Runaway LaLiga champions Real Madrid welcome Real Betis for the last game of the domestic season in what was supposed to be just a dress rehearsal ahead of next week's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.

But the shock retirement announcement of midfielder Toni Kroos on Tuesday suddenly changed the significance of Saturday's clash, which quickly lost that end-of-the-season vibe.

A sold-out crowd will bid farewell to a fan favourite and all-time club great who will play his final game at the stadium after a remarkable decade with the Spanish giants.

Kroos said in a statement on his social media that his last game for Madrid will be next week's Champions League final, adding that he will retire after this year's European Championship on home soil.

Madrid have had little to play for in the last couple of weeks after claiming a record-extending 36th LaLiga title on May 4 and reaching the Champions League final four days later.

Carlo Ancelotti has rested most of his regular starters in the last three league matches but is expected to use the Betis game as a practice run for the Wembley final, with two big question marks in defence.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois' full recovery from an ACL tear suffered in August has left the Italian with a tricky decision.

Stand-in Andriy Lunin was Real's penalty hero as they beat Manchester City to reach the semi-finals, but Courtois is widely considered one of the best keepers in the world and is likely to regain his starting spot against Dortmund.

The centre-back who will play alongside Antonio Rudiger is Ancelotti's other issue.

He has used holding midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and long-time back-up defender Nacho alongside Rudiger after David Alaba and Eder Militao sustained ACL tears early in the season.

After making a full recovery last month, Militao has struggled to regain top form and, with Tchouameni out with a foot injury sustained against Bayern Munich, Ancelotti is left to decide between the Brazilian and Spaniard Nacho.

Champions Real Madrid have 94 points, 12 ahead of second-placed Barcelona going into the final round of LaLiga matches this season. 

Julian Nagelsmann has named a 27-man provisional squad for hosts Germany ahead of Euro 2024.

The biggest surprise in the squad was the inclusion of a fourth goalkeeper, as Stuttgart goalkeeper Alexander Nubel received his first senior call-up.

Mats Hummels is one of the big names left out despite helping Borussia Dortmund on their way to the Champions League final, while Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka is also absent once more. 

Julian Brandt, Niklas Sule and Karim Adeyemi miss out on a place in the tournament, while Serge Gnabry and Timo Werner are both out through injury.

After winning just one of his first four games in charge, Nagelsmann changed things in March and was rewarded with back-to-back victories.

Nico Schlotterbeck won 71 per cent of his tackles in the Bundesliga - the highest figure in Europe's big-five leagues this season (at least 70 tackles), and is back in the national squad for the first time since September.

Aleksandar Pavlovic missed the March friendlies due to injury but is a welcome recall - Bayern have an 83.3 per cent win ratio with Pavlovic in their team in the Bundesliga this season, but that drops to 53.3 per cent when he is not in the side.

Schlotterbeck, Niclas Fullkrug, Toni Kroos and Antonio Rudiger will all link up with the squad late due to their involvement in the Champions League final.

The final 26-man squad must be submitted on June 7, meaning at least one player will be dropped before the start of the tournament.

As the tournament hosts, Germany begin their Euro 2024 campaign in the opening game against Scotland on June 14.

Germany squad

Goalkeepers: Oliver Baumann (Hoffenheim), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Alexander Nubel (Stuttgart), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)

Defenders: Waldemar Anton (Stuttgart), Benjamin Henrichs (RB Leipzig), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Robin Koch (Eintracht Frankfurt), Maximilian Mittelstadt (Stuttgart), David Raum (RB Leipzig), Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid), Nico Schlotterbeck (Borussia Dortmund), Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen)

Midfielders: Robert Andrich (Bayer Leverkusen), Chris Fuhruch (Stuttgart), Pascal Gross (Brighton), Ilkay Gundogan (Barcelona), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), Aleksandar Pavlovic (Bayern Munich), Leroy Sane (Bayern Munich), Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Forwards: Maximilian Beier (Hoffenheim), Niclas Fullkrug (Borussia Dortmund), Kai Havertz (Arsenal), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Denis Undav (Stuttgart)

Vinicius Jr's dazzling performances at Real Madrid have put the Brazil forward in the conversation to win his first Ballon d'Or and head coach Carlo Ancelotti feels the 23-year-old deserved to win the prestigious award.

