Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane commended an inspirational display from Karim Benzema in Wednesday's 5-0 thrashing of Leganes, highlighting how the forward offers much more than just goals.

Benzema has enjoyed a fine start to the season, picking up where he left off last term and he took his tally to seven in LaLiga against Leganes.

But that goal – a second-half penalty – was only part of the story, as the Frenchman set up Rodrygo Goes and then Toni Kroos in the first eight minutes.

As such, he moved on to 10 goal involvements for the season, more than any other player in LaLiga and Zidane was unsurprisingly delighted.

"Karim as always, doesn't change much," Zidane told reporters. "It's important that he scores because he needs that as the number nine of Madrid.

"But he contributes much more than goals and does better for others. I am happy with his performance."

Luka Jovic rounded off the scoring late on with his first goal for the club in 10 matches, heading in from Dani Carvajal's cross.

Zidane was pleased for him after a difficult start to life at the Santiago Bernabeu, while he also applauded Rodrygo's improvement.

"The truth is I am happy for both of them," Zidane added. "Rodrygo has personality and is getting better in the team.

"And Luka is happy because he needed that [goal] and, although he does not play much, it's important [to make an impact] when he has minutes replacing Karim."

Karim Benzema had a hand in three goals as he inspired Real Madrid to a 5-0 win over Leganes in LaLiga on Wednesday.

With last weekend's scheduled Clasico against Barcelona postponed due to political tension in Catalonia, Madrid appeared to have fun on their return to action as they toyed with rock-bottom Leganes, who had no answer to the classy Benzema at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Frenchman was central to a brutal Madrid start that saw them lead 2-0 within eight minutes – Benzema setting up Rodrygo Goes and Toni Kroos, before Sergio Ramos got in on the act from the spot.

Benzema eventually got a deserved goal of his own from 12 yards, taking him to seven for the season, and Luka Jovic finally got his first goal for the club in stoppage time as Los Blancos moved up to second – behind Barcelona – in the table.

Madrid looked in the mood right from the start and quickly charged into their two-goal lead, as Benzema teed up Rodrygo for a straightforward finish, before Kroos' deft flick from the striker's low cross left Juan Soriano with no chance.

Ramos increased the deficit in the 24th minute with a penalty, though he needed two opportunities as Soriano – who conceded the spot-kick for fouling Eden Hazard – was penalised via VAR for coming off his line when saving the Madrid captain's first attempt.

Benzema went agonisingly close to a fine goal just past the hour when his 25-yard strike came back off Soriano's left-hand post.

But Soriano had no such luck soon after when Benzema slammed home a cool penalty, won by Luka Modric after a clumsy tackle by Kenneth Omeruo.

Jovic wrapped up an emphatic victory late on, meeting Dani Carvajal's cross with a fine header to get off the mark for Madrid in his 10th outing.

 

What does it mean? Normal service restored in LaLiga

When promoted Granada sat top of the table at the weekend, there was certainly a feeling of refreshing unpredictability in LaLiga.

But, with Barca demolishing Real Valladolid on Tuesday and Madrid making light work of Leganes, the traditional heavyweights lead the way again at the summit.

Benzema bullies Leganes' backline

What a renaissance Benzema is enjoying. He has always been a very good link-up striker, providing plenty of assists across his Madrid career, but his display on Wednesday was quintessential Benzema. He worked selflessly and laid on two assists in a fine performance, capping it off with a well-taken penalty.

A miserable day for Omeruo

It was a day to forget for many of Leganes' back five, but Omeruo was particularly hapless, struggling to pick up Benzema several times and then tripping Modric for the second penalty.

What's next?

Madrid are at home again on Saturday as Real Betis are the visitors. On Sunday, Leganes host fellow strugglers Eibar, as they look to close the gap to the teams above them.

Spain Under-21 coach Luis de la Fuente is ready to welcome Sergio Ramos into his plans for next year's Olympic Games.

