Zinedine Zidane does not know when Eden Hazard will be fit to play for Real Madrid as the Belgium star's struggles in the Spanish capital continue.

Although Madrid successfully wrested control of LaLiga from Barcelona last season, it was a campaign of personal frustration for Hazard following his initial €100million switch from Chelsea.

He managed a solitary goal and struggled to regain top condition after undergoing surgery on a broken right foot.

Hazard signed off his season with a lacklustre showing in Madrid's Champions League last-16 loss to Manchester City.

The 29-year-old went on international duty during the recent break for Nations League matches against Denmark and Iceland but did not play a single minute and reports from Madrid suggested he returned to pre-season training overweight.

Before the start of his team's title defence at Real Sociedad on Sunday, Zidane confirmed Hazard would not feature in San Sebastian.

"I can't tell you when he'll be able to return, just that he's better," he said.

"The important thing is how the player feels. We have time to prepare for the season.

"The only thing he has to do is be at 100 per cent and we'll get to work."

One creative talent ready to play a part is Martin Odegaard, who is back in the Madrid ranks after impressing on loan at Real Sociedad last season – to the extent that Los Blancos opted to recall the 21-year-old Norway international instead of allowing him to spend another campaign at the Anoeta.

"He's our player and he can contribute to the team," Zidane said of Odegaard, who also spent time on loan with Heerenveen and Vitesse after joining Madrid as a 16-year-old in January 2015.

"Players that come to Real Madrid are the best. We have another player and he's a player that can be very important in this squad. I know I have the best players here.

"The important thing for the players is to be prepared and I think Martin, like the others, is prepared.

"Martin has changed because his trajectory has been phenomenal and he's improved each year. He's a more complete player now."

Gareth Bale's return to Tottenham is yet to be finalised, according to Zinedine Zidane, who hailed the Wales international's "spectacular" contribution to Real Madrid.

Bale's loan move to Tottenham, who he left to join Madrid in 2013, is expected to be confirmed after he flew to London on Friday and was seen entering the Premier League club's training ground.

The 31-year-old was an increasingly marginalised figure under Zidane as Madrid won LaLiga last season, cutting quite the contrast to his goalscoring turns in the 2014 and 2018 Champions League finals.

An apparent breakdown in relations with his coach has been accepted as the main reason for Bale seeking an exit from the Spanish capital but, speaking ahead of the start of his side's LaLiga defence at Real Sociedad, Zidane insisted there was no personality clash.

"I'm not annoyed that people are blaming me for his departure because it's not like that," the France great told a Saturday news conference.

"The matter is more complicated than that. What I can say is that we didn't have any problems between us.

"No one is going to take away what he's done at Real Madrid. We didn't have any problems, it wasn't like that.

"I wish him the best. I haven't spoken to him. What he's done here has been phenomenal - you can't dispute that because he's won a lot and shown his quality."

The lack of confirmation of Bale's signing has caused a measure of anxiety among the Tottenham fanbase and Zidane suggested there are still some details to be ironed out.

"For now, Bale is one of our players," he said "The matter still has to be finalised.

"We're not going to talk about things that don't make sense. Bale has been spectacular."

Sergio Regulion is another player set to move from Madrid to Spurs, having travelled alongside Bale.

The left-back's impressive season on loan with Europa League winners Sevilla was not enough to earn another chance at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite a poll run by newspaper Marca revealing 70 per cent of fans wanted him to stay.

"The first thing I have to do is congratulate him on last season," Zidane said.

"We have two players for each position - no more. I have two left-backs and I can't have more because then it's a lot.

"I wish him the best because he had a good season at Sevilla."

Andrea Pirlo was untouchable at the height of his playing career, a footballer whose grace and prowling presence drew widespread admiration and struck fear into rival teams.

As a coach, we can surmise but really it is a guessing game as to what we will be getting from Pirlo as the dugout rookie leads Juventus into the 2020-21 season.

On Sunday evening in Italy, the man who was a World Cup winner in 2006 takes charge of his first Serie A game with Juve, who play Sampdoria in Turin.

Maurizio Sarri's Juve reign lasted just one season, albeit another Scudetto-yielding campaign for the most successful club in the league's history. Pirlo will be expected to deliver at least that level of success, and encourage a swagger too.

He joins a host of significant former players plucked for leadership roles at an elite level, typically on a hunch rooted in familiarity, the chosen ones often still fresh from their playing days and with scant experience to call on. Top marks in coaching exams provide no guarantee that success will follow.

Many times, the gamble on a colt coach has paid off, with presidents and owners rightly sensing the novice harbours the innate expertise to lead and to inspire, and crucially to bring results. On other occasions, it has ended in frustration and tears, and in some instances the jury remains out.

