Gareth Bale risked incurring the wrath of Real Madrid with his celebration of Wales' Euro 2020 qualification.

Wales – semi-finalists at Euro 2016 – booked their ticket to next year's European Championship with a 2-0 win over Hungary on Tuesday.

Aaron Ramsey's double in Cardiff ensured Wales leapfrogged Hungary and clinched the second automatic qualifying spot in Group E.

Bale and his team-mates celebratedly wildly post-game, with the former Tottenham talisman particularly catching the eye.

Tipped to leave Madrid and criticised for his priorities amid his love for golf, Wales fans have adopted the chant, "Wales, golf, Madrid", which has been heard during the international break.

And on Tuesday, Bale was seen celebrating in front of a Wales flag with the words: "WALES. GOLF. MADRID... IN THAT ORDER".

Matthijs de Ligt feels a degree of regret about choosing Juventus over Barcelona, according to the Catalan club's director of youth football Patrick Kluivert.

Juve beat out strong competition to sign Netherlands international De Ligt from Ajax in June.

The defender had been heavily linked to LaLiga champions Barca but opted to sign a five-year deal in Turin after Ajax accepted an offer worth an initial €75million.

De Ligt was thrust into the starting XI after Giorgio Chiellini suffered a serious knee injury and has faced criticism for conceding two penalties – both for handball – in his nine Serie A appearances.

Former Netherlands striker Kluivert believes the 20-year-old may now be second-guessing his transfer choice.

"I would not say I tried to convince him, I could only tell him very good things about both Barcelona the city, as well as the club," Kluivert told Mundo Deportivo when asked about talks he held with De Ligt.

"But in the end it is the player and his agent who decide. Of course De Ligt is a great defender, but in the end he made a choice. I think he is a little sorry, but it is what it is.

"In life you make choices and sometimes you do it well and sometimes badly. You have to learn from your decisions."

Frenkie de Jong, De Ligt's former Ajax team-mate, did make the move to Barca in the close season and has flourished, with Kluivert praising the "very high quality" midfielder.

Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman coaches both players at international level and has called the Barca job a "possibility" beyond Euro 2020, after which a clause in his contract would allow him to leave for Camp Nou.

When asked whether Koeman could return to the club as head coach, Kluivert told SPORT: "I don't know, maybe, but I insist, out of respect for Valverde, I don't want to talk about other coaches when there's one in a job at this club."

He added: "I know Ronald very well. Out of respect for Valverde, I don't want to position myself.

"[Koeman] is a very good coach, he's doing really well with the Dutch national team."

Paul Pogba has decided where he wants his next move to be, while Mauricio Pochettino is nearing a Tottenham exit.

Pogba, 26, was linked with a Manchester United departure during the close season but ended up staying at Old Trafford.

However, the France midfielder's future remains a talking point.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA PREFERS JUVENTUS RETURN OVER MADRID MOVE

Pogba would prefer to return to Juventus but would not say no to Real Madrid, according to Tuttosport.

The Serie A champions and LaLiga giants were the two clubs most heavily linked with a move for Pogba – who is contracted until 2021 – during the close season.

A potential Juve deal for Pogba could see Mario Mandzukic head to Manchester United, the report says.

ROUND-UP

- Pochettino has held "crisis talks" with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy as he nears an exit, according to The Telegraph. Spurs have struggled this season and sit 14th in the Premier League table through 12 games.

- While Mandzukic is wanted by United, Borussia Dortmund are ready to compete for the striker, according to Kicker. Mandzukic starred during two seasons with Bayern Munich before leaving the Bundesliga in 2014.

- Spain have offered Luis Enrique a chance to lead the nation at Euro 2020, according to AS. The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have called a news conference for Tuesday, with Luis Enrique reportedly set to replace Robert Moreno at the helm.

- Manchester United are preparing to try to sign both Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and RB Salzburg's Erling Haaland in January, according to Goal. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to try and strengthen his squad with United nine points adrift of the top four in the Premier League.