Real Madrid captain Ramos admitted this month he would find it hard to turn down the chance to represent his country in Tokyo, even though Euro 2020 will finish less than two weeks before the Games begins.

The centre-back would be eligible to be selected as one of Spain's over-age stars, with each nation permitted to select a maximum of three players born before January 1, 1997, in their Olympics squad.

De la Fuente, who will coach the team in Japan, says he would find it hard to turn down Ramos, who will be 34 when the tournament gets under way on July 23.

"I'm proud. I'm proud that he, like other players who have a great international and footballing background, is willing to be able to come with us, that we have the possibility of selecting them," De la Fuente told 20 Minutos.

"All football lovers should be emotional and proud that these footballers are ready to come to such an important event as the Olympic Games.

"Do you believe Ramos is one of the best players in the world? Well, I'm not going to say 'no' to the best players in the world."

Ramos, who made his international debut in 2005, became Spain's record appearance-maker this month when he won his 168th senior cap in the 1-1 Euro 2020 draw with Norway.

"I would have happily traded this 168th cap for a victory," Ramos said after breaking the record held by Iker Casillas. "But this record is a great reward after so many years and it's a great source of huge pride.

"I am emotional every time I put on this shirt. That will not change and I hope to continue doing so for many years."

The former Sevilla defender has won the European Under-19 Championship, Euro 2008, Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup in an illustrious international career.

Sergio Ramos' late goal in Real Madrid's Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid in 2014 may have altered the history of European football, according to Luka Modric.

Madrid trailed to Diego Godin's opener when Ramos forced extra time with a dramatic 93rd-minute header at Estadio da Luz.

Gareth Bale put Carlo Ancelotti's side in front and further goals followed from Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo to seal a 4-1 victory in Lisbon. 

It was Madrid's 10th European Cup - known as 'La Decima' - but their first in 12 years after a series of near misses.

The Spanish giants have since added three more Champions Leagues to their collection, but Modric is unsure whether it would have been possible if not for Ramos' famous goal.

"It's difficult to make such judgements. I don't know," he told Club del Deportista. "It may be the case that this goal changed the history of European football. Real Madrid had already won a lot of trophies, but they hadn't lifted the Champions League trophy for 12 years. 

"This goal changed something, the mentality changed. From that moment we started to be very strong in Europe and teams were afraid of us again. That shows how important mentality is in football. 

"People had spent 12 years talking about La Decima and it became a mental thing. [Jose] Mourinho went to three semi-finals and it was hard to overcome this mental barrier.

"When we reached the final and to win it with that goal, it still gives me goosebumps, we showed such strong character and never gave up."

Modric broke Ronaldo and Lionel Messi's Ballon d'Or stranglehold by winning football's most prestigious individual accolade in 2018.

It capped a memorable year that saw him win his third successive Champions League with Madrid and help Croatia to a first World Cup final, where they were beaten by France.

"That was a recognition of my entire career, but a very special year in particular," Modric said of winning the award. 

"I was lucky enough to win the Champions League again, which isn't easy, and I also reached the World Cup final with a country like Croatia, which for us is something that words just can't describe. 

"I don't like to talk about myself, but I think that, in the individual sense, I played a very good season and the footballing people have recognised that. It's no coincidence when so many people vote for you."

Luka Modric insists friend and team-mate Gareth Bale fits in well at Real Madrid and enjoys being at the club.

Rumours linking the Wales international with a move to the Chinese Super League have resurfaced as the January transfer window draws nearer.

He almost left for Jiangsu Suning during the close season, only for Madrid to reportedly cancel the deal at the last minute.

Zinedine Zidane tried to force him out amid suggestions Bale has failed to embrace Spanish culture but, speaking ahead of Wednesday's LaLiga game against Leganes, the head coach claimed his winger is still happy at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Star midfielder Modric, who swapped Tottenham for Madrid a year before Bale, holds the same view.

"Gareth and I are very similar. We are shy and sometimes we don't talk much," Modric told Club del Deportista.

