Thibaut Courtois

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Zidane: Neymar, Hazard ‘compatible’ for Real Madrid

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Oh, Zizou, you rascal.

These comments will set the cat amongst the pigeons…

After Neymar stated in an interview that he would like to play with Eden Hazard and together they would “cause havoc” many believe that the duo could link up at Real Madrid this summer.

Asked about Neymar’s comments and if they could play together at Real, Zidane trod a fine line between backing up the comments and keeping his comments as general as he could.

“I think so. It is the same for many players because they know that this club is important,” Zidane said. “Many players, someday, want to play at this club. So it is normal. All the good players are compatible, always. They told me I would not be compatible with Youri Djorkaeff. Do you remember Djorkaeff? Absolute nonsense.”

Pushed further on what type of player he wants to add this summer as his second spell in charge of Real properly kicks off, Zidane wouldn’t name names.

“I am clear about what I want do and the profile of the players I want,” Zidane added. “I won’t be saying names but I have a clear idea of what I want to do and what I want to achieve.”

Pau Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have all been linked with moves to Real this summer, and the profile of player they are able to attract hasn’t changed despite a struggle on the pitch this season for the squad of players who won the UEFA Champions League title in each of the past three seasons.

It is clear that this Real Madrid squad will be broken up this summer, but it is unclear how much money they have to spend on new players and where they want to strengthen. If the likes of Neymar and Hazard are to arrive, then it is likely Gareth Bale will be sold and it looks likely Zidane will retool his attack, one which hasn’t really looked the same since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus last summer.

You could argue that in midfield they are ageing with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, but their quality remains, and in defense a long-term replacement for Sergio Ramos is needed, while Thibaut Courtois could already be on borrowed time at Real with Keylor Navas performing well in recent weeks with Courtois out injured.

In truth, Zidane needs to do a lot of strengthening but it is clear with his profile and that of Real Madrid’s, he won’t have to do too much persuading to get players on board.

Benzema rescues a 1-1 draw for Madrid at Leganes

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Real Madrid needed Karim Benzema to salvage a 1-1 draw at Spanish league minnow Leganes on Monday.

Benzema again proved a bright spot in a disappointing season for his club, scoring his fifth goal in four matches to cancel out an opener by right back Jonathan Silva.

[READ: Arsenal top ten-man Watford]

The France striker also snatched recent wins for Madrid with late goals against Huesca and Eibar.

Madrid remains third in the standings, 13 points adrift of Barcelona, which is on course to retain its title with six games left and a nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid.

Coach Zinedine Zidane already said Madrid had little to play for this season, adding over the weekend that his squad was set to be culled at the end of the campaign.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas, whose future has been in doubt since the arrival of Thibaut Courtois last year, said on Monday that the players had more to play for than just trophies.

“We have our pride and our love for this shirt, which is worth more than any title,” Navas said. “It has been a complicated season for everyone.

“We have gone out there to win games, but they have gotten away from us. It is difficult to explain. We are all sad for the situation.”

Other than a shot by Marco Asensio saved by goalkeeper Ivan Cuellar, Leganes had little trouble keeping in check Madrid’s attack in the first half.

The hosts went ahead just before halftime when Martin Braithwaite won the ball in a crowded area and passed to Silva, who curled a shot around Navas into the corner of the net from the edge of the penalty box.

A flash of skill from Luka Modric then set up the equalizer in the 51st minute.

The Ballon d’Or winner turned quickly before slipping a pass through the defense to Benzema. His first strike was blocked by Cuellar, but the France forward pounced on the rebound and fired it home.

It was Benzema’s team-leading 27th goal in all competitions this season.

His increasing status since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo at the end of last season is in stark contrast to the fall from grace of Gareth Bale.

Bale played only the last 10 minutes against Leganes and, after falling out with the fans this season, he could be one of the stars the club will look to move on.

“I didn’t like our first half, but I think our second half was better,” Zidane said. “At the end we managed to draw, but we could have played much better. That is for sure. The sensation is not good.”

Eden Hazard edging closer to Real Madrid move?

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Eden Hazard‘s Chelsea future is up in the air with just over 12 months left on his current contract.

It may not be that way for much longer though.

With Zinedine Zidane back in charge at Real Madrid, the man who was Hazard’s childhood hero seems destined to coach him for the Spanish giants.

Our partners Sky Sports have more details on Real’s growing belief that Hazard, 28, will step out at the Bernabeu from this summer and beyond.

“Real Madrid are increasingly confident of signing Eden Hazard this summer, Sky Sports News understands. However, Chelsea are holding out for £100m despite Hazard having just over a year left on his contract. The situation is made complicated by Chelsea’s two-window transfer ban, which will come into effect this summer, with the Blues’ appeal to be heard on Thursday.”

