Zinedine Zidane discusses Gareth Bale's Real Madrid future

David Cooper 20/07/2019
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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane commented on Gareth Bale’s future with the club on Friday.

The Frenchman maintained that Bale remains a Madrid player but ended the discussion saying ‘we’ll see what happens’.

Zidane was speaking after his team arrived in Houston for their pre-season tour of America.

“It [Bale situation] is not a problem, he has a contract,” the Madrid boss said.

“He is here, he will spend his time with us. I have respect for all of my players. Gareth is with us, he is a Real Madrid player and we’re going to see what happens.”

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Transfer Predictor: Arsenal's swoop for Moise Kean gets a 7, Giovani Lo Celso to Tottenham is an 8

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Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.

We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.

Today’s edition features potential signings for Bayern Munich, Tottenham and Arsenal:

BRAIS MENDEZ

Brais Mendez

Celta Vigo -> €25m -> Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are keen on signing Brais Mendez from Celta Vigo as an alternative to Leroy Sane, according to kicker.

Why it will happen: Bayern only have two out-and-out wingers in their first team squad this season in Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman. Following the departures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, they’re desperate for reinforcements in that department. Mendez would be an able and affordable back-up option, perhaps even a place holder until they can land a superstar in the coming windows.

Why it won’t happen: It feels as if Bayern’s approach for the Spaniard is more a case of them covering their bases rather than a genuine desire to add him to their roster. Mendez has been good for Celta Vigo and is clearly technically gifted but is nowhere near the quality of Sane. With Ajax star Hakim Ziyech in the shop window, surely Bayern opt for him if the German remains at City?

Transfer Predictor: 2/10

MOISE KEAN

Moise Kean

Moise Kean

Juventus -> €30m -> Arsenal

Juventus are looking to sell teenage striker Moise Kean with Arsenal interested, according to gianlucadimarzio.com.

Why it will happen: Kean is bound to be fairly low down the pecking order for a spot in Juventus’ front three. However, given the promise he showed last season, playing time is integral to his development and he should be afforded plenty of that at Arsenal who are struggling in their efforts to sign Wilfried Zaha. Kean represents an affordable alternative for the financially limited Gunners and possibly one just as effective. A first refusal clause for Juventus in the deal would play nicely into the hands of the Serie A champions. It’s a win-win.

Why it won’t happen: Everton are reportedly targeting the Italian forward as well and could quite easily place a higher bid than Arsenal. Meanwhile, Kean could also decide to hold out for an offer from a team in the Champions League this season.

Transfer Predictor: 7/10

GIOVANI LO CELSO

Giovani Lo Celso

Real Betis -> €68m -> Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham have submitted a €68m offer for Giovani Lo Celso, according to El Transistor.

Why it will happen: Spurs are eager to secure the services of the Argentine perhaps in anticipation of Christian Eriksen’s departure. With Paul Pogba looking increasingly likely to stay at Manchester United, Real Madrid could turn to the Dane instead. Having already added Tanguy Ndombele to their ranks, Lo Celso would ensure they remain well stocked in midfield. Having triggered their option to buy the midfielder from Paris Saint-Germain for just €22m following a successful loan spell last season, Betis stand a chance to make a huge profit.

Why it won’t happen: If Eriksen does a U-turn and decides he would rather remain at Tottenham, the club may retract their interest in Lo Celso. Alternatively, Betis may try to extract more money from Spurs only to see negotiations collapse.

Transfer Predictor: 8/10

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Explaining transfer market mystery of why no one has bought Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech

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Football’s transfer market often moves in mysterious ways.

From wondering why your favourite club has splashed out on a target they, seemingly, don’t need, to pulling your hair out as an obvious signing to improve their fortunes remains ignored. For fans, the summer months can be a confusing – and aggravating – time.

In Sport360’s ‘Transfer Market Mystery’ series, we attempt to delve into some of the glaring scenarios and work out what is going on.

Our latest case under the microscope – with help from WhoScored.com statistics – is the lack of tangible interest in outstanding Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech:

THE SITUATION

Ziyech is the creative heartbeat of the cavalier Ajax side that stormed to the 2018/19 Champions League semi-finals, plus Eredivisie and KNBV Cup double.

