Arturo Vidal hopes Barcelona can come through "11 finals" in LaLiga to ensure he ends the season with a ninth successive top-flight title.

Chile international Vidal won four straight Scudetti with Juventus and was a three-time Bundesliga winner after joining Bayern Munich in 2015.

The 33-year-old tasted LaLiga glory with Barca last season and he is keen to repeat the feat in 2019-20.

Spain's top tier is set to return from a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic on June 11, with Barca sitting two points clear of Real Madrid at the summit with 11 games remaining.

Asked about winning a ninth league title in succession, Vidal said: "Not many players have done this before, so I am so proud of myself.

"I'm really looking forward to winning my ninth at Barcelona, so I will work hard to try to keep making history.

"The 11 matches we have now will be like 11 finals. It will be a difficult challenge as Real Madrid are very close to us, so we just need to focus on winning every single game and also do our best to get prepared for the Champions League as well."

LaLiga clubs will be able to return to full training and use their dressing rooms again from Monday, though strict hygiene protocols will still need to be followed.

"I am so happy to be back in training as the couple of months we have been in lockdown have seemed so long," said Vidal.

"Now it is so good to be on the pitch again with my team-mates. It has been a very tough two months, but now we are training again and it feels really good.

"I feel happy. I had many chats [during the lockdown] with my team-mates from a distance, trying to speak with each other on how we were managing the situation. But now we must prepare ourselves as well as we possibly can ahead of these massive two months we face."

Following the completion of LaLiga, Barca will likely continue their Champions League campaign.

They drew the first leg of their last-16 tie with Napoli 1-1 in February and will host the return match at Camp Nou.

UEFA is yet to confirm its schedule for the remaining Champions League and Europa League fixtures, however.

LaLiga clubs will be able to undertake full training sessions and use their dressing rooms from Monday, Barcelona have confirmed.

An update from leaders Barca revealed the league had enacted phase four of the return to training protocol amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With teams working towards a June 11 resumption, preparations will ramp up from June 1.

Coaches had previously been limited to working with only 14 players at a time.

Barcelona said: "Following the publication of the BOE [official state bulletin] this Saturday, the league has reported that, from this Monday, June 1, the teams will return to training in phase four."

Dressing rooms will also be available again, but the statement added: "The corresponding prevention, protection and hygiene measures established by the health authorities must continue to be complied with, as well as the disinfection and periodic cleaning of the facilities."

Barca hold a two-point lead over rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table with 11 matches to play.

Roger Federer has eclipsed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to top the annual Forbes list of the highest paid athletes on the planet.

The Swiss maestro jumped four spots to sit top of the pile, earning $106.3million in the past year as he becomes the first tennis player to lead the way.

That eye-watering figure puts the 20-time grand slam winner ahead of football stars Ronaldo ($105m), Messi ($104m) and Neymar ($95.5m).

NBA icon LeBron James rounds out the top five, raking in $88.2m in a period when some sportspeople took wage cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Endorsements account for most of Federer's income, but he also undertook a tour of North and South America late last year to further boost his earnings.

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for soccer stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time," said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes.

"Roger Federer is the perfect pitchman for companies, resulting in an unparalleled endorsement portfolio of blue-chip brands worth $100million a year for the tennis great."

Federer's rise to the summit comes after fellow tennis player Naomi Osaka was announced as the highest paid female athlete, her $37.4m putting the Japanese 29th overall.

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

 

Although he didn't know it at the time, March 2017 was a momentous month in the career of Mohammed Salisu, the Ghanaian centre-back who is now interesting many of the world's biggest clubs.

In the town of Nsawam, south Ghana, the African Talent Football Academy (ATFA) first began operating, coaching hopeful young footballers who dreamed of a career in Europe.

With a brand new facility – comprising of pitches and a club house that included a common area, dining space and accommodation – and connections to European clubs, the ATFA began to mark itself as potential gateway for Ghanaian youngsters chasing a better future.

Just six months after opening, the ATFA had its trailblazer, their first 'graduate'. Director Fran Castano travelled with one teenager to Spain.

Salisu was signed then and there – his journey to the top had begun.

Destined for the top

Life at the ATFA didn't start particularly well for Salisu.

