David Alaba is eagerly awaiting his Real Madrid debut after swapping Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for Los Blancos.

Madrid – looking for a new head coach following Zinedine Zidane's departure – confirmed the arrival of Alaba on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern contract, the Austria star signing a five-year deal at the LaLiga giants.

Following Friday's confirmation, Alaba took to social media to talk up his move from Munich to the Spanish capital after winning 27 trophies with Bayern.

"I leave one special club for another," the 28-year-old Austria international Alaba wrote via Twitter.

"After so many years in Munich, I'll take on this new challenge and do my best to continue the history of this special club.

"I can't wait to play my first game in this legendary white shirt, in front of all of you, the Real Madrid fans.

"I'm convinced that this experience will be full of success."

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

He has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde admitted he could leave the LaLiga side in the off-season amid links with Manchester United.

Kounde has emerged as one of the most sought-after centre-backs in the transfer market after countryman Dayot Upamecano joined Bayern Munich and Ibrahima Konate agreed to swap RB Leipzig for Liverpool.

United have long been linked with a move for Kounde, who helped Sevilla to a fourth-placed finish in LaLiga this term, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Premier League giants reportedly eye a new partner for Harry Maguire.

The 22-year-old France international – also a reported target for the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Arsenal – said he wants to win trophies.

"Regarding my future, I may change this summer," Kounde told reporters as France prepare for Wednesday's international friendly against Wales, ahead of the upcoming Euro 2020.

"Nothing is for sure yet, I did not take a final decision.

"Obviously, my goal is to play one day in one of the greatest clubs to keep improving and to win trophies.

"Starting every year the season knowing that the goal is to win this or this trophy. I may move but for now, it is not the case."

United already boast captain Maguire – the most expensive defender in history – Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in defence, while Axel Tuanzebe has struggled for regular game time.

When comparing Kounde to Maguire, Lindelof and Bailly across domestic league action in 2020-21, the former ranks first in passing accuracy (90.11 per cent) and clean sheets (15).

Kounde is only second to Maguire in tackles (27 to 29), tackle success (55.6 to 58.6 per cent), interceptions (40 to 60), clearances (100 to 122), recoveries (100 to 122), duel success (60.7 to 65.7 per cent) and aerials won (102 to 135).

David Alaba is to join Real Madrid on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern Munich contract, Los Blancos have confirmed.

The versatile Austria defender announced back in February that this season would be his last at the Allianz Arena, having initially joined Die Roten's youth set-up in 2008.

LaLiga giants Madrid have now swooped to bring Alaba to the Santiago Bernabeu on a five-year deal, beating off a host of Europe's elite clubs for his signature.

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

The 28-year-old has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

It remains to be seen whether Alaba, who will be presented as a Madrid player after the completion of his Euro 2021 campaign, will be playing alongside Sergio Ramos next season, or acting as a replacement for the veteran centre-back.

Ramos is out of contract next month, and has been left out of Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

David Alaba is to join Real Madrid on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern Munich contract, Los Blancos have confirmed.

The versatile Austria defender announced back in February that this season would be his last at the Allianz Arena, having initially joined Die Roten's youth set-up in 2008.

LaLiga giants Madrid have now swooped to bring Alaba to the Santiago Bernabeu on a five-year deal, beating off a host of Europe's elite clubs for his signature.

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

The 28-year-old has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

It remains to be seen whether Alaba, who will be presented as a Madrid player after the completion of his Euro 2021 campaign, will be playing alongside Sergio Ramos next season, or acting as a replacement for the veteran centre-back.

Ramos is out of contract next month, and has been left out of Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

Dani Ceballos has made clear he does not want to be loaned out again by Real Madrid, despite learning plenty during his two seasons with Arsenal.

Midfielder Ceballos won the FA Cup at the end of the 2019-20 campaign under Mikel Arteta, his first on loan at the Gunners. He returned to Emirates Stadium again, agreeing to another season-long stint in England.

However, having played 77 games for Arsenal, the Spain international now wants his long-term future resolved one way or another, revealing he wants to "feel important" at a club.