"Gareth speaks and understands Spanish, and there is a good atmosphere and he gets along very well with his team-mates and is delighted to enjoy Madrid and the best club in the world.

"Of course, everyone enjoys their own way and you have to respect their way of being. He is exemplary with his behaviour. I get along very well with him."

Fresh speculation surrounding Bale's future arose following his meeting with agent Jonathan Barnett in London on Monday.

Zidane said the trip was "personal reasons" and that Madrid knew of his plans.

Approached for comment by a Spanish broadcaster, Barnett added that Bale is completely content at the club.

"Gareth Bale is delighted to play for Real Madrid," he told Deportes Cuatro.

Bale, 30, has not featured for Los Blancos since suffering an injury – initially suspected to be cramp – while playing for Wales against Modric's Croatia on October 13.

Former Real Madrid forward Predrag Mijatovic has urged the Spanish giants to move Gareth Bale on if the player wants to go, even if it means missing out on a transfer fee.

The Wales star moved to Spain from Tottenham in 2013 for a reported fee of €91million and has been a key player in the club's success ever since.

But Bale's future was the subject of much discussion during the previous transfer window, with the 30-year-old said to be keen on a move elsewhere.

The attacker's reported wage packet of £350,000 per week made it tough for clubs to do a deal, though, and Bale remained in Madrid, where he has made just seven starts in all competitions this season.

Zinedine Zidane’s squad sit sixth in La Liga having made an underwhelming start to the campaign, including picking up just one win from their opening three Champions League fixtures.

"Madrid wanted to sell him over the summer but they couldn't find a solution," Mijatovic said while appearing on the show El Larguero on Cadena SER.

"A decision needs to be made ... he has three years left on his contract and that complicates things.

"In terms of numbers, I think Bale has already been profitable. If a player of this salary is not motivated, it is better to leave for free and take the salary off.

"It may be worth it to transfer him, even if it is not the money you might think you would get for him. If it is better to let it go free than to keep it? Without any doubt, I believe."

While Mijatovic did say that Bale "loves living here [Spain]", he added that the public perception of the player is not great.

"He seems quite a particular person, which might mean he comes across as being a bit strange," he said.

"But to have someone like that at the club, who they say isn't integrated and has other, more important worries than his own team and his club ... [the perception is] the first thing he thinks about is Wales, then golf and after that, Real Madrid.

"I haven't spoken to him - but that's how he comes across."

Mijatovic scored 44 goals in 117 appearances for Madrid. He netted the only goal of the 1998 UEFA Champions League final, securing victory over Juventus in Amsterdam.

Under-pressure Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has tipped former team-mate Raul to coach the Spanish giants one day.

Zidane took his Madrid side to Istanbul for a Champions League clash with Galatasaray last week following a run of just four victories in 10 outings in all competitions.

A 1-0 LaLiga loss at Real Mallorca had heaped the pressure on Zidane, with Jose Mourinho linked with a high-profile return to the Spanish capital, but they got back to winning ways by beating Gala 1-0 on Tuesday.

Speaking on the 25th anniversary of Raul's debut for the 13-time European champions, Zidane tipped the 42-year-old - who currently coaches Madrid's Castilla side - to follow in his footsteps and earn promotion to the top job in the future.

"I played alongside him and he was an important player for this great club," Zidane said.

"I'm sure he'll coach Real Madrid one day."

Raul is a Madrid legend, the striker scoring 323 goals in 741 appearances for the club.

He won six LaLiga titles with Madrid and three Champions League trophies.

Raul earned 102 caps for Spain in a lengthy career that also took in stints with Schalke, Al Sadd and New York Cosmos.

He was announced as Castilla coach in June and has steered them to three wins from 10 matches in Segunda B - Group 1.

Zinedine Zidane has insisted Gareth Bale is happy at Real Madrid and had the club's permission to visit London on Monday.

Wales international Bale travelled to the English capital two days out from his club's LaLiga game against Leganes, which he will miss through injury.

