Zidane 'sorry' for sacked Barca boss Valverde

By Sports Desk January 17, 2020

Zinedine Zidane has sympathy with sacked Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde but does not expect Real Madrid's Clasico rivals to be any less of a threat under Quique Setien.

Barca opted to part ways with Valverde after their Supercopa de Espana semi-final exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid, despite winning LaLiga in each of the former Athletic Bilbao coach's two full seasons at the helm.

This time around the Blaugrana are level on points at the summit with Madrid, who claimed Supercopa glory with a penalty shoot-out triumph against Atleti.

"I'm sorry for him, first of all. That's all I can really say," Madrid manager Zidane told a news conference.

"It's not a great situation but he's a coach who's always shown that he's very good. I've got a great deal of admiration for him

"Each club and each situation is different. Each coach knows what they’re doing and where they're at. They know what the situation is at a big club.

"If we lose two games I'm going to get criticised as well. That happened not too long ago. I know where I am and what the situation is.

"We can’t always play well and win, so it is difficult. But what we try to do is give 100 per cent. It's the same for the coach at Barcelona, we all try and do our best and then you people can go off and talk about whatever you want.

"Things are never going to change, but I'm sorry about Valverde losing his job."

Setien does not have a major honour to his name in his coaching career but there is excitement over how his all-action, high-pressing style will work at Camp Nou.

"I expect them to be the same as always. Barcelona will always compete with all the coaches they have. Nothing is going to change," Zidane said.

"They’re going to do their work and we're going to do ours. Things will always be the same. We’ll always have the same rivalry."

Madrid welcome Sevilla and Julen Lopetegui to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, somewhat fittingly at a time when a high-profile sacking is dominating the news agenda.

Lopetegui did not last until November in the 2018-19 season after he succeeded Zidane at the end of the Frenchman's first spell as Los Blancos' boss.

"I don’t have to give any explanations about any of that," Zidane shot back when asked why he and Lopetegui had vastly different records with largely the same squad.

"You have to live every different situation, do what you do.

"He did what he wanted to do here. He's a good coach, he's always proven that – both before and after Real Madrid

"But I've got nothing to say about his period here at Real Madrid. What I can say is he's a good coach. He's proven that again this season."

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Depay in pole position for Barcelona move, Man Utd want two signings Rumour Has It: Depay in pole position for Barcelona move, Man Utd want two signings

    Memphis Depay remains Barcelona's preferred transfer option, while Manchester United want Jadon Sancho and Alex Telles in this window.

    LaLiga giants Barca have been linked with numerous attackers as they rebuild under Ronald Koeman.

    Depay has seemingly been the favourite to join, and it appears nothing has changed.

     

    TOP STORY – DEPAY THE FAVOURITE TO JOIN BARCELONA

    Depay is in pole position to join Barcelona from Lyon, according to Mundo Deportivo.

    The report says Depay, 26, fits the profile and salary expectations at Barca.

    Depay and Koeman worked together while the latter was in charge of the Netherlands between 2018 and 2020.

    ROUND-UP

    - United are still hoping for two signings this transfer window. The Sun says the Red Devils are looking to land Borussia Dortmund star Sancho and Porto left-back Telles .

    - Arsenal could be close to strengthening by signing Houssem Aouar . Telefoot says the attacker has agreed to join the club, with Lyon and Arsenal set for talks over a fee.

    - As they continue their search for a defender, Manchester City may be close to making a decision. Goal reports the Premier League club are in talks with Benfica over Ruben Dias , in a deal that could see Nicolas Otamendi  go the other way. Meanwhile, ESPN says Sevilla are expecting an improved bid from City for Jules Kounde after an initial £50.2million (€55m) offer was rejected.

    - Chelsea may not be done spending just yet. The Mirror reports they want to make another move for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice , and it could lead to Jorginho joining Arsenal .

    - Sergino Dest is expected to join Barcelona and Guillem Balague claims the Ajax right-back should officially join them next week. Barcelona sold Nelson Semedo to Wolves this week.

    - Could there be late movement in the transfer window for Tottenham ? The Sun reports Spurs are in talks to sign Inter defender Milan Skriniar and are prepared to pay between £25m (€27.4m) and £30m (€32.9m), which is well below Inter's valuation.

  • Messi's Last Dance: The records the Barcelona star can break – and what could hold him back Messi's Last Dance: The records the Barcelona star can break – and what could hold him back

    He might not have buried the hatchet, but Lionel Messi has promised Barcelona he will give his all in the coming season.

    His attempt to leave the club, played out in public long before he spoke openly about his plans, ended with him accepting he will spend at least one more year at Camp Nou.

    Messi is still angry with president Josep Maria Bartomeu, still upset with the way the team has declined since 2015's treble, but he was smiling again when he played in the 3-1 friendly win over Gimnastic, a grin that gladdened the hearts of Barca fans across the world.

    So, with exit talks on ice, the focus is once more on how Messi can carry this team to domestic and European success while the impact of that 8-2 battering by Bayern Munich last month still lingers.

    He managed 31 goals and 25 assists last season, the latter number his highest such tally in five years, the former the lowest. He completed more dribbles per game than ever (5.91) but recorded his lowest shots-per-game tally in at least five years (4.57).

