Sergio Ramos and Real Madrid are yet to discuss a new contract for Los Blancos' captain, but his agent insists there is no reason for anyone to panic.

Ramos joined Madrid in 2005 from Sevilla and has gone on to become a club icon, amassing almost 650 appearances and winning a host of titles.

Now 34, the Spain international is approaching the twilight of his career, but having played 25 of Madrid's 27 LaLiga games prior to the coronavirus hiatus, he is still seen as a key player for Zinedine Zidane.

Ramos' deal expires in just over a year, suggesting his long-term future could potentially lie elsewhere if Madrid opt not to extend their association.

But Ramos' agent – his brother Rene – is convinced both parties want the centre-back to retire at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Football goes around a lot but there are very good intentions on both sides," the agent told Radio Marca.

"Hopefully he will retire at Real Madrid, it is his ream and I understand that it will be the desire of the club too.

"As of today, we have not spoken about anything but there is no need to be alarmed. The moment the club considers it, we will begin to speak."

Rene was recently quoted as saying his brother would stretch out his career as long as he could in order to play in Madrid's redeveloped Santiago Bernabeu.

But he feels some did not grasp the meaning of his comments.

"My words were misinterpreted," he added. "What I wanted to say is that he will play until he and the club consider that he is fit to play for Real Madrid."

Ramos and Madrid will resume their 2019-20 LaLiga season on Sunday away to Eibar.

Manchester City and Bayern Munich are seemingly a long way apart when it comes to Leroy Sane.

Sane has been heavily linked with a move to the Bundesliga giants, although it seems City's valuation of the attacker is proving problematic for Bayern.

And, they are reportedly not getting much closer to a deal for the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY, BAYERN STILL FAR APART OVER SANE

Manchester City are remaining tough with Bayern Munich over the transfer fee for Sane, according to Sky Sport.

Reports says City are hoping for €70million (£62.4m) for Sane, but Bayern are offering just €40m (£35.6m).

Sane, 24, left Schalke for City in 2016 and has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two EFL Cups with the club.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United may be considering their options. Tuttosport reports the Premier League giants are ready to make an offer for Juventus midfielder Federico Bernardeschi if they do not land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

- Out of contract next year, Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool future has been questioned. However, The Guardian reports the Premier League leaders held positive talks with the midfielder and hope to extend the Netherlands international's deal for at least three years.

- Sergio Ramos is set to stay at Real Madrid. AS reports the club captain has agreed a one-year extension, taking his deal through until 2022.

- With his deal expiring at season's end, Thiago Silva looks likely to leave Paris Saint-Germain. ESPN reports the defender wants to stay in Europe and play for another top club for at least two more seasons.

- Jose Callejon appears happy at Napoli. CalcioMercato reports the attacker, out of contract at the end of the campaign, would like to stay at the Serie A club for at least another year.

- Valencia attacker Ferran Torres has drawn plenty of interest. According to Radio Valencia, Napoli have spoken to the LaLiga club about the 20-year-old, who has also been linked to Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

Playing at the redeveloped Santiago Bernabeu would be the "perfect retirement" for Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, according to his agent and brother Rene.

Ramos' current contract expires in 2021 and the 34-year-old defender's future with Madrid is far from certain.

The Madrid star and Spain skipper has won four LaLiga titles and as many Champions League crowns among other honours since joining from Sevilla in 2005.

As Madrid's iconic Bernabeu stadium undergoes renovation work, Rene Ramos addressed the centre-back's future in the Spanish capital.

"The chewing gum will be stretched as long as we can," Rene told Onda Cero.

"Playing at the New Bernabeu would be the perfect retirement for him.

"Physically, he's fine and he's climbing the walls [ahead of LaLiga Santander returning]."

Ramos had made 25 LaLiga appearances and scored five goals this season, while he played 34 matches across all competitions.

The 2019-20 LaLiga season is set to resume on June 11 after the campaign was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Madrid were two points behind bitter rivals and defending champions Barcelona with 11 matches remaining at the time of postponement.

Zinedine Zidane's Madrid are set to host Eibar on June 14.

Barcelona are continuing their push for Lautaro Martinez, while Liverpool have renewed their interest in Ousmane Dembele.

Martinez, 22, has been linked with a move to Barcelona, although just whether the LaLiga giants can get a deal done has been questioned.

Inter have insisted the only way Martinez will leave is by his €111million release clause being paid. That has seemingly not put Barca off.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PUSH AHEAD IN LAUTARO PURSUIT

Barcelona are continuing to chase Inter star Martinez, according to Marca.

