Sergio Ramos backs Kylian Mbappe to become one of the best players in the world

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Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos says French teen striker Kylian Mbappe will become a welcome addition for the reigning Champions League and La Liga champions should he decide to leave Monaco.

The 18-year-old forward is wanted by Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, with the Spanish giants poised to make him one of the most expensive players of all time in a move that could cost around €180million.

Ramos was adamant Mbappe has the qualities to become one of the best in the world.

“It’s not a decision for me but Mbappe is a great prospect. There are not young players around like him. We have an important year ahead of us and already have excellent players,” Ramos said ahead of their meeting with arch-rivals Barcelona in Miami.

“But it’s money which moves football and people can pay what they want. If he wants to come to Real Madrid, the doors will be open.”

While Zidane smiled through his press conference, Barcelona have been fighting to keep superstar Neymar from accepting Paris Saint-Germain’s riches.

The French legend declined to twist the knife regarding Neymar.

“We will see what happens,” Zidane said. “He’s a good player. They are our most important rivals but we lost our last match against Manchester City and we want to put in a strong performance.

“We are happy, want to perform, we want to be physically better. That’s our goal, but we are so happy to be here.”

Madrid will boast a strong squad although Real enters the match without Cristiano Ronaldo, who has missed the US tour and will not appear.

“Yes I am happy with what we have right now,” said Zidane. “But we have a good squad even though we are missing Cristiano here. He is on vacation, and he can enjoy that and be ready for the season.”

Ronaldo kept the International Champions Cup organizers waiting until the very last minute before deciding he would not be playing.

The Portuguese star has been in Asia completing commercial obligations and is expected in court on Monday in Madrid to testify in a tax-evasion case, meaning his presence in South Florida was always highly doubtful.

“Unfortunately, Ronaldo’s personal commitments precluded him from being here,” Charlie Stillitano, chairman of organisers Relevent Sports, told the Miami Herald.

“He really wanted to be here. This is not a diva situation. He was hoping that he could make it. He waited until today to let us know, but it just didn’t work out. We still have the two best teams and the top stars minus one.”

Provided by AFP Sport

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What is going with Neymar and other key questions ahead of the pre-season Clasico

Andy West 29/07/2017
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Barcelona are in good form ahead of Sunday’s El Clasico having beaten Juventus and Manchester United in the International Champions Cup.

Real Madrid, however, will be looking to bounce back from the 4-1 loss to Manchester City but of course the main story line is away from the pitch with Neymar and Gareth Bale’s futures in doubt.

Here are four key questions ahead of the clash.

What’s going on with Neymar?

The ongoing saga of Neymar’s potential dramatic departure to Paris Saint-Germain took an ugly turn for the worse yesterday when the Brazilian winger stormed out of a training session after an angry altercation with newly-signed right-back Nelson Semedo.

Despite his unsettled state – or perhaps because of it – Neymar has been in superb form so far during pre-season, scoring two brilliant goals against Juventus and adding another to defeat Manchester United.

But the question of whether he is motivated will be under exceptionally heavy scrutiny in what could prove to be his last Clasico, and any sign of insolence or half-heartedness will be ruthlessly pounced upon by the Spanish media.

It will also be fascinating to see the chemistry between Neymar and his teammates, who must be privately running out of patience with the way the Brazilian’s future has completely dominated their preparations for the new season.

Will Valverde persist with 4-3-3?

Throughout his coaching career new Barca boss Ernesto Valverde has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation with the back four protected by two defensively-positioned central midfielders.

But so far during pre-season he has opted for Barca’s traditional 4-3-3 formation, which has been employed almost exclusively since Pep Guardiola took command of the team nearly ten years ago.

So far there has been little discernible change to the midfield set-up which sees Sergio Busquets act as the anchor with Ivan Rakitic to his right and Andres Iniesta on the left, and it appears Valverde is prepared to change his approach to suit his new team rather than the other way around.