- Chelsea attacker Willian and Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz have slowed contract talks with their respective clubs amid interest from Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. Willian is out of contract at season's end, while Fabian's deal runs until 2023.

- Manchester City are considering making a move for RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano, according to the Mirror. The Premier League champions lost Aymeric Laporte to a knee injury in September and may look to strengthen, although the Frenchman is expected to be back in early 2020.

Osasuna head coach Jagoba Arrasate has signed a new deal that ties him to the club until 2022.

The 41-year-old took over at El Sadar in June 2018 and enjoyed a superb first season in charge, guiding the team back to LaLiga as Segunda Division champions.

Arrasate has overseen an impressive return to the top flight, with Osasuna sitting 10th in the table after collecting 19 points from their opening 13 games.

Osasuna, who have also extended the contracts of assistant coach Bittor Alkiza and fitness coach Sergi Perez, take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Real Madrid have confirmed James Rodriguez has sustained a knee injury, which could reportedly rule him out of next month's Clasico against Barcelona.

James has been brought back into the fold by Zinedine Zidane this season after spending two years on loan at Bayern Munich.

The Colombia playmaker - who suffered a calf strain earlier in the campaign - has made nine appearances in all competitions, starting five times, though last featured for Zidane's side in a Champions League victory over Galatasaray on October 22.

However, James could now be set to miss up to six weeks after Madrid announced the 28-year-old has sprained a ligament in his left knee.

Madrid's statement, released on the club's official website, did not place a timeframe on James' recovery, stating the midfielder would continue to be assessed.

Los Blancos face rivals Barca - who currently lead LaLiga on goal difference - on December 18 in the rearranged Clasico at Camp Nou, which was postponed due to political unrest in Catalonia.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas has accused the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) of employing scare tactics and says Luis Rubiales is not fit to run the organisation.

The pair's frosty relationship plumbed new depths last week when the RFEF urged Tebas to resign following a setback in his bid to stage a LaLiga match in the United States.

A Madrid court ruled the league could not take the December fixture between Villarreal and Atletico Madrid to Miami without permission from the RFEF, which opposes the idea.

The RFEF released a statement indicating such a move could put the clubs "at risk" of UEFA and FIFA sanctions and called for Tebas' "immediate dismissal" or resignation.

Asked about his working relationship with Rubiales, a former footballer with Levante, Tebas told Marca: "I am not incompatible with anyone.

"It is not a question for me, I have never asked for Rubiales to resign. I am convinced he is not qualified to be president of the RFEF, but I am not the one who asked him to resign.

"If I had an understanding with the Federation of [former president Angel Maria] Villar, I think I can have an understanding with his."

Tebas continued: "To say that clubs can have UEFA and FIFA sanctions is a lie. It is not true. The clubs and LaLiga were subject to the FIFA regulations.

"But that scare tactic is what they are using all the time."

In 2018, Tebas signed a 15-year deal with Relevent, the organisers of the International Champions Cup, which provided for one LaLiga match per season to be played on US soil, an agreement that was supposed to begin from last season.

He admitted to wanting the involvement of Real Madrid and Barcelona, but thinks enough interest can be garnered without the competition's powerhouse clubs.

"That the match would be better with them is evident," he said.

"They are the engines of our football, but LaLiga's brand throughout the world has grown tremendously. There are people who travel the world to watch... many clubs, very often, not just the two of them. For example, in Japan, the largest audience is for Mallorca, with [Takefusa] Kubo. Or Espanyol in China, with Wu Lei, or Eibar with [Japan international Takashi] Inui."

A final legal decision on whether LaLiga has the jurisdiction to move a LaLiga fixture to the US is expected in February, a month after the RFEF-organised Supercopa de Espana takes place in Saudi Arabia.

Antoine Griezmann accepts his integration to life at Barcelona has not been easy but remains convinced he will be successful at Camp Nou.

After over a year of speculation and transfer rumours, Barca finally secured the signing of Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, triggering his €120million release clause.

