Gianluigi Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season, so where will he be playing in 2021-22?

The Milan and Italy goalkeeper – still in discussions with the Rossoneri – has attracted interest from across Europe.

Manchester United and Chelsea are reportedly circling.

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA WANTED IN ENGLAND

Manchester United and Chelsea are considering signing Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma as a free agent, according to The Transfer Window podcast.

Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season, though Tuttosport reports he and Milan remain in contract discussions.

Serie A champions Juventus and Ligue 1 titleholders Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.

Sky Sports says United are also targeting Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak amid doubts over David de Gea's future.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims United, Liverpool and Bayern Munich are eyeing Chelsea's Christian Pulisic. The United States international has found himself out of favour under new manager Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge.

- The wish list of new Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been revealed. Sport reports aside from Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Laporta is also targeting Sergio Aguero and Bayern star David Alaba, as well as in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

Arsenal want to sign Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi as a replacement for Hector Bellerin, according to the Telegraph. Bellerin has been linked to PSG and Barca.

- Sport Bild reports Bundesliga champions Bayern will let veteran defender Jerome Boateng leave amid his links with Chelsea.

Rivaldo believes Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos would be a good signing for bitter LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season and the superstar defender is yet to agree a new contract with the LaLiga champions.

The 34-year-old Spain skipper has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus.

Rivaldo, who won two LaLiga titles among other honours during his time with Barca, backed Ramos for a controversial move to Camp Nou.

"A player has to be professional, and if you have good offers, I don't think it's okay to hear them," former Brazil international Rivaldo told Betfair.

"Of course, Sergio Ramos would be a good signing for Barcelona. It would be historic and it would be controversial because of Sergio Ramos' history with Real Madrid."

Ramos has called Madrid home since joining from Sevilla in 2005, winning five LaLiga trophies, four Champions League titles, as many Club World Cup crowns and three UEFA Super Cup medals among 22 major honours at the Santiago Bernabeu.

There is also speculation over Lionel Messi's future, with the Barca skipper tipped to leave the Catalan powerhouse on a free transfer at season's end.

Messi – a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner – has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League leaders City.

"If I were [PSG head coach Mauricio] Pochettino, I would tell the owner of PSG that we'd better stay the way we are before bringing in Messi," Rivaldo said. "I like Messi, but [Kylian] Mbappe is at home and there would also be everyone in their team.

"It is difficult to talk about a change from Messi to Mbappe, because football is money and if Messi goes to PSG, he will have many economic benefits. But of course, Messi is already more than 30 years old and in PSG there is already Mbappe with 22 years. It is difficult.

"PSG, I repeat, I think they do not need any signings because they have a great team… but football is also a business."

Lionel Messi's history with newly elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta is a good thing for the club but it still may not be enough to convince the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to stay, accepts Ronald Koeman.

Laporta was confirmed as the permanent successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu on Sunday, winning over 50 per cent of the votes in the long-delayed elections.

Bartomeu left the club in October last year after facing the brunt of the criticism in response to Messi's attempted departure, with the player publicly castigating him and accusing him of reneging on promises.

Laporta had long been seen as the favourite for Sunday's election due to holding the post from 2003 to 2010, one of the club's most successful eras and the period that elevated Messi from youth prospect to global superstar.

Resolving Messi's future is now one of Laporta's chief focuses, with the Barca captain previously suggesting he will only look to stay beyond June – when his contract expires – if the club is competitive.

Laporta routinely emphasised his relationship with Messi during his election campaign, adamant he was the only one of the three candidates able to ensure the player would stay, but Koeman knows the decision ultimately rests with the captain.

"I don't know if it's more likely for Messi to continue [at Barca now Laporta is president]," the Barca boss told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the Champions League last-16 second leg with Paris Saint-Germain.

"It's true that Laporta has a past with Leo and other players. That is positive, but I don't know [if that will help] – he has said that he will decide.