But that system becomes imbalanced when Lionel Messi drifts inside from his nominal right-wing position, often leaving the right-back lacking in defensive cover and leaving the team vulnerable to counter-attacks. It’s a matter Valverde must address sooner rather than later.

Barcelona’s coach Ernesto Valverde

How does Zinedine Zidane want to play?

During the first year of his managerial reign Zinedine Zidane was wedded to a 4-3-3 shape with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo lining up on the wings and Karim Benzema roaming through the middle.

But towards the end of last season Bale’s injury forced him to change that approach and introduce a narrow midfield diamond, with Casemiro at the base and Isco at the tip while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos controlled the middle.

It worked a treat as the team produced their most convincing performances for many years, with Ronaldo particularly thriving in his new role as an outright centre forward.

Now Zidane must decide whether to stick with the system that concluded last season so well or revert to his previously preferred 4-3-3, and although he is likely to use both formations at different stages of the season this Clasico could give clues over his preference for big games.

Manager Zinedine Zidane

Is Gareth Bale being marginalised?

Very closely connected to the team’s playing shape is the future of Gareth Bale, who has been very quiet so far in pre-season and has found himself linked with a move away from the Bernabeu since the club stepped up their pursuit of Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe.

The switch to a midfield diamond does not bode well for Bale, who has no natural place within a team which does not contain wingers.

He could move infield to play in the central attacking role occupied by Isco in the latter stages of last season, but he does not really possess the intricate ball skills required to excel in that position.

The question of where Bale plays and whether he can make a meaningful impact upon the action could be extremely revealing – another below-par performance could be an indication that the former Tottenham man’s days at Madrid are numbered.

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PSG captain Thiago Silva hints at news in regards to Barcelona star Neymar

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Thiago Silva is not prepared to discuss the possibility of his Brazil team-mate Neymar joining Paris Saint-Germain in a reported €222million switch until after Saturday’s showdown with Monaco.

Barcelona striker Neymar has been linked with a potential world-record transfer to ambitious PSG, where he would be reunited with Selecao defender Silva, among other Brazilians.

The capital club have kept their counsel but, ahead of the Trophee des Champions meeting with Ligue 1 winners Monaco in Morocco, Silva said the time to talk about any deal might come “soon”.

Quoted in Le Parisien, he said of Neymar: “I play with him in the national team. But this is not the time to talk about him, the priority is tomorrow’s match. After the game, we can talk more about it.

“He’s my friend, we’ve been playing together for seven years. We have a very honest relationship.

“But we will have to wait. Soon everybody will be talking about it.”

Of the pre-season encounter with Monaco, who in May ended PSG’s run of four straight titles, Silva said: “It will be an interesting game, especially considering that they won the last championship.

“This will be an important match – 50 per cent for us and the same for them. We have a lot of respect for them but now this is a new season and we’re getting back to work again.”

Silva got the better of Monaco’s breakthrough teenager Kylian Mbappe – himself linked with a big-money move to Real Madrid this summer – in April’s Coupe de la Ligue final, which PSG won 4-1.

The former AC Milan centre-back added: “When you go up against players with that much quality, you have to work very hard mentally.

“I have good memories of that final, I was very good as were our whole team. I hope that will be the same tomorrow.

“We know it’s going to be very hot but we will do everything we can to bring home this trophy.”

Radamel Falcao is one of the few Monaco stars to have remained with the principality outfit following their first title-winning season in 17 years, with the likes of Bernardo

Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Benjamin Mendy all moving to the Premier League in the transfer window.

The Colombian hitman therefore represented the club at the pre-match press conference, speaking of the domestic rivals’ shared ambition to conquer this overseas challenge.

“Paris and Monaco are two great teams,” said Falcao. “They both want to win this prize.

“We are out here to take this match seriously and there can be no favourite. Everyone wants to play well and try to take the cup back to France.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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