Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he does not want to sign new players this month, instead challenging his current squad to return to their best form now that they have “no room left for error” this season.
Madrid could kick off on Sunday evening 17 points adrift of La Liga leaders Barcelona, with their 3-0 Clasico defeat before the winter break having prompted speculation in the local media that they could seek a big-name signing ahead of their Champions League round-of-16 clash with Paris Saint-Germain.
Zidane, though, told his news conference against of Sunday’s trip to Celta Vigo that he would not be looking to the market for a quick fix.
“As we all know, until Jan. 31, someone can come in — this is the market — but I do not want anyone as I am happy with my squad,” Zidane said.
“I remember last year there were no problems like this, as Madrid was doing well, playing well, but when a team is going a bit bad, as can happen sometimes, there is talk of transfers — but I am not that type of coach.
“We are still in three competitions and will give our best until the end of the season. We must hit our level now and show what we can do. We are very motivated. We have no room for error left this season, but we are very excited about that.”
Madrid are reportedly close to signing Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, 23, who is out of contract at the end of the season, which could mean current back-up Kiko Casilla leaves immediately.
However, Zidane suggested he would prefer any changes to take place next summer.
“I do not need a goalkeeper, as coach, at the moment,” he said. “In June if there are changes, and we sit down and talk, maybe there are positions we can sign players. These are two years without any player coming here. The moment comes when you could have a debate, but today I do not see that.”
Recent weeks have also brought speculation over the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, amid a public stand-off with club president Florentino Perez over whether he should be awarded a pay rise.
“I cannot imagine a Real Madrid without Cristiano,” Zidane said. “He is a Madrid player, and what he wants is to finish his career here. I do not see him playing anywhere else.”
Madrid won 4-1 at Celta in April on their way to winning last season’s La Liga title, but drew 2-2 there 12 months ago to exit the Copa del Rey. Zidane said he expected a difficult test on Sunday evening.
“[Celta] are a very good team, with very good players,” he said. “They are going well, and we know how difficult the game will be. As always though, I am more interested in what we do tomorrow.”
Gareth Bale is set to start again having come through 60 minutes with a goal and no fitness problems in Thursday’s 3-0 Copa del Rey round-of-16 first-leg win at Segunda side Numancia. He should line up in attack alongside Ronaldo, as Karim Benzema is sidelined with a hamstring issue.
Club captain Sergio Ramos also misses out with a calf muscle problem, and right-back Dani Carvajal is suspended, so youngsters Achraf Hakimi and Jesus Vallejo could come into the back four.
Asked about the squad’s recent run of muscle problems, Zidane suggested that personal issues are sometimes a factor in a player missing games through injury.
“All squads have injuries, it always happens,” he said. “It is not just about training — everyone has their own life, their own high and low moments.
“There are players who, when things are happening in their life, they can get injured. But that is not just in Madrid, it happens in all teams. We have had important injuries, important players with injuries, so there is more talk than elsewhere.”