Zinedine Zidane sought to avoid discussing mooted Real Madrid target Paul Pogba, wishing the Manchester United midfielder well in his recovery from injury.

Pogba has repeatedly been linked with a move to Madrid to link up with compatriot and head coach Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Zidane was asked about the player on Friday, with the January transfer window now open, but he appeared keen not to upset United.

Red Devils boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed earlier this week Pogba would likely have surgery to fix an ongoing ankle issue, and this injury was the focus of Zidane's response.

"How can I reply to this? I'm not going to reply with anything really," Zidane told a news conference. "Paul is a player of another team.

"The important thing for him, because he's injured, is to get back playing, and that's it. I wish the best for him.

"The most important thing for us is the players that I have and to think about the game tomorrow."

Brahim Diaz and Mariano Diaz have each been linked with loan moves away from Madrid in the window, but Zidane was again cagey when asked if their departures could prompt incomings.

"The important thing is to speak to each one of the players - that's what I'm doing," he said. "There are players who haven't been playing minutes, and that could be a problem.

"We'll talk about it, as always. They're all here, they're all training, trying to train well. Until January 31, anything could happen, a lot of things could happen. We'll see."

Real Madrid star Eden Hazard will miss the Supercopa de Espana in Saudi Arabia as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury, coach Zinedine Zidane has confirmed.

The Belgium international, who signed from Chelsea ahead of the 2019-20 season, has played only eight times in LaLiga, scoring once.

Hazard's most recent appearance came against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on November 26, subsequently missing a Clasico draw with Barcelona due to a small ankle fracture.

Madrid face Getafe in LaLiga this weekend, before heading to Jeddah for the revamped four-team Supercopa, but Hazard will not travel.

"Yes, he's 100 per cent out of the Supercopa," Zidane told a news conference on Friday. "He's not travelling.

"And, at the moment, he's in a normal process of recovery. I hope that just after the Supercopa, bit by bit, we could see him with us again."

Discussing his squad heading into 2020, Zidane added: "Every player is important.

"I've got a very good squad with a lot of good players, and I'm going to use what I have - some [players] more than others].

"Squad rotation depends on the game, it depends on a lot of things. What I'm looking at is just the next game tomorrow, where we have two or three players out.

"All the players, apart from those two or three, are available. That's good for me.

"I'd prefer to have everybody available. I have injured players, but the season is long and I'm going to need every player. That's my message."

Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano believes Pep Guardiola is the best coach in world football, but admits it is hard to argue with Zinedine Zidane's record at Real Madrid.

Guardiola won five major trophies in his first three full campaigns at the Etihad Stadium, including a clean sweep of domestic honours last season.

City look unlikely to retain their Premier League title, trailing leaders Liverpool by 14 points after a dramatic 3-2 defeat to Wolves on Friday.

Zidane has come under scrutiny since returning to Madrid, despite an incredible first stint at the club that saw him win three successive Champions League trophies.

And while Soriano agrees with Zidane's recent sentiment that Guardiola is the finest coach around, the City CEO has spoken of his admiration for the France legend.

 

"In the case of Zidane, the results speak for themselves, as in the case of Pep," he said at the the Globe Soccer Awards event. 

"There are all the titles he has won in LaLiga, the Bundesliga, the Premier League. For me, Guardiola is the best coach in the world because he is our [coach]."

City have never won the Champions League and face a huge challenge to be crowned European champions this season, having been drawn against Madrid at the last-16 stage.

The first leg is to be held at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26 and Soriano believes there is very little between the two teams.

"You look at them and wherever you look - the quality of the players, the money invested, the salaries we pay - these are two great teams that are very even," he said. 

"It is unlikely that one team is far superior to the other - it will depend on how these two games take place.

"As usually happens in the Champions League, the tie can depend on a small detail, a defensive mistake or a referee error, which can be decisive."

Asked how the sides compare in terms of style of play, Soriano added: "You usually insist on the importance of City's style of play, while Real Madrid's style is usually winning no matter how.

