Kaka believes Lionel Messi could leave Barcelona and warned it is important there is no messy divorce if the Argentina star moves on from Camp Nou.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi was incensed by recent comments from sporting director Eric Abidal, who questioned whether some players showed full commitment under former head coach Ernesto Valverde.

A scathing response from Messi bypassed official club channels as he took Abidal to task on Instagram, and that raised the question of whether the record-breaking forward remains happy at Barcelona.

He has spent his entire professional career with the Catalan giants and is by a long distance their all-time leading goalscorer and closing in on Xavi's appearances records.

Yet Kaka, who starred for Milan, Real Madrid and Brazil and also won the 2007 Ballon d'Or, says the day could come when Messi seeks to move on.

It would then behove both parties to ensure the split is conducted in a dignified way, Kaka explained.

Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave on a free transfer at the end of each season.

"I think it's not going to be a problem for him to play in the Premier League, or [to play] at a top club at the top three leagues in the world would be good for him," Kaka told Sky Sports News.

"But of course it depends on what he wants for his career. It's hard to see him playing for another club, but it's just ... [he may feel,] 'It's okay, it's time for me to change and I'll go to have another experience and I'll be the best football player in the world for another team.'

"I think the most important thing is not the broken part but the way this is going to be broken.

"When [Cristiano] Ronaldo left Madrid we were sad that Ronaldo left the club and of course a lot of them regret Ronaldo's left Real Madrid.

"But I think everybody at the time understood that, okay, for him it's another challenge, he needs another challenge, he needs to move, it's okay, we are one of the best clubs in the world and we'll keep going, Real Madrid needs to rebuild.

"It's more the way, if it's going to happen, it's the way that it's going to happen."

Kaka is hoping to move into a football director's role and explained he was fascinated by the Messi saga.

"I'm in this position right now to understand the clubs, the sports director, how to manage a club, how to build a team, and it's a very good situation for me to understand how they're going to handle this, because right now everything's so hot," Kaka said.

"We're going to hear a lot about that, but I'm looking forward to seeing the next step - Messi, [whether] he's going to leave, Abidal, or the club, Barcelona, how they're going to manage this situation will be really nice.

"From outside it's really hard to say something. I don't know if Messi wants to leave or he just wants to protect his players - [and is thinking,] 'As a captain I need to protect my team.'"

Lionel Messi wants to stay at Barcelona, but it is "never easy" to renew his contract, according to the club's technical secretary Eric Abidal.

Messi's future has been thrown into doubt following a turbulent week at Camp Nou, during which he criticised Abidal in a social media post for his comments on the squad's efforts under former coach Ernesto Valverde.

The Barca captain called on Abidal to name names and accused him of "dirtying" the squad by suggesting certain stars downed tools during Valverde's final weeks in charge.

With Messi able to have his contract cancelled at the end of the season and leave for free, there have been suggestions he could seek a new challenge for 2020-21, although Pep Guardiola insisted on Friday he did not want Manchester City to sign the Argentina star.

Abidal seems hopeful of extending Messi's contract, which will expire in June 2021, but he concedes it is difficult to negotiate terms with a player considered the greatest in the world.

"It's a question for him," he told Mundo Deportivo when asked about Messi's contract. "Hopefully, he continues.

"Leo said Barca is everything for him, that he wants to continue here and, from there, there are conditions. We're talking about the best player in the world and to have a renewal of such a player is never easy."

Messi has always seemed likely to end at least his European career with Barca, although it is said he wants the club to be in a strong position to challenge for LaLiga and the Champions League before he commits to new terms.

Abidal appears hugely confident in Barca's chances of continental glory this season, suggesting they could be unbeatable if they play to their highest level.

"The Champions League is the objective. We know the challenge is difficult but it's not impossible," he said, with Napoli up next in the round of 16.

"For me, Barca's only rivals are Barca. If the team is good physically and mentally, it will be very difficult for us to lose the ball and not be able to win."

Barcelona's trophy hopes have already been dealt a blow by the loss of Luis Suarez, who is not likely to return until near the end of the season due to a knee injury.

The striker will also be out of contract after next season, but Abidal expects to begin discussions over a new deal when the time is right.