The former Tottenham winger reportedly used the trip to meet with his agent, Jonathan Barnett, as rumours surrounding his future started to re-circulate.

Bale almost left Madrid for China in the close season amid suggestions of a strained relationship with Zidane, but the Frenchman claimed the pair are on good terms.

"It's good to be asked this because a lot of things have been said," Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday.

"I have to say we have a good relationship. He's here with us, he trains well and works well when he's available. He's not available at the moment because he's got an injury, that's all.

"The problem is, there is a lot of talk about lots of different things. The important thing is that he's ready when he's 100 per cent.

"He's a good player, you know what kind of player he is. At the moment he's not available. You're all trying to create something that isn't there in our relationship.

"He had permission yesterday to go [to London]. It was a personal issue and he went. There's nothing else to say. He went also because he's not available to play.

"I don't think he ever talks about leaving. When he's available he trains and plays. He's played a number of games."

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been mentioned as possible destinations for Bale, along with Shanghai Shenhua.

Their Chinese Super League rivals, Jiangsu Suning, were believed to be in pole position before the transfer fell through in July.

"That was the situation at the time and at the end of the day he stayed. That was better for everyone," Zidane said.

"It doesn't help what's said about him and the club. He's an important player in this squad. It's important for us that he plays and does well.

"The same thing [transfer speculation] will happen in January. If he says he's going to stay, there will be more talk about the summer window. He's happy here."

Eden Hazard has confirmed he discussed Real Madrid with Thibaut Courtois and Florentino Perez before completing his "dream" transfer from Chelsea.

Belgium star Hazard brought months of speculation to an end when he swapped Stamford Bridge for the Santiago Bernabeu in June.

The former Lille winger had hoped to make the move immediately after claiming the Silver Ball at the 2018 World Cup but the Blues blocked his exit, having already allowed goalkeeper Courtois to leave for Los Blancos.

Hazard spent a further 12 months in London and used the time to confirm the club's interest and the mood of his future team-mates.

"My dream was always to play for Real Madrid, the greatest team in the world, and so far I'm happy," Hazard told Real Madrid TV.

"Courtois always told me that this was the best club.

"I'd already made my mind up after the World Cup and I said to myself 'I have to join Real Madrid now'. That wasn't possible and I spent another year at Chelsea and that made my departure easier. The club understood it and allowed me to leave.

"I spoke to Florentino and he told me that he was waiting for me in Madrid.

"I also spoke to [Luka] Modric and got the impression that they all wanted to see me at Real Madrid and it finally happened."

Hazard, like many of his team-mates, has not enjoyed an easy start to the new season, with a glaring miss in the narrow Champions League win over Galatasaray indicative of his struggles.

But as Zinedine Zidane's men strive for form, the 28-year-old continues to have high hopes for success in Europe.

"As I said on my first day, for me, the Champions League is important," he said.

"In London, I only once reached the semi-finals. Chelsea had won their only Champions League trophy the year before I joined.

"They've won it a lot of times here in previous years and it's difficult to win it every season because there are many teams involved, but I've come here to win it because it's important for everyone and that goes for me too."

The Gareth Bale transfer saga continues to roll on as he remains frozen out at Spanish giants Real Madrid with seemingly no way back.

The 30-year-old was linked with a move to China in the summer but the move did not materialise and Bale has since continued to find himself out of favour with Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

All is not lost for Bale though with three Premier League clubs battling for the Welshman's signature in January, as he builds towards a possible Euro 2020 campaign with Wales next June.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE TRIO KEEN TO SIGN BALE IN JANUARY

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have all been linked with a January swoop for Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale, according to AS.

The three Premier League giants are seeking solutions to solve inconsistent starts to their respective seasons and believe the Welshman could provide a timely boost leading into 2020.

Bale is seen as the perfect fit for a return to Premier League football, having maintained his good reputation from time spent with Southampton and Spurs, but it remains to be seen whether Madrid's asking price or the player's wage demands will be met. 

