Zinedine Zidane is the "prodigal son" whose status as a top coach was already secure before Real Madrid clinched LaLiga glory on Thursday, says Christian Karembeu.

Madrid defeated Villarreal 2-1 at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano to dethrone Barcelona and win the top-flight title for just the third time in the past 12 seasons.

Zidane led Los Blancos to success in the Champions League three straight times during his first spell in charge of the club and has now overseen 11 trophy wins across both his tenures.

Despite questions about his true ability as a coach given all his success has come with one of the world's biggest clubs, Zidane's former France team-mate, and ex-Madrid player, Karembeu thinks his credentials were validated before he returned to the club last year.

He told Stats Perform News: "[Zinedine] Zidane doesn't need to prove to anyone anymore that he's a great coach. Everyone can agree on that, winning three Champions Leagues in a row is enough. And then he won LaLiga.

"For me, he's the prodigal son and he deserves to win so many titles because he's innovative and he's learned a lot, despite players coming and going, he managed to create a winning team, there's nothing else to say."

Karim Benzema struck both Madrid's goals against Villarreal to take his LaLiga tally for the season to 21 – the first time he has surpassed 20 in back-to-back league campaigns.

Asked if Benzema is a contender to win the Ballon d'Or, Karembeu said: "Zizou himself said it, all his players deserve the Ballon d'Or, so that includes Karim as well, obviously.

"Karim has always played efficiently in all of his games and he has also scored plenty of goals every season, in all competitions.

"He knew how to move between the lines when Cristiano [Ronaldo] was there but can also offer himself to lead the attack when he needs to.

"He knew to play with [Gonzalo] Higuain, with [Alvaro] Morata, with Cristiano, and with [Gareth] Bale. And now he's still there, still efficient as ever."

Madrid's defence was key to their LaLiga triumph and if they let in fewer than three against Leganes on Sunday they will set a club record for the fewest goals conceded in a 38-game season.

Captain Sergio Ramos has been central to that effort, while he has contributed 10 goals to equal the most prolific LaLiga campaign by a defender since the turn of the millennium.

Ramos has entered the final year of his contract but expressed a hope to retire at Madrid amid their title celebrations, and Karembeu detailed how important he is to the team.

"I think Sergio Ramos is the key player for Los Blancos," said Karembeu.

"He's the captain. He's a role model for everyone. He's a warrior, he does his job. He also enjoys the game, but when they have to win, he knows how to raise his level and inspire Real Madrid to victory.

"When he signed for Real Madrid and took Fernando Hierro's number on his jersey, a defender who had scored many goals, I already knew he'd be a success.

"Sergio is doing very well. He has surpassed everyone. When he's playing good, the whole squad is playing good."

Florentino Perez is sure Sergio Ramos will end his career at Real Madrid after leading them to their 34th LaLiga title on Thursday.

Los Blancos' 2-1 victory over Villarreal secured their first league title since 2016-17 as they brought great rivals Barcelona's grip on the trophy to a close.

Ramos was influential throughout the campaign, scoring five times in the previous 10 LaLiga games, to collect a fifth title-winners' medal.

The 34-year-old is out of contract at the end of next season and said he would like to finish his career with Madrid, though admitted it was dependent on what Perez wanted.

The club president is also keen for Ramos to end his playing days in the famous white shirt.

"Ramos will surely end his career at Madrid," Perez told Movistar.

"Although there is talk of that, it will not change, everyone is calm. He is more than a captain. He has led the team with enormous leadership."

Perez also hailed coach Zinedine Zidane for bringing the title back to the Spanish capital.

Zidane won LaLiga and three successive Champions Leagues in his first stint as boss and only returned in March last year after answering an SOS from Perez.

Though Madrid have not always been as thrilling to watch as in recent seasons, Perez knows the importance of the Frenchman.

"He has won a title every 19 games," he said.

"It is a blessing from heaven and that he is with us for a long time.

"They criticise him for what they want. We will continue to win titles."

Madrid have been relentless since the restart following the coronavirus-enforced break, winning all 10 of their matches, and Perez has been impressed by the team's consistency.

"We have trained well and we have had the mentality to return with the desire to win this title," he added.

