Zinedine Zidane believes it was the right decision to rule out a Luuk de Jong goal in Real Madrid's 2-1 victory over Sevilla on Saturday.

Madrid moved top of LaLiga as two goals from Casemiro secured all three points at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite De Jong having briefly made it 1-1 in the second half.

The striker thought he had given Sevilla the lead half an hour in, but his header was disallowed following a VAR check, with referee Juan Martinez Munuera instead penalising Nemanja Gudelj for blocking Eder Militao in the build-up.

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui was aghast at the decision and director of football Monchi claimed he would have taken the team off the pitch had they seen a goal disallowed for a second time when VAR was used to check a possible handball by Munir El Haddadi.

Zidane, though, sees little reason to feel the decisions changed the game.

"What I can say is that I saw the incident and it's a block, there's a foul, the referee saw it on VAR, and he gave the foul," the Madrid boss told reporters.

"For the second, there's a hand, he doesn't give it. I can't explain anything, and I never get into evaluating these things. It's for the referee to decide.

"Sometimes these things go against you and sometimes in your favour. It's a difficult job. It's for them to decide.

"For me, there's a block, it's a foul and it's really normal."

When asked about Monchi's comments, Zidane replied: "I don't think the referee was that decisive. He did what he had to do.

"There's a hand for their goal, but that wasn't given. What can I say? I'm not going to get into it.

"It's a complicated game for everyone. We played against a good team, but the result is logical for what happened on the pitch.

"What he said is his responsibility. It's not for me to say anything. In the end, it's the referee who decides.

"What he said seems a little strong to me, but I'm not going to prevent the Sevilla sporting director from speaking."

Zidane went on to praise the performance of Casemiro, who proved Madrid's unlikely hero by scoring twice in the same game for the first time in his career with the club.

"Good, because in the end he got two goals and that's not usual," he said of Casemiro's performance. "I'm happy for him. We can make the difference in attack with any player."

Sevilla director of football Monchi was incensed by VAR's intervention in the defeat to Real Madrid, claiming he would have walked his team off the pitch had Luuk de Jong seen a second goal disallowed.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid side claimed a 2-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Casemiro scoring either side of a De Jong strike to send the hosts to the top of LaLiga.

Sevilla thought they had taken the lead in the first half through De Jong's header, only for the goal to be disallowed when a VAR check prompted referee Juan Martinez Munuera to penalise Nemanja Gudelj for blocking Eder Militao.

Monchi was left furious by the decision and suggested he would have taken matters into his own hands had VAR intervened again when a possible handball by Munir El Haddadi before De Jong's finish was checked.

"Everyone saw the action. There's no footballing, technical or tactical analysis after such a clear incident that defines the game," Monchi told Movistar.

"There's nothing more to analyse about it. It's absurd.

"If they had ruled out the second goal, I would have come down to the pitch and taken the team off.

"We leave here satisfied with the game despite the defeat because Sevilla are a very big team. We're angry, outraged, and... I stop there."

Head coach Julen Lopetegui insisted there was no clear reason why Sevilla's opening goal should have been ruled out.

"I feel sad. When you lose a game, you're sad," Lopetegui said.

"We played quite a good first half. We deactivated Madrid, we scored an absolutely legal goal.

"I don't know if 'shame' is the right word. If I said that [at the time], it's not appropriate, but there's no reason to disallow the goal. We've seen it and it was legal.

"It's a great goal, a play we worked on throughout the week and I still don't know why it was ruled out."

If Real Madrid end the season as LaLiga champions, they may well look back on this win over Sevilla – and the performance of Casemiro – as a defining moment.

This was a game that had the hallmarks of a setback for Zinedine Zidane. Okay, Madrid had beaten Sevilla in 10 consecutive league games in the capital going into this meeting, but Julen Lopetegui has created an obstinacy about the Andalusians that had restricted them to just three away defeats in all competitions this term.

Consider, too, that Madrid went to penalties in the Supercopa de Espana final six days ago before the long flight back from Jeddah. They also started this game without a sizeable host of first-team stars: captain Sergio Ramos was out with a sprained ankle, Eden Hazard, James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale were not in the squad, Federico Valverde was banned and Karim Benzema only able to start on the bench.

