Tottenham Hotspur supporters breathed a sigh of relief after Mauricio Pochettino penned on a five-year extension with the club last month, but Zinedine Zidane’s surprise resignation from Real Madrid sparked speculation once again.
The 45-year-old shocked the world after stepping down, just days after securing an unprecedented hat-trick of Champions League trophies, and Real were said to view Pochettino as their primary target to succeed the Frenchman, despite his new deal, according to Sky Sports.
However, the saga seems to finally be over, with Madrid’s appointment of the Spain national team coach Julen Lopetegui; who will take over the La Liga giants after the 2018 World Cup in Russia, according to a statement from the official club website.
Some felt Pochettino may have jumped the gun in renewing his contract in north London, as Madrid is largely considered the biggest club in world football. And the Argentine’s own comments suggest events could have been very different if Zidane’s resignation had come earlier in the window.
“When Real Madrid call you, you have to listen to them,” claimed Pochettino in an interview with the Times, shortly after signing his deal, sparking the familiar feeling of unease among sections of the Spurs supporters again.
Lopetegui impressed the Los Blancos superiors after guiding Spain comfortably through qualification to the World Cup finals, and is unbeaten in his tenure – stretching back to July 2016 – registering 14 wins and six draws in 20 games.
He had initially agreed a new contract until Euro 2022 just last May, but three-days before Spain’s first clash against Portugal, the boss has signed a three-year deal with Madrid.
Tottenham will now turn their entire focus to improving the squad in the quest for silverware next term, now knowing that Pochettino will be at the helm for the foreseeable future at White Hart Lane.
Blow for Liverpool as Real Madrid enter race for Roma goalkeeper Alisson
The Brazilian international has been touted as Liverpool’s priority target since the summer window opened, just days after current stopper Lloris Karius cost Liverpool the chance of winning their sixth European trophy, with two huge blunders in Kiev.
Jurgen Klopp was said to be weighing up whether or not to make a move for the 25-year-old, having been somewhat deterred by the Italians’ hefty asking price of £80 million this week. And another huge obstacle has presented itself, in the form of defending European champions Real Madrid.
The Spanish giants are readying an initial bid, which is expected to be somewhere in the region of £43 million, but the bid will likely be rejected given the Romans’ stance, wanting almost double the amount – making Alisson the most expensive keeper in world football.
However Madrid are reportedly willing to include add-ons that amount to around £60 million, with Sky in Italy suggesting that personal terms are agreed between the player and club.
If Roma are stubborn on their prize asset, Madrid will likely elevate their interest in Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois – who has also been linked with a move to Liverpool – as the Belgian international enters the final year of his contract at Stamford Bridge.
The Reds will keep monitoring the situation of the Roma man, who registered 17 clean-sheets in Serie A last season, but will continue pursuing alternatives. Barcelona’s back-up stopper Jasper Cillessen is on the wish-list, according to reports from Don Balon, should Alisson decide to leave for the Spanish capital, or to stay at the Stadio Olimpico next term.
Six star players that will be not be at the World Cup this summer
Some big names will not be going to the World Cup this month.
The World Cup is perceived by many to be the pinnacle of football – a competition where the best teams and players in the world come together to play the beautiful game.
Whilst the tournament in Russia will be the largest international football competition in history, with more teams participating than ever before, a number of high profile figures will be conspicuous by their absence this summer.
Here, The Boot Room highlight six star players that will not be at the World Cup.
Bale was one of the outstanding figures at Euro 2016 as Wales reached the semi-finals but the once most expensive football player in the world will not be in Russia this summer.
The 28-year-old has struggled with injuries throughout the season and has only been a bit-part figure at Real Madrid for much of the campaign. However, he remains one of the most dynamic attacking players in European football and provided everyone with a reminder of his ability with an astonishing brace in the Champions League final.
Unfortunately, Bale will have to be content with watching his Real Madrid team mate Cristiano Ronaldo take centre stage this summer as Wales failed to qualify for this year’s competition.
The Belgian midfielder has been a crucial factor in Roma’s success this season, including helping the team to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Nainggolan is renowned for the quality of his passing and the consistency of his play and is widely regarded as being one of the leading central midfielders in Serie A. He also possesses an abundance of experience at international level and was part of the Belgian squad that competed at Euro 2016.
However, the 30-year-old will not be in Russia this summer having been omitted from Roberto Martinez’s squad and has subsequently announced his retirement from international football.
