•Zidane's options are to let Bale sit on the bench or loan him out to another European club and pay part of his salary.
• Bale interest is playing golf and the local Madrid newspapers have criticised him for caring more about hitting a golf ball than a football.
As I have written before, there is no love lost between Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane and his star striker Gareth Bale, scorer of one of the best Champions League goals of all time with that overhead scissors kick. After playing for Wales this week, Gareth took a private plane back to Madrid and went straight to the club who were introducing new Chelsea signing Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic, who has joined from Eintracht Frankfurt. As Real and Zidane try to build a team to match bitter rivals Barcelona, their combined wage bill could be in excess of £250million. Zidane doesn’t have Bale in his plans and the Welshman’s wages are £600k a week. He has three years left on his contract which amounts to earning £100million. That is money Zidane wants to spend elsewhere. His options are to let Bale sit on the bench or loan him out to another European club and pay part of his salary. Bale is content to sit and let Zidane get frustrated as he collects wheelbarrows full of money and says he will not go anywhere unless it is somewhere he wants to be. He enjoys life and good weather in Spain but has never mastered the language. At 30 years of age next month, it is not easy to command a transfer fee of £100million and Europe’s biggest clubs are not rushing to sign him. In the meantime, Bale lives in a very nice area of Madrid near Sergio Ramos and his best friend at Madrid Toni Kroos. His main interest is playing golf and the local Madrid newspapers have criticised him for caring more about hitting a golf ball than a football. He often plays 18 holes of golf after training. Manchester United I know are interested. However, the money involved is putting them off making a move.
Liverpool to limit spending during the transfer window
I have been talking to Liverpool regarding the future of Marko Grujic who was the first signing for manager Jurgen Klopp in January 2016. Since then, he has made just 14 appearances and has been loaned to Germany’s Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin. I understand from my contacts that several clubs in Spain and the Premier League have approached Liverpool about the possibility of signing him. The Reds also face interest for goalkeeper Simon Mignolet who is far too good to be wasting his career coming on as a substitute but he has little future with the Reds now that Allison is working confidently between the posts. Mignolet made only two appearances for Liverpool last season. Alisson was one of the expensive signings along with Naby Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri. Because of those investments, I have been reliably informed that the club will limit spending during the current transfer window which is why they will not be chasing the signature of Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt this summer. Cameroon’s Joel Matip has worked effectively with Virgil Van Djik and manager Jurgen Klopp is satisfied with his defence. I can report that they will also not be chasing French club Lille’s attacker Pepe who has scored an impressive 22 goals this season and helped his club finish second to Paris St-German. Only PSG striker Kylian Mbappe bettered that in the French league with 33 goals. You might have read that Liverpool have approached Lille for Pepe but I can assure you that these reports are wrong. The Reds do, however, need to replace outgoing striker Daniel Sturridge and the French striker Memphis Depay has been discussed. Liverpool have arranged eight pre-season friendlies and will also contest the Community Shield and the Super Cup between July 11th and August 9th which they qualified for by winning the European Champions League.
Mourinho to replace Rafa at Newcastle?
Without doubt, the story which has most fascinated me this week is a connection between Newcastle and Jose Mourinho. Anyone who regularly reads this column will know that I am a great admirer of current Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez who I consider one of the top five managers in world football...He is a magnificent tactician who appreciates and cares about his players. He really understands football. How Jose Mourinho can still be judged as a world top five managers after his spectacular failure at United I am still not quite sure. Talented he undoubtedly is but having him spoken of as a replacement for Rafa at Newcastle I have serious doubts. Newcastle owner Mike Ashley understands money and wants to sell the club but the rumours surrounding the potential new owner billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayen have yet to be confirmed. If he does buy the club I am informed that Mourinho could be his chosen manager and not Rafa. Mourinho, I am disappointed to report, is alleged to have said that he would be most interested in the job which I think is discourteous to the current manager if true. The big connection for Mourinho is the late managerial legend Bobby Robson who proudly said he had the black and white of Newcastle in his veins. He taught Mourinho how to be a manager when they worked together and the young Mourinho was a willing student. They were together at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona in the 1990s and Mourinho learned his trade. Mourinho said: “I like to go there. I like the feeling of going to Mr Robson’s home. I like that feeling. I like the stadium. I like the atmosphere. They are a good, enthusiastic crowd. I like Geordies.”
Eriksen looking for new pastures
Spurs are in a difficult position regarding Christian Eriksen. He has one year left on his contract and he is stalling on signing a new one. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is desperate to keep the 27-year-old Norwegian who has been at White Hart Lane since 2013. I have heard that Real Madrid are interested as manager Zinedine Zidane tries to rebuild his squad after a poor season. Eriksen would be an ideal playmaker but so far Madrid have not been in contact with Tottenham. To hopefully ward off Madrid and other interested parties, Spurs have placed a £100million price tag on Eriksen. The Danish midfielder says he would like a new challenge and feels that perhaps he has been in North London long enough. He would relish a “new challenge” as he put it this week. I have learned that Real Madrid representatives urged him to make those comments and so put pressure on Spurs.
Lampard leads by example
This week, I caught up with Frank Lampard and his great Chelsea compatriot Didier Drogba who were having lunch together on Wednesday and of course the conversation turned to Frank’s possible appointment as the Blue’s manager. I spoke out last week that I thought it was too early in Frank’s career but many Chelsea fans disagree and want him to be the club’s next boss. Frank’s uncle, Harry Redknapp, himself an excellent manager, claims he was instrumental in Frank getting the Derby job and his nephew has not let him down. He said: “He was always committed as a player and he manages the same way. I once said to the groundsman at Frank’s first club West Ham, “It’s dark and there is someone out there training 200 yards away. I think someone must have climbed over the fence.” The groundsman looked out into the dark and said, “No, that’s young Frank…he’s out there every day when everyone else has gone home. He practices sprints and has a bag of balls to sharpen his shooting.”
Redknapp knows that this type of dedication will inspire the Derby players again next season or will it be Chelsea players who benefit from his commitment?
Awobi believes in Arsenal manager
When new manager Unai Emery first arrived at the Gunners, many of the players were not sure what to expect. Several of them said to me that they were unsure of what the manager wanted. Now a corner has been turned and he has won over his talented squad and especially Nigerian Alex Iwobi. The 23-year-old had only played as a junior and senior under Arsene Wenger who he trusted like a father. However, he said: “You can see everyone is fighting not just for us but for the new manager. He has good chemistry with the players and you can see that in his short time here.”
City’s bright young star has the world at his feet
To achieve football success for young players on the fringe of the Premier League is a great testament to their skills and dedication. Thousands of hopefuls never make it past the junior academy. To make it in a team like Manchester City is not only against the odds but is almost a miracle. Surrounded by some of the best players in the world, 18-year-old Phil Foden has not only reached the first team squad but is now pressing to be in the regular starting eleven. At the 2012 City v United Manchester derby game, he was a ballboy, just out of primary school, who dreamed that one day he would achieve his ambition to play for City. To replace David Silva and start a game against Spurs when City dare not lose at a late stage of the season shows the confidence manager Pep Guardiola has in Foden. When he scored his first Premier League goal, the fans knew they had found a special player. To show how much his fellow players respect him already, Bernado Silva was awarded Man of the Match against Tottenham but handed the award to Foden who he said deserved it more.