He is under contract for two more years at the Santiago Bernabeu, having joined Madrid from LaLiga rivals Real Betis in July 2017.

"It is true that I have a contract with Real Madrid for the next two years and I would not like to go on loan to any club again,” Ceballos said on the El Pelotazo show on Canal Sur Radio, according to Marca.

"With the experience of the last two years, I am a player who needs to feel important, I would like next year starting from the beginning and feeling important, but settling down.

"It's important going forward to know what you want to do."

Zinedine Zidane's departure could provide a fresh start for Ceballos at Madrid, who are now looking for a new head coach to replace the Frenchman.

On the change at Madrid, Ceballos said: "It is true that with Zizou I had fewer opportunities than I had thought, but now Madrid is without a coach, we do not know what will happen in two or three weeks, there is talk of many things and I think that right now is time to disconnect a bit from football, prepare well for what is coming and when Madrid have their next coach, let's talk and see what we want, it will be time to decide the future.”

Ceballos started 25 games for Arsenal in the 2020-21 season, with his final total of minutes (2,370) a fraction above the previous term (2,343).

The 24-year-old provided three assists and also created six big chances – deemed by Opta as those situations where a player should score – though he did not get a goal himself, having managed two in 2019-20.

"The Premier is a very attractive league, I was lucky to be able to play it last year and win the FA Cup, and this second year has helped me to consolidate myself," Ceballos said of his time at Arsenal.

"I am very happy because I have learned a lot, I have become a better player, more complete, and I think that although my stage has not closed as we would have liked, with another title, I am very happy with the experience."

Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

Captain Sergio Ramos told Zinedine Zidane he was "the one and only" as the Real Madrid head coach quit the Spanish giants.

Zidane stood down five days after his team missed out on the LaLiga title to Atletico Madrid, finishing second in the table, two points off top spot.

Madrid ended the season empty handed but have achieved plenty of success during Zidane's two spells in charge, which were separated by a chaotic nine months in which Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari both struggled to get to grips with the job.

It is unclear whether Zidane wants to work again as a coach, or whether he has other plans, but there was an outpouring of thanks from senior Madrid stars on Thursday.

Ramos said on Instagram: "ZZ, the one and only. I wish you all the best. You deserve it, you've earned it.

"Enjoy life, enjoy family. Big hug, mister. Thank you, @zidane."

High hopes and aspirations for Zidane's second stint in charge resulted in just one major title, the 2019-20 LaLiga.

With Cristiano Ronaldo having followed Zidane in leaving at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, success has not come quite as easily as it did previously, with three Champions League titles the highlight of his first period as boss.

Striker and fellow Frenchman Karim Benzema wrote: "Thank you bro for everything you have given me both collectively and personally ...

"I am proud and honoured to have been able to move forward and grow with the man that you are. See you ..."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois added: "It has been an honor to have a legend like you as a coach. Thank you for what you have taught me, for the trust you have always had in me and for what we have won together @zidane. Hopefully we meet again. I wish you the best!"

Zidane left Madrid with a 59.65 per cent winning record from his second spell, which began in March 2019, down on the 69.8 per cent he achieved in his previous 149 games at the helm.

It has been tougher without Ronaldo, who left for Juventus but has frequently been linked with a possible return that has yet to come to fruition.

In the first spell, which ran from January 2016 to the end of May 2018, Real Madrid had eight hat-tricks by players in LaLiga – Ronaldo with six of those – and a big chance conversion rate of 45.74 per cent.

Since returning to the club, Madrid have had just one hat-trick in the league, from Benzema, and their big chance conversion rate has dipped to 43.67 per cent overall and just 40.86 per cent in 2020-21 compared to Atletico's 48.19 per cent.

Veteran playmaker Luka Modric, a player whose skillset evokes memories of Zidane in his playing days for Los Blancos, only signed a new contract this week.

Modric must now wait to learn who his coach will be for the coming season, his 10th at Madrid.

The 35-year-old thanked Zidane for backing his ability to run games by saying: "Mister, It's been a great honor playing for you and winning alongside you. You are top. Best of luck"

Zinedine Zidane has stepped down as head coach of Real Madrid, ending weeks of mounting speculation over his future.

