Agent: Playing paramount to Bale

Gareth Bale's agent is planning talks with Real Madrid to determine whether the Welsh star features in new head coach Julen Lopetegui's plans.

The 28-year-old winger made just 20 La Liga starts under former manager Zinedine Zidane last season, although injury kept him on the sidelines for much of the first half of 2017/18.

However, Bale made a huge impact for Los Blancos in the UEFA Champions League final last month, when he came off the bench to score a match-winning brace against Liverpool as the Spanish giants secured a record third straight title.

Zidane resigned from his post just a few days after the remarkable feat, and Real have since appointed Lopetegui as the Frenchman's successor.

Jonathan Barnett has indicated that his client needs to be involved far more under the Spaniard, who risks losing Bale if no assurances are given ahead of the new campaign.

"I think we have to have a chat with Real Madrid and see where we're going," Barnett told Sky Sports News.

"He wants a better year than he had last year. He wants to play more, and that's paramount to him.

"I think he's one of the top three or four players on Earth. For somebody like him, he has to play.

"It's not about money. He wants to win the Ballon d'Or and I think he can."

Despite admitting that Bale enjoys life in the Spanish capital, Barnett stated that regular game time is more important to the Wales international.

"I think that goal elevated an interest in him. But we already knew how good he is," the agent added.

"He doesn't need to prove how good he is. It was a magnificent goal and the timing was great too.

"He loves his life in Spain. He has three children, and he's very happy there. But we have to see. He has to play football."

Costa knew Griezmann would stay at Atletico

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa says he was confident that teammate Antoine Griezmann would sign a new contract because he identifies with the club.

Griezmann has been consistently linked with a move to La Liga rivals Barcelona, but opted to stay in Madrid and signed a new five-year contract at the Rojiblancos to show his commitment.

"I haven't seen the documentary, but I knew what was the end. When it takes so long to make a decision it's because he was going to stay," Costa told Onda Cero.

"I knew that he identified very much with the fans, with the people, with us. I was delighted."

Costa then joked: "The b****** will have received good money."

Asked if he now felt compelled to also request an improved deal, Costa added: "If he is going to charge whatever, I don't have to be envious. I have what I have and it's not necessary to knock on the door.

"What I have to do is score goals, enjoy."

Both Griezmann and Costa are currently on international duty at the World Cup in Russia, with France and Spain respectively.

Abidal: Barca can't replace Iniesta

Barcelona technical director Eric Abidal admits it is an impossible task to replace club legend Andres Iniesta in the off-season.

Iniesta spent 22 years at the Camp Nou, where he came through the Barca academy, but called an end to his career at the club this past season and has since left for Japanese side Vissel Kobe.

Abidal, who was recently appointed technical director at the Spanish giants, knows all too well that it would not be realistic to find a like-for-like replacement.

"We will make the decisions according to the needs of the team," he told reporters. "But we cannot replace Iniesta with a player of the same quality, that's impossible."

Abidal also turned his attention towards Ousmane Dembele, who joined the club from Borussia Dortmund in August last year. The 21-year-old made an unspectacular start to his career at Barca, but Abidal is optimistic that they will see him reach his potential.

"We want Dembele to have a brilliant World Cup, after that he can rest and then return here, We are looking forward to bringing the best out of him," the Frenchman said of his compatriot.

Griezmann pens new deal with Atletico

Atletico Madrid have confirmed that star forward Antoine Griezmann has penned a new contract tying him to the club until 2023.

Griezmann was in recent months heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, but last week ended the speculation over his future by announcing he would stay at the Wanda Metropolitano.

The Europa League champions stated on Tuesday that the France international signed a contract extension in the presence Atletico chief executive officer Miguel Angel Gil Marin at the national team's training camp in Russia.

Griezmann netted 29 goals in 49 appearances across all competitions for Diego Simeone's side this past season.

Atletico also revealed that young defender Lucas Hernandez has extended his stay for a further two years, while Thomas Lemar has been signed from Monaco.

