Zidane was reluctant to become a coach

Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has revealed he wasn't keen on becoming a coach after hanging up his boots, but is now happy he did.

As a player, Zidane was considered one of the greats of the game and won numerous titles at club and international level, while also earning personal accolades.

The Frenchman won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 with Les Bleus and the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid in 2002. He also claimed the Ballon d'Or in 1998 and FIFA World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000, and 2003.

Despite his success on the pitch, Zidane was reluctant to go into coaching when he retired in 2006. However, since taking over the reins at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2016 he has won two Champions League titles, La Liga and the Copa del Rey.

"When I retired, I had no desire to be a coach, didn't want to do it at all," Zidane told AS at a legends event in Limoges, France.

"I wanted to stop, do something else [but] then I realised that I had to continue with challenges in my life. I prepared for this. Today, I am a coach and happy for it.

"As I left school very early, I had to prepare. I did two years as manager, three as a coach. It took five years to get ready. For me, that was an obligation."

Iniesta leaning towards Barca stay

Barcelona stalwart Andres Iniesta has indicated a willingness to play for the Catalan giants until 2020, although he will make a final decision on his future next month.

The 33-year-old midfielder has started just 19 of Barca's 29 La Liga games this season, although he remains an integral part of the team under Ernesto Valverde's guidance.

Iniesta was linked with a move away from the Camp Nou in the off-season, before signing new "lifetime" contract in October to dampen the exit rumours, which have intensified in the new year.

The Spain international insists he will only leave if he can no longer compete at the highest level for the Blaugrana, and any club he joins would be on another continent.

"I would not go anywhere to compete against my club. All scenarios that don't involve competing against Barcelona are possible," Iniesta said on Cadena Ser's El Larguero radio show.

"Many things are going round in my head, some with more strength than others. There are a few weeks left where the decision to continue or not is there to be made.

"It's one of the most important decisions of my career and I understand that I am at an age where things change and other doors open that are very exciting in many ways.

"It will not be a matter of love; it will be about me feeling what I think I am able to contribute. If injuries respect me, I can see myself in the Barcelona XI for the next two years.

"If I leave, it will be because I can't give 100 per cent as a player and as a person to my club. It will be a difficult decision regardless, but I'm very calm about it and I'm enjoying this year very much."

Iniesta is likely to claim his eighth La Liga winners' medal at the end of the campaign, with Valverde's side 11 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid with nine matches remaining.

Koke: Replacing Griezmann won't be easy

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke admits it would be a tough job to replace star striker Antoine Griezmann if he leaves for Barcelona at the end of the season.

Griezmann is expected to sign for the Catalans in the off-season, with Atleti manager Diego Simeone seemingly eager to bring in Juventus star Paulo Dybala to fill the void.

"If you want to be here, you will play here, but if you are here you have to be committed," Koke told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope

"If he leaves, it will be difficult to replace him, but we have always managed with what we have had. Others have left and the team have always gone forward." 

Shifting the focus to Koke himself, the 26-year-old revealed that he would love to play out the rest of his career at the Spanish giants. His current contract has another six years left to run.

"I have the illusion of finishing my career at Atleti," Koke added. "I have always dreamed it. I am a fan more and I want to play my whole life here.

"I want to continue playing matches with Atleti."

Arthur: Neymar endorsed Barca move

Gremio midfielder Arthur Melo has revealed that Neymar was among those who encouraged him to complete his transfer to Barcelona.

Arthur will join Barca in July after his club struck a pre-contract deal with the Catalan giants, and the 21-year-old said that one of his sources of inspiration was Neymar, who gave a glowing recommendation of his former club, even though he left for PSG during the off-season transfer window.

"When the stories started coming out about Barca's rumoured interest, I had a short conversation with Neymar with the national team," Arthur told Sport.

"I asked him about Barcelona and he only had praise for the club and the city. He recommended Barcelona to me."

During the January transfer window, the Blaugrana signed Philippe Coutinho to replace his compatriot. Arthur revealed he also sought the former Liverpool star's advice before moving. Fortunately for Ernesto Valverde's side, Coutinho's words matched those of Neymar.

"I spoke with Philippe Coutinho on Instagram, who agreed with everything Neymar said. He said that that city is wonderful and it's an excellent club to work at," Arthur recalled.

Griezmann to decide future before World Cup

Antoine Griezmann says his club future will be resolved ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The 27-year-old Atletico Madrid maestro has long been touted to leave Los Rojiblancos, with a number of top European clubs keen on his services.

Barcelona though have become the leaders for his signature, and with the World Cup looming, the France international wants to put speculation about his decision whether to stay or leave, to rest.

Atletico have suggested they will do what ever they can to keep Griezmann.

Speaking to L'Equipe, the former Real Sociedad attacker said: "I want to travel to Russia without this concern.

"It's not about knowing where I'll play, but about having the peace of mind if I'm still in one place or another.

"It may be boring, but I have told my sister that, whether I stay or not, this will have to be resolved beforehand.

"What bothers me the most is that everyone asks me about this issue."

Asensio: I'll work for my spot at Real

Real Madrid winger Marcos Asensio is willing to bear the brunt of the responsibility for his decline in form and is ready to fight for his place in the team.

The 22-year-old made a strong start to the season with Los Blancos, scoring four goals and providing two assists in the first 11 La Liga matches, but has recently been in and out of the starting line-up.

Asensio has started only five of Real's last 14 league games and was an unused substitute for two of them. However, he made it into the Spain squad for their upcoming friendlies and insists he is happy to fight for his spot in Zinedine Zidane's side.

"I take my share of the blame. The dynamics weren't so good and I wanted to do everything in five or 10 minutes I was given," he told El Larguero.

"After that, things didn't go well for me so I had to become strong mentally. I started the season playing and scoring goals... then came a point when I didn't get so many minutes, and that's when you learn.

"You push yourself to the limit in each training session and give your life in the minutes you're given. You need a cool head and work like you did to get [to a club like Madrid].

"I want to stay at Real Madrid for many years. I'm comfortable and very happy here. This is the club where I've always wanted to play."

Wright: Salah could be tempted by Real Madrid

Arsenal legend Ian Wright believes Liverpool are at risk of losing Mohamed Salah to Real Madrid, having set a precedent by previously selling their star players.

Salah leads the race for the Premier League Golden Boot with 28 goals in his first season for the Reds. Although his sudden rise has lifted them into the top four, Wright feels it may come at a cost.

Speaking on Sky Sports' The Debate, the former Gunners striker said: "Anyone that has come into the Premier League and scored that amount of goals, you're going to court that kind of attention.

"I didn't think he'd have that kind of impact, but when you have had such an impact, you are going to court attention. What clubs will have seen with Liverpool is that if you keep pressing for one of their players, you might get them in the end.

"This is the problem Liverpool will have. If Salah continues this kind of scoring next season, they will be courting him.

"Not being disrespectful to Liverpool, but Salah won't have grown up dreaming of playing for Liverpool. If Real Madrid come knocking, he's going to be taking notice of that. Losing Salah would be a much bigger loss than losing [Philippe] Coutinho."

Wright was speaking as a guest alongside former Liverpool forward Craig Bellamy, who claimed a transfer in the immediate future is unlikely.

"If I was Liverpool, I'd take it as a compliment," the Welshman said. "Why wouldn't top clubs be interested? I'd be worried if they weren't. Real Madrid and Barcelona, who could be prepared to pay big money, will surely want to see another year from Salah.

"There are other players out there that have proved themselves over two or three years who might be closer to going to those types of clubs. Those types of clubs are the pinnacle of football. If they come in for you, you want to be a part of that. They are on another planet, but I don't see it happening this summer."

Lucas: France call-up a 'dream'

Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez admits it is a surreal experience to be called up to the France national team.

The 22-year-old was reportedly on his way towards obtaining a Spanish passport in order to play for La Furia Roja, but the call-up to Les Bleus appears to have put an end to those rumours.

Didier Deschamps' side are preparing to take on Colombia and Russia in international friendlies on March 23 and 27 respectively.

"When you're a kid, you dream of representing this shirt," Lucas was quoted as saying by the French Football Federation (FFF).

"The France team means everything to me. Today I have the chance of joining up with the national team, and it's something that I've dreamt of since I was little."

Lucas has become a regular starter for Atletico towards the latter part of the league campaign, starting nine of their last 12 games. He missed out on two recent fixtures due to a hamstring injury.

Alguacil is new Sociedad boss

Real Sociedad have announced the appointment of Imanol Alguacil as the club's new head coach following the sacking of Eusebio Sacristan.

The 46-year-old Alguacil, who played for Sociedad for ten years, began his coaching career in the side's youth structures before being promotoed to assistant of the reserve side, ahead of becoming head coach in 2014.

He now takes up the mantle of first team coach, tasked with improving the club's fortunes after a difficult season that sees them in 15th place in La Liga.

Sociedad President Jokin Aperribay told a press conference at Alguacil's unveiling: "You transmit excitement and vitality and I am sure that the nine remaining games will be valuable for la Real. We believe that you will help us overcome the team’s current crisis. Good luck."

Alguacil added: "I face this challenge with humility. I could not say no. I am very excited but I am not thinking of myself, I am focused on the Club.

“We must give our all for the team. I feel very proud of our crest and want you to feel the same when you come out onto the pitch. We must be satisfied with what we do. 

"Thus, we will be able to face any team. However, that is not enough, we must work hard and be clear. This is part of our work and I take full responsibility."

First team coaching assistant Juan Carlos Andres and Sporting Director Lorenzo Juarros also parted ways with the club, with part of a statement reading: "La Real Sociedad wants to thank Juan Carlos Andres for his dedication and commitment to the club and wishes him all the best for the future."

Aperribay added: "I would like to thank Loren for his dedication to la Real for the past years. He has had a heartfelt link to la Real. I want to acknowledge his professional value, his integrity and the good work he has done as Sporting Director."

And on Sacristan he said: "Just as Loren, Eusebio is a gentleman. He came to la Real with a style of play and he gave it all for the team. He was fully committed to the club until the end. It is difficult to stay long at one club, he could have stayed but the results are determining."

Ronaldo: I always believe I'm the best

Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was named the best Portuguese player of 2017 on Monday and took the opportunity to slam his critics.

The 33-year-old beat compatriots Rui Patricio and Bernardo Silva to the award, adding to his record-equalling fifth Ballon d'Or last year.

Ronaldo rediscovered his top form recently, after a slow start to the season, scoring a sensational 18 goals in his last nine La Liga games to take his tally for the campaign up to 22 in 23 league outings.

"I am grateful for this award to all those who are here," he said, according to Goal. "It is also an award for all my colleagues — 2017 was an excellent year, unforgettable both collectively and individually.

"I also won my fifth Ballon d'Or and my second The Best award. I also dedicate it to my four children. That's another record — three children in three months.

"We have to defend what is ours because there is always a Portuguese in the fight.

"I always believe and say that I am the best, whatever they say, and then I show it in the field. We are in the fight year after year."