Barcelona are reportedly in the box seat to land Leeds United winger Raphinha in the next transfer window.

Raphinha, 25, is believed to be finished with Leeds, regardless of if they remain in the Premier League for next season.

After a season where he has so far scored 10 goals and provided three assists in 34 Premier League appearances – including a goal away at Stamford Bridge – the Brazilian international is said to have his selection from some of the world's best clubs.

TOP STORY – BARCA LEAD RACE FOR LEEDS' RAPHINHA

According to 90min, Raphinha favours a move to Barcelona if all things are equal, but the Spanish giants will have plenty of competition for his services.

If Leeds are relegated to the Championship, a release clause in Raphinha's contract will mean he can be had for £25million, although it could be double that – or more – if the Whites retain their Premier League status.

Vying with Barca will reportedly be West Ham, who supposedly made a bid in the January window, as well as Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.

ROUND-UP

– The Daily Mail is reporting Ilkay Gundogan will be allowed to leave Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, with one year remaining on his deal.

– According to The Guardian, Chelsea have entered the Robert Lewandowski sweepstakes, although he is believed to be destined for Barcelona.

Newcastle will test the waters to see if Jose Mourinho could be lured away from Roma, according to Marca.

– Marca also reports that Kylian Mbappe has agreed to a five-year deal with Real Madrid, although The Athletic insists no paperwork has been signed and PSG still hope to retain the France star.

Bayern Munich are showing interest in Barcelona's Ousmane Dembele ahead of his contract expiring in a month's time, per Sky Sports.

Gareth Bale could be set for a return to English football when his Real Madrid contract expires next month, according to his agent Jonathan Barnett, who has confirmed the winger's imminent exit from the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 32-year-old already looked set to leave Los Blancos at the end of his deal, with Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti saying last month that Bale wanted "to finish on a high note" with the club.

While Madrid wrapped up their 35th league title recently, Bale's role in that success was virtually none-existent, with the former Tottenham man making just seven appearances all season in all competitions, totalling just 290 minutes of action.

Bale has won four Champions League titles during his nine-year spell in the Spanish capital, scoring three goals in finals of the competition (one against Atletico Madrid in 2014 and two against Liverpool in 2018).

However, he has attracted the ire of the club's fans ever since he paraded a flag bearing the slogan "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" after helping his national team qualify for Euro 2020, and was described as a "parasite" in Spanish sports daily Marca earlier this year.

Bale remains a key man for his country, scoring a brace in Wales' 2-1 World Cup qualification win over Austria in March to put them within one win of reaching the tournament in Qatar, and Barnett says the result of the Dragons' June play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine will inform any decision on the player's future.

He also hinted Bale could return to England next season, having returned to Tottenham on loan for the duration of the 2020-21 campaign. 

"Gareth will leave Real Madrid, but we have to wait for what Wales will be able to do," Barnett told Portuguese outlet Record.

"It all depends on whether Wales qualify for the World Cup, then we will make a decision, which may vary on whether or not Wales go to the World Cup. 

"Is he likely to return to England? I think so, but we'll have to wait and see."

Wales will face either Scotland or Ukraine on June 5 in Cardiff for a place at the World Cup, where they would face England after being drawn into Group B. 

Monaco prospect Aurelien Tchouameni remained non-committal over his future amid growing speculation of interest from Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Tchouameni came through the Bordeaux academy before joining Monaco in 2020 on a four-and-a-half-year deal.

The midfielder has appeared 34 times in Ligue 1 this campaign, with only Wissam Ben Yedder (36) and goalkeeper Alexander Nubel (37) featuring more for Philippe Clement's side.

The 22-year-old Tchouameni represents a threat at both ends of the pitch, leading Monaco's charts for successful opposition-half passes (912), while making the most tackles (84) and winning the most duels (258).

That presence has led to interest from the likes of Madrid, where fellow France youngster Eduardo Camavinga joined last season, Liverpool and United, who are reportedly also interested in Declan Rice.