"The contracts were signed in the training camp of the France national team following the guidelines of the people in charge of the French Football Association and the France coach, Didier Deschamps," Atleti said in a statement.

Hazard open to Real Madrid move

Chelsea star Eden Hazard admits he would be interested in a move to Real Madrid, especially if the Blues fail to improve before the start of next season.

The Belgium international, currently on duty at the World Cup in Russia, has been linked with a move to Los Merengues for a long time and now appears open towards a move.

Hazard has stated that he will base his decision on whether or not Chelsea bring in top players in the off-season and whether or not manager Antonio Conte stays or leaves.

"I wait to see whether the [Chelsea] coach will stay or leave," Hazard, who has two years left on his contract, told L'Equipe.

"If I stay it's for the club to be better than last season. I don't want to stay for us to be poorer.

"Real Madrid could interest me, the world knows that. But if tomorrow this club does not want me any longer then we will not speak about it any longer.

"If they want to buy me they know what they need to do. I don't want to go there just for the sake of it. There needs to be a project.

"There is still a project at Chelsea [two years left on his contract]. If I have a good World Cup, things will become easier."

Hernandez: I exaggerated Socceroos fouls

Lucas Hernandez has admitted to overreacting to Australian fouls during France's 2-1 win over the Socceroos on Saturday.

France took the lead through an Antoine Griezmann penalty in the 58th minute only for Mile Jedinak to equalise four minutes later. In the 80th minute, however, a Paul Pogba shot looped off the boot of Aziz Behich and into the net, putting France back in front.

By Hernandez's own admission, he resorted to dirty tactics in order to keep Les Bleus ahead.

"It's true that there were some moments where it was a foul and I amplified a bit," Hernandez said, according to Goal.

"That's part of the show, part of the game. It's true that sometimes I exaggerate a bit but it's part of my character.

"I am used to doing that, especially when we are leading. The team and I can win, save some precious seconds."

22-year-old Hernandez impressed for Atletico Madrid in 2017/18, making 27 La Liga appearances and eight in their successful Europa League campaign. However, he is unlikely to have won himself many fans in Australia on Saturday.

France will continue their World Cup campaign against Peru on 21 June before facing Denmark five days later.

Watford sign Navarro from Espanyol

Watford have confirmed the signing of young defender Marc Navarro on a five-year contract from Espanyol.

The 22-year old, who can play at full-back or in central defence, came through the ranks at Barcelona and joined their neighbours at the age of 16.

Navarro made his La Liga debut in January 2017, where he also scored his first goal for the club in a 3-1 win over Granada.

He moves to the Premier League after making 36 appearances for the Periquitos this past season, and becomes the second Spaniard to join the Hornets during the off-season, after Gerard Deulofeu made his move from Barcelona permanent earlier this month.

Watford CEO Scott Duxbury expressed his delight at having beaten a host of teams to Navarro's signature.

"Marc has attracted interest from a host of top European clubs; therefore we are delighted to have secured his services," Duxbury told the club's official website.

Ronaldo handed two-year suspended prison sentence

Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly accepted a two-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 18.8 million Euros in order to settle his tax fraud case.

The Real Madrid star denied allegations of tax evasion when he appeared in court last year, but according to El Mundo, he has reached an agreement with the Spanish tax authorities.

Ronaldo, who is currently on duty with Portugal at the 2018 Russia World Cup, was reportedly initially ordered to pay the full amount up front, but an agreement has apparently been reached for him to pay just 5.7 million Euros.

Ronaldo is set to avoid spending time behind bars for the moment at least, as Spanish law permits first-time offenders to serve sentences for non-violent crimes on probation.

The agreement reportedly has yet to officially be signed, but once it is, the case will finally come to a close.

At the age of 33, Ronaldo has already enjoyed one of the most illustrious careers in football history. The former Manchester United winger has won five Ballon d'Or titles, which is a joint record, shared with Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Astonishingly, Messi has also been in hot water for tax fraud, picking up a 21-month sentence, which was later reduced to a fine.