The report says the LaLiga side remain firm in their intention to sign Martinez despite Inter wanting his release clause paid.

Martinez had scored 16 goals in 31 games this season when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Linked with a move for Dembele previously, Liverpool could target the Barcelona attacker again. Mundo Deportivo reports the Premier League leaders will consider a move for Dembele if they fail to land RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner.

- Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is out of contract at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2021. However, Sport reports the defender is set to renew with Madrid.

- Kai Havertz continues to attract plenty of interest. But Marca says the Bayer Leverkusen star will have to wait for Real Madrid, who it reports have been in advanced negotiations for the attacker. Havertz is also said to be wanted by Bayern Munich.

- Will Miralem Pjanic get to Barcelona? With the Juventus midfielder linked with a switch to Camp Nou, Sport and Tuttosport report the Serie A giants have asked for 17-year-old forward Ansu Fati to be included in a deal. Arthur has also been linked to Juventus.

- A possible return to Juventus for Paul Pogba appears to be difficult. However, CalcioMercato reports the Italian champions have offered Adrien Rabiot to Manchester United in a deal for the midfielder.

- David Luiz could be set for an Arsenal exit. The Mirror reports the defender will have to take a huge pay cut to secure a return to Benfica if Arsenal opt against triggering a one-year extension to his deal.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said Spain needs football to boost the economy and to distract fans as LaLiga eyes a June return following the coronavirus outbreak.

LaLiga has been postponed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc globally – killing more than 283,500 people and bringing sport to a standstill.

A mid-June resumption has been touted for the 2019-20 campaign in Spain, where Barca topped the table ahead of Madrid through 27 matches.

Ramos is raring to go, telling Movistar: "Getting going needs time, the country needs football as an economic support and the people need it as a distraction.

"I'm dying to compete again, for LaLiga Santander to be normal again, we have to be disciplined so that we can eliminate this virus.

"I want to send a message of support to everyone who has lost a loved one, we'll get through this and we have to come together."

Germany's Bundesliga will restart on May 16 and as LaLiga teams return via individual training sessions while adhering social-distancing measures, Ramos added: "We have to go to Valdebebas in divided zones and following the rules, it's a bit abnormal and complicated but the situation requires it.

"It will be LaLiga who take decisions, Germany has set the example we have to follow.

"We like being with our families but we have to be flexible too."

Madrid were two points behind defending champions Barca with 11 matches remaining when the season was suspended due to coronavirus.

"I know the schedule of both teams perfectly," Ramos said when asked about Madrid trying to overhaul Barca.

"Without fans, making a prediction is a bit brave. Our objective is to be champions."

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is eager to win a trophy this season, but is prepared to wait to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The LaLiga season was suspended last month due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 217,000 people worldwide.

Clubs are nearing a return to training in Spain and the season could reportedly resume in June.

Ramos wants to deliver more silverware for Madrid, who were second in LaLiga and in the Champions League last 16 when the campaign was stopped.

"Everyone's health is not going to be put at risk. I am looking forward to playing again, returning to compete, playing in LaLiga and the Champions League," he said, via AS, while hosting Ramos UNICEF Day.

"I am hungry to end the season with a title, but first we have to wait for the people who know about all of this to make the appropriate decisions."

Spain has been hit hard by coronavirus, with more than 232,000 reported cases and a death toll exceeding 23,800.

Ramos called on people to continue following the guidelines in the country.

"We can't think that everything has already been achieved yet, the seriousness of the matter is still with us," the defender said.

"We have to comply with the guidelines in order to end this virus and give scientists the time to find a vaccine."

Sergio Ramos retiring at Real Madrid is the logical outcome to his career, according to the club's former midfielder Fernando Redondo.

Redondo, a two-time Champions League winner at the Santiago Bernabeu, believes the Madrid captain still has plenty of football left in his career despite turning 34 last month.

Ramos' current contract expires in 2021 but Redondo would like to see the club icon, who has won four LaLiga titles and the same number of continental crowns, remain tied to Madrid.

"Sergio has a lot of football ahead of him," he said of Ramos in an interview with AS.

"He is physically gifted and he has professionalism too. He'll be the one who decides when to end his career.

"Logically, he has to be at Madrid and he has to remain linked to the club for everything he represents."

Redondo offered words of support for head coach Zinedine Zidane, amid speculation he will find his position under pressure if Madrid end the 2019-20 season without a trophy once it resumes.