"Only Leo knows what he will do. Hopefully, he continues with us. We all want him to stay.

"Laporta won the election by a considerable distance. The members voted and for the club, it is good to have a president like him to work things out and improve things for the future of this club."

Koeman's own future has been a subject of contention connected to the election, with numerous reports suggesting other coaches had been sounded out by the various candidates.

Mikel Arteta and Xavi are the two names to have been linked most prominently with Koeman's job in recent weeks, but the former Netherlands coach insists he has only received positive vibes from his new boss and those who have worked with him before.

"I know Laporta, we've greeted each other several times in the past. I also know [Frank] Rijkaard well, who worked with him here when Laporta was president last time," he said.

"Laporta gives the coaches a lot of confidence and also his players. He is very involved in his role of helping both. In the end, everything depends on the results."

When asked to relay what Laporta said while addressing the team on Monday, Koeman added: "They were normal things. It went well, he said a few words to the players and staff in the dressing room and there were good vibes.

"Now we have to continue on the path we have started on. Tomorrow [against PSG] we have to continue on that."

Barcelona prospect  Ilaix Moriba could be tempted away from the Catalan giants.

Ilaix, 18, made headlines with a goal in his third LaLiga appearance for the Blaugrana on Saturday.

But Barca have limited wage capacity and Ilaix has received "several offers".

 

TOP STORY – SEVERAL OFFERS FOR BARCA TEENAGER

Teenager Moriba has become instant hot property with "several offers" to tempt him away from Barcelona, according to Marca.

The Guinea-born midfielder's agent, whom he shares with Gareth Bale, is in drawn-out discussions with the club, the publication says.

Marca's report does not identify who the potential suitors are, but if Ilaix continues a breakout season, the interest will inevitably grow, giving the player and his representatives more bargaining power.

Manchester United were earlier this week linked with the youngster in Mundo Deportivo.

A new era begins in earnest for Barcelona, with Joan Laporta's second spell as president confirmed on Sunday following his victory in the election.

Regarded as arguably the most important political event at the club in a generation, much was said to be riding on the collective decision of the socios, or members, who voted.

Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font had spent months outlining their plans in public, with La Masia, the club's crippling debt and the tumult caused by the previous administration among the main focuses.

But outsiders can be forgiven for thinking the election essentially boiled down to which candidate stood the best chance of convincing Lionel Messi to stay.

Laporta's first spell as president, from 2003 to 2010, coincided with Messi's rise from the youth ranks to global star, while he was also in charge when Pep Guardiola was promoted to the top job 2008.

While nostalgia may have played a strong part in Laporta's ascension, 54 per cent of voters feel he is the best man to navigate a challenging period – but what are the most important tasks facing him?

Messi – Should he stay, or should he go?

Laporta stopped short of insisting Messi will definitely stay put under his administration, which was probably wise given he only has a few months left on his contract. Fans would have surely seen through such a promise.

However, what he did throughout his campaign was emphasise his relationship with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner, while also pointing out Messi's lack of familiarity with his rivals.

"I am the only one who can ensure his continuity. If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca," Laporta said at last week's debate. "He was not very happy with Freixa's time [Laporta's rival was an ally of the discredited Josep Maria Bartomeu], when they let him see that he was expendable."

Of course, Messi attempted to force an exit last year, but his refusal to drag the issue through the courts meant Barca managed to keep hold of their prized asset.

Since then he has insisted his future is tied to the competitiveness of Barca. Laporta's discussions with him will be key, but they could be undermined should Ronald Koeman's men collapse in the latter stages of the season.

Make La Masia a force again

For years Barcelona's La Masia academy was the jewel of the club, the inspiration behind many hugely successful teams and the school that developed some of the finest players to play the game.

Even though a significant portion of the current squad have come through the ranks, La Masia's standing isn't quite what it once was and the likes of Messi, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique are all into their thirties.