Still, one thing about the modern Madrid is that they generally perform to a far higher standard when Casemiro is on the pitch, so maybe this kind of match-winning display was bound to happen eventually. Few would have seen this coming, though.

Zidane has made Madrid extremely tough to score against in recent weeks. They had kept five clean sheets in nine games before Sevilla's visit and conceded only 12 goals in LaLiga all season, a record only matched by, of course, Atletico Madrid.

But they found themselves in trouble on Saturday. Without Ramos to dictate terms from the back, Sevilla's high press had them worried; with a depleted attack, chances of their own were scarce. Luuk de Jong thought he had buried the opening goal just before the half-hour mark only for VAR to intervene and penalise Nemanja Gudelj for blocking Eder Militao.

Amid the uncertainty of their wider display, Casemiro was doing as expected. He made five tackles and won possession 11 times in the match, more than any other player on the pitch, and only Diego Carlos bettered his tally of two interceptions.

Then came the surprise. With 57 minutes gone, Luka Jovic played an inspired backheel into Casemiro's path, he muscled his way through the Sevilla box and chipped an impudent effort beyond Tomas Vaclik. It was a striker's finish, oozing calm and precision – two qualities not always associated with one of Madrid's more ebullient characters.

Twelve minutes later, it happened again.

De Jong had equalised with a finish of the highest quality – a rare incident this season. Five minutes on, Lucas Vazquez sent in a cross and the unmarked Casemiro rose highest and nodded home his second goal of the game. Even rarer.

Casemiro had never scored twice in a Madrid match before and he cannot have ended many games with no team-mate having attempted more shots. Indeed, he could have had a hat-trick but for a miscued effort in the closing stages.

Casemiro is hardly an unsung hero at the Santiago Bernabeu, but this was a rescue act in a very different guise, his impact in the opponent's box even more important than his tigerish efforts in defending his own.

It means Madrid are unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions and return to the top of the table ahead of Barcelona's game against Granada on Sunday. With their form showing few signs of dipping and with stars aplenty to return, this might prove to be Casemiro's most decisive performance yet.

Zinedine Zidane hailed Sergio Ramos as an example to everyone at Real Madrid after the captain made an unexpected bid to feature against Sevilla in LaLiga on Saturday.

Ramos dispatched the winning penalty as Madrid claimed the Supercopa de Espana at the expense of rivals Atletico Madrid last weekend.

But the 33-year-old defender suffered a sprained ankle during the game and was expected to spend a spell on the sidelines until he emerged for training at Valdebebas on Friday.

"We know the character that Sergio has," Zidane told a pre-match news conference. "He always wants to play. He's done everything possible this week to be available and to be ready.

"He is a great example to the rest of the team. He's our reference for everyone at this club and an example everyone should follow."

Ramos' centre-back partner Raphael Varane is in line to make a landmark 300th appearance in Madrid colours this weekend.

Zidane first took charge of his countryman, who joined the 13-time European champion from Lens in 2011, when he featured in the club's youth categories.

"I knew the potential he had when he came, I knew he could play a lot of games for us," he said,

"But, in eight years, 300 games is not something that everyone can get to.

"I hope he can play another 300 – at least another 100!"

Behind Ramos and Varane, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is enjoying a strong run of form, with his performance in the Supercopa final standing in stark contrast to some of the struggles he experienced after joining from Chelsea before the start of last season.

"I think he's proven since the day he came that he's a great goalkeeper. He's always been a part of the group of the best goalkeepers in the world," Zidane added.

"He's had some difficult moments, of course. He's known how to overcome these difficult moments and he knows the level that he's got.

"With a lot of hard work he's been able to bring himself up to this level and we're very happy for him."

Diego Simeone fully expected Federico Valverde to be given only a short suspension following his crucial foul on Alvaro Morata in the Supercopa de Espana final.

With the score 0-0 in the final five minutes of extra time in Jeddah, Atletico Madrid's Morata raced through on goal only for Valverde to bring down the striker to halt his progress.

Valverde, who was later named man of the match, was sent off for the deliberate foul but went on to celebrate when Real Madrid won the penalty shoot-out 4-1.

