Meanwhile, the competition features reigning continental champions and champions of the host country. But FIFA has announced its intentions to change the format from June 2025 to feature 32 teams and be held every four years
Gareth Bale announced his retirement from club and international football at the age of 33 on Monday, bringing to an end one of the most decorated careers in British football history.
Wales’ record appearance holder and goalscorer led his country from the international football wilderness to qualify for two European Championships, reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016, and a first World Cup since 1958.
The Los Angeles FC forward, who previously played for Southampton, Tottenham and Real Madrid, made his final competitive appearance during Wales’ World Cup group stage fixture with England on November 29.
“After careful and thoughtful consideration, I announce my immediate retirement from club and international football,” Bale posted in a message on social media.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to have realised my dream of playing the sport I love.
“It has truly given me some of the best moments of my life. The highest of highs over 17 seasons, that will be impossible to replicate, no matter what the next chapter has in store for me.”
Tottenham Hotspur are not worried about the prospect of Son Heung-min leaving the club amid reports linking him with the likes of Real Madrid, 90min understands. Also Read: I Need A Man Who Can Last 90 Minutes – Pretty Lady Son has endured a difficult start to the 2022/23 season at club level, but remains one of world football’s most feared forwards and placed 11th for the 2022 Ballon d’Or.
Prior to the start of his 2021/22 Premier League Golden Boot-winning campaign, the South Korean signed a new contract in north London running until 2025. Update: Rich sugar mummies in Lagos | No connection fee But German outlet Sport1 reported this week that he is considering a new challenge in his career and that he was being watched closely by Real Madrid, while Bayern Munich and PSG were also touted as potential destinations.
However, 90min understands that even if Son were to want out of Spurs, the club would not consider his departure for another couple of years at least
The contract he penned last year reflected both his overall importance to the club and his lofty standing in the game.
Furthermore, sources have told 90min that Real Madrid are playing down links to Son. Club president Florentino Perez recently asserted that they already have two future Ballon d’Or winners who play on the wing on their books in Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo, while Kylian Mbappe continues to be linked with an eventual move to the Santiago Bernabeu. » Video of Oxlade nacking another girl goes viral | Watch 🔥🔥 Meanwhile, 90min reported earlier this week that Spurs remain confident that Harry Kane will sign a new long-term contract. His current deal expires in 2024 and Bayern Munich are interested in his services.
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Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema won the Ballon d’Or award for the best player in the world on Monday, beating Robert Lewandowski, Sadio Mane and Kevin De Bruyne to the top prize.
Benzema, who played a pivotal role in Real’s run to the Champions League title last season, is the first French player to win the trophy since Zinedine Zidane in 1998 and the fifth after Raymond Kopa, Michel Platini and Jean-Pierre Papin.
“This prize in front of me makes me really proud. When I was small, it was a childhood dream, I never gave up… Anything is possible,” Benzema said on stage at the ceremony.
“There was a difficult period when I wasn’t in the French team but I never gave up. I’m really proud of my journey here. It wasn’t easy, it was a difficult time for my family as well.”
Benzema had a stellar season with Real, scoring 44 goals in 46 games in all competitions as he helped guide them to a LaLiga and Champions League double. His 15 goals in the Champions League guided Real to a record-extending 14th title.
Real made remarkable comebacks from losing positions in the last-16, quarter-finals and semi-finals against Paris St Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City respectively — with Benzema scoring in each of the second legs.
The highlight of their European campaign was the 3-1 win in the second leg against PSG when the Spanish club were 2-0 down on aggregate, with Benzema grabbing a 17-minute hat-trick in the second half to stun the Ligue 1 side
La Liga president Javier Tebas has again suggested that Kylian Mbappe should have joined Real Madrid this summer as opposed to signing a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain.
Los Blancos have long been interested in Mbappe and even made a nine-figure bid for him last summer despite entering the final year of his contract at PSG. The offer was declined, but the forward was then expected to join Real the following summer on a free transfer instead.
However, Mbappe shocked the world when he instead penned a new three-year contract at Parc des Princes at the end of May.
Tebas has long criticised this move, continually insisting that PSG must be operating outside their financial means in order to have tied the 23-year-old down to a new deal on such lucrative terms.
Speaking at a La Liga conference, Tebas did not miss another opportunity to take a swipe at Mbappe’s choice to snub Real and stay at PSG.
“If we look at the clubs where they are, we see that these are clubs that are pouring money. Of course, we would have liked them to come, but they weren’t there last year either,” Tebas said when asked about La Liga’s current lack of star names.
“Mbappe stayed in a championship that is not competitive.”
Astonishingly, Thomas Tuchel is no longer Chelsea’s head coach after being relieved of his duties in the wake of the 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League.
The German had just overseen a world record £273m spend in the summer transfer window, but Todd Boehly and the Chelsea board have opted to axe Tuchel after an indifferent start to the season – one that has seen the club struggle to forge any kind of identity on the pitch and one that has looked toothless in front of goal.
The search will now begin for Tuchel’s replacement, but who will be in the frame to replace him?
Zinedine Zidane, Clubs managed: Real Madrid Castilla, Real Madrid Zinedine Zidane’s name is in the mix for every big job going and Chelsea’s vacancy is bound to see the Frenchman linked with a Premier League move.