"The strength we had has been seen by everyone. It will go down in Madrid's history."

Real Madrid are champions of Spain again, having sealed LaLiga glory by defeating Villarreal on Thursday.

GAME INFO

Madrid trailed Barcelona by two points when LaLiga was suspended in March amid the coronavirus pandemic, but a season-best 10-game winning run catapulted them to the title.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the numbers behind Los Blancos' latest triumph.

 

THE BIG PICTURE

By claiming their 34th LaLiga title – the equivalent of a 38 per cent success rate in the competition's 89-year history – Madrid have won the league eight more times than any other team. Barcelona are the nearest contenders on 26, while Atletico Madrid, who sit third in the all-time list, have taken home the trophy 24 times fewer than their more illustrious neighbours. Madrid topping the table this term means that, although 63 different teams have featured in LaLiga, only nine have won the title.

COACHING HISTORY ON THE HORIZON

Zinedine Zidane has now led Madrid to 11 pieces of silverware across his two spells with the club – with three more he will equal Miguez Munoz as the most successful coach in their history. The Frenchman has joined Fabio Capello (1996-97 and 2006-07) and Luis Molowny (1977-78, 1978-79 and 1985-86) as the only Madrid bosses to win LaLiga titles in different stints at the helm.

CLASICO AND DERBI DOMINANCE

Madrid avoided defeat and kept a clean sheet in both their LaLiga games against Barca this season – the first time they have done so since the 1974-75 campaign under Milan Mijanic. They also went unbeaten against Atletico and claimed a pair of shutouts, making it the first LaLiga season in which they did not concede a goal in El Clasico or El Derbi.

STRENGTH AT THE BACK

A strong defence has underpinned Madrid's success and they are on course to set a club record for the fewest goals conceded in a 38-game LaLiga season – their previous best was 26 in 1987-88. They also need one more clean sheet to record 20 in a single top-flight campaign for the first time in their history. That would not be the only impressive achievement for Thibaut Courtois, who has tied Francisco Buyo (1977-78) for the most clean sheets by a Madrid goalkeeper in a season (18). The Belgian has saved each of the 26 shots on target from outside the area he has faced in LaLiga this term. Since at least 2003-04, no team has finished a season without conceding a goal from outside the box.

GOALS FROM EVERYWHERE

Madrid have used 26 players this term and 21 of those have scored – the most by a team in a single LaLiga season in the 21st century. Captain and centre-back Sergio Ramos has found the back of the net 10 times – six from the penalty spot – and if he scores again will set a record for the best tally by a defender in a campaign since the turn of the millennium. Karim Benzema has also upped his game since Zidane's return has topped 20 goals in back-to-back seasons for the first time.

Real Madrid cannot repeat their second-half performance in their 2-1 win over Granada if they want to clinch the title, according to Sergio Ramos. 

Zinedine Zidane's side raced into a two-goal lead on Monday, Ferland Mendy scoring his first goal for the club from a tight angle before Karim Benzema curled home a fine finish. 

Granada boss Diego Martinez tinkered with his tactics and Darwin Machis pulled one back for the hosts early in the second half. 

Antonin had a volley kept out by Thibaut Courtois and Ramon Azeez had a shot cleared off the line by Ramos in the closing stages, with Madrid clinging on for a result that puts them one win away from being crowned champions in Spain. 

Madrid can do that by defeating Villarreal at home on Thursday, but Ramos warned his team-mates they must improve. 

"We let our guard down a little bit in the second half when we saw it was 2-0," Ramos told Movistar. "Instead of going to kill the game and looking for the third, we relaxed. 

"These things cannot happen because anyone can beat you if you don't keep the intensity. We've got to concentrate for 90 minutes. We won the first half but lost the second – maybe that's something to reflect on for the future. 

"We let a goal in after a few games without doing so. It's a good victory for our spirits but it comes with a bad feeling after a bad second half. 

"Every team falls into this error sometimes, not only Real Madrid, but we have to make sure we don't repeat it. 

"It's inevitable, but we got the three points in the end. We've got to keep the same rhythm for 90 minutes. We can't let our guard down." 

Madrid were two points behind Barcelona when LaLiga was suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic, yet they are now four clear of their rivals with two games remaining.

