Manchester City will need to take their search for a new striker elsewhere with top transfer target Lautaro Martinez set to snub the Premier League giants.

Pep Guardiola had reportedly lined up the Argentina international as the long-term replacement for club legend Sergio Aguero.

But Martinez is on the brink of a sensational U-turn to remain in Serie A to the delight of coach Antonio Conte and the Milan-based club.


TOP STORY – LAUTARO SET TO REJECT CITY AND STAY WITH INTER

Eurosport reports that City's pursuit of their player at the top of their shopping list has come to an abrupt end with Martinez set to sign a new deal with Inter.

The report suggests the 21-cap international will double his money to stay in Italy, dealing a blow to City after they have monitored his situation closely for a year.

While City continue to prepare an offer for Lionel Messi should he decide to leave Barcelona, they are also set to turn their attentions to Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. 

Karim Benzema insists "there is a long way to go" in the LaLiga title race after Real Madrid made up ground on leaders Atletico Madrid.

Benzema opened the scoring on the hour-mark and Ferland Mendy doubled the lead as Zinedine Zidane’s side claimed a 2-0 victory against Getafe on Tuesday.

Atleti were held to a 2-2 home draw by Celta Vigo on Monday as Los Blancos closed the gap to five points at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, although Diego Simeone’s team still have two games in hand.

But that does not matter to Benzema, who headed in Vinicius Junior's cross to net his 16th goal of the season in all competitions, and the France international striker believes Madrid have Atleti in their sights.

"It was a good goal, a good centre from Vini and the ball goes in. I think we are back," Benzema told Movistar.

"It is always very difficult against Getafe. We will continue like this. There is a long way to go until the end.

"Each game is a final and we have to try to win every one. We are confident.

"There is always a lot of noise around Madrid because this is the best club in the world."

Next up for Madrid is a meeting with Valencia on Sunday, while table-toppers Atletico travel to face Granada on Saturday.

Third-placed Barcelona, who are three points behind Madrid and eight points off the top, host Deportivo Alaves on Saturday following their Copa Del Rey semi-final first leg against Sevilla on Wednesday.

Real Madrid will "keep on fighting" in this season's LaLiga title race, says Zinedine Zidane, whose side are five points shy of leaders Atletico Madrid.

Atleti's draw with Celta Vigo on Monday gave Madrid the opportunity to make up some ground when they faced Getafe on Tuesday, and Los Blancos cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win.

Karim Benzema's fifth headed goal of the season in all competitions – more than any other LaLiga player other than Sevilla's Youssef En-Nesyri – put Madrid ahead with an hour played before Ferland Mendy turned home Marcelo's cross.

Getafe were hardly robust opposition, however, with Jose Bordalas' side mustering just one attempt in the entire match. Indeed, Thibaut Courtois did not have to make a save, claim a catch or punch a cross clear.

It is the lowest amount of shots Madrid have faced in a LaLiga match since 2004-05, while have scored just 17 goals in the league this term - their lowest tally in a single season after 22 games played.

Nevertheless, Madrid did what was required of them and moved back into second place, three points above Barcelona and five behind Atleti, though Diego Simeone's side have two games in hand.

Zidane insisted Madrid's focus is simply on taking it game by game as they hope to retain their title.

"It will not change anything, we will do our thing. Our duty is to fight, to continue with our work, without paying attention to others," said Zidane, after seeing his side win back-to-back games for the first time in 2021.

"It's a good win. They are two consecutive victories, we needed it. Also with many injuries. We needed it now.

"I don't think there are Madridistas who think we're going to lose the league. On the contrary, they think we can always change things and that is what we are going to try to do. 

"With difficulties, it is clear, but we continue to do our thing. You have to keep fighting, little by little."

With Madrid cruising, Zidane introduced the lesser-spotted Isco in the 75th minute – the playmaker having not featured since January 23 due to a back injury.

Isco has made just three LaLiga starts this season and has created five chances – registering one assist – across 12 league appearances in total.

"Isco couldn't start," Zidane explained when asked why Isco, who was linked with a move away in January, was on the bench.

"He has only trained once with the team. Then he entered the game a little later. It was just that, because he only did one training session with us."

Karim Benzema proved decisive yet again for Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane's side took advantage of Atletico Madrid's slip-up by beating Getafe 2-0 in LaLiga.

After a run of four league matches against Getafe without being directly involved in a goal, Benzema headed Madrid in front an hour into Tuesday's clash.

In a match of few clear-cut opportunities, Benzema had previously gone close to breaking the deadlock when he hit the bar 14 minutes in.