Here is a look at just some of those cases, illustrating how there are no guarantees attached to such appointments.

PEP GUARDIOLA

The go-to example for any club that wishes to justify appointing a club legend to sudden seniority on the coaching side, former midfield general Guardiola was just 37 when he took charge at Barcelona in 2008, after a year coaching the B team. He departed four years and 14 trophies later, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League triumphs, and was vaunted as the world's best coach.

Further successes have come with Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Plainly, Pep was born to lead and Barcelona were wise to the fact.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

How would Zidane, the mercurial playmaker – the only rival to Brazil striker Ronaldo when assessing the greatest player of their generation – take to coaching? Could the erstwhile Galactico tease out the best from those who can but dream of matching the twinkling feet and god-gifted balance with which he was blessed? Could the former Real Madrid maestro really be a suitable fit for the Bernabeu job that has swallowed up many an experienced coach?

Three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles later, we probably have a decent idea of the answer to those questions. There have still been ups and downs, and a brief split along the way, but 18 months in charge of Madrid's B team – Castilla – hardened Zidane for the obstacles he would face in the top job. His Madrid sides have at times lacked the verve that was his signature as a player, but they have delivered results and abundant trophies, and ultimately that is what counts.

MICHEL PLATINI

Before there was Zidane, France had Platini. A wonder of an attacking midfielder with Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus, Platini was also a goalscoring titan of the France team that won Euro 84 and reached semi-finals at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. It followed, to those that knew him, that Platini would go on to become a great national-team coach too, and at the age of 33 he was appointed to lead France, having retired as a player a year earlier. Platini took over with France already at a low ebb and defeats under his charge against Yugoslavia and Scotland meant they missed out on reaching the 1990 World Cup.

Could Platini bounce back? It seemed he might when France reached Euro 92 in style, with eight wins from eight qualifiers, Platini nurturing the likes of Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc, but Les Bleus flopped at the tournament itself as they and England bowed out of a group from which Sweden and Denmark advanced. Platini resigned not long afterwards, began to forge a solid reputation in football administration, and by the late 1990s had built a strong, ultimately fateful, alliance with the then FIFA secretary general Sepp Blatter. He would never coach again.

DIEGO MARADONA

If there were ever a case of being blinded by celebrity, then some of the presidents who have given Diego Armando Maradona coaching work surely have fallen victim. The biggest star of his generation, Maradona retired from playing in 1997 and, with barely a sniff of coaching experience and just about as much baggage as an airport carousel, was named boss of his native Argentina in 2008, tasked with taking the Albicelestes to the World Cup two years later. Argentina scraped their way into the finals and were thumped 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals. Maradona's contract was not renewed.

He has continued to pick up coaching work, one curious-looking appointment after another, most recently with Gimnasia in the Argentinian top flight. Maradona the coach has been no match for Maradona the player, and it was naive surely for anyone to think that was ever remotely possible.

FRANK LAMPARD

Pirlo was an artist of the 21st century game, and he is considered a deep thinker, while the common theory is that English midfield counterpart Lampard achieved much of his success through hard graft and maximising his rather more rudimentary talent. Whether either categorisation fits the bill is a moot point, but Lampard has a wiser head on his shoulders than many footballers, was top of the class in his school days, and his IQ is reputed to be through the roof.

Derby County gave him a first break in coaching but it took Chelsea just a year to pounce and parachute Lampard into his first Premier League manager's job. A Stamford Bridge great as a player, Lampard had an acceptable first season as Blues boss but the acid test comes in this new term after a spree of big-money signings. A high-stakes London gamble will play out in the coming months.

ALAN SHEARER

As Pirlo takes charge of those in the Bianconeri stripes he once wore – Cristiano Ronaldo and all – it bears remembering that returning black and white messiahs can fail. Former Newcastle United striker Shearer returned to St James' Park in April 2009, the club's record goalscorer aiming to rescue the team from the threat of relegation, but a dismal return of five points from eight games saw them sink out of the Premier League.

Shearer left and has not coached since, happily staying in his niche as a television pundit. There are pressures but also a certain comfort to that studio role. Two months at Newcastle was the sum of Shearer's coaching career: as Pirlo may yet find out, that can be all it takes to destroy the notion of it being a natural next step.

Gareth Bale could make a sensational return to Tottenham after the Real Madrid star's agent talked up a reunion.

Wales star Bale has been frozen out of the first-team picture at Madrid by head coach Zinedine Zidane, despite a decorated stint in the Spanish capital which has included four Champions League triumphs.

The 31-year-old joined Madrid from Spurs in September 2013 for what was then a world-record €100million fee.

Tottenham are reported to be in talks over re-signing Bale, with a loan move thought to be most likely and wages understood to be in the region of £600,000 per week a significant hurdle to negotiate.