"We can't relax. We're a bit closer. We've got to keep our desire to take the league. We're close but we'll carry on," said Ramos. 

"There are still points to play for and we depend on ourselves. The objective from the beginning after the break was to win every game and we are going to try. The team deserves a lot of merit for being up there and keeping these results going. 

"It would mean a lot to be champions. It's a reward for consistency of a whole year. Maybe we had a point of reflection during the break, that we had to come back and react. 

"We prepared very well, we all worked hard at home. Hopefully on Thursday we can celebrate it."

Athletic Bilbao captain Iker Muniain became the latest player to question refereeing decisions involving Real Madrid after Sergio Ramos scored a decisive penalty at San Mames.

Madrid were made to work hard for a 1-0 victory on Sunday - their seventh win in a row - as Zinedine Zidane's men moved seven points clear at the top of the LaLiga table.

But Athletic were unhappy with the award of the spot-kick from which Ramos clinched the points, with Dani Garcia's trip on Marcelo spotted only after a VAR review.

Muniain was particularly frustrated as there was then no similar call made at the other end of the pitch when Ramos appeared to step on Raul Garcia's foot off the ball.

He said: "Raul Garcia has been stamped on and they haven't even reviewed it. That's the difference.

"We've seen the theme in these weeks since the restart - depending on which teams it is, some decisions are given.

"Everyone can draw their own conclusions."

Barcelona stalwart Gerard Pique has previously suggested it would be difficult to stop Madrid winning the title because decisions too often go their way.

Those claims prompted Ramos to respond: "People shouldn't be imagining things!"

Sergio Ramos revealed he enjoys the responsibility of taking crucial penalties for Real Madrid, although he claimed he would be playing tennis if he was looking for individual recognition.

For the second time in four days, Ramos grabbed the only goal from 12 yards for Madrid, this time to secure a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Sunday.

A seventh straight victory moved the LaLiga leaders seven points clear, at least until Barcelona take on Villarreal later in the day.

Ramos is focused on ensuring Madrid keep winning, having been flawless since the season's restart – a period in which the captain has now scored five times, including from the spot against Getafe on Thursday.

"All I think about is the three points," he said. "But those moments of doubt [when taking penalties], that's when I feel most comfortable.

"I just wanted to take that responsibility. What matters most is the overall result. The only thing that matters is that it helps the team win."

On his personal exploits, Ramos added: "The individual recognition is second for me.

"What matters is that the team get the objectives we want and manage to get the three points in every game we play. Luckily, for the moment, we are getting those results.

"I would have probably played tennis if I were more interested in individual recognition. This is a very beautiful sport, a team sport, and it's very nice to win as a team."

Having also overcome Getafe this week and with relatively kinder fixtures to come, Ramos acknowledged the magnitude of Madrid's latest victory.

"It was very important for us. We knew today was going to be one of the most important games of those that are left for us," he said. "It's a very difficult game always, travelling away to Bilbao.

"We just organised it like that: we had 11 finals left coming back from lockdown and we just had to go game by game, getting the three points.

"I believe today, again, the team proved that against a team like this, you always have to be at it. We're very happy with the three points. That was our objective.

"It's three very important points to put more pressure on Barcelona, who play later today.

"We just want that league title. From the first minute, you could see how we wanted to go for that game and get the result today.

"We knew we weren't going to win 3-0 or 4-0 today – it was going to be a very tough game – but it was important."

Sergio Ramos was Real Madrid's penalty hero for the second time in four days as a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao sent the LaLiga leaders seven points clear.

Zinedine Zidane's men have been flawless since the season's restart to claim control of the title rice, but they were given a stern test by Getafe on Thursday and again had their work cut out for a time on Sunday.

Yet as against Getafe, Ramos stepped up to net a second-half penalty and secure all three points in Bilbao, with his latest decisive goal coming after Dani Garcia tripped Marcelo in the area to prompt a VAR review.

A seventh straight victory ensured Madrid made the most of playing before rivals Barcelona, who will kick-off at Villarreal later in the day knowing they have an even more significant gap to make up.

Madrid recalled Marco Asensio for his first start of the season in a move which almost brought immediate reward.

