Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde has agreed a contract extension that will keep him at the Santiago Bernabeu until June 2027.

The 23-year-old Uruguay international's original agreement ran until 2025 but he signed a deal for a further two years, and it reportedly includes a €1billion release clause.

A statement on Madrid's website on Tuesday said: "Federico Valverde signed a contract renewal at Real Madrid. The Uruguayan midfielder remains linked to our club until June 30, 2027."

Valverde joined Madrid from Uruguayan club Penarol in July 2016, initially playing for Real Madrid Castilla, the club's reserve team.

He joined Deportivo La Coruna on loan for the 2017-18 season before establishing himself in the Madrid first-team setup under Santi Solari.

Valverde won LaLiga in 2019-20 under Zinedine Zidane, making 21 starts. Last season he featured 24 times for Madrid in the league and scored three goals.

The midfielder becomes the latest player to agree new terms at Madrid since Carlo Ancelotti took charge of Los Blancos in June.

Luka Modric, Nacho Fernandez, Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Thibaut Courtois have all recently signed new deals.

 

 

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti was livid with his side after they "gave away two points" in Sunday's 3-3 LaLiga draw with Levante.

Madrid seemed in control leading 1-0 at the break following Gareth Bale's first LaLiga goal since 2019 but conceded two goals within 12 minutes of the restart to trail 2-1.

Vinicius Junior pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute before Rober restored Levante's lead with the Brazilian finding a leveler with five minutes to go.

"It was crazy, after controlling the first half well," Ancelotti told Marca. "We have given away two points after a very good first half.

"It is difficult to explain, we had to pay attention to any detail. We leave with a bad taste in our mouths. We have to be more attentive."

Los Blancos had started their LaLiga campaign with a strong 4-1 win away to Alaves but the Italian bemoaned his side's second-half attitude against Levante.

"The first half was very good," Ancelotti said. "In the second we did not enter with a good attitude. It was not a good response."

He added: "The third [goal] is bad luck. In the first [goal] we adjust the line badly and in the second [goal] we are three against two, and that cannot be."

Despite his frustrations, Ancelotti was delighted with the impact of 21-year-old Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior as a 59th-minute substitute and hoped he can build on his promise.

The Flamengo junior only scored three league goals from 35 appearances last term but has already equaled that output in two LaLiga games this season.

"He has a lot of quality," Ancelotti said. "He must score, but I don't know if he will be a great scorer.

"With that quality he must score many goals. It will be important for us. Sometimes it is more important to finish the games than to start them.

"It is not something that gives much importance, whether you are the owner or not."

Carlo Ancelotti says neither he nor his Real Madrid "team full of stars" are overly concerned by speculation surrounding mooted target Kylian Mbappe.

The transfer window closes at the end of August and Madrid have so far signed only David Alaba, who was a free agent after leaving Bayern Munich.

Los Blancos are enduring financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic, estimating it had cost them "close to €300million", meaning they will "continue in the effort so far to contain spending".

These statements have not prevented continued links to Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe, however.

The World Cup winner, now a team-mate of Lionel Messi as well as Neymar, is out of contract next year and is widely considered a top target for Madrid.

But Madrid coach Ancelotti was unmoved on Saturday, speaking ahead of the trip to Levante, by the suggestion Mbappe could arrive in the coming days.

"The atmosphere in the dressing room is very good because the players are focused on the work they are doing and they are not talking about the market," he said.

"You only talk about the matches and I don't know if everyone then thinks about this.

"I talk to the club every day and the idea that the club have about the future is the same as I have. But I don't think it's fair to talk about it here."

Ancelotti, who has won all four of his LaLiga games against Levante, added: "I don't care what's going to happen in the next few days.

"I have a very good squad that I really want to train with and I'm only focused on the team I have."

Former Madrid favourite Cristiano Ronaldo has also been linked with a return, yet he looks set to stay at Juventus and the idea was dismissed by Ancelotti.

"The issue is settled," he said. "After clearing up the rumours, I just want to say what I said before: the idea of the club is the same as mine.

"After that, everyone knows my affection for Cristiano."

Without bringing in Mbappe or Ronaldo, Madrid are a side seemingly lacking an obvious superstar – but Ancelotti disagrees.

"This squad as it stands can compete with everyone," he said. "We have a lot of top players.

"Courtois, Carvajal, Benzema, Bale, Hazard... I'm going to forget someone. This team is full of stars."

Karim Benzema has certainly picked up the slack since Ronaldo's departure in 2018, with no Madrid player scoring as many goals (89), providing as many assists (30) or playing as many games (148) as the France forward in all competitions in that time.

Benzema this week signed a contract extension to keep him at Madrid until the end of the 2022-23 season.