While his haul of four LaLiga goals and three assists in 11 matches is hardly alarming, Griezmann's performances have generally failed to inspire much excitement from fans, leaving them somewhat underwhelmed.

It was thought the forward's arrival would alleviate some of the pressure on talisman Lionel Messi, but the Argentina superstar continues to shoulder much of the creative burden.

After Barca coach Ernesto Valverde recently suggested the Frenchman still needs to adapt to the team's style of play, Griezmann is confident of improving with time and has no doubts over his decision to join Barca.

"Barcelona is not the easiest place [to play]," he said in an interview with Telefoot. "It's a new team, a different club, new tactics and a new position and role for me. But it is what it is and it's time to work.

"I'm proud of the decision and where I am, and it will be the work that sorts everything. Trust me and everything will good.

"My goal now is to be an important player in the club, have more minutes, score more goals, make decisive passes, qualify in the Champions League and be up there in the league, be ready for the national team [France] in March and also for Euro 2020.

"I'm a player who thinks about the team. I can score many goals, but that is not my main goal. My goal is to help the team in any way I can."

Ernesto Valverde has the backing of Barcelona's backroom staff according to sporting director Eric Abidal, who moved to distance the Blaugrana from "clubs that change coaches after bad results".

Barcelona are top of LaLiga, level on points with second-placed Real Madrid, but a 3-1 defeat at Levante and a goalless draw at home to Slavia Prague brought doubts over Valverde's leadership back to the fore among sections of the club's fanbase.

Ronaldo Koeman has been touted as a potential replacement for Valverde, should he leave the position he took up in May 2017.

Abidal admitted that Valverde's position is never far from the headlines, despite his back-to-back LaLiga triumphs, pointing to Barcelona's Champions League eliminations at the hands of Roma in 2017-18 and Liverpool in 2018-19 as sore points for supporters.

"There's always a debate about Valverde," Abidal told SPORT.

"The same thing that happened in Rome happened in Liverpool. Because of one result you can end up thinking that it's been a bad season. And for the way that it happened. 

"In these situations, you can think that the coach is to blame, but you have to analyse everything. What does the coach bring to the team and vice-versa?

"We support the coach and we give him all the information, although the day-to-day is his. There are clubs that change coaches after bad results, but you always have to look at the wider situation.

"If the coach sees that it can be improved, you have to back him."

Antoine Griezmann's performances have also been heavily scrutinised by the Camp Nou faithful since his €120million transfer from Atletico Madrid, and Abidal conceded the France international has not been at his best.

Griezmann has scored four goals in 11 league appearances and only one in his last six domestic outings, leaving him vulnerable to criticism from an expectant crowd.

Abidal backed the 28-year-old to improve, saying: "He knows it's complicated to adapt. Here the movements are different, but he's a player that can add a lot and the coach knows that. 

"Defensively he brings a lot and he can play in many positions. He came because he wants to win the Champions League.

"He knows he's not at his best and that's only fixed by working hard. Griezmann is an intelligent player and the important thing is to know what you can add to the team in the position you are playing."

Barcelona will always be interested in Neymar but it is financially difficult to re-sign him, the club's sporting director Eric Abidal has admitted.

Neymar attempted to secure a move back to Camp Nou in the close season, two years after leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in a deal that made him the most expensive player in history.

LaLiga champions Barca held talks with PSG but were unable to meet the Ligue 1 side's demands.

Lionel Messi suggested some at the Catalan club did not want Neymar to return, though it appears he will remain a target.

"A top player, who has a Barca philosophy and who is performing at a high level, will always be an option," Abidal told Mundo Deportivo.

"We can make decisions on the sporting level but the whole financial issue, there are things that you can do and others you cannot. The future will tell us.

"I will not say it would be option number one, because the season is very long, but clearly it can be an option."

Barca reignited their interest in Neymar amid a desire to find a long-term successor to ageing striker Luis Suarez.

The search is said to have led them to highly rated Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

Asked about the 22-year-old, Abidal said: "He is a complete player. I think he is performing at a great level. He is a player we know.

