Maxi Gomez insists there is a strong spirit within the Valencia squad despite a turbulent few weeks at Mestalla.

The positivity of last season, when Valencia secured a Champions League spot before beating Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, has mostly evaporated in the early weeks of 2019-20.

Head coach Marcelino was sacked last month and replaced by Albert Celades, who lost his first match in charge 5-2 away to Barca in LaLiga.

Marcelino suggested he lost his job partly because he won the Copa, a competition he claimed the club's hierarchy considered a distraction from fighting for a Champions League place.

Valencia started their European campaign with a 1-0 win at Chelsea but were dispatched 3-0 at home to Ajax this week on matchday two, meaning they have now won just one of their most recent four games in all competitions.

But Gomez, who joined from Celta Vigo in July, says there are positive feelings in the first-team camp.

"The truth is that it's something special coming to a club as big as Valencia," said Gomez, courtesy of LaLiga. "With the fans, with the people, with the squad and with the atmosphere here, there's nothing like it and, for my part, I'll try to give my all for the group.

"That's the main thing. To be able to score lots of goals, to compete, to have that fighting spirit we Uruguayans have and show it out on the pitch, give my all and use all my strength and to be able to score lots of goals. The truth is I'm very happy and hopefully all that comes to pass.

"We're playing in the Champions League. I always dreamed of playing in the Champions League. I only ever did in video games, and now being able to live this dream of being able to play in the Champions League and being able to give my all for the squad is the main thing and being able to do it in every game is the best of all.

"The truth is we're very happy. We're working as a group to compete in all four competitions that Valencia are involved in. Taking it step by step, not getting carried away thinking about winning the Champions League or the title. We'd rather take it step by step. Every weekend is like a cup final, and we're going to go out and try to win them any way we can."

Gomez scored 30 league goals across his two seasons with Celta Vigo after moving from Defensor Sporting and was linked with Premier League side West Ham before moving to Valencia.

The 23-year-old forward says his career to date has been beyond anything he could have hoped for.

"The truth is I never expected it," he said. "I think it's very hard for a player from Uruguay to come and play football in Spain. I think that Uruguayan football is a lot different to Spanish football.

"When I had the chance to come to Celta, I was very grateful to Celta because they were the ones who opened the doors for me. I was very happy and thank God everything worked out and I was able to come here."

Gomez has fond memories of Celta, specifically goals scored against Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"Against Real Madrid it was a cross from [Daniel] Wass, with an intricate move where we moved the ball out wide and he crossed it in for me, I got my head on it and thank God I managed to put it inside the near post. To be honest, it was a wonderful goal," he said.

"Against Barcelona, I made it 2-2 at Camp Nou, and the truth is that drawing against Barcelona on their own turf is not easy. The goal was a move from Iago Aspas, who really is a fantastic player. He takes on [Samuel] Umtiti, who pulls up with a hamstring problem, Aspas goes it alone and cuts it back to me and I put it in at the far post. It was also a really nice goal and I'm very grateful."

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone will continue to put his faith in Diego Costa despite the striker's LaLiga goal drought continuing against Celta Vigo.

Simeone's side endured a frustrating time in front of goal at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday as they were held to a goalless draw.

Costa, 30, was booked after the final whistle for his part in an ugly fracas with the Celta Vigo players.

When asked a question about Costa's attitude for his role in the aftermath, Simeone claimed he "didn't see" the incident.

However, the Argentinian has backed Costa to come good even though the ex-Chelsea forward has not found the net in a competitive match since he scored against Alaves in March.

"The numbers are what you say, it's the reality, but I trust Costa," Simeone said.

"I know he'll be fit again and it's a challenge for him. The championship is long and the team needs him."

Simeone called on Costa and the club's other strikers to become more ruthless after Atletico's return of just seven goals in five LaLiga matches in this season so far.

"I think we started the pre-season at a great level, especially for strikers," added Simeone.

"The team looked good and it gives me the feeling that it is normal, when the season starts there are spikes and immediately the goals appear and in others they disappear.

"Hopefully we can get the focus to play back because the situations are there.

"If we do not, we must try to increase the offensive intensity because the goal comes from the rage of wanting to make a goal."

Atletico Madrid failed to win for a third successive game in all competitions as an inspired performance from Ruben Blanco secured Celta Vigo an unexpected 0-0 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Diego Simeone's side saw their 100 per cent LaLiga record come to an emphatic end against Real Sociedad last weekend, while they rallied on Wednesday to secure a 2-2 Champions League draw with Juventus.