"It's notable how Zidane has returned and shown his growth as a manager," said Redondo.

"Anyone who was at Madrid, who wore the jersey, we know about the criticism and the demands that you are subjected to."

Redondo also discussed Madrid's midfield options, praising the emergence of Federico Valverde and the continued progress of Casemiro, who has started 25 of the club's 27 league games.

"Really important for the team," Redondo said of Valverde. "He's really young, he is really dynamic and in this short time, he has shown his personality.

"Casemiro is young and he is physically powerful."

Asked if Madrid should consider signing another midfielder to help Zidane rotate Casemiro and ease the burden on the Brazil international, Redondo felt it was not always a worthwhile step.

He added: "In my case, the more I played, the better I felt.

"It's something for the manager to consider and evaluate with the calendar and the scheduling of the competitions along with how the player is feeling."

While the football world may be at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, that's not stopping transfer rumours from swirling in their usual manner, with Sevilla's Diego Carlos a name persistently mentioned of late.

A Brazilian centre-back recruited from Nantes last year in a reported €15million deal, the 27-year-old is enjoying a fine debut campaign in LaLiga, quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite and key member of Julen Lopetegui's team, who are third in LaLiga.

An impressive physical specimen, athletic and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Diego Carlos has been most intensely linked with Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp is said to be a big fan and has apparently identified him as a potential partner for Virgil van Dijk.

But Barcelona and Real Madrid have also been mentioned as admirers, having been able to have a close-up look at him in LaLiga.

With a €75m release clause, Diego Carlos certainly won't come cheap – but we've examined Opta's data to compare him with 16 of Europe's best centre-backs…

THE HOLLYWOOD PASS

The Sevilla team Diego Carlos plays in is quite direct, as such it's no surprise to see he plays a large portion (229) of his passes long – of our select group, only Van Dijk (281), Leonardo Bonucci (249) and Mats Hummels (235) have attempted more.

That undoubtedly impacts his overall pass accuracy of 83 per cent, the worst of the 17 players examined. However, Sergio Ramos has attempted only 10 fewer long-range passes, yet his overall completion rate is significantly better at 91 per cent.

His accuracy is even more unimpressive in the opposition's half, as it comes down to 64 per cent, compared to Ramos and Clement Lenglet at 87 per cent. Nevertheless, Sevilla's vertical style of play is significantly different to the setups of Real Madrid and, in particular, Barcelona, while the data does not take into account how difficult each pass was.

Regular Sevilla watchers will tell you Diego Carlos has a penchant for an eye-catching cross-field pass, but the data doesn't lie – many don't reach their target.

Only 48 per cent of his long-range passes find a team-mate, which again is the worst of the players analysed. It poses the question as to whether such a direct system is suited to Diego Carlos' attributes.

He is less prone to giving the ball away when distributing short – as you would expect most players to be – as he finds a Sevilla player with 90 per cent of those passes, but only Harry Maguire (89 per cent) has a lower record in this scenario, the highest being Presnel Kimpembe (96 per cent).

MUSCLE FOR A TUSSLE

Don't let his clean-cut, well-coiffed exterior fool you - one thing Diego Carlos certainly cannot be accused of is shying away from collision. He has been involved in 196 duels this season, with only Maguire (287), Van Dijk (247), Ramos (213) and Mats Hummels (205) from our select group recording more.

The Brazilian's success rate of 56 per cent in those duels is middling, though. Van Dijk leads the way here, coming out on top 75 per cent of the time in such situations.

But Diego Carlos does come off fairly well with respect to tackling, having attempted 30 and been successful 19 times. That gives him a success rate of 63 per cent, better than 10 others in this select group, including Van Dijk (55 per cent) and Ramos (62 per cent).

Diego Carlos isn't dribbled past very often either, with only eight occurrences of that this term. Six of the chosen group have better records, though three of them are on seven and only one – Leonardo Bonucci (two) – has been beaten fewer than six times.

GET RID!

The clearances metric is where Diego Carlos performs best. He has found himself in the right position to clear danger 128 times in 2019-20, the third best among defenders in LaLiga.

Only Van Dijk (135) and Maguire (132) have a better record in this area from our group, though it's worth bearing in mind the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and others do not find themselves in defensive situations as often as Sevilla.

He also leads the way in terms of headed clearances in LaLiga with 71, just shy of Maguire's 80, while Diego Carlos' 25 interceptions is a solid effort as well, though it is some way behind the Manchester United captain's 53.