Tchouameni, speaking at the annual Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionels (UNFP) award ceremony in Paris, where he was named in Ligue 1's Team of the Year, played his cards close to his chest on his future.

"Good question. I have a contract with Monaco," he said when asked about the transfer speculation.

"I'm very good there. The most important thing is to finish the season well. We'll do the accounts at the end and we'll see what the future holds for me."

Tchouameni and Monaco conclude their French top-flight season with a trip to Lens on Saturday, with Clement's side second in the table, ahead of Marseille on a goal difference.

Kylian Mbappe has revealed he will announce a decision regarding his future before linking up with the France national team for June's Nations League fixtures.

With his contract with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain due to expire next month, Mbappe has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid.

Conflicting reports have suggested PSG are confident of tying the 23-year-old to a new deal in the French capital, while the hierarchy at the Bernabeu are sure of luring him to Spain.

Mbappe, a 2018 World Cup winner, has scored 36 goals and provided 21 assists for PSG this season, firing the Parisiens to the 10th Ligue 1 title in the club's history.

His total of 57 goal contributions this season can only be bettered by international team-mate Karim Benzema (59) among players in the top-five European leagues this season.

Speaking at the annual Union Nationale des Footballeurs Professionels (UNFP) award ceremony in Paris, where he was named the best player in the French top flight for a third time in four years (there was no winner for the curtailed 2019-20 campaign), Mbappe revealed he will soon make an announcement on where he intends to play next term.

While Mbappe was less forthright on his future than was the case at the 2019 ceremony, where he made headlines by discussing the potential of a "new project", he later said all will become clear by the time he meets up with his national team at the end of the month. 

"I made this mistake three years ago to monopolise the ceremony. I want to participate in the ceremony, not seek glory," Mbappe said, as reported by RMC.

"We will know very quickly, it's almost over. My choice is made, yes, almost."

Speaking to journalists in the mixed zone after picking up the award, Mbappe said: "I will officially announce my decision on the future before I join the France national team in June."

Mbappe later expressed his delight at retaining the Ligue 1 prize in a social media post, writing on Twitter: "Best player in Ligue 1 for the third consecutive season. An immense pride to write history once again. This recognition warms my heart. And of course, thank you to all of my club and the fans for the trust granted this season."

Having scored and provided two assists in PSG's 4-0 victory over Montpellier on Saturday, Mbappe has been involved in 245 goals in all competitions since making his PSG debut in September 2017 (168 goals, 77 assists).

That total is at least 98 more than any other player has managed for the club in the same period (Neymar is second with 147 goal contributions).

France are due to play four Nations League matches in June, facing a double-header against 2018 World Cup final opponents Croatia, as well as a home clash with Denmark and a trip to Austria.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti emphasised how difficult it is to pick his starting XI after a tricky 1-1 draw against Cadiz on Sunday.

Mariano Diaz put Madrid ahead just five minutes into the contest from point-blank range, but the league champions struggled the rest of the way.

Cadiz's Sobrino equalised in the 37th minute and, according to expected goal data, the home side also had the four best chances of the second half.

For the game, Cadiz had 2.90 expected goals, compared to just 1.64 for Madrid.

With the LaLiga title secured, Carlo Ancelotti looked towards his side's Champions League final in his post-game comments to the media, commending the efforts of experienced defender Nacho and highlighting the difficulty of picking a line-up.

"A player like Nacho always makes you think twice when picking the line-up," he said.

"He's not the only one, as you have doubts over the line-up for every match here at Real Madrid. There is a full squad and not just 11 players."

When asked specifically about if in-form duo Federico Valverde and Rodrygo will start in the Paris showdown against Liverpool, Ancelotti played his cards close to his chest.

"Maybe they'll start or maybe they won't, but they will definitely play," he said.

"[Valverde] needs to make the most of his long shot, which he has been doing more in recent matches. I think it's good for him and us for him to try shooting more."