Vinicius has netted five times and provided as many assists in the Champions League alone this season to help Madrid book a place in the final, while also scoring 13 goals in LaLiga, which they clinched for a record-extending 36th time last weekend.

The record 14-time European champions will take on German side Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on June 1.

"He's doing a great job," Ancelotti told reporters ahead of Saturday's league trip to relegation-threatened Granada.

"He's still got the Champions League final to come and then he'll be at the Copa America.

"He's very close, and if he has positive results in both competitions, he could well win it [the Ballon d'Or].

"Before I came to coach Madrid, I saw Vinicius on TV and I thought what an incredibly talented player he looked.

"When I arrived here, that much was clear, and he's improved on many things to enhance that talent.

"He's better at evading his markers now and has improved in front of goal as well. He's done so with a spectacular work ethic on a daily basis, he's focused in training and recovers well after matches.

"He's a highly disciplined professional and he deserves everything he's achieved."

But Ancelotti said the rest of his squad have been just as important in a campaign where several key players at Madrid have suffered injuries.

Vinicius moved to the Santiago Bernabeu from Brazil's Flamengo in 2018.

"He's among the best in the world and this is Vinicius' moment because he brings us so much. He's been important in us making the Champions League final and winning LaLiga. But we mustn't forget how the others have contributed," the Italian said.

French defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni is a doubt for the final after picking up an injury in their semi-final win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

"[Goalkeeper] Thibaut Courtois will play, as will Eder Militao. They both need the game time. Andriy Lunin has to be ready to play as well. That's why I'll have to assess the goalkeeping issue in the coming games," Ancelotti said on team rotation.

"We're not sure if Tchouameni will make it for the final but we'll do all we can to see if he can recover. The rest will rotate, including Antonio Rudiger and Nacho."

Real Madrid striker Joselu was in dreamland after he came on in the dying moments of their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich on Wednesday and turned the game on its head with two goals to snatch a stunning victory.

Joselu, whose journeyman career has included spells at clubs such as Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hannover 96, Stoke City and Newcastle United, only touched the ball a few times in their 2-1 second-leg win, but it was a night he is likely to remember for a long time.

He pounced on a rare mistake by Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer, stabbing the ball into the net to equalise for Madrid in the 88th minute, and just under three minutes later, he volleyed them into the lead from a cross by Antonio Rudiger.

"I don't know anything about being a hero, but I'm very happy... You can imagine," he said. "It was incredible, something spectacular. This team never gives up, it's in its blood to fight to the end and that's what we've done.

"You always dream of this kind of performance, but not even my most beautiful dreams are as big as what happened today."

On loan from second-division side Espanyol, Joselu's journey to becoming the semi-final hero has been long and winding in a career involving a dozen clubs across Europe.

He began his career at Celta Vigo before being bought in 2009 by Madrid, where he excelled in their B team but rarely made it to the first team.

He was sold to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim in 2012 and then loaned to Eintracht Frankfurt before joining Hannover 96 in 2014.

In 2015, he moved to Premier League side Stoke City, playing 27 times and scoring four goals, before spending two seasons at Newcastle United. He returned to Spain with Alaves, where he scored 36 times in three seasons.

He signed as a free agent with Espanyol in the summer of 2022, and a year later was loaned to Madrid and has scored nine goals in 32 appearances this season in LaLiga.

Joselu, born in Stuttgart, Germany, made his debut for Spain aged 33, coming off the bench against Norway to score twice in two minutes in March 2023.