"There are other players who also have a lot of quality... but I don't pay much attention to the player who plays every weekend, I look at others."

Barca did boost their attacking options with the addition of Antoine Griezmann in July and Abidal said Suarez had been briefed on the club's intentions to pursue another competitor for his starting spot.

"I am transparent with the players," the Frenchman said. "Luis can tell you, because last year I already told him that it was going to be like that, that we were going to look for an offensive player.

"He accepted it because he wants the best for the team. Today, I can tell you that there is no priority. The planning will always be done, no matter the position on the field, the only change will be the decision."

Lionel Messi is in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the Spanish club's sporting director Eric Abidal has confirmed.

The Argentina international has spent 18 years with Barca but his future has been called into question after it emerged earlier this year he can leave Camp Nou for free at the end of any season.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is officially contracted to the LaLiga champions until 2021, but Abidal is hopeful fresh terms can soon be agreed.

"They are already talking," he told Mundo Deportivo. "I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible."

Asked when he expects an agreement to be announced, Abidal said: "It will be known when it is known, but I am positive."

Abidal also confirmed academy product Ansu Fati is in line for a contract extension, having impressed in his breakthrough campaign.

"We are also talking to him," Abidal said. "He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives."

Xabi Alonso has revealed he left Real Madrid for Bayern Munich because he was "curious" to find out Pep Guardiola's coaching secrets.

The 37-year-old swapped clubs in 2014 after five seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, where he won six major trophies.

Alonso left Madrid three months after helping them to Champions League glory and went on to spend three years with Bayern before announcing his playing retirement.

Explaining his reasons for wanting to leave the Spanish giants, Alonso told The Athletic: "I was so curious to find out [Guardiola's] secrets.

"He has a relentless natural enthusiasm. Football seasons are long but right until the very end, Pep never seemed to be tired. 

"He was alert, always ready. For the players, maybe this gave us an extra few metres in our legs when it mattered most."

Alonso, who took over as Real Sociedad B head coach in June, also praised the work of Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.

The former Spain international, who played against Klopp's Borussia Dortmund side during his time at Madrid and Bayern, said: "I didn't enjoy playing against them because they made it so intense, you'd almost break.

"It was like he wanted you to be in a cage. He wanted to trap you. There was an organised pressure. I was under pressure all the time. 

"I enjoyed the mood around those games because they were so important but the challenge of beating Dortmund was immense."

Giuseppe Rossi has hailed Santi Cazorla as an "inspiration" as the former Villarreal and Manchester United striker targets a return to elite-level football.

Rossi, 32, is back training with his old club Villarreal six years after leaving Spain to join Serie A side Fiorentina.

The 30-cap Italy international has been a free agent since he left Genoa at the end of 2017-18, having escaped a ban after testing positive for dorzolamide - a banned substance commonly found in eye drops that Rossi and his legal team insisted was consumed accidentally.

Since then, he has spent time training with United and recently returned to Villarreal to try to build up match fitness, with a view to playing at the highest level again.

Rossi's career has been blighted by serious knee injuries, but he enjoyed his most productive spell with Villarreal, scoring 82 times to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer.

Cazorla has enjoyed a renaissance since returning to Villarreal last year after an Achilles infection left him fearing he may never walk again, and Rossi hopes to emulate his former team-mate's comeback.

"When we were playing years ago, we never thought we would have these situations in our careers. But it happens, it's all part of the sport, right?" Rossi told Omnisport, courtesy of LaLiga.

"It's how you come back, it's the fight that you put into the recovery, wanting to get back to your levels of before. I've been down, and I came back up; I've been down again, and I've always come back up.

"It's the same thing with Santi. He's back to playing at these high levels, playing with the national team also, so he's definitely an inspiration to me, also to all the young players and the players that are on this team.

"It's crazy, the parallels that we have, so of course it's always great to see him back, to see him playing at this level."

Like Cazorla, Rossi is determined not to allow his football career to be halted early by injuries, even though he has not played a competitive match since May last year.