Andriy Lunin produced a string of fine saves as Real Madrid held on to a 1-1 draw at Cadiz, who dropped into the relegation zone as a result.

With Real Mallorca securing a dramatic win over Rayo Vallecano, only a victory at the Nuevo Mirandilla would have kept Cadiz out of the relegation zone, but Lunin – standing in for Thibaut Courtois – frustrated them.

Mariano Diaz's early Rodrygo-inspired opener was a sign of things to come in a thrilling first half, which ultimately ended level thanks to Ruben Sobrino's emphatic – and deserved – equaliser eight minutes before the interval.

Cadiz were comfortably the more threatening side in the second period but failed to capitalise on their chances, including a penalty that Lunin conceded and then saved.

Their future will be determined on the final day of the season.

Starting in place of Vinicius Junior for the champions, Rodrygo embarked on a mazy run that his compatriot would have been proud of before prodding the ball to Mariano for a fifth-minute tap-in.

That lead was almost wiped out soon after, but Nacho Fernandez got back to make a vital interception before Lucas Perez could pounce on Negredo's pass.

Lunin's fine save then denied Oussama Idrissi an equaliser, but the goalkeeper was helpless a few moments later as Sobrino smashed in off the crossbar from 16 yards following a weak Eder Militao clearance.

It remained a similarly open contest after the break and Cadiz wasted a glorious chance to take the lead, with Lunin saving Negredo's penalty after he had clumsily fouled the Madrid youth product.

Lunin acrobatically saved a goal-bound Negredo header soon after, with the Ukrainian's heroics enough to earn Madrid a point.

Antonio Rudiger said the sanctions placed on Chelsea by the UK government were not the reason behind his decision to leave the club.

Germany defender Rudiger has been a crucial player for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea but has not agreed to a new contract.

The former Roma centre-back will therefore leave at the end of the season on a free transfer, with Real Madrid his likely destination.

Rudiger has helped Chelsea to four FA Cup finals, winning one, and a Champions League success since joining in 2017. The UEFA Super Cup, Europa League and FIFA Club World Cup are also included in his honours.

When confirming that Rudiger had asked to leave Chelsea in April, Tuchel suggested that the sanctions placed on the club's owner Roman Abramovic in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine meant the Blues were unable to match the 29-year-old's financial demands.

Rudiger, however, insisted that the sanctions had no impact on his decision.

"I don’t want to go too deep into things," he told reporters at Wembley on Saturday, after Chelsea lost 6-5 on penalties to Liverpool in the FA Cup final, their third consecutive defeat in the competition's showpiece.

"There was a chance but sanctions were not the problem.

"It’s been five years with ups and downs as normal. There were a lot of positive things, but that's why I'm even more frustrated because I wanted to have a different ending.

"It's about both sides. Chelsea have been great to me and I have been great for Chelsea. I am very, very thankful, both me and my family.

"I became a man here. My kids were born here and everything. London, and especially Chelsea, will always be special to me."

Chelsea have become the first side since Newcastle United (1974, 1998 and 1999) to lose on three consecutive FA Cup final appearances, while the Blues are the first team since Middlesbrough in 1996-97 to lose both of England's domestic cup finals in the same campaign, after their penalty shoot-out loss to Liverpool in the EFL Cup final in February.

"I think it was a good game just like the EFL Cup final. We had chances, they had chances," reflected Rudiger.

"But at the end of the day we know that penalties are always a lottery and we lost.

"It's about winning, it's not about next season. The game was about today and it was there to take. Unfortunately we didn't win.

"It's always difficult to say whether we are lucky or unlucky. For myself it's the third time [I have lost an FA Cup final] so you can't always say unlucky, unlucky, unlucky."

Rudiger has two games left before he leaves Chelsea, with the Blues hosting Leicester City on Thursday before closing out their season against Watford.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah is confident he will be fit to face Real Madrid in the Champions League final despite suffering an injury in the FA Cup final win over Chelsea.

Salah was forced off just over 30 minutes into Saturday's showdown at Wembley.

