title prior to facing Madrid in El Clasico, meaning there were those in the Blaugrana ranks expecting a show of respect at Camp Nou.

But Madrid refused. Zinedine Zidane, coach at the time, pointed the finger. He suggested they might have reciprocated had Barca given them a guard of honour a few months earlier when Los Blancos won the Club World Cup.

Barca's justification then was that they didn't play in the Club World Cup so didn't need to acknowledge Madrid's success – not that Zidane was buying the excuse.

"It's a lie," he said. "You have to win the Champions League to play in the Club World Cup. I am not the one to decide that we don't want to do the pasillo. They didn't do it, we respect that; we'll not do it because they didn't do it."

Gerard Pique, true to form, found a novel way to get around the issue while simultaneously highlighting Madrid's refusal – he arranged for Barca's coaching staff to give the players a pasillo instead at full-time.

Had Sergio Ramos still been at Madrid, one might have been expecting a similar arrangement for Sunday.

'Party of the champions'

The only other time this century that the pasillo has been such a contentious subject was in 2008, when Madrid did receive one in El Clasico.

The 2007-08 season was a dire one for Barca. Not only did Madrid win the title comfortably with 18 points more than their great rivals, but Frank Rijkaard's men also finished 10 points adrift of second-placed Villarreal.

 

Although Barca crushed Valencia 6-0 leading up to the Clasico clash on May 7, 2008, they were unable to prevent Madrid claiming the title, setting things up perfectly for the ultimate humiliation.

"The party of the champions", read the front page of Madrid-based daily newspaper AS on the morning of the game. Notoriously pro-Madrid Marca went with "Barca is here", accompanying a picture showing where the visitors were due to form their guard of honour. And Catalan publication Sport highlighted the other side of things, saying, "the pasillo that suffers alone", and adding, "Barca fans do not deserve to have to see the pasillo".

Despite the shameless nose-rubbing of the Madrid press and the intense humiliation that was about to befall them, Barca gritted their teeth. "Although it hurts, we will do it," Rijkaard said.

Club captain Carles Puyol sang from a similar hymn sheet: "As an athlete you have to recognise the champion, and we will do that. They have won it on the pitch. Real Madrid have been fair champions."

The emotions of the two coaches that night could not have been more different. Rijkaard slowly ambled out and took his position, hands together behind his back, before the Barca players jogged out and formed two columns either side of the halfway line, the cameras of the Bernabeu crowd incessantly flashing with glee.

Meanwhile, Bernd Schuster watched on as his Madrid side triumphantly walked through that red-and-blue-walled corridor, twenty years after he was a part of the last guard of honour Barca performed in El Clasico, wearing a Blaugrana jersey.

Some, such as Pepe, Fernando Gago and Wesley Sneijder walked straight down the middle, seemingly preserving the thoughts of a true rivalry by refusing to thank their counterparts for the degrading act of a Clasico pasillo, but looking back, that was the least embarrassing part of the whole night for Barca.

What started with a pasillo ended in a pasting, with Barca flattered by a 4-1 defeat in which Madrid were utterly dominant.

Atletico will at least avoid one form of humiliation, but considering the contrasting fortunes of the two teams on the pitch this term, it's hardly a given that Diego Simeone's side will prevent a mauling.

Barcelona coach Xavi is urging his players to take full advantage of a "golden opportunity" to seal Champions League qualification against a direct rival in Real Betis.

The Blaugrana go to Seville on Saturday sitting second in LaLiga, eight points clear of fifth-placed Betis – who won 1-0 at Camp Nou in December – as the battle for the top four nears its conclusion.

A win for Barca over the Copa del Rey winners would take them to 69 points and ensure they do not finish any lower than fourth, with Betis only able to reach 67 and sixth-placed Real Sociedad 68.

While the 15-point gap to champions Real Madrid highlights how confronting 2021-22 has been for Barca, Xavi has restored a degree of positivity since replacing Ronald Koeman in November.