"Karim is a fundamental part of this team," Ancelotti said. "I'm not going to find out myself. I see him with more personality and more mature.

"It's a pleasure to coach him and watch him play. He has renewed and I am very happy and I think he is very much looking forward to continuing at Real Madrid."

Benzema scored twice in the opening fixture against Alaves and will be looking to net three times across the first two games of a league season for the first time.

That would go a long way to helping Madrid extend their unbeaten run in the competition to 20 matches, the longest current streak.

Cristiano Ronaldo is not in line for a sensational return to Real Madrid despite rumours of a Santiago Bernabeu reunion with Carlo Ancelotti, Los Blancos' head coach has confirmed.

The Portugal international is into the final year of the four-year contract he signed at Juve following his transfer from Madrid in a €112million (£99.2m) deal in July 2018.

Ronaldo has been linked with a move away from Turin with former club Madrid among those to have reportedly been interested in the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

The superstar forward scored 450 goals and provided 132 assists in 438 appearances during his nine years at Real Madrid between 2009 and 2018.

He played under Ancelotti during the Italian's first spell in charge of Los Blancos between 2013 and 2015 winning the Champions League, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup during that time.

However, Ancelotti posted on Twitter that he has no intention of pursuing a move for the 36-year-old despite holding him in high regard.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is a Real Madrid legend. And I really respect him," Ancelotti posted on Tuesday.

"But I have never asked or planned to sign Cristiano this summer. We're looking forward."

Ronaldo scored 29 times in 2020-21 to win the Capocannoniere last season having previously also been the top scorer in the Premier League and LaLiga.

Juve vice-president Pavel Nedved has previously stated he expected Ronaldo to stay with the club this season.

Massimiliano Allegri's side begin their Serie A campaign on Sunday with an away fixture against Udinese.

 

Carlo Ancelotti described Karim Benzema as the "complete player" after he inspired a 4-1 victory at Alaves in Real Madrid's first game of the LaLiga season.

Benzema scored twice either side of a volley from Nacho, before Vinícius Junior headed in the last of four second-half goals for Madrid in their first competitive game since Ancelotti returned to the club.

Joselu had made it 3-1 from the penalty spot just after Benzema's second goal, but Los Blancos made an impressive start to their bid to regain the title.

Benzema has scored 17 LaLiga goals this year, a tally only bettered by Lionel Messi (23), and he appeared to thrive on wearing the captain's armband with Sergio Ramos having joined Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid boss Ancelotti feels the France striker has matured into a magnificent all-rounder player.

He said: "Benzema is the completion of the team, reading the situations of the match very well. He is a player I think is not enough to call a forward.

"He is a very complete player. Now he is more complete than five years ago."

Gareth Bale started his first game in the Spanish top flight since June 2020 after a loan spell with Tottenham last season, while Eden Hazard caused Alaves problems after he was also named in the side.

Bale scored in the 2014 Champions League final victory over Atletico Madrid during Ancelotti's first spell at Madrid, but fell out of favour under Zinedine Zidane and there appeared to be no way back for him after he famously held up a 'Wales, golf, Madrid' flag.

Ancelotti is unsure whether the Wales captain has more desire to play for the club now, but says the forward has plenty to offer.

"I do not know if he is more committed than other years, because I was not there," he said. "Bale is going to improve because his condition is not optimal yet, like everyone else's. Everyone can improve."

Madrid have not been beaten in their opening game of a LaLiga campaign since 2008, winning nine and drawing four of their first games since then.

Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti enjoyed an emphatic 4-1 win on his return to LaLiga at Alaves.

Ancelotti left Everton to take charge of Los Blancos for the second time in June following Zinedine Zidane's departure and the Italian secured three points in his first competitive game back at the helm.

Benzema, captaining the side following Sergio Ramos' departure, scored twice in the second half either side of a strike from Nacho at Estadio Mendizorroza on Saturday.

Joselu pulled a one back from the penalty spot before Vinicius Junior added a last-gasp fourth goal as Madrid, with Gareth Bale making his first LaLiga start since June 2020, issued an early statement of intent. 

Luis Rioja cut in from the right and tested Thibaut Courtois with a left-foot drive in a bright start for Alaves, but Madrid soon stamped their authority on the game.

Eden Hazard curled wide from just outside the penalty area and Bale was also off target as Madrid applied the pressure.

Benzema demonstrated exquisite control prior to bending a measured strike narrowly wide of the far post before Rioja poked an effort onto the roof of the net against the run of play.

France striker Benzema was not to be denied in the third minute of the second half, drilling home with his right foot after Hazard cleverly touched Lucas Vazquez's cutback into his path.