But Laporta emphasised the importance of the academy during his campaign, adamant he would look to restore it to its former glory, previously saying: "It will be our pillar, the backbone of the club's values."

Nevertheless, with Ansu Fati emerging as a ready-made star and Ilaix Moriba recently establishing himself as one to watch, La Masia's reputation is already receiving a timely boost.

Sell high-earning fringe players

Eric Abidal's spell as sporting director was ill-fated, to say the least. A day after sacking Quique Setien in August, the Frenchman was unceremoniously dismissed as well, with his overseeing of transfers making him a contentious figure long before he was eventually shown the door.

Among his purchases were the likes of Kevin-Prince Boateng, Malcom, Jeison Murillo, Junior Firpo and Antoine Griezmann – it'd be difficult to consider any of those successes.

Granted, not all of his signings have been poor, with Pedri, Clement Lenglet and Frenkie de Jong brought in under his watch, but over the past few years the club has spent a significant amount of money on sub-standard players or underperforming so-called 'superstars'

As such, the Barca squad is bloated in terms of its wage expenditure and many of the back-up players are expected to be put up for sale, easing the financial strain and boosting revenues.

But before Barca can begin outlining transfer plans and a potentially revised recruitment strategy, Laporta needs to do something else…

Establish a new sporting department

Laporta is expected to bring his own people in to manage the club's sporting structure, and Jordi Cruyff – of course, the son of Barca icon Johan – is among the frontrunners for the sporting director post.

Cruyff is still thought to have significant influence and respect inside the club due to his family name, with the former Manchester United player recently affirming to Cadena Ser that he believes his father would have always backed Laporta in an election.

Mateu Alemany, former Valencia general manager, is also widely reported to be on his way in.

Alemany had played a major role Valencia's resurgence during the previous decade but left under something of a cloud in November 2019, with the Frenchman and club owner Peter Lim at odds.

Lim had dismissed popular head coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, of whom Alemany was a staunch backer, and that left the general manager's position looking untenable, particular after local reports claimed he wasn't even consulted about the subsequent appointment of Albert Celades.

Very little has gone right for Valencia since the exits of Marcelino and Alemany – their reputations, however, have remained firmly intact.

Strengthen the squad while managing debt

It's no secret that Barcelona's financial state is a mess – they have amassed €1.2billion in debt and that has unsurprisingly impacted their clout in the transfer market.

One of Laporta's main messages ahead of the election was that Barca needed a board and president with experience in such a tricky time, and that's certainly something he has in abundance.

In his first interview since being elected, Laporta stressed the need to make the club financially stable. He told Catalunya Radio: "The first thing will be to do an audit but first I will greet the workers. The club is in mismanagement and now we will finally be able to make the necessary decisions. We will do an audit and apply our shock plan so that Barca is economically sustainable."

Drastic changes could be on the cards, yet despite the financial state of the club, they will still need to work on improving the squad.

Juggling the two won't be straightforward, particularly when you add Messi's demand for competitiveness into the mix.

Matthijs de Ligt was linked with Manchester United before his move to Juventus in 2019.

United have reportedly renewed their interest in the 21-year-old Dutch defender.

Could he end up in Manchester?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WANT DE LIGT

Manchester United are set to target Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt, according to TodoFichajes.

United were heavily linked with De Ligt before the Netherlands international swapped Ajax for Serie A champions Juve in 2019.

With United reportedly not advancing in their pursuit of Real Madrid pair Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, the Red Devils are eyeing De Ligt.

United have also been linked with RB Leipzig's Ibrahima Konate, Sevilla defender Jules Kounde and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Paris Saint-Germain are poised to offer David Alaba a €25million-per year deal in an attempt to prise the Bayern Munich star to the French capital. Out of contract at season's end, Alaba has been tipped to join Madrid. Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester City have also been linked.

United have been left alone in the fight to sign Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, claims TodoFichajes. Unwilling to match Villa's valuation, City have reportedly exited the race for Grealish. The report also says United could sell Marcus Rashford to fund the move.