Two hugely successful spells at Real Madrid make Zidane an enticing prospect for Todd Boehly and the Blues board, but it remains to be seen whether he can be talked out of waiting for the France job – which may become available after this winter’s World Cup.
A proven winner in the big leagues, Zidane’s pedigree could be just what Chelsea need.
Mauricio Pochettino, Clubs managed: Espanyol, Southampton, Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain Tottenham Hotspur fans, look away now.
It would seem unlikely that Mauricio Pochettino would break his bond with the club’s supporters but could he really turn down the advances of Chelsea if they came calling? He has an abundance of Premier League experience, with Southampton as well as Spurs, and has a proven track record of getting the best out of players.
Failing to win the Champions League with PSG has tarnished Pochettino’s reputation a little, but he remains one of the best coaches in the world.
Graham Potter, Clubs managed: Ostersund, Swansea, Brighton Brighton are continuing to go from strength to strength under Graham Potter and it’s no surprise to see him touted as one of the favourites to take over.
The Seagulls will do their utmost to keep hold of Potter, should an approach be made, and there’s no guarantee that the 47-year-old would walk away from a hugely appealing project down on the south coast.
But his stock has risen exponentially over the last 12 months, and he’s widely regarded as one of the most progressive coaches in the game.
Roberto Mancini, Clubs managed: Fiorentina, Lazio, Inter, Manchester City, Galatasaray, Zenit One manager who has been out of the club scene for a little while is Roberto Mancini, but the Italy boss could be swayed by the prospect of taking over at Stamford Bridge.
He’s won the European Championship with his country but wasn’t able to qualify for this winter’s World Cup in Qatar, meaning there’s very little for him to achieve on the international stage – unless he wants to have another crack at the Euros.
A Premier League winner with Manchester City, Mancini knows how to get it done in England and is used to the pressure of managing a top club.
Rodgers, Clubs managed: Watford, Reading, Swansea, Liverpool, Celtic, Leicester Leicester City are in the doldrums right now, sitting plum bottom of the Premier League table, but Brendan Rodgers still has a decent reputation in the game.
The Northern Irishman also cut his teeth at Chelsea, honing his skills as a coach at youth level, and the opportunity to return to Stamford Bridge could bring to an end what’s becoming a bit of a nightmare spell at King Power.
Rodgers would also reunite with Wesley Fofana, having plucked him out of relative obscurity to help coach him into being one of Europe’s top defenders.
Real Madrid’s France star Karim Benezema deserves to win the Ballon d’Or, according to seven-time laureate Lionel Messi.
Benzema was crucial in Madrid’s Champions League victory this season, culminating with a 1-0 win over Liverpool in Paris on Saturday.
Although he did not score in the final, Benzema’s back-to-back hat-tricks in the knock-out rounds, starting with a 17-minute treble against Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain to overturn a 2-0 aggregate deficit, were crucial to generating the momentum that swept the Spaniards to the title.
“There’s no doubt, it’s very clear that Benzema has had a spectacular year and has ended it by winning the Champions League,” Messi told Argentine channel TyC Sports.
“He was crucial from the last-16 onwards in every match and I think there’s no doubt” that Benzema deserves to win the Ballon d’Or.
Messi was speaking a couple of days ahead of a friendly with Italy at Wembley stadium between two continental champions.
The match between the South American Copa America holders and the European champions, where many Argentines trace their roots, is known as the “Finalissima”.
But while Argentina stormed to qualification for the Qatar World Cup later this year with several games to spare, Italy astonishingly missed out after losing to minnows North Macedonia in a play-off.
“What happened with Italy is crazy, having won the Euros and not being at the World Cup, given Italy’s history at the World Cup,” he said.
“If Italy had been at the World Cup they would have been one of the favorites. They were unlucky. No one would have wanted to play them.”
Having spent his entire career at Barcelona, the 34-year-old moved to PSG a year ago where he has struggled to reproduce his best form.
He admitted it had been “a difficult change” and that the first day he took his children to school in Paris he left “crying”.
Having caught Covid-19 at the end of 2021, Messi is convinced the virus has left “scars” in his lungs while he also admitted the Champions League capitulation against Real was “a tough blow”.
Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 on Saturday to complete a remarkable Champions League campaign with a record-extending 14th title in the elite event and a milestone for their coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Vinicius Junior scored the winner in the 59th minute at the Stade de France for the Spanish champions who earlier had a goal from tournament top scorer Karim Benzema disallowed for offside.
They also had to thank their goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who made several first-half big saves against Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, pushing the latter’s shot against the left post during Liverpool’s best spell, and was also unbeatable after the break.
It was Real’s first title in the event since 2018 – when they also beat Liverpool – and showed their remarkable spirit that had already seen them beat Paris Saint-Germain, title holders Chelsea and Manchester City against the odds in previous rounds.
Ancelotti became the first coach with four titles, twice with AC Milan 2003 and 2007 and twice with Real 2014 and 2022.
The 2007 and 2022 wins came against Liverpool as Jürgen Klopp’s side failed to get a seventh Champions trophy at the end of a season that also saw them just missing out in the Premier League while winning the FA Cup and the League Cup.
