The pressure is firmly on Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid heading into Saturday's Clasico at Barcelona.

Madrid were crowned LaLiga champions just three months ago, but recent results have altered the narrative considerably prior to the clash at Camp Nou.

Los Blancos lost to Cadiz in the league last week and then on Wednesday suffered a remarkable Champions League reverse at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk, who were missing 10 first-team players due to coronavirus.

These defeats followed the closing of a transfer window in which Madrid did not make a single signing, leaving Zidane short on options.

The prospect of this campaign quickly crumbling is especially painful for those in the Spanish capital after they appeared set to finally dominate rivals Barca once more...
 

MADRID'S BIG OPPORTUNITY

Madrid won the most recent Clasico in March, but they have not beaten Barca in consecutive LaLiga matches since May 2008.

On that occasion, the Blaugrana promptly appointed Pep Guardiola and became Spain's premier domestic side. Madrid's 2019-20 title was just their third since then, despite their Champions League supremacy.

But this season seemed to represent a chance for Madrid to secure a hold over Barca and stage a successful defence of their championship for the first time since that 2007-08 campaign.

Barca were embarrassed in the Champions League by Bayern Munich late last season, leading to the sacking of Quique Setien, the appointment of Ronald Koeman and subsequent departures of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal, and of course Lionel Messi's transfer request.

While Messi stayed in the end, the current campaign is widely expected to be his last, meaning Madrid would need only to master the magnificent number 10 and his crisis club one final time.

There was modest investment at Barca, at least topping Madrid's outlay of zero, but the arrivals of Miralem Pjanic and Sergino Dest looked unlikely to turn the tide after the champions ended last season in stunning style.
 

WHERE HAS IT GONE WRONG?

Madrid won 10 straight matches after the 2019-20 season – paused amid COVID-19 – resumed in June, dropping points only in a draw against Leganes on the final day when the title was wrapped up.

A goalless stalemate at Real Sociedad then represented an opening-day setback this term, yet Madrid's form was still relatively steady until the Cadiz match, a 1-0 loss.

Reassessing their start after that defeat, however, shows a clear regression from the end of the previous campaign in one key area: their finishing.

In the final 11 matches of last season, Madrid's shooting accuracy (excluding blocks) only once dipped below 50 per cent – in a 1-0 win against Athletic Bilbao – but is yet to reach that mark at all in five games this term.

Against Cadiz, Zidane's side had 74.8 per cent of the ball – more than in any other fixture since June – yet hit the target just twice from 14 attempts.

Crucially, Karim Benzema has gone off the boil. Only he and Federico Valverde have played in all 16 league games since June, the Frenchman scoring seven times from 28 shots at the end of last season, as well as creating six big chances.

In 2020-21, Benzema has netted only once in the league at a conversion rate of 5.3 per cent, while his shot accuracy is down from 72 per cent to 50 per cent and he has already missed as many big chances (three) in five games as he did in 11.
 

IS THERE A SIMPLE FIX?

Given their lack of transfer activity, leaving the squad a little stale, Madrid have no choice but to wait for Benzema to rediscover the form that saw him net 21 times in consecutive seasons following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit.

There remains no obvious alternative, with Luka Jovic handed another opportunity but so far failing to score and missing his only big chance across three matches. Vinicius Junior has also passed up a trio of clear openings.

The defensive concerns evident against Shakhtar should at least be eased by the return of Sergio Ramos, the captain substituted at half-time at home to Cadiz and then rested in Europe.

Raphael Varane endured another Champions League night to forget in his absence, adding an own goal to his two errors leading to goals in August's 2-1 defeat at Manchester City.

In fact, Madrid have now lost seven of their past eight Champions League games without their skipper – also including the trip to City.

This dependence on a 32-year-old Benzema and 34-year-old Ramos must be a cause for concern given Barca were supposed to be the ageing side.

It certainly suggests Madrid might not find life as straightforward as expected as they attempt to step into the void to be left by Messi.