"I don’t think Joselu will be sleeping much tonight, he’ll be useless in training tomorrow!" team-mate Jude Bellingham said. "He deserves it all, he’s been an amazing member of the squad all season, and it’s his night."

Real Madrid’s top-of-the-table clash with Girona this weekend will not be a title decider, insists Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti.

LaLiga leaders Real are two points ahead of second-placed Girona, who have defied the odds to emerge as genuine contenders in just their fourth-ever season in the top flight.

Michel’s side would leapfrog Madrid back into pole position with victory at the Bernabeu Stadium, but Ancelotti said Saturday’s showdown will not be decisive.

The Italian told a press conference: “Whoever wins will gain the advantage, but there is still a long way to go in the league.

“Both teams are very well positioned and the game won’t decide the league, but (the winners) will have an advantage over the others.

“I don’t think the league will be decided no matter what happens. Both teams have high points and the sooner we get to 80 points, the sooner we can win the league.

“You don’t win the league with 80 points, but if you get close as soon as possible, you’re very close.”

Girona finished 10th in LaLiga last season after winning promotion via the play-offs under head coach Michel in 2022 and have beaten both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in this campaign.

Ancelotti said: “It will be a demanding match against a team that has done better than everyone else, including Real Madrid.

“It’s going to be tough, they’re doing very well. We have a lot of respect for them, while we are confident of winning again after drawing.”

Girona boss Michel will be absent from the Bernabeu dugout as he starts a two-match touchline ban after his red card in the closing stages of last week’s 0-0 home draw against Real Sociedad.

The Catalan club will also be without defender Daley Blind and midfielder Yangel Herrera through suspension.

On Michel’s absence, Ancelotti added: “Football is about the players, but the coach’s presence gives confidence to the team.

“However, it’s not a determining factor. It’s not decisive because football is about the players.

“Sometimes we coaches get carried away a bit in protest, but we need a bit more understanding because of the circumstances we’re in.

“A little more understanding could allow him to be at the Bernabeu on Saturday.”

Madrid defender Antonio Rudiger faces a late fitness test after missing last week’s 1-1 derby draw against city rivals Atletico due to a thigh injury.

Vinicius Junior (neck/shoulder) was an unused substitute against Atletico but will be in contention and Ancelotti confirmed defender Nacho (thigh) is hoping to be back for Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 clash in Leipzig.

Real Madrid struck twice deep into extra time to book their place in the final of the Spanish Super Cup with a thrilling 5-3 victory over rivals Atletico Madrid in Riyadh.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked to be heading out of the competition after Antonio Rudiger’s 78th-minute own goal put Atletico 3-2 up but Dani Carvajal struck with five minutes remaining to send the match into extra time.

The derby seemed destined for a penalty shoot-out until Joselu’s header deflected off Atletico defender Stefan Savic and into the net before Brahim Diaz’s late breakaway goal sealed Real’s spot in the final.

Antione Griezmann had earlier become Atletico’s all-time record goalscorer by netting his 174th goal for the club to make it 2-2 after a pulsating first half which also featured strikes from Mario Hermoso, Rudiger and Ferland Mendy.

Diego Simeone’s men had the first big chance in the sixth minute as Samuel Lino’s whipped effort looked to be heading into the top corner from the edge of the box but goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was on hand to tip over the crossbar.

The save counted for very little as Atletico hit the front from the resulting corner when Hermoso was left unmarked at the back post to nod into the net from Griezmann’s delivery.

Real swiftly equalised in similar fashion from a corner when Rudiger headed home from Luka Modric’s cross.

Ancelotti’s side turned the game on its head just before the half-hour mark as Carvajal’s pass into the area was cleverly flicked home by Mendy to make it 2-1.

But Atletico responded just seven minutes later when Griezmann slammed into the bottom-left corner from outside the area to seal his place in the club’s history.

Real had a golden opportunity to retake the lead as Rodrygo picked up the ball inside the area and pulled off a clever fake shot to open up the space for him to shoot at goal but Jan Oblak brilliantly dived in front of the effort to somehow keep the scores level.

