Zidane voted for Ousmane Dembele

Zidane voted for Ousmane Dembele

It has already been a whirlwind 2016 for Ousmane Dembele following his emergence at Rennes and subsequent transfer to Borussia Dortmund, and it has improved yet further with Zinedine Zidane casting a vote for him in the French Player of the Year awards.

The teenager was an unknown quantity just over a year ago yet now he is a player most clubs in the world are casting an envious eye over.

His displays for Dortmund have been nothing short of sensational for such a young footballer especially his cameo against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Dembele's excellence hasn't been lost on the Real coach, who was part of a panel along with former French footballers Yvon Rouis and Jean Marc Guillou, which selected the best French player of 2016.

Zidane understandably had his own two French players in the first two slots on the ballot - Karim Benzema his choice for the best French player of the year followed by Raphael Varane.

But Dembele was fourth, ahead of Paul Pogba and only two other members of the panel of 30 ex-players had the youngster in their top five.

Zidane's vote for France's player of the year

  1. Benzema (Real Madrid)
  2. Varane (Real Madrid)
  3. Griezmann (Atlético de Madrid)
  4. Dembele (Borussia Dortmund)
  5. Pogba (Manchester United)
How the others voted

  1. Kopa: Griezmann, Matuidi, Lacazette, Payet y Umtiti
  2. Papin: Griezmann, Varane, Rabiot, Gameiro y Germain
  3. Blanc: Griezmann, Pogba, Benzema, Varane y Germain
  4. Ginola: Griezmann, Payet, Kanté, Koscielny y Rabiot
  5. Vieira: Griezmann, Lloris, Payet, Koscielny y Sissoko
  6. Nasri: Griezmann, Payet, Kanté, Ben Arfa y Benzema
  7. Luis Fernández: Griezmann, Pogba, Koscielny, Kanté y Sissoko
It's not surprising that Zidane would love to take the 19-year-old to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu one day, but that move has been made more difficult by Dortmund's decision to pounce in the summer of 2016.

He is no longer a jewel in a small crown in France, he is shining on the highest stage in Europe and any move to prise him from Germany will be infinitely more expensive.

Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain made offers to rival those of Thomas Tuchel's club but Dortmund's project was viewed as the most impressive by a teenager who had only signed his first professional contract less than three years previously.

Sources close to the player have intimated that he is fond of Real Madrid and would quite like to play for the famous Spanish club at some stage, but it's understood that his release from Dortmund will not come any time soon.

He is growing in the Bundesliga and continuing to catch the eye of the world's finest clubs and is very much one for the future.

For now, Zidane has more pressing decisions to make with news coming on Tuesday that Los Blancos' transfer ban would be reduced to just one transfer window.

Real's squad for the 2016/17 season is set but there will be decisions made in the summer that have been fast tracked as a result of the ruling.

Cristiano Ronaldo's plan is to rest

Following a hectic 2016 in which he guided Real Madrid to the Champions League trophy and his country Portugal to success in Euro 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo plans to take it easy over the Christmas period.

Ronaldo has returned to Madeira where he will spend a few days with his family in order to fully unwind before he heads back to Madrid for first-team training on December 27.

His objective is to disconnect completely from football in both a physical and mental sense before a testing mini winter training camp set up by Zinedine Zidane.

It's been put in place to ensure the club starts 2017 in as fresh a manner as possible with their sights firmly fixed on a first LaLiga title since Jose Mourinho's triumph in 2012.

In addition to personal rest over Christmas, Ronaldo is also expected to sit out the opening match of 2017 against Sevilla in the Copa del Rey.

This is not merely an effort made by Real Madrid as a club because the 31-year-old himself recognises now that to head into the business end of the campaign at his highest level, he simply has to rest his body.

Having been struck down with a number of muscular injuries over the last six months it makes sense for him to slow down a little.

There is also the small matter of the upcoming Confederations Cup in Russia - with Portugal's participation as European Champions likely to mean Ronaldo misses yet another pre-season holiday.

Break is a word that historically hasn't been in the former Manchester United star's vocabulary but he is now facing a relaxed schedule until his return to action against Granada on January 7.

Guardiola: I respect Ronaldo but Messi is on another level

As he gets ready for his first experience of Boxing Day fixtures, Pep Guardiola faced the media in his pre-match press conference and continued to speak of his admiration for Lionel Messi amongst other things.

Far from being a drain on his family time, the Catalan is positively looking forward to his next game.

"I can't sleep waiting for this day," he began.

"I have seen a lot of matches and Hull are a special team. They try to play more than others, and [David] Silva has already warned me about what it means to play there at this time [of year]."

Conversation inevitably turned to the Cristiano Ronaldo/Messi debate, in light of the former winning another Ballon d'Or.