However, their efforts in clawing back a two-goal deficit against the Serie A champions appeared to have taken a toll judging by their performance against Celta, with a sluggish Atletico failing to score at home in league action for the first time since May 2018.

Hector Herrera was rewarded for his equaliser off the bench in midweek with a first LaLiga start, while Simeone also selected Angel Correa in an attack-minded starting XI.

Yet for all their exerted efforts going forward, Atletico were unable to find a way to beat the outstanding Blanco.

He kept the home team at bay with a trio of fine saves in the first half, starting with an acrobatic effort to turn away Felipe's header from Kieran Trippier's inswinging free-kick.

The visiting goalkeeper also tipped over a rising long-range drive from Renan Lodi, with Blanco then denying Joao Felix's on-target prod from the resulting corner.

Koke tested the 24-year-old reflexes again from distance early in a second half where Atletico became increasingly frustrated with each passing minute.

Lodi's decision to go for goal from a tight angle rather than cross for the waiting Alvaro Morata summed up a below-par performance, while they were grateful substitute Pione Sisto failed to do better with a back-post opportunity in the closing minutes of a quickly forgettable encounter.

 

What does it mean? Sluggish Atleti come up short

After two tough fixtures, it is perhaps understandable Atleti were a little flat, despite the best efforts of a raucous home crowd to inspire their team.

Worryingly for Simeone, they have now managed just five goals in as many LaLiga outings in 2019-20, despite having 20 attempts on Saturday.

Blanco makes a point for Celta

The away team were resilient in defence but still relied on their goalkeeper to pick up a point on their travels. Blanco made five saves in total, the best of them his early denial of Felipe's close-range header.

Joao Felix fails to fire before departure

The Portugal international has still managed just the one goal for the Spanish club since his big-money arrival from Benfica. As was also the case against La Real, the teenager was withdrawn when his side were searching for a way to find a breakthrough in attack.

What's next?

With a midweek round of fixtures in Spain, Atletico Madrid travel to Real Mallorca on Wednesday. Celta, meanwhile, are in action the following day, as they host Espanyol.

Diego Simeone dodged questions relating to Antoine Griezmann on Friday after reports claimed the France international negotiated a €14million signing-on fee with Barcelona while still an Atletico Madrid player.

Griezmann joined Barca in July when the Catalan club deposited the €120m to activate his release clause, which had dropped from €200m at the start of that month.

It brought an end to prolonged speculation about the attacker's future, though Atletico were adamant Barca and the player had struck some form of deal before July, meaning they felt they were owed a further €80m.

Barca insisted they only began negotiations in July, but Spanish newspaper El Mundo claimed on Thursday they had obtained evidence suggesting Griezmann discussed a commission in March.

Simeone was unwilling to address the matter in his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's visit of Celta Vigo, however.

"I'm thinking about Celta, I'm not interested in anything else," he told reporters.

"With all due respect to you, I understand the questions, but honestly, after playing on Wednesday we use the time to think about Celta.

"They have a reinforced team, the talent they have, the arrival of Rafinha, the presence of [Santi] Mina that creates an important attack. We are more focused on that.

"I understand your objective, but I've got mine."

New Atletico signing Renan Lodi received his first senior Brazil call-up on Friday, with the left-back having caught the eye during his early days at the club.

Although he was shown a red card on his LaLiga debut, he appears to have made the spot on the left of defence his own and Simeone is pleased with the 21-year-old's impact.

"He has been doing a great job since the first day he arrived," Simeone said. "He has extraordinary attributes that will grow with work.

"Hopefully he can maintain this situation of wanting to improve and I'm happy he's been selected by the national team."

Mauro Icardi's Inter saga could be at an end after Paris Saint-Germain made the headline-grabbing move of transfer deadline day.

Frozen out by Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte, Argentina striker Icardi was facing a bleak few months until PSG came in and managed to complete an initial loan move.

PSG reportedly have an option to buy the 26-year-old for €70million, while the Ligue 1 champions also signed three-times Champions League winner Keylor Navas from Real Madrid in a deal that saw another goalkeeper, Alphonse Areola, move in the other direction on loan.

Serie A was a hive of activity on Monday, while plenty of Premier League players took the opportunity to move elsewhere – the window for incomings having closed in England's top flight last month.

