Spain's Real Madrid core of no concern to Valverde

By Sports Desk September 14, 2018

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde thinks suggestions of a Real Madrid dominance of the Spain squad are inaccurate. 

Madrid stars Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos, Nacho Fernandez, Dani Ceballos, Isco and Marco Asensio all started Tuesday's 6-0 Nations League thrashing of Croatia in Elche, while only Sergio Busquets was involved from a Barca perspective.

With Sergi Roberto the only other Barca player in the 23-man squad, there have been suggestions Madrid are becoming the dominant force within the national team, despite the presence of ex-Blaugrana head coach Luis Enrique.

However, Valverde highlighted that of those six Madrid players, only Nacho and Carvajal came through the youth system.

He also pointed to the absence of three Spain regulars over recent years from Barca who were not involved this time: Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, who have retired from international football, and the overlooked Jordi Alba.

"I think you need to read things properly," he told a news conference. "It was said before how there were more Barca than Madrid players; now, there are more Madrid than Barca players.

"There are players who weren't there, like Andres, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba. In recent years, Madrid have signed players who can be called up, like Asensio, Isco, Dani Ceballos.

"If you look at the players from the Madrid and Barca youth teams, they are similar. I have the impression they're similar. 

"In any case, we'll fight to change that and to have more of our players called up."

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    Luka Modric came to the defence of Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Ramos after fellow Croatia international Dejan Lovren criticised the Spaniard.

    Lovren told Copa90 that Ramos' reputation is enhanced by his Madrid colleagues, saying "when he makes a mistake, he wins 5-1 or 5-2 and nobody cares".

    After meeting up with Lovren at Croatia's training camp ahead of their forthcoming Nations League matches against Spain and England, Modric was asked about the Liverpool defender's spat with Ramos.

    "Ramos is a great player and a great captain," Modric told reporters.

    "In my opinion, all the criticism he has received is irrelevant. In football everyone has a very short memory.

    "He has character and I am sure that criticism does not matter to him."

    Now in his seventh season at Madrid and having spent four in the Premier League at Tottenham, Modric has played against many of the players Croatia will go up against in the Nations League.

    He refused to be drawn on the question of which Spain players posed the greatest threat to the World Cup finalists but praised the impact former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique, who has won three of his four games in charge.

    "I do not want to highlight anybody, they are all great players," said Modric.

    "Luis Enrique has given them energy and now they play as a team, and there are also some very good young players.

    "You do not have to be afraid, even if [you are up against] one of the best teams in the world."

  • Reus and Kroos to sit out Germany's clash with Russia Reus and Kroos to sit out Germany's clash with Russia

    Marco Reus and Toni Kroos will sit out Germany's friendly match with Russia on Thursday, head coach Joachim Low has confirmed.

    Borussia Dortmund forward Reus has a bruised foot and is due to take part in light training with a view to being available for the Nations League meeting with Netherlands on Monday.

    Kroos, who is yet to link up with the squad, will be given extra time to rest.

    "Marco Reus can't train at the moment and unfortunately he is not available for the game against Russia," Low told a news conference.

    "He is scheduled to do light running training on Thursday, but we have to look at it from day to day.

    "Toni gets a few days off."

    Low expects a difficult match against World Cup quarter-finalists Russia, as Germany look to restore some order following a run of just two wins in their last seven outings.

    Relegation from League A of the Nations League a real possibility, but Low is not too anxious ahead of his side's final two games of 2018.

    "We're in a phase of upheaval. France was an important indicator for the next few months. The result tomorrow [Thursday] is not so crucial," he said.

    "Russia are back to the level they had in 2008. They're a very disciplined side, very aggressive in defence and dangerous on the counter. The coach's influence on the team is clear to see.

    "We've made the mistake of regarding the Nations League too highly. A relegation wouldn't be the end of the world, either.

    "If we go down, we have to accept it and then the focus is on qualification [for Euro 2020]."

  • Van Dijk happy to recommend De Ligt if Liverpool ask Van Dijk happy to recommend De Ligt if Liverpool ask

    Virgil van Dijk would give his Netherlands defensive partner Matthijs de Ligt a glowing reference should Liverpool want to add him to Jurgen Klopp's squad.

    De Ligt's reputation has gone from strength to strength since making his Ajax debut in 2016 and establishing himself at the heart of the club's defence.

    A first international call-up followed last year and this season De Ligt has been linked with a string of Europe's top clubs – with Barcelona said to be at the front of the queue.

    Paris-Saint Germain, Inter and Liverpool have also been named as potential destinations for the 19-year-old, who is contracted with Ajax until 2021.

    Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman expects the teenager to leave the Eredivisie in the near future but Van Dijk has yet to be asked about his international team-mate by Liverpool's hierarchy.

    "He will be on the [Liverpool] lists because they have enough scouts at the club," he told De Telegraaf.

    "No [they haven't mentioned De Ligt], but if they need my opinion, I'll give it.

    "He is already very far, especially for his age. [He is] a good defender, good boy, calm, knows what he wants and hopefully he makes the right choice."

    But Van Dijk does not expect De Ligt to take his record as the world's most-expensive defender, Liverpool having paid £75million for the 27-year-old in January.

    "They will pay less for Matthijs," he added. "The amount for me was very high.

    "It's just like that and if he ever becomes the most expensive defender, I'll be the first to congratulate him."

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