Zidane stresses strong Bale relationship amid fresh transfer rumours

By Sports Desk October 29, 2019

Zinedine Zidane has insisted Gareth Bale is happy at Real Madrid and had the club's permission to visit London on Monday.

Wales international Bale travelled to the English capital two days out from his club's LaLiga game against Leganes, which he will miss through injury.

The former Tottenham winger reportedly used the trip to meet with his agent, Jonathan Barnett, as rumours surrounding his future started to re-circulate.

Bale almost left Madrid for China in the close season amid suggestions of a strained relationship with Zidane, but the Frenchman claimed the pair are on good terms.

"It's good to be asked this because a lot of things have been said," Zidane told a news conference on Tuesday.

"I have to say we have a good relationship. He's here with us, he trains well and works well when he's available. He's not available at the moment because he's got an injury, that's all.

"The problem is, there is a lot of talk about lots of different things. The important thing is that he's ready when he's 100 per cent.

"He's a good player, you know what kind of player he is. At the moment he's not available. You're all trying to create something that isn't there in our relationship.

"He had permission yesterday to go [to London]. It was a personal issue and he went. There's nothing else to say. He went also because he's not available to play.

"I don't think he ever talks about leaving. When he's available he trains and plays. He's played a number of games."

Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been mentioned as possible destinations for Bale, along with Shanghai Shenhua.

Their Chinese Super League rivals, Jiangsu Suning, were believed to be in pole position before the transfer fell through in July.

"That was the situation at the time and at the end of the day he stayed. That was better for everyone," Zidane said.

"It doesn't help what's said about him and the club. He's an important player in this squad. It's important for us that he plays and does well.

"The same thing [transfer speculation] will happen in January. If he says he's going to stay, there will be more talk about the summer window. He's happy here."

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  • How does Upamecano compare to Liverpool's defenders amid transfer talk? How does Upamecano compare to Liverpool's defenders amid transfer talk?

    Liverpool may need to make a January move for a centre-back after Virgil van Dijk's serious knee injury. 

    The Premier League champions were dealt a huge blow with Van Dijk set to miss most - if not the remainder - of the season after a tackle from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside derby draw against Everton. 

    Liverpool have been left with just two senior centre-backs – Joe Gomez and Joel Matip – with Van Dijk's injury, although defensive midfielder Fabinho can also provide cover. 

    Unsurprisingly, there have been transfer rumours in the aftermath, with the Reds linked with RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Brighton and Hove Albion centre-back Ben White. 

    Having joined Leipzig from Salzburg for a reported €10million in 2017, Upamecano re-signed earlier this year, but he apparently has a €42m release clause in his contract – although that can only be triggered at season's end. 

    Upamecano is highly rated in Europe and, using Opta data, we assess how his performances compare to Liverpool's defenders.

    Bright future awaits, but would Upamecano improve Liverpool?

    Upamecano, 21, helped RB Leipzig finish third in the Bundesliga and reach the Champions League semi-finals last season.

    The France international's tackling numbers were particularly impressive when compared to Liverpool defenders Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip.

    In the Bundesliga last season, Upamecano had 1.95 tackles per 90 minutes – with Matip (1.66 per 90 in just nine Premier League games) the closest of Liverpool's trio. However, only Van Dijk (52.2) had a worse tackle success rate than Upamecano (58.8), with Gomez and Matip both above 69.

    In the Champions League, Upamecano had 3.4 tackles per 90 minutes , well above Van Dijk (1.08) and Gomez (1.59), and also at a better rate (56) than the Liverpool trio. Matip, often injured in 2019-20, played just 90 minutes in total in Europe's top club competition last season.

    Ready to do battle

    Upamecano contested the most duels (87) of the four in the Champions League, and went at a success rate of 71.26, similar to Van Dijk (70 duels and 74.29 success rate), while he also had a comparable number of headed clearances per 90 minutes (2.04 to Van Dijk's 2.28) and interceptions (1.63 to 1.08). Gomez had 2.64 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Champions League last season.

    Van Dijk's absence will also hurt Liverpool aerially, with the Dutchman an imposing figure in Jurgen Klopp's back four.

    Upamecano, who stands at 186cm, was between Van Dijk and Gomez when it came to aerial duels last season. He won 18 of 27 aerials in the 2019-20 Champions League, a rate worse than Van Dijk (33 of 47) but better than Gomez (24 of 41).

    It was a similar story in the respective leagues, although he contested fewer than Liverpool defenders. An area Upamecano fell short in, at least domestically, was in being dribbled past by an opponent, which happened 20 times in 28 Bundesliga games, a figure ranking him below both Van Dijk (seven times in 38) and Gomez (11 in 28), but ahead of Matip (seven in nine). 

    Boosting Liverpool's build-up play

    A problem set to be exacerbated by Alisson's injury absence, Van Dijk's passing ability in defence is also important to how Liverpool function.

    In this area, Upamecano may offer the Reds the most. In the Champions League last season, his passing accuracy in the opposition half was 83.1 – higher than the Liverpool trio, including Van Dijk (82.7). When it came to passing accuracy ending in the final third, Upamecano again topped the list (74.1), ahead of Gomez (71.6), and that included averaging 11.7 passes into the final third per 90 minutes.

    In domestic action, Upamecano also topped the list in these categories, and his passing accuracy in the opposition half to begin this Bundesliga season is 84.7, while Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip have all dropped off from last season in this area.

  • Rumour Has It: Ibrahimovic set for Milan extension, Dybala to renew at Juventus Rumour Has It: Ibrahimovic set for Milan extension, Dybala to renew at Juventus

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be ready to extend his contract at Milan after a fine start to the season. 

    Ibrahimovic returned to the Serie A club in January, extending his deal in August through until the end of the 2020-21 season. 

    However, the veteran striker could be set to remain at the club for longer, per speculation in Italy.

     

    TOP STORY – IBRAHIMOVIC COULD RENEW AT MILAN UNTIL 2022

    Ibrahimovic's agent Mino Raiola is already studying a plan to extend the striker's deal at Milan until 2022, according to Corriere della Sera.

    The 39-year-old has scored four goals in two Serie A games for league leaders Milan this season, including a brace in the derby win over rivals Inter at the weekend.

    Ibrahimovic netted 10 goals and provided five assists in 18 league appearances in 2019-20.

    ROUND-UP

    - Unhappy about being left on the bench against Crotone, Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus is again a subject of interest. However, Tuttosport reports the aim is still for the playmaker – who is contracted until 2022 – to renew his deal before January.

    - Barcelona could be set for good news. Goal reports Barcelona are working on new deals for Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet after agreeing to a contract with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Meanwhile, AS says Gerard Pique is ready to accept a pay cut.

    - Phil Jones is yet to play for Manchester United this season and could leave in January. The Sun reports United could demand £20million for the defender, who is contracted until 2023.

    - Maurizio Sarri could be set for a return to coaching. CalcioMercato reports the former Juventus and Chelsea boss is a target for Fiorentina amid pressure on Giuseppe Iachini after the club collected just four points from their opening four Serie A games of the season.

    - Out of contract at Marseille at season's end, Florian Thauvin could be set for a move. Le 10 Sport says Milan are interested in the forward.

    - With Virgil van Dijk out due to a serious knee injury, Liverpool could be looking for a defender in January. Football Insider says Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White remains on the Premier League champions' radar.

  • Carragher urges Liverpool to sign Upamecano in January Carragher urges Liverpool to sign Upamecano in January

    Jamie Carragher says Liverpool need to do whatever it takes to sign RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano in January after losing Virgil van Dijk to a serious knee injury. 

    Netherlands international Van Dijk was forced off early in the Reds' 2-2 draw with Merseyside rivals Everton on Saturday after a wild challenge from Jordan Pickford.

    Scans have since revealed Van Dijk suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that will ensure he misses the majority – if not the entirety – of the remainder of the season.

    Liverpool have previously been linked with 21-year-old France international Upamecano and Carragher – the Reds' second-highest appearance maker – says Jurgen Klopp needs to bring him in as a matter of urgency when the January transfer window opens. 

    "Liverpool's next big signing had to be a centre-back anyway and I am talking next summer," Carragher told Sky Sports. 

    "Dejan Lovren went and they didn't replace him so they only have three centre-backs and one of those, Joel Matip, is always injured. There are question marks now about Joe Gomez.

    "So, there is no doubt that Liverpool had to go big in the transfer market next summer. That was the next one. That has now got to be brought forward to January 1, whoever the target was in the summer. Not the end of January. 

    "There is a young man everyone was talking about at Leipzig, Dayot Upamecano. I think he is only 6'1" or 6'2", so he is maybe not that aerial but if he is the one they wanted then bring it forward. Pay extra money and do it on January 1.

    "That means getting through 11 league games without Virgil van Dijk."

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