Ferland Mendy made sure of what could prove a valuable victory, given city rivals and LaLiga leaders Atleti were pegged back late on and could only draw with Celta Vigo on Monday.

Madrid relied on Raphael Varane to snatch a late winner at Huesca last time out but aimed to make a fast start this time around – Casemiro blazing over from point-blank range before Benzema's header struck the crossbar.

Los Blancos saw just under 70 per cent possession in the first half, yet ultimately their only shot on target came when Luka Modric forced David Soria into an awkward stop.

Soria was called into action much sooner in the second half, making himself big to deny Benzema from a tight angle.

A neat passage of play from Getafe saw Marc Cucurella get into a similar position down the other end, yet the former Barcelona man's touch let him down.

Getafe were duly punished – Benzema making no mistake on this occasion as he directed Vinicius Junior's pinpoint cross beyond Soria.

It was 2-0 six minutes later, Marcelo drilling a low left-wing cross to the front post, with Mendy on hand to turn home his first LaLiga goal of 2020-21.

Benzema curled wide soon after, but Getafe never came close to testing Thibaut Courtois as Madrid cruised to a routine triumph.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are still eyeing Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Unsurprisingly, Messi's future remains a talking point with his contract with the LaLiga giants expiring at the end of the season.

And the two clubs most strongly linked with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner remain interested.

 

TOP STORY – PSG, MAN CITY STILL EYEING MESSI

Paris Saint-Germain are quietly continuing their push to sign Barcelona star Lionel   Messi , according to France Football.

The Ligue 1 giants have angered Barca boss Ronald Koeman as those connected with PSG have regularly discussed Messi.

ESPN says Manchester City are also still tracking Messi, but will wait until March or April before making more of a move.

ROUND-UP

- Out of contract at Real Madrid in 2022, Raphael Varane 's future is unclear. Marca reports the LaLiga giants suspect the defender will not renew and they could sell him for €50million at the end of this season as a result, with PSG and Manchester United interested.

- Madrid are favourites to land Bayern Munich star David Alaba . The Telegraph reports Alaba's wage demands, believed to be around £20m per year, are too high for Chelsea . Alaba is set to leave the Bundesliga giants when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- United 's sights may be elsewhere. The Independent claims RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate is their main centre-back target ahead of 2021-22. Konate has also been linked to Liverpool and Chelsea .

- Arsenal want a young left-back to learn from Kieran Tierney, according to The Athletic.

Real Madrid star Eden Hazard said he wants to keep playing for at least another five of six years as the upbeat attacker insisted injuries are "not the end of the world" amid fitness issues at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Hazard swapped Chelsea for Madrid in a reported €100million deal in 2019 but his time in the Spanish capital has been plagued by injuries.

The 30-year-old, who is set to miss "two or three weeks" due to a damaged rectus femoris muscle in his left leg, has only started 20 games in LaLiga – six of those coming this season, and scored just three goals.

Hazard has failed to complete a full 90 minutes in any match for Madrid in 2020-21 across all competitions, but the Belgium international remains positive.

"I'm just hoping to play football for as long as possible, and I always try to enjoy myself on the pitch," he told On The Front Foot.

"When it comes to the end of my career I can look back at my achievements, but my priority now is playing well and enjoying my football. 

"I don't think about where I will be in the next few years, I try to focus on the next match and the next training session.

"I've only just turned 30 so as long as my body feels good, hopefully I can keep playing for at least another five or six years."

"I'm lucky that when I'm injured and stuck at home, I have my family to get me through," Hazard added.

"It's not the end of the world for me because I can spend time with my kids, when you're alone and injured it can be tough but I'm lucky that I have my family to support me.

"When you're injured there's only so much you can do, you can work to get better faster but the injuries I have had just take time to heal. I just have to wait, work hard to get better and when I'm at home I can enjoy the time with my family."

Zinedine Zidane has denied suggestions he is close to leaving Real Madrid, though offered no guarantees about his future.

Madrid boss Zidane defiantly declared prior to last Saturday's meeting with Huesca he would not throw in the towel after seeing his team beat Deportivo Alaves and lose at home to Levante in his absence due to a positive coronavirus test.

Prior to that, Los Blancos lost in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals against Athletic Bilbao and suffered a humiliating Copa del Rey exit at the hands of third-tier Alcoyano.

Although Madrid came from behind to beat Huesca 2-1 to record their second win in six games, Zidane still faced questions about his future ahead of a clash with Getafe on Tuesday.