"First, you have to have respect for the players, for what they're giving, what they've given before and what they will give to the club," he said. "It's an injury situation now. Hopefully, he'll recover well and, aside from that, it's just talking.

"If things look good to us as a club, of course we'll enter into negotiations and he will also have to tell us how he feels because, in the end, it's [about] respect for the club and for the team."

Premier League clubs are queuing up to sign Jadon Sancho.

But, Borussia Dortmund will not be rushed in parting with the England teenager.

Dortmund are reportedly determined to make the most of a strong Euro 2020 for the 19-year-old.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND WON'T RUSH SANCHO SALE

Borussia Dortmund will take their time over selling in-demand star Jadon Sancho amid links to Manchester United and Chelsea, reports 90min.

Sancho is a player in demand, with Premier League giants United and Chelsea interested in luring the 19-year-old back to England.

Bundesliga outfit Dortmund, however, are keen to maximise Sancho's transfer value after Euro 2020.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona captain Lionel Messi wants to stay at Camp Nu despite his public row with sporting director Eric Abidal, according to Sky Sports News. Amid uncertainty over Messi's future with his contract due to expire in 2021, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner had been linked to Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Inter and United.

- Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is unhappy with Gareth Bale's training, reports Marca. Bale – who was linked with a return to former club Tottenham during the January transfer window – and his intensity at training has reportedly angered Zidane.

- Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose is Barcelona's main target, says Marca. With Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele injured, LaLiga champions Barca are hoping to be granted permission to sign a Spain-based player to fill the void.

- Il Mattino claims United are at the front of the que to sign Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. The defender has also been linked to Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and City.

Juventus are rushing to make a move for United star Paul Pogba, says Tuttosport. United are reportedly resigned to Pogba leaving and former club Juve are keen to bring the Frenchman back to Turin as Madrid also circle.

Lionel Messi "has every right in the world" to be angry with Eric Abidal, according to former Barcelona star Rivaldo.

Tensions are running high at Camp Nou following a disappointing week of results on the pitch and an apparent dispute between the club captain and the first-team technical secretary.

Messi used a social media post to criticise Abidal after he accused some Barca players of downing tools during Ernesto Valverde's final weeks as head coach.

Messi felt Abidal, a former team-mate at Barca, was "dirtying" the squad by making generalised comments about their efforts without naming any specific players.

The issue has led to suggestions Messi could exercise an option to have his Barca contract cancelled at the end of the season in order to leave on a free transfer, although Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on Friday moved to quash any suggestion he would try to tempt his former player to England.

Rivaldo believes a difficult few days for his old club, compounded by Thursday's Copa del Rey elimination at the hands of Athletic Bilbao, will be swiftly forgotten if the team returns to winning ways quickly.

However, the 1999 Ballon d'Or winner thinks Messi was always likely to jump to the defence of his team-mates after Abidal's "naive" remarks.

"Leo Messi's reaction last Wednesday in which, through his social pages, he criticised Eric Abidal, seems normal to me," he said via Betfair.

"Messi has every right in the world to be angry with Abidal over the way in which he complained about the professionalism of some players in training, especially when he did not mention any specific name.

"That called the whole squad into question. It's hard to talk about this situation from the outside, but Messi just tried to defend the group and himself, maintain his reputation and - at the same time - find out which players Abidal was referring to.

"The latter was naive in saying something like that in an interview that, of course, would have a big impact in the media, forcing Messi to react.

"These types of problems should be solved internally. Abidal didn't do it on purpose but, ultimately, he has hurt the club.

"It's now clear that Ernesto Valverde was not the biggest problem for the club. The biggest loser in all of this is Barca.

"Abidal and Messi should have a conversation, as good people. Abidal is in a difficult situation, especially because the player who reacted to his comments is not just anybody: he's the captain of Barca and a superstar. He's Leo Messi.

"Simply getting back on the road to victories will calm all this."

Abidal also said this week that it was "not impossible" for Barca to bring back Neymar - a transfer Messi is said to have been keen for the club to make last year.

Rivaldo thinks his compatriot, who joined Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record €222million fee in 2017, would be the ideal signing to take some of the pressure off Barca's number 10.