Marca believe Bale could revisit a potential move to China, however, with the player's agent believed to be in talks with Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter Milan are hopeful of signing Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen on a free transfer this summer, according to The Guardian.

- Sky Italia say Inter are also considering a move for out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic, which would see the Serbian reunite with Antonio Conte.

- Staying in Serie A and Corriere dello Sport claim Roma have rejected the opportunity to sign former Sunderland flop Jack Rodwell on a free transfer.

- Corriere dello Sport also believe Napoli have pulled the plug on a potential move for Salzburg star Erling Braut Haaland as they expect the 19-year-old to join Manchester United in January.

- Manchester City will replace Leroy Sane with Real Sociedad playmaker Mikel Oyarzabal should the Germany winger get his move to Bayern Munich, according to Sky Sports.

- Turkish news outlet Takvim claim Besiktas are keen to cancel their two-year loan agreement with Liverpool for goalkeeper Loris Karius.

Barcelona are responsible for the postponement of the Clasico against Real Madrid, according to the Catalan club's former president Joan Laporta.

The clash between the two LaLiga rivals was scheduled to be held on Saturday but the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) decided to reschedule the fixture due to civil unrest in Catalonia.

Both clubs agreed to push the game back to December 18 and the RFEF accepted the proposal, but LaLiga responded by stating it was considering legal action over the decision.

Laporta, who was the president of Barca between 2003 and 2014, believes the match should have been played as initially planned.

"Yes, [I would've played] the game on Saturday because if Real Madrid wanted to play then I don't see the problem," he said.

"The powers that be wanted to magnify what was happening for political reasons. [Barcelona] were mistaken because they criminalised a movement and put politics ahead of a football match that always has political connotations. It's always been like this.

"They've played a game with the powers that rule football to make people from Barcelona and everyone look bad. LaLiga made a strong move for it not to be played.

"LaLiga had political interests to magnify a certain situation and exaggerate what happened. It's the worst way of getting past what is happening. Barcelona are guilty in this situation."

With neither Barca nor Madrid in action, Granada went top of LaLiga with a 1-0 win over Real Betis.

Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo believes his "healthy rivalry" with Barcelona counterpart Lionel Messi during his time in LaLiga made him a better player.

Both men have won the coveted Ballon d'Or five times and are considered to be two of the greatest players of all time.

Ronaldo spent nine years with Real Madrid prior to joining Juventus in 2018 and Messi recently acknowledged the pair spurred each other on in their quest for individual honours.

The former Manchester United star has echoed those views, telling France Football: "A lot of people said that we fed each other, that being together in Spain made us better.

"That's certainly true. I felt his presence more in Madrid than in Manchester. It was a healthy rivalry. We were the symbols of our clubs.

"It's always nice to be spoken of in a flattering way. It's nice if they say I've been the best, a fantastic player.

"Today, I hear everything they say about me, but when it's all over, at the end of my career, I won't mind because I'll disconnect from everything."

Ronaldo is well known for his dedication to training and insists hard work off the field has helped him to become one of the all-time greats.

"First of all, you need talent, otherwise you won't amount to much," he said. "However, talent is useless without hard work.

"I would never have got to where I am today without the culture of hard work."

Ronaldo recently netted the 700th goal of his career in Portugal's 2-1 defeat to Ukraine, 450 of those being scored during his illustrious spell at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Asked to pick his favourite ever goal, the 34-year-old went with his overhead kick in Madrid's Champions League quarter-final win against current employers Juventus in 2017-18.

"Reaching 700 goals make me proud - it's an impressive total that few players have reached," he said.

"If I had to choose a favourite, I would say the one against Juventus because it was a goal I'd been trying to score for years."

Rumours linking Paul Pogba to Real Madrid are refusing to go away.

Pogba – nursing an ankle injury which is set to keep him sidelined until December – wanted to leave Manchester United in the previous transfer window but a move did not materialise.

