Bale and Zidane at breaking point: ‘It’s personal’

welcome to espn’s insider notebook, featuring contributions f'our reprters across the top leagues round the realm.

in this edition, it’s turning really sour tween gareth bale and zinedine zidane. +: manchester city are looking to burnley for a leroy sane replacement.

jump to: city’s sane replacement | joorabchian influence at arsenal | ∪d track boga | fans ‘d be back for barca vs. atleti | barca want $$$ | japan players heading to €

bale’s bitter battle with zidane: ‘it’s something personal’

the relationship tween gareth bale and zinedine zidane at real madrid is worse than ever and looks beyond repair, multiple srcs familiar w'da situation ‘ve told espn.

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the bad feeling dates back to real madrid’s 2018 victors league final victory against liverpool, when zidane left bale out, 1-ly to see the welshman score a match-winning double off the bench.

zidane left the club dys l8r, 1-ly to return in mar 2019, na situation has steadily deteriorated since then, with srcs telling espn t'has “now become something personal” tween the pair.

bale is upset at frequently bein’ named a substitute in key matches and zidane and his staff, while having no complaints bout his performance in training, ‘ve not been impressed with how the forward has reacted to those decisions.

the concerns led bale to be benched against manchester city in their victors league round-of-16 1st leg defeat in feb, swell as inna 2-0 victory over barcelona el clasico that same week.

the frosty relationship, in addition to bale’s persistent injury problems, has effectively made him a €100 million substitute. since la liga returned, the wales international has come off the bench against eibar, been an unused sub against valencia and real sociedad, and failed to impress in a rare start against relegation candidates mallorca on wed.

in public zidane has tried to keep the peace, describing the situation as “completely normal” but in reality he s'been uncomfortable discussing the matter ever since his infamous “if bale cutouts 2morro, that ‘d be best,” admission last summer.

bale’s real madrid teammates find the situation hard to cogg, recognising his ability and confirming he works hard in training. higher up, though, srcs ‘ve told espn bale’s relationship with president florentino perez, one of his principal defenders, aint wha’ twas.

“gareth is fine,” bale’s agent jonathan barnett told espn, and while the player admitted last mnth that he ‘d “definitely be interested” in playing in major league soccer inna future, a move anywhere this summer may prove difficult given the post-covid-19 financial squeeze onna transfer mkt. — alex kirkland and rodrigo faez

rejected by ∪d, to signing for city? pep eyes mcneil

burnley winger dwite mcneil s'on pep guardiola’s list of potential replacements for leroy sane at manchester city, srcs ‘ve told espn.

guardiola confirmed last week that sane will cutout the etihad this summer, or atta end of his contract in jun 2021, after the germany international made it clear that he will not sign a new deal at city. bayern munich tis player’s most likely destination.

the city manager has played down the impact of sane’s impending depture by insisting the club already has enough players capable of filling the void, including riyad mahrez and bernardo silva. both ‘ve impressed this season while sane s'been sidelined witha cruciate ligament injury.

but despite guardiola’s confidence onnis squad, srcs ‘ve told espn he has made no secret of his admiration for the 20-yr-old mcneil, whas' overcome the setback of bein’ released by manchester ∪d as a 15-yr-old to become a regular under sean dyche at burnley.

born in rochdale, ≤ 10 miles from the etihad stadium, mcneil has developed quickly since making his burnley debut onna final dy of the 2017-18 season and guardiola believes he has the potential to become a leading player and one who possesses the athleticism and versatility to thrive at city. — mark ogden



julien laurens specul8s who pep guardiola will replace leroy sané with at manchester city.

joorabchian’s influence at arsenal

arsenal were keen to play down kia joorabchian’s influence atta club dur'na week in which two of his clients signed new contracts but rival agents ‘ve already noted the closeness of the relationship with interest.

the gunners ‘ve privately sufferationed that joorabchian, 1-odda realm’s leading agents, has never counted the club’s teknical director edu among his clients. thris also ftballing logic to two deals with joorbachian at their ♥ — re-signing david luiz and securing the permanent transfer of cedric soares from southampton — given how their professionalism behind the scenes has impressed head coach mikel arteta.

however, luiz’s calamitous performance at manchester city last week combined with cedric’s persistent injury problems created a mixed reaction to the news among arsenal fans with joorabchian’s involvement a prominent talking point.

arteta’s public confirmation in wanting to keep both players + the club’s well-documented modest transfer budget heavily mitigates any conspiracy theories. but other agents ‘ve expressed their surprise at joorabchian’s voice appearing to be the loudest during the negotiation process, pticularly in luiz’s case when he went na' uk radio station to declare the delay in extending the centre-back’s contract rel8d to “several issues within the whole structure” of the club.

twas his apparent comfort in speaking bout arsenal in such broad terms which rezd eyebrows among several other agents, including two with players atta club. perhaps a + publicly visible presence from the key decision-makers atta top of the club in future deals ‘d help address this perception. — james olley



sid loe breaks down why barcelona’s swap of arthur for juve’s miralem pjanic is a sign offa club in decline.