Zinedine Zidane offered no excuses after a Real Madrid side who lost Sergio Ramos to injury were humbled by Cadiz on Saturday.

Anthony Lozano scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute as the reigning LaLiga champions were stunned by their newly promoted opponents, who matched their hosts' tally of 14 shots despite having just 25 per cent possession.

The result was a surprising setback ahead of a week that includes the start of Madrid's Champions League campaign – they take on Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday – and a trip to rivals Barcelona.

Zidane was full of praise for Cadiz in the aftermath, admitting they were far sharper than his own team as the minnows claimed their first away win over Madrid.

"We have no excuses, it is a bad game and we must congratulate Cadiz," Zidane said, according to Marca.

"They have shown more rhythm, more desire. We are not happy. It is what can happen in football."

He added: "We do not physically enter the game and it shows. There are no excuses and we have to see how we can change it.

"We have lacked many things. If you do not have rhythm in a LaLiga game it is complicated, they have had more rhythm and more eager."

Defender Ramos was substituted at half-time and watched the rest of the game from the stands with ice on his left knee.

"It's a nuisance, we'll see what he has," Zidane said of the Madrid captain's injury. "We hope it is not too serious, tomorrow (Sunday) we will see what it is exactly, hopefully not too much."

The Frenchman also dismissed any concerns that the result will have a lasting impact on his squad.

Madrid received some good news with Barcelona's defeat at Getafe in Saturday's late kick-off, meaning the two rivals have both lost heading into a Clasico contest for the first time since April 2003.

"We have only lost three points. They are three important points, but nothing more. Now we have to think about the next game," Zidane told the media.

"We are going to try to do things right. It is clear that today is a bad time, but we are going to try to change this."

Sergio Ramos could reportedly leave Real Madrid for Juventus or Paris Saint-Germain, while Paul Pogba is being linked to Barcelona.

Madrid captain Ramos, 34, has been at the LaLiga giants since 2005, but his contract is expiring at the end of the season.

And his situation is catching the eye of two European giants.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS, PSG EYEING RAMOS

Juventus and PSG have tabled contract offers for Madrid star Ramos, according to El Chiringuito.

Ramos is out of contract in June next year, leading to fresh speculation over his future.

The Spain international has won five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

- Amid a difficult financial position, Barcelona could also be looking at players coming out of contract. Mundo Deportivo reports Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba may become targets.

- Inter reportedly offered Bayern Munich and intriguing exchange during the transfer window. Sky Germany says Christian Eriksen was offered to Bayern by Inter, who wanted Jerome Boateng, but the Bundesliga champions turned down the deal.

- Sergio Romero wants out of Manchester United. The Sun reports the goalkeeper has begged the Premier League giants to let him leave amid apparent interest from MLS.

- Harry Wilson could be set for another loan spell away from Liverpool. After spending last season at Bournemouth, Wilson is being offered to Swansea City, according to The Sun.

- Danny Welbeck may stay in the Premier League. The Daily Mail reports the forward, who was released by Watford earlier this month, is attracting interest from Brighton and Hove Albion.

- West Ham's move for Brentford forward Said Benrahma has stalled, according to The Telegraph, and Aston Villa may make a move for the 25-year-old.

Spain boss Luis Enrique has defended Ansu Fati after he struggled to impact the 1-0 victory over Switzerland in the Nations League.

The 17-year-old Barcelona winger, who is his country's youngest ever goalscorer, played 57 minutes in Madrid before being replaced by Wolves star Adama Traore.

Fati failed to capitalise on two good openings in the match, managing just one shot and creating zero opportunities for team-mates.

He also failed to muster a cross and lost four of his seven duels as Switzerland's 3-5-2 system proved tricky to break down, with Silvan Widmer and Nico Elvedi providing tough opposition down the Spain left.

"Man-marking is always a problem for the forwards, for everyone," Luis Enrique said on Monday as Spain prepare to face Ukraine. 

"Our goal is to create the greatest number of advantages for our attackers. After that, each game is how it is.