"I remember my first time meeting him – he came without his boots and was late. I was very, very angry and I was close to telling him to go home," Castano, speaking to Stats Perform News, recalled. It proved a wise decision to hold that thought, however.

"He took some boots from the goalkeeper and after 10 minutes playing we saw something different. I talked to him and told him that if he can be serious and work, I promised him in half year I could send him to Spain."

Sure enough, in October 2017 Salisu was signed by Real Valladolid, with the ATFA earning a small fee and a percentage of any future sale. That could be cashed in sooner rather than later as well, with reports in Spain suggesting Rennes are very close to completing a deal in the region of his €12million release clause.

That would be considered a significant coup for the French side, as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Atletico Madrid are all said to have considered a move for Salisu in the past six months.

It's even claimed the latter were willing to pay €11m, but curiously wouldn't stretch to the full release clause. It's an oversight they could come to regret.

"I told him he would make it [to the top]," says Castano, who previously held many roles in youth coaching and analytics for the Niger and Mauritania national teams, Real Jaen, Leganes and Hearts of Oak, Ghana's biggest club, before setting up the ATFA.

"You always have doubt because it's not only about talent. To come and live in Europe was a big change for him, but I knew he would make it [on the talent side] because I saw his level compared with others in Spain at the same age and the way he can develop. You could see from the beginning he was different. The body, the technique, the winning mentality, the confidence and how he developed faster than anybody. If you increased the challenge, he increased his level."

Persistence and a friend's trust lead to vindication

Castano estimates Salisu played just 10 youth matches for Pucela before being promoted to their B team in the third tier, and then at the start of this season he became an undisputed starter for the senior side – indeed, he's one of just four defenders to play all 27 LaLiga matches in 2019-20.

A former student of sport performance analysis at the University of Granada, Castano's pride in Salisu is obvious – joining Valladolid wasn't just a big deal for the defender, but also vindication for Castano.

"I offered Salisu to a lot of teams, nobody gave us a chance. Nobody knew Salisu or me. I was just starting and it wasn't easy," he said. "I was lucky. My friend Victor Fernandez, who was a great striker in LaLiga for Valladolid and Villarreal, was coaching Valladolid's Under-19s. I called him and told him about Salisu. He told me he trusted what I say and my eye for scouting players.

"After one training exercise, just a few minutes, he [Victor] told me: 'Fran, are sure you know the kind of player you have?' He said he [Salisu] could be a very important defender in professional football. I had thought so, but I wasn't that sure of it until he told me."

Salisu's adaptation to LaLiga was impressive. In October, less than two months after his top-flight debut, he was being championed as a "star" on the league's official Twitter account after impressing in a 0-0 draw with Atletico.

Jordi Masip has been a fixture behind Salisu in goal. The experienced goalkeeper applauded the youngster's capacity to learn and is convinced a big future lies in wait.

"He's a player with an enviable physicality, he gets very fast when it comes to interceptions," Masip told Stats Perform News. "He's very young and he can grow a lot. He's a person that wants to improve and listen to us.

"He has always had a little difficulty with the language, but he is adapting very well, he understands everything, he asks questions and his adaptation is going well. To be so young, his characteristics are very good, he still can give far more than he is already giving."

A dominant defender

It's easy to argue that Pucela would be in even worse shape this season if they didn't have Salisu. After all, when LaLiga resumes they will start in 15th place, just four points above the bottom three.

But being in a team that has to spend longer stretches of time defending, Salisu's quality really shines through and it's clear he's making a difference, with only seven teams – all of whom are in the top half of the table – conceding fewer than Valladolid this term.

When watching Salisu, you really get the impression he loves defending. A real unit with long, gangly legs, he has a habit of pulling off blocks or last-ditch tackles that one wouldn't expect.

His 67 aerials won is bettered by just eight defenders, while Sevilla's Diego Carlos – widely regarded as one of the standout centre-backs in LaLiga this term – is the only player to make more headed clearances (71) than Salisu (67).

Diego Carlos – and every other defender, for that matter – trails in Salisu's wake with respect to total clearances, however. The 21-year-old has completed 136, with the experienced Raul Albiol (131) boasting the next most.

Salisu also ranks very high in terms of blocks with 22. Gabriel (26) is the solitary defender to have halted more shots. His 31 interceptions is also a decent figure, though the league-high among defenders of 48 is a fair way ahead of him.

What's clear is Salisu's enjoying a wonderful season. Despite his age and lack of experience, he is marking himself out as a consistent and committed performer.

While his technical attributes may not yet be at the required level for, say, Barcelona, he models himself on Blaugrana centre-back Samuel Umtiti and has already shown himself to be a quick learner on the pitch.

Either way, one can certainly see why Diego Simeone and Atletico are said to be keen, but time appears to be running out for El Cholo. With Rennes seemingly circling, a defensive jewel could be about to slip through the fingertips of LaLiga's elite.

Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal "loves" Boca Juniors and is "dying" to play for the Argentine giants, according to Chile team-mate Gary Medel.

Vidal continues to be linked with a Barca exit, the veteran Chilean star a reported target for Serie A side Inter.

The 33-year-old has insisted he is happy at Camp Nou, where he arrived from Bayern Munich in 2018.

Amid the ongoing speculation, former Boca midfielder Medel claims Vidal wants to move to La Bombonera in Buenos Aires.

"Arturo would like to play in Boca with me or without me," Medel, who played for Boca between 2009 and 2011, told Radio Continental.

"He loves Boca and follows them on social networks. He is the only one who follows Argentina and is dying to go. Boca have a magnitude in Europe that you cannot imagine."

It comes as Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio distanced the Italian club from Vidal, who worked with Nerazzurri head coach Antonio Conte during the pair's time together at Juventus.

"I don't feel like making any final considerations, let alone for Vidal. Right now he's not an opportunity for us. We already have a very strong central midfield," Ausilio told Sky Sport Italia.

"[Christian] Eriksen arrived in January and, like anyone else who arrives in January, he needs time, not just to settle on a technical level.

"I've never seen a player who comes to Serie A and immediately makes the difference.

"Think of [Michel] Platini and [Zinedine] Zidane, they're the first two examples that spring to mind."

Jadon Sancho and a return to England continues to make headlines.

The England international and former Manchester City youngster is reportedly keen to move back to his homeland.

But Borussia Dortmund are not willing to make things easy for Sancho's suitors.

 

TOP STORY – BVB NOT BUDGING ON SANCHO PRICE

Borussia Dortmund are not prepared to offer discounts on Jadon Sancho amid strong interest from the Premier League, according to Goal.

Dortmund star Sancho has been linked to Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool and the England international remains keen on a move to the Premier League.

While Sancho reportedly has no intention of renewing his Dortmund contract – which expires in 2022 – the Bundesliga outfit are unwilling to accept anything less than £100million (€110m) amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport claims Paris Saint-Germain have made a €60m offer for Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Lazio, however, are reportedly set to reject the bid.

- Staying in the French capital and Sky Sport in Italy reports PSG and Inter have reached an agreement over the transfer of Mauro Icardi. The Argentina international forward has spent the 2019-20 season on loan at PSG. The Ligue 1 champions are reportedly set to pay €50m plus €7m in bonuses.

Arsenal, Chelsea and United are interested in Juventus and Italy international Federico Bernardeschi, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Sky Sport Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio says United are eyeing Monaco forward Pietro Pellegri. The 19-year-old Italian has been plagued by injuries in France.

Juve want to bring Chelsea forward Pedro to Turin, according to Calciomercato. The Spanish veteran, who is set to become a free agent, worked with Maurizio Sarri during the Italian coach's time at Stamford Bridge.

- Sport reports Martin Odegaard's future at Real Madrid depends on head coach Zinedine Zidane. Odegaard has flourished during his two-year loan spell at Real Sociedad and whether the Norwegian returns to the Basque Country remains to be seen.

Arthur remains committed to staying at Barcelona amid Juventus links, Mundo Deportivo says. Juve have been keen on bringing Arthur to the club, with Miralem Pjanic tipped to leave for Barca. However, Arthur is happy at Camp Nou and sees Spanish football more compatible with his style.

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien believes the five substitutions per game will have a negative impact on the LaLiga champions as the league prepares to restart following the coronavirus crisis.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc globally, with the LaLiga season suspended since March, but the 2019-20 campaign is set to resume on June 11.

