'You just can't boo him' – Kovacic defends Ronaldo after more Bernabeu jeers

The Portuguese forward and his team-mates were targeted by the Real Madrid boo-boys as the La Liga leaders ran out 3-0 winners over Real Sociedad

Mateo Kovacic praised Real Madrid’s supporters but leapt to the defence of team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, who was subjected to boos by the Santiago Bernabeu crowd.

Despite pre-match calls for unity in the Spanish capital, Ronaldo and Co. were targeted by the Madrid boo-boys as the La Liga leaders ran out 3-0 winners over Real Sociedad on Sunday.

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Four-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo shrugged off the hostile home crowd to score a goal and set up Kovacic as Madrid moved four points clear of reigning champions Barcelona and Sevilla.

“The fans were really good and were our twelfth man. We have to thank them for that,” Kovacic said.

“As for Ronaldo, he’s under a lot of pressure and that’s to be expected.

“A player who gets a goal every game is under a lot of pressure, but you just can’t boo him.”

Kovacic was lively throughout at the Bernabeu, scoring his first Liga goal of the season as he opened the scoring seven minutes prior to half-time.

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After being set up by Ronaldo, the Croatian midfielder then turned provider for the Portugal captain six minutes into the second half, before Alvaro Morata sealed the victory.

“It was a very important game and we managed to get the three points. The team did very well and we must continue on in this vein,” said Kovacic.

“Whenever you score it always makes you happy, but the most important thing is that we got the win and put three more points on the board. I got a goal and provided an assist and I’ve now go to keep going and prove that I can play for Real Madrid.”

Lucas Vazquez calf tear confirmed

Zinedine Zidane will be without the winger and Mateo Kovacic when Real Madrid host Sevilla in the Copa del Rey, with the recovery times of both players to be assessed

Real Madrid have confirmed Lucas Vazquez suffered a calf tear at the Club World Cup and have not put a timeframe on his recovery.

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Lucas played both of Madrid’s matches in Japan but was replaced nine minutes from the end of normal time in the final, which saw Zinedine Zidane’s men beat Kashima Antlers 4-2 in extra time.

The winger will now undergo treatment on his grade two calf injury ahead of Madrid’s return to competitive action against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey on January 4.
A club statement read: “Following the tests carried out on Lucas Vazquez in the Sanitas la Moraleja University Hospital, the player has been diagnosed with a grade two injury to his right soleus muscle, an injury he picked up at the Club World Cup.

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“His recovery will continue to be assessed.”

In addition, Mateo Kovacic has been diagnosed with a sprained ankle and his recovery will also be monitored.

Lucas has scored one goal in 23 appearances for Madrid this season, while Kovacic has made 18 outings with the same goal return.

Kovacic wants to stay at Real Madrid – agent

The midfielder has no intention of leaving Los Blancos and is determined to fight for a place in the first team this season, according to his representative Nikky Vuksan

Mateo Kovacic has no intention of leaving Real Madrid and is determined to fight for a place in the first team this season, according his agent Nikky Vuksan.

The Croatia international, 22, struggled to nail down a starting berth at the club last season and has therefore been linked with a move away from La Liga ahead of the 2016-17 campaign.

However, Kovacic’s representative has made it clear the midfielder does not want to quit Madrid just a year after he joined the Spanish giants from Inter.

“I have not spoken to the club, there is no need,” Vuksan told Sportske Novosti.

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“Right now he is fighting for his place in the team, as is the case with every player except Cristiano [Ronaldo], who is the only one who has a guaranteed place in the first XI.

“There are always rumours at this time of year but Kovacic is a Madrid player, his manager [Zinedine Zidane] has faith in him and he helps him and supports him.

“Every player has to prove their worth to find a place in the team and at Real Madrid it is even more difficult.”

Kovacic’s contract with Madrid runs until June 2021.

RUMOURS: Liverpool have the edge in Kovacic race

The Reds are reportedly ready to purchase the out-of-favour Real Madrid outright as they enter the chase, while the Serie A clubs also in pursuit would prefer a loan-to-buy deal

Liverpool have joined the race to sign Mateo Kovacic and could have an advantage on their rivals, according to Sky Sport Italia.
Juventus, Roma and AC Milan have all been credited with interest in the Real Madrid midfielder, but the Serie A clubs want a loan-to-buy deal whereas the Reds are willing to purchase him outright – a deal which the Champions League winners would prefer.
Kovacic only joined Madrid in August, making a €31 million (£24.3m) switch from Inter, but has struggled to make an impression at the Santiago Bernabeu and is expected to leave this summer.