The action started 37 minutes behind schedule, with organizers first naming security concerns and then late arrival of fans while news reports spoke of chaotic scenes outside the arena as fans queued for hours and some allegedly tried to get in without tickets.
Liverpool almost drew first blood in the 15th minute but Courtois dove to his left to keep out Salah’s short range effort off Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross.
It was all Liverpool now, and five minutes on, Courtois just managed to push a low shot from Sadio Mane against the left post.
Real took a while to recover, and Liverpool needed to be on their guard twice against Vinicius Junior – while in-between Salah headed into the arms of Courtois from a promising position.
That was Liverpool’s fifth attempt on target while Real found the net on their first attempt shortly before halftime, only to have Benzema’s strike disallowed for offside after a long video review.
David Alaba played a long ball over the top to the French striker who then ran out of space against Alisson Becker but got a second chance after Liverpool failed to clear and hit home behind the goalkeeper after Federico Valverde’s effort was deflected by Fabinho – with the video assistant seemingly deciding Valverde’s ball was a pass to Benzema and Fabinho’s touch no proper clearance.
It was a huge let-off for Liverpool who however used the break to regroup and were the livelier side again – only to really fall behind just before the hour against clinical.
Valverde had a determined run into the penalty area and played a low ball toward the far post where Vinicius Junior sneaked in behind Alexander-Arnold for an easy side-footed tap-in.
Liverpool fought for the equalizer but found no way past Courtois whose biggest effort was saving Salah’s shot from point-blank range with his upper arm in the 82nd.
Real Madrid president Florentino Perez claimed Kylian Mbappe is ‘already forgotten’ after the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final.
Los Blancos won European football’s premier club competition for a record-extending 14th time on Saturday night, overcoming Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool thanks to Vinicius Junior’s second half goal.
It was no more than Carlo Ancelotti’s side deserved after an outstanding defensive display, highlighted by a wonderful performance in goal from man of the match Thibaut Courtois.
After the game, Perez spoke to Movistar and TVE, where he spoke not only of Real’s success this season but also the fact that the club have moved on from Mbappe – who turned down a move to the Santiago Bernabeu to instead extend his contract at Paris Saint-Germain.
“Madrid will always continue to work on having the best players, but Mbappé is already forgotten, nothing has happened, Madrid has had a perfect season and it is a forgotten issue. Today there is no Mbappé, there is the party of the Real Madrid”.
Perez on Real Madrid’s season “This year we have had a good season in general, a good competition, we have been lucky in that we have all the difficult teams and we have been overcoming one after another, it is a very deserved Champions League, the fruit of the players, from the coach and from the fans.
“These players are infected by the fans and we have seen some games that we will not easily forget.”
Perez on Courtois’ performance “With all of them, the one he did with his foot against City. He’s had a spectacular season, he’s the best goalkeeper in the world and that’s why we brought him in, he’s very much a Real Madrid fan, Ancelotti is right when he says that the difference between Madrid and the others is that the Madrid players are madridistas.
“I remember how the veterans in the match against City were already off the field and encouraged the youngsters. Madrid is a way of understanding life, with its values, with its troubles sometimes, but as here it is not a club that we share benefits because there are none, we are a club of members, that communion has its importance”.
“It will have something to do with it because if he has won four he will have something, he is a good conductor who knows the psychology of the players, he knows Real Madrid very well and he knows football very well”.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has confessed that his side’s defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final has brought back memories of Barcelona’s loss to Chelsea at that stage in 2012.
City were on top for the vast majority of the two-legged tie and were just seconds away from a 5-3 aggregate victory, only for two late goals from Rodrygo to send the tie to extra-time, where Karim Benzema struck from the penalty spot to secure a final berth for Los Blancos.
It was a similar story back in 2012 when Guardiola’s Barcelona were clearly the stronger side but came undone against Chelsea, who snatched a 1-0 win in the first leg before a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou sent Roberto Di Matteo’s men through to the final.
“I’ve always had defeats in the Champions League, I’ve had defeats so tough,” Guardiola said post-match in Madrid. “Barcelona against Chelsea, when both games were exceptional and we could not reach the final.
“It’s tough for us, we cannot deny. We were so close to arrive at a Champions League final.”
Guardiola insisted that his side buckled under the pressure of the occasion and admitted things did not go to plan for City.
“We didn’t play good in the first half, we didn’t find out game, but that’s normal. In this competition, it’s normal,” he continued.
“The second half was much better…much, much better. After the goal, we controlled the game. Jack [Grealish] helped us to control the game, but unfortunately we could not finish when we were close.”
Kylian Mbappe is preparing to announce the decision on his future this month with sources indicating to 90min that the player is, as expected, heading to Real Madrid.
Paris Saint-Germain are desperately trying to persuade Mbappe, who becomes a free agent in July, to sign a new contract.
However, Real have long been favourites to secure Mbappe’s signature and saw offers turned down for the player in January.
A decision is now due to be made with Mbappe’s current deal having less than two months to run, but sources close to the Spanish champions have told 90min the player has already made his decision to move to the Spanish capital.
Real have been chasing the 23-year-old for a number of years. Club president Florentino Perez hatched a plan with former head coach Zinedine ZIdane to sign three French players, with the initial identities of those players being Mbappe, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.
