Saturday 21 April 2018

Zidane braced for Ronaldo exit but Real Madrid determined to hold on to Gareth Bale

Cristiano Ronaldo is still expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of this season. Photo: Juan Medina/ Reuters
Cristiano Ronaldo is still expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of this season. Photo: Juan Medina/ Reuters

Matt Law

Cristiano Ronaldo is still expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season despite the appointment of Zinedine Zidane to replace Rafa Benitez as manager.

The news will come as a boost to Manchester United, although Paris Saint-Germain remain favourites to land Ronaldo in the summer.

Benitez had been open to the prospect of Ronaldo leaving the Bernabeu as he attempted to create a more team-orientated philosophy at the club.

Zidane, however, plans to start with Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema in attack but that does not change the fact the Portuguese captain will most likely be allowed to go at the end of the season.

Bale will re-assess his future if his position under Zidane changes.

Bale, who was devastated by the sacking of Benitez, remains the club's key man in the eyes of president Florentino Perez.

Zidane will now work to prove to the Welsh international that he holds him in the same high esteem.

If Bale did decide that he wanted to leave, he would not be short of suitors, with both Manchester clubs and Chelsea among the clubs closely monitoring the situation.

United currently stand a far better chance of re-signing Ronaldo than capturing Bale, but the Old Trafford hierarchy will have to see off the financial power of PSG to do so.

The Portuguese turns 31 next month and has been troubled by knee problems over recent years, which will no doubt contribute to Real's willingness to listen to offers.

A Real insider said: "Out of Bale and Ronaldo, Ronaldo is the player expected to leave the club. Bale is still seen as the future, whereas Ronaldo's best years may now be behind him.

"PSG are desperate to sign him and would be favourites at the moment, but United will no doubt try."

Former Real manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo has claimed Ronaldo must stop trying to run the dressing-room under Zidane.

"Zinedene was a leader in the dressing room when he was a player and Cristiano should realise that now there is a person with leadership and understanding of the game in charge," said Luxemburgo.

"The changing room belongs to the players only up to a certain point, beyond that it is the manager who's in control. Cristiano has to understand that he isn't the manager."

Zidane is expected to make Chelsea's Eden Hazard his main transfer priority of the summer, but the Belgian will not contemplate his future until he knows who is taking over at Stamford Bridge.

Hazard wants to play for Real at some point in his career and Zidane is a big hero of his, but whether or not the summer is the right time to move will rest largely on who Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich hires as the club's next permanent manager.

Last season's Player of the Year in England Hazard has suffered a difficult campaign and a groin strain is likely to keep him out for up to two weeks, but the 24-year-old is committed to rediscovering his best form at Chelsea ahead of a new man replacing Guus Hiddink.

Chelsea fear Pep Guardiola will go to Manchester City, particularly if the London club miss out on Champions League qualification, which means Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone remains the favourite succeed interim manager Hiddink.

Hiring Simeone would be an expensive enterprise and the Argentinian would demand the final say on all incoming transfers, which would require technical director Michael Emenalo to accept a fundamental change in the club's working practice.

Other than Simeone, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri and Italy national coach Antonio Conte are on the shortlist of Abramovich.

Having tied him down to a new five-and-a-half-year contract only last February, Chelsea would demand huge money to let Hazard go and still believe he can be the club's star man for a long time to come.

However, that is unlikely to stop Zidane attempting to entice Hazard to Real, particularly if he enjoys an impressive European Championship finals campaign with Belgium in the summer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport