Luis Enrique believes his decision to omit Sergio Ramos from Spain's Euro 2020 squad is in the best interest of the national team.

Real Madrid captain Ramos, the all-time record international appearance holder with 180, was the standout absentee when Luis Enrique named a 24-man party for the tournament, which begins next month.

The 35-year-old struggled with injury problems throughout 2020-21 and was restricted to 21 appearances for Madrid across all competitions.

However, Luis Enrique's decision not to select Ramos caused surprise on Monday – especially as he did not fill the 26 places allowed in expanded Euro 2020 squads, nor find a spot for any Real Madrid players.

"I'd like to send message to Sergio Ramos, our captain, who is not on the list as he has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with the group," Luis Enrique told reporters.

"I told him by phone last night, it was difficult and tough, but it's best for the team.

"My conversation with Sergio yesterday remains private, I won't tell anyone. It was not easy to tell him something which was not positive for him, but I have to make decisions which I and my staff consider is best for the team.

"Any decision I made about Sergio Ramos would have been controversial. I know where I am and accept there will be media noise."

Aymeric Laporte is now expected to play a key role in the heart of Spain's defence, even though he only changed international affiliation from France earlier this month.

Luis Enrique was reported to have lobbied the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to allow for Laporte's inclusion and insists the Manchester City centre-back's availability and Ramos being cast aside were not related.

"The Aymeric Laporte decision is nothing to do with the Ramos situation," he said.

"He is a top player, can help our national team a lot and plays at one of the best clubs in history.

"Please don't mix Ramos not being in the squad with call ups for others. I'd have liked him to be here, to have recovered."

Like his call not to pick Ramos, Luis Enrique neglecting to select 26 players was also one he attributed to nurturing squad unity.

"We are taking 24 players. Most have picked 26, but we just added another striker [to the original limit of 23] as we value a lot the feeling that each player can participate in any moment," he explained.

"Also, it is better to train with this number of players."

The former Barcelona boss failing to pick a single Madrid representative in his party will undoubtedly raise eyebrows, with fitness woes having also compromised Dani Carvajal's prospects.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente is likely to be an option at right-back in Carvajal's absence.

"I cannot pick the squad based on whether some people will be happy or not," Luis Enrique responded when the lack of a Madrid contingent was raised.

"Llorente can play at full-back but we won't forget what he can do in other positions, breaking forward from midfield. I like to have versatile players who can fill different roles."

Spain have been drawn alongside Sweden, Poland and Slovakia in Group E and are aiming to improve upon last-16 exits at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique sees no reason why the glory days of three consecutive major tournament successes between 2008 and 2012 – successes to which Ramos was so pivotal – cannot return.

"Previous Spain teams have won trophies," he added. "I believe we are among the six or eight favourites this year, we will have to show on the pitch what we are capable of.

"Why not aim to win it all?"

Spain captain Sergio Ramos has not been included in Luis Enrique's Euro 2020 squad after an injury-troubled 2020-21 season.

Aymeric Laporte, who only this month switched his allegiance from France to Spain, is among the centre-back options to have been preferred to the veteran.

Ramos was part of the national team that won three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012 and has remained a key man for club and country ever since, breaking Italy great Gianluigi Buffon's all-time international appearances mark of 176 earlier this season.

The 35-year-old has had the armband for Spain under Luis Enrique but played only 50 minutes of the March World Cup qualifiers against Greece and Kosovo before returning to Madrid injured.

Ramos was limited to 21 appearances in all competitions for Madrid this term, missing 31 matches. Zinedine Zidane's side actually conceded more often (1.0 per game vs 0.8) with Ramos in the team.

Remarkably, former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique did not name a single Madrid player in his finals squad.

Right-back Dani Carvajal is injured, leaving Spain light in that area of the pitch where Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente may deputise, while Los Blancos team-mates Marco Asensio and Isco have fallen out of favour.

Madrid's Nacho is another centre-back ignored, with Manchester City pair Laporte and Eric Garcia preferred to he and Ramos despite spending much of the season behind Ruben Dias and John Stones in the pecking order at the Etihad Stadium.

French-born Laporte, City's premier defensive option prior to this season, has made 27 appearances in all competitions for the Premier League champions but is in line for an international debut after this weekend's Champions League final.

Garcia – widely expected to join Barca when his contract expires next month – was limited to just 12 outings and nine starts, with a solitary clean sheet.

Spain squad for Euro 2020:

Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbo), David De Gea (Manchester United), Robert Sanchez (Brighton and Hove Albion); Jose Gaya (Valencia), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Diego Llorente (Leeds United), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea); Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Pedri (Barcelona), Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli); Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Alvaro Morata (Juventus), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Adama Traore (Wolves), Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain)

Spain captain Sergio Ramos has not been included in Luis Enrique's Euro 2020 squad after an injury-troubled 2020-21 season.