Even without their talisman, Liverpool went on to claim their second trophy of the season – the Reds triumphing 6-5 on penalties after a goalless draw over 120 minutes.

Liverpool have two Premier League games remaining, and sit three points behind leaders Manchester City, before they then face Madrid in Paris on May 28 and there was concern over Salah's participation after he was withdrawn.

But asked by reporters if he would be fit to feature against Los Blancos, a smiling Salah replied: "Of course."

Salah was not the only Liverpool player to suffer in north London. Andrew Robertson had to go off with apparent cramp, albeit his replacement Konstantinos Tsimikas scored the winning spot-kick, while Virgil van Dijk was replaced by Joel Matip at the end of normal time.

Van Dijk had an issue with his knee, but told ITV Sport that he is hopeful it was a minor injury.

"Hopefully well, we're going to check it out," he said. "I felt in the first half when I sprinted, I felt a twinge behind my knee, I played on.

"In the end, I can't risk it for the team and I need to trust Joel. Hopefully it will be fine."

In his post-match news conference, Jurgen Klopp said: "Obviously I spoke to both already after the game, both are really okay. All that we know is it's not a big thing, we really came through."

However, he is unsure if the pair will be fit to face Southampton on Tuesday.

"But the next game is on Tuesday and that's obviously pretty quick," he continued. 

"I think they both will be fine, but not… maybe… we have training tomorrow morning, then if they tell me 'I'm completely fine' I will be surprised but I will take it and then we have to go from there. So we will see."

With Salah and Van Dijk playing this season, Liverpool have won 31 times out of 43 games, suffering only three defeats.

The Reds have scored 101 goals across all competitions in matches the duo have featured in, while they have managed 41 in the 17 games that at least one of the two have missed.

However, Liverpool have not lost any of those games, winning 13 and drawing four.

Their average goals conceded per game does, though, rise slightly, from 0.7 with the pair playing, to 0.9 without.

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has agreed with Mohamed Salah that the Liverpool star is the best player in the world in his position.

Ancelotti's Madrid face Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris, with two contenders for the Ballon d'Or lining up against each other in Salah and Karim Benzema.

Salah has been in fine domestic scoring form once again this season, on course for the Premier League's Golden Boot award with 22 strikes, while he has been directly involved in 35 goals in 34 league games.

The Egypt international, speaking after winning the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year in England, declared himself as the best forward in the world at present.

"If you compare me with any player in my position, not only in my team but in the world, you will find that I am the best," he told BeIN SPORTS.

"I always focus on my work and do my best, and my numbers are the best proof of my words."

Indeed, only five players – Ciro Immobile (156), Kylian Mbappe (167), Cristiano Ronaldo (169), Lionel Messi (174) and Robert Lewandowski (232) – have scored more than Salah (154) since his Liverpool debut in August 2017 across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions.

Meanwhile, Lewandowski (49), Benzema (44), Mbappe (35), Christopher Nkunku (34) and Immobile (32) are the only players from the same group to outscore Salah (30) this season.

The debate continues over who should win the next Ballon d'Or with Benzema, who could deliver World Cup glory for France in Qatar to aid his cause, and Salah among the front-runners for the personal accolade.

Ancelotti, addressing a pre-match news conference ahead of a LaLiga clash at Cadiz on Sunday, admitted that no player comes close to Salah in his position at the minute.

"Salah has said that in his position he is the best in the world and I think he is right," Ancelotti told reporters.

"I agree with him. In his position, yes, he is the best in the world."

Eden Hazard has no other plans than to stay at Real Madrid, Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti has said.

Belgium international Hazard has struggled at Santiago Bernabeu since completing his reported €100million move from Chelsea in June 2019, with injuries and fitness issues hampering the forward.

Hazard has managed just seven starts for his 17 LaLiga appearances and 688 minutes this campaign as Madrid cruised to their 35th league title.