- Madrid stars Lucas Vazquez and Isco are wanted by Everton, according to Calciomercato. After prising James Rodriguez from the LaLiga champions, Everton are targeting another two players from the Spanish capital, though Milan and Juve are also keen.

- Diario AS reports Madrid are prioritising a move for in-demand Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. Chelsea, United, City, Juve, PSG, Barca and Bayern have all been linked but Madrid are reportedly shifting their attention from Kylian Mbappe to Haaland.

Joan Laporta is optimistic superstar captain Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona after being elected president of the LaLiga giants.

Laporta – who held the post from 2003 to 2010 – won the presential race on Sunday, seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa to return to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor.

Attention will now turn to six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi amid serious doubts over his future at Camp Nou.

Messi has been tipped to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League leaders Manchester City the reported frontrunners for the 33-year-old.

After his victory, Laporta delivered a speech and said: "Today marks 20 years since a boy named Leo Messi debuted with Barcelona's Infantil B [U12-13] team.

"Seeing the best player in the world come to vote with his son is an example of what we've said.

"Leo loves Barcelona. That's the reflection of it. The best player in the world loves Barcelona.

"Hopefully that will help him to stay at Barcelona. That's what we want."

Laporta also paid tribute to Barca great Johan Cruyff, adding: "I want to thank all the members for coming out to vote what has been the most important election in the club's history due to [the effects of] the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed our lives.

"I want to thank the members that have supported our campaign. This has been a celebration of democracy and of Barcelona. I also want to pay special thanks to Johan Cruyff, who's no longer with us. I am sure he's helped us.

"Barcelona is a huge family and we will overcome the difficulties together. We will achieve the objectives that we have set out."

Barca are three points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Ronald Koeman's Barca will face Athletic Bilbao in next month's Copa del Rey final, while they are looking to overturn a 4-1 deficit against PSG in the Champions League last 16.

Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

Diego Simeone said it was "a shame" Atletico Madrid could not see out victory over Real Madrid in Sunday's derby as he scoffed at those who predicted a runaway title triumph from his team.

A fine early strike from Luis Suarez after terrific work from Marcos Llorente put Atletico in the ascendancy on home soil, but they could not hold on to a narrow lead and Karim Benzema fired an 88th-minute equaliser to keep the visitors in with a sniff of a successful LaLiga defence.

Seconds before Benzema tucked the ball past Jan Oblak, Suarez attempted to play in Saul Niguez for a chance to double Atletico's lead, but the striker's pass was poorly executed.

It was a reminder of how quickly games can change, and it remains to be seen whether Benzema's goal proves a turning point in the season.

Atletico had been heading five points clear of second-placed Barcelona and eight ahead of Madrid, with a game in hand on both, but now those gaps are three and five points.

A return of nine points from Atletico's last six games has allowed the big two in Spain to close the gap on Simeone's pretenders to the throne.

The Atletico boss was asked whether a big opportunity had been missed and said: "I don't want to be extreme in what I say. I took away many important things.

"People thought we were going to win by 20 points, [but] we are playing against very powerful teams, Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Sevilla.

"It is going to be a difficult road for all of us and we want to improve on what we did last season."

Atletico were third last term, finishing well behind champions Madrid and Barcelona, and the signing of Suarez from the Blaugrana has proved a masterstroke.

The Uruguayan's 17th LaLiga goal of the season was a delicious finish, and one of the positives Simeone might have pointed to.

Yet after losing to Madrid away from home earlier this season, Atletico appear to have a major problem with their city rivals.

It is now 10 successive LaLiga derbies without a win against Madrid for Simeone's side, who have drawn six of those games and been beaten in the other four.

At least this time they were the better side for a large part of the game, but Simeone must wait to overtake Luis Aragones as the coach with the most wins as Atletico boss. He remains on 308 – the same number former Spain boss Aragones achieved across four spells in charge.