Sky Sports go on to state that Chelsea are holding out for a $130 million transfer fee for Hazard, even though he only has 12 months left on his current deal.

The Belgian star is probably worth closer to $200 million, so a price of around $75-100 million is likely what Chelsea will receive if a club signs him this summer.

Hazard has admitted in public that he is torn between staying at Chelsea, where he has been for seven years, or moving on to a club like Madrid when his current deal was up. Apart from winning the UEFA Champions League, he has won everything else with the Blues since arriving from Lille as a youngster in 2012. If he leaves this summer, few Chelsea fans will lambast Hazard who has stuck around through some tumultuous years and has always given his all for the west London club.

Even though losing Hazard would be a big blow to Chelsea’s team, especially with a transfer ban likely until July 2020, they have youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and the incoming Christian Pulisic lined up to replace the mercurial playmaker. Whether or not manager Maurizio Sarri will be around to coach them next season is another matter, but we all know how volatile the head coach’s position at Chelsea is…

As for Real, it is clear they need a new global superstar to lead their attack as they’ve struggled mightily without Cristiano Ronaldo this season as the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Isco have been in and out of the team under their various managers.

Real will qualify for the Champions League next season, which is something Chelsea cannot say right now with real conviction, and Hazard would be linking up with his close friend Thibaut Courtois in the Spanish capital.

It is likely that Real’s move for Hazard won’t be their only big move of the summer window, as Zidane has returned for a reason and that is probably because club president Florentino Perez has told him he can lead a huge squad overhaul after their disappointing campaign.

Courtois wants ‘close friend’ Hazard at Real Madrid

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Thibaut Courtois isn’t shy about who he hopes Real Madrid brings in this summer.

The Belgian shot-stopper told French television channel RMC Sport that he hopes that his Belgian teammate Eden Hazard makes his way to the Bernabeu this offseason, saying that the two are tightly knit on and off the field.

“I don’t know his future, and I don’t know if the club wants to sign him, but he is one of my closest friends in football, so I want him to come here,” Courtois said.

The two spent six seasons together with Chelsea, with Hazard joining in 2011 from French club Lille while Courtois came over a year later from Belgian side Genk. They have both also played together numerous times for the Belgian national team, including a pair of World Cup journeys in 2014 and 2018. Hazard has exactly 100 caps for Belgium, while Courtois has 72.

There’s been plenty of speculation surrounding Hazard’s future at Chelsea of late. His contract at Stamford Bridge runs through the summer of 2020, making this summer the perfect time for him to make the switch. There’s been little talk of him signing a new contract at Chelsea, increasing the possibility of his departure.

Courtois’ future at Madrid is no sure thing, however. With the return of Zinedine Zidane, Courtois has been benched in favor of Keylor Navas. Courtois has been shaky at times this season as Madrid sits third in the La Liga table, making way yet again for Barcelona to run away with the league title. After joining just this past summer, his contract runs through 2024, but should Navas stay as the starter for the forseeable future, it’s possible Courtois becomes frustrated with his role.

Ajax ends Real’s Champions League reign

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  • Real’s reign as 3-time champions ends at home
  • Schone scores wonder goal (video)
  • Vinicius Junior injured (MORE)
  • Nacho shown late red card

Ajax put an end to Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League reign with a 4-1 second leg at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, sending the Dutch side into the quarterfinals with a 5-3 win over two legs.

Hakim Ziyech, David Neres, Dusan Tadic, and Lasse Schone scored in the win, which reversed with ease a 2-1 first leg loss in the Netherlands.

Marco Asensio scored Real Madrid’s lone goal.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After an early Real header off the cross bar from Raphael Varane, Ajax struck gold.

Dusan Tadic dribbled down the right before side-footing a pass to Ziyech for a shot a across goal and past Thibaut Courtois.

Neres made it 3-2 on aggregate, leveling the tie on away goals when Tadic set him up for a neatly-dinked goal.

And he nearly added another with a chip across goal that missed the upper 90.

Andre Onana stopped Lucas Vazquez’s bid to bring the tie level in the 24th.

Enter Gareth Bale. The out-of-favor Welsh star entered the game after just a half-hour, though his arrival was met by a long Vinicius dribble that cause amplification of an earlier injury.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Benzema came close to bringing the tie even at 3 when he dribbled past Ziyech to shoot across goal and wide in the 59th minute.

Ajax looked to have clinched the tie in the 63rd minute via a Tadic wonder strike, and a first replay via VAR looked like the ball had gone out of play in the build-up. A second angle, however, seemed to show it just touching the white paint, and it was ruled inconclusive.

Real got one back in the 70th minute, with substitute Marco Asensio rolling a low shot past Onana and inside the far post.

Then came Lasse Schone. What else can you say about this free kick, other than a remarkable effort accompanies a mistake from Courtois.