Los Blancos were dominant and soon doubled their advantage, the classy Luka Modric conjuring up trickery and an pinpoint cross for Nacho, who volleyed in from close range as Alaves were caught out by a short corner.

Madrid had seemingly only just finished celebrating when Courtois brought down John Guidetti and Joselu gave Alaves hope from the spot with 65 minutes gone.

The hosts were never likely to mount a comeback, though, and Vinicius headed home a cross from new signing David Alaba right at the end.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insists Martin Odegaard could still have a future at the club amid reported renewed interest from Arsenal.

The Norway international is expected to be left out of Madrid's matchday squad for their LaLiga opener against Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

After the news emerged in Spain, reports surfaced in England that Arsenal had opened talks with Los Blancos over the prospect of signing Odegaard before the transfer window closes.

The 22-year-old, said to be valued in the region of €40million, made 14 Premier League appearances during a loan spell with the Gunners last season.

However, Ancelotti does not appear to have made a decision on Odegaard's future, or that of fellow fringe players Jesus Vallejo and Dani Ceballos.

"The fact they've not been named in the squad is down just to technical issues," he said on Friday. "The final list [for the 2021-22 season] doesn't have to be confirmed until September 2.

"Odegaard has done well. We had a chat and of course, there is a lot of competition in midfield. We have eight very good midfielders.

"He hasn't been dropped, nor has Ceballos, nor Vallejo."

 

Madrid kick-start their campaign in what will be Ancelotti's first competitive match in charge since he returned to the club from Everton.

Gareth Bale is expected to be involved, having also gone back to the Santiago Bernabeu after spending last season on loan with Tottenham, with previous Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane deeming him surplus to requirements.

Ancelotti now wants to see Bale prove his worth to the club on the pitch.

"He's a great player, perhaps he quite hasn't lived up to expectations in recent times but I've seen him train every day with great enthusiasm and we have to see how he plays. The talking has to be done on the pitch," Ancelotti added.

"There's competition for places – if players don't play well, there are other players. This is good, it's extra motivation. But he's been very good during this first month back, but we'll see how he performs out on the pitch."

Ancelotti is also hoping for a strong start to the season from Eden Hazard, whose career in LaLiga has been blighted by injuries.

The Belgium star has scored just four goals in 21 league starts since his reported €100m transfer from Chelsea in 2019 and did not once complete a full match in the top flight in 2020-21.

"He's been training with the team for about 10 days, he's fit and ready to play," Ancelotti said. "He's a key player in this team and I'm confident we'll see the best Eden Hazard this season. "

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti expressed his shock at Lionel Messi's Barcelona departure in a pre-match news conference that was dominated by questions relating to Kylian Mbappe.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner ended his 21-year association with Barca on Tuesday by penning an initial two-year deal at Paris Saint-Germain with the option of a third.

Messi looked set to sign a new contract with Barca, but the cash-strapped club were unable to fulfil the agreement in place with their greatest ever player.

It means there is a massive void in the Blaugrana's team, given he directly contributed to 39 goals in LaLiga last season – scoring 30 and setting up a further nine.

Antoine Griezmann was the only other player to reach double figures for goal involvements (20), with Ousmane Dembele next on the list with nine.

In will be the first season since 2003-04 that Barca have been unable to call upon Messi, and Ancelotti – set to begin his second spell in charge of Madrid – acknowledged it caught him off guard.

"I'm surprised, shocked," he told reporters ahead of Saturday's LaLiga opener against Deportivo Alaves.

"He was always Barca's emblem really, since he was a child. But I've been in this game 40 years, I've seen lots of players change allegiances. I fully respect his decision and Barcelona's decision."

 

Nevertheless, he does not think the loss of Messi will impact Barca dramatically.

"I'm pretty sure Barca will still be a rival, and Atletico," he continued. "Barca even without Messi is still one of the biggest clubs in the world, I don't think much will change."

Messi's new PSG team-mate Mbappe was also a hot topic of conversation on Friday.

The France international is now in the final year of his contract and has been strongly linked with a move to Madrid for a while, though PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi feels Mbappe now has no excuse not to renew his deal following the arrival of Messi.

Ancelotti was reluctant to speak about Mbappe, even as reporters persistently pressed him on Madrid's apparent interest.

"I'm not keen on talking about players who aren't part of my squad," he told them. "I'm happy with the squad, I've a good mix of veterans and good up-and-coming players.

"I've seen some good young players training, players for the future but who could also be important now, like [Antonio] Blanco, Miguel [Gutierrez], [Marvin] De La Fuente, [Victor] Chust.

"Then there's veterans like Casemiro, Luka Modric... Casemiro's improved a lot since I was last here.