Burnley and England goalkeeper Nick Pope could be a doubt for Euro 2020 due to a knee injury.

Clarets boss Sean Dyche confirmed on Sunday that the 29-year-old, who last played in the 2-0 win at Fulham on May 10, requires surgery.

Pope, who has seven senior international caps, had been expected to be named in Gareth Southgate's 26-man Euro 2020 England squad on Tuesday.

According to reports in England, Pope will require around a month to recover, meaning he is likely to miss the tournament.

Burnley stated the player will be assessed following the operation to see whether he can be part of England's plans, with their opening game against Croatia taking place on June 13.

"Unfortunately, Nick is going to need a minor operation on his knee this week," Dyche said via Burnley's website.

"That's not ideal for him or us and possibly for the England team. We'll wait and see. It's nothing too serious, we don't think, but it still needed doing.

"He was trying to get right for this game [Sheffield United versus Burnley on Sunday] to give it a test but didn't quite come through in training, so he and we have had to make a judgement call on that.

"It's mainly down to him and he knows what he's got to do. He'll have that [the operation] done this week and hopefully, it will settle down for a quick recovery."

Ahead of Sunday's final round of matches, Pope had kept 11 clean sheets for Burnley in 32 Premier League games this season. Only Hugo Lloris (12), Emiliano Martinez (15), Edouard Mendy (16) and Ederson (18) had more.

Among goalkeepers to play in at least five matches, Pope's save percentage of 75.33 was the highest in the division except for Manchester United's Dean Henderson (76.6).

It wasn't too long ago that the idea of Mason Greenwood getting into Gareth Southgate's England squad was farfetched.

After a stunning breakthrough campaign in 2019-20 that saw him score 10 times in the Premier League, 2020-21 got off to a difficult start for the teenager.

It took him until December to score his first league goal of the season, and it took him a little over four months to net again.

Although he was in England contention at the start of the season, such form had seemingly seen him fall well out of the reckoning. When he was unsurprisingly absent from the March selection, few eyebrows were raised.

After all, it was back in September when Greenwood – having just won his first senior cap against Iceland – was involved in controversy involving two local girls being brought to the team hotel. He and Phil Foden were subsequently sent home and left out of the next squad.

But Foden was swiftly recalled in November having impressed early on, and he looks set to take on a key role at the Euros such has been his influence at Premier League champions Manchester City.

It's a slightly different scenario for the similarly talented Greenwood, and the reality is he will probably miss out, but his return form has at least given him a chance.

Perseverance and focus

As previously mentioned, Greenwood's form really suffered in the first part of the season, and that seemed to linger well into this year.

When considering what went wrong, it's of course natural to look at his performances and on-pitch habits.

For example, shot map data earlier in the season suggested he has potentially been found out by defenders. He wreaked havoc in 2019-20 when cutting inside on to his left foot and shooting, but it looked as though opponents had become wise to this, forcing him outside more often.

That's one theory – another worth considering is the human side of football. Let's not forget, Greenwood – a teenager – went through a lot last year.

There was the death of a close friend, the controversy on England duty and subsequent vilification of him from certain sections of the British media. All of that would be difficult for anyone to contend with, let alone a kid of 18 or 19 years.

Perhaps then it was just a matter of time, patience and perseverance for him to get back to his best, which he appears to be on the evidence of the past six weeks or so.

The fact we are even talking about his chances of going to the Euros is a triumph for Greenwood in itself.

From drought to downpour

Greenwood went on a run of 15 appearances without a single goal from late January, but he ended that barren spell against Leicester City on March 21.

Life has been rather different for him since then, finding himself back among the goals in the Premier League on April 4, netting the late winner as United defeated Brighton and Hove Albion 2-1 with a diving header.

That's one of six league goals in a run of eight matches, more than any other English forward in that time, netting at a rate of once every 88 minutes – by comparison, Harry Kane's recent form has him scoring every 125.8 minutes in the league.

Greenwood is once again showing the kind of killer-instinct in front of goal that made him so feared in 2019-20, when he scored 17 goals across all competitions.

Ten of those came in the league from an expected goals (xG) value of just 2.9, meaning he scored 7.1 goals more than expected. No player in the division could match that xG overperformance.

This would generally indicate elite-level finishing or a player getting lucky. Greenwood's form earlier this season suggested it was the latter, but since April 4 his xG overperformance in the league is 2.6 – the next best in this regard is Danny Ings (1.9 overperformance).

However, the caveat is that Greenwood's expected goals on target (xGOT) of 2.7 is lower than his xG of 3.4, suggesting that he's actually been a little fortunate, benefiting from goalkeeping errors, for instance.

For example, against Burnley his goal took a deflection en route to goal, while his effort against Aston Villa went in off the hand of Emiliano Martinez.