Barca were ninth in LaLiga after 13 matches ahead of Xavi's first game in charge, 10 points behind second-placed Sevilla; they now appear favourites to finish ahead of Julen Lopetegui's side and dethroned champions Atletico Madrid as runners-up.

And Xavi wants his team to clinch Champions League qualification at the first time of asking.

"Hopefully, it's a golden opportunity to qualify for the Champions League," he said on Friday. "They're a direct rival, with great players and a great coach. It will be difficult.

"Football gives us the chance to take sporting revenge. We want to fulfil our goals before the end of the season.

"We are fighting for the minimum, but that's the way it is. There are two goals, but the most important is to be in the Champions League next season.

"That's the objective. If we can get second, which would give us the option of entering the Supercopa, then even better.

"We cannot think beyond this, [but] I hope that this summer there will be signings despite the economic situation. We cannot take the European qualification for granted.

"I expect an opponent [Betis] with a lot of confidence. They have won the Copa, they deserved it. I congratulate Betis, [Manuel] Pellegrini and the players, who are having an excellent, historic season. I congratulate them."

Ever since Xavi's return to the club, their "philosophy" and "DNA" have drawn a lot of focus, with many supporters feeling Barca's ethos was diluted under Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien and Koeman.

Ronald Araujo commented that restoring "the Barca DNA" with Xavi was a chief goal of his after signing a new contract in April, and while the coach acknowledges he cannot change things in an instant, he is confident they are making progress with a top-four finish almost secure.

"It's not my message, it's the message of Barca's history," Xavi continued. "I don't have a magic wand, what I'm clear about is that with this model [Barca] won five Champions Leagues and world recognition.

"You leave Spain and they remember [Pep] Guardiola's Barca, [Lionel] Messi's Barca, and they remember how we won, not so much what we won.

"We have to wait and be patient. If we review history, there is no doubt."

Kylian Mbappe has yet to agree a contract with Paris Saint-Germain or any other club, according to the French superstar's mother.

With Mbappe's contract in the French capital due to expire in June, the 23-year-old has been heavily linked with a move to Champions League finalists Real Madrid.

Mbappe has scored 35 goals and provided 19 assists for Mauricio Pochettino's team in all competitions this term, both club-high figures. PSG won the Ligue 1 title in dominant fashion but fell short against Madrid in the Champions League in March.

French newspaper Le Parisien reported on its website on Thursday that Mbappe was close to reaching an agreement in principle to extend his stay in Paris until June 2024.

Fayza Lamary, the 2018 World Cup winner's mother, later moved to refute suggestions Mbappe has decided anything about his future.

"There is no agreement in principle with Paris Saint-Germain [or any other club]," she wrote on Twitter.

"Discussions around Kylian's future are continuing in a climate of great serenity to allow him to make the best choice, with respect for all parties."

Mbappe scored his 130th and 131st Ligue 1 career goals on his last outing as PSG drew 3-3 with Strasbourg, making him the second highest goalscorer in the competition this century after Edinson Cavani, who scored 138 times in the league for the Paris outfit.

The forward has also scored 26 goals following a fast break in Ligue 1 since making his PSG debut in September 2017, more than double the amount recorded by any other player in the top five European leagues during that time. Mohamed Salah has 12 for Liverpool.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is Karim Benzema's biggest challenger for this year's Ballon d'Or, according to Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry.

Benzema is enjoying the best season of his career in front of goal and has played a crucial role in Madrid's run to the Champions League final, where Liverpool await on May 28.

The 34-year-old has scored 43 times and provided a further 14 assists in all competitions, with no other player across Europe's top five leagues directly involved in more goals (57).

Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe are next on that list with 54 combined goals and assists each, while Mane lags some way behind on 23 for Liverpool – albeit having missed part of the season during the Africa Cup of Nations, which he won with Senegal.