"So, I don't think it's right for me to talk about players who aren't at this club. I'm a football fan and happy to see these players here, seeing them training and working day in, day out.

"I still have a great relationship with the PSG owner, I was of course a coach there, I worked at a fantastic club and had a great working relationship with him, but I don't know what he's thinking [regarding Mbappe's future]."

Another forward Madrid have been linked with is Everton's Richarlison, who Ancelotti coached while at Goodison Park, and the Italian was a little more forthcoming about his opinion on the Brazil attacker.

"I'm really fond of him," he said. "He's an Everton footballer and I don't like to talk about players who play for other clubs, but of course I'm really fond of him."

If the coming LaLiga campaign can match the previous few months for drama, an epic is in store.

The 2021-22 season gets under way this weekend with Spanish football still reeling from Lionel Messi's remarkable Barcelona departure.

The move to Paris Saint-Germain leaves one of LaLiga's grandest clubs without its talisman, while rivals Real Madrid have also seen their captain depart for the French capital on a free transfer.

Where does that leave defending champions Atletico Madrid and the rest heading into the opening weekend? Stats Perform takes a look.

CHAOS IN CATALONIA

Barca still have plenty of world-class players and will this season be able to count on Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Antoine Griezmann and, they hope, Memphis Depay.

But the shocking nature of Messi's exit is going to be tough to move on from, even if the club's dire financial situation does not prevent Depay and the Blaugrana's other new signings from being registered.

Messi either attempted (196) or created (77) 46.8 per cent of Barca's 583 shots in 2020-21 – and he missed three games – so Ronald Koeman's side are going to have to completely change the way they play.

He was already missed when out through injury – Barca won 73.7 per cent of the 520 league games in which Messi featured for the club but just 56.7 per cent of the 120 he did not – and that issue is not going away now.

MADRID COPE WITH CHANGE

Money is tight at Madrid too, but Los Blancos have faced that reality, cutting back spending and agreeing the departures of high earners like Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

Despite Zinedine Zidane's exit, they also look in better shape on the pitch on the eve of the new campaign.

Madrid ended last season unbeaten in 18, the best ongoing run in the competition, with only frustrating late-season draws with Getafe, Real Betis and Sevilla – all in the space of five games – leaving them two points shy of Atletico.

They have gone for a familiar face with a proven track record to replace Zidane, Carlo Ancelotti returning after winning 75 per cent of the league games in his first Madrid stint – trailing only Jose Mourinho (76 per cent win rate) among Madrid coaches to oversee 50 matches or more.

ATLETI AT THE TOP

It is a strange phenomenon for Atleti to be both top of the league and not the target of constant transfer enquiries.

Their key men are unlikely to be poached while Barca and Madrid are so short of cash, with the Blaugrana instead reportedly pursuing a deal going the other way, with Griezmann returning to the Wanda Metropolitano.

The development with Messi appears to have put that idea to bed, and Atleti instead spent the week before the season agreeing new contracts for defensive stars.

Those clubs on the outside of the title race looking in are enjoying unfamiliar comforts too, with Europa League winners Villarreal keeping their best players – including Gerard Moreno, whose 23 goals only trailed Messi – and Real Sociedad bringing back the same team that finished fifth.

Unless Ancelotti quickly restores an ageing Madrid side to past glories, this season could be wide open at the summit.

Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland? How about both? The questions are the same as Real Madrid enter each transfer window. As in 2020, though, such queries are wholly unrealistic.

Prior to last season, which began just six months into the coronavirus pandemic, Madrid were not able to make a single first-team signing. Their most significant business was the €40million sale of Achraf Hakimi to Inter.

It is a similar story 12 months on, having failed to deliver silverware in front of an empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. Free agent David Alaba is Los Blancos' sole recruit and even his arrival is offset by the departures of fellow centre-backs Sergio Ramos – at the end of his contract – and Raphael Varane – with a sale to Manchester United agreed for €50m.

Financial results earlier this month reported a loss in revenue of "close to €300m" due to the pandemic. A post-tax profit of €874,000 for 2020-21 was achieved due to "intense spending saving measures in all areas", read a statement, which added: "With regard to the economic situation, current forecasts indicate that the recovery from the pre-pandemic situation will not be immediate. In this context, the club will continue in the effort so far to contain spending."

One of the world's grandest clubs are doing things on the cheap. A change of coach was only initiated by Zinedine Zidane, whose replacement, Carlo Ancelotti, has been plucked from mid-table Everton – although Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri claimed this week he was offered the position.

Ancelotti has been here before, of course, having led Madrid to 'La Decima' in 2013-14 after a 12-year wait. How he raises the club again without this time breaking the world transfer record two months into the role is another question – one Stats Perform attempts to answer with the aid of Opta data.