It is worth noting that Belgium are certainly not short of quality in midfield – Kevin de Bryne, Alex Witsel, Mousa Dembele and Marouane Fellaini were all selected ahead of Nainggolan.
Virgil Van Dijk
The Dutchman became the most expensive defender in world football after joining Liverpool in January for £75 million from Premier League rivals Southampton, yet he will not feature at the World Cup this summer following Holland’s failure to qualify.
Van Dijk has flourished since arriving at Anfield and played a key role in helping the club to reach the Champions League final. He has added steel, organisation and a new sense of resoluteness to Liverpool’s back line and, when on form, he makes the art of defending look infuriatingly easy.
However, the Dutch finished third in qualification Group A, missing out on a play-off spot to Sweden on goal difference, which means that Holland have failed to qualify for both of the previous two major international tournaments.
There is always a sense of excitement when Brazil arrive at an international tournament and in Neymar the team undoubtedly possess one of the best players in the world.
However, Chelsea defender David Luiz was omitted from Tite’s squad earlier this month meaning that the 31-year-old’s famous hair will not be on show in Russia.
Luiz has struggled for form and fitness throughout the campaign and has fallen considerably down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge following a string of injuries. However, Brazil are not blessed with an abundance of defensive talent and his omission has come as a surprise to many.
The Chelsea star would have been looking forward to redeeming himself in Russia after his horror-show in the 2014 World Cup, where he was part of the side that were beaten 7-1 by Germany on home soil, but will ultimately have to be content with watching the action from home.
Buffon has been a prominent feature of international football for the previous two decades and has been present at all of the previous nine major international tournaments. However, this year he will be absent from the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
The 40-year-old has been a constant feature for Italy since making his debut in 1997 and holds the record for the most international appearances having appeared 176 times for his country. He was part of the Italian team that won the World Cup in 2006 and has been an integral to the modern success of Juventus.
Buffon announced in May that he would retire at the end of the current campaign and Italy’s failure to qualify for Russia meant that the legendary goalkeeper was denied one last World Cup appearance.
The French forward is widely considered to have been one the leading striker’s in world football throughout the last decade, yet the 30-year-old will not be in Russia this summer as his international exile continues.
Benzema, who scored in the Champions League final last month and has been a prominent figure for Real Madrid over the last nine years, has scored 27 goals in 81 international appearances for Les Bleus and has been named as the French Player of the Year on three occasions.
However, he has not been selected for international duty since October 2015 after initially being suspended by the French Football Federation due to his alleged involvement in the extortion of Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema was expected to be recalled ahead of Euro 2016 but, despite rumours of a potential return, he was not selected as the team finished runners-up in the tournament.
Benzema has admitted that he has not received an explanation from France coach Didier Deschamps regarding his international exile and it appears unlikely that he will feature at a major competition again.
Gareth Bale’s red-hot Real Madrid form should scare Liverpool
The Welshman has scored 11 goals in his last 15 appearances.
In Real Madrid’s final league match of this season on Saturday, Gareth Bale swept home a lovely right-footed finish to open the scoring against Villarreal.
That goal marked the Welshman’s 11th goal in his last 15 appearances for club and country; a remarkably prolific run of form that should scare Liverpool ahead of next weekend’s Champions League final.
Injury problems have marred much of Bale’s time at the Bernabeu, and he suffered a lengthy two-month absence from the first team this fall.
Yet, after returning from his injury lay-off, the former world-record signing has hit full form in the last two months.
In that time period, the winger has scored a hat-trick for Wales, braces against Las Palmas and Celta Vigo, and a crucial goal versus Barcelona.
This spring resurgence presents a worrying prospect for Liverpool’s defence, who already will have their hands full trying to keep Cristiano Ronaldo in check in Kiev.
Add in Gareth Bale hitting full form, and suddenly the task at hand for Jurgen Klopp’s men appears far more difficult.
The 28-year-old also has quite the decorated history for los Blancos in cup finals. In his debut season for Real, Bale scored sensational winning goals in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals.
The following season in the European Cup final, the Welshman assisted Real Madrid’s sole goal and scored his penalty in the ensuing shoot-out; his cup final record is simply superb.
Combined with Bale’s recent tremendous goalscoring form, the prospect of facing up against the powerful winger might strike fear in the Liverpool backline.
But the Reds have proven adept in stifling some of the best attacks in Europe this season.
Liverpool famously restricted high-scoring Manchester City to just one goal over 180 minutes in the quarterfinals and the Reds will have to conjure up that heroic rearguard performance in order to stop the on-form Gareth Bale next weekend.
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