Nevertheless, the winger's agent Jonathan Barnett stated playing in north London once again would be his client's preferred option.

"Gareth still loves Spurs," he told BBC Sport Wales. "It's where he wants to be."

Manchester United have frequently been linked to Bale during his time in LaLiga.

He does not fit the age profile of players United tend to sign, although he might be viewed as an alternative option at a time when attempts to bring Borussia Dortmund and England youngster Jadon Sancho to Old Trafford appear to have stalled.

Bale's team-mate, left-back Sergio Reguilon, has been linked to both United and Spurs.

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho spoke of his desire to sign another forward ahead of the season opener against Everton last weekend and Bale's arrival would certainly serve as a timely boost after that dispiriting 1-0 home loss.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid comprised LaLiga's top three for an eighth consecutive season in 2019-20.

The big three of this era in Spain's top fight have not been apart since Valencia came in third in 2011-12 - 30 points shy of second-place Barca.

The order has shuffled into various configurations since, most sensationally when Atleti pipped the Blaugrana to finish top of the pile in 2013-14.

Madrid and Barcelona have cashed in on the superclub era, aided by arguably the two finest footballers of all-time, while Atletico gradually gained the weight they once punched above to become their country's third heavy hitter.

Nevertheless, each club heads into the new campaign with cracks appearing. If the end of an empire isn't quite upon us, it might be closing in.

MESSI, KOEMAN AND CATASTROPHE. WHAT IS GOING ON AT BARCELONA?

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

It is impossible to know whether Ronald Koeman has dwelt upon the wisdom of Oscar Wilde as he arrives at the apparent end of Barcelona's age of decadence, but there is something devastating about the timing of the Dutchman getting the job he has always coveted.

Indeed, it speaks volumes over how much Koeman wanted to come 'home' to Camp Nou that he would do so under an entirely discredited president to preside over an aging squad left somewhere close to mutiny by a humiliation of historic proportions.

Koeman did say he views Lionel Messi as key part of his project at Barca. And he has him, although there is the monumental catch of context.

In an explosive interview where he focused on everyone's fault but his own - a Leo culpa, if you will - Messi insisted he was only sticking around because Bartomeu had gone back on his word to him and made a departure financially "impossible".

"The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by," Messi told Goal Spain, in a remarkably damning inditement of those who remain his employers and team-mates.

Ivan Rakitic has gone, Luis Suarez is going and Koeman apparently wants to sign a selection of the Netherlands international players he left behind to take on the poisoned chalice of a lifetime.

As Messi allude to, decline has been eating away at Barcelona for some time. By the time they surrendered LaLiga to Real Madrid after the coronavirus hiatus - performances that effectively condemned Quique Setien's doomed reign even before the 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich - they had scored fewer goals (86), conceded more (38), had fewer shots (494), won fewer games (25) and lost more (six) than in any of their past five LaLiga seasons.

The potential saving grace - at the same time a damning indictment of the elite European game in the 21st century - is it seems there is only so far that a club on course for a $1billion record turnover before COVID-19 took hold should realistically be able to fall.

Even if the sum of Koeman's transfer incomings are some Oranje foot soldiers and Manchester City youngster Eric Garcia, a functional defensive set-up in front of the excellent Marc-Andre ter Stegen, a smooth midfield alliance between Frenkie de Jong and Miralem Pjanic and a delightful forward line featuring Messi, Antoine Griezmann, the prodigious Ansu Fati and the returning Philippe Coutinho is an assortment it is not too difficult to imagine as a championship-winning one.

MAGIC OF CHOLISMO STARTING TO FADE

Atletico do not have the luxury of mismanagement on the scale of which Josep Maria Bartomeu has shambolically overseen at Barcelona. At best they'd be Valencia; at worst they'd be playing Segunda Division football.

March's rousing Champions League triumph that unseated European champions Liverpool at Anfield showed Los Colchoneros retain an unmatched thirst for making an unholy nuisance of themselves against Europe's aristocrats.

Unfortunately, the start-up beverage spin-off that is RB Leipzig denied them another such showdown in the latter stages of the competition in Lisbon last month - a performance and result that spoke of problems that have quietly mounted to the point Simeone will struggle to shift them as he approaches nine years at the helm.

With their backs against the wall and the bit between their teeth, few teams want to face Atletico. But in games where they are expected to win and take the game to the opposition, they increasingly appear woefully short of the right moves - the transition from reactive to pro-active football beyond them.

They were favourites to beat Leipzig but played a low percentage game and paid the price, as they did over the course of 16 LaLiga draws last season. Their 14 points dropped from winning positions marked their worst return in the past five years.

That Joao Felix came off the bench against Leipzig to win a penalty, convert it and briefly turn the game in Atleti's favour also spoke ill of Simeone's failure to get the best out of the majestically skilled Portugal forward.