LaLiga teams will be allowed to make five substitutions – instead of the usual three – to help avoid injuries and keep players fresh following the coronavirus-enforced hiatus, just like Germany's Bundesliga.

But Setien, whose Barca were two points clear of Real Madrid atop the table with 11 matches remaining, believes the additional substitutes will hurt the Catalan giants.

"I don't know if it will harm us or benefit us," Setien told the Las Palmas Football Federation. "I think it will harm us because of our way of playing.

"We know that a lot of matches we will resolve in the final minutes. If you give the rival the option of putting on fresh players in that time, the weakness that is generated, with tired players, won't come about.

"But it can also give you resources in a specific moment. It's an unknown quantity and we'll see how it goes."

LaLiga will return with the Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

On Friday, Spain's Higher Council of Sport (CSD) said it had agreed the resumption plans with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga.

The CSD issued a statement that confirmed plans for the season to end on July 18-19.

"There will be lots of games in a short time," Setien said. "The heat will have an influence on performance and it will affect injuries.

"We're hoping that it does less damage than people think [it will]. It's possible that there will be lots of injuries like in Germany, because we've spent almost two months sitting on the sofa, not playing."

Setien added: "We're going to play for our objectives in the 11 games [remaining] and that means a stress that we don't know how it will influence us.

"All the teams are starting from zero. There will be 11 games and we have to win them, and we have every chance to win the league. The teams will seem little like the [teams] they were when they finished [playing in March]."

Mexico head coach Gerardo Martino says his season in charge of Barcelona was the worst of his career.

Martino took over at Camp Nou from Tito Vilanova in July 2013 and enjoyed a positive start, winning the Supercopa de Espana on away goals against Atletico Madrid.

Barca started the LaLiga season with a 7-0 thrashing of Levante before winning his first Clasico 2-1 at home to Real Madrid in October.

The season ended in disappointment, though, with Atletico pipping Barca to the title after holding them to a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou on the final day of the league season, having lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid a month earlier.

Martino, who stepped down after the Atletico draw, says it was trying to get the best out of the squad while attempting to embrace their stylistic traditions that made life difficult.

"From the results side of things, it wasn't a bad year," he said, as quoted by Sport. "We won a trophy and we played in a final, but at Barcelona what matters is how many trophies you win.

"However, I say it was my worst year because my contribution as coach started and finished with the management of the team.

"There were concerns that my management had a short life and, for me, the Clasico against Real Madrid that we won 2-1 at home was key.

"We scored the second goal running into space and if Barcelona ran into space, it was because something did not fit together.

"But I understand that, if we could add anything to the team, it was not to deny the possibility of running.

"Speed was going to make Barcelona more complete because when there were lapses in the dominance of the opposition, it was good to go back and move into space. That was carried out the following year, with Luis Enrique."

Could Spain international Fabian Ruiz be set for a return to his homeland?

Former Real Betis star Fabian, who now plays for Napoli in Serie A, is a reported target for Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The Spanish rivals are trying to lure Fabian back to LaLiga.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA, MADRID DO BATTLE FOR FABIAN

Barcelona and Real Madrid are set to battle each other for the signing of Napoli star Fabian Ruiz, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Spanish midfielder Fabian has been linked with a return to LaLiga throughout the season, having left Real Betis for Napoli in 2018.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Napoli are expecting Barca and Madrid to go head-to-head for Fabian – who is contracted to the Serie A side until 2023.

 

ROUND-UP

- L'Equipe says Inter have made an offer for Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette. With Inter star Lautaro Martinez linked to Barca, the Nerazzurri are eyeing alternatives, however, Lacazette is not interested in swapping London for Milan.

- There could be some big changes at Madrid in 2022. AS Diario says Los Blancos want Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland to team up with Eden Hazard in a new strike force. The likes of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Isco will be out of contract at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Juventus are ready to negotiate a deal for Santos teenager Kaio Jorge, according to Calciomercato. Santos are demanding €30million for the 18-year-old, though Juve are only prepared to pay €15m.

- The Daily Mail claims Manchester City and Newcastle United have joined Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the race for 18-year-old Penarol winger Facundo Pellistri.