Simeone had few qualms with the challenge at the time, insisting he would likely have done the same to win the match, and the Atleti boss was also not surprised to see Valverde earn only a one-game ban.

"I was clear after the match, saying that was what he had to do," Simeone said on Friday ahead of a LaLiga trip to Eibar. "I was also clear about what would happen.

"It doesn't make sense to wear myself out today on something that we already knew would happen. That's why I'm focusing on Eibar.

"We're in the middle of the season and there's still a lot of work ahead. There are things to improve. We worked well until September, then things were more difficult in November.

"Then we grew and we kept that up in the Supercopa. We're competing well and I'm proud to have competed well against a team like Real Madrid that is powerful in all senses."

The Supercopa final was another difficult game for €126million forward Joao Felix, but Simeone insists the Portugal international is learning all the time.

"The Supercopa was another step forward in the experience of a 20-year-old boy with incredible talent and skill. This road he's walking will be useful for the future," Simeone said.

"We believe in him; we need his skills. He has the ability to score. We hope that these experiences he's living in this new team help him to get stronger and grow day after day.

"We're the ones in charge to find their better version and find the better position so they can unlock their potential. I don't do things differently with Joao than with [Renan] Lodi, [Hector] Herrera, Koke or Saul [Niguez].

"We always try to do the best so players with that potential can put it to good use for the club and the team, so we're working with him and Lodi, the younger ones, so they can grow."

This weekend is the first round of LaLiga matches since Ernesto Valverde was sacked as Barcelona head coach in the wake of their 3-2 Supercopa semi-final loss to Atleti.

"I'm not the one to give an opinion about what happens to others," Simeone said. "Valverde is a really great coach. He left his team in first place in the league and still alive in the Champions League.

"He is a great person and has always been polite and exemplary as he managed the situation."

Zinedine Zidane has sympathy with sacked Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde but does not expect Real Madrid's Clasico rivals to be any less of a threat under Quique Setien.

Barca opted to part ways with Valverde after their Supercopa de Espana semi-final exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid, despite winning LaLiga in each of the former Athletic Bilbao coach's two full seasons at the helm.

This time around the Blaugrana are level on points at the summit with Madrid, who claimed Supercopa glory with a penalty shoot-out triumph against Atleti.

"I'm sorry for him, first of all. That's all I can really say," Madrid manager Zidane told a news conference.

"It's not a great situation but he's a coach who's always shown that he's very good. I've got a great deal of admiration for him

"Each club and each situation is different. Each coach knows what they’re doing and where they're at. They know what the situation is at a big club.

"If we lose two games I'm going to get criticised as well. That happened not too long ago. I know where I am and what the situation is.

"We can’t always play well and win, so it is difficult. But what we try to do is give 100 per cent. It's the same for the coach at Barcelona, we all try and do our best and then you people can go off and talk about whatever you want.

"Things are never going to change, but I'm sorry about Valverde losing his job."

Setien does not have a major honour to his name in his coaching career but there is excitement over how his all-action, high-pressing style will work at Camp Nou.

"I expect them to be the same as always. Barcelona will always compete with all the coaches they have. Nothing is going to change," Zidane said.

"They’re going to do their work and we're going to do ours. Things will always be the same. We’ll always have the same rivalry."

Madrid welcome Sevilla and Julen Lopetegui to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, somewhat fittingly at a time when a high-profile sacking is dominating the news agenda.

Lopetegui did not last until November in the 2018-19 season after he succeeded Zidane at the end of the Frenchman's first spell as Los Blancos' boss.

"I don’t have to give any explanations about any of that," Zidane shot back when asked why he and Lopetegui had vastly different records with largely the same squad.

"You have to live every different situation, do what you do.

"He did what he wanted to do here. He's a good coach, he's always proven that – both before and after Real Madrid

"But I've got nothing to say about his period here at Real Madrid. What I can say is he's a good coach. He's proven that again this season."

Quique Setien's first LaLiga Clasico as Barcelona boss has been handed a Sunday evening slot on March 1.

The visit to Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium could be a pivotal moment in the race for the LaLiga title, and the kick-off at 21:00 local time should allow both sides to recover from midweek efforts in the Champions League.