Atletico came closest to the opening goal of the second period when Lino capitalised on some sloppy play from Real Madrid and burst forward to strike just wide of the far post.

But they did take the lead with 12 minutes left as Kepa failed to deal with a ball into the box which bounced off Rudiger and into the net.

Real were not to be denied though as Carvajal hit back with five minutes to go. Vinicius Jr’s initial effort was kept out by Oblak but the ball fell to Jude Bellingham whose drilled shot was cleared off the line before Carvajal slammed into the top corner.

As spot-kicks loomed on the horizon Real found the killer blow.

Joselu’s flicked header was bundled into his own net by Savic and Ancelotti’s side added the icing on the cake when Diaz won a foot race with Oblak and slotted into an empty net to book Real’s place in the final against either Barcelona or Osasuna.

Leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Girona remain level on points at the top of LaLiga after both securing victory via late goals on Wednesday.

Real won 1-0 at home against Mallorca, with Antonio Rudiger heading in the only goal in the 78th minute.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men had survived a scare with the visitors hitting the woodwork twice, via Antonio Sanchez and Samu Costa, then did so themselves, with Brahim Diaz heading against a post when looking certain to score, before Rudiger showed greater accuracy.

Girona then kept pace as they emerged triumphant from a thriller, beating Atletico Madrid 4-3 at home thanks to a stoppage-time finish from Ivan Martin.

After Valery’s opener for the home side had been cancelled out by Alvaro Morata, an eventful first half continued with them adding further goals via Savio and Daley Blind.

Morata subsequently made it 3-2 in the 44th minute and completed his hat-trick to draw things level nine minutes into the second half, but Martin then had the final say with a finish into the top corner a minute into time added on at the end.

While Michel’s side join Real on 48 points, Diego Simeone’s Atletico are now 10 points back in third.

There was also a last-gasp winner for Celta Vigo as they came from behind to beat Real Betis 2-1 at home, courtesy of Williot Swedberg’s last-gasp effort.

That moved Celta out of the relegation zone at the expense of Cadiz, who were beaten 2-0 at second-bottom Granada, their first win under Alexander Medina.

Myrto Uzuni and Bryan Zaragoza scored for the hosts either side of Ruben Sobrino being sent off for the visitors as the gap between them reduced to one point.

Antonio Rudiger headed home a late winner as LaLiga leaders Real Madrid opened 2024 with a 1-0 victory over Mallorca at the Bernabeu.

Real edged in front when the centre-back connected with Luka Modric’s 78th-minute corner, having survived some scares with Mallorca hitting the woodwork via Antonio Sanchez and Samu Costa.

The hosts then did so themselves, substitute Brahim Diaz heading against a post when looking certain to score, before Rudiger showed greater accuracy to ensure they celebrated boss Carlo Ancelotti’s new contract with three points.

Real went three points clear of second-placed Girona ahead of them playing Atletico Madrid later on Wednesday.

Ancelotti – whose new deal to 2026 was announced on Friday – made four changes from the 1-0 victory at Alaves, which included bringing in Andriy Lunin in goal for Kepa Arrizabalaga, who had been recovering from illness, and the fit-again Vinicius Junior in attack, for his first appearance since sustaining an injury on Brazil duty in November.

Lunin came out of his box early on to intercept a ball with a diving header before Cyle Larin could latch on to it, before Jude Bellingham saw a header at the other end caught by Predrag Rajkovic.

Vinicius Junior was then to the fore, shooting just wide after a delightful through ball from Modric, missing with another attempt and then hitting a piledriver from just outside the box that the diving Rajkovic did well to keep out.

Mallorca had offered little going forward, but almost grabbed a shock lead in the 42nd minute as Sanchez saw a header come down off the underside of the Real crossbar.

