Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has dismissed speculation that any of James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata or Pepe will be leaving the club in January, saying all are committed to working hard at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid ended 2016 by winning the Club World Cup in Japan, spent the winter break clear atop the La Liga table, and begin the New Year by hosting Sevilla in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
However, much of the talk at the pregame news conference on Tuesday centred on the future of players rumoured to be interesting other clubs — especially out-of-favour playmaker James, who fuelled speculation himself by speaking in Japan about the possibility of looking elsewhere for more playing time.
“James is a Madrid player, an important player,” Zidane said. “It was a difficult moment, when you do not play in a final you are angry. I understand that. But that is all past now. We have spoken. He is a Madrid player and wants to be here at the best club in the world. Nothing else. We will keep working hard, which is important.”
The future of centre-back Pepe is also uncertain, given the 33-year-old is out of contract next summer and has reportedly attracted a huge offer from Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune.
“Pepe is our player, he is important for us,” Zidane said. “He has been here many years, has made history with this club and I hope he stays. I am not interested in speculation, just in what he can do for us from now until the end.”
Tuesday morning brought claims in Italy that backup Madrid striker Alvaro Morata is unhappy at a lack of regular games and is interested in returning to Juventus.
“I do not believe this information is correct,” Zidane said. “[Morata] looks happy to me to be here. He is at home here. He is working well, very focused on the project here, and nothing else. You could ask him.”
Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo has not been included in Madrid’s squad for their Copa del Rey round-of-16 tie against Sevilla.