"I am happy with the team's work until the 80th minute and it's a shame that we could not win a game that we wanted to win," Simeone said.

"From the negative side there is the draw in the last minutes on one of their two chances in the game and the positive side is the good game we played.

"We were well controlled, we played a good first half. In the second we started with the same tune, with chances to be able to close it out and we could not be forceful.

"We were playing a team with great footballers who always have this in the last minutes. We had more chances to win it than they did."

Zinedine Zidane declared Real Madrid "are alive" in a LaLiga title race that was given a stunning twist thanks to Karim Benzema's late equaliser against Atletico Madrid. 

Moments after Atletico threatened to go 2-0 ahead, Benzema drove the ball past Jan Oblak to earn a 1-1 draw that keeps Madrid clinging to hopes of a successful title defence. 

They are not as close as they would hope; five points off the pace having played one more game than Atletico means there is a mountain to climb. 

But that gap was almost eight points after Luis Suarez's early strike looked set to decide the derby, with Benzema's 88th-minute intervention a welcome reprieve for the visitors to the Wanda Metropolitano. 

"It is deserved, we had chances at the end. We could have scored more, but the good thing was we had a different second half and changed the game," Zidane told a post-game news conference. 

"It is a point, we are alive. We are going to keep fighting. It is a correct result, we believed until the end that it could be recovered."

Madrid thought they should have had a penalty late in the first half when a corner from Toni Kroos zipped across the six-yard box and struck Felipe on the arm, but referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez rejected the claims, even after viewing the incident on a touchline screen. 

Perhaps Zidane might have had a different view if Benzema had not equalised, but Madrid's head coach offered a phlegmatic post-game perspective. 

"His job is difficult. It is his decision, his responsibility. We have to respect that," Zidane said of the referee. "The players said it was a hand, he has reviewed it and decided not to whistle." 

Atletico are three points ahead of second-placed Barcelona but finished this game deflated, and their once-commanding lead has been whittled away in recent weeks. 

"We know there is a lot left," Zidane said. "Everything can always change, we are doing things well, we can improve. 

"I am very proud of all my players. We are in the same boat and we are going to fight to the end." 

Atletico have now gone 10 LaLiga derbies against Madrid without a win, drawing six of those games and losing four times. 

The result also means Real Madrid have not lost any of their four LaLiga games at Atletico's new home (W1 D3), and they remain the only team to have played in the stadium in the Spanish top flight without losing. 

Zidane also avoided a rare defeat to Diego Simeone, meaning the Atletico boss now has just one victory in nine matches (W1 D5 L3) against the Frenchman in LaLiga. That 11 per cent win record for Simeone is the Argentinian's worst against any manager he has faced at least four times in the competition. 

Ultimately, Real Madrid set out to bring home all three points, yet the one they left with felt almost like a win. 

Speaking to broadcaster Movistar, Zidane explained he was impressed by how greatly Madrid improved in the second half, after a shaky start to the game. 

"We had to be more aggressive, be higher, have more pressure. We had to be more alive on the pitch," he said. "You can get into a bad game, but then you have to change. 

"That's what we did in the second half, change at a general level, defensively and offensively. 

"They are a direct rival. We wanted all three points. The important thing is to turn the game around. Now we have to continue."

Koke insists Atletico Madrid's focus is not slipping in LaLiga after their lead was cut again this weekend as they drew with Real Madrid.

Atleti are now just three points clear of second-placed Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand, as they failed to respond after Ronald Koeman's men won on Saturday.

Luis Suarez opened the scoring in Sunday's Derbi, but Atleti's winless run against Madrid was extended to 10 league matches thanks to Karim Benzema's late leveller.

It means Diego Simeone's side have won just nine points from six matches since the start of February, a period in which Barca have claimed 16 and Madrid 14.

But Atleti will have the opportunity to increase their advantage again on Wednesday when they play their leftover fixture against Athletic Bilbao.