Return of rapid Real?

Just as Ancelotti is returning to Madrid, so too is Gareth Bale. It was he who Madrid splashed out €100m on to inspire Ancelotti's first side to Champions League glory. Now he could be handed a starring role again.

The winger appeared to have no future under Zidane but will surely be the chief beneficiary if Ancelotti returns the team to the attacking approach he employed previously at the Santiago Bernabeu. Across his two seasons at the helm, Madrid scored 222 LaLiga goals – 22 more than across the past three campaigns combined now.

That would mean a significant shift, though. Zidane's men have not just scored fewer goals, they have moved at a slower pace. Madrid averaged 4.7 passes and 12.7 seconds per sequence in the league in 2020-21, with 662 open-play sequences of 10 passes or more. In 2013-14, with Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria leading a rapid forward line, Madrid's sequences typically lasted only 3.9 passes and 10.3 seconds, with just 475 10-plus pass sequences. Those numbers only marginally increased in Ancelotti's second season.

 

This change in style is also evidenced by Madrid's direct speed, having moved 1.93 metres upfield per second in 2013-14 but just 1.41 in an average sequence last term. Making the most of the attributes of Bale, Ronaldo and Di Maria, that Madrid team had 122 direct attacks but only 112 build-up attacks – figures that have altered drastically in opposite directions to 87 and 165 respectively.

The football under Ancelotti was undoubtedly exciting and appeals again. Even as he was sacked in 2015, president Florentino Perez said: "The affection that the players and the fans have for Carlo is the same as the affection I myself have for him." Implementing that system again may not be entirely straightforward, though.

Ancelotti arrived in 2013 only a year removed from the 121-goal 2011-12 LaLiga campaign – the most Madrid have ever scored in a season. The Italian gave his superstars the freedom to play but did not need to reconfigure their approach. That tallies with the rest of a glittering career to date, which has chiefly seen him credited with man-managing big names rather than introducing the sort of tactical tweaks that might almost double a team's attacking output.

If that is Ancelotti's desire, though, between Bale, Vinicius Junior and Eden Hazard, Madrid should at least still have the players to tear through teams at pace. Indeed, getting Hazard fit and firing two years and four goals into his LaLiga career will be as crucial as rehabilitating Bale. The former Chelsea forward may put the famed 'diva whisperer' to the test, but Madrid cannot afford to have a €100m man not contributing.

Age is against Ancelotti

Madrid's play without the ball has also changed in the time Ancelotti has been away, and getting them to perform in this regard as they did during his first stint will be more difficult still. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro – Madrid's long-standing midfield trio – were on board when Ancelotti left the club six years ago. Modric will be 36 in September. Class and experience are on their side, but the energy of youth is not.

With Di Maria occupying a key role in the 4-2-3-1 formation and Modric finding his feet in Spain, Madrid pressed relentlessly in 2013-14. Opponents were allowed only 9.3 passes per defensive action (PPDA) amid Los Blancos' 499 pressed sequences. As a result, Madrid's attacks started 42.3 metres upfield on average, boosted by their 179 high turnovers, of which 45 led to shots and nine to goals.

Even Ancelotti could not maintain these standards the following year, as Di Maria departed for the Premier League while a thigh injury restricted Modric to 16 games. Madrid regressed in every category.

In 2021, it is not that Madrid do not press, it is that they do not do so with the same intensity. There were 430 pressed sequences last term and still an impressive 178 high turnovers, but opponents were allowed 11.3 PPDA, with Madrid unable to harry at a comparable rate. It is unlikely that statistic improves as Kroos also moves through his thirties and yet more minutes are pumped into the legs of one of modern football's great midfields. The emergence of Federico Valverde – young and versatile – helps, but Ancelotti may well face the unenviable task of dismantling a unit he helped put together.

 

Alaba alters the complexion

To this point, with a former coach returning to guide the same players, Madrid's approach appears closer to devolution than evolution or revolution. The defence at least will ensure this team has a new sheen, albeit not one that necessarily improves Ancelotti's chances of success at home or abroad.

Alaba is a fine player with vast experience, six years younger than Ramos but with 10 Bundesliga titles and two Champions League triumphs to his name. It is a like-for-like change that makes sense, even with Ramos' emotional ties to the Bernabeu. However, asking Alaba to also replace Varane, the outgoing captain's stalwart defensive partner, feels like a tough ask.

Rather than settle into a new club in a new country alongside a World Cup winner – "Varane, of course, I would like to play with him," Alaba said as recently as last week – Madrid's sole signing seems set to be asked to perform the role of the senior man alongside Eder Militao, who has made just 23 LaLiga starts across two seasons.