Lewandowski, Mbappe and Anfield team-mate Mohamed Salah have been tipped to rival Benzema for football's top individual award, but Henry believes Mane is better placed. 

"To make the final even bigger, the two favourites for the Ballon d'Or are Mane and Benzema," Henry told CBS Sports. "That will add an extra little spice into it."

Mane played a direct part in five goals for Senegal at AFCON, aiding his cause to be crowned the world's best player.

However, if the former Southampton forward is to have any chance of pipping Benzema to the accolade, Henry says he must win a clean sweep of trophies with Liverpool.

The Reds have already lifted the EFL Cup and are into the FA Cup and Champions League finals, but they trail Manchester City by a point with four Premier League games left.

"I still believe that Benzema is ahead, but if Mane wins [the Champions League] with Liverpool and they do make the quadruple, that is a pretty strong case," Henry said.

"It would be great for Africa, but I'm still going for Benzema."

Benzema finished fourth in the voting for last year's Ballon d'Or, which was won by Lionel Messi for a record-extending seventh time.

Indeed, only one player other than Messi and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo has won the award since 2008, with Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric triumphing in 2018.

Former Real Madrid midfielder Guti has admitted his surprise at the form of Karim Benzema this season, labelling him "football in its purest state".

Benzema scored an extra-time penalty in Madrid's dramatic 3-1 second-leg win in their Champions League semi-final against Manchester City on Wednesday and is among the favourites for this year's Ballon d'Or.

The France striker has 43 goals and 14 assists in 43 games in all competitions this season, helping Los Blancos to the LaLiga title as well as the Champions League final, where they will play Liverpool.

Speaking to TMW, Guti – who played for Madrid between 1995 and 2010 – praised his former team-mate for replacing the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo, who left for Juventus in 2018.

"In his feet there is an incredible talent, but I did not expect this performance as a goalscorer," he said.

"He is giving a lot to a Real that, after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, needed goals. Benzema represents football in its purest state."

Barcelona defender Dani Alves said "there is no such thing as luck" as he saluted fierce rivals Real Madrid's remarkable late comeback win against Manchester City.

The Spanish champions edged an epic semi-final with City 6-5 on aggregate on Wednesday to set up a showdown with Liverpool – a repeat of the 2018 final – in Paris on May 28.

Rodrygo scored twice in the space of 91 seconds to salvage extra time for Madrid, who trailed 5-3 on aggregate with less than a minute of normal time remaining.

Karim Benzema's penalty in the additional period sealed Los Blancos' passage through to a record-extending 17th European Cup/Champions League final, which is six more than any other team.

It is the third knockout round in a row that Carlo Ancelotti's men, who secured a second league title in three years at the weekend, have recovered from behind.

Indeed, since the Champions League format changed in 2003-04, Madrid are the first team to lose a match in the last 16 (1-0 vs Paris Saint-Germain), quarter-final (3-2 v Chelsea) and semi-final (4-3 v Man City) and still reach the final.

And Brazil international full-back Alves does not believe it is any coincidence that Madrid pulled off another almighty fightback.

"Just like in life, there is no such thing as luck," Alves posted shortly after full-time. "Either you dominate the game or the game dominates you."

Hailing the late impact of two-goal Rodrygo, who is the first player in Champions League history to score twice in the 90th minute of a knockout match, Alves added: "Ah, what would soccer be without the Brazilians!"

With 11 goals spread across the two legs, Madrid's memorable victory against City is the second-highest scoring semi-final in the competition's history, behind only Liverpool's 7-6 win against Roma in 2017-18.

The Reds await Madrid at the Stade de France later this month after surviving a scare of their own before seeing off Villarreal 5-2 on aggregate on Tuesday.

Barcelona are reportedly open to "big-money" offers for Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong, who has 40 caps for the Netherlands, arrived at Barcelona from Ajax for a €75million fee in 2019, accumulating 137 appearances for the club in all competitions.