Kante was substituted out as for younger midfield option Eduardo Camavinga, who arrived last summer, and while Pogba remains on the list and is available on a free transfer from Manchester United, Real are considering an alternative to him in Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni – who also drawing interest from Liverpool and Chelsea.
But the one constant in their ‘three musketeers’ plan, as it was known internally, has always been Mbappe.
Real have refused to talk about Mbappe publicly for most of this year, with many in Spain believing there has been little need to do so, given their belief that agreement was in place.
PSG refuse to accept that Mbappe has already decided to leave, but all sides accept that the decision will be confirmed once the French season has ended later this month.
Real Madrid and Liverpool have both spoken with Monaco to register their interest in signing Aurelien Tchouameni, Noble Reporters Media understands.
The 22-year-old has been in fine form this season in Ligue 1 and is widely recognised as one of European football’s top midfield prospects.
Chelsea have long held an interest in signing Tchouameni, who joined Monaco from Bordeaux in January 2020, and were in talks last summer over a possible transfer – though they ultimately opted against making a move despite discussing a buy to loan deal.
Noble Reporters Media understands that Chelsea remain keen to agree a deal for Tchouameni, but not only will a deal be difficult to complete because of the club’s ongoing ownership issues, they now face competition from heavyweight duo Real Madrid and Liverpool.
The pair are both keen to bolster their midfield options – with one eye firmly on the future – and Noble Reporters Media can confirm they have made their interest in Tchouameni known to Monaco. But, at the time of writing, no bids have been lodged with the Principality outfit.
Real would ideally like to pay little more than the €40m they forked out for Eduardo Camavinga last summer, and Tchouameni is understood to be ‘intrigued’ by the prospect of playing in Madrid.
However, Noble Reporters Media has learned that Monaco intend to stand by their valuation of €60m and are likely to hold out for that price given the substantial interest in him.
Manchester United and Manchester City are also believed to be keeping tabs on Tchouameni’s situation – he has two years remaining on his Monaco contract – although they have other targets ahead of him on their summer shopping lists, while Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid are also admirers
Real Madrid secured a 35th La Liga title on Saturday with four games to spare after a 4-0 home win over Espanyol fuelled by two goals from Rodrygo.
Needing just one point to clinch the trophy, Madrid struck twice through the Brazilian in the first half at the Santiago Bernabeu before goals from Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema.
Madrid moved 17 points clear of second-placed Sevilla with four matches to play. Barcelona have a game in hand but are 18 points adrift.
Given they have been top since November, there was no surprise about Madrid winning a league they have dominated for months, but dips in form from Barcelona and Sevilla offered the chance for an earlier coronation than expected.
With La Liga wrapped up, Madrid can now turn their full attention to the second leg of their semi-final at home to Manchester City on Wednesday, when they will need to overturn a 4-3 loss from the opening game last week to advance to another European final.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti rested Benzema and Vinicius Junior from the start for the visit of Espanyol, and Rodrygo seized his chance with two goals late in the first half.
He combined with compatriot Marcelo to put Madrid ahead on 33 minutes as he steered into the far corner for only his second league goal this campaign.
Mariano Diaz, handed a rare start in attack, then won the ball back deep in Espanyol territory and Rodrygo rolled in a second with a clinical finish past goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Eduardo Camavinga played in Asensio to slam in a third for Madrid on the counter on 55 minutes, with Luka Modric then making way for Toni Kroos and Benzema replacing Casemiro on the hour.
Benzema notched his 42nd goal in as many games this season across all competitions to seal a runaway triumph for Madrid, as Ancelotti became the first coach to win all five major European league titles.
Manchester City clinched an epic 4-3 win over Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal Tuesday, but Pep Guardiola’s side will be disappointed for not killing it off at the Etihad.
Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva were on target for Guardiola’s men, who held a two-goal lead three times.
But Karim Benzema’s double and a brilliant individual effort from Vinicius Junior gave Madrid hope of another famous Champions League fightback at the Santiago Bernabeu on May 4.
Guardiola lamented letting Liverpool escape “alive” in the Premier League title race after a 2-2 draw at the Etihad nine days ago and will have similar regrets after a blistering opening that could have seen City go 4-0 up inside half an hour.
“I want to try to convince my players that we won the game and we have to go to Bernabeu to play like we did today,” said Guardiola.
“It doesn’t matter if we would have won by one goal or four, in the Bernabeu you have to show who you are otherwise there is no chance. It is a good test for us.”
Madrid, the record 13-time European champion, was playing in its 30th semifinal to City’s third, but the English champions lived up to their tag as favorites early on.
Only 92 seconds had passed before the Madrid rearguard was breached by Riyad Mahrez’s quick feet and perfect cross for De Bruyne to stoop and head past Thibaut Courtois.
Jesus pounced to make it 2-0 after just 10 minutes when David Alaba failed to deal with De Bruyne’s cross.
“We started the game very badly, we were too soft in conceding the goals,” said Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti.
“After that, the team showed what they have shown recently, a great reaction.
“We have to defend better. If we defend better in the second leg we’ll win. If we don’t, we will be out.”
The Spanish champion-elect was without Casemiro and his absence showed as City cut through midfield on the counterattack at will.