And Koke says his team are ready to fight again, eager to improve on a run of one win in five in all competitions.

"It is you who said the league was over and such and such," he told Movistar. "This goes until the season is over.

"We have to focus on Wednesday's game, when we can earn points while our rivals cannot."

As well as their long sequence without victory against Madrid in all league matches, Atleti are yet to beat their neighbours at the Wanda Metropolitano in four attempts in LaLiga.

"We were superior, but they can score at any moment," Koke said. "Fresh people came on and the team tried to push forward, but we have had a great rival who have a lot of potential to score goals.

"It is true that we have not been able to beat them here yet, but we have not been able to win [against Madrid] for a long time."

Benzema's equaliser was the last of eight attempts from the former France striker, three of which drew outstanding stops from Jan Oblak, who ended with seven saves.

"I was angry, because a few minutes earlier I was able to score but the goalkeeper made good saves," explained Benzema, whose 371st LaLiga appearance set a new Madrid record among non-Spanish players.

"I think we played a good game. It was very difficult against a good team. I think the first half was for them and the second half for us. It was a good point."

The point made Zinedine Zidane just the second Madrid coach to avoid defeat in his first four away games against Atleti in LaLiga history, following in the footsteps of Luis Molowny in 1986.

Luis Suarez scored a dazzling goal and was named man of the match, but on the day his former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard finally became a league champion, did Suarez have his own 'Gerrard's slip'?

Championships are often decided on fine margins, and it is almost seven years since Liverpool's Premier League title hopes were brutally hit by Chelsea, when Gerrard's famous stumble let in Demba Ba to score. Manchester City snatched the silverware from the long-time favourites, and Liverpool had to wait another six years before landing the trophy.

Gerrard has managed Rangers to the Scottish title and Suarez is attempting to power Atletico to LaLiga silverware, and on Sunday it seemed all the glory would be his after he fired the Rojiblancos into an early 1-0 lead over Real Madrid, a typically flamboyant finish from a player some thought was washed up at Barcelona barely six months ago.

How he has been revived this season under Diego Simeone, and what a moment it would be were he and Atletico to carry off the title in Spain this year.

But this game at the Wanda Metropolitano finished 1-1, and Suarez will know he is partly responsible for the home side not seeing out victory.

In the 87th minute, Atletico had a glorious chance on the counter-attack to go 2-0 in front. Suarez, in plenty of space inside the Madrid half, could not find the pass that would have sent Saul Niguez through on goal, instead pushing his team-mate wide, and the chance was snuffed out.

Within seconds, Madrid were encroaching on the Atletico penalty area, Karim Benzema on the ball. His pass to Casemiro was carefully returned to the feet of the Frenchman, who burst beyond the penalty spot and finally found a way past Jan Oblak.

Kingpins, that's what Suarez and Benzema are to their teams. Like Gerrard at Liverpool. They are the players whose influence is felt throughout the team, the squad, the club and beyond.

Suarez walked off with an apologetic look at full-time, tracked to the tunnel by television cameras. He had the game in his hands, and he dropped it. Madrid are still in this title race, and five points behind feels an awful lot better than the prospect of eight adrift, which was looming as Suarez picked his pass to Saul.

This was a result that would have been cheered in Barcelona, if they were paying attention in Catalonia and not all-consumed by the elections for a new club president.

Maybe a Madrid win would have been an even better result for Barcelona's title prospects, but nobody among the Blaugranas would dare admit that.

Barcelona sit second, just three points behind Atletico now, and Simeone's team must still visit Camp Nou. How Suarez must be relishing that, and how he must be relieved that Atletico remain in the box seat in this three-team battle.

He was excellent for large parts of this game, hitting the target with four of his six shots and typically delighting in winding up the opposition.

Benzema, by contrast, looked far from sharp until the final half hour, when the player who was returning from a three-week injury lay-off found something extra.