Barcelona have an away clash against Napoli on Tuesday, February 25, and Madrid are at home to Manchester City the following night.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas made the Clasico announcement at an event in London on Wednesday, with the match timing picked to ensure maximum global exposure on television.

Barcelona lead the way in LaLiga, but they are only ahead of Madrid on goal difference, with both sides sitting on 40 points from 19 matches.

Tebas said: "It will be 8pm UK time and I think there aren't any other matches at this time so it will be a great slot. We want to be as visible as possible and we are getting there."

The season's first Clasico at Camp Nou was postponed from October because of concerns about civil unrest, stemming from pro-independence activists protesting against the jailing of nine Catalan politicians.

It eventually went ahead on December 18 and finished in a 0-0 draw.

The sacking of Ernesto Valverde and appointment of Setien - a former Atletico Madrid player - as his successor at Barcelona on Monday means there will be a different face in the opposite dugout to Zinedine Zidane for the second clash of Spain's biggest clubs in the 2019-20 campaign.

Real Madrid youngster Andriy Lunin has completed a loan move to Segunda strugglers Real Oviedo after his temporary stay at Real Valladolid was cut short.

The Ukraine international, 20, moves to Oviedo until the end of the season and will compete with 34-year-old Nereo Champagne and former Real Madrid Castilla goalkeeper Alfonso Herrero for a starting role between the posts.

It had been hoped Lunin would be exposed to regular first-team football with La Pucela this term, but he has been unable to dislodge Jordi Masip in goal – the Barcelona product playing all 19 of Valladolid's LaLiga matches this term.

Lunin's time at the Nuevo Jose Zorrilla looked set to come to an end when Jose Antonio Caro's loan at Ponferradina was concluded on Sunday.

Valladolid is the second successive club with whom Lunin has struggled to make an impact, having played only five league matches with Leganes last season.

A reported €8.5million signing from Zorya Luhansk in July 2018, Lunin will finally hope to prove his talents in Spain during the second half of the season, with Oviedo languishing just a point above the relegation zone having conceded the second-highest number of goals in the division.

Lionel Messi believes the "special duel" between him and Cristiano Ronaldo when the pair were on opposite sides of the Clasico rivalry will leave a lasting impression.

The Barcelona superstar went head-to-head with Ronaldo for almost a decade in LaLiga, where the two scored at an astonishing rate and practically assumed shared custody of the Ballon d'Or.

Debate rages over who the world's best player is, but a shortlist of two is almost universally accepted – it is either Messi or Ronaldo.

The Portugal forward has since departed for Juventus, but Messi ​– who won a record sixth Ballon d'Or in December – has fond memories of their long-running Spanish saga.

"The matches against Real always mean a lot, but when Cristiano was there they became much more special," said Messi.

"But it's a time that has passed now, that we have experienced. Now, we have to look ahead to the future.

"It was a special duel and it will remain [in people's minds] forever, because it lasted for many years and it is not easy to maintain such levels for a long time. 

"Plus, the teams we played in were also very demanding, both Real Madrid and Barca, the two best teams in the world.

"The sporting duel between us was very nice on a personal level and I think people had fun too, whether they were fans of Madrid or Barca, or even only football fans in general."

Barca this week appointed a new head coach, with Quique Setien replacing Ernesto Valverde, despite the club sitting joint-top of the table with Madrid.

The last Clasico clash ended 0-0 at Camp Nou in December, with Barca set to head to the Santiago Bernabeu in March.

 

Christian Eriksen appears set to get his move away from Tottenham.

Out of contract at the end of the season, Eriksen has been keen to test himself elsewhere after moving to Spurs in 2013.

Inter look poised to bring the Denmark playmaker to Milan…

 

TOP STORY – INTER IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH SPURS OVER ERIKSEN

Inter have offered €10million (£8.5m) plus bonuses to Tottenham after agreeing personal terms with Spurs star Eriksen, claims Sky Sport Italia.

With Inter head coach Antonio Conte keen for midfield reinforcements and soon-to-be free agent Eriksen eyeing a new club, a transfer is reportedly on the horizon.