The fit-again forward drew a low save from a fourth-minute free-kick, with Karim Benzema then unable to direct his header goalwards when Dani Carvajal squared the rebound.

That was about the extent of Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon's involvement before half-time, while Thibaut Courtois repelled Raul Garcia's powerful header at the other end.

Simon might have had a far greater role to play, though, as both Rodrygo and Benzema squandered huge headed opportunities from searching Asensio centres, each missing the target completely.

The second period appeared set to play out in similarly frustrating fashion for Madrid until Marcelo went down in the area and a penalty was eventually awarded, with Ramos coolly tucking his finish inside the left-hand post in the 73rd minute.

Simon saved smartly with his legs from Benzema in the closing stages, but the one Ramos goal proved enough for Madrid again.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane wants Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi to remain in LaLiga amid speculation of a possible departure.

Messi, 33, is contracted to Barca until 2021 but a report emerged on Thursday, claiming the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is considering an exit.

According to Cadena SER, Messi has halted contract negotiations due to his frustrations with Barca – who are on track to be dethroned by bitter rivals Madrid this season.

Zidane was asked about the rumours regarding Messi after Madrid moved four points clear of two-time defending champions Barca thanks to Thursday's 1-0 win over Getafe.

"I don't know what will happen but we hope not because he is in this league and we want the best in this league," Zidane said post-match.

Sergio Ramos was the hero for Madrid against Getafe, scoring the only goal from the penalty spot in the 79th minute at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.

The victory was Madrid's sixth in a row as Los Blancos extended their advantage over stuttering Barca with five matches remaining in LaLiga.

Zidane hailed captain Ramos, who took his LaLiga tally to nine goals in 2019-20 following his 450th league appearance for Madrid.

"Our captain is our leader on the field, but also outside," Zidane said of the Spain skipper, who took his career total to 100 goals.

"He is an unrepeatable player. He is unique and we know what he transmits to everyone else. I'm happy for him for his goal because when it comes to shooting a penalty, he has a lot of confidence. 

"It's almost in the 80th minute and Dani Carvajal's effort in goal is from the whole team. We know that with patience and tranquillity we can score goals. This is what happened.

"The last 20 minutes with freshness we claimed a very important result. We have to congratulate all the players because what we are doing is not easy."

Zidane also provided an update on star centre-back Raphael Varane, who took a blow to the head and had to be replaced in the first half.

"Right now he's not right because it's a blow to the neck," Zidane added. "He has gone home and the doctor is going to see him and we will see from tomorrow [Friday]. 

"We are not going to risk anything. It was a strong blow and tomorrow we will see exactly what he has."

Zinedine Zidane has cast a little uncertainty over his long-term future at Real Madrid, as he suggested the demands of management will lead to an early retirement.

Zidane has had a significant impact on Los Blancos, first during a five-year stint as a player and now as coach, with the Frenchman in his second spell at the helm.

During his first he led the club to an historic three successive Champions League successes, and although he left soon after the third, he returned last year following the ill-fated tenures of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari.

He has Los Blancos back on track this term as they sit top of LaLiga, ahead of Barcelona by virtue of a better head-to-head record with seven matches to go.

But rarely has the possibility of a long coaching career been associated with Zidane, who, even when unemployed between his two Madrid spells was only ever closely linked with the France job.

And ahead of facing rock-bottom Espanyol, who sacked their coach Abelardo earlier in the day, Zidane brought up the subject of his future when asked about Sergio Ramos.

When asked if he thought Ramos would become a club icon when he played alongside the centre-back, Zidane said: "It was clear that he could achieve what he is achieving, because he already had quality and above all personality.

"He always wanted to win and make history in this club. I am not surprised by what Sergio is doing. We are lucky to have him in Madrid and I hope that continues until the end of his career. I am not going to coach another 20 years, I am going to retire sooner. Anything can happen."

He added: "I was a better footballer than a coach, but there were better footballers than me as well, although I'm happy with what I've done.

"I'm not going to coach for 20 years, I don't know how many. I don't plan anything, what encourages me is the day-to-day. Then I will do other things.