Zidane had labelled Benzema "a joy for football" before this game, but by the break he had registered three attempts, none of which hit the target; a tame shot and two stray headers.

This game seemed ripe for Atletico to end their nine-game winless run in LaLiga games against Madrid (D5 L4), with Marcos Llorente's skilful evasion of Nacho and Suarez's world-class finish from the pass that followed a real treat for the eyes. It was the Uruguayan's 10th goal in 13 LaLiga games against Madrid.

It was Suarez's 17th goal from his 29th shot on target this season in LaLiga, and by early in the second half the expected goal (xG) rating for each side showed Atletico were leading by 1.2 to 0.4.

Slowly, though, the chances began to flow for Madrid, Oblak making a string of magnificent saves, including two in quick succession from Benzema, who was coming into his own as others tired. Finally, Benzema got his reward for persistence. It finished a 1.8-1.8 draw on xG, 1-1 on the scoreboard.

And now Atletico are 10 league games without a win against their neighbours.

"We know how difficult this championship is," Simeone said in his pre-match news conference, pointing to how Madrid and Barcelona have been gradually reeling in Atletico in recent weeks.

It may get a whole lot harder now.

Karim Benzema's late equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid at rivals Atletico Madrid and extended their unbeaten run in El Derbi to 10 LaLiga matches.

Atleti are the side in the ascendancy in Spain's top flight this season, but they have been second best in their own city in recent years and could not end a poor sequence in this fixture on Sunday.

Luis Suarez's 10th league strike against Madrid had appeared enough for a precious victory, yet missed chances came back to bite Diego Simeone's men as the long-serving Atleti coach was denied a club-record 309th win in the job.

Benzema, fit again to captain the side, marked his 371st LaLiga appearance – a record among Madrid's non-Spanish players – with an 88th-minute leveller to maintain the champions' interest in the title race.

Madrid stay third, five points behind Atleti, but Barcelona – winners against Osasuna on Saturday – are now within three of the leaders, who have one win in five in all competitions.

While Madrid have a hold over their neighbours, no player has scored more league goals against Los Blancos than Suarez since he moved to Spain in 2014 and the Uruguayan made the most of the game's first chance of note after 15 minutes.

Marcos Llorente beat Nacho on halfway and advanced to slide through a pass that met the well-timed run of Suarez, who shaped a fine low finish around Thibaut Courtois.

The first half was otherwise short of goalmouth action, although Madrid's appeals for handball by Felipe prompted a VAR review shortly before the break, only for referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez to stick with his original decision rather than awarding a penalty.

Courtois twice came to Lucas Vazquez's rescue at the start of the second period as he was exposed up against Yannick Carrasco, brilliantly blocking from both the rampaging winger and Suarez.

It appeared as though the brilliance of Atleti's own goalkeeper would ensure those stops would not scar the hosts as Jan Oblak stood tall to save from Benzema twice in quick succession and then parried clear the same man's free-kick.

But there was still time for Benzema to have the final say, granted an empty net when Casemiro squared in front of Oblak after Suarez had lost the ball up the field.

Karim Benzema's late equaliser rescued a 1-1 draw for Real Madrid at rivals Atletico Madrid and extended their unbeaten run in El Derbi to 10 LaLiga matches.

Atleti are the side in the ascendancy in Spain's top flight this season, but they have been second best in their own city in recent years and could not end a poor sequence in this fixture on Sunday.

Luis Suarez's 10th league strike against Madrid had appeared enough for a precious victory, yet missed chances came back to bite Diego Simeone's men as the long-serving Atleti coach was denied a club-record 309th win in the job.

Benzema, fit again to captain the side, marked his 371st LaLiga appearance – a record among Madrid's non-Spanish players – with an 88th-minute leveller to maintain the champions' interest in the title race.

Madrid stay third, five points behind Atleti, but Barcelona – winners against Osasuna on Saturday – are now within three of the leaders, who have one win in five in all competitions.

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