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Real Madrid ready to sell cut-price flop Kovacic

The 22-year-old has failed to make an impact after a €29 million move from Inter last summer and Zinedine Zidane is prepared to make a loss, with Roma signalling their interest

EXCLUSIVEReal Madrid are prepared to make a loss on Mateo Kovacic as the European champions look to offload the youngster, Goal understands.The 22-year-old arrived from Inter for a fee of €29 million less than 12 months ago, but has struggled to make an impact after two-and-a-half stellar seasons in Serie A.Kovacic was afforded just eight Liga starts after failing to impress both Rafael Benitez and Zinedine Zidane and Madrid are now prepared to accept offers of €25m for the Croatia international.Roma have made contact over a possible deal for Kovacic, as they look to replace new Juventus signing Miralem Pjanic, but a deal is far from done.There are concerns at the Bernabeu that Roma could be playing up interest in the midfielder as a ruse to lower the demands for No.1 target Alexis Witsel of Zenit.Witsel, who has just one year remaining on his contract, has gone public with his desire to leave the Russian giants with a reported €20m price tag placed on his head.RUMOURS | Real offer €120m plus Kroos for Pogba “I want to try a new experience in a different League, a new challenge,” Witsel said. “I hope to step up a level and play in a big European club.”My future could be in Italy or in England. It doesn’t matter if I go to Serie A or the Premier League, as long as it’s a big club.”

Milan were thwarted with a January bid for the Belgian, while Ronald Koeman has been linked with interest as he begins his tenure as Everton manager.

Real Madrid flop Kovacic desperate to get flagging career back on track

COMMENTThe first time Florentino Perez clapped eyes on Mateo Kovacic it was for the player’s unveiling at Santiago Bernabeu after completing a €29m transfer from Inter to Real Madrid. And since then he has cut the figure of a man who doesn’t really belong.
Rafael Benitez, Real Madrid coach at the start of the season, decided he would need an extra midfielder and duly drew up a list of targets to present to his president. On the list, if not in first place, was Kovacic. Perez offered €29m and Inter – constrained by Financial Fair Play – sold up.
Related Euro 2016 Team Guide: Croatia need big guns to fire for success Halilovic left out of final Croatia squad Kovacic may well have played 25 times for Real Madrid in his first – and probably only – season at Santiago Bernabeu but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. While Benitez was indeed a fan and used him all across the midfield as a replacement for his first-team players, Kovacic has been on the fringes since Zinedine Zidane took over.
It was sadly appropriate that Kovacic was red-carded in the game which did for Benitez. A 2-2 draw at Valencia cost Rafa his job in January with Kovacic getting sent off. It seemed to represent the unravelling of the Benitez regime.
Zidane has a clearly-defined midfield template – Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Kovacic’s Croatian compatriot Luka Modric – and the 22-year-old rarely got a look in for the starting XI. By the time Real claimed their 11th Champions League title – at Kovacic’s former home stadium in San Siro – he was nowhere to be found; out of the 18 and very probably now out of the club altogether.
Kovacic is expected to complete a move back to Italy at some stage this summer with Juventus – despite their pursuit of Miralem Pjanic – and AC Milan ready to compete for his signature. The player himself has discarded the possibility of a return to Inter – so long as Roberto Mancini remains in charge there.
Not much is known about their problems but Kovacic described their relationship as “strange” this week. Should a deal fail to materialise before the end of the European Championship, then Kovacic has a chance to put himself in the shop window with his national side.

However, he is going to have to force his way into Ante Cacic’s plans first. He is not always guaranteed to start for his country. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are non-negotiable picks in centre midfield while Kovacic’s former Inter team-mate Marcelo Brozovic is also certain to be selected.
With two wide men in Ivan Perisic and Marco Pjaca likely to start either side of a single centre forward, there would appear to be no room in the line up for Kovacic.
The fact that he has failed to make the grade at the Bernabeu counts against him. His development has been stunted by the move to Spain. As a teenager, he was deemed to be among Europe’s best when he swapped Dinamo Zagreb for Inter but his career has stalled even if he gets to call Real Madrid home.
What Kovacic needs is the opportunity to put it right and and demonstrate what he still has to offer. Maybe then, his next club president might be tempted to say hello before the unveiling.

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.”