"Barcelona need to find a player who makes the difference when Messi isn't there or it's not his night, as happened at San Mames," he added. "The club should look for a player to accompany him and replace him when necessary and, in my opinion, Neymar is that player.

"Barca should perhaps continue considering signing him next summer. The club isn't responsible for Neymar leaving a couple of years ago.

"It's been a while since then and perhaps it's time for negotiations that allow him to return and spend the best years of his career at Camp Nou."

Pep Guardiola has again insisted he does not want Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona despite speculation he could join Manchester City at the end of the season.

A turbulent week at Camp Nou on and off the pitch has seen Messi's future come under scrutiny.

The club captain called out first-team technical secretary Eric Abidal on social media after the former Barca defender suggested some players had downed tools during Ernesto Valverde's final weeks as head coach.

Messi's response, in which he accused Abidal of "dirtying" the squad and urged him to name names in his criticism, has led to talk that he could utilise his option to have his contract cancelled at the end of 2019-20 and walk away from Barca for free.

Thursday's Copa del Rey exit at the hands of Athletic Bilbao has only heightened the uncertainty around Messi's future, with City reportedly monitoring the situation with a view to making him an offer.

Guardiola has always previously maintained he would not bring Messi to Etihad Stadium, though, and the former Barca boss made it clear again on Friday that he expects the 32-year-old to finish his career at Camp Nou.

"Messi is a player for Barcelona," Guardiola told reporters ahead of Sunday's Premier League game against West Ham. 

"He will stay there. That is my wish. I am not going to talk about players at another club.

"I think he will finish his career there."

Barcelona have been branded "a club of clowns" by Christophe Dugarry after a dismal week for the club culminated in Copa del Rey elimination.

A 1-0 quarter-final loss to Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Thursday was the latest blow for Barca in a turbulent period.

After failing to sign an attacker before the end of the January transfer deadline, Ousmane Dembele suffered a hamstring tear that requires surgery and is expected to miss the rest of campaign.

Sporting director Eric Abidal also gave an interview in which he cited a lack of effort being put in by some players as a motivating factor for the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde, which drew the ire of Lionel Messi.

There have consequently been reports Messi could leave Camp Nou at the end of the season, and Dugarry – who spent six months at Barca in the 1997-98 season – was scathing in his criticism of the way the club has been run in recent years.

"It's a club of clowns. Everything is done backwards," Dugarry said on RMC Sport.

"They buy [Philippe] Coutinho, Dembele, they buy guys and then sell them. You get the impression there is no project in this club.

"At every transfer window there is a problem. They've recruited very badly since the departures of Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta. They've spent loads.

"And above all they have a very bad image. There are far too many people who do not have the elegance, the class that there should be at a club of this standing.

"It's really a club that has no class."

Jordi Alba joined Lionel Messi in calling out Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal for "throwing s***" within the club.

Abidal this week said in an interview with Catalan publication Sport that Barca took the decision to sack Ernesto Valverde after he and his colleagues identified "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem".

Messi was disappointed the former left-back chose to tar all members of the squad with the same brush and did not specify names in his remarks.

Barca boss Quique Setien said on Wednesday the six-time Ballon d'Or winner remains happy at the club, with speculation mounting that he could opt to leave at the end of the season.

However, a 1-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Thursday was the latest blow for the club, who this week announced Ousmane Dembele will undergo surgery on a hamstring problem that is expected to rule him out of the rest of the campaign.

Speaking after the game at San Mames, Alba followed Messi's lead and claimed Abidal should have known better.

"This club gets enough s*** thrown at it from the outside so we shouldn't be throwing s*** at ourselves. That is the line to follow," said Alba.

"Abidal was a player, he is loved by the fans and that's why he should know what it's like inside the dressing room and how players feel."

Sergio Busquets headed the ball into his own net in the 93rd minute in Bilbao but Alba was pleased with the club's display.

"I think he had a very good game, one of the best of the season. It's a shame we lost at the last minute, but that's football," he said.

"I'm very proud of the team, especially for the level of the game. We have to continue like this.

"It's clearly the right path, we only missed the win. We played well, with possession and very clear openings. The result is a pity."