However, the 31-year-old appears to be a favourite with his team-mates in the Spanish capital after being seen to be encouraged to join in with celebrations after both LaLiga success and the Champions League semi-final victory over Manchester City.

Ancelotti, speaking before a trip to Cadiz on Sunday, has made it clear he intends to keep Hazard at Madrid.

"I have not talked about continuity. He stays and with a lot of motivation because he has not had a good time. He wants to show his quality. Hazard's plan is clear: he stays," Ancelotti said.

Asked if Hazard is likely to feature at Cadiz as Ancelotti rotates ahead of the Champions League final with Liverpool on May 28, the Italian responded: "I think so. In a squad like Madrid's there are many games. 

"There will be rotations. With a more complete squad you can rotate more and everyone can have opportunities. Being a starter in a great team is very complicated. For all, not only for those who play less.

"I think it is a locker room of a very high level. Professional, first, there are no arrogant people. Everyone is very humble and very respectful. It is a locker room that has a lot of quality of character. 

"It hasn't been easy to find changing rooms like this in my career.

"The number of minutes is not important. We have the example of Rodrygo. He has not played many minutes, but they have been quality when he features."

Ancelotti also confirmed he plans to rest Karim Benzema again, with Vinicius Junior and Thibaut Courtois also in line for a break.

"I have given him rest because he deserves it," he said of Benzema. "I have given him two days. Tomorrow I will also rest Vinicius and Courtois. They will be back on Tuesday. 

"[Dani] Carvajal, [Dani] Ceballos, Hazard are back... We're doing the plan well and next week they'll all be back."

As for the future of captain Marcelo, Ancelotti promised to open talks at the end of the season, while he heaped praise on the likes of Federico Valverde, Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga.

"Everyone has done their job. The ones I knew less about have surprised me: Valverde, Rodrygo, Camavinga. Vinicius has not surprised me because he has that talent," he continued.

"He has been more successful in finishing. I would say Rodrygo, Camavinga and Valverde are the three, though."

Madrid have won both of their last two visits to Cadiz in LaLiga (2-1 in August 2005 and 3-0 in April 2021), and could record three such straight away wins for the second time in the competition (three between 1987 and 1990).

Robert Lewandowski has told Bayern Munich he wishes to leave the club and head to Barcelona in the upcoming transfer window – and manager Julian Nagelsmann will reportedly not stand in his way.

Lewandowski, 33, is in the midst of a historic season, averaging more than a goal per game in both the Bundesliga and Champions League. He has 34 goals and three assists in 33 league fixtures, and 13 goals with three assists in his 10 Champions League games.

With his contract set to expire in just over 12 months, there was a feeling Bayern would prefer to hold on to the Polish star to boost their chances in the Champions League instead of cashing in, but that may not be the case.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI PUSHES FOR BARCA MOVE

Crowned The Best FIFA Men's Player two years in a row, and coming off his third consecutive season with at least 34 league goals, Lewandowski's time in Munich appears to be over as Sport reports he has his heart set on a Barcelona move.

Whether motivated by cashing in while the club still can, or simply honouring the wishes of one of the greatest players to ever wear the badge, Nagelsmann is said to be on board with Lewandowski's decision and will try to facilitate the transfer.

The report includes a note that it may be a difficult move for the Spanish giants to pull off financially, although he is likely central to their off-season plans, meaning the club will do everything in their power to prioritise making it happen.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano is reporting Real Madrid are "more confident than ever" in landing Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe

– According to Mediaset, Chelsea have reached an agreement with Inter's Ivan Perisic to bring the Croatian over on a free transfer, although Fabrizio Romano insists that Perisic has not made up his mind yet.

– Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong will reject any advances from Manchester United and his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag, according to the Daily Star.

– Calciomercato claims Paulo Dybala's agent is reportedly in London weighing up offers of Premier League clubs, including Arsenal.

Jude Bellingham will remain with Borussia Dortmund for next season, despite interest from Liverpool and United, according to the Daily Star.

Toni Kroos had a friendly prod at Manchester City and Sergio Aguero after the Premier League club unveiled a statue in honour of their former striker.