Odion Ighalo is prepared to pass on a £75m contract with Shanghai Shenhua to stay at Manchester United, reports the Daily Star. Ighalo's loan deal is set to expire at Old Trafford.

Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell said he would try to sign Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar as he is the second-best player in the world behind Lionel Messi.

Neymar left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017, but the Brazilian forward continues to be linked with a return to Camp Nou.

The 28-year-old failed to make his way back to LaLiga champions Barca at the start of the 2019-20 season and he is reportedly a transfer target again.

Rosell was president when Barca signed Neymar from Santos in 2013 and the 56-year-old heaped praise on the Brazil international.

"If I were the president of Barca, I would try to sign Neymar," Rosell told COPE and Radio Marca.

"He is the second-best player in the world after Messi and fits perfectly into the philosophy of the club.

"But with experience, he would sign him with two contracts, one sports and the other behavioural."

Since swapping Barca for PSG, Neymar has won three successive Ligue 1 titles, to go with Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and Trophee des Champions honours.

Neymar scored 13 league goals before Ligue 1 was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic and PSG were eventually declared champions.

Barca, meanwhile, have been tipped to sign Inter star Lautaro Martinez in the off-season.

However, Inter have insisted Martinez will not be sold unless his release clause – reportedly worth €111m – is met.

Rosell added: "I would not sign Lautaro for €111million but I would try to exchange two players".

If Lautaro Martinez heads to Barcelona, Inter may land Timo Werner as his replacement as Liverpool withdraw from the race for the RB Leipzig star.

Martinez and Werner are two forwards linked with moves during the close season after impressive campaigns at Inter and RB Leipzig respectively.

And Werner could reportedly fill Martinez's boots at San Siro if the Argentina international makes the switch.

 

TOP STORY – WERNER COULD REPLACE BARCELONA TARGET LAUTARO

RB Leipzig star Werner is the leading candidate to replace Martinez if the Inter forward joins Barcelona, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Werner has been heavily linked with a transfer to Liverpool, but the Mirror reports the Premier League leaders have withdrawn from talks as they are unwilling to meet his £49.4million (€55m) release clause.

Meanwhile, AS reports Philippe Coutinho could be part of Barca's bid to land Martinez, even as Inter say the only way the 22-year-old will leave is by his reported €111m clause being paid.

ROUND-UP

- Will Barcelona and Juventus get an exchange deal done? Sport reports Juve are pushing to land Arthur, but the midfielder wants to stay with the LaLiga giants. Miralem Pjanic has been linked with a move to Camp Nou.

- Staying at Barcelona and Mundo Deportivo reports the club are willing to let Ousmane Dembele leave if a good offer arrives. The attacker has been linked with a switch to Paris Saint-Germain, with Neymar reportedly a target for Barcelona.

- David Luiz's future appears uncertain. Sky Sports News reports the defender's stay at Arsenal could be coming to an end after one season as his contract expires next month and no talks are planned over a new deal.

- It seems Tiemoue Bakayoko could be set for another transfer. Le 10 Sport says the midfielder, on loan at Monaco from Chelsea, is being targeted by Milan and West Ham, with PSG's interest having eased.

- With Kepa Arrizabalaga out of favour, Chelsea are said to be looking for a new goalkeeper. The Sun says the Premier League side are lining up a £15m (€16.7m) move for Borussia Dortmund shot-stopper Roman Burki.

- Staying at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea are also reportedly eyeing a left-back. The Mirror reports they are keeping an eye on developments around Ajax full-back Nicolas Tagliafico, who could be available for around £22m (€24.5m).

Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart claimed LaLiga would have been cancelled if Real Madrid were top of the table when the season was suspended.

The LaLiga campaign is set to get back underway next month, with Barcelona holding a two-point lead over Madrid with 11 games left to play.

But Gaspart, who was Barca president from 2000 to 2003, said it would have been different if Madrid were leading the league when it was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"If Madrid had finished as leader before the confinement, LaLiga would have ended," he told Tertulia del 10 del Barca, via AS, on Wednesday.

While Barcelona will aim to clinch the LaLiga title, they continue to be linked with former star Neymar, who could return to the club from Paris Saint-Germain.