"In my head I have always been a footballer, I had 18 or 19 years as a player and when I was asked if I was going to coach, I would say no. In the end I was, but it's demanding – I don't think I'll be here for another 20 years."

But he was eager to assure fans that he is in no rush to leave, adamant he is still happy.

"No one should interpret what I say," he continued. "The reality is I'm managing the best club in the world and I'm happy, regardless of what happens here.

"But I know that when we lose the press will be out, the knives will be out, that won't change. We are winning now, but like I said, today we've yet to win the title. We must continue working, training hard.

"Everyone is going in same direction. We cannot control external matters, only what we can control. We shouldn't worry about what goes on outside Real Madrid and I think my future is the least of concerns at the moment."

Zinedine Zidane believes Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos should retire at the Santiago Bernabeu amid question marks over his future.

Ramos' contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season, by which time he will be 35, and it remains to be seen whether the star defender will remain in the Spanish capital.

The Spain skipper showed he is far from finished with another inspiring performance in Madrid's 2-0 LaLiga victory over Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Ramos – who took his season tally to nine goals, becoming the first defender to score eight or more goals in a single LaLiga campaign since Ezequiel Garay in 2006-07 – scored a stunning 56th-minute free-kick to ensure Madrid returned to the top of the table midweek.

"Sergio belongs here as a player," Madrid head coach Zidane told reporters afterwards.

"He's been here for years and he should retire here. It's what I think and I'll stand by it."

Vinicius Junior broke the deadlock for Madrid in the 19th minute at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, where Ramos curled a set-piece past Manolo Reina 11 minutes into the second half.

A fourth consecutive victory since the coronavirus-enforced break saw Madrid move back to the summit due to their superior head-to-head record against bitter rivals Barcelona.

"We need to have the ball," Zidane said. "The setup isn't the most important thing for me, it's more about what we do on the pitch with the ball. We can do better, but I'm satisfied with what I saw and what these players are doing is not at all easy. 

"That's four wins in a row, but the standout feature for us today was our defensive solidity all round. We can get better going forward and that's what we'll try to do.

"We were a bit tired by the end today but that's not just Real Madrid, the same goes for all the teams. It's a strange situation, we're back training after 60 days and with the heat and everything. But we have to keep going and all we can do is be more alert with the players, we want to keep moving forward strong."

"We're all more or less in the same boat. The important thing is that it's four wins for us, but that's a credit to the players. We're training well and we always want more," added Zidane.

"The players' attitude has been phenomenal, so too has that of the players who are not playing as much, and this is what makes the difference in the dressing room. We have seven finals left, the players have to recover well and continue with what we are doing, we haven't won anything."

Out-of-favour star Gareth Bale, meanwhile, made his first start for Madrid since February.

Bale, despite working hard, largely failed to impress against relegation-threatened Mallorca.

Zidane said: "We're happy with what we're doing and Gareth is an important player, he's always shown that. The important thing is to play like we're playing. The players change, but the important thing is that the dynamic doesn't change.

"As always, there are players who are going to have more minutes, but that has been the case all along and it's not going to change."

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said Sergio Ramos always leads by example following his spectacular free-kick against Real Mallorca.

Ramos curled a stunning set-piece past Manolo Reina as Madrid returned to the top of LaLiga thanks to a comfortable 2-0 win over Mallorca on Wednesday.

After Vinicius Junior's 19th-minute opener, Madrid captain Ramos showcased his set-piece ability 11 minutes into the second half at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium.

Ramos took his season tally to nine goals, becoming the first defender to score eight or more goals in a single LaLiga campaign since Ezequiel Garay in 2006-07 and Zidane hailed the Spain skipper.

"He's been looking for a free-kick goal," Zidane said after the match in the Spanish capital. "He's worked on it a lot in training.

"He's our leader, our captain and he always leads the way."

Ramos appeared to respond to comments made by Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique following Madrid's victory midweek.

Madrid reclaimed top spot after LaLiga's return this month due to Barca's 0-0 draw with Sevilla last Friday, after which Pique suggested it would be hard to stop Los Blancos winning the title because VAR and referee decisions too often go their way.

Ramos said people "shouldn't be imagining things" after Madrid moved back to the summit due to their superior head-to-head record.