Guardiola was furious with Mahrez after he selfishly smashed into the side-netting with Foden awaiting the cross for a tap-in.
Moments later, it was Foden who was guilty of wasting a glorious chance when he dragged wide another pinpoint De Bruyne through ball.
Benzema dragged Madrid back from the dead to see off Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the previous two rounds and again rose to his side’s rescue before halftime.
The Frenchman cushioned in his 40th goal of the season off the post from Ferland Mendy’s cross.
“We never gave up,” said Benzema. “Sometimes you have to grin and bear it and we did that. City is a great team but kept working hard and got the three goals.”
Yet, Madrid’s good work in steadying the ship towards the end of the first half was undone in another slow start after the break.
Mahrez hit the post when one-on-one with Courtois before Dani Carvajal blocked Foden’s follow-up on the line.
Fernandinho was forced to deputize at right-back after replacing the injured John Stones in the first half.
And the City captain had a major role to play in two goals in two minutes at either end.
Firstly, he picked out Foden to restore City’s two-goal lead.
But the 36-year-old showed his age as Vinicius sprinted clear of his Brazilian compatriot from the halfway line before slotting past Ederson.
City continued to create chances at an alarming rate for Ancelotti but it took something special when it did finally get a fourth.
Oleksandr Zinchenko was fouled on the edge of the area, but Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs played advantage and Silva thrashed into the top corner.
Again City failed to put the tie to bed as Mahrez was inches away from finding the far corner from the narrowest of angles.
But there was a final twist eight minutes from time when Aymeric Laporte handled inside the area.
Benzema was the coolest man in the stadium as he chipped the spot kick down the middle to leave the tie on a knife-edge headed back to the Spanish capital
Right-back Cesar Azpilicueta will travel with Chelsea for their Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid after testing negative for Covid-19.
The club captain recorded a positive test last week but thankfully wasn’t missed as Chelsea romped to a 6-0 thumping of Southampton on Saturday.
Now, Tuchel has confirmed that Azpilicueta is back in training and will be part of the travelling squad to try and overturn the 3-1 deficit from the first leg.
“Azpi is in the group,” Tuchel told his pre-match press conference. “He has tested negative several times.”
There will, however, be no place in the squad for striker Romelu Lukaku, who remains out with the Achilles injury that kept him out of the Southampton game as well.
“Romelu will not travel with us due to his pain in the Achilles,” Tuchel said.
The boss will also be without Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell, while midfielder Ross Barkley is unwell and has been left out of the travelling squad.
Tuchel declared that this tie was already over after the first leg, which saw Karim Benzema pick Chelsea apart and walk away with a stunning hat-trick, although he has since tried to give his side a small chance at success.
“Not the biggest chance [to go through], given the first game’s result and given the competition and the opponent and the stadium we play in.
“We never managed our input or our effort based on the chance we have to win, we never have and we will not start tomorrow. It’s very unlikely that we make it, it is unlikely but it’s worth trying and we will try. Trying means we will play to our full limit, because this is what we do.
“It is what it is. It’s a big night and a big match, and we will try to be in better shape and better condition than the first match.”
Real’s clash with Celta Vigo saw the visiting side awarded three penalties, one of which came from Militao being fouled. Karim Benzema scored two of them to secure victory for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, though the Italian was absent from the touchline after contracting Covid-19.
Saturday’s game was a pretty controversial one. Alongside Real’s three penalties, Celta also had a goal disallowed for offside, with striker Iago Aspas later saying: “The only thing missing was a fourth penalty to shoot it himself [referee Gonzalez Fuertes].”
However, Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had a different view of the offside, the penalties and Real’s performance in general.
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On the penalties, he revealed: “I saw the first and the second. It was hard to see the third from my goal, but if you put your foot in, then…we’ve had penalties like that given against us too. It’s the first time in ages that we’ve had three penalties in one game.”
On the offside call, the Belgian added: “He heads it, I make a good save onto the post. Iago’s offside and then prevents Alaba from clearing the ball. That’s offside, he understands that and there’s no problem.
“We go into Wednesday’s game in good form. Chelsea lost at home today and we have to be really strong for Wednesday. It’ll be a different game. We have to give more on Wednesday. We can’t let our intensity slip, because we know how to play.”
Real remain top of La Liga, 12 points ahead of nearest competitors Sevilla, and play the first leg of the Champions League quarter final with Chelsea on Wednesday.
Real Madrid have confirmed Eden Hazard will undergo surgery on his ankle in the coming days, a procedure that will rule him out of Champions League games against former club Chelsea.
The Belgian has had an infamously uncomfortable time in Spain since leaving Chelsea in 2019, failing to feature regularly for Los Blancos due to a combination of poor form and frequent injuries.
Hazard was not called up by Belgium coach Roberto Martinez for his country’s international fixtures this month and Real have now confirmed an operation will be scheduled with the hope of mending an issue that has caused Hazard grief over the past year.
Their statement reads: “In the coming days, our player, Eden Hazard, will undergo surgery to remove the osteosynthesis plate in his right fibula.”
Hazard’s most recent appearances for Real were brief cameo appearances back in February and he hasn’t started a match since a 2-2 draw with Elche in January.
The forward is expected to miss around four to five weeks of action following surgery, meaning he will be unavailable for Real’s Champions League quarter-final fixtures against Chelsea in April.