Javier Aguirre’s visitors threatened again in first-half stoppage time as Larin sent an effort bouncing wide, and after Toni Kroos curled a free-kick over early in the second half for Real, Mallorca were then once again denied by the goalframe, with Costa unleashing a shot from distance that struck the foot of a post.

Breathing a sigh of relief, Real then gathered some momentum again and in the 69th minute Rodrygo brought a parry out of Rajkovic and the loose ball came to Diaz, only for the former Manchester City man to head against the upright from close range.

The hosts then made the breakthrough nine minutes later as skipper Modric sent a corner into the area and Rudiger was there to power past Rajkovic.

Top-scorer Bellingham sent an effort off-target as Real sought to add to their lead in the closing stages.

Antonio Rudiger has warned against overlooking Germany's chances of emerging victorious at the World Cup in Qatar, declaring: "You can never count us out".

Having won the 2014 World Cup, Germany mounted a dismal defence of the trophy four years ago as they crashed out in the group stages in Russia following defeats against Mexico and South Korea.

Germany also suffered a last-16 elimination against England at Euro 2020 – Joachim Low's final match before being replaced by Hansi Flick – leading many onlookers to favour the likes of Brazil, Argentina and France for glory in Qatar.

While Rudiger acknowledges Germany's recent form means Flick's men may not favourites for the tournament, he believes they have the talent to spring a surprise. 

"Honestly, if we speak about favourites, we have to speak about form. Before the last international break, you look at teams like Brazil and France," Rudiger told The Guardian.

"I think because of our current form, us maybe not so much, but we are a big nation and have a good team. You can never count us out. Anything can happen.

"We don't need to be afraid of anyone. It's football. If you're really tight together it can be very helpful. We have to get the job done. 

"We have played many great games. Now it's the big stage. I'm not worried. We have a fantastic group."

Germany's last competitive fixture saw them throw away a 2-0 lead in a thrilling 3-3 Nations League draw with England, and Rudiger says Die Mannschaft must improve defensively in Qatar.

"I watched that game from home," Rudiger said, recalling September's high-scoring draw at Wembley. "I think both teams were not at their best. We need to improve. 

"We need to manage the game better. If you're winning 2-0, you cannot give it away in four minutes."

Asked whether a lack of experience in Flick's squad contributed to that result, Rudiger added: "Maybe a little bit. But the goals we conceded were a little bit too easy. 

"This has nothing to do with experience – it's just a lack of focus. We are not robots. 

"We all make mistakes, but you try to avoid those easy ones where you lack concentration. That's the pressure that comes with this high level. You cannot have this lack of focus."

Germany begin their Group E campaign against Japan at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Wednesday.

Antonio Rudiger admits it would come as a "surprise" if Germany win the World Cup in Qatar, as the Real Madrid defender gears up to play a key role for his nation.

A member of the squad four years ago, Rudiger has been elevated into a starting berth for the 2014 champions and is one of the more experienced players within Hansi Flick's side.

Germany fell flat as defending champions in Russia, exiting at the group stage, and are not ranked among the favourites to go all the way in Qatar, with that honour falling to Brazil, Argentina and France.

While Rudiger is keen to go all the way in the tournament, he has conceded it would be a shock outcome if Germany were to end victorious for a fifth time in their history.

"It's exciting. In 2018 I was in the team, but always on the bench. I was young. Now I enjoy a different role, the role of leader," he told AS.

"I've worked all my life for this and it's something that makes me very happy. I'm ready.

"It's a new era. In 2014 there was an excellent generation, people like [Toni] Kroos, [Mario] Gotze, [Phillip] Lahm, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger.

"But I think now there is also a great generation of players capable of achieving something important.

"You can never get Germany out of the potential winners. But if we look at what we have done in recent months, it may be a surprise [if] we win.

"We haven't managed to do a good stage lately. In good shape, for me, is for example Brazil."

Germany have little room for mistakes in Group E as they sit alongside fellow European juggernauts Spain, along with Costa Rica and Japan, with Rudiger aware of the threat La Roja pose.