When it was put to him his comments last week led to some concerns among fans that he could be on his way out of the club, Zidane replied on Monday: "No, listen, the important thing is the day-to-day work, that's what we're doing. The other day, whatever happened, we're just going to work.

"Everyone is here, we're just going to try to work. And the rest, everyone has freedom to have their opinion, that's normal.

"Everyone can say what they say, but I can also say what we're going to do here: that's work hard, believe in what we're doing and try to recover a bit of confidence and end the season well."

He added: "Why would I abandon Real Madrid? I'm doing what I like here. This is football; there are tough moments, but you just get on with it.

"We are just going to fight and battle, we need to do things properly with this team. Real Madrid is a great club and what you have to do is compete. There will always be changes here.

"We're all in the same boat here. I feel supported by everybody. You have to say what you have to say but we know what we have to do here. We just have to do things well, like we were doing just three or four weeks ago.

"There are difficult moments in a season, you have to accept it, and that helps you in more difficult moments. That's what we want to do, we want to change the situation.

"We've got important players, they're very good, they've won a lot, and nothing is going to stop us working hard for the rest of the season."

However, when asked if he would see out his contract, which runs until 2022, Zidane did not offer a straight answer.

"Well, we'll see," he said. "The important thing is, I said it to the other reporters, we're just focused on this season, the game tomorrow.

"I just focus on the day-to-day, today, tomorrow, the game. As for the rest, I don't know what's going to happen so I'm not thinking about anything apart from the game tomorrow."

Juventus are not targeting Eden Hazard, while Sergio Ramos looks set to wait for a new Real Madrid deal.

Hazard's future has become a talking point amid his struggles at Madrid since arriving from Chelsea in 2019.

But just where the playmaker could end up remains to be seen.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS NOT INTERESTED IN HAZARD

Juventus are not interested in Real Madrid playmaker Eden Hazard for now, according to CalcioMercato.

Hazard has made just 24 LaLiga appearances for Madrid since arriving ahead of 2019-20 after battling numerous injuries.

Madrid reportedly paid €100million for the Belgium international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid is also uncertain. The defender is out of contract at the end of the season and is reportedly set to miss another two months after undergoing knee surgery. Marca says Ramos will still be without a contract by the time he returns, most likely in April.

- Changes are also expected at Barcelona at season's end. CalcioMercato reports Milan are interested in midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who has struggled to live up to expectations with the LaLiga giants.

- Barcelona and Arsenal are interested in bringing in Marc Overmars as sports director, according to Mundo Deportivo, with the former Netherlands international set to leave his role as Ajax director of football at season's end.

- After several impressive displays for Leicester City, the Premier League club are rushing to renew Youri Tielemans' contract, which runs until 2023, according to TodoFichajes.

Will he leave Paris Saint-Germain or not?

That is the question regarding French star Kylian Mbappe.

Real Madrid are keen, but they are reportedly prepared to wait.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WAITING FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid have decided to wait to sign Kylian Mbappe until Paris Saint-Germain put the French star up for sale, according to Marca.

LaLiga champions Madrid have been tipped to sign Mbappe, who has also been linked with Premier League holders Liverpool.

PSG are trying to re-sign Mbappe as his contract runs out in 2022, and if they are unsuccessful amid their pursuit of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, Madrid are ready to pounce.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Sergio Ramos' knee injury could spell the end of his illustrious career with Madrid. Ramos is out of contract at season's end and the star captain has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, PSG, Chelsea and Juventus.

Liverpool are interested in Leeds United winger Raphinha, reports Football Insider. The Brazilian only moved to Elland Road at the start of the season.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Juventus are hoping to sign Roma sensation Nicolo Zaniolo.

Sergio Ramos was at risk of an even more serious injury if he had not gone for meniscus surgery, Zinedine Zidane has claimed.

Real Madrid captain Ramos could face around two months on the sidelines after going under the knife - a considerable blow against the club's fading title defence.

The 34-year-old appears certain to miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie against Atalanta and El Derbi against Atletico Madrid on March 7.

Madrid cut Atleti's lead at the top of LaLiga to seven points as Ramos' defensive colleague Raphael Varane scored both goals in a 2-1 comeback win over bottom club Huesca. However, Diego Simeone's men have two games in hand.

"It was important for him to be calm with [the operation]," Zidane told reporters when discussing Ramos after the match.

"It had to be done because he was on the edge. The operation went very well and that is the important thing. He will work from tomorrow to be with us again."

Madrid headed to El Alcoraz with two wins from their six games in all competitions in 2021 and were second-best for spells against their lowly opponents, who hit the crossbar either side of Javi Galan's emphatic 48th-minute opener.