"Ansu is 17 years old, but he already knows what he's going to find in matches.

"We have our model because it depends on the work of the whole team. Against Switzerland, it was a difficult game for everyone because of the strong and high pressing from them, but I think we solved things well."

Spain's attack was also frustrated in a 0-0 draw with Portugal last week, but defensively the 2010 world champions have looked impressive.

In a 15-game unbeaten run stretching back to November 2018, La Roja have conceded only six goals and kept nine clean sheets.

Luis Enrique is happy to see the likes of Pau Torres, Eric Garcia and Diego Llorente perform well in a battle for a starting spot and also believes the younger players can help captain Sergio Ramos improve.

"Pau, Eric and Diego have done well, each one contributing in their place and trying to improve," he said.

"They are able to play with someone who is a benchmark, like Ramos, and they feel they can play with him, help him and even correct him. Leaders also know they can learn new things."

Dani Ceballos wants to see Sergio Ramos marauding across Europe with Spain next year before going for gold in Tokyo.

The prospect of a European Championship and Olympic Games double has been shunted back by 12 months, and Ramos will be 35 by the time they take place.

But the captain of Real Madrid and Spain has indicated an appetite for playing in both, and Ceballos would love to see him flying the flag both in his home continent and in Japan.

The European Championship will be played across a host of countries, with Spain having home advantage for their three group games which will all be played in Bilbao.

Everything is conditional on the pandemic situation allowing such tournaments to go ahead, but Ceballos, who is also hoping to double up, sees Ramos as a leader who would lift Spain on the Olympic stage.

"Sergio has earned the right to decide by the performance he gives," said Spain midfielder Ceballos.

"I always want him in my team. He has been a fundamental player, he continues to be, and of course I would want to have him at the Olympic Games on my side."

The European Championship final is due to be played on July 11 in London, a mere 11 days before the Olympic men's football tournament begins in Tokyo.

Ceballos spoke of there being 15 days' difference and suggested that was "still compatible" with being able to take part in both.

Regardless of the exact gap between those events, it will be demanding for any player to fully commit to both.

Midfielder Ceballos just wants to make sure he has a chance of being involved regularly with Spain, which is why again this season he is on loan at Arsenal from Real Madrid.

At Arsenal he is set for an integral role under Mikel Arteta's leadership, but there were no guarantees he would be a fixture in Zinedine Zidane's Madrid team.

"You know that to take part you have to play for your team," Ceballos said.

"When a player is happy in his team that is for the best and that is why I decided to stay for one more year at Arsenal where I could develop my game as normal.

"After confinement we have seen a Dani Ceballos that we all wanted. I have improved a lot and I am very happy to continue at Arsenal."

Lionel Messi has dominated the headlines for Barcelona since their 2019-20 season finished, but he showed little sign of letting off-field matters impact his performances as he helped secure a 4-0 win over Villarreal.

Barca were in action on Sunday for the first time since losing 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals last month, a result that seemed to start a tumultuous chain reaction at the club.

Quique Setien was sacked and replaced by Ronald Koeman, Luis Suarez was deemed surplus to requirements and ultimately sold, that angered an already disillusioned Messi – who attempted to force a transfer, and supporters subsequently launched a bid to oust president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

But the Blaugrana returned to the pitch and blew Villarreal away to begin the Koeman era victoriously, Barca's baggage seemingly left to one side and forgotten about for an evening at Camp Nou.

Messi was at the fore as he usually is and, after seeing Ansu Fati terrorise the visitors with two early goals, the superstar Barca captain dispatched a penalty that the teenager won.

That goal meant Messi has scored in 17 successive LaLiga seasons, making him just the fourth player to ever achieve the feat.

Real Madrid greats Santillana and Sergio Ramos – who scored against Real Betis on Saturday – both netted in 17 consecutive LaLiga campaigns, with the former doing so between 1971 and 1988.

The only player to have scored in more successive LaLiga seasons is Agustin Gainza, who reached 19 straight campaigns for Athletic Bilbao from 1940 to 1959.

