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."

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."

Karim Benzema has set his sights on winning Euro 2020 with France after being left "a little shocked" by his recall to the national side.

Real Madrid striker Benzema was last week named in France's squad for their upcoming European Championship campaign following an absence of nearly six years.

He had been frozen out by Didier Deschamps since 2015 after becoming embroiled in a blackmail scandal involving international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

The 33-year-old has denied the claims and is due to stand trial on the charge of complicity in attempted blackmail in October.

Benzema's recall comes on the back of a campaign in which he scored 30 goals for Madrid in all competitions, 23 of those in LaLiga – behind only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (30).

However, the prolific attacker's return to Les Bleus' setup came as a surprise, even after holding face-to-face talks with Deschamps prior to the squad being announced.

"It was a special day," he told L'Equipe. "I received a lot of messages, there were rumours. I was waiting like everyone else, in front of the TV. I was really happy.

"It happened really fast, it was a feeling of joy and pride. I remembered all the moments when I never gave up. It was a little shock, it's been a long time!"

Benzema accused Deschamps of "bowing to the pressure of a racist part of France" after he lost his place in the side, but the pair quickly buried the hatchet.

"Deschamps didn't tell me. We talked a lot, it was a long conversation, but he never said to me: 'You'll be at the Euros'," Benzema said.

"The only thing he said was that we'd taken a big step together and that we'd see.

"We were face-to-face. We hadn't seen each other since 2015. It was good to talk, I've always gotten on well with him, after three minutes everything was back to normal."

Benzema won the most recent of his 81 caps for France against Armenia in October 2015, scoring twice in that 4-0 friendly victory to take his Les Bleus goal tally to 27.

He was absent for France's World Cup triumph in 2018 and is now eager to make up for lost time by firing his country to success at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, which begins next month.

"I want to win a trophy with the France team," he said. "Anyone can say: 'It's a dream to win the Euros'.

"But the question is how to win it? And I answer that with the squad that we have, we can win it."

France begin their Group F campaign with a meeting against Germany in Munich on June 15, before facing Hungary and reigning champions Portugal.

Deschamps can also call upon the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud in attack, the latter of whom Benzema previously fell out with.

Benzema suggested last year that Giroud's talent pales in comparison to his own, but the Madrid striker insists he has no problems with his international colleague.

"Olivier, I saw him during the Chelsea match. We spoke, it was relaxed. He congratulated me for my goal," he said.

"It was good vibes, it was cool. I have already played with him, it will be the same as before."

Luka Modric has signed a one-year contract extension with Real Madrid, ending speculation over his immediate future.

The former Ballon d'Or winner was on an expiring deal but is now contracted to Madrid until June 2022.

Modric has enjoyed a glittering career with the club since signing from Tottenham nine years ago.

He has won four Champions League trophies in that span and remains a key player at the age of 35.

Club president Florentino Perez confirmed in April that an agreement had been reached, but an announcement was not made until Tuesday, three days after the league season ended with Madrid losing their Spanish title to city rivals Atletico Madrid.

Modric made 35 LaLiga appearances this season, with no other outfield player featuring on more occasions.

The experienced midfielder won the Ballon d'Or in 2018, the same year he led his international team Croatia to the World Cup final.

With Modric confirmed, attention remains on the uncertain futures of head coach Zinedine Zidane and captain Sergio Ramos, who is out of contract.

Luka Modric has signed a one-year contract extension with Real Madrid, ending speculation over his immediate future.

The 2018 Ballon d'Or winner was on an expiring deal but is now contracted to Madrid until June 2022.

Modric has enjoyed a glittering career with the club since signing from Tottenham nine years ago.

He has won four Champions League trophies in that span and remains a key player at the age of 35.

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

Real Madrid star Karim Benzema does not believe head coach Zinedine Zidane will leave the Santiago Bernabeu amid growing doubts.

Zidane is widely expected to depart Madrid after a second spell in charge of the LaLiga giants, with former club and Serie A powerhouse Juventus a possible destination.

After claiming three consecutive Champions League titles and the LaLiga trophy in his first stint, Zidane returned to Madrid in 2019 and delivered another league crown last season.

However, Los Blancos were dethroned by city rivals Atletico Madrid this term.

As speculation mounts, Benzema told L'Equipe in a full interview to be published on Tuesday: "I don't see him leaving. He will not leave, you will see."

Madrid ended the 2020-21 season amid an 18-game unbeaten streak (W13 D5) in LaLiga – the longest current undefeated run of any team in the competition, and their best such run without a defeat within the same league campaign since March 2014 under Carlo Ancelotti (W15 D3).

Benzema was involved in 32 goals in LaLiga this season (23 goals and nine assists), his best tally in a single campaign in the league after surpassing the 2015-16 term (31 – 24 goals and seven assists).

Five out of the six assists provided by Rodrygo Goes ended in Benzema goals in LaLiga.

Sergio Ramos accepts his omission from Spain's Euro 2020 squad is for the best as he prepares for a close season of "rest".

Real Madrid captain Ramos, Spain's most-capped player with 180, was the standout absentee when Luis Enrique named a 24-man party for the tournament, which begins next month.

The 35-year-old struggled with injury problems throughout 2020-21 and was restricted to 21 appearances for Madrid across all competitions, with only one of those coming since the end of March

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique's decision not to select Ramos caused surprise on Monday, particularly as he did not fill the full allocation of 26 players allowed in expanded Euro 2020 squads, nor find a spot for any other Real Madrid players.

But while there was a degree of shock, especially from Madrid fans, Ramos concedes it was probably the best decision for everyone.

"After a tough few months and a strange season unlike anything I have experienced in my career comes the Euros," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

"I have fought and worked every day, in body and soul, to be able to reach 100 per cent for Real Madrid and the national team but things don't always work out the way we'd like.

"It pains me not to have been able to help my team more and not to play for Spain but, in this case, the best thing to do is rest, fully recover and come back next year like we've always done. It hurts not to represent your country, but I have to be honest and sincere.

"I wish all my teammates the very best of luck and I hope we have a great Euros. I'll be another fan cheering on from home. A big shout to everyone and 'Viva Espana', and 'Hala Madrid' always!"

Either way, Luis Enrique's decision looks set to come under significant scrutiny for a while.

The former Barcelona coach explained Ramos "has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with group", meaning he could not be included.

Yet, the Madrid defender has actually played more club minutes in that time (395) than Eric Garcia (360) – who in this squad – though the latter was left out of the Manchester City team due to Pep Guardiola preferring alternative options, rather than a patchy fitness record.

By the closing round of LaLiga fixtures on Saturday, which Ramos watched from the bench as Madrid lost their title, the 35-year-old had been absent for significantly more matches (31) for the side this season than he had played (21).

Those 21 games and 1,790 minutes are by far the fewest Ramos has played across a season since joining Madrid in 2005, undercutting the previous low marks of 33 and 2,843 in 2015-16.

Ramos was still able to play his part in seven clean sheets, more than the six Madrid managed with their captain on the field in 2016-17 when he appeared 44 times.

Ramos seemingly plans to keep going on the international stage and with good reason – he is just four caps behind the all-time international caps record in world football, which is held by Egypt great Ahmed Hassan.

Nevertheless, Ramos does have competition from Kuwait's Bade Al-Mutawa, whose last cap in March put him on 181.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.