Zinedine Zidane's return as Real Madrid coach less than a year after quitting was nothing short of "heroic", according to club great Jorge Valdano.

The former France international left the club shortly after guiding them to a third successive Champions League title last May, with Cristiano Ronaldo subsequently following him out of the door at the end of an era.

Things did not go to plan under Zidane's successor Julen Lopetegui, who lasted until October, and his replacement Santiago Solari was dismissed in March following Champions League elimination to Ajax.

Zidane's return did not produce a huge improvement, as Madrid still only finished third in LaLiga and 19 points adrift of champions Barcelona.

But coming back in president Florentino Perez's hour of need should – Valdano believes – earn him two statues and the right to build the squad he wants for next season.

"Zidane's return was, for me, almost an heroic act," Valdano told ESPN. "He knew it was risky, but he did it.

"The president, and the club, must be very grateful. He should have a statue here at the Santiago Bernabeu, and another in Florentino's garden.

"Just from his presence, the season ended much more peacefully than it could have. When there is no sporting director, it is the coach who must make the decisions.

"The risk he took would be in exchange for having the power to design the squad for next season.

"Things are different now from his first spell in charge, when he had clear leaders – Sergio Ramos for spirit, Luka Modric for football, Cristiano Ronaldo being decisive, and all at the height of their careers.

"Now Zidane must put together something new, with new players coming in. We don't know how they will adapt to a new city and the unique nature of this club.

"That will test him, but if anyone has won the confidence of the club, it is Zidane."

Paul Pogba, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe and Luka Jovic are just some of the stars linked with moves to Madrid over the coming months, with many fans and commentators of the belief the squad needs serious refreshment.

Valdano is convinced Pogba would play a more central and constructive role at Madrid than at Manchester United, but the Argentine also feels the midfielder would need to be just one of five or six signings.

He added: "Pogba scores goals. He does not have so much influence in the construction of the play at Manchester United.

"But if Zidane is thinking of him for Real Madrid, for sure he would have a conducting role in the team.

"I have no idea what Zidane is thinking, but it is true that the team needs a big shake-up, they must move in the market in a much more decisive way than in recent seasons.

"There is a need for five or six really well-chosen players. You must choose very well, both the players to come in, and those who will leave."

Reported Real Madrid target Paul Pogba would add vital goals but little else to the LaLiga giants, according to former coach Jorge Valdano.

Madrid are preparing for a big transfer window after a disappointing season that has seen three coaches in the Santiago Bernabeu hot seat and silverware only in the Club World Cup.

World Cup winner Pogba is one possible option for Zinedine Zidane's men, with speculation mounting around an exit from Manchester United, who have also endured a tumultuous campaign.

Giving his take on a move for Pogba, Valdano suggested the France international might not be the answer to all of Madrid's midfield problems, yet his goals would be welcomed.

Pogba has 13 Premier League goals for United this term.

"I don't think Pogba would add much to Madrid's game but he'd bring goals," Valdano told Onda Cero. "On his own, Pogba is scoring more goals that the entire Real Madrid midfield."

The latest Madrid setback came on Sunday in a defeat at Rayo Vallecano, with Valdano dismayed by the displays from many stars. Only top-scorer Karim Benzema escaped criticism.

Valdano said: "There were a lot of players in the Real Madrid starting XI who are not up to the rhythm the competition demands. The team has no backbone.

"Real Madrid looked like a team of individuals. They play for themselves - not each other - and once they reach the final third of the pitch, if Benzema's not there, the move falls apart."

Lionel Messi says his six-year-old son has questioned why he receives so much criticism in Argentina.

While Messi has inspired Barcelona to domestic and European dominance during his glittering career, international success has continued to elude him.

Argentina have lost successive Copa America finals and were beaten by Germany in the final of the 2014 World Cup despite Messi's efforts.

After Argentina were knocked out by France in the last 16 at Russia 2018, Messi stepped away from international duty and only made his return from a nine-month absence in a loss to Venezuela last week.

Messi subsequently pulled out of the Argentina squad to face Morocco in another friendly on Tuesday, a decision that has re-opened the debate surrounding his commitment to his country.

The Argentina captain was quick to hit back, however, in an interview with Buenos Aires-based radio station FM Club 947.

"I dearly want to win something with the national side, I wanted to come back and want to participate in all the big games," Messi said.

"When I made the decision to return, there were many who criticised the decision. My six-year-old son asked me: 'Dad, why do they crucify you in Argentina?'.

"I tell him that it's just a handful of people. I've shown my desire to play for Argentina and don't need to prove this to anyone."

Lionel Scaloni, who replaced Jorge Sampaoli as coach after the World Cup, welcomed Messi back into the fold and the captain feels Argentina could have a bright future due to the development of young players.

"I left the World Cup squad and then didn't speak with anyone at the federation," Messi added. "Later, Scaloni called me and told me to take some time off and that he'd be keen for me to come back as he was preparing a solid project.

"A transitional phase is totally normal and it's something that should have happened years ago. The young guys have come through and need to be given time, we can't crucify these guys.

"They are a good bunch of guys and are great players. Apart from the Venezuela game they've played well and I've watched them develop with their club sides and I like the way things are going."

Argentina are too reliant on Lionel Messi and must improve the players around the Barcelona superstar, says former Real Madrid coach Jorge Valdano.

Messi played for his country for the first time since the World Cup as Argentina took on Venezuela in Madrid last week, yet his side were on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline.

The captain was subsequently ruled out of Tuesday's friendly against Morocco, completing the latest chapter in what has sometimes been a difficult international career.

Messi has often been criticised for failing to replicate his club form as Argentina have lost a series of major finals but Valdano, who won the 1986 World Cup alongside the likes of Diego Maradona, feels too much blame is laid at the forward's door.

"What Argentina needs to improve are those around Messi, not Messi," Valdano told Onda Cero.

"They still expect Messi to do everything on his own that the whole team should be doing.

"Piling responsibility on the best player to resolve everything all of the time doesn't seem the best way of doing things to me."

Former Real Madrid sporting director and coach Jorge Valdano has called on the club to find a solution to Isco's ongoing plight.

The Spain international was a key man for Madrid as they won three consecutive Champions League titles under Zinedine Zidane, but he has fallen out of favour since Santiago Solari took over.

Isco's five LaLiga starts this season all came while Julen Lopetegui was at the helm, but Solari insisted there was nothing personal in his decision to leave the 26-year-old on the bench as a weakened Madrid side won 2-1 at Real Betis on Sunday.

Valdano is not impressed, though, and believes there must be issues behind the scenes that need to be fixed.

"A year ago, the great hopes of Real Madrid were Isco and [Marco] Asensio," Valdano told Onda Cero. "One has been lost along the way and the other is under observation.

"Everyone knows that something is wrong with Isco, but nobody knows what is happening. It should be solved in private. Cristo Gonzalez played ahead of Isco [against Betis] - this is a serious problem.

"I suppose it is something that is talked about within the club. Isco must do some soul-searching."

Madrid climbed to fourth in LaLiga with victory on Sunday, but Solari's men remain 10 points behind leaders Barcelona after 19 matches.

The agent of Real Madrid star Gareth Bale has hit back at Jorge Valdano following criticism of the forward's performance in El Clasico.

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