Given the uncertainty around Messi's future, one has to wonder whether the 33-year-old will make it to 18.

Sergio Ramos defended referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea and the officials after Real Madrid beat Real Betis 3-2 through a contentious late penalty.

Ramos gave Madrid all three points from the spot in the 82nd minute, Marc Bartra adjudged to have handled in the area following a VAR review.

It did appear as though Bartra may have been pushed into the ball by Borja Mayoral, with Betis unfortunate to suffer their first defeat after two successive wins under Manuel Pellegrini.

Earlier Aissa Mandi and William Carvalho had turned the game in Betis' favour following Federico Valverde's opener but Emerson conceded an own goal three minutes after the second-half restart and was then sent off before the game's controversial finish.

"I can't comment on specific incidents," Ramos said to Madrid's official website.

"From what we've been told it was a clear penalty, but there's nothing that can be done about it now.

"Sometimes they help us and sometimes they go against us, but that's football. The referee is there to do the best he possibly can and I don't think it's ever intentional."

Madrid have four points from two games, with their victory at the Benito Villamarin following a 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad.

Ramos added: "We were very good for the first 15 minutes. We dominated the game up until the first goal, which gave us confidence but in the end, we had to dig in.

"If you keep giving the ball to quality teams who like to have possession, they will create chances and you run the risk of them scoring goals.

"The most important thing was our mentality and the team came out hungry to come back, which is exactly what we did. We managed to level it up quickly to get right back in the game.
 
"It serves as a lesson for us. We're not going to come from behind in every game. The other day we played really well but just lacked a bit of an edge. 

"We created a lot of chances today and it was a fantastic second half, we were dominant and it's clinched us the three points which will do us the world of good."

 

Raphael Varane will lead Real Madrid in his own way should he one day succeed Sergio Ramos as captain.

The France international has formed a formidable partnership with Ramos in the heart of Madrid's defence during his nine seasons at the club.

He has been touted as a possible contender to take on captaincy duties when Ramos, who will turn 35 later this campaign, eventually departs the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, the World Cup-winning centre-back is not thinking about what the future holds and says Ramos remains an integral player for Madrid.

"For the future, it's difficult to plan," he told beIN SPORTS. "Real Madrid is a very, very big club with great players. What is important is that everyone plays their part in the team. 

"When we won our titles, our Champions Leagues, it was as a team, with eleven leaders on the pitch each time. 

"Sergio is a legend in Madrid. The future for the moment I do not project about it, but for sure Ramos is a very important player for us.

"What is certain is that we are very complementary with Sergio Ramos, in our way of playing.

"We have qualities that complement each other perfectly. We have been playing together for several years, so we know each other very well. 

"In defense, it works in pairs and this understanding is very important. For the future, after the departure of Ramos, it is difficult to project yourself. 

"I am a leader in my own way. With my team-mates, I talk a lot before matches about tactics and positioning. We each have our own way."

Without the suspended Ramos alongside him, Varane made a couple of costly errors in August's 2-1 loss to Manchester City as Madrid exited the Champions League.

Varane takes full blame for Madrid's last-16 defeat and is keen to quickly move on when the new campaign begins next weekend.

"For sure, that will not remain a very good memory in my career. It was a difficult game for me, this elimination," he said. "Immediately after the match I wanted to take responsibility. 

"I made some mistakes, it cost us the victory. You had to digest and watch what is happening ahead, and think about what is happening.

"At the high level, we don't have time to think about it - we have to think about the next game. The days that followed were a bit difficult, I admit, but at the top level, you have to look ahead quickly."

Luis Enrique says Ansu Fati's self-confidence level is "not normal" after the Barcelona youngster made history in Spain's 4-0 Nations League win over Ukraine.

The teenager brilliantly won the penalty from which Sergio Ramos opened the scoring in Madrid and netted his side's third in fine fashion to give Spain a three-goal advantage before the break.