Yet Militao crucially has attributes Alaba does not, with the converted full-back far less combative than the two departed defenders. At Bayern, in the Bundesliga last season, Alaba contested only 5.0 duels per 90 minutes – fewer than Varane (5.4), Ramos (6.4) and Militao (7.9) in LaLiga. He won just 55.4 per cent of those, another low as Varane (67.9 per cent) led the way.

Militao could then be tasked with getting tight to opposition forwards, but Alaba might find it tougher to avoid being picked on in the air. He contested a meagre 1.2 aerial duels per 90, down on 2.3 for Varane, 4.3 for Ramos and 5.2 for Militao. As Varane won a league-leading 76.0 per cent of these duels and Ramos came out on top in 63.8 per cent, opponents faced a scrap against either centre-back. Alaba's 51.4 per cent success rate shows why he tends to avoid such encounters.

An area of real strength for Madrid could now become a weakness. Only Sevilla (four) conceded fewer headed goals than Madrid (five) in the league last term, while Real Betis (five goals conceded) were the sole side to be tighter from set-pieces than Zidane's outfit (six). With Ramos and Varane marshalling the area, Madrid faced the fourth-fewest headed attempts (58). They are unlikely to rank as impressively again with 5ft 11in Alaba at the heart of the defence.

Madrid are unlikely to make the most of Alaba's versatility – well stocked at left-back but now short in the middle of the back line – yet his ability on the ball, honed in different roles, should at least help to keep Ancelotti's men on the front foot. Part of a dominant Bayern team, Alaba was involved in 4.6 shot-ending sequences and 0.7 goal-ending sequences per 90, having a bigger hand in such opportunities than Ramos (3.9 and 0.4) or Varane (2.9 and 0.3).

Being able to start attacks from the back plays into the idea Madrid should be set up to again thrill supporters under Ancelotti. Whether they can combine entertainment with results, as the 2013-14 team did so successfully, might be another matter.

Carlo Ancelotti is glad to have reunited with David Alaba at Real Madrid and has backed the "complete player" to thrive in whatever position he is used in.

Alaba's free transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu was confirmed in May after bringing an end to his 13-year association with Bayern Munich.

The 29-year-old, who featured four times for Austria at Euro 2020, has built a reputation for his versatility with an ability to play centre-back, left-back or in midfield.

Ancelotti knows all about Alaba's adaptability, having previously worked together for one full season at Bayern, and is looking forward to getting the most out of the 10-time Bundesliga champion.

"Alaba is a complete player, with a lot of quality and tactically intelligent in defence," the coach told Real Madrid TV.

"I put him at centre-back in my last games at Bayern Munich, but sometimes he plays in midfield for Austria and can also play on the left. 

"He is a complete player who is going to do very well this season."

Alaba will also bring experience to the Madrid squad, having racked up 448 appearances for Bayern and won 27 trophies during his time in Bavaria.

He is expected to plug the void left by long-serving centre-back Sergio Ramos, who ​last week completed a move to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

 

Marcelo has succeeded Ramos as captain and returned to pre-season training last week along with some other familiar faces.

Ancelotti, who is in his second spell as Madrid head coach, praised the dedication of some of the team's more senior pros.

"We have worked a lot," he said. "The players have done very well. There is a lot of quality in the youngsters and a great commitment from the veterans. 

"I really liked the commitment of Dani Carvajal, Nacho, Marcelo, Lucas Hernandez and Isco.

"They are players who have won everything and still have the desire, enthusiasm and hunger to have a great season as we would all like to have."

Ancelotti was sacked by Madrid during his first stint six years ago, despite winning the Champions League, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Los Blancos averaged 2.7 goals per game during Ancelotti's previous two-year reign, a number aided by the presence of the club's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

In LaLiga, Ancelotti's side led the way in terms of goals, scoring 104 in 2013-14 and then 118 in the following campaign, eight more than a treble-winning Barcelona squad led by Luis Enrique.

His Madrid averaged 18.1 shots per game – the same number as Zinedine Zidane's side during the Frenchman's first stint – with a conversion rate of 14.9 per cent.

With Ronaldo long gone, Ancelotti may struggle to match the offensive numbers of his previous version of Madrid, but he is acutely aware of what is expected from his team.

"We have to take into account the history of this club," he said when asked to describe his preferred style of play.

"The team has to play well, showing the quality they have. Real Madrid's history is about energetic football, with intensity with the ball and without the ball, which is what today's football requires."

Marcelo is convinced Real Madrid will get back to winning trophies in the new season after he was named as Carlo Ancelotti's captain.