"It's a World Cup. If you want to win it you have to also beat the best, and it doesn't matter when you face them," he added.

"Spain is very, very high. Now, playing in Spain, I can see how many good players there are.

"Like Germany, it is a new generation. In football, it's hard to give things time. But I think they have a good team, a young team that may need time."

Germany's World Cup campaign begins against Japan on November 23, before then facing Spain four days later and closing the group stage against Costa Rica.

Real Madrid returned to the LaLiga summit after coming from behind to beat Mallorca 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The hosts fell behind as the in-form Vedat Muriqi headed Mallorca into the lead, but Federico Valverde equalised before half-time with a marvellous individual effort.

Carlo Ancelotti's side completed the turnaround 18 minutes from time with Vinicius Junior finding the net for a fourth successive LaLiga game, before another impressive solo goal from Rodrygo and Antonio Rudiger's first strike for the club late on tied things up.

Los Blancos remain the only team in the big five European leagues to boast a 100 per cent record this season, having won their opening five league matches for the first time since 2009-10.

Mallorca had not won at Madrid since May 2009 but Muriqi sounded a warning for the visitors inside the opening minute.

Latching onto Martin Valjent's long ball, the striker cleverly escaped the advancing Antonio Rudiger before his powerful volley was beaten away by Thibaut Courtois. 

Dani Ceballos and Rodrygo tested Predrag Rajkovic at the other end, but Mallorca took a surprise lead in the 25th minute as an unmarked Muriqi headed home Lee Kang-In's free-kick for his third goal of the season.

Madrid equalised in emphatic fashion in first-half stoppage time; Valverde embarking on a wonderful run from deep inside his own half, before firing into the top corner from 20 yards.

Lucas Vazquez curled a 25-yard effort narrowly wide just after the hour mark before Mallorca squandered a glorious opportunity to regain the lead; substitute Antonio Sanchez shooting wide with only Courtois to beat.

It proved costly as Madrid edged their noses ahead in the 72nd minute. Rodrygo burst into the heart of the visitors' defence before feeding Vinicius, who neatly clipped the ball beyond the advancing Rajkovic.

Rodrygo then sealed the points with a minute remaining as he embarked on a strong, jinking run into the box, evading several challenges before slotting home, which was followed by Rudiger volleying home a Toni Kroos free-kick at the far post in stoppage time.

Former Liverpool forward Bobby Duncan has hit out at his former agent for working to "jeopardise" his career, three years on from a controversial move to Fiorentina.

Duncan, then considered a rising star at Liverpool, made headlines in 2019 when then-agent Saif Rubie accused the club of causing the youngster "deep mental health issues" before negotiating a move to the Serie A team. The Reds always denied such claims.

However, the attacker – who is also a cousin of Reds legend Steven Gerrard – has struggled since the transfer and now plays for Spanish third-tier team Real Balompedica Linense after a failed spell at Derby County.

On Monday, Rubie made an explosive radio appearance, telling talkSPORT: "I actually advised him [Duncan] to stay at Liverpool and you have to understand one thing, which is what I was trying to tell you guys, my job is to do the best for whoever is telling me to help them. 

"In that particular case, you can choose to believe me or not, I thought him staying was the best outcome. It wasn't meant to be, and in the end it got a bit ugly with Liverpool, which is unfortunate."

But Duncan, who dropped Rubie as his agent shortly after joining the Viola, has refuted those claims in a series of fiery tweets, asserting: "You and I both know the truth. 

"I didn't have a decision nor say as you took it upon yourself to jeopardise my career and to turn a local lad away from his boyhood club and leave me and my family to pick up all the pieces.

"Not once have I spoken upon this topic in four years as it's been my main priority to get my career back on track. Yet you think you have the right to mention my name on a live radio show.