But Varane smuggled home when a Karim Benzema free-kick looped back off the crossbar and the France centre-back was on hand once more to poke in when Casemiro's header was saved, easing the pressure on his countryman Zidane.

"We are happy with the victory. It was a difficult game but we added the three points," Zidane said.

"You have to keep fighting. This [season] is still long.

"It's never easy at 1-0 when your opponent scores a goal. We had minutes of difficulty, but we stayed in the game thinking that it could be changed and that's what we did, with personality."

Raphael Varane was Real Madrid's unlikely hero as he scored twice in a 2-1 comeback win over LaLiga basement boys Huesca.

Under-fire head coach Zinedine Zidane looked to rally his players with a defiant media briefing on Friday but they were often lacklustre El Alcoraz, with Javi Galan brilliantly giving Huesca the lead in the midst of a five-minute spell after half-time where they hit the crossbar twice.

Karim Benzema waged an at-times lone battle to get Madrid back into the match and countryman Varane converted the rebound when his 55th-minute free-kick spun up off the crossbar.

Alvaro Fernandez made a string of magnificent saves to frustrate the tireless Benzema, but Varane was on hand six minutes from time to close the gap at the top of the table to seven points - although Atletico Madrid have two games in hand.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has had surgery on a meniscus injury, the club have confirmed.

Initial reports in Spain suggest the centre-back could be out of action for up to two months after the operation on his left knee.

That would mean Ramos is almost certain to miss both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie with Atalanta and the derby with LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid on March 7.

The 34-year-old has been out since playing the full 90 minutes of their 2-1 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana on January 14.

In his absence, Zinedine Zidane's side suffered a humiliating Copa del Rey exit to Alcoyano and lost 2-1 to Levante in LaLiga after beating Deportivo Alaves 4-1.

In all competitions in 2020-21 prior to Saturday's meeting with Huesca, Madrid have won just 40 per cent of matches without Ramos compared with 61 per cent when he has played.

Indeed, they have won four and lost five of the 10 games without their captain, scoring fewer goals (1.5 compared with 1.8) and conceding more (1.3 compared to 1.0).

Such is the influence of Ramos on their play, Madrid's average possession drops from 63.1 per cent to 56 per cent in his absence, while they attempt two fewer shots and concede two more crosses per game.

The veteran Spain international scored 11 goals in 35 appearances in LaLiga last season as he inspired his side to the title but has managed only two goals in 14 league games in 2020-21.

His future beyond this term remains unclear, with his contract expiring at the end of the season and Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United reportedly interested in signing him.

After taking on Huesca, Madrid face Getafe, Valencia and Real Valladolid before the first leg of the European tie with Atalanta in Bergamo on February 24.

Ronald Koeman does not agree with Gerard Pique's claim that referees favour Real Madrid over other LaLiga sides.

Pique this week quoted a former referee who, according to the Barcelona defender, said 85 per cent of officials in Spain's top flight were from Madrid.

In an interview with Post United, Pique said: "How are they not going to whistle in favour of Real Madrid? Even unconsciously, how are they not going to give more for one side than the other?"

Pique added last season, when Madrid won the title, was "the most absurd refereeing experience ever".

En route to the championship in 2019-20, Zinedine Zidane's side earned a joint-high 11 penalties and conceded a joint-low two.

But Koeman disagrees with his centre-back, who reportedly could be sanctioned for his comments, insisting the league's referees are honest.

"Those are [Pique's] words. I can only comment on this year, not on previous seasons," Koeman told reporters.

"There are decisions in which we have had no luck, but I don't think they are against us. They are decisions of the referee and also VAR.

"I always think that the attitudes of the referees are honest. They give what they see and are not in favour of any team."

The numbers have changed this term as Madrid have received a joint-low 37 cards (36 yellow, one red) but only Cadiz (none) and Huesca (one) have won fewer than their two penalties.

The defending champions have also conceded a joint-high seven spot-kicks heading into this weekend.

Barca have been shown 38 cards, won five penalties and given away two.

Koeman was speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to Real Betis, which follows hot on the heels of Barca playing 120 minutes against Granada in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

Victory after extra time in that match set up a double-header with Sevilla in the semi-finals, adding to an already packed schedule.

Koeman feels the calendar is "killing the players" and pleaded for help from competition organisers.

"It is difficult," he said. "The number of games that the big teams have, with three competitions, on top of the COVID situation, makes everything more difficult.

"You have to talk with the players to see how they are physically, their feelings. Sometimes you have to give someone a rest to be able to have everyone in the best condition.