A return of 21 goals and 24 assists across 49 matches, plus devastating displays versus the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid, caused Ajax director of football Marc Overmars to understandably state in May that “many big clubs are buzzing around him”. Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal were all contemporaneously linked with an alluring €30-40 million deal.

The ex-Netherlands winger, however, provided a surprising update this week.

“I believe Hakim Ziyech is better than Mesut Ozil,” a perplexed Overmars told AD.

“I would advise Arsenal to sell Ozil and buy Ziyech for half of the money, but they didn’t listen to me. Now there’s a good chance Hakim will stay at Ajax for another season.”

BBC Sport have stated that the Gunners scouted Ziyech, but will not be pursuing him. The 26-year-old is also reported to be only a distant ‘Plan B’ for Bayern, according to SportBild.

WHY HE SHOULD BE ON THE MOVE

Ziyech is an artist on the football pitch.

He moves at a frenzied pace reminiscent of graffiti artists from his tough childhood neighbourhood of Dronten, rather than the measured style of Rembrandt and the other Dutch Masters that the gravity of his work now demands.

In the Eredivisie, he got the joint-most assists (13) along with team-mate Dusan Tadic. An average of 3.7 key passes per game, however, put him in a class of his own.

Highly rated PSV Eindhoven attackers Hirving Lozano (25) and Steven Bergwijn (26), for example, could not match Ziyech’s combined tally for goals and assists (29).

In the Champions League, only Barcelona icon Lionel Messi (35) and Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar (32) produced more successful dribbles than him (31). Transfer fees for that pair, plus Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling who also registered 31, would all be north of €170m.

Another eye-catching element of Ziyech’s play is his energy and commitment. He usually starts on the right wing, but can pop up anywhere in the final third.

His suffocating pressing is also essential to head coach Erik ten Hag’s vibrant approach.

Ziyech (28) led the way for tackles in the Champions League for wingers, attacking midfielders and strikers. In the Eredivisie, his average tackles per game of 1.7 was the joint-sixth most for Ajax.

WHY HE ISN’T

A simple explanation could be that suitors decided to bide their time and wait for Ziyech’s Africa Cup of Nations-commitments to end.

It is, however, a fortnight since he missed a critical penalty during the round-of-16 upset inflicted by Benin and no firm movement has taken place.

Grander options may yet appear on the market. Bayern would be happy to pay more than double for either Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele or Manchester City’s Leroy Sane if their employers exhibit any willingness to deal.

Scepticism about Eredivisie attackers has also grown since Memphis Depay floundered at Manchester United and even ex-PSV team-mate Jurgen Locadia failed to ignite at Brighton & Hove Albion.

A deeper dive into Ziyech’s statistics may show why such hesitancy, especially when compared to Barcelona’s swoop for club-mate Frenkie de Jong that was tied up last January, is at play.

Ziyech’s 62 dribbles was the most in the 2018/19 UCL – but so too was his 31 unsuccessful dribbles. For unsuccessful attempts, Messi and Neymar had nine less; Sterling had 11 less.

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The Double 🤫

A post shared by Hakim Ziyech (@hziyech) on

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane’s inferior 28 successful dribbles was allayed by a far-superior 17 unsuccessful dribbles.

In the Champions League, Ziyech scraped into the top 50 for average crosses per game (0.9) and was joint 21st for key passes per game (2.2).

Ziyech’s average of 5.3 shots per game was comfortably the leading figure in the Eredivisie. Only 16 goals followed.

A propensity to fire in low-percentage efforts could frustrate. He fired in a leading 97 shots from outside the penalty box; second-placed Steven Berghuis of Feyenoord hit 56.

Ziyech’s frenetic nature is, clearly, both great strength and notable weakness.

CONCLUSION

Premium quality costs, but such mark-ups do not intimidate Europe’s affluent elite.

This is why Bayern are in desperate need of a wide man and, yet, have not pushed for Ziyech. The same could even be said for Arsenal if Wilfried Zaha cannot be extracted from Crystal Palace.

All know the generous price that the Morocco attacker is available for. All know a deal is there to be done.

As transfer deadlines get closer and holes in squads become more conspicuous, belated offers may occur for back-up options.

Expect Ziyech to depart Johan Cruyff Arena. Just don’t expect it to be well before any interested side’s transfer cut-off date.

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