"It's a big psychological thing when you get injured," he said. "Are you able to be patient, are you able to learn, are you able to put in the work and the time to get back to certain playing styles and certain levels?

"Sometimes, it's hard. Sometimes, people give up. We've seen that in the past, not only in football but in other sports. But that's not the case with me. It's something I'll never do. I love this game too much, I work too hard, I've sacrificed too much. I cannot give up on this sport."

Rossi has been made to feel at home since coming back to Villarreal, saying: "It feels great. It's a place where I grew up as a player; it's a place where I grew up as a man.

"I had five beautiful years with them, we accomplished a lot together, and it's just great being back here, seeing people and just having fun on the pitch again.

"Each day, I'm getting more match fit, getting used to the pace. I'm just trying to get fit, trying to show that I'm ready to play at whatever level, and just continue to have fun. I'm still young, I'm still hungry. I've done a lot in this sport and I'm very happy, but I'm still hungry, I still want more. I still want to show that I can come back and play at these levels."

It remains to be seen whether Rossi will get the chance to play in LaLiga once more, but he still considers Spain's top flight to be the pinnacle.

"For me, LaLiga is the essence of football," he added. "It's fun watching the technical ability of a player. It's very attacking, there's a lot more space, therefore there's much more excitement in games.

"Four, five years, ago, they thought LaLiga was only a two-team league. Today, you have six, seven teams all mixed up. It's exciting."

Lionel Messi proves he is the best player in the world day after day at Barcelona and "everyone knows" it to be true, says Luis Suarez.

Uruguayan striker Suarez last month celebrated the fifth anniversary of his debut for the Camp Nou giants, and since his switch from Liverpool to LaLiga he has forged a devastating partnership with Messi.

This season is proving no different, with the duo contributing 14 LaLiga goals between them despite Messi having missed early games of the season with injury.

The debate as to who is the greatest player in the world between Messi and former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Juventus, has rumbled on for over a decade.

But for Suarez, there is simply nobody better than Argentinian Messi.

"Messi has helped me a lot in my personal growth. We had an affinity from the beginning. From coexistence came friendship, and the moments I spent with him also helped on the pitch," Suarez told Barcelona's official website.

"Everyone knows that he is the best in the world. He has proven it and continues to prove it day after day.

"He has shown me his companionship a thousand times. He helped me when I was fighting for the Golden Boot. The other day, at Eibar, he gave me a goal."

Despite heading into the international break at the top of LaLiga, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde has found himself under pressure having seen his side drop 11 points from 12 matches this term.

Barca have a tricky period over the coming month, with Champions League fixtures against Borussia Dortmund and Inter, a trip to Atletico Madrid and the rescheduled Clasico with Madrid on December 18.

Suarez, though, is relishing what is to come.

He said: "A very nice month is ahead. We like those, both as footballers and also people. There will be a Clasico too.

"You have to be mentally and physically prepared. Maybe we won't win every game or have it easy, but we hope to do our best with the support of the fans.

"We have not had a simple league start. We gave away points that in other years we hadn't lost, but we know that other teams are also competing well."

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has demanded LaLiga president Javier Tebas resigns for putting clubs at risk of "serious sporting and/or economic sanctions" after a judge shelved the league's plan to host a match in Miami.

LaLiga had intended for Villarreal's home match against Atletico Madrid on December 6 to be played in Florida, United States, but Madrid's Mercantile Court ruled on Friday that the league is not permitted to act of its own accord and its actions "must be agreed and coordinated with the institution that directs football in Spain".

A final decision is expected in February to determine whether the RFEF can prevent LaLiga hosting matches in the United States.

But in the meantime, the RFEF is calling for the dismissal – or resignation – of LaLiga chief Tebas for his conduct to the detriment of the Federation and putting clubs in a risky position.

A statement from RFEF read: "The request to the member clubs of LaLiga to start a dialogue with the Federation is reiterated and the immediate dismissal of the president of LaLiga or his immediate resignation is requested.