Fati's strike made him Spain's youngest goalscorer in history aged just 17 years and 311 days and head coach Luis Enrique has no doubt the prodigious talent will stay grounded.

"I'm not scared. I'm sure it won't go to his head, he's very humble," he told a news conference about Fati's first Spain start.

"We're going to know how to manage it. Although I know him, of course he surprised me, that he did that in minute two [won the penalty].

"Sure, he will have bad games, but that self-confidence is not normal to see. Ansu Fati is very happy and has reasons. He is only 17 years old and has to mature, but in his second match with the national team he dares to do all this.

"He brings work and humility. At his age it is easy for it to go to your head, but he is mature enough to know that the path he is following is the best. He is very calm and humble."

Ramos, Spain's record appearance holder, also moved into joint-eighth with fellow Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano on Spain's all-time goalscoring list when he headed in his team's second.

Luis Enrique hopes his experienced captain can continue breaking new ground for years to come.

"I hope he can achieve many more things with the national team. He is a leader, but not only in words, with the example, which is how he leads," he added. 

"He does nothing but add. It is very easy for a coach to have Sergio Ramos." 

Ansu Fati made history on his first start and Sergio Ramos scored twice as Spain coasted to a 4-0 victory over Ukraine in Sunday's Nations League contest in Madrid.

Barcelona star Fati, who made his senior international debut off the bench in Thursday's 1-1 draw with Germany, made it 3-0 in fine fashion prior to half-time at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano to become Spain's youngest goalscorer at 17 years and 311 days old.

Fati had earlier won the penalty from which Ramos opened the scoring and the Real Madrid great doubled the lead at a familiar venue, which is part of Los Blancos' Valdebebas training complex.

Ferran Torres got off the mark for La Roja with a well-controlled finish six minutes from time as Spain moved to four points from two matches to sit top of Group A4.

Fati's quick feet proved too much for Sergey Krivtsov in just the third minute, with Andriy Pyatov unable to stop Ramos' penalty finding the bottom-left corner.

The Barca forward placed an effort just past the right post after tormenting Oleksandr Tymchyk on the left flank and had an overhead-kick blocked by Mykola Matvyenko in a goal-mouth scramble.

Ramos deservedly doubled the lead with a fine looping header from Dani Olmo's cross before Fati brilliantly jinked inside Ihor Kharatin and fired into the bottom-right corner off the post.

Olmo, also making a first international start, drew a smart stop from Pyatov just after the hour, while Gerard Moreno had the ball in the back of the net only to be flagged offside. 

Pyatov again kept the scoreline down with a fine fingertip save from Oscar Rodriguez's dipping effort but could do nothing to prevent new Manchester City winger Torres placing a side-footed volley into the bottom-right corner.


What does it mean? Fati a star who can help Spain reign again

Spain were the dominant force of international football during a golden period that returned two European Championships and the World Cup between 2008 and 2012. In 17-year-old Fati they seemingly have a generational talent who can be the driving force behind a new crop of emerging players.

Ramos matches Di Stefano

Ramos, his country's most-capped player, will forever be regarded as a Spain legend and his double means he now sits joint-eighth in the nation's list of highest goalscorers – level with fellow Los Blancos great Alfredo Di Stefano, after whom Sunday's venue was named.

Fati not feeling the weight of international expectation

This was Fati's first start in international football, but he played with the swagger and quality of a seasoned veteran. Time and again Ukraine's defenders were left quaking by the Barca forward, who fully deserved his historic goal.

What's next?

Spain prepare for their next Nations League assignment with a friendly against Portugal on October 7, while Ukraine host Germany in their third Group A4 encounter.

Sergio Ramos was heartened by Spain's fighting spirit and the performances of their young debutants in the dramatic 1-1 draw against Germany in League A, Group 4 of the Nations League.

Timo Werner crowned a wonderful team move early in the second half to put Joachim Low's Germany in front and their lead might have been greater but for a fine showing from Spain goalkeeper David de Gea in Stuttgart on Thursday.

