Zinedine Zidane insists rumours linking Real Madrid with Neymar “don’t bother the dressing room” ahead of Sunday’s encounter with Espanyol in La Liga.
Speculation in the Spanish Press is rife that Madrid are prepared to activate Neymar’s €190m release clause, with the Barcelona star yet to sign a new contract and reportedly meeting an entourage representing his arch-rivals at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala earlier in January.
“[On James Rodriguez replacing Gareth Bale], we’ll see [on Sunday],” the Coach said at a Press conference.
“Gareth’s had a good week and feeling good physically. He’s not suffering and that’s good. The idea is that he rejoins the squad next week.
“[On dropping two points against Real Betis], it’s quite the opposite from what I’ve seen from the squad.
“It’s true that dropping two points is frustrating because we always want to win, but we deserved more than a point.
“In football, you have to take your chances and we know that, but our performance was good.
“I ask James to play well for the team. He’s a very good and talented player, but he also needs to carry out his defensive duties.
“I’m happy to be here and I feel very comfortable, but the most important thing is that the players are good.
“Karim [Benzema’s] done well, but he can always improve. He’s playing at a high level.
“We spoke before he went to France [to testify] and everything went very well. We’ve seen him in training and on the pitch, and he’s been great.
“We hope his personal problems are fixed as soon as possible and that he quickly forgets [the ordeal].
“I’ll try not to talk about [referees] because their work is difficult and I’m focused on my job.
“We must get stronger in the game and score goals [against Espanyol].
“I don’t know if [Isco’s] on the same level as I was, but he’s very good!
“I have a squad of 26 players and I’m happy to have them.
“I only focus on these things and the match [on Sunday]. I don’t get lost in what’s being said on the outside.
“The rumours don’t bother the dressing room. It’s normal that you [the Press] speak of things like this.
“It’ll always happen, as it did with Cristiano [Ronaldo]. It’s normal if clubs want him, but what we have to do is concentrate on our work.
“Cristiano has lost nothing. He’s working well and needed to work hard like everyone else. I’m not worried about him.
“Our idea is to continue going strong. We must respect our opponents, so for that, we must be focused from the beginning.
“Against Betis we weren’t and it cost us two points.”