The Brazilian left-back takes on the leadership role from Sergio Ramos, who has left the Spanish giants to join Paris Saint-Germain, and said he felt "extremely lucky" to be chosen.

At the age of 33, Marcelo will hope to be a mainstay under Italian boss Ancelotti, who is back in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu after Zinedine Zidane left following a lack of silverware in the 2020-21 campaign.

It is Ancelotti's second crack at the Madrid job, after a prior spell covering two seasons from 2013 to 2015. Capturing the LaLiga crown that Atletico Madrid snatched last term will be a priority.

Marcelo said: "We're aware that it's very tough to go through a season without winning a title, but we fought 'til the end of the season.

"I'm sure we're going to win something. We're very happy, we've still got players to come back from international duty or on holiday, but we're very motivated for the season to start."

Despite only starting 12 LaLiga games during that barren final season of Zidane's reign, Marcelo was an understandable choice as Ancelotti targeted a dressing-room leader, given he is coming up to 15 years of service at Madrid, having signed for the club from Fluminense in December 2006.

 

"It's an honour and an enormous responsibility to be captain of the greatest club in the world. I'm extremely lucky," Marcelo said on Madrid's official website.

"I learn a lot every season, there's always something new. I'm even more excited about this campaign because I'm Real Madrid captain. It's a dream come true for me and I believe I've done everything I can to be here for such a long time.

"I believe that as captain I'm the spokesperson for the team and I'll always look to help as much as I can, just like I've always done."

Real Madrid will play their first three LaLiga fixtures away from home, with the first Clasico coming in October and a derby meeting against Atletico Madrid following in December.

Madrid played the entirety of the 2020-21 season at their Valdebebas training base, with the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium hosting matches behind closed doors as redevelopment work took place at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Los Blancos will be back at their famous stadium on September 12, when they host Celta Vigo, but new boss Carlo Ancelotti – back for his second spell in charge of Madrid – must first tackle three matches on the road.

Madrid start against Deportivo Alaves on August 15, with trips to Levante and Real Betis coming before the first international break of the season.

The season's first Clasico takes place at Camp Nou on matchday 10 in October, with Madrid's home meeting against Barcelona scheduled for March 20, on matchday 29.

Atleti visit the Santiago Bernabeu on the weekend of December 12, while the return fixture will take place on May 8 – just two weeks before the campaign rounds off on May 22. A home match with Betis will conclude Madrid's LaLiga season.

Real Madrid's 2021-22 LaLiga fixtures in full:

15/08/2021 – Deportivo Alaves (a)
22/08/2021 – Levante (a)
29/08/2021 – Real Betis (a)
12/09/2021 – Celta Vigo (h)
19/09/2021 – Valencia (a)
22/09/2021 – Real Mallorca (h)
26/09/2021 – Villarreal (h)
03/10/2021 – Espanyol (a)
17/10/2021 – Athletic Bilbao (h)
24/10/2021 – Barcelona (a)
27/10/2021 – Osasuna (h)
31/10/2021 – Elche (a)
07/11/2021 – Rayo Vallecano (h)
21/11/2021 – Granada (a)
28/11/2021 – Sevilla (h)
05/12/2021 – Real Sociedad (a)
12/12/2021 – Atletico Madrid (h)
19/12/2021 – Cadiz (h)
02/01/2022 – Getafe (a)
09/01/2022 – Valencia (h)
19/01/2022 – Athletic Bilbao (a)
23/01/2022 – Elche (h)
06/02/2022 – Granada (h)
13/02/2022 – Villarreal (a)
20/02/2022 – Deportivo Alaves (h)
27/02/2022 – Rayo Vallecano (a)
06/03/2022 – Real Sociedad (h)
13/03/2022 – Real Mallorca (a)
20/03/2022 – Barcelona (h)
03/04/2022 – Celta Vigo (a)
10/04/2022 – Getafe (h)
17/04/2022 – Sevilla (a)
20/04/2022 – Real Sociedad (a)
01/05/2022 – Espanyol (h)
08/05/2022 – Atletico Madrid (a)
11/05/2022 – Levante (h)
15/05/2022 – Cadiz (a)
22/05/2022 – Real Betis (h)

Everton have appointed Rafael Benitez as their new manager, with the former Liverpool boss replacing Carlo Ancelotti.

The Toffees have been searching for a new manager since Ancelotti's surprise return to Real Madrid at the start of June.

Nuno Espirito Santo was reportedly close to being appointed earlier in the month, with West Ham's David Moyes having also been a mooted option, yet it is one of their main rivals' most successful managers of recent times who has been handed the reins instead.

Benitez has signed a three-year contract with Everton, who finished 12th and 10th in their two seasons under Ancelotti – whom the Spaniard also succeeded at Madrid in 2015.