Roman holiday for Mkhitaryan as Fiorentina aim for renaissance

Roma completed loan moves for Arsenal playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Atletico Madrid striker Nikola Kalinic, but there was a youthful edge to Fiorentina's late spree.

Wantaway Liverpool teenager Bobby Duncan will now ply his trade at the Stadio Artemio Franchi alongside Algeria winger Rachid Ghezzal – a loan signing from Leicester City.

The Viola also paid Fluminense in the region of €14m for Pedro, another player to replenish Vincenzo Montella's squad after Giovanni Simeone joined Cagliari on loan with an obligation to buy over the weekend.

Simone Verdi has joined Torino in similar fashion, ending an unhappy spell at Napoli – where free transfer Fernando Llorente bolsters Carlo Ancelotti's options at centre forward.

Napoli are joined in the Champions League by Atalanta this season and Simon Kjaer will be on hand to bolster their defence following a loan from Sevilla, although Martin Skrtel's swiftly terminated contract preceded him leaving Bergamo for a one-year deal with Istanbul Basaksehir.

Matteo Darmian was the latest member of Manchester United's defensive surplus to switch to Serie A, the Italy international joining Parma on a four-year deal after Chris Smalling was loaned to Roma. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson made the considerably shorter trip to League One side Tranmere Rovers.

The road from Watford to Udinese is incredibly well travelled and striker Stefano Okaka is back after a loan at the Stadio Friuli last season.

 

Italian flavour to Bundesliga business

AC Milan secured Croatia winger Ante Rebic on a two-year loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, for whom Andre Silva will seek to reignite his career and serve as a suitable replacement for Luka Jovic over the same period.

Bundesliga pacesetters RB Leipzig also have a talented attacker seeking a kickstart after Patrik Schick joined on an initial loan from Roma.

Vincenzo Grifo returned to Freiburg on a four-year deal from Hoffenheim, who also loaned Leonardo Bittencourt to Werder Bremen.

Marius Wolf left Borussia Dortmund for Hertha Berlin on a season-long loan and BVB's rivals Schalke sold Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Rafinha on the move again as Hernandez and Bono conclude Sevilla's transfer frenzy

Had events panned out differently, this might have been the day Barcelona triumphantly welcomed Neymar back to Camp Nou.

As it was, a Brazilian left – Rafinha moving to Celta Vigo on loan after signing a contract extension with his parent club.

Barca have also agreed to sign 16-year-old midfielder Pedri from Las Palmas, who welcome back club stalwart Jonathan Viera on loan from Beijing Guoan for their Segunda promotion push.

Mexico striker Javier Hernandez and Morocco goalkeeper Bono were arrivals 12 and 13 of the window at Sevilla.

Maxime Gonalons was a loanee at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last season and has joined Granada on a temporary basis from Roma.

Almeria were another hive of activity, with Nottingham Forest's Arvin Appiah and Joan Munoz concluding their incomings.

Real Sociedad signed Monaco's Spain Under-17 international Robert Navarro and loaned Kevin Rodriguez to Leganes.

Chelsea duo Baba Rahman and Kenedy were loaned to Real Mallorca and Getafe respectively.

Galatasaray's deadline-day delight

Radamel Falcao followed a rapturous reception following his arrival in Istanbul by signing a three-year contract with Galatasaray, who also secured Southampton midfielder Mario Lemina and Brighton and Hove Albion forward Florin Andone on loan.

Gala's rivals Fenerbahce were not to be outdone entirely as they brought in Brazilian midfielder Luiz Gustavo from Marseille on a four-year deal.

Sporting CP were already buoyed by keeping hold of the highly rated Bruno Fernandes, who will look to supply an attack reinforced by the loan arrivals of Jese from PSG and Yannick Bolasie from Everton.

Royal Antwerp snapped up Steven Defour after the playmaker's release by Burnley and also added Wesley Hoedt on a season-long loan from Southampton.

In Scotland, Celtic signed Kilmarnock left-back Greg Taylor, Manchester City teenager Jeremie Frimpong and Manchester United youngster Lee O'Connor – all on four-year deals. Rivals Rangers bought Ryan Kent from Liverpool for a fee that could reportedly rise to £7.5m.

Fellow Europa League contestants Qarabag secured former Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic on loan from Bournemouth.