"The truth will be told by myself when the time is right. I should never have trusted my career in your hands. I have learnt my harsh lesson there. And I just pray you have learnt yours as it could ruin another young boy's career. 

"And lastly, just to clarify, there was no advising given as you point blank made your mind up, publicly, and by then the damage had been done."

Rubie also worked as an intermediary on Antonio Rudiger's move from Chelsea to Real Madrid earlier this year and used his radio appearance to claim Los Blancos' offer was the smallest the German received. 

"Antonio Rudiger has been one of the best, if not the best, defender in the world and Premier League," he said.

"It made Carlo Ancelotti want to bring him to Real Madrid. What is the value of a top-flight, top-level centre-half in the game?

"What if I told you Chelsea, and the old regime, basically made next to no effort to keep the player.

"At the time he was very happy to stay and potentially be the captain of the club. He was offered a contract that was half the amount Romelu Lukaku was earning.

"Let me confirm this, live on air, the Real Madrid deal was the smallest deal on offer. There was a club in England offering almost double the amount and a club in Europe doubling the amount.

"I'm not going to discuss the specifics. Everyone knows there were teams interested in this player. He was one of the best in the world."

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has outlined his plans for new signing Antonio Rudiger, and hinted that he could be utilised in an unfamiliar position.

The Germany international joined the reigning Champions League winners on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract with Chelsea, where he was a regular fixture in the Blues' side at the heart of the defence.

Different opportunities may present themselves in Ancelotti's plans, however, as the head coach admitted he does not want to disrupt the centre-back partnership of Eder Militao and David Alaba.

Rudiger started at left-back during Madrid's 1-0 pre-season defeat to Barcelona, and Ancelotti hinted it is an area he could find himself slotting into more regularly.

"I liked him a lot. I am not crazy and he is very intelligent," the Italian said after the loss.

"He can play in that position, just as he can also change in the match with Alaba. They didn't do so today, because it went well.

"[Alaba] as a left-back, only when necessary. I don't want to change the pair from last year."

Real have a void on the left side of their defence following the departure of club legend Marcelo last season.

Though another signing is unlikely to be made before the end of the window, with Ancelotti making it clear he is not targeting further additions to his squad.

Los Blancos complete their pre-season preparations against Club America and Juventus, before tackling reigning Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt in the Super Cup.

Thomas Tuchel has achieved his "top priority" for the transfer window by signing Raheem Sterling, while the Chelsea head coach cannot foresee Robert Lewandowski arriving.

Sterling joined Manchester City for a reported fee in the region of £45million on Wednesday, as Chelsea confirmed their first signing since Todd Boehly's consortium acquired the Blues.

The England international, who signed a five-year deal with Chelsea, scored 17 goals in all competitions for City last season, a tally bettered by only Riyad Mahrez (24) and Kevin De Bruyne (19).

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo has also been linked to Stamford Bridge, alongside Barcelona's top target Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals in all competitions last term, the most of any player across Europe's top five leagues, and Tuchel appreciates his quality but does not envisage bringing him in.

"I don't think we have a chance for Lewandowski but if there is a chance, he is one of the best number nines," said Tuchel.

"The priority is not on the number nine position right now. We have our top priority [Sterling], we have got our top priority signed. It makes me very, very happy and from there we are very flexible.

"He was the absolute number one for that position. I gave his name to Todd straight away. Every time we played against him, he's horrible to play against, horrible!

"The main point is his intensity and the amount of repetition of intensity that he delivers. This is simply outstanding over the last years.

"It's exactly what we need to raise the level of our players. That's why we are so sure and that's why he was, for us, top of the list.

"Our goal threat should be enough right now. If we think something crazy comes up that we don’t see, maybe we will get involved, maybe not."

 

The versatile Sterling is expected to bring experience to the Chelsea attack, a feature lacking at the back for the Blues after the departure of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

Cesar Azpilicueta is reportedly wanted by Barca as well, while Chelsea appear set to bring in Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly to somewhat fill the void in defence.