Gaspart hopes the Brazil international ends up back at Camp Nou, where he left in 2017 for a world-record €222million.

"I would love to see Neymar at Barca. I understand that he can still contribute," he said.

"What I don't know is the fine print. I forgive what it takes to get him back. I would like him to play for Barca."

Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio says Lautaro Martinez will not be sold to Barcelona unless the LaLiga club pay his release clause.

Argentina striker Martinez has long been linked with a move to Camp Nou as a potential long-term replacement for Luis Suarez, but striking a deal appears to be complex.

Barca were struggling to free up significant transfer funds before the coronavirus crisis and are said to be prepared to sell a host of squad players and offer others in part-exchange deals in a bid to land their top targets.

Arturo Vidal, Nelson Semedo, Samuel Umtiti and Ivan Rakitic have all been touted as possible makeweights in any deal for the former Racing forward.

Inter, though, have made it clear that any club interested in Martinez will have to pay the full amount of his reported €111million buyout clause, which is said to contain certain clauses including the fact that it must be paid in a single instalment.

Ausilio told Sky Sport: "Lautaro Martinez is not for sale. Barcelona contacted us, we have a good relationship, but we told them we'll not sell Lautaro.

"If they want him, Barca must pay the full release clause.

"We want Lautaro in our team in the future. He will not be sold; the release clause is the only way. Barca know this as do the other clubs who contacted us. And Lautaro's release clause is so complicated..."

Chelsea and Manchester United have also been linked with the 22-year-old, who has scored 11 goals in 22 Serie A appearances this season as part of a formidable Inter attack alongside Romelu Lukaku.

Lionel Messi said he had been "extremely excited" to compete in the 2020 Copa America and the decision to postpone the competition until 2021 hit him hard.

The Argentina captain was set to take part in the Copa America for the sixth time in June and July before CONMEBOL announced its postponement in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi has been a runner-up in the competition on three occasions, in 2007, 2015 and 2016, and he will be nearly 34 by the time the 2021 edition kicks off.

"Pushing back the Copa America was a huge disappointment, but of course it was to be expected and was the reasonable thing to do," Messi told adidas.

"The Copa was going to be a big occasion for me this year, and I was extremely excited to compete in it again. It hit me hard when I learned it would be postponed, but I completely understood.

"We can't dwell on what we're leaving behind this year. It's better to look to the future. To getting back to the daily training routine, to seeing team-mates, to playing the first games.

"I'm sure it will be strange at first, but I'm very eager to start competing again!"

While Messi will have to wait for the return of international football, he is training with Barcelona in anticipation of LaLiga resuming in the coming weeks.

The Blaugrana's talismanic forward admitted the uncertainty of the global pandemic had affected him mentally.

"I don't think anyone could have seen something like this coming," he said.

"Some people warned that worldwide pandemics could happen from time to time. But I really never could have imagined it would unfold like it did, or the enormous impact it's having on virtually the entire world.

"Living or working with so much uncertainty is never easy, especially when faced with a situation as unheard-of as this one. That's why we'll need some time to prepare before competing again."

Marco Asensio feels "very good" after recovering from a knee injury as he prepares to play his part for Real Madrid in LaLiga's title run-in.

Spain international Asensio is yet to feature this term after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in his left knee in pre-season.

The 24-year-old underwent successful surgery in August but has only now returned to training with the campaign paused amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Asensio, who played 44 times in 2018-19, is delighted to be back.

"I feel very good," he told Realmadrid TV. "The first week was different when I returned to training, being with my team-mates.

"My adaptation has been good. The knee is responding well and the truth is that I am physically very well.

"The wait has been very long. I have worked a lot and, above all, I have had a lot of patience, because seeing your colleagues train every day while being in the physiotherapy room was something that hurt me a lot.

"I am already with my colleagues in the field and that is the important thing. The wait was worth it."

Asensio's attentions can now turn to matters on the field, with Madrid two points behind rivals Barcelona in the table with 11 matches to play.

Los Blancos must also overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League.

"We really want LaLiga to start and to face those games that decide a title," Asensio said. "We know that they are life-or-death matches.

"Every game we have to face it to the fullest, and we are going to try to win everything we have left."

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