While it's fair to say Diego Carlos still has areas of his game that can be improved, it's worth stressing that some data points reflect – or are influenced heavily by – the team's setup.

Although the accuracy of Diego Carlos' long passes – a feature of Sevilla's direct system – leaves a mark against his name here, as an out-and-out defender, he is not disgraced when compared to a group of centre-backs most would consider the elite, an applaudable feat given this is only his fourth season in one of Europe's top-five leagues.

Defenders included in the select group: Virgil van Dijk, Harry Maguire, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanji, Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci, Milan Skriniar, Kalidou Koulibaly

 

Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos attempted to talk Robert Lewandowski into joining them at Real Madrid three years ago, the Bayern Munich striker has claimed.

Lewandowski has been repeatedly linked with the LaLiga giants during his decade in Germany with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern.

Despite the best efforts of Ronaldo and Ramos, the Poland international recently ruled out a future switch to Madrid and says he is happy to continue playing at the Allianz Arena.

Asked if it is true that Madrid skipper Ramos and former forward Ronaldo tried to persuade him to sign after a Champions League game in 2017, Lewandowski said: "Yes!"

Outlining the reasons behind his decision to stay in the Bundesliga, Lewandowski added: "You can go to the Spanish league or to one in another country, another great club. 

"But for me it was not the most important thing. Where I am I have been able to reach my maximum level and I want to continue doing well.

"I am at one of the best clubs in the world, and I know I can be happy here.

"We are at a very high level, from the playing squad to the sporting facilities. It's all much easier when playing for a club like this."

Lewandowski has scored another 39 goals this season, 25 of those coming in the league, and insists he has not lost any hunger for finding the back of the net.

"I spend the entire game asking for and wanting the ball," he said, in an interview with Spanish newspaper Sport.

"If I have scored a goal, I want another one. If I already have three, I must get a fourth.

"Sometimes my team-mates tell me: 'Don't you realise that we have another match in two or three days?'

"But for me, if you're having a good time, if you love the sport, and if you love scoring goals, it's never enough."

Elite-level sport has been paused across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic that now has over 150,000 confirmed cases worldwide.

In a bid to contain the spread of the virus, competitions have steadily been halted over recent weeks.

Each of Europe's top five football leagues are off, along with the Champions League, while the NBA came to a sudden stop on Wednesday.

Motorsport was hit as Formula One's Australian Grand Prix was postponed, while cricket, tennis, golf, hockey and, initially to a lesser extent, rugby all also took stock.

In a peculiar period with a vastly reduced sporting schedule, a number of stars were therefore left to make alternative plans.

Reigning NBA MVP and leading 2019-20 candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo did not last long before he commented on the boredom he was enduring in the absence of basketball.

The Greek Freak posted on Twitter late on Friday: "If this is how my life is going to be after basketball, I'm not retiring for a long time. #25yearCareer"

Antetokounmpo tagged his girlfriend Mariah Riddlesprigger, who replied: "You will literally drive me crazy so the longer the better."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was revelling in some family time, however, marking Friday 13 by watching a horror movie.

James then filmed his children as they performed a dance for their TikTok accounts, which their famous father promoted on his Instagram story.

F1 champion Lewis Hamilton found a different way to spend his time as the start of the new season was delayed, meanwhile.

"Gutted to not be qualifying today," he wrote on Saturday. "I decided to stick around Melbourne and go indoor rock climbing. It's a great way for me to keep focused."

Hamilton may not have been out on the track, but European Tour golfer Matthias Schwab was – virtually.

The Austrian shared a clip as he multi-tasked, playing a motorsport videogame while keeping fit on his exercise bike.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid had been due to take to the field on Friday before LaLiga went into lockdown, but Sergio Ramos entertained himself and his family.

The Madrid captain uploaded an image to his Instagram story of he and two of his children sporting matching hairstyles.

Ramos added two hashtags, reading, "I stay at home," "We stay at home".

Inter's on-loan Manchester United striker Alexis Sanchez was among the other players left to train at home, and he called his dogs in to help.

The Chile international posted a video, set to Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Want To Have Fun, as he juggled a ball with his dogs in pursuit.

Sergio Ramos insists Real Madrid will not "drive ourselves mad" after following up their Clasico win with defeat at Real Betis, but he acknowledged Sunday's match in Seville represented a huge missed opportunity.