Zidane returned to Madrid for a second spell at the helm in March 2019, having led his former team to three consecutive Champions League successes from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Last season, he added a LaLiga title to the one he collected in 2016-17, but Los Blancos finished 2020-21 without a trophy to their name – bowing out in the semi-finals of the Champions League and finishing second to city rivals Atletico Madrid domestically.

A significant rebuild appears to be needed at Madrid, with Zidane deciding he is not the man for that task as the club face up to a testing financial situation and the potential of a Champions League ban for their part in the doomed Super League project.

Nevertheless, the allure of Real Madrid remains considerable and plenty of big names will be in the frame.

Raul

Zidane cut his coaching teeth with Madrid's Castilla team and fellow club great Raul is now the man in that position.

Elevating Madrid's former record goalscorer to the top job would no doubt prove popular with fans but the decision to follow the Castilla-to-first-team template backfired horribly during Santiago Solari's four-and-a-half months in charge that preceded Zidane's return.

 

Antonio Conte

Former Juventus and Italy boss Conte has been on Real Madrid's radar previously and is now on the market once more having left Inter by mutual consent.

Conte led Inter to Scudetto glory this term, adding that success to league titles won at Juve and Chelsea. However, his habit of clashing with his employers would arguably not bode well for any union with Florentino Perez.

In the Champions League, Conte's record is far less impressive. But, if a ban is on the way, the 51-year-old has shown himself to be at his very best when coaching teams rigorously for one game per week. Circumstances might conspire to make the timing absolutely right if Madrid turn to the Italian.

Mauricio Pochettino

Another coach previously linked to the Madrid post in between Zidane's spells at the helm, Pochettino appeared to be the one that got away after joining Paris Saint-Germain midway through this season.

Yet, reports emerged this week that the Argentine is unsettled in the French capital and has held talks over a dramatic return to Tottenham.

If he is open to that, he would surely listen to anything Real Madrid have to say?

 

Joachim Low

Low will bring down the curtain on 15 years in charge of Germany after the forthcoming European Championship and is certainly the kind of big name to excite Los Blancos' fanbase and boardroom alike.

It is tempting to wonder how much of the shine has come off Low in the years since Germany won the 2014 World Cup, although a strong farewell showing at Euro 2020 would assuage most doubts.

Even so, returning to club management for the first time in almost two decades at the Santiago Bernabeu might be something of a culture shock.

Massimiliamo Allegri

Yes, yes, okay. He's going to Juventus, right? Has he gone there already?

The rapidly turning European managerial merry-go-round has Allegri set for a return to Turin, the with failed Andrea Pirlo experiment apparently only having hours left to run.

On the other hand, this time yesterday, Conte was still in a job and Pochettino was settled in Paris, so far as anyone knew. And Allegri is admired in Madrid. Don't rule this one out entirely, for at least the next five minutes.

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid have made official what has long been rumoured – they are parting ways, again.

The Frenchman’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu was a hot topic for weeks, at times overshadowing Madrid's attempts to retain their league crown.

In the end, despite Los Blancos producing an 18-game unbeaten run in LaLiga as they surged towards the finishing line, Atletico Madrid did just enough to keep their noses in front in a title race that went down to the wire.

The focus for Madrid now turns to finding a replacement: What about club legend Raul? Or could the suddenly available Antonio Conte be tempted by a project in Spain?

And what next for Zidane? As so often is the case with sequels, the second episode was not quite able to live up to the standards of the original production. Still, as Opta data shows, he leaves with an impressive coaching resume across his spells in charge in the Spanish capital.

Better than Beenhakker, behind Benitez

First, the basic numbers: Zidane had 263 games in charge in all competitions across his two tenures in Madrid, winning 65.4 per cent of them.

He achieved a points-per-game ratio of 2.17, which seems impressive, right? Well, perhaps surprisingly, that average sits behind both Rafael Benitez (2.21) and Manuel Pellegrini (2.35), two coaches who did not last anywhere near as long in the job.

