Xabi Alonso says Real Madrid's ability to grind out results when not at their best has been key to their success this season, as Los Blancos eye a 35th LaLiga title. 

Alonso, who now coaches Real Sociedad's B team, made 236 appearances during a five-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Carlo Ancelotti's team lift the Champions League trophy in 2014.

With Ancelotti back at the helm, Madrid hold a 15-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, and the Italian looks set to celebrate his first Spanish title triumph after already winning league titles in Italy, England, France, and Germany.

After beating Sevilla 3-2 with a late Karim Benzema goal last time out, Los Blancos have won 17 points from losing positions this season, the most in LaLiga, and Alonso believes that fighting spirit has been crucial.

"I think the team have found that stability, knowing that maybe they can struggle during one game, but they will have a chance to win and that they can win any game," he told FedEx.

"So far, in difficult moments, they have won games, and they are feeling comfortable playing great football and comfortable playing not the best football.

"Sometimes that's important as well, not to get nervous when you are not playing your best, to deal with those difficult times. I think that Madrid, they have dealt very well with those moments and that's why they are now in a great position.

"[There are] still many points [to play for], but yes, they are favourites [to win the league]. I think that they are the most consistent team. That's what gives you the best chance to win LaLiga at the moment. 

"I think that Carlo is a wise man. He knows how to find and to put the pieces together. That's why he's been with so many clubs, and he's [done] so many great things. He's finding his team, and he's able to deal with them so well because he has those skills to deal with the players."

Madrid have won 23 of their 32 LaLiga games this season, their highest number of victories at this stage of a season since 2016-17, when they won the title after having an identical record at this stage.

Although 39-goal striker Karim Benzema has led the charge for LaLiga and Champions League trophies, Alonso heaped praise on Ancelotti's reliable engine-room trio.

The 40-year-old also highlighted the potential of Barcelona's young midfielders, but stressed that the Blaugrana are in a "different moment" to Madrid as Xavi rebuilds the Catalan giants.

"Year by year, the midfield of Madrid, they are getting older, but they are as good as always. I've seen that Casemiro, Luka [Modric] and Toni [Kroos], they are safe as houses for any manager," he added.

"I think that Carlo has found what he needs from them and for sure he will need to rotate them. [But] they are playing very, very good football, and they are showing composure. 

"As always [with] Barca players, they have different kind of midfielders, [at a] different stage of their careers. For example, Nico, Gavi with the support of [Sergio] Busquets, it's a great prospect, but they are in a different moment right now."

Alonso picked out Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane as the one man he would have loved to play alongside..

"For sure, I would have loved to play with Zidane because I remember when I started playing in Sociedad, one of my first memories was playing against one of my idols. That was him," he added.

"To play against him, it was hard, but it was so enjoyable, and he was so elegant, things looked so easy for him, and he was such a good player. I would have loved to play with him, but I played against him."

Carlo Ancelotti likened Luka Modric to Paolo Maldini as he declared the veteran midfielder would end his career at Real Madrid – also insisting he has no problem with Toni Kroos.

Ahead of a trip to Sevilla on Sunday, Ancelotti spoke glowingly about both midfielders who have put Madrid in a strong position to strike for LaLiga and Champions League glory.

There was a flash point between Ancelotti and Kroos in Tuesday's Champions League clash with Chelsea, when the former Germany international was substituted and was reported to have insulted the coach as he left the field.

Ancelotti stressed that was soon defused, meaning there seems no danger of Kroos and Modric not starting in tandem when league leaders Madrid tackle third-placed Sevilla.

With Madrid edging through to the European semi-finals after extra time, despite losing 3-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ancelotti's decision to bring on Eduardo Camavinga in Kroos' place proved to be justified.

The change had come with Madrid 2-0 behind and facing possible elimination. Modric played the full 120 minutes, and the 36-year-old remains as influential as ever at the heart of the team.

Addressing the Kroos kerfuffle, Ancelotti said on Saturday: "His gesture didn't bother me. He was angry with the coach but not with the person.

"As well as in sport, he is a person with a very high level. I don't need to talk to him or ask for explanations. It's all over after the game."