Allegri: I turned down Real Madrid job

Massimiliano Allegri has revealed that he was approached by Real Madrid, before the La Liga giants appointed Julen Lopetegui as manager.

Allegri was one of the names linked with the Real vacancy after Zinedine Zidane announced last month that he was stepping down at the Bernabeu following three successive Champions League titles.

The Juventus boss has confirmed that he did hold discussions with Real president Florentino Perez, but he decided to continue remain in Italy, where he has won four back-to-back Serie A titles.

Real subsequently announced that Lopetegui will take charge this season, which led the Spanish football association to dismiss him from the national team job.

"I said 'no' to Real Madrid. I did it on the phone to Florentino Perez because I had given my word to [Juventus] president (Andrea) Agnelli,” said Allegri.

"I thanked Florentino for the offer, but said I couldn't accept it out of the respect I owed to Juventus."

Griezmann announces Atletico stay

Antoine Griezmann has confirmed that he will stay at Atletico Madrid after announcing his decision at the end of a television documentary.

Griezmann has been a long-term target for Atletico’s La Liga rivals Barcelona and the French international was strongly tipped to make the move to the Nou Camp this summer.

The 27-year-old was eager to clarify his future before France’s World Cup opener against Australia and he has now ended the uncertainty at the end of a Spanish television programme called ‘La Decision’.

"I have decided to stay," said Griezmann, before tweeting: “My fans, my team, MY HOME!!!”.

Griezmann has netted 112 goals for Atletico during his four years at the club, but Barcelona have been persistent in their hunt, despite being reported to Fifa over an alleged illegal approach last December.

His announcement mirrors a similar method used by NBA player LeBron James when he moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Miami Heat in 2010.

Griezmann’s decision is a further boost for Atletico, who announced earlier this week that they had reached a preliminary agreement to sign Monaco forward Thomas Lemar.

Rummenigge: Lewandowski likely to stay put

Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says he is confident that prolific striker Robert Lewandowski will remain at the club next season.

Lewandowski, who was the Bundesliga's leading scorer in the previous campaign with 29 goals, has been persistently linked with a move to Real Madrid.

Nonetheless, Rummenigge insists the Poland international is likely to stay put after nothing came of meetings with Los Blancos officials.

The 62-year-old met the Real board earlier this year when Bayern were beaten 4-3 by the Spanish giants over two legs in a UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

"I said weeks ago that I am taking bets on Lewandowski staying and I am still taking them today," Rummenigge told reporters.

'The two boards had lunch together at both games and Lewandowski wasn't a topic of conversation at either of the meals.

"In the past, we had a player that (Madrid president Florentino Perez) was highly interested in. But we closed the door on that, and from this episode, I know that he would be open about it.

"It wouldn't interest us anyway even if he did ask about Lewandowski. We as a club made a firm decision and that still applies."

Xavi questions Real Madrid's Lopetegui timing

Spain legend Xavi says Real Madrid's decision to announce Julen Lopetegui as their new manager days before the World Cup was not ideal timing.

Lopetegui was unceremoniously sacked as Spain boss on Wednesday after Los Merengues announced a day earlier that he would take over from Zinedine Zidane as new head coach in Madrid.

Lopetegui's shock departure has put La Roja in a difficult situation, who have since announced Fernando Hierro as head coach for the World Cup in Russia, but Xavi was not impressed by how things were handled.

"I am not the person to talk about it [Lopetegui joining Madrid]," the former Barcelona star told Radio Marca.

"It was not the most ideal or opportune moment."

He added: "You never know, the players have already seen it all and sure, they can play a good role at the World Cup.

"Leadership will not be missing, there is [Sergio] Ramos, [Gerard] Pique, [Andres] Iniesta."

Xavi was at least hopeful that the situation would bind the players together.

"There are very prepared people and a very good atmosphere. It's not the best situation but at the same time, it unites them more and they give more of themselves, you never know."