Rafinha has joined Celta Vigo on a season-long loan after signing a new deal at Barcelona.

The 26-year-old attacking midfielder is now contracted to his parent club until the end of the 2020-21 campaign but will spend another spell away from Camp Nou.

In January 2018, Rafinha joined Inter for the second half of that season before re-joining Ernesto Valverde's squad for 2018-19.

A painful theme of his career recurred when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury against Atletico Madrid last November – the third serious knee setback to befall Rafinha since 2015.

The Brazil international has featured in all three of Barca's LaLiga games so far this season, with Valverde short of wide attacking options as the likes of Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele work their way back to fitness.

Celta will cover the player's salary and are liable for up to €1.5million of performance-related add-ons.

Rafinha has scored 12 goals over the course of 91 appearances for Barcelona in all competitions.

Having started on the right, Gareth Bale drifted to the lift, cavorted into space and set up Karim Benzema. One-nil to Real Madrid.

Football seems a simple game at times.

It would be doing a disservice to Bale to dismiss his role in this goal as entirely straightforward. The pace he used to reach Marcelo's throughball, the speed of close control that left David Costas spinning on the spot, the weight of cross to give Benzema an easy finish – it was all of the highest quality.

It also showed why Zinedine Zidane was correct to put faith in Bale to deliver in this LaLiga opener at Celta Vigo, despite the prolonged, exasperating uncertainty over his future. From benchwarmer at the end of last season, to Zidane telling everyone it would be better for Bale to leave in July, to a transfer to Jiangsu Suning that never happened, to a place back in the starting line-up for the first game of the new season – it's been a chaotic three months.

That's the issue with Bale, of course: everything about him seems to get more complicated – and more dramatic – in the inexorable scrutiny in which he lives his life.

Coaches everywhere have specific ideas that mean certain players become surplus to requirements, but Zidane versus Bale has sometimes been billed as a spat so venomous it's left poison dripping from the dressing-room walls. Footballers like to do things in their spare time apart from play football, like have a game of golf; when Bale picks up his irons, it's considered tantamount to a betrayal of professional decency. That's how it can feel from the outside, which maybe gives you an indication of why Bale so rarely bothers speaking out in public. Those waters can't get much muddier.

The truth of Bale's position at Madrid is probably less complicated than some think – and that is a good summary of what makes Bale the footballer so effective. It's why he was fleetingly impressive at Balaidos on Saturday in a battling 3-1 win, even if Madrid as a collective sometimes looked little better than the ragged bunch who shipped seven goals to Atletico Madrid last month.

Bale's assist was borne of him being as direct as possible: running behind the full-back, using a step-over and twist of the body to shake off the marker with the ball still in motion, and crossing into a dangerous zone with that precise left foot. Later in the half, he overtook Lucas Olaza when chasing a long ball despite the defender having close to a three-metre head start. It was an awesome display of speed and fitness from a man who has not exactly had a busy pre-season.

Moments after Madrid's opener, he was blocking a cross in his own box after racing back to protect the nervy Alvaro Odriozola. That's something he isn't so used to doing, but it came from the same sort of focused approach that makes him so clinical at the other end. You watch, you run, you act – shoot, cross, or, in this case, tackle. This is what Bale offers; it's what he has always offered.

The issue of his future isn't likely to get any clearer until the transfer window closes on September 2, but this game at least showed what a tremendous asset Bale can be when he is deployed with simple precision. For a coach like Zidane, who freely admits he is not the most pedantic of tacticians, that makes Bale valuable – especially in a Madrid team as muddled as this one.

Gareth Bale marked his return to the starting line-up with an impressive assist as Real Madrid survived a red card for Luka Modric to win 3-1 at Celta Vigo in their opening LaLiga fixture of the season.

The Wales star had been left out in the cold for large parts of pre-season following a collapsed move to China, but he was handed a start at Balaidos on Saturday and set up Karim Benzema for a 12th-minute opener.

Looking to capitalise on champions Barcelona's shock loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday, Madrid added a stunning second goal through Toni Kroos, but only after Brais Mendez had a strike ruled out and Modric was shown a straight red card.

Zinedine Zidane started without any of his new signings, although the quality of his side's third goal - rounded off by substitute Lucas Vazquez - will offer hope of a far brighter 2019-20, despite them conceding late on through Iker Losada.

