Kovacic rules out Inter return under Mancini

The Croatia international, who has fallen out of favour at Real Madrid, insists his “weird” relationship with the Nerazzurri boss means a return to the San Siro isn’t on the cards

Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic has ruled out a return to Inter while Roberto Mancini remains in charge.

The Croatia international left San Siro for Madrid in 2015, but has seen limited playing time for the Champions League winners, fuelling speculation of possibly linking back up with his former club. 

But despite reiterating his affinity for Inter, the 22-year-old admitted that he cannot work under Mancini, who himself re-joined the Serie A side in 2014. 

“I won’t go back there with Mancini on the bench,” he said.
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“I had a weird relationship with him, but these are personal things and it’s best not to get into them.

“I don’t know what will happen in the future, nobody does. I had two-and-a-half years with Inter and I’m a fan.”

Kovacic is currently preparing for Euro 2016 with Croatia, who start the tournament at the Parc des Princes against Turkey on Sunday.

Inter 'always interested in a guy like Kovacic' – Ausilio

The Serie A side have admitted they would be keen to bring the Croatia international back from his spell at the Bernabeu but feel he could still have a future in Spain

Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio says the door is always open for Mateo Kovacic to return to San Siro, but he hopes the midfielder becomes a success at Real Madrid.

Kovacic left Inter for Madrid last year, but endured a difficult first season, making just eight La Liga starts.

The Croatia international failed to make Zinedine Zidane’s 18-man squad for last Saturday’s Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, and has been heavily linked with a move away from Spain.

Juventus and AC Milan are said to be interested in Kovacic’s services, but Ausilio would like to see the 22-year-old spurn their advances in favour of trying to establish himself at the Santiago Bernabeu or a return to the Nerazzuri.
Ausilio told Radio Umbria: “If he has to come back to Italy, selfishly I hope it’s not to AC Milan or Juve. Inter would hate to see Mateo with another shirt because we are fond of him.

“We always have an interest in a guy like Kovacic, but we cannot set anything. I hope he continues on his path at Madrid, a team that has just won the Champions League.

“It’s true that he did not play much, but Mateo, for his age, has many appearances in professional leagues such as la Liga and Serie A.

“If he is patient, he may become important for Real.”

Galliani: Benzema out of reach for Milan

The Frenchman is off limits according to the Rossoneri official, who did not deny interest in Mateo Kovacic while playing down talk of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return

AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani has denied holding talks with Real Madrid over Karim Benzema, but would not rule out a move for team-mate Mateo Kovacic.

Benzema’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu has been the subject of recent speculation, with new Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho reportedly monitoring his situation with a view to making a bid.

The revelation from Robert Lewandowski’s agent on Friday that the Bayern Munich striker has held talks with Madrid has cast further doubt on Benzema’s future, while Milan have also been linked with an offer should a takeover from a Chinese consortium be completed.

Galliani, however, says Benzema remains highly valued by the Madrid hierarchy and has never been considered a realistic target.

“We never talked about Benzema with Real Madrid or his entourage,” he told Mediaset Premium. “He’s very much admired by the coaches, directors and president of Real Madrid, so we never thought of reaching him.”

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Galliani would not dismiss the idea of a bid for Kovacic, however, with the midfielder having struggled to force his way into Zinedine Zidane’s plans since he took charge in January.
“Kovacic? We’ll see,” Galliani said, before adding: “I am not here to talk about the market.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has also been linked with a return to Milan as he weighs up his options following a decision to leave Paris Saint-Germain at the end of his contract.

Galliani has repeatedly stressed that the Sweden star’s wages would be a major stumbling block for any potential deal and he maintains that meetings with the striker’s agent, Mino Raiola, are unlikely to solve the problem.
“I always have meetings with Raiola – we have a good rapport and he represents four or five Milan players,” the official concluded. “The problem is not meeting Raiola, but paying Ibrahimovic.”

Arbeloa: Mourinho didn’t get enough recognition at Madrid

Jose Mourinho spent three seasons at Real Madrid, winning La Liga in 2011-12, which ended Barcelona’s run of three consecutive titles.

Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa has heaped praise on Jose Mourinho, claiming the Portuguese helped disrupt Pep Guardiola’s La Liga dominance with Barcelona.

As Arbeloa prepares for Saturday’s Champions League final with Madrid and Mourinho seemingly closes in on a move to Manchester United, the Spanish defender reflected on the latter’s time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Mourinho spent three seasons in the Spanish capital and guided Madrid to La Liga glory in 2011-12, ending Barca’s run of three consecutive titles.

“Mourinho was very important to break the Catalans’ dominance,” Arbeloa said in an interview with beIN Sports.

“He has not been given enough recognition for this but if he hadn’t come along, Pep Guardiola would still be winning titles in Barcelona to this day.”

Arbeloa is set to leave Madrid following Saturday’s final against Atletico Madrid in Milan. Check out the new English football division.

And the 33-year-old also lauded current Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, adding: “He has our respect, admiration and affection.”

‘Rakitic plays like he is from La Masia!’

The Croatian’s compatriot Ivan Kelava, who plays for Granada in Spain, has hailed the midfielder’s seamless integration into the Barcelona first team since his move from Sevilla

Granada goalkeeper Ivan Kelava has hailed his compatriot Ivan Rakitic’s seamless integration into the Barcelonamidfield.

The Croatia star moved to Catalunya from Sevilla in the summer of 2014 and won La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League in his debut season at Camp Nou.

Rakitic was brought to Barcelona to replace club legend Xavi and Kelava, who played with the 27-year-old for Croatia’s Under-21 team, believes he is a natural fit for the Spanish champions.

“It’s amazing how he plays,” Kelava told Goal. “When Barcelona bought him, it seemed like he came from La Masia.

“Rakete, as we call him in Croatia, is not just a good guy but also an incredible player. I played alongside him and also against him and it’s incredible – his first year at Barcelona and he has won everything!”

Kelava also lined up alongside Real Madrid stars Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic, two other members of a formidable Croatia midfield, during their time at Dinamo Zagreb.

“I was lucky to play with Modric and Kovacic,” he said. “I met Luka before he joined Tottenham. You could see during training his quality was on another level.

“And on Kovacic I’m going to tell you an anecdote: when he reached the first team asked me who my room-mate was, and I told him ‘quiet, son, you’re with me’.

“You could feel he was a phenomenon. I was lucky to play with them both. I always had a f****** great feeling with them.”

Barcelona agreed a deal to sign Dinamo Zagreb’s latest wonderkid, Alen Halilovic, months before they brought Rakitic to the club and Kelava tipped the youngster to eventually join his international team-mate in the first team. If you plan to bet on future transfers, check William Hill Promo code 2016 and their offer.

“Alen is a kid, he’s just 19 years old,” the 28-year-old added. “He’s very young and has great quality.

“I was with him at Dinamo and has a lot of quality, that’s why he’s known as ‘the Croatian Messi’. Every player needs time for adaptation, and a young player needs even more.

“Now he’s playing for Sporting Gijon and he’s showing his quality. I think he’s going to be a very important player for Barcelona.”