Ivan Rakitic is planning talks with Sevilla team-mate Jules Kounde in a bid to lift his spirits after a move to Chelsea did not materialise.

Kounde has established himself as one of the best defenders in LaLiga over the past two seasons, prompting interest from a number of elite clubs.

Reports of interest from Chelsea were persistent throughout the recent transfer window, and Sevilla sporting director Monchi confirmed the European champions had made an approach.

It was a move that would have appealed to Kounde, Monchi confirmed, but the two clubs were unable to agree a fee, as Sevilla held out for the player's €80million release clause.

Kounde appeared well suited to a top Premier League side, ranking third among LaLiga defenders for aerial duels won (205) and sixth for successful passes (3,536) since the start of the 2019-20 season – an effective blend of physicality and finesse.

Yet veteran Rakitic hopes the 22-year-old can move on quickly.

"Hopefully, on his return from his national team, we can have a moment to be able to talk, sincerely, so that he knows that he has the confidence of us, that we are his second family," Rakitic said in a wide-ranging interview with ELDesmarque.

"It is very important to us. The first thing we need is for him to feel at ease, to be at his best and to know that everything we do, we do together."

Already a complete defender – also counted in LaLiga's top 25 for duels won (339, 11th), recoveries (303, 22nd) and clearances (191, 23rd) since his arrival – Rakitic wants Kounde to kick on again and show his quality.

"He is a boy, 22 years old, very young," Rakitic added. "He has been here for some spectacular years, that's why he attracts the interest of big clubs with those amounts.

"He has earned that with his game. The most important thing is that he understands that this has already happened.

"Besides being young, he has a lot of experience. He no longer has to teach anything to anyone. He is already a well-rounded player.

"He still has to improve, of course, but he has to continue to enjoy football. It doesn't help him now to be down, sad, or angry. He has to lift his spirits." 

Zinedine Zidane was left fuming by the decision to award Sevilla a penalty for handball against Eder Militao as Real Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw that means the title is no longer in their hands.

A gripping game at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Sunday came to life in the latter stages as a remarkable twist left Madrid trailing 2-1 with just over 10 minutes to go.

Madrid had seemingly earned themselves a glorious opportunity to go 2-1 up as Karim Benzema led a break and was brought down in the Sevilla box by Yassine Bounou.

But a VAR review overturned the decision because a handball offence by Militao was spotted at the other end at the start of the move, and Ivan Rakitic converted the spot-kick that was subsequently awarded to Sevilla.

While a Toni Kroos effort deep into stoppage time deflected off Eden Hazard to earn a share of the spoils and essentially end Sevilla's slim title hopes, it did Madrid little good as city rivals Atletico remain top with a two-point lead heading into the final three games.

Zidane was seemingly unconvinced by the merits of the penalty against Madrid, suggesting that if Militao – who was not facing the ball when it hit his hand – was guilty of an offence then Sevilla's Joan Jordan should have conceded a penalty earlier in a similar situation.

"I don't understand anything. If there is a Militao handball, there's a Sevilla handball as well," he said.

"I was not convinced by what he [the referee, Juan Martinez Munuera] told me. I never speak about a referee, but today I am angry.

"In the end it is what it is, we are not going to change anything. I'm happy with our game, we deserved more because the second half was spectacular.

"I'm not going to talk about that anymore. We've already talked about it. The referee has to explain the rules to me, but that's it. We're going to fight to the death, until the end."

Pressed on his interpretation of the handball law, Zidane added: "We can talk now… but it will not be clarified now and that is what bothers me.

"We have to think about the three remaining games. I am angry because we deserved the victory."

He was then seemingly encouraged to denounce VAR, though Zidane again pointed to what he felt was handball by Jordan.

"I trust football. What I'm saying is that I saw two hands and they whistled ours."

Real Madrid will require a helping hand if they are to defend their LaLiga crown despite Toni Kroos' late deflected strike rescuing a 2-2 draw at home to Sevilla, whose own hopes now appear over.

Ivan Rakitic had seemingly secured Sevilla a win that would have blown the title race wide open by scoring a late penalty, but deep into second-half stoppage time Kroos saw a hopeful shot hit Diego Carlos, who was unfortunate to see the ball end up in his own net.

Sevilla had taken the lead in the first half thanks to a lovely goal from Fernando, and they were good value for it against a Madrid side that still appeared to be labouring from their Champions League disappointment in midweek – their only moment of excitement coming via a disallowed Karim Benzema header.

They improved in the second period and levelled through Marco Asensio, that goal looking like the catalyst they needed to claim the win that would have put them top, but a switch that saw VAR overturn a Madrid spot-kick because of an incident in the opposing area left Zinedine Zidane's side in trouble.

Although able to cancel out Rakitic's successful kick, the result does Los Blancos little good as they are left two points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid with just three games remaining.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman does not believe Sevilla's 2-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg win over the Blaugrana was a fair reflection of the match, while he also questioned the officials.

Jules Kounde opened the scoring in the first half with a fine individual effort, before former Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic wrapped up a potentially significant win in the latter stages.

Lionel Messi did go close several times for the visitors, with Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou keeping him at bay as he made four saves in total – the Moroccan has saved all 18 shots on target he has had to face in this season's Copa.

The two teams renew hostilities at Camp Nou on March 3 for the second half, though Barca have only progressed past Sevilla once in the Copa when losing the first leg to the Andalusians.

Barca shaded the possession (53.6 per cent) and their 13 shots were two more than the hosts, with Koeman left convinced his side had been hard done by.

"It is a result with too much reward for them," Koeman said. "We have seen a Barca playing well, creating a very clear chances.

"We have put a lot of pressure in the second half. I cannot blame the team. There is another game left, we have to try to win and play the final.

"It is difficult at 2-0. We had opportunities to score, but their defence was good, as was their goalkeeper too, but at home this Barca is capable of anything."

Barca were left frustrated by a moment in the second half where Suso was adjudged to have fouled Jordi Alba just outside the box, yet Koeman and his players were convinced the offence occurred inside the box.

The VAR did not appear to intervene, and this left Koeman bemused.

"Mateu Lahoz [the referee] I think was good in general," Koeman said.

"Of course, there was always doubt with the incident of the penalty, because everyone says it was a penalty, so I have to believe them – not only the Barca people [said it should have been a penalty].

"I don't know why the VAR has not intervened."

Sevilla go into the second leg with a significant advantage and know that an away goal will give Barca a mountain to climb, but they are not getting ahead of themselves, aware the most difficult task is yet to come.

"We knew it was going to be very difficult, the team played a great game, we fought to the end and that is worth it, football gives back to you in this way," Rakitic said.

"But we have half the work left to do in Barcelona."

Coach Julen Lopetegui echoed that sentiment, adding: "The team played a great game against a Barcelona that arrived in good form.

"We played well, we defended well and it was a very beautiful game. Now, we have the most complicated and most difficult thing left, which is to play at the Camp Nou. We are aware of the challenge."

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