Indeed, there is a mounting list of talented attackers who have failed to hit the heights under Simeone, with Griezmann something of an outlier in the aftermath of their 2013-14 success.

Back then, Atletico beat Madrid and Barca when it did not look possible. Now the Classico rivals look deeply fallible, Simeone is unable to rustle up enough of the old magic.

ZZ STAYING ON TOP?

It is not a story to live up to the self-aggrandising history of Madrid, but Zinedine Zidane's steadying hand last year saw them win the title through not messing up as much as their rivals.

Where Barca and Atleti dropped 13 and 14 points from winning positions, Madrid shelled six.

That is not to do down Zidane's achievements as a serial trophy collector. He now has two domestic titles to go with three Champions Leagues across two spells in charge.

The France great is perfectly in tune with a squad he knows well and coaxed a magnificent, career-best season out of Karim Benzema last time around.

From the resumption after lockdown until LaLiga was secured, Madrid won 10 straight matches to comprehensively overhaul Barca.

Their subsequent Champions League loss to Manchester City, where 2-1 defeats in each leg ultimately flattered the 13-time European champions, put their dominant domestic form in context.

Having led the way for much of the past decade, LaLiga's big three presently feel like they're a rung below Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and the Premier League's top two of City and Liverpool. While it is easy to see Madrid retaining Spain's top-flight for the first time since 2007-08, it is hard the see the wider continental gap closing.

Eden Hazard must improve upon a stop-start first season at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde have futures of giddying excitement ahead of them. However, the old guard of Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Benzema remain the core and are the wrong side of 30. Galactico-hunters no more, Los Blancos have once again been fairly quiet in the transfer market.

Zidane's skill at Madrid has been to delay a wholesale transition, even when he returned in the aftermath of Cristiano Ronaldo's 2018 departure. But the clock is ticking on the time for change and, as Madrid's biggest rivals have shown, a painful process awaits.

Brahim Diaz has joined Milan on loan from Real Madrid for the 2020-21 season, the Serie A club confirmed.

The 21-year-old forward signed for Madrid in January 2019 but has struggled for first-team football since making a €15million switch from Manchester City.

Diaz featured just six times in LaLiga last term, with none of those appearances as a starter, and had been strongly linked with a transfer.

HIs agent confirmed talks with Milan earlier in the week, criticising Madrid for not giving Diaz the "required space and above all the confidence he needed".

Despite seemingly not being part of Zinedine Zidane's plans, Diaz has not secured a permanent move, and reports indicate Milan do not have a purchase option in the deal.

A Milan statement read: "Milan is delighted to announce the signing of the Spanish footballer Brahim Diaz from Real Madrid on loan until June 30, 2021."

Diaz, a technically gifted and skilful attacker, joined City in 2015 after showing promise in Malaga's youth ranks.

Although he was regarded as one of City's best prospects alongside Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, Diaz followed the former in leaving the club in search of more opportunities.

While that has not been forthcoming at Madrid, he will be expected to see more action in San Siro, with Milan aiming to improve on their sixth-place finish in 2019-20.

Brahim Diaz's agent Pedro Gonzalez says Real Madrid failed to get the most out of the young midfielder and has backed his client to succeed on loan at Milan.

The 21-year-old joined Madrid in January 2019 after six years at Manchester City but has made just five LaLiga starts since then, with only substitute appearances in the top flight last season.

He previously vowed to win over head coach Zinedine Zidane, but the Spaniard is now on the verge of linking up with Milan for the 2020-21 season after flying into Malpensa airport on Wednesday.

Diaz declared himself "ready for this challenge" ahead of undergoing a medical and his representative Gonzalez is confident the ex-Man City product can become a key player at San Siro, having been underused by Zidane at Madrid.

"Brahim returned to Spain in January 2019, but in Madrid they didn't give him the required space and above all the confidence he needed," he told Tuttomercatoweb.

"He's a young player and he needs to play continuously to bring out his full potential.

"I'm convinced of the Rossoneri choice. Brahim has already lived abroad and will therefore adapt quickly to his new reality.

"His future team-mate Samu Castillejo, another great player I brought to Malaga, will help him. I say this with great pride.

"If Brahim Diaz has chosen Milan, it means he already knows he can help the team by carving out a leading role.

"I have no doubts about this. As soon as he has finished his growth path, we will talk about an absolute champion and not a promising youngster anymore."

Spain Under-21s international Diaz has scored two goals in 21 appearances for Madrid in all competitions during his 20 months at the club.

Zinedine Zidane has described Toni Kroos as a "spectacular" player, and one he will single out as an honour to have coached when he retires.