Indeed, Pellegrini's time in charge spanned just 48 games, despite winning him 36 of them. In his solitary LaLiga campaign, Los Blancos collected 96 points – good enough for only second place, behind Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. Despite such an impressive points record, the Chilean made way as Jose Mourinho arrived from Inter.

Zidane also finished runner-up in the 2020-21 campaign, unable to quite close the gap on Atleti down the stretch.

In comparison to the notable head coaches who reached a century of matches, both Mourinho (2.31) and Carlo Ancelotti (2.36) exceeded Zidane in terms of points per game. Leo Beenhakker – who won three successive titles in the late 1980s – however, managed 2.11 during his reign.


The reunion and a second LaLiga title

Zidane's second spell lowered his overall points-per-game average, as he won 68 out of 114 matches upon his return. That is a notable drop-off when compared to his time between January 2016 and the end of the 2017-18 season, when he rattled along at 2.29 points per outing.

His win percentage in LaLiga in his initial spell was a mighty impressive 70.8, yet Madrid still only finished top of the table once in that time, crowned champions at the end of the 2016-17 season when collecting 93 points, enough to be above a Barca squad coached by Luis Enrique in the final table.

However, since Zidane sensationally agreed to replace Santiago Solari in March 2019, Madrid have the best record in LaLiga.

That 87-game span produced 188 points, three more than rivals Barcelona managed - though both won the same number of games (56) - and it puts Madrid 12 points ahead of newly crowned champions Atleti.

Having set a ridiculously high bar in his initial stint, Zidane has not been able to match his previous successes in the Champions League either.

Madrid were already out of the 2018-19 competition when he came back to the job, stunningly beaten 4-1 at home by Ajax in the second leg of a last-16 tie. They fell in the same round a year later to Manchester City and, while able to get past Atalanta and Liverpool in the knockout stages in 2021, a 3-1 aggregate semi-final loss to Chelsea ended hopes of further European glory.


Life with and without Ronaldo

It helped Zidane first time around that he had a star-studded squad at his disposal, most of whom were in their prime. Plenty were still around for a reunion when he took over again, though one notable departure had left a sizeable gap in the squad.

Just like his head coach, Cristiano Ronaldo decided the time was right to leave Madrid after they had been crowned Champions League winners for a third successive year in 2018. A move to Juventus broke up the formidable 'BBC' triumvirate, the forward having prospered when playing alongside Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.

The Portuguese superstar departed as the club's all-time leading scorer, with 112 of his Madrid goals coming while working under Zidane. That is the same number as he managed when Ancelotti was at the helm, while four behind his career tally with Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

However, Ronaldo's most successful player-coach alliance in terms of scoring output was with Mourinho, when he managed 168 working alongside his compatriot. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Zidane's Madrid were actually better without the five-time Ballon d'Or winner during his initial reign, at least in terms of average goals for and win percentage.

When Ronaldo was involved, the head coach won 68.4 per cent of matches, his team scoring at a rate of 2.6 goals per game. However, without him, those figures actually climbed to 74.3 per cent and 2.8 goals for. Addition by subtraction perhaps, but Madrid's loss was certainly a gain for Juve when the superstar decided he wanted a new challenge in Turin.

Zidane, too, will now contemplate what is next in his coaching career. Considering his ties to Madrid, the possibility of a third stint should not be ruled out.

Zinedine Zidane's second spell as head coach of Real Madrid is over after the club announced the departure of the Frenchman.

The former 'galactico', a majestic playmaker who dazzled crowds at the Santiago Bernabeu and beyond, Zidane returned to Madrid for two spells as coach.

Now his era is over, with Madrid stating on Thursday: "Real Madrid announces that Zinedine Zidane has decided to end his current spell as coach of our club.

"It is now time to respect his decision and show him our appreciation for his professionalism, dedication and passion in all these years, and for what he represents to Real Madrid.

"Zidane is one of Real Madrid's great icons and his legacy extends beyond what he has achieved as a coach and player at our club.

"He is aware that he has a place in the hearts of the Real Madrid fans and that he will always have a home at Real Madrid."