The midfielder has been a key pillar in Barcelona's line-up this season, appearing 44 times, but the Catalan giants may be ready to move on as the interest from United intensifies.

TOP STORY – BARCA ARE CONSIDERING OFFERS FOR DE JONG

The Blaugrana are open-minded about potentially parting ways with De Jong, who is being closely linked with his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag for his new venture at United.

He is one of the main players on the Red Devils' wish-list, which Fichajes reports also includes Southampton's James Ward-Prowse, Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

The Telegraph adds that Ten Hag has identified eight players "he can trust" at the club, while being on the fence about Marcus Rashford's future.

ROUND-UP

– L'Equipe is reporting RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku would like to leave the club after this season, with a desire to head to Manchester City, United, Paris Saint-Germain or Milan

Newcastle United have met with the agent of Watford's Ismaila Sarr but will have to match the club's £40million asking price, per FootballTransfers.

Bayer Leverkusen are planning a move for PSG youngster Eric-Junior Dina Ebimbe after failing to secure the deal during the January transfer window, according to RMC Sport.

– Sport is reporting Samuel Umtiti will leave Barcelona in the next transfer window and wants to return to Lyon, who will be competing for his services with Rennes, Montpellier and Nice

– Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is unlikely to sign an extension with the club and could be sold in the next transfer window with his contract set to expire in 2023, according to The Times.

Celta Vigo have "temporarily" removed Santi Mina from their first-team squad pending disciplinary proceedings after the forward was sentenced to four years in prison for the sexual abuse of a woman.

A ruling handed down by the Third Section of the Provisional Court of Almeria sentenced Mina in relation to an incident on June 18, 2017.

According to Spanish news agency EFE, Mina's friend and fellow footballer David Goldar was acquitted.

Mina's legal representation confirmed he will appeal the decision.

In a statement reported by EFE, they said: "With important errors in the assessment of the tests carried out and therefore of the events that occurred, [the legal team] will proceed to file the corresponding appeal in the coming days."

Celta subsequently acknowledged the court's sentencing and communicated the opening of disciplinary proceedings against Mina while continuing to respect "the player's right to defence" ahead of his appeal.

A club statement read: "As a result of the ruling of the Third Section of the Provincial Court of Almeria, issued today [Wednesday], RC Celta has decided to open a disciplinary file on the player Santiago Mina to elucidate his work responsibilities in view of this resolution.

"For this reason and as a precaution, it has been decided to temporarily remove the player from first-team training, without prejudice to his continuing to carry out the activities indicated by the club for this purpose.

"RC Celta respects the player's right to defence, but is obliged to take measures against those events that notoriously undermine the image of the club and directly attack its values, showing once again its absolute rejection of the offense defined in the judicial resolution."

Mina, a Celta youth product, returned to the club from Valencia in 2019 and has been a first-team regular ever since.

In 2021-22, Mina has played in all but one of Celta's 34 LaLiga games, scoring seven goals.

On the back of becoming the first manager to win a clean sweep of trophies in Europe's top five leagues, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti suggested his coaching career – at club level, at least – is nearing its end.

"After Real, yes, I'll probably stop," he told Amazon Prime in an interview released on Monday. "I'd like to be with my grandchildren, go on vacation with my wife – there are so many things to do that I have left out that I would like to do. The day I quit, I'll have all these things to do."

That did come with a caveat, though. "If the club keeps me here for 10 years, I'll train for 10 years," Ancelotti added, before leaving the door open for a move into international management ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

One month shy of his 63rd birthday, making him the oldest manager to win LaLiga, Ancelotti can be forgiven for thinking of retirement and life beyond football. He has won everything there is to win, after all, including a record-equalling three European Cups.