However, The Mirror reports that Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are ready to rival Inter for Eriksen.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Sky Sports Germany, Paul Pogba is likely to leave Manchester United at the end of the season. Recovering from ankle surgery, Pogba continues to be linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid and former club Juventus.

Manchester City will reject any bids for centre-back John Stones as Premier League rivals Arsenal circle, says the Daily Mail.

- Corriere dello Sport reports Matteo Politano and Leonardo Spinazzola are set to swap clubs. Inter winger Politano will join Roma, while full-back Spinazzola will move to the Nerazzurri.

- According to Gianluca Di Marzio and Tuttomercatoweb, PSV are prepared to pay €6m for Milan full-back Ricardo Rodriguez.

- Globoesporte says LaLiga champions Barcelona are close to signing Palmeiras midfielder Matheus Fernandes.

Quique Setien's first Barcelona away game will take place on the party island of Ibiza.

Setien, who on Monday agreed to be Ernesto Valverde's successor at Camp Nou on a deal until 2022, will take his new team to the Balearic Island in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

The game, which will take place next midweek, will follow Setien's first game in charge, at home to Granada on Sunday.

Real Madrid were paired with Segunda B Group 2 strugglers Unionistas Salamanca while city rivals Atletico will visit Cultural Leonesa.

Defending champions Valencia, the final team in pot one, face a potential banana skin when they go to Segunda B Group 2 table-toppers UD Logrones.

Barcelona top the Deloitte Money League for the first time after also becoming the only club to break the €800million mark for revenue. 

The Camp Nou club generated €840.8m during the 2018-19 season, seeing them topple bitter rivals Real Madrid at the top of Deloitte's table.

Barca finished ahead of Madrid by some distance, with Los Blancos bringing in €757.3m across the course of the campaign, though that was enough to keep them second and in front of Manchester United.

The Red Devils may have underwhelmed on the pitch in recent seasons, but they remain a major financial power, with revenues reaching €711.5m.

United are one of eight Premier League clubs in the top 20, with Manchester City (fifth), Liverpool (seventh), Tottenham (eighth), Chelsea (ninth), Arsenal (11th), West Ham (18th) and Everton (19th) joining them.

However, United could potentially slip next year due to a lack of Champions League action this term, with Bayern Munich (€660.1m) and Paris Saint-Germain (€635.9m) the biggest threats to knocking them out of the top three.

Deloitte also understand United are at risk of losing their status as the Premier League's highest revenue-generating club for the first time next year, with City and Liverpool very much on the rise.

Napoli and Lyon are the only new entrants to the top 20.

Given he delivered back-to-back LaLiga titles and left Barcelona still at the summit, Ernesto Valverde's departure appears perplexing on the surface.

There has been no great decline to speak of, no obvious player revolt and no boardroom bickering.

Why then have the Blaugrana opted to part ways with their head coach and replace him with Quique Setien, a man who could only lead Real Betis to a 10th-place finish last term?

We have taken a look at the five games which might have ultimately resulted in Valverde's exit.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona. Champions League quarter-final second leg. April 10, 2018.

After being beaten in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana by Real Madrid to begin his reign, things picked up for Valverde, who enjoyed a 36-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2017-18 LaLiga campaign.

However, two and a half weeks before that title triumph was sealed, Barcelona were stunned in Europe.

Valverde's side were in control of the tie having beaten the Serie A side 4-1 at home, but Roma became only the third side in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more.

Greek defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal eight minutes from time as Roma went through on away goals and Valverde suffered his first, but not last, European humiliation.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. Champions League semi-final second leg. May 7, 2019.

Fast forward a year and a case of deja vu, with Barca sitting pretty on a 3-0 first-leg lead in their last-four tie against Liverpool.

The Reds were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the return fixture at Anfield, where Divock Origi's early goal only gave them a sliver of hope.

Yet Barca looked shell-shocked as Georginio Wijnaldum's double was followed up by another Origi strike, Liverpool incredibly progressing to a final they would win.

Described in the Spanish press as a "debacle", "tragedy" and "historic failure", the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point.

Barcelona 1-2 Valencia. Copa del Rey final. May 25, 2019. 