In his first spell, from January 2016 to May 2018, Zidane delivered an astonishing three successive Champions League triumphs and one LaLiga title.

Drawn back to the club in March 2019, his second tenure did not prove quite as successful, although he led Madrid to LaLiga success in the 2019-20 season.

He departs after a barren campaign on the trophy front, however, with Madrid losing early to minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, edged out by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, and pipped to the Spanish title by Atletico Madrid.

Zidane, 48, had been tipped to depart for weeks, with the confirmation of his exit coming as no surprise to most, although Madrid striker Karim Benzema told L'Equipe this week: "I don't see him leaving. He will not leave, you will see."

Now Madrid must find a worthy successor. Their former striker Raul has been linked with the post but is inexperienced, and Massimiliano Allegri emerged as an early favourite as whispers of Zidane's decision emerged.

However Allegri, who won a Serie A title with Milan in 2011 and added five more with Juventus, is reportedly returning to the Turin giants as a replacement for Andrea Pirlo.

Antonio Conte, who left Inter on Wednesday, may be in the Madrid frame, while Joachim Low, who will step down as Germany coach after Euro 2020, could also be a contender.

Whoever takes the job will inherit a side who finished 2020-21 in fine form.

Madrid ended their LaLiga campaign on an 18-game unbeaten run, winning 13 and drawing five in that sequence to apply pressure on one-time runaway leaders Atletico, taking the title battle to the final day.

That goes down as their best run without defeat in a single league season since Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid also strung together 18 unbeaten games in the 2013-14 campaign, winning 15 times.

Zinedine Zidane's second spell as head coach of Real Madrid is over after the club announced the departure of the Frenchman.

The former 'galactico', a majestic playmaker who dazzled crowds at the Santiago Bernabeu and beyond, Zidane returned to Madrid for two spells as coach.

Now his era is over, with Madrid stating on Thursday: "Real Madrid announces that Zinedine Zidane has decided to end his current spell as coach of our club.

"It is now time to respect his decision and show him our appreciation for his professionalism, dedication and passion in all these years, and for what he represents to Real Madrid.

"Zidane is one of the great mythical figures of Real Madrid and his legend goes beyond what he has been as a coach and player of our club.

"He knows that he is at the heart of Real Madrid and that Real Madrid is and will always be his home."

In his first spell, from January 2016 to May 2018, Zidane delivered an astonishing three successive Champions League triumphs and one LaLiga title.

Drawn back to the club in March 2019, his second tenure did not prove quite as successful, although he led Madrid to LaLiga success in the 2019-20 season.

He departs after a barren campaign on the trophy front, however, with Madrid losing early to minnows Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, edged out by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals, and pipped to the Spanish title by Atletico Madrid.

Zidane, 48, had been tipped to depart for weeks, with the confirmation of his exit coming as no surprise to most, although Madrid striker Karim Benzema told L'Equipe this week: "I don't see him leaving. He will not leave, you will see."

Now Madrid must find a worthy successor. Their former striker Raul has been linked with the post but is inexperienced, and Massimiliano Allegri emerged as an early favourite as whispers of Zidane's decision emerged.

However Allegri, who won a Serie A title with Milan in 2011 and added five more with Juventus, is reportedly returning to the Turin giants as a replacement for Andrea Pirlo.

Antonio Conte, who left Inter on Wednesday, may be in the Madrid frame, while Joachim Low, who will step down as Germany coach after Euro 2020, could also be a contender.

Whoever takes the job will inherit a side who finished 2020-21 in fine form.

Madrid ended their LaLiga campaign on an 18-game unbeaten run, winning 13 and drawing five in that sequence to apply pressure on one-time runaway leaders Atletico, taking the title battle to the final day.

That goes down as their best run without defeat in a single league season since Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid also strung together 18 unbeaten games in the 2013-14 campaign, winning 15 times.

Zinedine Zidane's career as head coach of Real Madrid looks set to come to an end after a trophy-less 2020-21 season.

