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Kovacic: Real Madrid “born to play in the Champions League.”

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Mateo Kovacic and Real Madrid may be out of the running in La Liga and the Copa del Rey, but their status as a potential UEFA Champions League history maker is very much alive.

[ MORE: UCL recap | Klopp reacts ]

Real moved to within three rounds of a third-straight UEFA Champions League title, which has only been done by three clubs and not since 1976, by controlling Neymar-less Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

One of those three clubs, by the way, is Real. They won the first five European Cups, although the tournament was far less challenging in 1960.

“They had the ball more than us but we were very aggressive. It’s difficult to beat us when we play like that. It’s amazing how it’s changed when we play in the Champions League.

“This club is born to play in the Champions League.”

This “threepeat,” however, would be next level, with the world as competitive as ever. Real has a big advantage, however, in that it will it merely needs to avoid a horrendous league finish to qualify for another UCL and can focus on the tournament proper.

Real boss Zinedine Zidane was pleased to come through the encounter in Paris.

“It was a tough match,” he said. “I’m pleased. I must congratulate the players as they’re the ones on the pitch. Bravo to them. This is a tough ground to come to, the atmosphere is fantastic. We deserved to get through the tie.”

Barcelona top Real Madrid, 3-2, in Miami’s El Clasico (video)

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Round 1 of the 2017-18 El Clasico rivalry favored Barcelona, courtesy of goals scored by Lionel Messi, Ivan Rakitic and Gerard Pique, who knocked off Real Madrid in the two sides’ preseason friendly in Miami, Fla., on Saturday.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Messi opened the scoring with fewer than three minutes on the clock, finishing a quick counter-attack down the right side of the box with a quick cut inside and a fortuitous deflection.

Just as quickly as Messi made it 1-0, Rakitic made it 2-0, in the 7th minute. Luis Suarez touched Neymar’s cross past himself to the waiting Croatian, whose first-time, perfectly placed shot beat Keylor Navas with ease.

[ MORE: Pique says Neymar “does not know what to do” ]

Seven minutes later, Mateo Kovacic pulled Madrid back to within a goal. The 23-year-old Croatian slalomed past three defenders 25 yards out, squared himself to the goal and fired past Jasper Cillessen, who had no chance at making the save.

Nine minutes before halftime, Marco Asensio drew Madrid back onto level terms with a confident finish to complete a lightning-quick, three-on-two counter. Karim Benzema played the decoy as Asensio and Kovacic played the ball back and forth before Asensio slammed it home with Cillessen sent to his right and the shot to his left.

[ MORE: Puyol tells Neymar it’s time to clarify his future ]

Barca’s winner came five minutes into the second half, when Neymar’s free kick found a completely unmarked Pique at the top of the six-yard box. The finish was textbook as the 10,000 times he’s done it in training, and that was that — a 3-2 victory for Barca in the first “Clasico” played on foreign soil in 35 years.

Spurs close to nabbing Argentine center back; Alerted to Kovacic?

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Tottenham Hotspur are mentioned as a destination for two foreign players, although wages could stop one from arriving in North London.

That latter note pertains to Mateo Kovacic, as the London Evening Standard says Spurs will be very interested in Real Madrid’s 23-year-old Croatian midfielder but worried about how his salary meets their wage structure.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up? ]

Kovacic has made 73 appearances for Real since arriving from Inter Milan in 2015, and that the UEFA Champions League winners could want to sell him to raise funds for a Kylian Mbappe purchase. Spurs are listed as one of the clubs hearing from Real.

Meanwhile, Tottenham could be a lot closer to sealing a deal for Argentina U-20 World Cup defender Juan Foyth. A 19-year-old center back, Foyth stands 6-foot-2 and is reportedly also of interest to Roma.

Foyth could fetch $13 million for Estudiantes:

Estudiantes president Juan Veron, the former Manchester United and Chelsea midfielder, was due to fly  for discussions in the coming days, possibly in Italy. If those meetings proceed successfully, Foyth could join Tottenham this week.

Estudiantes has a rich history, once managed by Diego Simeone and new Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino. Recent exports include Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla), Jonathan Silva (Sporting CP), Federico Fernandez (Swansea), and Marcos Rojo (Manchester United).

Spurs have 19-year-old American center back Cameron Carter-Vickers in its corps along with Toby Alderweireld (28), Jan Vertonghen (30), and Kevin Wimmer (24).

Real Madrid loses Modric and Marcelo to injuries in Malaga win

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The 40-game unbeaten run seems like a distant memory.

Real Madrid had lost two straight matches before a 2-1 La Liga win over Malaga on Saturday, but despite the three points, they still did lose in a way.

Los Blancos lost both Marcelo and Luka Modric to injury in the match, and both could potentially miss up to a month of time.

Modric has been in and out of the squad this season due to injuries, and during his other lengthy spell on the sidelines, he was replaced adequately by 22-year-old Mateo Kovacic, and he was the man to replace Modric against Malaga with 12 minutes remaining. Reports say the Croatian suffered an adductor injury which can be quite painful and could keep him off the field for a number of weeks.

Marcelo, meanwhile, has been a staple in the Madrid lineup, appearing in the last 11 league matches and starting all but two of those. Marcelo was brought off just 25 minutes into the Malaga win reportedly with a hamstring problem, replaced by Isco. The likely long-term replacement for the 28-year-old Brazilian would be Nacho Fernandez, who has seen time this season on both defensive flanks.

The injuries puts not just the immediate La Liga and Copa del Rey futures of the two in jeopardy, but also could affect their availability for the start of the Champions League knockout stage which begins on February 15th against Napoli.

Real Madrid acquires Croatian dynamo Kovacic from Inter, signs him to six-year deal


The rich are getting richer, as dynamic midfielder Mateo Kovacic is moving from Inter Milan to Real Madrid for an undisclosed fee.

The 21-year-old Croatian veteran — yes at his tender age, Kovacic has been capped 21 times — can lead an attack from the front or lay back and spray balls around the field.

[ MATCH RECAP: Manchester United 3-1 Club Brugge ]

Kovacic is coming off a career year at Inter, where he netted five times in Serie A and thrice more in eight Europa League matches.

It’s a six-year deal for Kovacic.

From Real Madrid’s English site:

The player will be presented tomorrow, Wednesday 19 August at 1pm, in the presidential box at the Santiago Bernabéu, after undergoing a medical.

Afterwards, Mateo Kovacic will step out onto the pitch at the Santiago Bernabéu for the first time wearing the Real Madrid shirt and talk to the media in the press room.