Aguero, who left City last year and has since retired due to a heart condition, is the club's record goalscorer. 

On the 10th anniversary of Aguero's last-gasp, title-clinching winner against QPR back in 2012, City unveiled a statue of Aguero's famous celebration.

However, the statue arguably looks more like Real Madrid midfielder Kroos, who picked up on that resemblance.

"Sure?" Kroos tweeted in response to a tweet from BBC Sport journalist Simon Stone, which included a photo of the statue.

It would not be the first time a statue of a player has drawn some ridicule – Cristiano Ronaldo, anyone? – but it may be the first time it has looked so similar to another star name.

Fabinho will definitely be back available for Liverpool's Champions League final against Real Madrid, manager Jurgen Klopp has said.

The Reds were dealt a huge blow ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea with the news that the Brazil international has been ruled out with a muscular injury.

Fabinho was forced off during the first half of Tuesday's 2-1 win over Aston Villa and will not return in time for this weekend's trip to Wembley.

However, providing a further update at his pre-Chelsea news conference on Friday, Klopp confirmed the 28-year-old will be available to face Madrid in Paris on May 28.

"He will definitely be back for the Champions League final," Klopp said. "Whether he will play before that, we don't yet know.

"Fab is a professional. He was obviously not happy about missing the Chelsea match, but he took it and is already taking on the fight against time, if you want. That's how it is.

“It is not enough if you are ready on Friday before the final, it should be Tuesday or Wednesday or something like that and we are working on that.

"We are all very positive that it will be the case. So he is absolutely OK."

Liverpool have lost just three of the 47 games that Fabinho has played in this season, conceding 0.7 goals per game compared to 0.9 in the 12 matches he has not featured.

Jordan Henderson is likely to return to central midfield alongside Naby Keita and Thiago Alcantara for the clash with Chelsea, and Klopp has full confidence others can step up.

"If all the other boys didn't show the attitude they have had in training all season, we'd have had no chance this season," he said. That's been very important."

Liverpool are competing in their first FA Cup final since 2011-12 when losing 2-1 to Chelsea, with the most recent of their seven triumphs in the competition coming in 2006.

The Reds have already lifted one cup at the national stadium this year, though, having overcome Chelsea on penalties following a goalless draw in February's EFL Cup final.

Klopp's side are therefore looking to win both of England's domestic cup competitions in the same season for the first time since 2000-01, when also winning the UEFA Cup.

"We didn't 'beat' Chelsea. We won the penalty shoot-out," Klopp said. "I've said a few times, without luck you have no chance, and luck was on our side that day.

"It was a tough, tight game and we know how good Chelsea are and we expect another tough game.

"Both teams will go for all they have. That's what I expect from Chelsea and that's what I especially expect from us this time.

"It's the biggest domestic cup competition in the world. I haven't watched 20 FA Cup finals but I don't think that's necessary to understand how big it is.

"We are really looking forward to this opportunity. The boys worked their socks off to arrive here, with all the different challenges over the year.

"It's now a massive final for us and I'm really happy we are part of it. We always gave our all to arrive to the final [in previous years], we just didn't make it."

The three previous meetings between Liverpool and Chelsea this season have finished level and Klopp is anticipating another tight contest against Thomas Tuchel's side.

"Chelsea are a really well-coached team. They have a similar system to others but a different level," he said.

"They have an idea for all areas. They're organised defensively and offensively, with incredible talent. We have no idea how Thomas will line up. There are so many options."

Pep Guardiola's departure from Barcelona was influenced by his hostile relationship with then-Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho, according to Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique. 

Guardiola won 14 trophies – including three league titles and two Champions Leagues – in a four-year spell at Camp Nou, developing a legendary side featuring academy graduates including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Pique.

However, Guardiola's final season at the helm saw the Catalan giants finish second to Los Blancos in LaLiga, as Mourinho's side broke the league's points tally record by earning 100 points in 2011-12, also scoring a yet-to-be-matched 121 league goals. The points tally was equalled by Tito Vilanova's Barcelona in the following season.