Kroos, 32, and Modric have been the beating heart of the Madrid midfield, and that is set to remain the case into next season.

Although Modric is now in the veteran stage of his career, Ancelotti sees that as a positive rather than a weakness.

"I think he's going to finish his career here, I don't know when but that's everyone's idea," Ancelotti said. "There is no problem for the club, neither for us nor for him to renew, that is quite clear.

"He takes great care of himself, in his career he has not had any major injuries and that helps him a lot."

Making the Maldini comparison, Ancelotti said: "I had a football legend, who won the last Champions League at the age of 40. If I have to compare him with anyone, it would be with him: for the quality, for the seriousness, for how he understands football. They are legends."

Ancelotti coached Maldini at Milan, having previously played in the same team as the defender who went on to make 902 appearances for the Rossoneri.

Maldini was in fact 38 when he helped Milan to the fifth European Cup/Champions League of his career, but he played on until the age of 40.

Madrid head into Sunday with a 12-point lead at the top of LaLiga, with Barcelona and Sevilla their nearest challengers but both surely now playing for second place.

Ancelotti, appointed for a second spell at Madrid last June, has won six of his seven games as coach against Sevilla in all competitions (L1).

Sevilla, meanwhile, have failed to win any of their past six meetings with Real Madrid in LaLiga (D1 L5), their worst winless run since a 15-game stretch between May 1993 and April 2003 (D2 L13), which is the longest such barren sequence they have suffered against Los Blancos in the competition’s history.

The pressure mounted on Paris Saint-Germain again after another defeat in Ligue 1 this weekend.

The Parisians are 12 points clear at the top but have lost four of their past six games.

Lionel Messi has only netted twice in Ligue 1 since his move from Barcelona, while fellow free signing Sergio Ramos has also only played five times.

 

TOP STORY – PSG TO BLOCK MESSI OR RAMOS RETURNS

Marca reports that PSG would block any potential return to Barcelona or Real Madrid for either Messi or Ramos respectively.

The Ligue 1 giants signed both players last year from those respective clubs, yet there has been reports claiming they may want to return to Spain.

Ramos has struggled with injury while Messi has not been able to discover his best goalscoring form, but PSG are eager to hold on to them.

Messi joined on a two-year deal last August, while Ramos also penned a two-year deal last July.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have made an opening bid for Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch according to Fabrizio Romano. The fee is approximately €25million but Ajax want more.

- Chelsea, Liverpool, PSG and Madrid are all circling for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni but the Ligue 1 club will not accept less than €50m for him claims Foot Mercato.

- Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to sign Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella according to El Nacional. Barella's arrival could force Toni Kroos out too.

- Aston Villa are prepared to pay £60m for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips claims The Times.

Carlo Ancelotti is confident Real Madrid will knock Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League and says Toni Kroos will only play if he is fully fit.

PSG will start the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Kylian Mbappe's brilliant late winner three weeks ago.

Madrid might be facing a bigger challenge to reach the quarter-finals if Thibaut Courtois had not saved a Lionel Messi penalty at the Parc des Princes.

LaLiga leaders Madrid will be without the suspended Casemiro when they face Mauricio Pochettino's side and fellow midfielder Kroos missed the 4-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad on Saturday due to a hamstring injury.

Kroos has returned to training, but Ancelotti refused to state whether he will play against the Italian's former employers.

"If a player isn't 100 per cent fit he can't play, so we'll have to wait and see," he said.

Los Blancos have won three consecutive games since their defeat in the French capital and Ancelotti believes that run will continue.

The ex-PSG head coach said: "We want to stay alive in this competition. It's massive for us, massive for the club. we don't want to be knocked out of such an important competition.

"Life will go on and hopefully we will still be in competition. I am confident we will qualify, but PSG will also be confident."

Madrid look unstoppable in their quest to win LaLiga and Ancelotti is hopeful that will not be the only trophy they can get their hands on this season.

"I think we are having a good season, it has been good so far and every time we do something there is always a 'but'," he added.

"If Karim [Benzema] doesn't score [there is] a 'but', there are lots of opinions out there. I think we are having a good season and hopefully these last two months we can end the season on a high."