A return to Barcelona could be on the cards for Adama Traore.

Wolves star Traore has taken the Premier League and Europe by storm with his performances this season.

Barcelona's LaLiga rivals Real Madrid are also reportedly interested.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA AND MADRID EYE TRAORE

Barcelona are plotting a move to bring Wolves star Adama Traore back to Camp Nou, according to the Daily Mail.

LaLiga rivals Real Madrid are also interested in Spanish winger Traore, who left Barca in 2015.

Wolves are set to command a big transfer fee for Traore amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, having signed the 24-year-old from Middlesbrough two years ago.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Manchester United are interested in trying to prise Lionel Messi from Barcelona. There are doubts over Messi's future following his row with sporting director Eric Abidal. City, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter and Juventus have also been mentioned as possible destinations for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

United have given the green light to sell Paul Pogba, says The Sun. Linked to Madrid and Juventus, the Red Devils are ready to part with Pogba for £150million.

Juventus and Paulo Dybala are working on a contract extension, reports Tuttosport. Tied to Juve until 2022, the Serie A champions want to keep the in-form attacker until 2025.

- L'Equipe reports Thiago Silva wants to stay at PSG but the Ligue 1 champions want to offload the 35-year-old defender in an attempt to free up some of the wage budget.

United have been turned off by Lautaro Martinez's £94m (€110.7m) release clause, according to The Times. The Inter striker has been heavily linked to Barca as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

- The Telegraph says Leicester City are leading the race to sign Liverpool's Adam Lallana, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Tottenham, Arsenal and West Ham have also reportedly been tracking the England midfielder.

- According to Fotomac, Galatasaray striker Radamel Falcao is wanted by Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal. Falcao only moved to Istanbul at the start of the season.

Real Madrid and Barcelona exited the Copa del Rey on the same date for the first time since 1955 following shock defeats.

LaLiga giants Madrid and Barca both crashed out in the quarter-finals on Thursday, stunned by Basque pair Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao respectively.

Madrid were upstaged 4-3 by visiting Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Lionel Messi's Barca – runners-up for six successive seasons – conceded a 93rd-minute goal in a 1-0 loss away to Athletic.

It is the first time in 65 years Madrid and Barca have been eliminated on the same day – the pair ousted by Sevilla and Athletic in the 1955 semi-finals.

LaLiga leaders Madrid and Barca will now turn their attention to league and Champions League honours.

Madrid – three points clear atop LaLiga – face Manchester City in the Champions League last 16, while Barca meet Napoli.

Barcelona stumbled to a new setback in their troubled week as Inaki Williams' header in added time dumped last season's beaten finalists out of the Copa del Rey.

A hard-fought quarter-final appeared destined for extra time until Williams applied enough of a touch to Ibai Gomez's inswinging cross from the right flank to send the ball beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the net.

The winner in the third minute of stoppage time saw Athletic through to the last four and, with Real Madrid surprisingly beaten at home by Real Sociedad just hours earlier, it means neither of Spain's two heavyweight clubs are left standing.

Lionel Messi, who had made the headlines in the lead-up to the game for criticising director of football Eric Abidal, had Barca's best chance, only to be denied by Unai Simon's outstretched left leg late in the second half.

The Athletic goalkeeper had also denied substitute Antoine Griezmann but, for the first time in seven seasons, the Catalan club will not be involved in the final of the competition.

Lionel Messi was given the chance to do his talking on the pitch on Thursday after he was named in the Barcelona starting line-up for their Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Bilbao.

Messi made headlines this week when criticising Eric Abidal, the Spanish club's director of football, for suggesting some Barca players were not working hard enough under previous boss Ernesto Valverde.

The Argentina international called out Abidal for his comments in the media, telling the Frenchman he should name the individuals who were not pulling their weight.

Such a reaction has raised questions over Messi's future at Camp Nou, though the 32-year-old was selected in the XI for the quarter-final tie against Athletic.

Ansu Fati was also chosen in the team, the teenager keeping his place after scoring both goals in Barcelona's 2-1 LaLiga win over Levante at the weekend.