"With Zidane they have won three Champions Leagues in a row. That's the reality. They have won three Champions Leagues in a row with Zidane and four in five years. Discussions about the style of play die when the data is exposed.

"I talk about what concerns Manchester City, where we play a certain style of football, but we do it because we believe in it and also because we are doing well, because when we don't play well we usually lose. 

"Ours is a way of looking at simple football: we have to play our way, and we can execute it in different ways, but the style, the fundamentals, have to be the same so that we do well.

"We can never lose that essence. Maybe other teams can play in several different ways, but not us."

Zinedine Zidane said Real Madrid will "absolutely not" sign a striker in January following another toothless display against Athletic Bilbao.

Madrid failed to score in back-to-back games after playing out a 0-0 LaLiga draw with Athletic at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.

Toni Kroos and Nacho hit the crossbar either side of half-time, before substitute striker Luka Jovic was also denied by the base of the post with four minutes remaining.

Karim Benzema has shouldered the goalscoring load for Madrid this season with 12 LaLiga goals and 16 across all competitions, while big-money off-season recruit Jovic has only found the back of the net once since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt.

However, Madrid head coach Zidane dismissed the possibility of attacking reinforcements as Los Blancos look to dethrone LaLiga champions Barcelona this term.

Asked if he would request a new striker, Zidane replied: "No. Absolutely not, I don't see the need to sign a striker."

The stalemate against Athletic is the fifth time Madrid have fired a blank in LaLiga this season, with Zidane's men two points behind leaders Barca heading into 2020.

"I'm annoyed by this," Zidane said. "My players have left everything on the pitch. "I'm looking at the positives and the good thing is that we're doing well. Three points from nine [available in the last three games] isn't much.

"As always, when we play a game like we did and have chances [to score], I'm annoyed for the players. For the effort that we put in, we're annoyed that we didn't score the chances that we had.

"If you have chances, you have to score them, and we've had lots of the ball in the last three games and very few goals. It's not bad luck or [a lack of] conviction - the important thing is creating chances.

"We created so many chances... we're going to continue; it's going to go in [eventually]. Now it's not going in, but we can't let our heads drop. We have to think that it's been a very good year.

"We're ending a bit flat but we're looking forward to starting 2020. I don't think [the lack of goals] is a problem, but everyone has their own opinion. We're calm. What we've done in the last four or five months was good."

Real Madrid allowed Barcelona to take an advantage into LaLiga's mid-season break after Athletic Bilbao held them to a second goalless draw in a week.

Following Wednesday's stalemate at Camp Nou in El Clasico, Zinedine Zidane's men drew a blank once more against their obdurate Basque opponents.

Toni Kroos and Nacho hit the crossbar either side of half-time and substitute Luka Jovic struck the base of the post with four minutes to play.

Champions Barca lead their great rivals by two points after 18 matches, having dispatched Alaves 4-1 on Saturday, while Athletic edge up to seventh and remain firmly in the European hunt

Rodrygo Goes and Vinicius Jr leant a vibrant edge to the Madrid attack during the opening exchanges, with the latter denied by the boot of Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon at the end of a slaloming run.

The visitors allowed Kroos to saunter into the box on the end of Ferland Mendy's 19th-minute pass, the Germany midfielder cracking a shot against the crossbar from close quarters.

Athletic served notice of their threat a few moments later when Raul Garcia seized upon an unusually slack pass from Federico Valverde and sent Inaki Williams haring past Eder Militao. Thibaut Courtois was equal to the task at his near post.

Simon held a Karim Benzema header from Rodrygo's cross late in the first half and the Athletic keeper was grateful to see his bar frustrate Madrid once more before the hour.

Nacho rose highest to Kroos' right-wing delivery but could not direct his powerful effort downwards.

Simon plunged to keep out Benzema's angled 64th-minute shot, shortly after Gareth Bale replaced Rodrygo.