Benzema says Madrid were hurt by their loss in the French capital but does not expect more pain if Los Blancos play to the best of their ability.

The striker explained: "We are a proud team and that defeat hurt us, but we know that the best Real Madrid can compete with the best PSG. We saw the best PSG in the first leg and hopefully we will see the best Real Madrid on Wednesday."

Toni Kroos insists he wants to spend the rest of his career with Real Madrid, with his current contract due to run until the end of next season.

Kroos moved to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2014 from Bayern Munich and has made 344 appearances for Los Blancos in all competitions, scoring 25 goals and assisting 77.

The German midfielder has won two LaLiga titles, three Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups and four FIFA Club World Cups since arriving in Spain, and has confirmed that he wishes to see the final days of his career out in Madrid.

"I want to finish my career here," Kroos said in an interview with RTVE. "My family and I are fine in Madrid, there is still a year and a half left [of this contract]."

The 32-year-old also spoke about this season's title race in LaLiga, with Madrid currently top of the league, four points ahead of second-placed Sevilla, adding: "We have to look for all the points in the league, there's still a lot left.

"At the moment the rival is Sevilla, and we have to fight for it until the end."

 

Kroos' team-mate Eden Hazard has had a difficult time since his big-money move to Madrid from Chelsea in 2019, but the Belgian has started to show shoots of form of late, scoring the winning goal in the dramatic 2-1 comeback win in extra time at Elche in the Copa del Rey.

"I believe in him," Kroos said of Hazard. "He has to do everything to return to being what he has always been – he can help us a lot."

The 2014 World Cup winner was also asked about another world champion, Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, who has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the current season.

"It is difficult to know because everything depends on the situation of his contract," he added. "It does not surprise me that Madrid are trying to sign him because he is a top player. It is not a secret that Real Madrid want him.

"In my eight years here, many names have come up and only 20 per cent have arrived."

Carlo Ancelotti hailed his Real Madrid midfield as the best in the world after Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro turned on the style in a 4-1 win at Granada.

Kroos grabbed his first two assists of an injury-blighted season, while Modric and Casemiro laid on a goal apiece in an impressive rout on Sunday, as Madrid beat Granada for a 13th successive time in LaLiga.

The last time Granada scored a home win over Madrid was in February 2013, when they won 1-0 thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal, his only such blunder in 292 appearances in the Spanish top flight.

There was no danger of a repeat as Madrid grabbed this game by the scruff of the neck and were 3-1 up and chasing more goals by the time their hosts had Monchu sent off for a wild challenge on Vinicius Junior.

Marco Asensio, Nacho, Vinicius and Ferland Mendy got the goals, but Madrid's midfield three were outstanding, as Ancelotti admiringly acknowledged after the game.

With Real Sociedad only able to draw against Valencia in the evening game, it meant Madrid finished the weekend on top of the table by one point.

"What can you say," Madrid head coach Ancelotti told reporters. "They're playing at a very high level and are still the best midfielders in the world for me. They're doing things that I don't even ask from them, they do it naturally, and it's a big advantage for this club.

"They are the past, present and the future. If we're talking about the near future, absolutely. If we're looking in 10 years' time, then perhaps not. But we're in good shape for the future because [Eduardo] Camavinga, [Federico] Valverde and [Antonio] Blanco are ready too.

"They're used to playing together and they have qualities which are hard to explain. The way they switch positions during the game, sometimes Modric drops deep to play through the press and sometimes it's Kroos, Casemiro moves forward."

Kroos created a game-high four chances and finished the game with a passing accuracy of 97.4 per cent.

Madrid could have had more goals, but Granada goalkeeper Luis Maximiano made five saves. It was the fourth time this season the young Portuguese has made five saves or more in a LaLiga game, and only Espanyol's Diego Lopez has done so on more occasions (seven).

Ancelotti included Nacho at centre-back out of a wish to give Eder Militao a rest. He substituted the lively Vinicius late on, too, but stressed that was not due to injury but out of a wish to protect the young Brazilian.

"I took Vini Jr [off] to avoid any issues," Ancelotti said, quoted on Madrid's website. "The game was heating up, for us and for Granada I thought it was best to take him off."

