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.

Zinedine Zidane moved to stamp out any speculation over his future on Friday, insisting he will be the Real Madrid coach next season.

Madrid's 2019-20 campaign finally came to an end at the Etihad Stadium with a 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League – Los Blancos exiting the competition with a 4-2 aggregate loss.

The club do have the league title to show for the campaign, and it is their first LaLiga crown since 2017.

Asked if he planned to be in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2020-21, Zidane gave a defiant response.

"Well, I'm here, I'm Madrid's coach until something happens which is out of the ordinary. I'm here, of course," he told a news conference.

"You don't have to think anything. I am the coach of Madrid, and that's it. 

"There are no more questions to ask in this regard. Now we are all going to rest and we will return to have a great season."

Raphael Varane's error gifted Raheem Sterling an early opener in Manchester, though Karim Benzema's excellent header gave Madrid hope midway through the first half.

However, their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals were dealt a fatal blow in the 68th minute – Gabriel Jesus pouncing on a second Varane calamity to seal the win for City.

Zidane, though, is adamant his team must be proud of their achievements this term.

"We need to be proud. I'm certainly very proud of what we've achieved," he added.

"We can't, when we lose, be happy. The players aren't happy, for sure. But what we can be proud of is that we have had a great season.

"The key today was to give everything on the pitch and that’s what we did, we were just missing a little something, I don't know what.

"I think we've still got to be happy with the season. We will see what will happen next season. For now, we rest a little."

Gareth Bale was omitted from Real Madrid's squad to face Manchester City in the Champions League because he did not want to play, according to Zinedine Zidane.

On Wednesday, Madrid named a 24-man group to travel to the Etihad Stadium and while captain Sergio Ramos was included – despite the fact he cannot play in the second leg due to suspension – there was no place for Bale.

The Welshman scored twice in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool two seasons ago but will play no part as Madrid seek to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's side in the last-16 tie on Friday.

Bale has started just once since February – and has been restricted to 110 minutes combined since Madrid's campaign resumed in June – and Zidane explained it was the 31-year-old's decision not to be involved in Manchester.

"I will explain because many things are said," Zidane told reporters in a news conference.

"We have a relationship of respect between player and coach, that is clear. The only thing I can say is that he has decided not to play, and the rest is between him and me."

Zidane grew increasingly frustrated at answering questions on Bale, who may appear to have no future at Madrid but remains under contract until 2022.

"I have already answered before about the situation. The rest is a conversation between the player and the coach, and I am not going to tell you anything," Zidane added.

The fourth and final question on Bale – surrounding his future with Los Blancos – was met with a straight bat.

"Gareth Bale is a Real Madrid player, nothing changes. I respect that," Zidane replied.

"He has decided not to play. All of us here are focused on tomorrow's game."

Eden Hazard is part of Madrid's travelling party, though he has experienced an injury-hit debut season in the Spanish capital.

He was out between November and February due to an ankle problem and then sustained a broken ankle bone, with the congested end-of-season LaLiga run-in causing him further discomfort, yet Zidane has been encouraged by his condition since.

"He has had some discomfort about the end of LaLiga, but I think he is much better now, we have had time to prepare for the game and now he is confident," the Madrid boss added.

"I think there was a minor setback after that second injury but now hopefully he can play and hopefully there will be nothing there to hold him back."

Gareth Bale has been left out of the Real Madrid squad for the Champions League trip to Manchester City.

The Wales star was not named in the 24-man travelling group, but captain Sergio Ramos, who is suspended for the last-16 second leg, was included.

James Rodriguez was also left out, along with striker Mariano Diaz, who tested positive for coronavirus last week and has been self-isolating.

Eden Hazard is in the squad despite concerns over his fitness following an ankle injury, while Luka Jovic, who has started just one Champions League game for Madrid, is also included.

Madrid are trailing 2-1 from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Bale's stock under head coach Zinedine Zidane appears to have dropped to its lowest point in 2020, the former Tottenham forward having featured just twice since the Spanish season resumed in June.

Team-mate Casemiro insisted this week that Bale still has the support of Madrid's coaches and players despite going through "not the best time in his career".

Bale has caused some consternation in Spain for his attitude on the sidelines in recent weeks. He has often appeared bored during games and was distant from some of the title celebrations when Madrid were crowned champions last month.

However, his agent, Jonathan Barnett, told BBC Sport that the player "likes living in Madrid and he is going nowhere", and is keen to see out the remaining two years on his contract.

Sergio Ramos is the best defender in the world and can keep on playing until he is 40, according to former Real Madrid team-mate Rafael van der Vaart. 

Ramos was very influential in helping Madrid end Barcelona's run of success in LaLiga, scoring 11 goals as Zinedine Zidane's squad were crowned champions for the first time since 2017. 

The Spaniard was signed from Sevilla as a teenager in 2005 and was still young when he was joined at the club by Van der Vaart, who stayed at the Santiago Bernabeu for two seasons before joining Tottenham in 2010. 

However, having watched on as his old club secured the title once again, the Dutchman is impressed by how Ramos has matured and, considering his physical condition, sees no reason why the 34-year-old should be thinking of retiring anytime soon. 

"For me, he is the best defender in the world," Van der Vaart told Stats Perform News as part of the UEFA Europa League Trophy Tour. 

"When I was at Real Madrid, he was 21 or 22 and bursting with energy. He wanted to be everywhere. Free kicks, corner kicks, everywhere. 