Madrid finished as runners-up in LaLiga, while they were knocked out in the Champions League semi-finals and exited in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

Zidane returned to take charge of Los Blancos in 2019, after a previous stint from 2016 to 2018 where they won Europe's continental crown three times in a row.

 

TOP STORY - ZIDANE STEPS DOWN AT MADRID

Spanish outlets AS and Marca both are reporting Zinedine Zidane will step down as Real Madrid head coach.

The former France international has reportedly informed the club of his final decision following weeks of speculation around his post.

Zidane had requested a few days to consider his options and has now made his final decision and contacted his players individually, the reports say.

 

ROUND-UP

- Het Nieuwsblad reports that Belgium international and Leicester City's FA Cup final hero Youri Tielemans is among Liverpool's targets as they seek to replace Georginio Wijnaldum.

- Liverpool have also reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate, according to ESPN.

- The Mirror reports that Leicester City may offer a deal to Schalke defender Ozan Kabak after he spent the second half of the season on loan at Liverpool.

- Kicker reports that Bayer Leverkusen are pondering an off-season swoop for Arsenal defender William Saliba.

- Le10Sport claims that French champions Lille are ready to replace the departed Christophe Galtier with Thiago Motta at the helm.

Toni Kroos has denied claims Zinedine Zidane has already announced to the Real Madrid squad that he is stepping down as head coach.

Reports earlier this month suggested the Frenchman informed his players of his decision to quit ahead of the 2-2 league draw with Sevilla on May 9.

However, Kroos – who assisted two goals in that game but missed Madrid's final three matches after being rested and then contracting coronavirus – has labelled those rumours a "blatant lie".

"It's been said everywhere, even in Germany, that he has already announced his departure to the team," Kroos said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast. 

"It's a blatant lie. Zizou and I have a good relationship. Without a doubt he would have told me. 

"I can't confirm it and I don't know how this will end, but I can say it's always fun working with him."

Kroos was echoing the views of team-mate Karim Benzema, who said in an interview with L'Equipe earlier this week that Zidane will not be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

Zidane revealed after his side's final LaLiga game of the season, a 2-1 win against Villarreal on Sunday, that he will hold talks with the club this week.

The growing speculation over the 48-year-old's future comes on the back of Madrid's first trophyless campaign since 2009-10.

Los Blancos finished second in LaLiga, despite an 18-game unbeaten run to see out the campaign – their best-such run since Carlo Ancelotti's time in charge in 2013-14.

They also suffered a shock early Copa del Rey exit to Alcoyano, were eliminated from the Champions League by Chelsea at the semi-final stage and lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals.

But long-serving midfielder Kroos, who has just completed his seventh season with Madrid, is confident his side will bounce back in the 2021-22 campaign.

"A season without a title is never good for Real Madrid," he said. "But not many people towards the start of the season would have expected us to reach a European semi-final.

"We also fought for the title until the last day. It wasn't a good season, but at least we were there competing.

"There are of course many questions about how Madrid will perform next season. But I am certain about one thing - Madrid will fight again, I can guarantee it.

"We will return next year and fight for everything. I have no doubt about that. The experience of being here for seven years tells me that."

On an individual level, Kroos enjoyed a positive 2020-21 campaign with three goals and 10 assists in 28 league games.

Only Marcos Llorente (11) and Iago Aspas (13), in nine and five games more respectively, managed a higher number of assists in the Spanish top flight this season.

The 2.84 chances created per game by Kroos, meanwhile, is the most of anyone to have played more than three times this season, with Alaves' Lucas Perez next on the list with 2.7.

Reflecting on Madrid's campaign, Kroos said: "We were not consistent enough this season. Everyone has problems, including us. Yet in my opinion we still showed character this season.

"We had a lot of injuries and the coronavirus problems were extreme for us, yet we didn't give up and gave everything to the end, though it couldn't be."

UEFA has begun disciplinary proceedings against European giants Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus over their role in the collapsed Super League.

The announcement from European football's governing body could result in heavy punishments for Spanish titans Barca and Madrid and Italian heavyweights Juventus.