Karim Benzema fully merits the plaudits for a stunning start to the season, according to Real Madrid team-mate Toni Kroos.

Benzema scored Madrid's second goal in a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday and leads LaLiga for both goals (10) and assists (seven).

He has now been directly involved in 22 goals in 15 matches for Madrid in all competitions this season, trailing only Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski (25 involvements in 17 matches) of players in Europe's top-five leagues.

"I see what Karim does in training and how he plays and deserves every success," Kroos told Movistar.

"But what matters to me is what you win with us. I am happy with my goal but because it helped us win. The individual awards do not interest me much.

"We came from a tough match in the Champions League and at 2-1 you suffer a little. Vinicius has helped us a lot so far, in difficult times too, and I hope he continues like this."

Benzema has now reached 10 goals in 11 of his 13 seasons in La Liga (10 in 2021-22) and only former Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (15) has scored 10-plus goals in more campaigns in the competition in the 21st century than the French striker.

The 33-year-old Benzema was substituted by Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti with seven minutes left and replaced by Eden Hazard.

Ancelotti felt Benzema could have got more goals – having had one struck off by VAR early in the first half before he netted from close range – but suffered from fatigue in the second half.

"It's quite rare that Karim misses the opportunities we've had," Ancelotti added. "I have removed him because he was tired."

Rayo pulled a goal back through former Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, who has netted a goal every 67 minutes in LaLiga this season with the best ratio in the competition (five goals after 334 minutes played).

Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois admitted the failure to keep a clean sheet took the gloss of the victory and his team-mates must learn to grind out a victory if they are unable to be prolific in front of goal.

"It was part good and part bittersweet at the end," Courtois said.

"We controlled the game, but in the end they almost ended up drawing. Today the three points were very important. They have pushed and we don't take advantage of our chances to score more goals.

"We managed the game quite well, but in the penultimate corner they almost scored a goal and there we have to improve. The team has shown that it knows how to fight and that we are focused until the end. 

"We have to try to keep a clean sheet and close out the game. It's something we have to change because we have a lot of quality to score more goals."

Karim Benzema continued his fine form in front of goal as Real Madrid went top of LaLiga with a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Toni Kroos put Madrid ahead when he finished off a counter-attack in the 14th minute, the goal awarded after a VAR review having initially been ruled offside.

Benzema's 10th league goal of the season – and ninth in 10 against Rayo – made it two seven minutes before half-time, but Madrid sat back following the restart and Radamel Falcao's response ensured a tense finish.

Rayo could not quite forge an equaliser, though, and Madrid moved two points ahead of Real Sociedad at the summit at least until their trip to Osasuna on Sunday.

Alvaro Garcia had almost given Rayo a shock early lead when he broke clear of the Madrid defence only to send his shot wide, a chance that jolted Carlo Ancelotti's side into life.

Vinicius Junior had the ball in the net, yet the VAR determined Benzema had been offside in the build-up, and the France forward then lifted a shot over the crossbar from a good position before Kroos scored on the break, rifling in from Marco Asensio's cross and this time seeing the technology work in Madrid's favour.

Madrid went into the interval two goals ahead when Benzema got on the end of a superb teasing cross from David Alaba and calmly nudged the ball into the net at the back post.

Ferland Mendy teed up Benzema to curl over just after the hour, but a brief cameo from Falcao – introduced in the 69th minute before departing in the 81st – brought Rayo back into the reckoning as his header from Garcia's cross deflected off Alaba and deceived Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid fans then had their hearts in their mouths at the death when Oscar Valentin saw his shot blocked by Eduardo Camavinga and Kroos crucially cleared his follow-up effort off the line.

Toni Kroos has fallen out of favour with Real Madrid. 

A January transfer is a top priority with the World Cup looming.

Could a reunion with Pep Guardiola await? 

 

TOP STORY – KROOS HEADED TO CITY?

Manchester City have reached out to Toni Kroos about a January transfer, El Nacional reports. 

The Germany international has played in just one league match for Real Madrid this term. 