Kroos joined Madrid from Bayern Munich in 2014 and has gone on to help Los Blancos to two LaLiga titles and three Champions League triumphs.

Zidane has coached Kroos since 2016 over two separate spells, and the Madrid boss has no doubt that the Germany international will go down as a midfield great.

"He will be remembered as a spectacular player, one of the best in the world in his position," Zidane told Real France, as reported by TyC.

"When I arrived, well, you can imagine, I was really happy to be his coach.

"It's true, when I retire I will be able to say that I trained Cristiano [Ronaldo], [Gareth] Bale, [Luka] Modric, [Sergio] Ramos. But I will also say I coached Toni Kroos.

"It is impressive to see him train every day. How professional [he is]. Talking about him is talking about someone extraordinary."

Kroos' main skill, according to Zidane, is his patience and composure, and a player who leads by example.

"He is so good that he could play as a 'six' or even as a '10'," Zidane added. "You put him in and he adapts. His main virtue is his serenity, he's calm.

"He's not nervous and loves reaching out to shoot from afar as much as taking a back pass. The ease with which he plays with both feet is fascinating to me. You could come to think that he's a natural left-footed player.

"Toni is a very quiet and reserved boy. But when he speaks, he speaks to anyone: coach, managers, teammates. He does not stop. I have seen many discussions in which his participation has ended up being key."

Gareth Bale will bring up the seventh anniversary of his then world-record switch from Tottenham to Real Madrid on Tuesday with his career in the Spanish capital at a low ebb.

Out of favour under head coach Zinedine Zidane, the Wales international lurked on the margins, barely visible as Los Blancos claimed a sweet LaLiga title triumph at Barcelona 's expense last season.

The 31-year-old is effectively a luxury sports car consigned to the garage, save for frequent trips out with the golf clubs on the back seat.

Bale has won four Champions Leagues at Madrid, scoring crucially in two of the finals – deeds befitting of a club great.

That is a distinction now set to pass him by, even if the numbers below show it was once his trajectory.

AMONG LALIGA'S ELITE

Since Bale's debut for Carlo Ancelotti's Madrid, where he netted a first-half equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Villarreal, he has scored 80 goals in Spain's top flight.

Over his period in the division, that places him eighth overall, behind Lionel Messi (275), Cristiano Ronaldo (199), Luis Suarez (147), Antoine Griezmann (129), Karim Benzema (125), Iago Aspas (103) and Aritz Aduriz (96).

Unquestionably, that amounts to being in elite company, while his 40 assists are also not too shabby, putting him joint 13th overall.

Once again, Messi is out in front to a ludicrous degree with 112 assists. His Barcelona team-mate – for now at least – Luis Suarez (69) is next and Atletico Madrid's Koke (67) is third.

Benzema and Ronaldo, his colleagues in the once-fabled BBC forward line are the only Madrid players to lay on more goals than Bale, with 66 and 57 assists respectively.

HITTING THE HEIGHTS

Zidane's arrival for his first stint in charge of Madrid can now be viewed as the beginning of the end for Bale, but when they won the first of three consecutive Champions Leagues in 2015-16, he was in prime form.

In that campaign, which ended with the forward inspiring his country on a surprise run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016, Bale scored 19 LaLiga goals and provided 10 assists.

That made 2015-16 his most prolific goalscoring season in the top flight, with 16 in 2017-18 and 15 in his debut season, when he made 12 assists, coming next.

He scored his goals at a shade over one every 91 minutes – the only time in his Madrid career he dipped under 112 minutes per goal.

FALLING WORK RATE AND INURY WOES

Fitness issues have dogged Bale throughout his time in LaLiga, with calf complaints a regrettable recurring theme.

Since his opening two seasons at the club, he has failed to play more than 2,000 minutes in a campaign, having racked up 2,069 and 2,581 in 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively.

Perhaps as a result of concerns over how well his body might hold up, there is also evidence of a decline in Bale's propensity to do the dirty work,

In his lone season under Ancelotti, he made 85 recoveries in league games and has not topped 50 since 2015-16.

In that prolific 2015-16 season, Bale played 1,738 minutes compared to 1,792 in 2018-19 However, his recoveries from those two years dipped from 52 to 36. Interceptions dropped from 20 to 11 and instances of him winning possession in the final third halved from 10 to five.

On the latter metric, Bale has never topped the 14 times he won the ball deep into opposition territory in 2013-14 – doing so only once in an injury interrupted 2016-17.

CAST ASIDE BY ZIDANE

Injuries are, of course, not the main reason for Bale's dwindling involvement in 2019-20. His 1,091 minutes in LaLiga are comfortably his lowest since arriving at Madrid.

He last started back-to-back games on February 16. To underline what could have been accomplished between that date and now, Messi managed 11 goals and nine assists - both divisional bests - in the timeframe.