But it was another replacement, Jovic, who came closest to a winner - Simon looking on dejectedly, only for the Serbia forward's header to loop down against his upright.

What does it mean? Shot shy Madrid paying the price in the title race

There is little to choose between Barcelona and Real Madrid in terms of points as LaLiga heads into recess. However, the difference in terms of goals scored is 14 in Barca's favour and those deficiencies could tell dearly down the stretch for a Madrid team who have only lost once in the top flight this term but now drawn seven times.

Simon says, no way through

Even allowing for the fact Madrid's attack is not the potent force it once was, Athletic still needed a superb showing from their last line of defence. The latest goalkeeper off the production line that yielded Kepa Arrizabalaga, the 22-year-old Simon was near-faultless and deserved his moments of fortune.

Clock ticking on the Modric-Kroos axis

Real Madrid's engine room boasts two of the finest midfield talents of this decade in European football. As is customary, Kroos and his old ally Luka Modric were easy on the eye in a manner that sometimes becalmed the Santiago Bernabeu's mounting frustration. Nevertheless, it is hard to escape the conclusion that this Madrid need more dynamism and goal threat from deep and an interesting January beckons as those Paul Pogba rumours refuse to abate.

What's next

Madrid return to action on January 4 with a short trip to Getafe, while Athletic open 2020 against another of the division's high flyers, Sevilla.

Zinedine Zidane lavished praise on Pep Guardiola after Real Madrid were drawn against the ex-Barcelona coach's Manchester City side in the Champions League.

Two presumed contenders will square off in a highly anticipated last-16 tie, with the first leg to be held at the Santiago Bernabeu on February 26.

Guardiola welcomed the challenge, saying it would be "special" to share a touchline with Zidane, a man he "dreamed" of playing alongside.

The Frenchman returned the favour ahead of Madrid's LaLiga game against Athletic Bilbao, going so far as to call Guardiola the world's leading coach.

"Yes [it will be special]. I played against him many times," Zidane said on Saturday.

"I respected him as a player and I respect him as a coach. I think he is the best in the world and has demonstrated that throughout his career.

"Of course, I really want to face him, to play against him and his side. Not just myself but all of us here."

Overcoming the Premier League champions would be a huge boost for Madrid in their bid to be crowned Europe's best for the fifth time in seven years.

Zidane has overseen three Champions League victories, success equalled only by Carlo Ancelotti and Bob Paisley, yet the Los Blancos coach claimed trophies were not what motivated him to prolong a potentially brief foray into coaching.

"I don't know if my career will last long," he said. "It will depend on what I feel. I am atypical, because what interests me is the day to day, how I am with the people who work with me. We will see, but I'm sure I won't be going up to 60 or 70."

Madrid's home match against seventh-placed Athletic comes four days after the club's strong showing in the goalless Clasico draw against Barca.

Federico Valverde impressed in midfield, raising more questions over whether his development would be stifled should rumoured target Paul Pogba arrive from Manchester United.

Zidane said: "I can only talk about my players. They are doing well. Fede is part of the heritage of the club and we are glad he is with us."

France head coach Didier Deschamps believes Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane will lead the 2018 World Cup winners sooner or later.

Zidane is in his second spell in charge of Madrid, having returned in March after stepping down in May 2018 following three consecutive Champions League triumphs and a LaLiga title among other trophies.

The Frenchman and former Les Bleus captain, who won the 1998 World Cup, has long been touted as Deschamps' replacement.

While Deschamps will stay on as coach for France's World Cup defence in 2022 following success at Russia 2018, the 51-year-old backed Zidane to eventually take over.

"The next coach could be Zizou," Deschamps, who has been in charge of France since 2012, told Le Monde.

"At one point or another, it'll be him."

Deschamps extended his contract through to 2022 after France overcame Croatia in the World Cup final last year.

The former Monaco, Juventus and Marseille boss also led France to the Euro 2016 decider – Les Bleus beaten by Portugal on home soil.

Deschamps will oversee the nation's Euro 2020 campaign, with France drawn in Group F alongside holders Portugal, Germany and a play-off winner.