UEFA said in a statement: "Following an investigation conducted by UEFA ethics and disciplinary inspectors in connection with the so-called 'Super League' project, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against Real Madrid CF, FC Barcelona and Juventus FC for a potential violation of UEFA's legal framework.

"Further information will be made available in due course."

Juve chairman Andrea Agnelli has been seen as a driving force behind the organisation of the tournament, which was announced on April 18 but fell apart just 48 hours later when the six English teams that had entered all withdrew.

The proposed competition guaranteed participation for the 12 founding teams.

But the anti-competitive tournament prompted outrage around the football world, and pressure from fans, players, coaches, governing bodies, governments and the media soon told.

Once the Premier League clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea – pulled out, it was clear the project would not be viable.

Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid soon followed.

However, there has been reluctance from Juve, Barca and Madrid to let the Super League die.

Amid urging from UEFA and others to back away from the project, those clubs collaborated on May 8 to defend their actions.

The three clubs stated: "The founding clubs have suffered, and continue to suffer, unacceptable third-party pressures, threats, and offences to abandon the project and therefore desist from their right and duty to provide solutions to the football ecosystem via concrete proposals and constructive dialogue.

"This is intolerable under the rule of law and tribunals have already ruled in favour of the Super League proposal, ordering FIFA and UEFA to, either directly or through their affiliated bodies, refrain from taking any action which may hinder this initiative in any way while court proceedings are pending."

They stressed that "structural reforms are vital to ensure our sport remains appealing and survives in the long-term."

Madrid, Barca and Juve claim the Super League provided "a unique opportunity to offer fans around the world the best possible show and to reinforce global interest in the sport".

Luka Modric says there is no greater feeling than playing for Real Madrid after signing a contract extension with the LaLiga giants.

Madrid confirmed on Tuesday that the Croatia international, who would have become a free agent next month, has agreed a new 12-month deal.

That will take the 2018 Ballon d'Or winner through to a decade's service at the Santiago Bernabeu, having arrived from Tottenham for a fee in the region of €35million (£28m) in August 2012.

He has won 16 club trophies during that time, including four Champions Leagues, and remains a key player for Madrid at the age of 35.

Modric is reported to have accepted a pay cut to stay on in the Spanish capital but is delighted to spend at least another year with Los Blancos.

"I'm very happy and proud to stay at this club for one more year," he told Real Madrid TV. "There's nothing better than playing for Real Madrid and there's no better feeling than playing at the Bernabeu.

"Everyone wants to play for Real Madrid and I've been lucky enough to do it. I'm going to be in my 10th year and there's nothing better than representing this great club.

"Nine years of dreams and hopefully the 10th season will also be special.

"It means a lot to me. It makes me very proud and will mean that I'll have been here for almost 10 years. That's incredible, something I didn't even expect.

"I came here when I was almost 27 and the last thing I expected was to be at this great club for so long.

"The demands here are so high and you always have to be at the very best level to deserve to stay here. I'm very happy and proud to remain at this club for another year."

Modric has made 391 appearances for Madrid in total, including 35 LaLiga outings this season – no outfield player featured more regularly for Zinedine Zidane's side.

Madrid won 22, drew nine and lost 4 of those games – a win rate of 62.9 per cent.

Modric ranked fifth in LaLiga this season for attempted passes (2,210) and successful passes (1,948) among midfielders, with Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong leading both metrics (2,785 and 2,560 respectively).

The former Tottenham man's 50 chances created, meanwhile, was bettered only by Osasuna's Ruben Garcia (53), Sergio Canales (59), Toni Kroos (67) and David Ferreiro (73) among LaLiga midfielders in 2020-21.

To further prove that age is just a number, Modric became the oldest player in the Champions League since Ryan Giggs in 2011 to have assists in three successive Champions League games earlier this year.

"I take care of myself every day as much as possible. I know that in a footballer's career, even though it's longer now, you have to remain focused, train well, recover, eat well and rest well," Modric said when asked for the secret to his longevity.

"That's the reason I think I'm still able to play at the level I've done this year. Being at this club requires you to do your best and I'm going to give it my all for as long as I'm here."

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