"If we count tomorrow's game and Wednesday's, there are 12 games in a row, of which 11 are away from home. And that's playing at 21:00, coming home at 03:00 in the morning. It is difficult for the players to be able to play all the time. We need help.

"I hope that one day UEFA or LaLiga will think about the number of games and what this does to the players. It is not normal. The games we've had to play, the trips, the schedules, playing the Supercopa between four teams, in my opinion, is a lot.

"Each coach has his opinion about the fixture schedule that the players have to go through. I think this has to stop, it's killing the players. We will have many injuries as a result of this. It is impossible.

"Hopefully one day they will make a decision to help the players with their fitness."

Chelsea are not giving up in their pursuit of Bayern Munich star David Alaba.

Alaba, 28, is linked with numerous European giants, with Real Madrid reportedly leading the race to sign the defender.

But it seems Chelsea are unwilling to give up.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA STILL EYEING MADRID TARGET ALABA

Chelsea will attempt to hijack Real Madrid's move for Bayern Munich defender Alaba, according to The Guardian.

It was reported Alaba, who is out of contract at the end of the season, had agreed to a four-year deal with Madrid.

Chelsea have been linked with numerous centre-backs.

Goal reports the Premier League club's signing plans are linked to Bayern Munich's transfer plans as the Bundesliga giants are favourites to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

Upamecano and Niklas Sule, another Bayern defender, are also said to be targets for Chelsea.

 

ROUND-UP

- Can Manchester City land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland? The Daily Star reports City bosses believe winning the Premier League will help them beat Chelsea to Haaland in a £100million (€114m) deal.

- Tottenham have won just two of their past 10 Premier League matches, leading to talk about Jose Mourinho's future. The Telegraph reports the Spurs head coach is under pressure but not in imminent danger of being sacked.

- Manchester United are targeting a deal for Norwich City right-back Max Aarons as they seek competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, according to the Daily Express.

- Following Andre Villas-Boas' exit, Marseille are looking for a new coach. Le 10 Sport reports Atletico Mineiro boss Jorge Sampaoli is the favourite to take charge of the Ligue 1 club.

Eden Hazard should recover from his latest injury setback in "two or three weeks", according to Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

A damaged rectus femoris muscle in his left leg initially led to concerns that Hazard could be sidelined for up to six weeks, making him a doubt for both legs of the Champions League last-16 tie with Atalanta.

However, the Belgium international should recover in half that time, meaning he could have a chance of featuring in the first leg against Atalanta in Bergamo on February 24.

Hazard has already had two spells out with muscular issues this season, while he also missed time after a positive coronavirus test.

"The best Hazard is exactly what we want, we want to see a fully fit Hazard – we look at how tough it's been for the football player, [who] wants to prove how good he is and wants to play for Real Madrid," said Zidane ahead of Saturday's LaLiga meeting with Huesca.

"It's not an easy time for the footballer. I'm sure it's a matter of time before we see him back playing and hopefully he won't pick up another injury.

"Hopefully, when he recovers, we see the best Hazard, maybe in two or three weeks when he recovers.

"I think it's a bit of bad luck. It's not been easy on the player. We have to maintain a positive attitude. He's a great player, we need him back 100 per cent."

He added: "Do you think he's happy with what's going on? Well, no. He's doing what he can to be in good shape, but you know in the life of a player you can be injured.

"We'll have to look at maybe changing something and improve this situation. He's the first player who wants to be fine, of course."

Madrid have been without captain Sergio Ramos for the past three games due to a knee injury and they will have to become accustomed to his absence if he does not extend his contract beyond this season.

Ramos has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United, and Zidane reiterated his hope that Madrid could reach an agreement with the 34-year-old.

"I don't know anything. I don't think anyone really knows what the current situation is," said Zidane.

"Hopefully it's something that gets sorted out and that Sergio can continue being a part of the club, and a captain."

Martin Odegaard was allowed to leave during the latest transfer window, with the Norway international joining Arsenal on loan for the rest of the campaign.

Zidane was reluctant to let Odegaard go but sanctioned the switch at the player's insistence.

"The footballer wanted minutes, wanted to leave the club. We had two or three conversations," said the Madrid boss.

"He's a footballer who wanted to try elsewhere. It was the player who requested this move, I was of course in the know.

"I thought maybe the player could have stayed here, fought for a place in the first team. I wanted him to come back to the club because he's a talented player.

"I think the player wanted to go out on loan, get more minutes. The important thing is he's happy, we're happy too. It's good for both parties."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.