Madrid took pole position in the LaLiga title race with victory over rivals Barcelona last week, only to fall back to second with a 2-1 loss at Betis after the Blaugrana's triumph the previous day.

Zinedine Zidane's side struggled to break down Betis and were fortunate to be level when Sidnei, the scorer of a brilliant opener, conceded a penalty that Karim Benzema dispatched.

However, Cristian Tello–  formerly of Barca – netted an 82nd-minute winner, meaning Madrid have won just one of their past five matches in all competitions.

Ramos recognises there is a long way to go in the season, with 11 matches remaining, but he is keen to see his side rally to ensure there are no further setbacks.

The captain, who acknowledged Madrid "didn't feel comfortable at the back", with Betis wasteful prior to their winner, reflected: "This is football.

"When things don't go the way you want them to, when things you've worked on all week don't go the way you planned, that's how it can be. We weren't decisive enough in certain phases of the game. It wasn't enough.

"I thought we deserved the draw, but we have to now be self-critical. There's nothing good to take from this game, but there's a lot of the season remaining.

"It's a blow. We wanted the leadership back but we weren't able to claim it.

"We're not going to drive ourselves mad. Of course, we won last week against Barca. After dropping three more points, we know there are still a lot of points still to play for with 11 games remaining.

"But we know if we want to be champions, we can't give up chances like this. We know this is a difficult place to come and Betis are a difficult team to play, but we can't drop points.

"We have to put this behind us and come back even stronger.

"At the end of the day, the most important thing is the spirit of the group. We have to gain confidence and that's the objective of the week to come."

Sergio Ramos hit back at Gerard Pique over his criticism of Real Madrid, saying he would sign to win every El Clasico playing as badly as the Barcelona defender suggested.

Vinicius Junior and Mariano Diaz scored second-half goals as Madrid moved above Barca and into top spot in LaLiga with a 2-0 win on Sunday.

But the performance did little to impress Pique as the Barca defender said the hosts in the first half were "the worst Madrid" he has faced at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid captain Ramos said he would happily win every Clasico playing how his side did.

"Everyone's opinion is respectable. I sign to win all Clasicos by making a first half as bad as he says," he told reporters, via AS.

"The approach was different. In the first half, we left the ball and in the second we decided to go.

"They were not so fresh and we started to generate chances."

With 12 LaLiga games remaining, Madrid hold a one-point lead over their rivals, having lost just two league matches this season.

While pleased with the advantage, Ramos urged his side to remain focused late in the campaign.

"That's right. After the latest results we wanted to claim [first] and what better way than at home and before a great team like Barca," the defender said.

"It was a unique opportunity to depend on ourselves. There are three important points but there is much left.

"We must have our feet on the ground."

Zinedine Zidane thinks Raheem Sterling is a quality player but is not interested in discussing a possible Real Madrid bid for the Manchester City star.

In an interview with Madrid publication AS, Sterling described Los Blancos as "a fantastic club" and suggested he could be interested in playing at the Santiago Bernabeu, although he made it clear he is happy at City.

With Pep Guardiola's side facing a ban from European competition pending the outcome of a planned appeal, the future of Sterling is likely to intensify over the coming weeks, particularly with Madrid and City meeting in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Madrid head coach Zidane is undoubtedly an admirer of Sterling, but he seems disinclined to encourage speculation.

"I can't talk about a player who isn't mine," he told reporters on Friday. "He's a very good player, no doubt about that."

Madrid face Levante in LaLiga on Saturday before their attentions turn to City next week.

One player hoping to impress is Rodrygo, who has not made a league appearance since January 26.

"He hasn't been in the last three squads, but we know he's an important player for us and when everyone is there, you have to select a squad," Zidane said of the Brazilian.

"That's all it is, because we're happy with him. He's shown he's very good."

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is said to be at an impasse in talks over a new contract, with Madrid reportedly unwilling to match their captain's request for a two-year extension.

Zidane, though, expects a new deal to be agreed without too much complication and is even backing the defender in his desire to represent Spain at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"Sergio's renewal looks easy to me. I want Sergio with me. He's our captain, our leader and an example as a player," he said.

"He's very important for all Madridistas, for the players...

"He should go, of course [to the Olympics]. I will support him. It's very beautiful to play for your country."

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus is reportedly wanted by Serie A giants Juventus.

Jesus, 22, has struggled for regular game time since arriving at City from Palmeiras in early 2017.

And Juve may be prepared to take the Brazil international to Turin.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS WANT MAN CITY'S JESUS

Juventus want Jesus in a €69.9million (£58.5m) move, according to The Sun.

The report adds the Serie A champions also want Mauro Icardi, who is on loan at Paris Saint-Germain from Inter.

Jesus has scored 36 goals in 90 Premier League games for City, but just 48 of those have been starts.

ROUND-UP

- With his contract at Real Madrid ending in 2021, Sergio Ramos seemingly wants a new deal. AS reports the Madrid captain, 33, wants a further two years on his deal, but the LaLiga giants are not keen to offer it.

- Paulo Dybala looks likely to re-sign at Juventus. CalcioMercato reports the playmaker is getting closer to a renewal with the club with his current contract expiring in 2022.

- Amid Liverpool's reported interest in RB Leipzig star Timo Werner, Roberto Firmino has been linked with a stunning move to Bayern Munich. However, Goal reports the Premier League leaders' front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Firmino are "going nowhere" at the end of the season.

- Newcastle United remain keen to sign Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare. Le 10 Sport says the Premier League club are continuing to press for the 20-year-old to make the move after being unable to get a deal done in January.

- Arsenal are eager to re-sign Bukayo Saka. The 18-year-old, who has impressed at left-back, is in talks over a lucrative long-term deal, according to The Times.

Real Madrid's most memorable attacking moment during the first half of their title-race twisting 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo was Sergio Ramos launching into one of his driving runs in search of a goal, only to volley the ball into his own face when it arrived.

This botched attack had a claim beyond slapstick, given Zinedine Zidane's LaLiga leaders failed to muster a single shot on target before the break.

Indeed, there was nothing remotely as incisive from an forward line featuring Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale as the move Celta produced for their seventh-minute opener – Iago Aspas shifting smoothly into a pocket of space in front of a ramshackle Madrid defence and threading a perfect pass for Fedor Smolov to coolly slot home.

Hazard was making his first appearance since suffering a fractured ankle in November and, shortly after Ramos' party piece, showed signs of starting to shift through the gears.

In the 40th minute, Karim Benzema pulled out to the left channel and Hazard scampered around the outside, pulling the ball back from the byline for the on-rushing Bale to fire narrowly over.

It was link-up play to cheer Zidane as he tries to get his returning attackers up to speed ahead of the Champions League showdown against Manchester City later this month.

On this evidence, however, Hazard and Bale are playing for one spot. The ever-dependable Benzema is a guaranteed starter, fitness permitting, and Los Blancos missed the benched Vinicius Jr's dynamism for much of Sunday's contest.

Having set themselves a low bar in the first-half, Madrid improved considerably during the second period and hit the front thanks to a couple of sure things.

Toni Kroos' midfield scheming is not annotated with goals too frequently, but he dispatched Marcelo's pass to score for the sixth time against Celta. He has 14 LaLiga goals overall since joining Madrid from Bayern Munich in 2014.

Ramos is, by comparison, somewhat more prolific from centre-back. A smart finish from an offside position showed his radar to be back in order following the earlier mishap and there was little doubt about the outcome when he stepped up for a 65th-minute penalty.

Ruben Blanco erred badly when Benzema and Hazard repeated their first-half link, with the Celta goalkeeper darting from his ground to needlessly bring the Belgium star down.

Blanco guessed correctly but Ramos' sprung from his staggered run-up to dispatch an unerring strike.

Hazard made way for Vinicius in the 73rd minute and enjoyed a warm ovation from the Bernabeu faithful – the sort of reception that sadly only seems to exist in the past tense for Bale nowadays.

As for the other grizzled survivors of Zidane's three consecutive Champions League final triumphs from 2016 through to 2018, they remain his dependables.

They will be asked to go to the well once more the next time Madrid emerge at their famous home ground, faced with a formidable but flawed City in a competition they know like the back of their hand.

It would be a brave person who backs against them but the sight of Celta producing a sting in the tail suggested the years could be taking a toll.

Substitutes Denis Suarez and Santi Mina combined as Aspas and Smolov had before for the latter to score – the lines of communication between Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane in the backline again appearing unhelpfully clogged.

The lead at the top of LaLiga from Barcelona was only a point at full-time, a situation roughly as comfortable as booting a football into your own face.

Of course, Ramos tumbled theatrically in stoppage time to try and win another penalty and Madrid will strain and scrap for everything until the end of the season. With 46 goals from 24 LaLiga games, don't expect them to blow too many teams away either. The Galactico grind is on.

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