In terms of the difference between his xG and xGOT, Greenwood actually ranks poorly when compared to his rivals for a place in the England squad since April 4, with Ollie Watkins' 3.95 xGOT better than his 3.0 xG, which suggests his four goals have come about via good finishing because he has outperformed the underlying quality of his chances.

Ings, Kane and Marcus Rashford have also done better than Greenwood in this area of late, however the counter-argument would be that the teenager perhaps creates his own luck with unpredictable play on the ball and his comfort with either foot.

Southgate will make his decision regarding the squad on Tuesday, and Greenwood is likely still seen as an outsider, but there's no question he has given the manager food for thought.

Gareth Bale has been given a rave review by Ryan Mason – but Tottenham's interim boss cannot say if the Wales winger will return to north London next season.

After losing his place at Real Madrid, Bale rejoined Tottenham last September on a season-long loan, but he is due to return to the Spanish capital once the Premier League campaign ends.

Asked whether Bale could stay with Spurs for 2021-22, Mason said: "I am not sure, I have not had those conversations.

"The club will have those conversations at the end of the season. After this game at the weekend he goes back to his parent club. He is a Real Madrid player.

"These conversations, these situations, I am not sure of. I just know hopefully he's going to help us at the weekend."

A report in Spanish newspaper AS on Friday claimed Bale is focused on spending next season with Madrid, before retiring afterwards when his lucrative contract expires.

There has been no indication from Bale that he intends to follow that path, and his playing prospects at Madrid could depend on who coaches the team next term, after the 31-year-old fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane.

Mason has had no doubts about Bale's recent commitment to Tottenham, and he frowned on any suggestions the Wales international might be holding something back for Euro 2020.

"I completely disagree with that personally. I can only speak of my experience in this last five weeks with Gareth. He's scored four goals for this football club in that time. He's been excellent," Mason said, speaking ahead of Tottenham's season finale at Leicester City on Sunday.

Bale has not completed a full 90-minute game in the Premier League since embarking on his second spell at the club, but in 19 appearances, of which just 10 have been starts, he has scored nine goals in the competition, with only Harry Kane and Son Heung-min ahead of him at Spurs.

He has significantly exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 4.8, and Kane (22 goals from xG of 16.76) and Son (17 from xG of 8.86) have done likewise.

Looking at Bale, and his performance in the 2-0 win against Wolves, Mason said:  "Last weekend I think was the most minutes he's played in the Premier League all season, pushing close to 90 minutes.

"I think if you were to look at Gareth in that moment he looked fit, he looked strong, he was brave, he added a different dimension for us and he has severe quality as well.

"In terms of him thinking about this summer, I don't believe so because he was out there the other night playing through some pain, playing through a problem he had, for me, for himself and for the football club.

"In terms of Gareth's commitment and Gareth's quality, I think his commitment has been fully there in this moment that I've been here and in terms of his quality, his quality is never going to leave him. I think you see that every time he's on the football pitch."

Hansi Flick has confirmed he is in advanced talks with the German Football Association (DFB) about taking over as coach of the national team, though his immediate focus is on saying farewell to Bayern Munich.

Joachim Low will end his tenure in charge of Die Mannschaft after the Euro 2020 finals, opting to leave rather than see his contract through to the 2022 World Cup.

Flick is seemingly set to return to the Germany fold, having previously served as Low’s assistant between 2006 and 2014, a span that included being crowned world champions in Brazil.

"It is clear that I spoke to the DFB. Things always have to be regulated. It's about little things," Flick told the media on Friday ahead of his final game in charge of Bayern.

"When the time comes, things can be announced quickly."

A short but hugely successful spell at Bayern will conclude when the Bundesliga champions host Augsburg on Saturday.

Promoted from assistant coach midway through the 2019-20 season following the departure of Niko Kovac, Flick led the club to a famous treble last term, securing Champions League in Lisbon to follow on from domestic success in the league and DFB-Pokal.

"I just enjoyed the journey that I started almost two years ago," Flick said of his spell in charge.

"At that time, I knew that I wanted to be a coach again. The fact that I got the chance with Niko Kovac was great. I am happy about the journey and how it is now coming to an end.

"We were able to accompany such a great team on an intensive and successful path. But I am also looking forward to what is to come. Life is like a river, it goes on and on.

"To train such a team is something very special. I really liked the greed to win and to score. It was a great time that is now coming to an end."

Flick pinpointed the Champions League final win over Paris Saint-Germain as the highlight of his reign, while made clear he will continue to follow Bayern's progress as a lifelong supporter.

"I don't want to evaluate the development of the club," he added. "Everything is in a state of flux and that's a good thing. Positions are filled again and again, players come and go. That's normal.

"I was a Bayern fan as a child and will continue to be. This is a club that has always been close to my heart and I will continue to cheer.

"I also spoke to every single player again. That was great and I will continue to follow your path. We were so close, that can't be brushed away. For that I am very grateful."

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