Madrid team-mates Benzema and Sergio Ramos scored eight and six times respectively to stand as heroes of a memorable title triumph before masked spectator Bale.

As what remains of his prime is whittled away inside a gilded Santiago Bernabeu cage, it all seems so wasteful and unnecessary for all parties. Particularly for a player who touched greatness for significant parts of the previous decade.

Kylian Mbappe would be a "stratospheric" signing for Real Madrid but a move is not financially feasible, according to the Spanish club's former president Ramon Calderon.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has been strongly tipped to link up with Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu at some point in his career, potentially as early as this transfer window.

However, Mbappe still has two years to run on his PSG contract and would command a huge transfer fee, which Calderon feels no team can justify in the current climate.

"No doubt Mbappe is a player who everyone would like to sign. He has great potential, and he is very young," he told Stats Perform News.

"He reminds me a lot of Ronaldo, the Brazilian, because of his strength and his capacity to score goals. No doubt, he would be a great transfer. 

"I don't know if Real Madrid are able to do it now. It would be a stratospheric transfer. He has a contract with PSG – they will not give him away for free.

"On the other hand, we are into a very expensive deal with the rebuilding of the new stadium. It is up to €1billion. So, it is difficult.

"But if the president thinks it can be possible, he will do it. However, I guess the economy will not be the best, especially at this time, when there will be financial issues at every club.

"The costs of transfers will totally change. They will go down, and also the salaries of the players will go down.

"So, it is basically an economic point. First, the player needs to ask for a transfer request and the financial agreement will come after.

"But, again, the financial agreement for Mbappe is not easy – it cannot be done by anyone."

Madrid's most recent marquee signing, Belgium forward Eden Hazard, failed to make much of an impact in his debut season after joining from Chelsea last year.

Hazard suffered from a series of injury issues and featured just 22 times in all competitions, but Calderon expects to see a lot more from the 29-year-old this coming season.

"We know he was a great player in the Premier League," Calderon said. "A fantastic player – so much talent and skill.

"But he did not play as regularly as Madrid demand of their players. Chelsea are a big team, but Chelsea players don't have to handle the pressure that Real Madrid players have.

"I have dealt with it. When they come here, you face the most difficult time of your career. You have to give 150 per cent and the fans are extremely demanding.

"So, we have to wait. It is only the first year, a year of adaptation. He also struggled with injuries. I believe he could show his talent the following year.

"It has happened before with other players when they couldn't perform the first season and the second one has been totally different. Hopefully, that will be the case."

Zinedine Zidane guided Madrid to their first LaLiga title in three years in 2019-20 – his 11th trophy in three seasons as head coach across two spells in the Spanish capital.

The Frenchman's future has sometimes been called into question, however, and Calderon has backed former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino to take over once Zidane does eventually move on.

"Pochettino is a very good manager. Of course he could manage Real Madrid," Calderon said.

"However, again, this is a very complicated club and so demanding of everyone. From that point, they have built their history.

"That demand makes every player know they need to be at 100 per cent in order to fight for all the trophies.

"I believe Zidane will stay, but it is true he already left once. He is not engaged to anyone, even though he has already shown his commitment to Real Madrid.

"I think he didn't plan at the beginning to become manager. But he finally decided to be manager and he has reached a point [that will be] very difficult to equal for many years.

"I hope he stays for many years, but nothing is forever. One day he will decide to leave and when it happens, it will be the time to think of another manager – and I think Pochettino would be really suitable."

Kylian Mbappe is turning heads in the manner of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and can drive Paris Saint-Germain to Champions League glory, according to PSG great Pauleta.

The 21-year-old Mbappe is already a World Cup winner and, after a domestic treble this season, he and the Parisians are within reach of a landmark success in Europe.

Pauleta, who is proud his native Portugal has put on such an impressive show after the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final were moved to Lisbon, is also beaming at the prospect of a PSG triumph.

Sunday's final against Bayern Munich is "a 50-50 game", according to Pauleta, who scored 109 goals in 2011 games for PSG from 2003 to 2008, in an era before Qatari investment transformed the club.

Mbappe is one player who could make the difference in UEFA's showpiece game, and Pauleta even likened the striker's appeal to that of French great Zinedine Zidane, now boss of Real Madrid.

"He is hugely skilled technically, he's incredibly fast, physically he's amazing," Pauleta told Stats Perform News.

"He's a player that everybody admires, like Zidane, we all loved him, like Messi, like Cristiano. He's among these kind of players.

"You watch the game on TV to see what he's going to do. You know that he's going to do something that will leave you dumbstruck.

"I admire him a lot, he's a humble person but I think he will have a tremendous career. He already has an opportunity to win the two biggest competitions in the world, the World Cup and the Champions League. I hope he'll win it."