"I agree with Luis Enrique," he continued.

"Leo is the best because he plays, makes goals and knows how to make others play.

"With the respect that I have for other great players, Cristiano is at the top - but Messi is on another level."

After a stunning start to life in England, Guardiola's Manchester City side have stuttered recently and the coach was asked what needed to happen for the side to get back to their early season form.

"We have to continue to be more solid and effective," he said.

"We were more aggressive against Arsenal and we controlled the match, but every game is different and many things can happen."

Simeone analyses four key players

Rumours surrounding Diego Simeone's future have dogged much of the latter half of 2016 but with 2017 on the horizon, the Argentine spent time discussing the strengths and weaknesses of his squad.

Atletico Madrid's form has been up and down this season and their LaLiga title charge is already over in the eyes of many, however the former Internazionale midfielder continues to believe in his players.

The news that his contract had been cut short (to the summer of 2018) took many by surprise and certainly gave the impression that Atleti will not be Simeone's long-term home.

Antoine Griezmann

That said, he is still focused on achieving immediate success and is in backing Antoine Griezmann to return to form.

"Antoine has grown a lot and needs to readjust to the team," Simeone explained to MARCA.

"He has had very nice things happen to him but what keeps me calm is when I see him train and compete - he is one of the hardest working players we have."

Kevin Gameiro

Griezmann took on board a lot of Los Rojiblancos' goalscoring responsibilities in the 2015/16 season and as a result, Kevin Gameiro was identified and signed in order to spread the workload.

The former Sevilla striker hasn't enjoyed the best of starts to life in the Spanish capital and has netted just six league goals, but the Argentine believes the forward will improve when he is more settled.

"We are getting closer to where we want him to be day-by-day," he continued.

"When he is calmer and more settled he will begin to respond on the pitch.

"New arrivals have to get used to the weight of the Atletico shirt because, with respect, it is on another level to other clubs."

Coaches often live and die by their decisions in the transfer market and whilst the 46-year-old has built enough of a reputation to be exempt from most criticism, it is hard to make a case that Atleti's summer business has been a success.

Nico Gaitan

Nico Gaitan arrived in Spain after years of wonderful displays in Portugal but he hasn't yet hit the same heights in LaLiga.

"We are in the process of helping each other, we give him minutes which are what he needs and he is beginning to feel much more involved," he said.

"He arrived from a club where he was an idol and our defensive demands for wingers outweigh the ones he had with Benfica so he has to adjust to that."

Sime Vrsaljko

Sime Vrsaljko has struggled to displace Juanfran as the team's starting right-back although as the season has progressed, there is a sense the pair can play in the same system with the Croatian able to deputise at left-back.

After having not played in 11 straight matches, Vrsaljko has started to find his place within the group and Simeone made clear the player was growing into his role.

"Sime is growing and he has something that I like a lot," he noted.

"He transmits energy and at the moment he is trying to break through a barrier.

"He worked well in Munich and it is clear that more minutes will help to give us what we need from him."

Palace appoint former England manager Allardyce

Former England boss Sam Allardyce has signed a 2-1/2 year contract to take over as manager of Premier League strugglers Crystal Palace, the London club said on Friday.

Palace, who are fourth from bottom, sacked Alan Pardew on Thursday after a dismal run of results.

"We are delighted to be able to make an appointment so quickly and fortunate that someone of Sam's calibre and experience was available," club chairman Steve Parish said in a statement.

Allardyce's first match in charge will be the league game at fellow Londoners Watford on Monday.

"I hope we can bring some joy over Christmas and the New Year and, over the long term, between now and the end of the season," said the former Newcastle United, West Ham United, Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers manager.

"The club seems to be very ambitious. Certainly the chairman and the owners seem to be taking the club forward in the right direction."

Allardyce left his role with England by mutual consent after just one game earlier this year in the wake of a newspaper investigation which featured a video of him offering advice on how to "get around" FA rules on player transfers.


After one win in their last 11 league matches, Palace are seeking more solidity from a specialist in relegation firefighting.

Their poor form has left them one place and one point above the drop zone. Palace have been in the top flight since 2013.

"They've held their Premier League status for a number of years now and there is always a very good atmosphere at the stadium," said Allardyce.

"I like the look of the squad and that's the reason I'm here. I think I can help the club go forward."

At a news conference earlier on Friday, Palace assistant manager Keith Millen said: "Certainly for players, he (Allardyce) is an experienced Premier League manager.

"Palace are getting an experienced manager. I don't know if Sam has got a point to prove with his career in league football because he has been very successful. The England job is very different."

Of Pardew, Millen added: "We have exchanged text messages. He is upset, disappointed but proud of what he has done here. Unfortunately, the results have not been good enough."
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