Not even a second LaLiga title could silence Valverde's doubters, who had more ammo when his team lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Valverde had hoped a victory would ease the pain of the Liverpool loss but Barca were stunned again, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo putting Valencia 2-0 ahead before Lionel Messi pulled one back.

Rather than wield the axe, though, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu absolved Valverde of blame for the result.

 

Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona. LaLiga. January 4, 2020.

Away defeats to Athletic Bilbao, Granada and Levante would have looked costlier had the champions' nearest rivals Real Madrid not stumbled along themselves in the first half of this season.

Both teams' struggles were evident in a 0-0 Clasico draw at Camp Nou in December, but it was Barcelona's first result back after the mid-season break that would have set more alarm bells ringing.

Derby rivals Espanyol were bottom of the table and had not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2009 but Frenkie de Jong was sent off as the strugglers claimed a 2-2 draw.

Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid. Supercopa de Espana semi-final. January 9, 2020.

Five days later and it got even worse for Valverde and Barcelona.

Leading 2-1 in Saudi Arabia with nine minutes to go, the Blaugrana collapsed again late on, with Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa sending Atletico through to a final against their cross-city rivals Madrid.

It meant Barcelona had won just one of their previous five games, a sour note to end on for Valverde.

Zinedine Zidane said winning nine trophies in nine finals is what Real Madrid are about after the Spanish giants reigned supreme in the Supercopa de Espana decider.

After a scoreless 90 minutes and extra time, Madrid overcame city rivals Atletico Madrid 4-1 in a penalty shoot-out in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos tucked home the winning penalty as Zidane preserved his perfect record in finals as head coach of the LaLiga powerhouse with nine from nine.

"In the end, we're all together and we prepared the matches well," said Zidane, who has won LaLiga, three Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and as many FIFA Club World Cup and Supercopa titles across two stints in Madrid.

"I don't know why we've won nine out of nine. It's because that's what this club is like. It hasn't been easy, we've been patient, calm.

"At half-time, we didn't know how to get closer to goal, but we had patience. We believed until the end, like always.

"Winning a trophy is never easy and even less so against Atletico. Both teams had chances.

"We're still in lots of competitions. We have to be happy, but there's still lots to come. We have to keep working.

"We'll rest a bit and play again, as we can't think about dropping [our level].

"Now, we're going to enjoy ourselves, but there's still a long way to go in LaLiga Santander, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey."

The final went to penalties after Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde was sent off for hacking down Alvaro Morata and denying a goalscoring opportunity.

The match-saving tactical foul thwarted Atletico and eventually ensured Madrid triumphed as Valverde was named man of the match.

"He was given man of the match and I'm happy for him because he did a great job," Zidane said. "I'm sure that he wants to share it with his team-mates.

"He did what he had to do, he made a crude foul but he did it well. And in the end, the important thing is that he's apologised to Alvaro."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez described head coach Zinedine Zidane as a "blessing from heaven" after his latest final triumph.

Zidane has won each of his finals as Madrid coach, taking his tally of successes to nine with a tense victory against Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana on Sunday.

Madrid won 4-1 on penalties after a goalless draw, scraping to a shoot-out after Federico Valverde was sent off for a cynical foul on a goalbound Alvaro Morata late in extra time.

This was the first title of Zidane's second stint as Madrid boss - the first returning three straight Champions League wins - but Perez is confident the Frenchman is ready to deliver further success.

"[Zidane] has plenty of trophies and we're very happy for him," Perez said, as reported by Marca. "I hope that he wins more trophies.

"Zidane has a loving relationship with Real Madrid. He decided to rest for a year and now he's returned with renewed energy. Zidane is a blessing from heaven."

Perez felt the triumph at the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium in Jeddah was particularly impressive given the absence of a number of key men, including Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.

"We came here without some great players like Hazard, Benzema and Bale," he said. "Zidane has been able to put together a team and we won the trophy.

"I think that we're on the path to finding ourselves again after a little dip. New people have come in who have given the team intensity and we're on a good path."

But Perez reserved some praise for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who saved from Thomas Partey in the shoot-out.

"We brought [Courtois] here because we believe that he's the best goalkeeper in the world, and he has been," Perez said. "He was one of the key players in the victory."

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