Spain also had their chances, the last of which fell to Jose Gaya – the Valencia full-back who made no mistake after popping up inside the opposition box in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

After witnessing the type of goal the Real Madrid captain has become something of a specialist in for his club, Spain skipper Ramos told reporters: "In the end, hope is the last thing that is lost.

"This is a team with faith, very hungry. The victory would have been unfair for them and we fought to the end.

"The team has shown its face after a great physical demand. We have gone desperately, but with order, with faith and with a hunger to get the draw."

Barcelona teenager Ansu Fati came on at half-time to become Spain's second youngest full international of all time behind Angel Zubieta.

Mikel Merino also won his first cap from the bench, while fellow debutant Ferran Torres completed the full match and his cross led to the equaliser.

"In general, the debutants have been very good," Ramos, Spain's all-time record appearance maker, added.

"They are daring, hungry, eager. They are no longer promises, they are realities – people with heart and hunger, who push us and will be good for us.

"I'm happy for their debuts and that they did not take a defeat."

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos hopes Barcelona skipper Lionel Messi stays with the Blaugrana for the good of LaLiga as the Argentinian's father attempts to secure his release.

Messi rocked Barca last week when he informed them of his intention to leave and his father – who is also his agent – was in Catalonia on Wednesday for a meeting with club officials, saying beforehand that it would be "difficult" for his son to stay.

The meeting spanned most of the afternoon before concluding around 21:00 local time, with reports from local media claiming the two parties were unable to reach any form of agreement.

Messi had an exit clause written into his contract that would allow him to leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2019-20 season, and although that was said to have expired at the end of May, the player and his entourage believe it is still valid due to the campaign being extended by the coronavirus pandemic.

On the other hand, Barca – who have been backed by LaLiga – say the clause has expired and Wednesday's meeting was planned in the hope of finding some form of agreement, with Messi said to be in favour of joining Manchester City.

Ramos was asked about Messi's situation earlier in the evening while on international duty with Spain, and the Madrid captain – a regular Clasico opponent of Messi – would rather Barca's talisman stayed.

"It is not an issue that concerns us [Madrid]," he told reporters. "He has earned the right to decide his future.

"I don't know if he will be doing it in the best way, but of course for Spanish football, for Barcelona and for us [Madrid], who like to win while being the best, we would like him to stay here.

"It makes LaLiga and his team better, and the Clasicos more beautiful. I've little more to add – he has earned that right on his own.

"Without speculation, we will see what happens. For us it is not a worrying news."

Former Real Madrid defender Oscar Ruggeri labelled Barcelona star Gerard Pique a "bang-average" player, while insisting Sergio Ramos is the best centre-back in the world.

Pique has enjoyed great success since re-joining boyhood club Barca from Manchester United in 2008, winning eight LaLiga trophies and three Champions League titles among other honours to establish himself as one of the world's best defenders.

The 33-year-old is also a World Cup and European Championship winner with Spain.

However, ex-defender Ruggeri – a 1986 World Cup champion with Argentina who spent a season playing for Madrid in 1989-90 – talked down Pique as he hailed Los Blancos and Spain captain Ramos.

"Pique is a second-rate [player], like me, like many others," Ruggeri told FOX Sports Argentina.

"He's good looking, he's with the singer [Shakira]... he has a cool beard, but if he played for Valencia, he wouldn't be well known.

"Pique ended up playing for Barcelona. He's like me – bang average. A good defender, but not much else.

"He doesn't get put under pressure, except against the big teams.

"Sergio Ramos is the best [centre-back] in the world, by far."

Sergio Ramos has been the face of Real Madrid, especially since Cristiano Ronaldo's departure in 2018.

Ramos highlighted his importance as Madrid dethroned Barcelona in LaLiga this season.

As the 34-year-old's current deal winds down, talks are reportedly underway to prolong his stay.

 

TOP STORY – RAMOS REVEALS RENEWAL PLANS

Real Madrid captain Ramos wants €17million to renew his contract with the LaLiga champions, according to Diario Sport.