"Now it is different, he has so much focus now. A focus on winning and he uses all his talents for that purpose. He's aware of his skills, strength and conditioning and that helped him being so important for his team in winning already so many titles. His body is unbelievable, he is a machine. 

"When I was watching a game the other day, I thought, 'how old is he? 34?' I believe he can still be playing for another six years, I've so much respect for him."

With LaLiga won, Madrid will now focus on potential European success as they return to Champions League action. 

They need to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit in their last-16 tie with Manchester City if they are to progress, with the remaining knockout rounds to be staged in Portugal, though Ramos will miss the match against Pep Guardiola's team at the Etihad Stadium due to suspension. 

However, Madrid have been outstanding since the season restarted in Spain midway through June, and Van der Vaart expects a "really interesting" return clash with City, who finished second in the Premier League. 

"Real Madrid have been very, very good after the coronavirus break," he said. "They have all been very focused [on the games]. Including a 10-game winning streak. 

"Karim Benzema and Ramos have been a key part of the team for me, and Zidane for bringing calmness to the team. 

"However, I watched Manchester City against Arsenal playing the semi-final of the FA Cup, as well as other games. They have so much individual talent, so they are always dangerous, for any team, including the magnificent Real Madrid. That's what we've seen in the first leg, so it is going to be a really interesting game." 

Van der Vaart was speaking as part of a Europa League Trophy Tour that has been collecting football boots from fans for Syrian refugees based in Jordan, a cause the former Netherlands international is passionate about. 

"It's great, I remember how incredibly happy I was as a little boy with my football boots. I even put my first pair on to bed and I dreamed of playing football. I hope that all children in the world may experience that kind of childlike joy. I'm so proud that I can help a little bit," Van der Vaart said. 

"We are collecting boots, which hopefully gives a bit more hope and fun for all children. So, I'm proud that I can help a little bit and be a part of it. 

"It's really important [to be able to go out and play]. Now there are so many things, but when I was little you would just go on the street and play. 

"In lockdown it was difficult, of course. You want to meet with friends, you want to go out and play games, but when I started playing it was just me and the ball."

Mauricio Pochettino feels no regret over his decision to honour his Tottenham contract and shun Real Madrid in 2018, but did reveal frustration at a perceived lack of "support" from the Spurs board.

Pochettino spent five years with Spurs after joining from Southampton in 2014 and turned the team into Premier League top-four regulars and Champions League finalists.

But a difficult start to the 2019-20 season led to his dismissal in November last year, with Spurs bringing in Jose Mourinho as his replacement.

Pochettino previously had the opportunity to leave on his own terms in 2018, when Real Madrid attempted to hire him as Zinedine Zidane's successor, but he opted to stay put.

In the short term it proved a wise decision, as he went on to guide Spurs to their first ever Champions League final and Madrid sacked Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari in the same campaign, eventually persuading Zidane to return in March 2019.

But within a few months of Spurs' Champions League defeat to Liverpool, the club's outlook was much gloomier and Pochettino rued not being shown more support by chairman Daniel Levy and the board.

"I was happy at Tottenham and I signed a contract," Pochettino told El Pais when asked if he regretted not joining Madrid when the opportunity arose.

"And we [his staff and Spurs] finished very well, the relationship is impeccable. I always say, without false humility, that we too made mistakes that led to what happened, although we did expect a little more support or reassurance to reverse the situation.

"But the club line was going another way and there was wear; respite was needed from both sides.

"We work in a result-led environment where it seems that all the things that have a good result are the ones that continue. But, how do you measure what works or not?

"Only the one who wins or the one who exceeds expectations? After the Champions League final, four years in the top four, two years without signings ... a different management strategy was needed.

"Sometimes the vision of a coaching staff is not accepted by the club management. We knew what could happen.

"You need to fall, be down to then go up, but Tottenham made the decision to separate us after five and a half years. I understand that it is a long time."

Gareth Bale is "going nowhere" amid ongoing speculation over his Real Madrid future, according to agent Jonathan Barnett.

Bale found himself out of favour as Madrid dethroned bitter rivals Barcelona as LaLiga champions this season, making just two appearances since the 2019-20 campaign resumed last month following the coronavirus-enforced break.

The star forward, whose behaviour has been criticised, featured in 16 league matches this term after he was left out of Zinedine Zidane's squad to face Leganes on the final day of the season on Sunday.

Despite struggling for game time, Barnett insisted his client Bale has no plans to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Gareth is fine. He has two years left on his contract," he told BBC Sport. "He likes living in Madrid and he is going nowhere.

"He is still as good as anyone else in the team. It's up to Zinedine Zidane.

"Of course there's been interest but there's hardly a club in the world which can afford him.

"It's a great loss that he's not in the Real Madrid team at the moment but he will not leave."

Bale has enjoyed great success since joining Madrid from Tottenham in 2013, scoring over 100 goals and winning four Champions League titles to go with a pair of LaLiga trophies.

Amid talk of a fractious relationship with head coach Zidane, Barnett said: "Gareth is not looking to outlast Zinedine Zidane. Mr Zidane has been very successful.

"There's no hatred. Mr Zidane just does not want to play him. Gareth trains every day and he trains well."

Bale was close to leaving Madrid last year but a proposed transfer to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning collapsed.

The 31-year-old Wales international is contracted to Madrid until 2022 but Bale will not consider a loan move ahead of the postponed European Championship in 2021.

"He wants to play for Wales at Euro 2020. He always wants to play well for Wales," Barnett added.

"Gareth is one of the best players in the world. The best players in the world do not go out on loan."

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