Zinedine Zidane stopped short of acknowledging Real Madrid’s all-conquering squad as “the best in the world” ahead of his side’s LaLiga opener, as the Frenchman believes there is always room for improvement.
After deposing Barcelona, Real are the reigning LaLiga champions ahead of the new season, which for Los Blancos starts at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, and in June they won the Champions League for the third time in four years.
Coupled with the confident UEFA Super Cup final victory over Manchester United and a dominant display against El Clasico foes Barcelona in this week’s Supercopa de Espana, Real appear in fine fettle heading into the 2017-18 campaign.
They will, however, travel to Galicia without star striker Cristiano Ronaldo, suspended for the next four league games for his shove on the referee during the first leg of the Supercopa.
Helping to assuage fears that Real will struggle without the Portuguese has been young winger Marco Asensio. The Majorcan ran the show against Barca and looks an able understudy for Ronaldo.
Zidane insists this season will not be plain sailing for his team, even though his crop of young talents – also including the likes of Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos – points to a bright future at the Bernabeu.
When asked whether his side exemplify the best there is in football, the head coach told realmadrid.com: “I do not know if we are the best in the world but I certainly have a fantastic squad.
“We can surely improve because I have some very young players who always have more to learn.
“The goal is always to try and improve because this year is going to be more difficult.
“Until August 31 (the end of the transfer window), anything can happen at any other club.
“We are all in the same boat and all want to do well.”
On 21-year-old Asensio, Zidane added: “He is doing phenomenally well every time he comes in.”
There has been speculation this summer that Gareth Bale could leave Madrid as Real continue to be linked with young Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe, and the Welshman’s recent experiences in Spain have been marred by injury.
Zidane, however, expects Bale to stay and play a key role for the champions.
“He is training regularly and that is important for him,” he said. “He suffered from four months of injury last year but has had good preparation for this season. He is physically fit and has no discomfort.
“I hope it will be an important year for both him and the team.”
Deportivo are hopeful of tying up a deal for Arsenal striker Lucas Perez, who appears surplus to requirements at the Emirates.
Boss Pepe Mel revealed that club president Tino Fernandez is pushing hard to bring Perez back to the Riazor, where he enjoyed two fruitful campaigns before joining the Gunners last year.
He told Marca: “I have not known the president for a long time but, apart from knowing how much he loves Depor, I know that he’s really headstrong.
“He says (Perez) will be here next week and I have no choice but to believe him. He has proved to me that when he says he will do something, he does it.”