Ramos is out of contract in 2021 and there have been question marks as to whether the Spain skipper will sign a new deal at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The defender has called Madrid home since arriving from Sevilla in 2005.

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Thursday's Diario Sport claims Barcelona are determined to sign Manchester City defender Eric Garcia. The 19-year-old left Barca for City in 2017. It comes as Premier League outfit City push for a swap deal involving full-back Joao Cancelo and Barca's Nelson Semedo.

- Could Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic reunite with former Eintracht Frankfurt team-mate Ante Rebic at Milan? According to reports, Fali Ramadani – agent to both Jovic and Rebic – met with Milan directors Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara on Wednesday. Jovic has struggled since leaving Eintracht for Madrid at the start of the season, with the Serbia international linked to Milan, Napoli, Leicester City and Chelsea among others. Rebic, meanwhile, is on a two-season loan from Eintracht.

Manchester United are interested in signing Adrien Rabiot from Juventus, claims Calciomercato. Fellow Premier League teams Everton and Newcastle United are also reportedly interested.

- Sky Sport Italia and Sportitalia report Victor Osimhen is set to be presented as a Napoli player on Friday. The Lille forward had previously been the subject of reported interest from the likes of Liverpool and United. Sky journalist Fabrizio Romano also says talks are ongoing for Napoli to sign Jeremie Boga from Sassuolo.

- According to RAC1 journalist Gerard Romero, Barca are eyeing Villarreal defender Pau Torres. The 23-year-old – also linked to City – reportedly has a €50m release clause.

City have offered Yangel Herrera to Valencia in an attempt to lure winger Ferran Torres to Manchester, says Gols Media. City are looking to replace Leroy Sane following his Bayern Munich switch.

Milan have contacted the agent of Brescia star Sandro Tonali, claims Sportmediaset. While Inter remain the frontrunners, their city rivals are not giving up on the Italy midfielder.

- Mundo Deportivo says Chelsea are dreaming of signing Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen amid doubts over current number one Kepa Arrizabalaga. Chelsea have also been linked to Atletico Madrid star Jan Oblak.

Luka Modric has described Sergio Ramos as a "phenomenon" and says the Real Madrid captain is the best defender in the world.

Ramos led Madrid to his fifth LaLiga title this season, scoring 11 times in the top flight - a record for a defender in the 21st century.

The 34-year-old has won 22 trophies with Los Blancos since joining from Sevilla in 2005 and remains integral to Zinedine Zidane's plans, with many suggesting he could have been in the running for the Ballon d'Or this year before the 2020 award was cancelled.

Modric, who has become a good friend of Ramos since moving to the Spanish capital in 2012, says there can be no doubting his quality.

"My brother Sergio is a phenomenon," he told Sportske Novosti. "And I'm not just saying that because in eight years we've created a really special relationship, we hang out as families, go on holiday together, or because we've had fantastic footballing experiences and successes together.

"Ramos is a 34-year-old rock, a top-level competitor, and when you watch him working on himself, it's clear how dedicated he is and how hungry he is for success. He's a team leader and the best defender in the world."

Madrid's title triumph was also inspired by the form of Karim Benzema, whose 21 goals earned his side 16 points in the title race.

Modric believes Benzema is now starting to get the recognition he deserves.

"Now, everyone has finally realised what we players have known for a long time," he said. "Benzema is a top striker who is a pleasure to play with. His understanding of the game, movement, disrupting the balance of the opposition defence, is something special.

"Benzema has always done a great job for the team and I am just glad that he has now experienced a general standing ovation and great satisfaction from people recognising his class."

Madrid trailed Barca at the top of the table when LaLiga was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a run of 10 wins in a row and a draw with Leganes on the final day saw them finish five points clear.

Modric felt there were signs when the team returned to training that they had a good chance of overhauling Barca.

"I've already won 16 trophies at Real, four Champions Leagues, but this LaLiga title made me especially happy," he added.

"We definitely should have had more domestic titles because we threw away some championships in a very clumsy way.

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