The appointment has not come without controversy, with sections of Everton's support having shown their displeasure by leaving messages of protest at Goodison Park, while Merseyside police are investigating a 'threatening banner' left close to Benitez's family home.

Benitez led Liverpool to a famous Champions League triumph in 2005, with the Reds coming from 3-0 down to beat Ancelotti's Milan on penalties in Istanbul.

He followed that up with an FA Cup success in 2006 and a run to the 2007 Champions League final, though Milan prevailed on that occasion. From 228 Premier League games in charge of Liverpool, he managed 126 victories – a record surpassed only by Jurgen Klopp in December 2020.

His six-year stint at Anfield came to an end in 2010, and though he went on to manage Inter, Madrid, Chelsea, Napoli and Newcastle United, he remained a Liverpool fan favourite.

Benitez has most recently coached in the Chinese Super League, having taken the helm at Dalian Professional from July 2019 to January of this year.

His efforts at Newcastle are perhaps what drew Everton's majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri to Benitez, who failed to save the Magpies from relegation in 2015-16 but secured an instant return to the Premier League before finishing 10th and 13th in the next two campaigns.

Of his 86 top-flight games in charge of Newcastle, Benitez won 27, with his team scoring 97 goals, bettering their expected goals (xG) total of 90.35. He left in 2019 after failing to agree a new contract, later citing a lack of backing from the club's owner Mike Ashley.

Benitez also counts two LaLiga titles, one Suppercoppa Italia, the 2006 Community Shield, a Coppa Italia and a Europa League triumph among his honours.

He becomes Everton's fifth permanent boss in the space of five years, with Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva and Ancelotti having all held the role since Roberto Martinez – the Belgium boss who was also a reported target this time around – was relieved of his duties in 2016.

Everton start their 2021-22 Premier League campaign at home to Southampton, with Benitez's first reunion with Liverpool coming at Goodison Park in November.

Carlo Ancelotti's return to Real Madrid feels like a homecoming for the Italian, who believes the extra six years of experience he has since his previous spell can only benefit the club.

The experienced Italian was a somewhat surprising choice by the Madrid hierarchy given his work at Everton was not exactly universally praised, with the Toffees finishing 10th in the Premier League in 2020-21.

He dramatically leapt to the front of the queue for the Madrid job despite Raul and Mauricio Pochettino appearing to be the most-likely options to replace Zinedine Zidane, who stepped down citing a lack of support from those in charge.

Ancelotti's hiring sees him return to the club that dismissed him back in 2015, though president Florentino Perez stressed at the time that their relationship was still strong on a personal level.

That has seemingly remained the case in the intervening years and Ancelotti is confident he is a wiser manager, having missed out on a LaLiga title during his previous two-year spell, though he did preside over Los Blancos’ 10th Champions League crown in 2014.

"I'm very happy to be back here," he told the club's official media channels. "I've got fantastic memories from my time here, we had a lot of success in the two years.

"It's very important because I'm coming back to my home. I'm really excited and I'm going to give all my energy to help Real Madrid get as high as possible.

"You have to try to improve every day. I've had positive experiences in Germany, Italy and England. Each experience makes you grow and I'm coming back with six more years of experience. I hope it'll be good for Real Madrid.

"I've got responsibility, hope and I'm going to work to the best of my ability. We know what Real Madrid's objectives are every year and we're going to try to meet them with all the experience and energy I can bring.

"I'm so happy to be back because I love this club. I'm very happy and it's hard to explain how I feel. Madrid is the most prestigious club in the world and a club where I really enjoyed the two years I was here. I've got unforgettable memories.

"I have to thank Everton, where I was very happy during the one-and-a-half years I was there. The atmosphere was positive and the people were hard-working.

"I'm back with more experience, I know Real Madrid very well, the squad and I've met some of the players in the past. We're going to do well."

There were periods during Zidane's two tenures where supporters voiced frustration at the style of play adopted by the Frenchman, with Madrid not always embracing the vibrant attacking football perhaps associated with the club in the past.

However, Ancelotti insists it is what he hopes to bring to the Santiago Bernabeu – indeed, his Madrid team led the way in LaLiga for goals scored in 2013-14 and 2014-15 – while he is also pledging to continue bringing through talented youngsters from the club's second team, Castilla.

"At this club we demand to play attacking, exciting, quality and intense football. It's the same way of playing and nothing has changed," he said.

"A coach alone can't win. The winning combination of coach, players and club is the way to succeed.

"I think experience is very important, but youth is also important because it brings a lot of energy and passion when doing things.

"When I was here the first time, four players came up from Castilla and this mix of youth and experience has brought us a lot of success in the past and also in the present."

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