A breakthrough season for Vinicius Junior has meant Real have not missed Hazard while he’s recovered from his many injuries, with Rodrygo or Marco Asensio usually preferred on the other wing.
While Hazard’s absence is unlikely to change manager Carlo Ancelotti’s plans too much heading into that quarter-final clash against the English side, the potential absence of striker Karim Benzema would be a massive blow.
The Frenchman missed the 4-0 Clasico defeat to Barcelona before the international break, with Real looking particularly clueless without their star striker
Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has hit back at Marca after he was labelled a ‘parasite’ by the Spanish publication, insisting they ought to be ‘ashamed of themselves’.
Bale has had a strained relationship with the Spanish media for many years and Marca pulled no punches in their latest outburst against the four-time Champions League winner.
In an illustration published by the newspaper, the 32-year-old was harshly depicted as a mosquito sucking blood from the Real badge. Bale has been largely left on the bench by coach Carlo Ancelotti in recent weeks after recovering from earlier knee, calf and back injuries.
The player was, however, called up by Wales for his country’s vital World Cup qualifiers this month and Marca appeared to take exception. Their report unfairly claimed that Bale ‘sucks blood without giving anything in return’, adding that he shows ‘contempt’ for his club.
Bale scored twice for Wales against Austria on Thursday night, meaning only one game stands between the country and a place at the World Cup for the first time in 64 years.
World Cup playoffs: Wales go through, Italy knocked out He said afterwards that he had nothing to prove but called out Marca’s ‘disgusting’ coverage.
“I don’t need to send a message, it’s a waste of my time, it’s disgusting they should be ashamed of themselves,” Bale said as he hit back.
“I can hit a free-kick if I am able to play. It was nice to see it go in. The early goal gave us that momentum and the second one was nice as well. I had some cramp at the end which I guess is normal but l will run into the ground for this country and we all did that.”
Bales and Wales will not find out their final play-off opponent until the summer as a result of the other semi-final in their bracket between Scotland and Ukraine being postponed
Toni Kroos has revealed how a long stint in anti-doping control after Real Madrid’s 4-0 Clasico defeat to Barcelona made a bad night even worse.
La Liga leaders Los Blancos were comprehensively outplayed by their traditional rivals in the absence of Karim Benzema, with strikes from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ronald Araujo and Ferran Torres giving Xavi’s side the win.
Kroos was substituted at half-time with the score 2-0 in Barça’s favour and watched on from the sidelines as the Catalan side earned a thumping and unexpected victory.
Speaking on his podcast, the Germany international revealed he and Vinicius Junior were paired with Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba in doping control.
“That rounded off the night, sitting there for an hour-and-a-half in doping control, ” he said.
“A small side note: 0-4, a flesh wound and the night was completed in the 80th minute when the doctor arrived and said who had to go to doping control. Piqué and Jordi Alba were there too. We talked. Vinicius and I were the gang of losers. So I was very happy when I got out of there.
“I kept looking at the game from the inside and saw 3-0 and 4-0. That was of course very bitter. After 0-1 the game went one way, that was disappointing. Overall very weak until the end.”
Real remain in the driving seat to win La Liga this season, sitting nine points clear of closest competitors Sevilla, and Kroos urged his teammates to put the Clasico defeat to one side and finish the term strongly.
He added: “We have to raise our heads again. Everyone would have signed this starting position before the season. That’s why it’s about shaking off and moving on.
“Anyway, the season has been very good so far. We’ve been everywhere we wanted to be, and we’re doing well. If we don’t let that throw us off course, there’s a good chance.”
Barcelona came from behind to beat Real Madrid in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League quarter-final tie, with impressive substitute Claudia Pina eventually securing the narrow win on what was a difficult night for the newly re-crowned Spanish champions.
Olga Carmona had given Real a deserved lead in the early stages, but the game hinged on a controversially-awarded penalty scored by Alexia Putellas early in the second half. From there, Pina went on to put Barcelona ahead, before Putellas sealed a flattering 3-1 win.
Real started incredibly brightly, pressing the reigning European champions with relentless intensity. Unusually, Barça couldn’t handle the pace of the game and the likes of Putellas, Aitana Bonmati and Patri Guijarro were way short of their normal level.
Although underdogs, the early opener was completely with the run of the play. Pressure in midfield forced Putellas into a misplaced pass that allowed Esther Gonzalez to drive at the back four and play in the advancing Carmona to finish in acres of space.
Going behind didn’t jolt Barcelona into life. Instead, Real continued as they had started, frustrating their illustrious opponents and denying them the chance to play their own game. The hosts even had a chance to double their when Gonzalez cracked the outside of the post late in the first half.
Another Gonzalez chance before the interval, racing onto a long pass, was saved by Sandra Panos.
Real were made to pay for that soon after half-time when a coming together between Carmona and Caroline Graham Hansen resulted in a theatrical fall from the latter and a lengthy pause while it was subject to a VAR review. The referee pointed to the spot and Putellas converted emphatically.
Pina could even have given the visitors the lead but fired over from inside the penalty area. At the other end, Gonzalez also narrowly missed the target.