With the January window approaching, Madrid are eyeing the French star again.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID PLOTTING POGBA PURCHASE

Real Madrid are preparing to make a January bid for Manchester United star Paul Pogba, according to OK Diario.

Pogba was wanted by Madrid and former club Juventus in the previous window as he eyed an Old Trafford exit, yet United were unwilling to part with their prized asset.

But with Pogba reportedly set to make it clear he will not renew his United contract beyond 2021, Madrid are lining up a €150million (£129.5m) offer.

 

ROUND-UP

- Another Frenchman is also reportedly high on Madrid's radar. AS reports the Spanish powerhouse are hoping to take advantage of a tense relationship between Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and head coach Thomas Tuchel. Madrid are determined to lure Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the season.

- Linked with Madrid and LaLiga champions Barcelona, in-demand Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz is also wanted by Premier League holders Manchester City. Gazzetta dello Sport claims City are set to make an approach for the Spain international.

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona are interested in Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca after his agent previously revealed the club's interest in Martinez. Now, Ernesto Valverde's side are eyeing the in-form marksman – who has also reportedly attracted the attention of Manchester United – as Inter pursue Barca pair Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal.

United are prepared to meet Borussia Dortmund's demands for England sensation Jadon Sancho, reports the Mirror. Sancho has also been linked to Liverpool and Madrid.

Stefano Sensi's exploits at Inter have not gone unnoticed. On loan from Sassuolo with the option to buy, Sport says there is already contact between Barca, Inter and the player's agent.

Granada moved to the top of LaLiga after a 1-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday, less than five months on from their promotion back to the top flight.

Diego Martinez's side took advantage of the postponed Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Alvaro Vadillo's second-half goal sealing all three points at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

The Andalusian side have enjoyed a remarkable return to LaLiga after two seasons in the second tier, winning six of their opening 10 games, including a memorable 2-0 victory over Barca on September 21.

With Barca not playing this weekend after their clash with Madrid was postponed, Granada were able to move a point clear at the top of the table.

Their haul of 20 points from 10 games this season is as many as they managed from all 38 league matches when they were relegated in 2016-17.

They could be dethroned when Ernesto Valverde's side take on Real Valladolid in their game in hand on Tuesday at Camp Nou.

Civil unrest in Catalonia forced the first Clasico of the 2019-20 season to be rearranged for December 18.

Take your pick: Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester City?

Napoli star Fabian Ruiz is in demand following his exploits in Serie A since leaving Real Betis in 2018.

LaLiga giants Madrid are keen to bring Spanish midfielder Fabian to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEPPING UP FABIAN INTEREST

Real Madrid are prepared to offer €20million and Isco for Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, according to Mundo Deportivo.

In-demand Napoli star Fabian is wanted by Madrid, LaLiga champions Barcelona and Premier League holders Manchester City.

Fabian swapped Real Betis for Napoli in 2018 and Madrid are determined to bring the Spain international to the Santiago Bernabeu, though Napoli are reportedly uninterested in an exchange and wanted a bigger transfer fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- According the Mirror, Manchester United have been given the green light for a £125million double swoop to sign Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz and Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller. Havertz is wanted by Europe's elite, while Muller is searching for more game time.

United have been put off signing Real Madrid's Gareth Bale due to his injury record, reports the Daily Mail. Bale's name continues to be mentioned amid Madrid's interest in United midfielder Paul Pogba.

Inter are ready to make January bids for Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal and Manchester United's Nemanja Matic, according to Corriere della Sera. Sport also claims Inter are in talks with Barca for Ivan Rakitic.

- AS claims Barcelona want Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman to replace head coach Ernesto Valverde, who is out of contract at season's end. PSV's Mark van Bommel is also on the list of alternatives.

Manchester City are set to offer Wayne Rooney's son Kai the chance to join their academy, says the Mirror. Kai joined City in 2016 during Wayne's time at Premier League rivals Manchester United.

- Soccer Link reports Lyon are open to selling Manchester United target and star striker Moussa Dembele.

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