ZIDANE BACKS MADRID SUCCESS FOR VARANE

Zinedine Zidane has said that Real Madrid have found a great player in Varane. Defender Varane is expected to complete a move from Lens to the Bernabeu early next week with Zidane, who is an advisor to Madrid president Florentino Perez, instrumental in luring his countryman to Spain.

Zidane is confident the 18-year-old will blossom under Jose Mourinho after comparing him to former France centre-half, and current Les Bleus boss, Blanc.

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VALDONA PRAISES RAUL

Real Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano has said that Schalke striker Raul is one of the best right now after his sensational form for Schalke.

The 33-year-old scored one and made the other to help Schalke beat Inter 2-1 on Wednesday night, knocking the holders out of the Champions League.

He netted his 71st goal in the tournament in the process, and his 73rd in Europe in total, and Valdano, who saw Raul leave Madrid last year, is delighted to witness his progression with the Germans.

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REAL MADRID SHIFTS FOCUS TOWARDS ASIA

Real Madrid have signed a new deal with an Asian football events company to build their fan-base in Asia. The La Liga giants are considering setting up an academy in the city-state and could bring youngsters to Madrid to train under their coaches.

"We've been talking to our partner here, (events company) Centurion, about that ... to have the chance to play in Singapore," Real's international sponsorship manager Alfonso Roberes De Cominges told Channel News Asia on Monday.

REAL MADRID DETERMINED TO BEAT BARCA

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez is making it a personal quest to beat Barcelona to the signing of Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.

Sport says Florentino, tired of Barca's dominance in the Liga at his club's expense and wary of the growing discontent amongst the faithful, is determined to deliver a serious blow to their eternal rivals with the capture of Cesc.

He and his No2, Jose Angel Sanchez, have been plotting since the New Year on plans to land the Gunners captain.

MATEOS CLOSE TO JOINING ATHENS

Real Madrid defender David Mateos is very close to joining AEK Athens in the January transfer window. The former Sevilla coach has been pressing for the Spanish stopper to beat off reported interest from Real Zaragoza and Celtic.

Mateos is expected to complete his switch on Saturday and his move to Greece will offer him the chance of regular action, something that has not happened in Madrid.

A loan deal seems likely as Madrid are not prepared to allow their man to leave permanently as they see him as a prospect for next season.

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MADRID BEAT ATHLETICO

Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals comfortably thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo. In a highly charged city derby at Santiago BernabeuStadium, Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas tripped up SergioAguero inside the area in the seventh minute but the balltrickled on for Diego Forlan to slot home the openeryesterday.

Atletico keeper David De Gea kept the visitors close witha number of outstanding saves but was helpless in the 14th asSergio Ramos headed home Angel Di Maria''s corner kick toequalise.

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BARCELONA PLAYER INTERESTED IN MADRID MOVE

Barcelona winger Nolito has said that he could move to Real Madrid if there is an offer. The 24-year-old, whose contract at Camp Nou is due to expire, is currently deciding where his future lies having found playing time limited with the Primera Liga giants.

Nolito, who has made just three appearances for Barca since breaking into the first team, is understood to be a target of Benfica, with reports in Spain suggesting he has already wrapped up a deal with the Portuguese side.

RAMOS INJURED

Real Madrid have suffered a huge injury blow with the news that Sergio Ramos will be out for 2 to 3 weeks. Ramos has sprained a ligament in his right knee and he is unlikely to play again this year, with the Spain international expected to be ruled out for between two to three weeks.

That would mean Ramos will miss Madrid's final three competitive fixtures of 2010 - the Primera Division matches against Real Zaragoza and his former club Sevilla, as well as the first leg of their Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Levante.

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MOURINHO SURPRISED

Jose Mourinho has said that he is really surprised by UEFA's decision to impose a misconduct charge against the club. UEFA charged Real Madrid Coach Jose Mourinho with “unsporting conduct” over accusations that he ordered two players, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, to get themselves sent off in a Champions League match Tuesday.

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MOURINHO REJECTS PORTUGAL LINK

Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho has denied reports that he will be taking over the Portugal job. It had been suggested that the Real Madrid boss could take temporary charge of his homeland for a Euro 2012 double-header against Denmark and Iceland in October.

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