Following the equaliser, it was clear that the relentless intensity of their performance was taking its toll on a tiring Real side. Barcelona were still nothing like at their best, but the gaps started to open up. Pina fired home with a low drive as the ball fell to her in the penalty area, before Putellas then clipped the ball over Madrid goalkeeper Misa in the final moments.
Real Madrid player ratings
Goalkeeper & defenders Misa (GK) – 6/10 – Made a couple of good stops but could do little about any of the three goals.
Lucia Rodriguez (RB) – 6/10 – Held her own on that side of the pitch.
Babett Peter (CB) – 7/10 – Made a few important interventions. Led with experience and by example.
Rocio Galvez (CB) – 6/10 – Withdrawn for fresh legs with 25 minutes remaining. Had done well to keep Barcelona under wraps.
Sofie Svava (LB) – 6/10 – Performed with a lot of energy up and down her flank and kept Hansen largely stifled. Sadly lost a 50/50 challenges seconds before Barcelona took the lead.
Midfielders Teresa Abelleira (CM) – 9/10 – Pressed and chased to completely limit what Barcelona were able to do in open play for most of the game.
Claudia Zornoza (CM) – 8/10 – Timely tackles and interventions ensured Real remained competitive until the closing stages.
Maite Oroz (AM) – 8/10 – So good in and out of possession and seemed to be everywhere. Perhaps faded as the intensity took its toll.
Forwards Athenea del Castillo (RW) – 7/10 – Her pace and direct running caused all kinds of problems for Barcelona.
Esther Gonzalez (ST) – 8/10 – Terrorised the Barcelona defence but was left to rue two missed chances in the first half – including one that hit the post.
Olga Carmona (LW) – 8/10 – Kept her cool to fire Real into an early lead amid surprising amounts of both space and time. Harshly penalised for the penalty and looked utterly dumbfounded by the decision to award it.
Substitutes Ivana Andres (CB) – 5/10
Caroline Moller (RW) – 5/10
Nahikari Garcia (LW) – 5/10
Kenti Robles (RB) – 5/10
Barcelona player ratings
Goalkeeper & defenders Sandra Panos (GK) – 7/10 – Had to make an important save from Gonzalez to stop her team going 2-0 down.
Marta Torrejon (RB) – 4/10 – Given a rough time by Carmona, with her positioning particularly dubious for the early goal.
Andrea Pereira (CB) – 4/10 – Really struggled with the movement of Carmona and Gonzalez when Real were in the ascendancy.
Mapi Leon (CB) – 5/10 – Didn’t seem to get exposed in the quite the same way as her fellow defenders in the first half. More comfortable afterwards.
Leila Ouahabi (LB) – 3/10 – Forced to take a yellow card for a cynical foul on Del Castillo to prevent a counter attack. Had a torrid first half and was withdrawn at the break.
Midfielders Aitana Bonmati (CM) – 5/10 – Frustration showed half an hour in when she cleaned out Carmona and was yellow carded. Improved as Real tired.
Patri Guijarro (CM) – 5/10 – Really struggled to gain a foothold and exert her usual level of control on the game.
Alexia Putellas (CM) – 6/10 – An unusually slack pass led to the breakthrough goal. Way off her game overall but scored from the penalty spot and capitalised when Real were tiring late on.
Forwards Caroline Graham Hansen (RW) – 5/10 – Way too quiet early on. Won a soft penalty after a VAR review soon after half-time with an over the top fall.
Jenni Hermoso (ST) – 5/10 – Lacked real service and a scuffed shot towards the end of the game summed up her night.
Fridolina Rolfo (LW) – 6/10 – Didn’t do enough to make an impact in the first half. A reshuffle then pushed her into a deeper left-back role in the second and actually proved to be more effective.
Substitutes Claudia Pina (LW) – 8/10 – Made a noticeable difference after coming on at half-time. had the energy that her teammates had lacked without her and scored a well-taken winner.
Arsenal and Everton have both been linked with a summer move for Luka Jovic, who continues to struggle for minutes at Real Madrid.
Signed for an initial €65m in 2019, Jovic has endured a torrid few years in Spain and has just three goals and four goals assists to his name in 49 appearances for Real Madrid – just 13 of which have come as a starter.
His career at the Bernabeu hit a new low at the weekend when Real boss Carlo Ancelotti opted to use Luka Modric as a false nine in the absence of star striker Karim Benzema, leaving Jovic to watch his side get thumped 4-0 by Barcelona from the sidelines.
Jovic’s lack of involvement would suggest a summer move is on the offing, and Madrid-based publication Marca note that the 24-year-old is aware that he’ll likely need to leave if he’s to prevent his career from stagnating further.
Their report claims there have been numerous enquiries for Jovic from around Europe, with Arsenal and Everton both named as potential suitors after allegedly making approaches in January.
AC Milan are also named in the report, though their attentions may be turning towards Liverpool striker Divock Origi, who is available on a free transfer this summer.
Arsenal have shown a willingness to spend big over the past 12 months, backing Mikel Arteta’s visionary transformation of the club with several high-profile signings, and there’s no disputing that they will need to sign a striker this summer.
Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah both look likely to depart at the end of their contracts, meaning their will be no recognised centre forward left at the Emirates Stadium after the January departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Barcelona.