"When you're a coach there's no age limit," he added. "It's the results that make you last."

Zinedine Zidane said Wednesday's 0-0 Clasico draw between Barcelona and Real Madrid was "not good enough", even though he was impressed with his players.

Gareth Bale saw a goal correctly disallowed for offside in the second half of the stalemate at Camp Nou, which leaves Barca and Madrid level on points atop LaLiga.

Madrid managed 12 shots in the first half, the most they have managed in the opening 45 minutes of an away game against Barca since at least 2003-04, but they could not find a breakthrough to avoid a first league goalless draw with their fierce rivals since 2002.

Zidane was frustrated with the result given the chances his side created early on, but the head coach was not displeased with his players' efforts.

"The result isn't good enough for me," Zidane said to reporters. "We could've done something more, but that's football.

"If you have chances, you have to score them, and this is what we were missing in certain instances.

"We played a serious match, we were focused for the 90 minutes. It was a good Clasico, a good football match. It only lacked goals.

"We have to be happy with the match because it's against a very good opponent."

Bale was something of a surprise inclusion in the first XI and Zidane was very happy with the Wales star's performance given it was only the eighth league game this season in which he has started.

"Everyone played well," he said. "Bale hadn't played much and he had a great game.

"[Toni] Kroos and Fede [Valerde] in his position, Raphael [Varane], Sergio [Ramos]... everyone [played well].

"The team put in a great shift. When you play a game like that in this stadium... we deserved a bit more."

Barcelona star Lionel Messi empathised with Zinedine Zidane's high-pressure situation at Real Madrid but said top players and coaches must be ready for intense scrutiny.

Messi will be the centre of attention when his Barca side host bitter rivals Madrid in a crucial Clasico at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Goal difference is all that separates the teams and an away victory would place Zidane's men in a strong position to win LaLiga for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

Edging three points clear would additionally be a big boost for the Frenchman, who has faced difficulties since returning for a second stint in charge of the capital club.

Barca captain Messi claimed the fact any criticism had been aimed at Zidane was evidence of the extreme pressures placed on those at the top level of the game.

"It's surprising, but those of us who have been in this for a long time, and even more at big clubs, know that this is normal," Messi told Marca.

"People forget very quickly what happened and was achieved in the past and [demand] you deliver day by day.

"Zidane surely knew when he returned that the three Champions League trophies he had won no longer mattered and [the fans] were going to demand the same as they did on his first day.

"Coaches and players of the great teams know that we are continuously in the spotlight and living with this."

Barca are undefeated in six LaLiga games against Madrid and Messi expects to face a circumspect opponent in the first Clasico of the season.

"When we play at the Bernabeu, many more spaces are generated," he said. "They come at us more because they have the obligation [to attack] being the home team and people push them for that.

"At Camp Nou they play another type of match, sitting a little further back, being closer together and going on the counter because they have very fast players in attack.

"At the Bernabeu we play 90 minutes equally. Here, the game becomes more compact and more complicated."

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane attempted to shift the spotlight away from Lionel Messi and onto his own stars ahead of Wednesday's crunch Clasico.

Top spot will be on the line when Madrid head to Camp Nou in search of their first victory in seven LaLiga games against the leaders and reigning champions.

Los Blancos will be without Eden Hazard but an in-form Karim Benzema and an 11-game undefeated streak spanning all competitions should give Madrid hope of snatching the headlines from star man Messi.

The Argentina great has scored 18 LaLiga goals against Madrid and is set to equal Xavi's 42-game record for most competitive Clasico appearances for a Barca player.

"Whatever happens, it's a game of football. We'll start off with 11 against 11, we'll see if it finishes like that," Zidane said at his pre-match news conference.

"We know who we're up against, a very good side. They've proven that for a long time. We know what kind of player Messi is but we've got our weapons as well.

"Hopefully we're going to see a good game of football against a good team that is in form."