The minimum requirement for success under Boehly will be a top-four Premier League finish to qualify for the Champions League, and Tuchel acknowledged he must rebuild to develop a competitive squad.

"I think with Thiago [Silva] in the middle, Toni on the left and Azpi [Cesar Azpilicueta] or Andreas [on the right] we had the best back-three in the world," he added.

"It's possible [to rebuild at short notice]. We can, we have to. I think we can put a structure in place and we have a structure on which we can rely on.

"For example, if we play against Everton, Thiago can play, Trevoh Chalobah can hopefully play, and Azpi is at the moment here. 

"If there are guys still to be signed or not fully aware of the principles, I don't want to use it as an excuse. When I came in, I had one day to start with the back-three because it was a fit and I still think it will be a fit.

"The first 10 days or 11 days with the group have been outstanding. The mentality, worth ethic and quality in training is absolutely impressive and this makes me very happy.

"I want to be ready when we play Everton. I want to win and I will demand it from myself, my team and all my players.

"The team will be strong. I am not ready to use it as an excuse even though it is maybe true that we are in transition. We can, I can focus, I think the team can focus on what makes us strong and we can take it step by step and work out how to win games."

While Chelsea made their long-awaited first signing in Sterling, top-four rivals Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester City have all been busy in the transfer window.

Tuchel was quick to hail the transfer dealings of Antonio Conte, who looks set to seal his sixth signing of the transfer window in Djed Spence, and conceded Chelsea will have to catch up with their competitors.

"I mean it when I said we fight against the best teams and the best coaches, which does not make life easier and they set the bar so high last season, but we start again from scratch," said Tuchel. 

"So we will try again. I can promise you that everybody is ready to try again. We will not give in before we play games. That's why the sanctions did not help. We lost important players and the other teams are recruiting, and did not have the losses that we had.

"If you look at the transfer period of Tottenham with Antonio Conte, it's maybe the strongest team they ever built. Manchester United will not give in, Arsenal will not give in, they've made two big signings already, so we are aware of the situation and try to do our best to be competitive."

Chelsea have reportedly made Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly their top centre-back target as they look to rebuild their defence.

Koulibaly would help fill the gaping hole left by the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen, who both opted to head to LaLiga on free transfers as the precarious situation with Roman Abramovich's ownership made it impossible to negotiate contract extensions.

The Stamford Bridge side are said to have had interest in Juventus' Matthijs de Ligt and Inter's Milan Skriniar, but with Juventus demanding £102million and Inter holding firm for at least £55m, the 31-year-old Napoli star is now viewed as the best option.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PREPARE MOVE TO BRING KOULIBALY TO STAMFORD BRIDGE

Koulibaly is coming off a season where he helped Napoli concede the equal-fewest goals in Serie A – giving up 31 goals in their 38 league games – while he also contributed three goals and three assists in 27 outings.

He has played no fewer than 34 games in any of his eight campaigns with Napoli, but he did miss a month of action this past season with a thigh strain – his third consecutive season where he has missed time with muscle strains in his legs.

The Mirror's report highlights that Chelsea are also in advanced discussions to land Manchester City's Raheem Sterling and Leeds United's Raphinha, with the plan to sell Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic to fund the moves.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to BILD, Borussia Dortmund would need to receive a bid of £103m to consider parting ways with Jude Bellingham in the current transfer window.

– 90min is reporting that Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal are all interested in Torino's 25-year-old Brazilian centre-back Gleison Bremer, with the Serie A club setting his price at £43m.

– Fabrizio Romano reports that Crystal Palace have agreed to an £18m fee for Lens midfielder Cheick Doucoure.

– According to Todofichajes, West Ham are willing to meet the £34m release clause for Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma.

– The Sun is reporting that Arsenal have made a third bid for Ajax's Lisandro Martinez – believed to be valued at £43m – while Talksport claims Manchester United are also trying to reunite the defender with Erik ten Hag.

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