Madrid had lost back-to-back league matches at the end of last season, but they soon found their rhythm here as Bale turned his man inside out down the left and set up Benzema for a simple finish from four yards.

Celta felt there should have been a free-kick in the build-up and were further aggrieved in the final stages of the first half when Alvaro Odriozola was dispossessed by Denis Suarez and the ball fell to the feet of Iago Aspas, who was adjudged to be marginally offside when teeing up Mendez for a close-range finish.

Celta's hopes of claiming a point were boosted when Modric caught Suarez on the heel and was shown a red card following a VAR review.

Nestor Araujo forced Thibaut Courtois into a point-blank save but Madrid dug deep and scored a second thanks to Kroos' stunning strike from 35 yards, a minute after Benzema's header struck the post.

Vazquez rounded off a flowing move 10 minutes from time by drilling a good finish into the bottom-left corner, although Celta at least got a consolation through Losada's precise strike from a similar spot at the other end.

What does it mean? Familiar faces on show for Madrid

Madrid spent big during the close season in an attempt to bridge the gap to Barcelona, who finished 19 points clear of them last season.

Eden Hazard, Rodrygo Goes and Ferland Mendy all missed out through injury, though, while Eder Militao and Luka Jovic were named on the bench, so it was left to the old guard - not least Bale, Benzema, Kroos and Vazquez - to get the job done.

Bale makes his point

Zidane admitted on the eve of the game he was now "relying" on Bale and the forward did not disappoint on his return to the side. As well as setting up Benzema's goal with an impressive assist, he also helped out in a defensive sense.

Odriozola's blushes spared

Not helped by Courtois' pass, Odriozola was put under pressure and lost possession on the right. The offside flag came to the full-back's rescue that time, but it was generally a nervy display.

What's next?

Madrid welcome Real Valladolid to the Santiago Bernabeu next Saturday, while Celta host Valencia on the same day.

Gareth Bale looks set to get another chance at Real Madrid after he was named in their starting XI for the opening LaLiga game of the season at Celta Vigo.

Bale seemed certain to depart Madrid after six seasons with coach Zinedine Zidane, whom the Wales star has a rocky relationship with, making it clear during pre-season he wanted the forward to leave.

But, after a move to Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League collapsed and no other realistic suitors emerged, Bale has been reintegrated into the Madrid squad.

The Cardiff-born forward has consistently delivered across a trophy-laden spell, but he often lived in the shadow of the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo – who was worshipped above all others at the Santiago Bernabeu before his departure to Juventus last year – and suffered with injuries.

There is no club in world football with higher expectations of its players than Madrid and Bale has at times been forced to toil under what many would consider unfair scrutiny and criticism, but an examination of his record in the Spanish capital shows his value.

Goal return to rival Ronaldo 

Bale left Tottenham as a once orthodox winger who had blossomed into a goal-scoring force on the flank and has continued that development in Madrid.

He scored 22 times in all competitions during his first season and added another 80 over the next five to join an exclusive club of players to have hit a century of goals for Los Blancos.

Among that group is Brazil legend Ronaldo, a beloved figure but one who finished his Madrid career with only two more goals (104) than the oft-maligned Bale's 102. Just 12 others have struck more for a club with a glittering 117-year history.

Bale has laid on 55 more - more than the talented Isco - during his time in Madrid, and has been responsible for the sixth-most goal involvements in LaLiga, even as the club stuttered to three third-place finishes and a single title.

Standing tall on Europe's grand stage

Madrid's success under Zidane has come largely in Europe, for which Bale can take a good portion of credit.

The Wales international fired his team ahead in the 2014 triumph over rivals Atletico Madrid, notched an assist and a successful spot-kick against the same opposition two years later, and then returned from injury in time for the crushing victory over Juventus in Cardiff in 2017.

That is all without mentioning his match-winning impact in Kiev.

Bale scored twice off the bench in 2018, the first a bicycle kick that dented Liverpool's nascent comeback and the second a speculative long-range shot that smashed it into pieces.

The brace elevated him to what is now a selection of seven players - including Ronaldo - to have struck two goals or more in a Champions League final.

 

Breaking new ground for British footballers

Criticism of Bale for failing to communicate with the media in Spanish dwarfed the plaudits directed his way for venturing where few of his compatriots had gone before.

Then aged 24, the Southampton academy product spurned reported interest from Premier League heavyweights Manchester United to become the third Welshman - and first in more than 25 years - to play in LaLiga.