Zidane tasked then-Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic with man-marking Messi in a December 2017 meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The plan backfired as the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored in a 3-0 victory for the visitors and Zidane would not reveal whether he intended to return to the tactic.

"Every game is different. At that moment, Mateo was the correct player to mark a player like Messi," he said.

"Today is different. It's a different game, a different story, so we'll see. We'll see what happens."

Zidane described El Clasico as the sort match he "lived for" as a player but, even as the bitter rivals wage a title battle, he claimed three points were of secondary importance.

"I hope we see a great game, that's the most important thing," the Frenchman said. "I don't think the important thing is the result, but how we go out and play during the 90 minutes. That's what will help everyone to enjoy it.

"Things change quickly in football, so I'm just focused on the day to day.

"We try to do our job as good as we possibly can, to 100 per cent, and try to think of how to change things if things don't go right for us in the game."

Thibaut Courtois made the decision himself to go up for the late corner that saw Real Madrid snatch a last-gasp draw with Valencia, according to head coach Zinedine Zidane.

Madrid were staring down the barrel of a second LaLiga defeat of the season courtesy of Carlos Soler's 78th-minute striker at Mestalla.

However, Belgium goalkeeper Courtois saw a late header saved by Jaume Domenech and Karim Benzema lashed home to ensure Madrid returned to the capital with a point.

"He decided to go up and this shows that we wanted more, that we never give up," Zidane told a news conference.

"The equaliser is something that we put a lot of effort into. This is Real Madrid, a team that never gives up. They believed they could do it and they did.

"With everything we did, I think we deserved to score a goal that compensated with the effort of the team.

"Football is like this and you can't complain. You have to accept what football gives you. A point is little reward. 

"In the end, we got a big result, but it's a shame because we had a very good first half. They were better going forward in the second half and it was even."

Madrid were without Casemiro, who was rested against Valencia - likely due to the defensive midfielder being one yellow card away from suspension ahead of a midweek Clasico against Barcelona.

Zidane explained: "He wasn't meant to play and those that did did very well. Casemiro had played lots of games and I'm very happy that we did everything without him.

"We drew, but I think we deserved a bit more. He'd played 21 matches and he had to rest, but I was only thinking about the Valencia game."

Real Madrid salvaged a 1-1 draw at Valencia on Sunday thanks to a late Karim Benzema equaliser that Zinedine Zidane believes is proof of the team's fighting spirit.

Valencia looked to be heading for a 1-0 win when Carlos Soler put the hosts in front with 12 minutes to go, then surviving a scare as Luka Jovic had a goal disallowed for offside.

But Madrid continued to plug away and eventually restored parity deep into stoppage time – Benzema slamming home after goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was remarkably denied when his header was saved by Jaume Domenech.

As such, Madrid go into Wednesday's Clasico against Barcelona with something of a morale boost, with Zidane suggesting the late goal highlights his team's mentality.

"This shows you what we are, we fight until the end. We fight and what we want is to get a good result," he told Movistar.

"We don't lower our arms. We got it [the equaliser] with the courtesy of Courtois and Karim. I'm glad for them because it has been a tremendous effort from everyone.

"You have to be proud of the game. When in such a difficult stadium, you concede a goal a few minutes from full-time, you can fall apart, but we still thought that something could be achieved, and we achieved it."

Club captain Sergio Ramos was less philosophical about dropping points, however, acknowledging he leaves Mestalla disappointed.

"Despite scoring at the end, it tastes a bit bitter despite adding a point. When you don't leave with the three points, you leave with that pity," he said.

"I think we've controlled the match well, with balance. We had in front of us a rival who came into the match in good form.

"We can't press for the full 90 minutes, but we've gone all the way. We've made a point that allows us to stay joint-top."

Karim Benzema rescued Real Madrid at the death with a stoppage-time equaliser that salvaged a 1-1 draw away to Valencia, but they missed the chance to go into El Clasico top of the table.