Pauleta insisted, however, that it would not just be about Mbappe when the champions of France and Germany meet in the Estadio da Luz.

"Bayern has a team with tremendous quality, physically they're very strong, but honestly when I look at PSG, that squad and the chemistry of that squad, I think everything is possible," Pauleta said.

"It's a 50-50 game but I believe a lot in PSG, I see a team very united, a good atmosphere and sometimes it makes the difference.

"Of course, we know that Bayern has players with great qualities and a great spirit, German football is always mentally strong. But I believe that PSG will play a great game and beat Bayern."

PSG have never won the Champions League, although they triumphed in the 1995-96 European Cup Winners' Cup, and Pauleta sees taking that next step as crucial to fulfilling the club's ambitions.

"You can have all the players, you can have all the money, but in the end, it's about the title you win," the 47-year-old said.

"They all know that, the chairman, the club, the players. They have a big opportunity to get that title. Paris have been looking for that trophy for 50 years and I hope it will happen on Sunday."

Whether or not his old team carry off the trophy, Pauleta will savour the moment of Portugal staging another major football final.

"It is very important for us in Portugal to have such an important competition like Champions League," he said. "Especially during such tough times for everybody in the world because of the virus.

"We're a small country but because of the work of the football federation and its president, we can have such an important tournament in Portugal and that final on Sunday.

"It's very important for the country and the Portuguese people. On top of that, having that final for me is very important, having my club of heart, PSG, and I hope everything will end well for the Champions League and for PSG."

Could Paulo Dybala swap Italy for Spain?

The Juventus attacker was close to leaving Juventus for either Manchester United or Tottenham prior to the 2019-20 season, while Paris Saint-Germain were also linked.

Now, Real Madrid are reportedly targeting the 26-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – KROOS OUT, DYBALA IN?

Real Madrid are set to offer Toni Kroos or Isco as part of a deal to bring Juventus star Paulo Dybala to the Santiago Bernabeu, according to SportMediaset.

LaLiga champions Madrid are eyeing a move for Dybala, who has been in negotiations with Serie A titleholders Juve over a new contract amid reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

However, Juve are unwilling to part with the Argentina international – who enjoyed a fine Serie A campaign prior to Maurizio Sarri's sacking as he looks ahead to life under Andrea Pirlo.

ROUND-UP

- Kicker claims Jadon Sancho has told Borussia Dortmund he is happy to stay at the club if a blockbuster transfer to Manchester United fails to materialise. The England international has been heavily tipped to join United, with personal terms reportedly agreed.

Barcelona want to sign Manchester City star Bernardo Silva, reports The Telegraph. The LaLiga giants are eyeing a cash-plus-player deal to try to prise the Portugal international to Camp Nou.

- Premier League champions Liverpool are poised to sign Olympiacos left-back Kostas Tsimikas, according to widespread reports. Having failed to strike a deal with Norwich City for Jamal Lewis, Liverpool are close to prising Tsimikas from the Greek powerhouse. Meanwhile, The Sun says Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are targeting a shock £35million swoop for Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks.

- The front page of Monday's edition of Marca says Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane must sell before he is able to sign players ahead of the 2020-21 season. Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez are two players unwanted in the Spanish capital as Madrid continue to be linked with the likes of PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe, Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga.

- AS Diario reports Villarreal are on the verge of signing Valencia pair Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin. Valencia captain Parejo and team-mate Coquelin have been told they are free to leave Mestalla.

Napoli have joined the race to sign Madrid full-back Sergio Reguilon claims Sky Sport Italia. On loan at Sevilla, Reguilon has been linked to Chelsea and Everton.

- According to Calciomercato, Inter are interested in Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. However, salary demands may prove problematic amid talk of a swap deal involving Inter defender Milan Skriniar.

Juventus' elimination from the Champions League spelled the end for Maurizio Sarri and the start of a new era under Andrea Pirlo.

Despite leading the Bianconeri to a ninth straight Scudetto in 2019-20, Sarri was fired after Juve crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage to Lyon on Friday.

Pirlo was at the heart of Juve's brilliant midfield during the start of their Serie A dominance, winning four Scudetti, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana twice during a four-year stint that ended when he moved to New York City in 2015.

A week after returning to Juve as their Under-23 boss, Pirlo was handed the reins of the first team ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

He is not the first club legend to go back and manage a team they played for, though, and we have taken a look at the biggest successes and failures.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Pirlo will have to get the better of his former coach Conte, now at Inter, if he is to maintain the Bianconeri's run of titles.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Maurizio Sarri was like an uncomfortable guest at Juventus and his sacking was not a surprise, Alessio Tacchinardi says.