Zidane, however, was reluctant to add to the controversy following Madrid's fourth consecutive win since the coronavirus-enforced postponement.

"I'm not going to get involved in these things," Zidane said. "Ramos has already spoken.

"I have my own views. We have to rest and think about the next game."

Madrid will travel to Espanyol on Sunday in round 32 of the competition and Zidane added: "I'm sure it's going to be difficult until the last game."

Sergio Ramos says people "shouldn't be imagining things" when it comes to Real Madrid benefitting from decisions in an apparent riposte towards Gerard Pique and Barcelona.

Zinedine Zidane's side moved back to the top of LaLiga by virtue of their superior head-to-head record on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over Real Mallorca, thanks to goals from Ramos and Vinicius Junior.

Madrid reclaimed top spot after LaLiga's return this month due to Barcelona's 0-0 draw with Sevilla last Friday, after which Pique suggested it would be hard to stop Los Blancos winning the title because VAR and referee decisions too often go their way.

Ramos, though, thinks such arguments are only being made now that Madrid have the edge in the title race.

"There's a lot of noise in the media because we're leaders again," he told Movistar. "They didn't talk so much before. They talk about VAR, but I don't think anyone has an advantage over the season.

"We don't pay attention to this noise. I don't think they [the referees] take any predetermined decisions. It seems like we should be thanking the refs for being leaders! People shouldn't be imagining things.

"We've been working hard and since the lockdown, we've been united, and we deserve to be where we are."

Ramos became the top-scoring defender in LaLiga history against Real Sociedad last week and his goal on Wednesday, his 69th in the top flight, made him the first defender to reach eight in a single season since Ezequiel Garay 13 years ago.

However, the Madrid captain remains far more concerned with team performances and admitted they felt tired as the Mallorca match went on.

"I've always said this is a team game at the end of the day," he said. "The personal side makes you feel proud and motivates you but it's secondary. The most important thing is the consistency of the team. It's a job well done and three more points.

"The team was tired, we felt that. Obviously, we don't have long to recover between games, and we have to continue improving. We all know what our objective is but there are plenty of things we can improve.

"Our play stagnated a little at times, but I think we can generally improve in all aspects. We could have put the game to bed earlier and taken more chances, played with the ball in their half. That's what we want to do: we want to dominate more."

Real Madrid returned to the top of LaLiga thanks to a 2-0 defeat of Real Mallorca at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium on Wednesday.

Barca's 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao 24 hours earlier had put the pressure back on Zinedine Zidane's men, but Vinicius' goal after 19 minutes steadied any nerves within the home side.

Mallorca, who sit third from bottom of the table, gave a spirited account of themselves but rarely looked likely to claim a share of the spoils despite Madrid having made four changes from the 2-1 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Zidane elected to start Vinicius, Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale in support of Karim Benzema but it was captain Sergio Ramos who made the win safe with an exceptional free-kick early in the second half.

Vinicius might have been a surprise starter but he justified Zidane's call 19 minutes in, steering a finish high past Manolo Reina after a clever reverse pass from Luka Modric.

The Brazilian hit the bar with a lob from a Karim Benzema throughball four minutes later, but it was Mallorca who threatened more as the half went on, even though Thibaut Courtois' goal was largely well protected.

Madrid took control with a second goal 10 minutes into the second half, Ramos curling a fine free-kick into the top-left corner from just outside the penalty area.

Mallorca did not lose heart at least and threatened through Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo, who saw a shot hit the side-netting after one impressive run through the box.

The visitors remain three points from safety and at serious risk of relegation, but they did at least make a moment of LaLiga history when Luka Romero came off the bench to become the youngest player ever to play in the competition at the age of 15 years and 219 days.

 

What does it mean? Zidane's side taking shape for double charge

Madrid are back on top of the table above Barcelona on their head-to-head record and appear to be in good shape after the lockdown.

Zidane changed the system and personnel but was still rewarded with a strong performance. That sort of adaptability bodes well for their title challenge, and the return of the Champions League in August.

Vinicius on a mission

Having gone through a difficult spell this season, Vinicius looks determined to become a mainstay in Zidane's plans.

He scored one good goal, almost got a second and pressed across the front in the second half to keep the Mallorca defence worried.