    The freescoring sensation of his earlier years is past; he is now creator-in-chief, a deeper-lying attacking menace, on whom the pressure is arguably greater than ever after years of mismanagement of the playing squad from those above.

    So, what can we expect from 2020-21, the season that may come to be known as Lionel Messi's "Last Dance"?

     

    THE RECORDS HE HOLDS

    This is just a handful, of course.

    Messi is the all-time leading goalscorer in LaLiga with 444. In Europe's top-five leagues, only long-time adversary Cristiano Ronaldo has more (447).

    In all competitions for Barca, Messi has scored 634 goals and provided 254 assists in 731 appearances. That puts him on 888 goal involvements for the club - a tally nobody even comes close to matching.

    Messi has scored at least 30 goals in each of the last 12 seasons and is the only player to score at least 10 in 14 consecutive LaLiga campaigns. He holds the record for the most in a single season, too: he scored 50 in 2011-12.

    And, of course, he is the only man to win the Ballon d'Or six times.

     

    THE RECORDS THAT BECKON

    If Messi features in 31 of Barca's 38 LaLiga matches, he will eclipse Xavi's record of 505 appearances for the club in Spain's top flight. He will also surpass Xavi for games in all competitions for the Catalans (767) if he plays 37 times overall.

    Messi will close on the LaLiga record held by Manolo Sanchis for the most appearances at a single club in the division, but he will need more than one season for that - Messi is on 485, while ex-Real Madrid man Sanchis played 523 times.

    Of course, Messi will be desperate for trophies this season after a barren 2019-20, and winning two will see him draw level with Ryan Giggs when it comes to titles won with the same club. Giggs won 36 with Manchester United.

    But how about this for a feat: if Messi gets 10 goals this season - and let's face it, there's a good chance - he will set a new record for goals scored for the same club in official competitions. The current best is 643, set by a former Santos forward known as Pele.

     

    THE PROBLEMS HE FACES

    After the friendly win over Gimnastic, Koeman made it clear he plans to deviate from Barca's traditional 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 that will, hopefully, get the best out of their midfielders. Such a system would presumably see Messi stationed as the number 10, behind a central striker.

    Perhaps that's no bad thing: Messi, as a false nine under Pep Guardiola, played the most games (219) and scored the most goals (211) of his career in all competitions. His role under successor Tito Vilanova was similar and yielded 60 goals in 50 games, giving him a career-best average of 1.2 goals per game.

    His most prolific season - 2011-12, the last under Guardiola - saw Messi record an astonishing 73 goals and 29 assists, leading to his calendar-year record of 79 goals in 2012. Again, that was from a central position in the attack, albeit one in a team filled with exceptional players. A shift back to the middle could suit him.

    The trouble is that Messi is increasingly having to do all this himself. The supporting cast has dwindled in quality since 2015 and his most productive relationships are behind him.

    Luis Suarez (47) has the most assists for Messi at Barca and completed his switch to Atletico Madrid this week. To continue a recent theme, his great friend expressed displeasure with the board over the matter. The top five Messi assisters after Suarez have all long left the club: Dani Alves (42), Andres Iniesta (37), Xavi (31), Pedro (25) and Neymar (22). The next on the list is Jordi Alba (21), whose own spot in Koeman's team is not entirely certain.

    He has never looked entirely compatible with Antoine Griezmann, Ansu Fati is still a raw talent in many respects, and the squad will take time to adjust to any new formation, not to mention new arrivals in Miralem Pjanic and, perhaps, Memphis Depay. What's more, the embarrassment of last season's final few weeks will be fresh in the players' minds and the unrest from the boardroom downwards will never be far from the headlines.

    When it comes to carrying this team, Messi has rarely looked so alone.

  • Barcelona still have a squad capable of challenging – Zidane Barcelona still have a squad capable of challenging – Zidane

    Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane believes Barcelona have a squad that is capable of "fighting for everything".

    After a trophy-less 2019-20 season, Ronald Koeman is rebuilding the Blaugrana, who have seen the likes of Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, Arthur and Nelson Semedo leave.

    Philippe Coutinho has returned from his loan spell at Bayern Munich and Miralem Pjanic joined from Juventus, while Lionel Messi ended up staying after requesting a move.

    Zidane, whose Madrid visit Real Betis on Saturday, said Barca were strong enough to again be challenging for titles.

    "I will be respectful. Besides, I don't know what's going on inside, that's why I don't want to get involved," the Madrid coach told a news conference.

    "I think each club has their own issues and difficulties. I think Barcelona, in terms of the team and the squad, is a club who will be fighting for everything.

    "I don't have any doubt."

    Madrid have also seen some changes to their squad, most notably the departures of Gareth Bale (on loan to Tottenham) and James Rodriguez (Everton).

    Bale's relationship with Zidane reportedly deteriorated in recent months, although the Welshman told Sky Sports on Friday he had "no regrets".

    Asked if he had anything to say about Bale, Zidane said: "I'm not going to speak about what Gareth said.

    "Against, what I will say is that we wish him the best for the future and we are focused on ourselves now. That's all."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.