"The president of LaLiga, Mr. Javier Tebas, has filed all kinds of lawsuits (criminal, civil, commercial, administrative) and appeals against the RFEF, in what is considered an attempt to justify his own mistakes.

"The leader of LaLiga considers that he can act outside the Federation, however, judges, administration, etc ... have found and communicated that this is not possible and that, without the authorization of the RFEF, he cannot organise the soccer competitions in Spain.

"LaLiga is a competition manager that must adapt its performance to the rules of FIFA, UEFA and RFEF. This attitude that can be considered a total disregard from the president of LaLiga for the rules of FIFA, UEFA, as well as the RFEF, leading to an extremely serious situation and putting LaLiga clubs themselves at risk.

"In the opinion of the RFEF, this attitude is 'absolutely hostile and irresponsible' against the institution that directs football in Spain and is causing damage to this sport and especially for clubs that are part of LaLiga. It must cease immediately."

Villarreal and Atletico had agreed for the match to be moved to Miami, with the two parties and LaLiga submitting a joint request to RFEF on October 17, but in doing so, RFEF have told both clubs to expect "serious" sanctions from FIFA or UEFA.

LaLiga struck a 15-year deal in 2018 with Relevent, the company behind the International Champions Cup, as it looked to take one match per season to the United States.

But RFEF and the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE) condemned the plan and in December Barcelona pulled out of a proposed match with Girona, initially scheduled for early 2019 in Miami.

Friday's judgement comes just four days after RFEF finalised plans for the revamped Supercopa de Espana to take place in Saudi Arabia in each of the next three years, starting in February.

Gareth Bale has further risked the wrath of Real Madrid's notoriously vociferous support by acknowledging he gets more excitement playing for Wales than Los Blancos.

Bale, 30, joined Madrid for a then world-record fee reported to be worth €100million in 2013 and enjoyed significant success at the club, winning every competition, including four Champions League titles.

In the most recent of those Champions League successes in 2017-18, Bale scored a vital brace as Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1, but despite his haul of trophies at the club, fans never truly took to the winger, who has also had issues with coach Zinedine Zidane.

He has received particular criticism for his inability to speak Spanish and a perceived commitment to golf ahead of Madrid, with the Spanish media often focusing on the latter.

And Bale can expect further scorn from Madrid fans and the media after freely admitting on international duty that he unequivocally prefers playing for his country, who he is away with despite not playing at club level since suffering an injury in Wales' last get together.

"I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales," Bale told reporters on Friday ahead of facing Azerbaijan.

"I've been with most of the older players since we were in the Under-17s. It's like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. It's normal.

"With Wales, I'm speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. But it doesn't change what I do on the pitch.

"I always give 100 per cent on the pitch wherever I am, that's what I always strive to do."

Despite the vilification he is often forced to put up with in Spain, Bale insists he takes it all in good humour because he believes many of those criticising have no idea what they are talking about.

"I find it hilarious to be honest, especially some of the pictures and stuff my friends send me," Bale said.

"On one it said triple bogey, and I have never had a triple bogey! At least give me an albatross! It's funny.

"Some of the things I have seen… people don't understand and don't know what they're on about. So, I just find it quite funny."

Bale accepts that it might look curious from Madrid's perspective that he is fit to feature for Wales again after a month out of action domestically, but he insists it is a coincedence.

"I've done my rehab, four weeks training," he said. "Obviously there are two big games and I'm not sure if I'll play the two whole 90 minutes, but I'll do my best to play as much as I can. I fully understand the position I'm in.

"I've done as much as I can in terms of trying to get back as quickly as I can. We've done 11v11 to try and get some match fitness in me.

"If there had been a Real Madrid game this week, I would've been fit and training to play. Maybe to them it doesn't look great, but it's just a coincidence that the national team comes around this week.

"Everyone knows how passionate I am about Wales. We always look to not just qualify for one, we want to qualify for multiple tournaments.

"It's important not just for the here and now, but for the future of Welsh football. It will inspire kids again and hopefully make more kids play football and make our national team better for the future."

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