He is the leading British scorer (78 goals) and appearance maker (155) in the competition's history, relegating David Beckham to second place in the latter category.

Yet, while Bale has struggled to gain Zidane's acceptance, reportedly in part because of his reluctance to assimilate to life in Spain, the France legend praised Beckham for being a "truly great professional" as recently as 2013.

That was despite him once admitting his "friendship with David is little. On the pitch, we understand each other perfectly, but as I don't speak English and he doesn't speak Spanish we are a little bit lost."

Bale might justifiably feel his efforts deserve greater affection - but now he has another chance to win supporters and Zidane over.

Gareth Bale has been named in the Real Madrid XI for their first match of the new LaLiga season against Celta Vigo, despite appearing destined to leave the club in this transfer window.

Bale, whose relationship with head coach Zinedine Zidane has long appeared strained, saw a July move to Jiangsu Suning collapse, while mooted transfers to other European giants never materialised.

But on the eve of the season, Zidane insisted he would use the winger while he remained in his squad and duly named him in the line-up for Saturday's meeting at Balaidos.

With Eden Hazard ruled out by a late muscle injury, Bale and Vinicius Junior will support Karim Benzema in attack as Madrid attempt to capitalise on Barcelona's surprise loss to Athletic Bilbao on Friday.

Madrid have invested heavily in the close season, yet Hazard's absence sees them start the first match of the new campaign without a single new signing in the side.

Luka Jovic is among the substitutes, along with James Rodriguez, who had been linked to rivals Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid team to face Celta Vigo:

Courtois; Odriozola, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Vinicius, Benzema.

Subs: Navas, Militao, Nacho, James, Vazquez, Jovic, Isco.

Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Luka Jovic have been named in the Real Madrid squad to face Celta Vigo.

The attacking trio have been called up by head coach Zinedine Zidane for the opening match of Madrid's LaLiga season.

However, Eden Hazard is not in the 22, having sustained a muscle injury this week.

Bale's future at the club has been in doubt for some months and he appeared set to join Jiangsu Suning in the Chinese Super League only for the deal to fall through.

James has also been tipped to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, although reported interest from Napoli and Atletico Madrid has not materialised into a transfer.

Jovic joined Madrid from Eintracht Frankfurt in June for a reported €60million, but it has been suggested he could be sent out on loan for 2019-20.

Speaking on Friday, Zidane insisted he was happy to use James and Bale in the first team, despite the uncertainty over their long-term futures.

Their chances of playing against Celta have increased since Hazard is unavailable due to a thigh injury.

Zinedine Zidane is surprised Gareth Bale remains a Real Madrid player but has vowed to use the Welshman regularly this season.

Bale saw a move to Chinese club Jiangsu Suning collapse in July and looks set to stay at the Bernabeu, despite tenuous links to Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain refusing to go away.

With the European transfer window still open and amid rumours of a falling-out with Zidane, the 30-year-old forward missed Madrid's previous three friendlies before coming on as a substitute in last weekend's defeat on penalties to Roma.

Ahead of Saturday's LaLiga opener with Celta Vigo, Zidane gave Bale his backing and challenged the forward to "make things difficult" for him in terms of his squad selection.

"It seemed that he was going, but now he is with us," the Frenchman said at his pre-match news conference on Friday.

"Things change and now I will be using him as much as the other players in the squad. I'm going to use all the players I've got.

"He is registered with us and he is a good player. I hope all the players here want to make things difficult for me."

James Rodriguez is another player facing an uncertain future in the Spanish capital, having yet to feature for Madrid since returning from a two-year loan spell with Bayern Munich.

Like Bale, though, Zidane will give rumoured Napoli and Atletico Madrid target James an opportunity to prove himself.

"James is fit and we are happy to have him in the squad," Zidane said. "I'll repeat what I said before - I have a big squad and I'll use all the players. They're all happy to be here."

Zidane was brought back to the Bernabeu for a second spell in charge in March and has been heavily backed during the close season with the arrivals of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy.

The transfer window remains open for Spanish clubs until September 2 and there are continued links with Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar.

But Zidane was in no mood to entertain speculation regarding further incoming players.

"Neymar is not a Real Madrid player," he said. "The important thing is the players that are here.

"Paul is a player who plays for Manchester United, you must respect that.