Head coach Quique Setien made just one change from that side, bringing in Sergi Roberto to replace Antoine Griezmann.

Even when you consider the well-reported exit clause in his contract, until recently the idea of Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for another club was virtually unthinkable.

But this week friction has started to appear, with Messi publicly calling out Barca director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players in an interview, saying that "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem" before Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Messi's forthright response on Instagram said the "sports management must also assume their responsibilities" and suggested Abidal should name specific players if he is willing to criticise them, otherwise "we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true".

Barca have since assured – via Spain's sports newspapers – that all is well, the pair have reconciled and Abidal will keep his job, but that is unlikely to dispel concern among supporters, particularly following further reports several other clubs have registered an interest.

Nevertheless, arguably for the first time ever, the prospect of Messi leaving does not seem an impossibility, particularly given a contract clause allows him to leave for free – but where would that leave Barca?

A BRUTAL GENIUS

Declaring Messi important to Barcelona would be an understatement akin to saying the Titanic was big. After all, he's helped them win 34 trophies.

Messi made his breakthrough in the 2004-05 season and his impact has been almost beyond comprehension. If the six-time Ballon d'Or winner isn't the greatest footballer of all-time, good luck making a case for anyone else.

He has gone on to play a role in 864 goals (622 goals, 242 assists) in 711 matches across all competitions, a truly astounding feat.

One gets an even greater perspective of his influence when considering how much of Barca's overall total that equates to.

Across the same period, the Blaugrana have scored 2,241 times, meaning he has had a hand in 39 per cent of all of their goals over a period of almost 16 years – including his first season when he featured on just nine occasions.

Since the 2007-08 campaign, his first with more than 20 involvements, that figure shoots up to 44 per cent – or 804 of Barca's 1,812 goals in that time.

ONE-MAN TEAM?

Given some of the players he has featured alongside, it is probably a step too far to suggest Barca have been a one-man team since Messi made a first-team role his own.

However, there can be little denying he has often carried them and no one else has had a remotely comparable impact.

Over the past 12 seasons, Messi has finished as Barca's leading scorer across all competitions in all but one - 2015-16 when Luis Suarez plundered 59.

His best was that remarkable 2011-12 campaign when he scored 73 goals across all fronts, while a haul of 29 assists took him to 102 involvements - 54 per cent of the team's total.

IRREPLACABLE?

Where do you even start when planning to replace a player who has been directly involved in almost 50 per cent of your club's goals in a 12-and-a-half-year period?

One would hope for Barca's sake they have some form of contingency plan, but even if they do, it's difficult to imagine them being able to buy anyone anywhere near as influential.

Messi is more than a mere footballer – Barca teams for more than a decade have been built with the purpose of getting the best out of him, while he is virtually unrivalled both as a creator and finisher.

Neymar is the obvious candidate to replace Messi when the time comes, as he does offer a similar blend of deadliness and craft, although Barca's financial constraints are well-documented and it's hard to see how they could afford him at the moment, even without Messi's wage.

They may opt to go down the route of signing a more singled-minded attacker, such as Kylian Mbappe or Lautaro Martinez, but again, certainly in the case of the former, affordability may be an issue.

Even if Antoine Griezmann manages to belatedly blossom in Barcelona colours, Messi's eventual departure will leave a gaping chasm that their current squad is unequipped to fill.

Putting together a post-Messi Barca could just be the single most fascinating rebuilding job in football history – but Josep Maria Bartomeu and Abidal will be clinging on to the hope that won't be for another few years yet.

Manchester City are reportedly lining up a move for Lionel Messi in a free transfer amid the star's troubles at Barcelona.

Messi, 32, has been involved in a public disagreement with the club's technical secretary Eric Abidal, leading to immediate questions over his future at Camp Nou.

City, and former boss Pep Guardiola, look ready to make their move.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY EYE MESSI FOR FREE AMID BARCELONA TROUBLES

Manchester City will swoop for Messi for free if the star cannot resolve his problems at Barcelona, according to The Sun.

While Messi is contracted until 2021, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed last year the Argentina international was free to leave after the 2019-20 season.

Messi worked with Guardiola at Barcelona, with the duo winning three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns among numerous other trophies at the club.