And yet, for all his success, which includes 20 major trophies across a 26-year managerial career spanning five countries, laid-back Ancelotti is arguably looked down upon when compared to fellow heavyweights such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

The latter in particular has built a reputation – rightly – for being a philosophy-driven coach who is obsessed with the finer details. Sometimes a little too obsessed when it comes to Champions League football, some might say.

Ancelotti, on the other hand, is old-fashioned in a sense, a coach who learned his trade in the days that managers would regularly be seen puffing away on cigarettes in the dugout, rather than analysing opposition tactics on a tablet.

It was a cigar Ancelotti was seen enjoying last weekend as Madrid toasted LaLiga title glory in his first campaign back, showing there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to coaching philosophy.

The Serie A, Premier League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and LaLiga-winning coach may yet add a record fourth Champions League to his glittering CV come the end of the month, though for that to happen Madrid must first overturn a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's semi-final second leg with Guardiola's Manchester City.

The opening 90 minutes in Manchester last week produced the joint-highest scoring semi-final first leg in the competition's history, alongside Liverpool's 5-2 win over Roma four years ago, and also provided a snapshot into the two styles of not just Madrid and City but also their respective coaches.

City enjoyed 60 per cent of possession and completed 541 passes to Madrid's 336 – and an extra 248 in the opposition half – which is reflective of how both sides have played this season. 

The Citizens, much like Barcelona during Guardiola's trophy-laden four-year spell in charge, have become perfectly shaped to fit to the Catalan's own style. They have completed 31,385 passes across their 53 games this season, which is more than any other side from Europe's top five leagues.

Madrid also feature high on that list, down in fifth behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. They also rank fifth among European clubs for goals scored this season with 108. Yet, when you think of an Ancelotti side, you might struggle to immediately describe the default style of play.

Resilient, perhaps? The resilience to score three goals in the space of 17 minutes en route to eliminating PSG with a 3-2 comeback win in the last 16; the resilience to pick themselves up when trailing Chelsea 4-3 on aggregate late on in the quarter-finals, only to advance 5-4.

Ancelotti's football may not have been revolutionary in the same way that Guardiola helped to transform Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, yet the Italian has succeeded most places he has gone, not least this season with Madrid on course for their joint-highest LaLiga points haul since tallying 100 in 2011-12.

With a few simple tweaks, not least getting Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior working in tandem, Ancelotti has improved Madrid both in an attacking sense and defensively – even if they did ship four goals against City last week.

And so, while he may not be a perceived as a football 'philosopher' or someone who enjoys antagonising his counterparts, Ancelotti – in his 178th Champions League game in charge – has the chance to further prove he has stood the test of time when Guardiola's double-chasing City travel to the Spanish capital.

Should Los Blancos pull off another memorable comeback and go on and lift the trophy in Paris later this month, there would be no better way for Madrid's quiet leader to bring down the curtain on a legendary coaching career.

Barcelona's financial volatility has necessitated a cut of overall wage spend, and Philippe Coutinho has long been viewed as dispensable.

Since his big-money signing from Liverpool, the incompatibility the Brazil international has represented has only been reinforced with loan spells at Bayern Munich and Aston Villa.

However, in need of funds, the Blaugrana have reportedly set the Birmingham club a timeframe for confirming his permanent signing.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA GIVE ASTON VILLA COUTINHO ULTIMATUM

Barcelona have given Aston Villa until the end of the month to confirm whether they will sign Coutinho on a permanent deal, Sport is reporting.

The cash-strapped Catalan giants loaned Coutinho to Villa in January with a €40million (£33.7m) purchase option, but Villa have now been given until the end of May to finalise the deal.

Barcelona have reportedly insisted that the finances be resolved by the end of June, as it would help balance their accounts for the season. 

The 29-year-old has played erratically despite four goals and three assists in 14 appearances, not directly contributing to a league goal since early March against Leeds.

ROUND-UP

- Romelu Lukaku has no intention of joining Milan or Newcastle United despite frustration over a lack of opportunities, according to the Evening Standard.