Atletico, Monaco reach agreement over Lemar

Atletico Madrid has confirmed that they have reached a preliminary agreement with Monaco over the transfer of Thomas Lemar.

Lemar, who is in the France squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, has been a target of several European top clubs, but Atletico look to have finally won the race for his signature.

Reports have suggested that Atletico have identified Lemar as the replacement for star forward and in demand Antoine Griezmann, who has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona.

Griezmann has said he has already made a decision on his future, but will not go public about it as yet.

A statement from the Spanish side read: "Atletico de Madrid and AS Monaco has achieved a preliminary agreement over the transfer of Thomas Lemar to our club.

"Over the next days, both clubs will work to close the agreement for the definitive transfer."

Agent: Real Madrid have signed Santos star Goes

Real Madrid have snapped up Santos teenager Rodrygo Goes ahead of Liverpool, PSG, and Barcelona, according to the player's agent Nick Arcuri.

Goes' agent has revealed that Los Merengues will welcome the 17-year-old to their club in June next year, following the 2018/19 season. Players from Brazil are not allowed to sign for a foreign club before the age of 18.

The UEFA Champions League winners are reportedly coughing up 45 million euros to bring the promising young striker to Spain, where arch-rivals Barcelona were also in the hunt.

Arcuri told Esporte Interativo: "We had offers from Liverpool, PSG, Barcelona, but they did not reach what Santos asked for.

"Fifteen days ago, Madrid came behind me, they met with the president and made their proposal, reaching the value that Santos always wanted.

"Last week, the player did his medical exams with a Spaniard after Santos gave the green light. The agreement is that he stays [at Santos] until June 30, 2019."

Griezmann: I’ve made up my mind

Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann said on Tuesday he has made a final decision on his future but refused to say where he will be playing next season.

Griezmann, a target for Manchester United last year, has been linked with a move to Barcelona after a successful season that saw him score 29 goals in 49 games and pick up the Europa League title.

The 27-year-old France striker called a press conference, but surprisingly refused to confirm whether he will move or stay in the Spanish capital.

"Today is not the day to talk about my future," he told reporters. "Yes, I have already made a decision about my future. But I'm not going to speak about it today.

"It's not the time or the place."

Griezmann had hinted that he would sort out his future before the World Cup, but now it looks like fans will have to wait until afterwards to find out what he has decided.

ESPN reported that those close to Griezmann have urged him to stay at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Griezmann signed a one-year contract extension with Atletico last summer that runs until 2022. The extension doubled his wages from €7m to €14m for last season only while his release clause also increased from €100m to €200m.

However, those figures will return to the previous numbers next month.

Lopetegui named successor to Zidane

Real Madrid have announced that Spain head coach Julen Lopetegui will succeed Zinedine Zidane at the helm after the 2018 World Cup.

Zidane resigned as manager shortly after guiding Los Blancos to a third straight UEFA Champions League title last month, when his side beat Liverpool 3-1 in Kiev.

Lopetegui returns to the Santiago Bernabeu, where he previously spent three years as a player before later taking charge of the Castilla team for the 2008/09 campaign.

The 51-year-old, who also wore the colours of Real's arch-rivals, Barcelona, in his playing days, was seen as a surprise choice, given his lack of experience at club level.

He lasted less than a season at Rayo Vallecano in 2003 and won no trophies during a two-year spell at Porto before being appointed by the Spanish Football Federation.

Lopetegui had even signed a two-year contract extension as recently as last month to lead the national team until 2020, but the capital club managed to lure him away from his current job.

The Spaniard has agreed a three-year deal in Madrid and will be tasked with challenging Barca for domestic honours next term, after Zidane's side finished 17 points behind the champions.

Navas wants to retire at Real Madrid

Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas has made it clear that he wants to retire at the Spanish giants, where the fans have shown him great appreciation.

The Costa Rica international has won three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles as well as the Spanish Primera Division in 2017. He still has two years left on his current contract with the club.