Sarri was dismissed on Saturday following Juve's Champions League elimination at the hands of Lyon less than 24 hours earlier.

The 61-year-old secured Juve's ninth Serie A title in a row in his only season in charge but lost the Coppa Italia final to Napoli, while problems instilling his style into the squad had prompted concerns about his long-term suitability to the role.

In that regard, Tacchinardi does not believe it was simply Friday's 2-1 win over Lyon - which saw the Ligue 1 side progress to the Champions League quarter-finals on away goals - that forced Juve to make a change.

Tacchinardi also feels Juve's squad planning left Sarri short-handed, with 21-year-old striker Marco Olivieri having been thrown on in the closing minutes for his Champions League debut as they desperately sought a third goal.

"I hadn't received any signals from Turin, but I don't think this defeat was necessary for Sarri to be sacked," the former midfielder, who won six Serie A titles and the 1996 Champions League with the Bianconeri, told TMW Radio.

"He always seemed like a guest who did not feel at ease. At Napoli, he was a leader.

"There were many players in a precarious condition yesterday. Juve won officially but the only won who actually won was [Cristiano] Ronaldo.

"With all due respect to Olivieri, to think Juve let someone like [Mario] Mandzukic go makes you think."

Real Madrid head coach and former Juve midfielder Zinedine Zidane is considered one of the favourites to replace Sarri, along with Lazio boss Simone Inzaghi and former Tottenham man Mauricio Pochettino.

There is also speculation Italy coach Roberto Mancini could be offered the position.

"Between Mancini and Zidane, I'd prefer the Frenchman," Tacchinardi said. "He knows Juve and knows how to be respected, but Mancini would be okay, too. I think the national team coach could come."

Juventus have decided their Maurizio Sarri experiment has not worked and for the second time in as many seasons the Bianconeri are on the hunt for a new head coach.

Sarri was the man chosen to succeed Massimiliano Allegri ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, an appointment that seems a lifetime ago in a season interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Napoli boss steered Juve to a ninth straight Serie A title, but the unconvincing nature of that triumph meant the Scudetto alone was never likely to be enough to convince the club's hierarchy Sarri would be the man to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the Champions League.

They fell short in Europe on Friday night, with Juve failing to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to Ligue 1 side Lyon in the Champions League last 16, a 2-1 win on the night meaning they exited on the away goals ruling.

With Sarri gone, we take a look at some of the prime contenders to take over at the Italian champions.

MAURICIO POCHETTINO

An easy link, or a case of ideal timing? Pochettino has been out of work since being sacked by Tottenham in November 2019. That relationship soured towards the end but should not overshadow his achievements with Spurs, including taking them to a Champions League final. The Argentine coach was also linked with the Bianconeri a year ago, though now there is no need to negotiate a compensation package with another club. With a shorter turnaround than usual before a new season, the 48-year-old is available for Juve, should they want someone in place quickly.

SIMONE INZAGHI

Sarri was let go despite winning Serie A, but there was a period when Lazio looked like ending their Scudetto dominance. Former striker Inzaghi led the Rome side to the Coppa Italia last year and has twice thwarted Juve in the Supercoppa Italiana in his four years at the helm. Although their title challenge fell away after the restart, Inzaghi earned Lazio a spot in the Champions League proper for the first time since 2007-08.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

In his first full season back in the Santiago Bernabeu hotseat, the France great led Real Madrid to a first LaLiga title since the 2016-17 campaign. But after being knocked out of the Champions League last 16 by Manchester City and with Madrid's reputation for chaos, Zidane's future is perhaps not 100 per cent locked in. It would still be a huge surprise to see Zidane depart the Spanish capital, though if he did, perhaps a return to Juve – where he starred in his playing days before joining Madrid – may be tempting. With three straight Champions League wins to his name from 2016 to 2018, his proven pedigree may appeal to Juve who are so desperate to land Europe's most coveted prize.

ANTONIO CONTE

Could Juventus turn to the man who sparked their run of nine successive Serie A titles? A once mighty midfield force for the Bianconeri, coach Conte led Juventus to three straight Scudetti before leaving to become Italy boss in 2014. After spells with the Azzurri and Chelsea, Conte has wound up at Inter, so it might take an audacious raid on their Serie A rivals for Juventus to be reunited with their former boss. Yet amid mixed fortunes in his first year at San Siro, there are some who think Conte could be on the lookout for a new job sooner rather than later.

PAULO SOUSA

A double winner with Juve in 1994-95 and a member of the team that won the Champions League a season later, Sousa has the advantage of a prior connection with the club but should be considered an outside shot. He has enjoyed a nomadic coaching career that has included stops at Leicester City, Swansea City, Basel and Fiorentina but has failed to inspire in his current post at Bordeaux, where his win percentage is just 30.2.

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