- Chelsea want to sign 20-year-old Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig, Goal reports.

- Football Insider reports Inter Milan are looking to sell Stefan de Vrij, with Tottenham and Aston Villa among the clubs interested.

- Lazio are willing to lower their asking price for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to around €80million, per Calciomercato.

Dani Alves insists "things are going to change" at Barcelona under Xavi, highlighting the way the Blaugrana had reinvented themselves in the past.

Barcelona sit a distant second in LaLiga, but despite watching rivals Real Madrid win their 35th title, can all but secure Champions League qualification by beating fifth-placed Real Betis on Saturday.

Alves announced his return to Camp Nou last November after originally departing in 2016, but had to wait until January to be eligible to play. Since then, the 38-year-old has made 10 league appearances, chipping in with one goal and two assists as Xavi looks to revive Barca's fortunes after the ill-fated tenure of predecessor Ronald Koeman.

As Barca close in on Champions League qualification, the Brazilian, who won 23 major trophies in his initial eight-year spell with the Blaugrana, insists the club will rise again, just as it did after Ronaldinho's 2003 arrival or Pep Guardiola's appointment as head coach in 2008.

"We must be united, be positive, things are going to change, as they changed when Ronaldinho arrived. Before he arrived, it seemed that things were not going [well]," Alves told the club's media channels on Tuesday.

"Afterwards, it seemed that it would not be repeated, we [Guardiola's team] arrived and what happened was historic.

"Now it seems that we are living through this moment of transition, but it will be again. We must be positive and have that faith, that desire and that illusion of things changing and it will [happen] again. 

"This club has a lot of resilience, it has had to reinvent itself several times. You have to hold on to that power that this club has to return it to where it deserves to be. It is a club made to win, to be ahead. We have to keep winning, for people to want to be like Barca."

 

Barcelona have won five of their last seven league games after beating Real Mallorca 2-1 on Sunday, as the Catalan giants ended a run of three consecutive defeats at Camp Nou – the joint-worst sequence in their history.

A talented crop of young talent has proven crucial to reviving Barca's fortunes over the second half of the season, with the likes of Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, Ronald Araujo, and Sergino Dest all featuring heavily for the Blaugrana this term.

Alves, who featured alongside Xavi and an array of other La Masia graduates in Guardiola's all-conquering team, says the former midfielder is the best coach those young players could ask for.

"They have one of the best people who can teach them," Alves added. "They have the best possible teacher, they have to pay attention to what he teaches them. 

They have the qualities to be top, but it is up to them to write their own story. We will help them to be at the top and make their story."

Carlo Ancelotti has revealed he is likely to call time on his coaching career at club level once he leaves Real Madrid, but is open to staying in charge of Los Blancos for another 10 years.

The 62-year-old last week became the first ever coach to win each of Europe's top five leagues when guiding Madrid to LaLiga glory.

Ancelotti's legendary managerial career has spanned 26 years and across 11 jobs, including two stints with Spanish giants Madrid.

But the Italian is now thinking about the future and hopes to spend more time travelling and with his family.

"After Real, yes, I'll probably stop," he told Amazon Prime. "But if the club keeps me here for 10 years, I'll train for 10 years.

"I'd like to be with my grandchildren, go on vacation with my wife – there are so many things to do that I have left out that I would like to do. 

"There are many places I have never been. I have never been to Australia. I have never been to Rio de Janeiro. 

"I'd like to visit my sister more often. The day I quit, I'll have all these things to do."

 

Ancelotti has won 22 trophies, including Serie A with Milan in 2004, the Premier League with Chelsea in 2010, Ligue 1 with PSG in 2013, the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich in 2017 and LaLiga with Madrid this year.

With his latest league triumph, Ancelotti became the oldest manager to win the Spanish top flight at 62, two years older than Fabio Capello was when lifting the trophy with Madrid in 2006-07.