The 31-year-old previously played for City boss Guardiola at Bayern Munich and a reunion could be on the cards. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Ferran Torres is set to land a contract extension at Manchester City, says the Daily Star, with the new five-year deal set to pay him £100,000 a week.

- Lazio midfielder Luis Alberto could be headed for a reunion with Simone Inzaghi at Inter, reports Calciomercato. 

- Everton lead several clubs in pursuit of Manchester United's Jesse Lingard, says Football Insider, with West Ham and Newcastle United also interested. 

- Liverpool and Manchester United are among the clubs queuing for 18-year-old United States and Dallas sensation Ricardo Pepi, the Mirror reports. Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich also have been linked to the teen. 

- Newcastle have increasingly focussed on Ajax's Erik ten Hag to replace Steve Bruce, the Express reports, adding that Marc Overmars could also make the move to St. James' Park as director of football. 

 

Real Madrid star Toni Kroos appeared to tease the possibility of Kylian Mbappe joining the LaLiga giants following Lionel Messi's move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe continues to be linked with a blockbuster transfer to Madrid as he enters the final year of his PSG contract and the France international is no closer to signing a new deal.

PSG have no intention of selling Mbappe, who was jeered by sections of the crowd before and during Saturday's 4-2 Ligue 1 win over Strasbourg.

With Barcelona great and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi now in Paris, Kroos mischievously suggested his presence in the French capital could lead to Mbappe's departure.

"We will see how everything goes [regarding the signing of Messi to PSG]," Kroos said on Einfach mal Luppen – a podcast he runs with his brother.

"The move may be good for us because our biggest rivals have lost their best player.

"And something even better may come out of it as a consequence. Maybe a player from Paris [Saint-Germain] will join us... I don't know."

 

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Strasbourg, with the World Cup winner having now either scored or assisted in seven consecutive matches in Ligue 1 (eight goals, four assists).

It was Mbappe's 150th Ligue 1 appearance – in the past 40 seasons, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic (113) scored more goals in his first 150 games than the Frenchman (108).

Real Madrid look set to be without Toni Kroos for the start of the new season, with the midfielder confirming he has been suffering with a pubic bone issue.

Madrid confirmed on Tuesday that Kroos, who retired from international football following Germany's disappointing showing at Euro 2020, had been diagnosed with a pubalgia – a strain or tear of the soft tissue in the groin.

Kroos subsequently revealed on Twitter that he had been suffering with the problem for some time.

"After several month (sic.) of problems on my pubic bone I think it's time to give it a rest and work on it to be well prepared for a long season. Back asap as always," the 31-year-old tweeted.

On Wednesday, reports in Spanish publication AS suggested Kroos could be out for around a month.

Even if the estimation proves incorrect, Kroos seems highly unlikely to be able to play in Carlo Ancelotti's opening LaLiga match of his second stint in charge of Madrid.

Los Blancos, who face Milan on Sunday in their final pre-season friendly, take on Deportivo Alaves on August 14. They then travel to Levante and Real Betis before the first international break of 2021-22.

Kroos made 28 league appearances last term, scoring three goals. 

England midfielder Declan Rice is "relishing" the opportunity to face Germany duo Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller in a mouth-watering Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday. 

Gareth Southgate's side came top of their group, taking seven points from games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic without conceding a goal, ensuring they will begin the knockout rounds at Wembley Stadium.

There, they will face Germany for the third time at a European Championship and the first in a knockout match since the Three Lions lost on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

West Ham midfielder Rice has started all three of England’s games so far and is likely to be in from the start against two players who he has expressed admiration for in the past. 

After Bayern Munich's 2020 Champions League final triumph over Paris Saint-Germain last year, Rice tweeted: "Muller has to be up there as one of the most underrated players of all time! Serious footballer."

He followed this up in April with a tweet about Kroos after Real Madrid's 3-1 Champions League victory over Liverpool, saying: "Watching Toni Kroos is very special." Los Blancos midfielder Kroos replied: "Thanks mate."

Kroos has been exemplary for the 2014 world champions so far in this tournament. No player has completed more passes at the finals than the 31-year-old (280), with 217 of those occurring in the opposition half – by far the best return at the tournament.

