Real Madrid boss Rafael Benitez has moved to play down speculation suggesting a rift between him and captain Sergio Ramos.
The supposed rift began when Benitez publicly criticised Ramos after the defender gave away a penalty in the 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid earlier this month.
The Spain international, who was linked with a move to Manchester United this summer, responded by questioning Benitez’s decision to substitute Isco and Karim Benzema prior to Luciano Vietto’s late equaliser.
But Benitez has rubbished reports of a rift between him and Ramos, insisting he ‘fought’ to keep the defender at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu amid interest from Manchester United this summer.
“I fought more than anyone for Ramos to stay. There are absolutely no problems between us,” Benitez told Onda Cero’s Al Primer Toque.
“He’s our captain, an outstanding footballer and he has to keep showing that.”
Despite Karim Benzema also admitting he is ‘fed up’ with being substituted, Benitez maintains the morale in the dressing room is very good at the Bernabéu.
Benzema, who has scored six goals in six league appearances for Real Madrid this season, has been substituted in three of his last four starts in all competitions.
“I’m surprised by the number of stories they make up,” Benitez added.
“We have a great dressing room and there is a very good, relaxed and healthy atmosphere amongst the players.
“We’ve got Benzema back at his best, although he still receives lots of criticism. We’re rationing his playing time.
“I don’t have a problem with any player in the squad. I had a good, long chat with Cristiano Ronaldo yesterday.
“Coaches have to control a group of professionals but not what their agents say. Ronaldo and Bale don’t have any problems.”
Real Madrid are priced at 51/10 to win the UEFA Champions League title in 2015/16.
Butland ready to challenge Hart for No. 1 shirt
Stoke City goalkeeper Jack Butland has revealed he is ready to challenge Joe Hart for the Three Lions’ No. Shirt.
But the former Birmingham City player admits Hart is almost ‘immovable.’
Over the past four years, Hart has been England’s first-choice keeper and will–in all likelihood–be Roy Hodgson’s No. 1 come Euro 2016 next summer.
Nevertheless, Butland is still determined to compete for the place, and rightly so.
“I am not someone who enjoys being on the bench. I won’t kick up a fuss and I will always be a team man, but ultimately I want to play,” Butland said.
“Joe is a fantastic keeper, rightly he is the No 1, established in the Premier League, over 50 England caps.
“But I want to play and there’s nothing wrong with competition. Joe drives me on. We’re always encouraging each other and I know I improve when I come away with England.”