∪d interested in jeremie boga

sassuolo‘s jeremie boga has emerged as a potential back up plan for manchester ∪d in their pursuit of boЯussia dortmund‘s jadon sancho, srcs ‘ve told espn.

sancho is still the priority for ∪d but with dortmund not budging on their €120m valuation of the england international, ∪d ‘ve to think bout alternatives.

boga is one o'em. the frenchman, who impressed at youth lvl when he joined chelsea, wanna play in major €an brawls nxt season, ideally inna victors league.

he is very interested by the project that ∪d ‘ve approached him with. — julien laurens

fans in stadium for barca vs. atleti?

la liga are pressing ahead with plans to bring fans back into stadiums this season, witha src telling espn at one point they were even hopeful supporters ‘d be alloed into camp nou for nxt week’s clash tween barcelona and atletico madrid.

the re-opening of grounds hinges onna ok from the government, who on thu posed the ?: ‘d it not be better to w8 til the new season starts in sep? despite that, la liga continue to fite their case, witha src saying the protocol ‘d not ‘ve been sent to clubs this week if a return wasn’t pondered feasible.

espn had access to the document which details the measures which ll'be taken when grounds re-open. it includes 5 designated arrival slots, with those deemed most at-risk — iffey still wanna attend games — entering just b4 kickoff. fans will cutout after the game according to their row, with those closest to the exits let out 1st.

there ll'be temperature checks on arrival (if you fail the 1st one, you’ll get a 2nd chance) and everyone will ‘ve to wear masks and stay in their seats. they’ll also be given specific toilets to use but all stadium retail ll'be closed.

clubs will ‘ve the final say on wh'cn attend games, with stadiums anticipated to open at a hugely reduced cap at 1st, somewhere tween 10 and 30%. — sam marsden and moises llorens

… as barca look for $$$ for transfers

barcelona season ticket holders ‘ve been invited to help fund the club’s summer spending by giving up their rite to a refund for games tha're played behind closed doors.

the spanish victors finally laid out 3 options for supporters this week to reclaim a %age of the mny they spent on their seats for the campaign.

the 1st option is a refund proportional to the № of games they will miss this season, which ‘d be as many as 5, not including the victors league fixture against napoli. the 2nd option tis same amount discounted from the cost of nxt season’s season ticket.

na third option? let the club keep the mny. the club will appeal to the fans’ good nature by explaining how hard they ‘ve been hit by the coronavirus pandemic and how they are struggling to hit their predicted revenue for the financial yr. the third option is also the default option. so if you don’t reply to the club, they will keep the mny.

mny which then, presumably, will not 1-ly help balance their books b'tll so go on any potential summer signings, with inter milan striker lautaro martinez still a target as they also look to finalise an xchange deal with juventus that ‘d see arthur melo and miralem pjanic swap places. —sam marsden and moises llorens



craig burley reacts to liverpool winning the premier league title after a 30-yr w8.

agents establish new avenue to import japanese players

€an clubs ‘d soon receive an influx of japanese players after a leading agency signed a ptnership deal with coerver coaching inna asia pacific region.

the family and ftball agency, which counts arsenal midfielder mesut ozil, deportivo striker lucas perez and west brom defender kieran gibbs among its clients, will now work with players training within the coerver programme.

a raft of coerver graduates ‘ve gone onna represent the japan national team but'a wider breakthrough of japanese players into elite club lvl s'been restricted to 1-ly a handful of players including shinji kagawa, shinji okazaki, maya yoshida and + recently, takumi minamino at liverpool.

family and ftball plan t'offer legal support, educational and contractual advice for players from the region looking to further their careers in €.

coerver is a central hub for developing talent, having 1st arrived in japan in 1993 and now with + than 20,000 children, predominantly aged tween 5-16, attending sessions each week. — james olley

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