The two coaches clashed repeatedly after the Portuguese coach arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010, and Pique believes the rivalry "got too much", contributing to Guardiola's decision to leave.

"We were winning everything at the time and I remember that the first time Mourinho came to Camp Nou he lost 5-0 against us [in November 2010]," Pique told Gary Neville on The Overlap. 

"It was a shock of reality that these guys are going hard, but in the press conferences every time he was… you know his style, I think that for Guardiola at some point it was too much.

"It was more important sometimes what happened off the pitch than on the pitch.

"Guardiola left. Madrid won the league that year and all of a sudden, he decided to leave for so many reasons, but I am sure part of it was because with Mourinho it got too much."

After Guardiola's Manchester City team fell to a stunning 6-5 Champions League semi-final defeat to Real Madrid earlier this month, he is tied with Mourinho as the two bosses with the most semi-final eliminations from the competition (six each), while the duo are also the two managers with the most wins in their first 100 Premier League games (both 73).

Pique claimed Mourinho's confrontational style also affected relationships between Barcelona and Madrid players in the Spain international set-up, despite the team winning three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

"Since he arrived, he knew that on the pitch they were weaker than us," Pique said of Mourinho's time with Madrid. "We had a better team for sure, and even the relationships between players [were better].

"I remember going to the national team, and after those games it was tough because Mourinho goes to the mind of the player and he says, 'These guys hate you', then you believe that.

"I was in the dressing room of the national team and said to [Madrid goalkeeper] Iker Casillas, 'Hey Iker', and the guy did not talk to me. At that time, I did not know, but it was the coach, he really knows how to go into the mind."

Asked whether Guardiola enjoyed the rivalry with Mourinho, Pique added: "I don't think so. I remember the semi-final of the Champions League in the Bernabeu [in 2011], he did an amazing press conference, but it was not about football.

"He enjoys talking about what is happening on the pitch, and here there was a moment where the press was focusing on what was happening outside the pitch."

Carlo Ancelotti has challenged his Real Madrid side to maintain their intensity ahead of the Champions League final with Liverpool on May 28.

Los Blancos, who were crowned LaLiga champions a fortnight ago, condemned Levante to relegation on Thursday following a 6-0 thumping at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Vinicius Junior scored his first hat-trick for the club in his 168th appearance, with Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo also finding the back of the net.

Benzema's header saw him move level with Raul as Madrid's second-highest all-time top goalscorer on 323 goals.

The emphatic win followed Sunday's El Derbi defeat to Atletico Madrid, and Ancelotti said he expects his players to give 100 per cent in their remaining two league games before the showdown with Jurgen Klopp's side.

"We are playing well and our self-esteem has grown a lot," he told a media conference.

"We have this challenge of playing in the final after winning the league. We know that there is a lack of time and that we have to have intensity.

"The team are showing very good signs. We work very well in the field. We have done well, with rhythm and intensity. It's what we wanted, high intensity for team dynamics."

Asked what his side's formation will be for the game against Liverpool, Ancelotti revealed he will not deviate from his trusted 4-3-3.

"It will be the 4-3-3," he said. "That sometimes can be a 4-4-2. I think there is no defined system. Sometimes to put pressure on the pivot, as we did against Manchester City, you go from 4-3-3 to 4-4-1-1. 

"The idea does not change much, just a little the way of defending the rival, of putting pressure on him."

Ancelotti has received plaudits from across Europe in recent weeks after masterminding Madrid's dramatic run to the Champions League final, yet the Italian would not be drawn on whether he is the best on the continent.

"It is difficult to answer that," he said. "I don't like to give myself votes, others give them to me. 

"I like to live a happy moment. I hope I can continue like this for a long time. We have a very big goal, we are going to give everything."

Madrid face Cadiz and Real Betis before doing battle with the Reds in Paris at the end of the month.

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