"I'm happy with the players I've got. I'm just focused on the game tomorrow, nothing else.

"We are ready and want to play a good game. I've got the best players, I've always said that. All I'm worried about is what we are going to do tomorrow."

Denis Suarez claimed he did not receive any messages from Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde following his move to Celta Vigo.

The 25-year-old joined Celta during the close season in a deal potentially worth a reported €16million after struggling to hold down a starting spot in his three years at Camp Nou.

Suarez was offered the chance to link up with Marcelino at Valencia but instead opted for a return to Celta, where he started his career before heading to Manchester City in 2011.

"Marcelino was constantly calling me to tell me how the situation was," he told Cadena SER. "I was willing to give up many things to go to Valencia, but I rejected his offer because they wanted me to give up many more things."

Asked if he had spoken to Valverde since leaving Camp Nou, Suarez said: "Valverde has sent me zero messages. Marcelino? He wished me luck, yes."

Suarez endured a frustrating spell on loan with Arsenal in the second half of last season, a pelvic injury restricting him to six appearances in all competitions.

A return to Galicia offers the Spain international an opportunity to get his career back on track, however, and he hopes to repay the faith shown in him.

"I always thought about going back one day and this year it has been possible," he said. "I really want to play after last season in which I had a lot of injuries. The club has changed a lot since I left.

"What I want is to enjoy football again and since I arrived in Vigo I feel happy. Here I see how my team-mates, club people, fans want you to feel important. I hope to return that trust."

Celta open up their LaLiga campaign with a home match against Real Madrid on Saturday, while Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Friday.

Emre Mor will look to reignite his career at Galatasaray after the winger secured a loan away from Celta Vigo.

Mor, 22, was regarded as one of Europe's most promising youngsters when he joined Borussia Dortmund from Danish club Nordsjaelland in 2016.

He showed flashes of ability during his 12 Bundesliga appearances before Celta forked out a reported €13.5million on him in August 2017.

But he made just eight LaLiga starts across two years in Spain and his stock has fallen dramatically.

The Denmark-born Turkey international will move to Galatasaray on loan for the 2019-20 season, with the Super Lig club securing a purchase option as part of the deal.

Maybe Juventus are not ready to give up on signing Manchester United star Paul Pogba just yet.

Pogba, 26, has been linked with a return to Turin and a move to Real Madrid as he looks for an Old Trafford exit.

But, just as it looked like Juve were struggling and Madrid was the midfielder's most likely destination, that may have changed.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE TO OFFER THREE PLAYERS IN MOVE FOR POGBA

Juventus could offer a fee plus three players in their move for Manchester United star Pogba, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Full-back Joao Cancelo, attacker Douglas Costa and midfielder Blaise Matuidi are the players mentioned for potential moves in the report.

Meanwhile, ESPN FC report Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has told coach Zinedine Zidane that it will be very difficult to sign Pogba this close season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are still trying to find a way to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou from Paris Saint-Germain. According to Sky Germany, Barca are offering €100million plus two players, having given PSG a list of six that includes Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo and Malcom. That is up from the earlier offer of €40m plus two players. According to Sport, Barca have made Coutinho and Rakitic priorities to be sold.

- After being linked to Bayern Munich, Callum Hudson-Odoi is set to re-sign with Chelsea. The Daily Mail report the 18-year-old England international will sign a five-year deal worth more than £100,000 per week to stay at Stamford Bridge.

- Giovani Lo Celso apparently wants to join Tottenham, but Spurs are unwilling to meet Real Betis' £60m (€66.8m) asking price, according to The Sun, who say Erik Lamela could be added into a deal. Danny Rose could also reportedly leave Spurs and Sky Sports say PSG are interested in the left-back.

- Arsenal have beaten their north London rivals to the signing of Saint-Etienne defender William Saliba, according to ESPN FC. Arsenal will complete the signing of Saliba for £26.9m (€30m) and loan him back to the Ligue 1 club despite late interest from Spurs, the report says.

- Another reported Arsenal target, Wilfried Zaha, has told Crystal Palace he wants to leave, according to The Sun. Arsenal have reportedly had a £40m bid for the attacker rejected.

- Bayern Munich are ready to meet Celta Vigo midfielder Brais Mendez's €25m release clause, according to Kicker. Mendez, 22, was handed a Spain debut late last year and scored six goals while providing seven assists for Celta in LaLiga in 2018-19.

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