Having also won a record-equalling three European Cups at club level, Ancelotti has suggested he may be tempted into managing an international side in time for the 2026 World Cup.

"Yes, there could be a national team but now it is premature [to discuss that]," he said. "Certainly not for this World Cup. But for the one in 2026, why not?"

Asked if he has any interest in taking charge of Canada, who will jointly host the tournament along with the United States and Mexico, Ancelotti said: "Why not? They have done very well".

Memphis Depay is determined to be a key player for Barcelona for "several more years" despite speculation over his future.

The Netherlands forward was signed by Ronald Koeman on a two-year deal as a free agent last June after his Lyon contract expired.

Depay is Barca's leading scorer in his first season at Camp Nou with 12 goals in all competitions, but has only started two LaLiga games since the turn of the year, with Xavi bringing Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the club in January.

The 28-year-old has been hampered by injuries, but found the back of the net with a clinical finish in a 2-1 win over Real Mallorca on Sunday.

With Ansu Fati back from injury and the Blaugrana expected to strengthen ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, Depay's future has been called into question, but he is eager to stay put.

The former Manchester United attacker told ESPN: "I came here wanting to play for the team. I want to be important for the team next year and several more years,"

He added: "It's normal that I have a lot of competition at Barca. I play for the best club in the world."

Head coach Xavi also suggested Depay has a part to play beyond this season.

"Memphis trains very well and that's why he plays. We want this type of player, with this attitude," he said after Sunday's win.

"Surely I've been unfair to him, but if he performs like this he has to play."

Valencia have denied reports that Carlos Soler is set to join LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

It was claimed in the Spanish media on Monday that Soler, who is under contract until June 2023, will make the move to Barca for a fee of €20million.

Valencia reacted by tweeting "don't lie" and revealed they are in talks with the midfielder over a new deal.

A club statement said: "In response to a story published this Monday in Spanish newspaper Diario AS, Valencia CF deny the existence of any agreement – or any ongoing negotiation – with FC Barcelona for the transfer of Carlos Soler.

 

"The club are currently in an open negotiation process with the player and his agents to extend his contract with Valencia CF."

Soler has scored 12 goals and provided five assists for Valencia this season. Seven of the 25-year-old's strikes have come from the penalty spot.

Talk of Soler moving to Camp Nou comes amid speculation over the future of Frenkie de Jong, who has been linked with Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.

Real Madrid have reportedly made Chelsea's Reece James their primary transfer target ahead of next season.

Despite his time on the pitch being limited by injuries, the 22-year-old right-back has been a potent force going forwards this season, contributing five goals and six assists in 22 Premier League fixtures.

While Chelsea will likely do all they can to hold on to their homegrown England international, Madrid have had plenty of opportunities to scout the man top of their wish-list as he played all 210 minutes across their two Champions League legs, with the second going to extra-time.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID MAKE JAMES A PRIORITY

Todofichajes is reporting Los Blancos have identified right-back as a position of weakness, spelling bad news for incumbent Dani Carvajal.

Madrid, who won LaLiga on Saturday, are said to have assessed other options at the position, such as Sporting CP's Pedro Porro, but ultimately landed on James after getting an up-close look at him in the Champions League.

James still has three years remaining on his contract, and 90min is reporting a revamped new deal is one of Chelsea's top priorities once the sale of the club is complete. He is expected to fetch a transfer fee of at least €60million.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Juventus in the upcoming window, according to TEAMtalk.

- The Daily Mail is reporting Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans would prefer a move to Spain if he leaves the club, with Madrid said to have a strong interest.

- According to Birmingham Live, Manchester United sent a senior scout to watch Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.

Juve are interested in bringing Chelsea midfielder Jorginho back to Italy before his contract expires, per Todofichajes.

- Fabrizio Romano is reporting Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso is keen to return to Spain, and Barcelona have made contact. 

- Romano also claims that Chelsea are still eager to sign Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde. The France defender has an €80m release clause.

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