Speaking at a media conference on Friday, Rice described Kroos as "world class" and said he cannot wait to go toe-to-toe with him.

 

"I can't remember what my tweet actually was but I woke up to him saying 'thanks mate'," he told a media conference. "It was a good moment to be fair and the lads at West Ham were giving me a bit [of stick] for it.

"If you go back to the tweets, I have always said I am a fan.

"When there are big games on and you are watching, you appreciate top footballers. Obviously that night I felt the need to say [what I did] about Muller and Kroos.

"I am relishing to go out there and put myself up against the best. It is England v Germany, round of 16, at Wembley, it is going to be proper, so I need to go out there and give a solid performance myself and as a team.

"Kroos is world class, other midfielders like me want to test ourselves. But we need to impose ourselves on the game and be physical and stop him spraying it around the pitch."

Tuesday's game will be the third meeting between England and Germany at the European Championship. Germany won 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the 1996 semi-final, before England won 1-0 in the group stages at Euro 2000.

England will be hoping to improve on a poor record in the knockout games in this competition, having never won one in 90 minutes (D4 L2). Four games have gone to penalties, with England only progressing once via this method, against Spain at Wembley in 1996.

Jordan Henderson thinks England's hopes of beating Germany in the Euro 2020 last 16 could rest on keeping the ball away from Toni Kroos as much as possible.

Gareth Southgate's side came top of their group, taking seven points from games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic without conceding a goal, ensuring they will begin the knockout rounds at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.

There, they will face Germany for the third time at a European Championship and the first in a knockout match since the Three Lions lost on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

Joachim Low's side scraped through a challenging Group F, Leon Goretzka's late equaliser against Hungary on matchday three ensuring they finished behind France and above Portugal thanks to their superior head-to-head record.

While England's route through the groups was somewhat sedate, with two 1-0 wins and a goalless draw with Scotland, Germany won a six-goal thriller with Portugal before battling to a 2-2 draw with Hungary after falling 1-0 to France.

Amid their inconsistencies, midfielder Kroos has been exemplary for the 2014 world champions. No player has completed more passes at these finals than the Real Madrid man (280), with 217 of those occurring in the opposition half – by far the best return at the tournament.

 

Given Germany have averaged 64.7 per cent of the possession in their games, a figure lower only than Spain (76.1), Henderson is eager to disrupt Kroos' rhythm as much as possible by retaining the ball and getting it into England's forwards.

"They're a top team. You go through every position on the pitch and they've got world-class players everywhere, so it's always going to be a tough game," he said on Thursday.

"With the ball, it's extremely important to keep it, especially against Germany, who are a fantastic team who've got very good technical players who can dominate games with the ball. We need to be defensively solid, like we have been, because they've got players like Kroos that can hurt you.

"He's a world-class player who can really hurt you with time and space, so we need to make sure that, without the ball, we're really solid.

"When we get it, we need to be calm and composed, but also positive with the play, getting the ball forward and trying to create as many chances as we can because we've got some fantastic forward players who can hurt any opposition. If we can get the ball into them and let them do their thing, I think we can be in for a real good night."

Penalties dominate much of the pre-match talk, not least because Germany beat England on home soil on spot-kicks 25 years ago, with current boss Gareth Southgate missing the crucial attempt.

Henderson was in the headlines during the warm-up for this tournament, the Liverpool man taking the ball from Dominic Calvert-Lewin before seeing his penalty saved during the 1-0 friendly win over Romania in Middlesbrough.

"It was blown out of proportion, to be honest, after the game," Henderson said. "Nothing to be said internally. I was obviously disappointed to miss but I was more disappointed for Dom as well because he could have had another goal for England."

Real Madrid would be "negligent" if they failed to bring Sergio Ramos back to the club one day, according to former team-mate Toni Kroos.

The LaLiga giants announced last week that the long-serving centre-back is to leave the club after a remarkable 16-year spell in the Spanish capital.

Ramos won LaLiga five times with Madrid and helped Los Blancos to four Champions League titles, among an array of other major honours.

But the Spain international will start a new adventure next season after Madrid withdrew their offer of a one-year deal on reduced terms, as confirmed by the long-serving defender.