No lucky break for Bale

Bale got out of Vincius' way to let his team-mate open the scoring and it was his most useful contribution of the game.

It was more a disinterested performance than a poor one, but certainly was not one to make his coach think he merits a regular place in the first XI.

What's next?

Madrid head to Espanyol on Sunday, with Mallorca facing Athletic Bilbao at San Mames a day earlier.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos became the highest scoring defender in LaLiga history on Sunday.

Ramos took his career tally in Spain's top flight to 68 goals after converting a penalty as Madrid moved top of LaLiga with a 2-1 win at Real Sociedad.

Madrid broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half courtesy of Ramos, who sent Alex Remiro the wrong way from the penalty spot following a foul on Vinicius Junior.

Ramos equalled his best-ever LaLiga goals haul of seven, while surpassing former Barcelona defender Ronald Koeman on the all-time list.

The 34-year-old Ramos then hobbled off on the hour-mark after taking a knock to his knee, before Karim Benzema doubled Madrid's lead 10 minutes later.

Mikel Merino's thunderous strike gave Sociedad hope with seven minutes remaining, but Madrid held on to replace Barca atop the table through 30 rounds.

Ramos, who emerged from boyhood club Sevilla's youth system in 2004, joined Madrid in 2005.

Since moving to the Santiago Bernabeu, the Spain skipper has won 21 major honours – including four LaLiga titles and as many Champions League crowns.

Ramos is also a two-time European Championship winner and World Cup champion.

Real Madrid climbed above Barcelona at the top of LaLiga as second-half goals from Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema clinched a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad. 

Barca's goalless draw with Sevilla on Friday handed Zinedine Zidane's men the chance to leapfrog their rivals at the summit - and they duly seized the opportunity with a hard-fought triumph on the road. 

Ramos put Madrid in front from the penalty spot five minutes into the second half, while Benzema added a second less than two minutes after Adnan Januzaj had a goal controversially ruled out for Sociedad. 

The visitors lost Ramos to injury and were given a scare when Mikel Merino pulled one back seven minutes from time, but they held on to make it three wins from three since the restart and overtake Barcelona by virtue of a superior head-to-head record.  

Madrid took nearly an hour to get going in their 3-0 win against Valencia last time out and it was a similar story here against top-four hopefuls Sociedad. 

Vinicius Junior fired over from a good position inside 110 seconds and was then denied by Alex Remiro late in the first half, either side of Benzema's low effort being kept out. 

But Madrid did not have to wait too long into the second half to find a breakthrough, Vinicius tripped by Diego Llorente as he was about to shoot after gliding past two players. 

Ramos made no mistake from the spot, the skipper equalling his best-ever LaLiga goals haul of seven by sending Remiro the wrong way. 

Madrid lost their captain to an apparent knee injury 10 minutes later and nearly suffered a bigger blow when substitute Januzaj picked out the corner with a low drive, only for Merino - deemed to be in Thibaut Courtois' line of sight - to be adjudged offside. 

Sociedad's pain was doubled when Benzema brought down Federico Valverde's cross and fired home, the goal allowed to stand despite a VAR check for a possible handball by the Frenchman. 

And despite an unmarked Merino thumping home at the back post, Madrid saw things through to keep their momentum going.  

 

What does it mean? Advantage Madrid in tight title tussle 

Barcelona looked well below par in their stalemate with Sevilla two days ago and Madrid made them pay with this well-earned victory.  

Zidane's side are level on 65 points with their bitter rivals but edge in front after taking four points from the two Clasico encounters earlier in the campaign. 

Vinicius steps up for Madrid 

Brought into the side for the rested Eden Hazard on the left of Madrid's front three, Vinicius was the visitors' liveliest player in the first half and won the penalty for the key breakthrough soon after the restart. 

James unable to take his chance 

It is no secret that James is not fancied by Zidane, this the Colombia international's first league start since October. He offered little during his 78 minutes on the field and may well have to wait a little while for his next opportunity to impress. 

What's next? 

The games keep coming thick and fast for both sides, with Madrid hosting Real Mallorca on Wednesday and Sociedad at home to Celta Vigo the same day. 

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