Jovic could fill that void but given he’s contracted to Real Madrid until 2025, it’s unlikely the La Liga giants will let him go too cheap – casting doubt over whether Arsenal would go after a striker with so few minutes under his belt, unless it was a loan deal.
Similarly, Everton are fighting for their lives against Premier League relegation, with any interest in Jovic inconsequential if they are unable to beat the drop
Luka Modric is close to signing a new one-year contract extension with Real Madrid, though the two parties haven’t quite reached a complete agreement yet.
The Croatia international may be long in the tooth at 36 years old, but he remains a crucial part of Carlo Ancelotti’s squad and rolled back the years with a brilliant display in Real’s 3-1 Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain during the week.
He signed a new extension before the start of the season but talks have been ongoing over another deal that would extend his stay at the Bernabeu.
Marca report that while a verbal agreement was reached earlier this year, negotiations haven’t concluded and some of Europe’s biggest teams remain interested in taking the former Tottenham midfielder.
However, it would take quite a turn for Modric to leave Madrid at the end of the season. The renewal is said to be ‘taken for granted’, though evidently negotiations haven’t been as straightforward as they were last year.
Real Madrid also have to deal with the expiring contracts of Isco, Gareth Bale and Marcelo. Bale is almost certain to depart as a free agent, while Isco’s time at the Bernabeu is also likely coming to an end.
Modric was brilliant against PSG, earning the praise of manager Ancelotti. He said: “They get better every day. I’m lucky enough to have them playing for this club. Karim [Benzema] got an injury and we struggled, but he’s back now.
“And Luka is still immense in every game. He’s doing a fantastic job wherever he plays, on the left, sometimes on the right, he’s making extremely valuable contributions.”
Real Madrid put their defeat by Paris Saint-Germain behind them on Saturday by beating Alaves 3-0 in La Liga as Marco Asensio’s stunning goal helped send Carlo Ancelotti’s side seven points clear at the top of the table.
But the result flattered Madrid, who struggled to break down Alaves until Asensio unleashed from distance at the Santiago Bernabeu, where the disgruntled fans had whistled with the score goalless at half-time.
“We agreed with the fans,” said Carlo Ancelotti. “Nobody in the dressing room was happy with how we played in the first half.”
Asensio’s goal opened the floodgates as Vinicius Junior finished off Karim Benzema’s cut-back before Benzema converted a late penalty after Rodrygo was brought down in the area.
Sevilla can reduce the gap to four points again by winning away at Espanyol on Sunday but Madrid remain the clear favourites to regain the Spanish title, despite their dip in form.
Luis Suarez had earlier lifted the mood at Atletico Madrid after his phenomenal long-range strike helped Atleti to a 3-0 win over Osasuna, ahead of Wednesday’s crunch Champions League game against Manchester United.
Real Madrid had managed only one goal in their previous four games -– another Asensio stunner against Granada -– and there was particular criticism after the passive performance against PSG last week brought a 1-0 defeat in Paris.
There was frustration again against Alaves and Ancelotti will hope Vincius’ first goal in seven matches and Benzema’s first since returning from injury can now reignite the spark.
“We needed this match,” Ancelotti said.
They were whistled at half-time after a weary, error-strewn performance that could have left Alaves in front had Jason capitalised on Casemiro gifting the ball away in the penalty area.
Madrid started the second period with renewed intent to play quicker but their efforts were laced with nerves, while around them the fans were increasingly agitated.
Vinicius created the best opening when he nipped round the outside only to see his shot saved by Fernando Pacheco, with Benzema’s follow-up hacked off the line by Florian Lejeune.
The were still moments of sloppiness and Asensio was jeered when his backpass was read by Pere Pons, who rounded Thibaut Courtois but failed to steer in from the angle.
The reaction seemingly stayed with Asensio because he celebrated his goal by making a gesture to suggest he wanted more support. It was a brilliant strike, the Spaniard collecting off Benzema on the right, cutting in onto his left foot and arcing a dipping effort into the far corner.
Benzema almost made it two from a Vinicius cut-back, his finish on the turn dribbling up against the post. Moments later the same combination came in reverse, Benzema supplying Vinicius, who this time slotted in.
Rodrygo, on as a substitute, was then tripped by Lejeune, allowing Benzema to make it three from the spot in injury-time.
Atletico did not have to wait so long against Osasuna.
Joao Felix smashed his team into a third-minute lead in Pamplona before driving a superb pass downfield for Suarez to chase after, with the Uruguayan firing in a second before Osasuna goalkeeper Sergio Herrera could scramble back.
Angel Correa tucked in a third late on to round off a convincing win for Atletico, who climb back into the top four and head into the last-16 tie against United with a spring in their step.
The only blot on a satisfying afternoon for Diego Simeone was an injury to central defender Jose Gimenez, who had to be substituted at half-time and could now miss the meeting with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes this week.
Barcelona are only three points behind Atletico with two games in hand while Villarreal look increasingly like serious contenders for Champions League qualification after they secured an impressive 4-1 win away at Granada, Arnaut Danjuma scoring a hat-trick.
Unai Emery’s side, who host Juventus at La Ceramica on Tuesday, are also three points adrift of Atletico, having played the same number of games as Diego Simeone’s side.