ROUND-UP

- There could be major changes coming at Arsenal. The Sun reports Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are at risk with Arsenal perhaps prepared to sell their stars to finance a spending spree.

- Manchester United and Chelsea are set to go head-to-head in a bid to sign Lyon forward Moussa Dembele at the end of the season, according to The Mirror. Dembele, 23, has scored 12 Ligue 1 goals in 22 matches this season and has been linked with a move to Old Trafford previously.

- Staying in Manchester and City must wait until April to resolve the future of Leroy Sane after the attacker's switch of agent, according to The Telegraph and Bild. Sane is a reported target for Bayern Munich and Manchester City will have to wait to discuss the Germany international's future due to a clause in his deal with his previous agency.

- With Ousmane Dembele facing a long spell on the sidelines, Barcelona are eyeing Girona forward Cristhian Stuani, according to Deportes Cuatro, which reports the 33-year-old Uruguayan has a €20million release clause. Barca would need approval to complete the deal outside the transfer window.

- Could Liverpool have to search for a new back-up goalkeeper? Estadio Deportivo reports Real Betis are considering a move for their former shot-stopper Adrian, who is contracted to the European champions until 2021, with the club holding an option for a further year.

Pep Guardiola warned Barcelona they would need time to readjust when Lionel Messi leaves the club, after Real Madrid's struggles following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit.

Ronaldo left Madrid for Juventus in July 2018 and the Spanish giants battled that season, winning only the Club World Cup and seeing three different coaches at the helm, including the return of Zinedine Zidane.

Manchester City manager Guardiola expects his former club Barca to endure a similar problem when Messi, another all-time great, departs Camp Nou.

"It is inevitable, these players are so transcendent," he told Post United in an interview conducted by Spanish YouTuber DjMariio, via Marca.

"When Messi leaves Barca it will take time to readjust. It is inevitable.

"They score 40-50 goals per season."

Guardiola has continued to enjoy coaching success since leaving Barcelona, a spell at Bayern Munich preceding his move to Manchester.

Already a two-time Premier League winner, Guardiola has another young star in his squad in highly rated midfielder Phil Foden.

Foden has only made two Premier League starts this season, but Guardiola talked up the 19-year-old's talent.

"He will be a bomb," he said.

"There are no clauses here, you have it raw, you have to negotiate with me."

Zinedine Zidane does not expect Barcelona to be weakened by the off-field unrest that has blighted Real Madrid's LaLiga title rivals this week.

A potentially damaging row has broken out at Camp Nou after Barca star Lionel Messi hit back at director of football Eric Abidal, who suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's dismissal as coach.

Messi went public with his response in an Instagram post directly referencing Abidal's comments in which he wrote: "When talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true".

The situation is so serious that former Barca winger Francisco Jose 'Lobo' Carrasco claimed Messi could be on the brink of exiting the club.

But Zidane did not want to wade in on the issue, which he does not believe will derail Barca's season.

Asked if Madrid could take advantage of their Clasico rivals' plight, the Frenchman said: "It's never like that, it's not about that.

"They're not going to be weak, they're a very competitive team. We're not thinking about that for one minute.

"They will compete with us until the end of the season. Good players are always good."

Turning his attention to his own team, who won the Madrid derby last time out and facing Real Sociedad in the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey on Thursday.

Zidane – who also declined to comment on Kylian Mbappe's apparent discontentment at Paris Saint-Germain ​– added: "We have good momentum, we have to keep going in the same way.

"There's a long way to go yet, we haven't won anything yet and that's what it's all about. You can be happy when you've won something, but we haven't won anything yet."

Madrid beat Sociedad 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu in November and welcome them back for a one-off clash in a competition they have not won since 2014.

Zidane anticipates a tough match against a side who sit eighth in LaLiga.

"It's like a final," he said. "It's not like a quarter-final, It's just one game.

"I don't think they're going to come here and give an inch. We have to be really focused, switched on right from the start.

"It's a really good team, as they've shown all season. They play really good football. It's a team that's going to come here and try to do things well."

Zidane refused to confirm if Eden Hazard would be involved following his lengthy absence with an ankle injury.

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