Madrid looked to be heading for a deserved defeat when Carlos Soler netted with 12 minutes to go, but Benzema smashed in from close range right at the end, meaning Los Blancos head into Wednesday's clash with bitter rivals Barcelona level on 35 points with them.

Madrid started with the greater purpose but failed to make the most of their opportunities, offering encouragement to Valencia, who threatened several times through Ferran Torres.

Much of the second half was cagier, with clear-cut chances less frequent, but Soler finished off a swift move to finally open the scoring, before Madrid avoided defeat with one of the last kicks of the game – Benzema saving Zinedine Zidane's men.

Zinedine Zidane vowed to respect Paris Saint-Germain's relationship with Kylian Mbappe amid rumours of disharmony at Parc des Princes.

Mbappe, 20, was publicly told by Thomas Tuchel to respect coaching decisions after seemingly ignoring the PSG boss when substituted late in last weekend's Ligue 1 win at Montpellier.

French newspaper L'Equipe then claimed the World Cup winner has at times questioned his importance and treatment in comparison to team-mate Neymar.

The report fuelled speculation Mbappe could seek a move to Real Madrid in future but Zidane, who recently admitted to being "in love" with the talented France forward, tried to avoid driving a wedge between player and coach.

"Mbappe plays for PSG. I can't comment on what goes on there behind the scenes," the Madrid boss said on Saturday ahead of his side's LaLiga game against Valencia.

"That would be a lack of respect on my part. You know that I know him very well, but I have to have respect."

Madrid's trip to Mestalla on Sunday marks their final match before El Clasico on Wednesday, a potentially pivotal encounter in the title race.

Zidane insisted his team was focused only on beating Valencia and would not be distracted by the upcoming match at Camp Nou.

"We don't even talk about it," he said. "We are not interested in what will happen on Wednesday. We are only interested in tomorrow's game.

"Valencia are playing very well, getting very good results, they're through to the next stage of the Champions League.

"What we want is to give the best version of ourselves and to try to continue growing as a team. That is what interests us."

Zidane offered no clues over his starting XI but promised Gareth Bale had not fallen out of favour after the winger went unused against Club Brugge in the Champions League.

"I don't think Gareth's role is less important now," he said.

"He is one of us and I will count on him, but I have 25 players and they are all important to me. I follow the squad's progress day by day and everyone puts in. Bale is as important as the others."

Zinedine Zidane joked his Real Madrid side would have no issues beating last season's winners Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League.

The LaLiga giants had already secured their knockout berth before their 3-1 win over Club Brugge on Wednesday and can now turn their attention to the draw for the next stage, which takes place on Monday.

Hans Vanaken cancelled out Rodrygo Goes' opener within the space of two second-half minutes, but a first Champions League goal for Vinicius Junior and a sublime strike from Luka Modric sealed all three points for Zidane's side.

Madrid finished second in Group A, five points behind Paris Saint-Germain, which means they will be drawn against the winners of another group, potentially Jurgen Klopp's Premier League leaders Liverpool.

Asked if the Reds were a team to be avoided, Zidane smiled and said: "If we play Liverpool, we will eliminate them."

More soberly, he added: "We can't do anything about the draw."

Madrid were far from their best in Belgium but Zidane insists he was happy with his side's performance.

"We are happy with the victory and with the way we played," he said. "We had difficulty with our game since they usually play with five at the back and, today, they played with four.

"It took 10 or 15 minutes for the players to adjust. The second half was better in every area."

Luka Jovic was chosen to start in attack alongside Rodrygo and Vinicius, but the Serbian was again unable to make an impression.

He has still scored just one goal in Madrid colours since his move from Eintracht Frankfurt, and Zidane concedes the striker needs more playing time to find his groove.

"I don't think he feels lost," the Frenchman said. "He has played little and a player needs to play a lot to be well. 

"I think he has done well and has to continue working as he does. It's a problem of mine, it's not yours. He needs to continue working and, every time he plays, respond. 

"It's not easy because he doesn't play much, but knows the situation. He needs to play, it's true."

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