However, the 31-year-old's future at the club has been cast in doubt with the sudden departure of manager Zinedine Zidane. But despite the French tactician's exit, Navas is eager to keep playing for Los Merengues.

"The kindness that the fans show me all the time is incredible and I am very grateful to all of them," he said, according to FourFourTwo.

"Whatever the sporting situation, they are always behind me. In the stadium I always hear the shouts of support that motivate me and when I walk through Madrid people always come up to me and show me their support, they say 'don't go, we love you'.

"I'm a Real Madrid player and I have a contract until 2020. I've always said that I'm very happy at Real Madrid and I hope that, if God wishes, I can retire at this club.

"I'm very happy at the club, in the city, with my team-mates, so my head is in Real Madrid and to keep enjoying this team."

Rakitic: World Cup won't define Messi

Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic insists Argentina star Lionel Messi will remain the best player in the world no matter what happens at the World Cup.

Messi has won everything there is to win with Barcelona, where he plays alongside Rakitic, but he remains under pressure to win his first senior trophy with Argentina.

It's been suggested that Messi can't be considered the best player in history unless he wins a major trophy with the Albiceleste, but Rakitic believes that's rubbish.

"Surely he deserves to win it for who he is. Football isn't tennis: you can't put Messi under pressure by saying he alone has to win the World Cup," he told Marca.

"He does deserve it but there are 32 countries with the same dream. If he wins it at the end, we will all be happy for him.

"However, his story is not going to change if he wins it or not.

"If you are the best, you are it independently of whether you win one or 50,000 titles. One World Cup will not change what Leo Messi means to football."

Rakitic and Messi will face each other when Croatia and Argentina clash in Group D at the World Cup on June 21.

He added: "In football, no-one has found the formula as how to stop Messi. Not [Croatia coach Zlatko] Dalic, not me, no-one can. What we've got to do is enjoy him," he said.

"We measure ourselves against the best and to have the opportunity to face the best is brilliant. We know that it's going to be difficult but so will the games against Nigeria and Iceland.

"We realise that it's just special to go up against Leo but he also knows that we all want to play well against him."

Gremio: No early Barca move for Arthur

Gremio president Romildo Bolzan Junior insists Arthur will not be allowed to join Barcelona before January 2019, as originally agreed upon by the two clubs.

The Blaugrana struck an initial €30 million deal for the 21-year-old midfielder in March, which would see him move to the Camp Nou at the end of the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A season.

However, Barca are reportedly looking to bring the transfer forward due to a shortage in the middle of the park ahead of the new campaign, with Andres Iniesta having left the Spanish champions, while Carles Alena is sidelined through injury.

Bolzan Junior is having none of it, though, stating that the Catalan giants must honour their agreement in the matter.

"The position of Gremio is the contract that we signed," he told Sport. "There is no new factor that could mean that we have to renegotiate with Barcelona or that we can undo what we have already signed.

"What we agreed is that Barcelona has the right to carry out the exercise of preference, but once it is executed the player will only go in January.

"A lot of news comes out of Gremio, a lot of things come from Spain, and every moment someone points out something about Barcelona doing this or that it generates a climate of doubt.

"But Gremio has a clear and defined position and there is no new situation that changes it."

De Gea coy on United future

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has refused to rule out a move to another club amid renewed speculation he could join Real Madrid ahead of the new season.

The Spain international came close to signing for Los Blancos in 2015 and continues to be linked with a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu three years on.

De Gea heads to the 2018 World on the back of his best season at Old Trafford, having won the Golden Glove for the first time in his career after keeping 18 Premier League clean sheets.

But the 27-year-old gave little away when asked about his future at La Furia Roja's training camp for the tournament in Russia.

"My future? The important thing is the World Cup and not to think of anything else that can divert you or upset you," the Atletico Madrid youth product told reporters.

"You have to be focused on having a good World Cup - we are all good. Hopefully we can go far and win.

"Football is football and a thousand things can happen. But I'm always calm. Come what may, I'll be the same. It is important to be focused and be 100 per cent."