Kroos spent seven seasons playing in the same side as Ramos and believes the 35-year-old will return to the Santiago Bernabeu in the future.

"I am sure we will see him at Real Madrid again, whatever his role," Kroos said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast.

"It would also be negligent not to have someone like that at the club and keep him. He can still contribute a lot in the future."

Ramos joined Madrid from Sevilla in 2005 and made 659 appearances for the club in all competitions, the last of those coming against Chelsea on May 5.

Kroos, who has two more years to run on his contract, admits it is difficult to envisage a future without the experienced defender at Madrid.

 

"I do not know Real Madrid without Ramos," he said. "It was inconceivable that he was not going to finish his career at Madrid. I expected him to stay.

"He is not only a first-rate player, but also the best captain I have ever seen because he always fought for the team on and off the field.

"If you ask 100 rival forwards which defender they least liked playing against, Ramos' name will be mentioned quite often. It was good to have him on our team."

The 21 games Ramos managed in an injury-plagued 2020-21, totalling 1,790 minutes, was the fewest he has played across a season since joining 16 years ago.

His previous lowest tally was the 33 matches he played in 2015-16, totalling 2,843 minutes in all competitions.

Ramos was left out of Spain's Euro 2020 squad due to his injury issues, but he has been linked with a string of big-name clubs ahead of the new campaign.

"I'm not sure where he will go next, but I'm sure he will make a good decision," Kroos added. "The seven years I spent with him, as a player and as a person, were incredible."

Toni Kroos has denied claims Zinedine Zidane has already announced to the Real Madrid squad that he is stepping down as head coach.

Reports earlier this month suggested the Frenchman informed his players of his decision to quit ahead of the 2-2 league draw with Sevilla on May 9.

However, Kroos – who assisted two goals in that game but missed Madrid's final three matches after being rested and then contracting coronavirus – has labelled those rumours a "blatant lie".

"It's been said everywhere, even in Germany, that he has already announced his departure to the team," Kroos said on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast. 

"It's a blatant lie. Zizou and I have a good relationship. Without a doubt he would have told me. 

"I can't confirm it and I don't know how this will end, but I can say it's always fun working with him."

Kroos was echoing the views of team-mate Karim Benzema, who said in an interview with L'Equipe earlier this week that Zidane will not be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

Zidane revealed after his side's final LaLiga game of the season, a 2-1 win against Villarreal on Sunday, that he will hold talks with the club this week.

The growing speculation over the 48-year-old's future comes on the back of Madrid's first trophyless campaign since 2009-10.

Los Blancos finished second in LaLiga, despite an 18-game unbeaten run to see out the campaign – their best-such run since Carlo Ancelotti's time in charge in 2013-14.

They also suffered a shock early Copa del Rey exit to Alcoyano, were eliminated from the Champions League by Chelsea at the semi-final stage and lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals.

But long-serving midfielder Kroos, who has just completed his seventh season with Madrid, is confident his side will bounce back in the 2021-22 campaign.

"A season without a title is never good for Real Madrid," he said. "But not many people towards the start of the season would have expected us to reach a European semi-final.

"We also fought for the title until the last day. It wasn't a good season, but at least we were there competing.

"There are of course many questions about how Madrid will perform next season. But I am certain about one thing - Madrid will fight again, I can guarantee it.

"We will return next year and fight for everything. I have no doubt about that. The experience of being here for seven years tells me that."

On an individual level, Kroos enjoyed a positive 2020-21 campaign with three goals and 10 assists in 28 league games.

Only Marcos Llorente (11) and Iago Aspas (13), in nine and five games more respectively, managed a higher number of assists in the Spanish top flight this season.

The 2.84 chances created per game by Kroos, meanwhile, is the most of anyone to have played more than three times this season, with Alaves' Lucas Perez next on the list with 2.7.

Reflecting on Madrid's campaign, Kroos said: "We were not consistent enough this season. Everyone has problems, including us. Yet in my opinion we still showed character this season.

"We had a lot of injuries and the coronavirus problems were extreme for us, yet we didn't give up and gave everything to the end, though it couldn't be."

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