Real Madrid fans will love Modric, says Croatia boss Stimac

Igor Stimac has claimed that Real Madrid supporters “are going to love” new signing Luka Modric.

Stimac took over as Croatia coach from Slaven Bilic after Euro 2012, and started his competitive stewardship with a 1-0 victory over Macedonia in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers on Friday.

And following Modric’s €41.5 million (£33.2m) summer move from Tottenham, the 45-year-old is certain that his new fans will be in awe.

“He’s a player that thinks very quickly,” he told AS. “Luka sees what is happening on the pitch, so he can play anywhere. He has a great future in Spain. The Madrid fans are going to love him.

“Luka can do anything with the ball. He’s not on top form, but it only shows in when he combines moves, as he doesn’t have his usual strength and accuracy.

“Even so, he played beautifully [on Friday]. He was smart against a team with a lot of discipline and a very closed style.”

Modric, who turned 27 on Sunday, played the full 90 minutes against Macedonia, and declared that he is looking forward to more of the same.

“I am perfect to play 90 minutes,” he said.

Modric and Real Madrid travel to Sevilla on Saturday 15 looking to close the gap on rivals Barcelona.

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Ronaldo can’t walk past his reflection without admiring it, says Rooney

Ronaldo - Rooney - Manchester United

Cristiano Ronaldo y Rooney, compañeros en Manchester United

Wayne Rooney has lifted the lid on his relationship with former Manchester United team-mate Ronaldo, as well as his dressing room habits.

The 26-year-old United striker, currently sidelined with a thigh injury, has provided a unique insight into goings on at Old Trafford during the Portuguese superstar’s stay at the club.  

In Rooney’s upcoming book, ‘My Decade in the Premier League’, extracts of which are being published by The Mirror, he reveals: “There’s a mirror by Ronaldo’s seat in the Old Trafford dressing room.

“In the time I’ve been playing with Ronnie, the one thing I’ve noticed about him is that he can’t walk past his reflection without admiring it, even if we’re about to play a game of football.

“Every match, before the team goes out for the warm-up, he runs through the same routine. The kit goes on, the boots go on. Not long after, Ronnie turns to his reflection and stares, psyching himself up for the game.

“If there’s one person with a bigger self-belief than Ronaldo, I haven’t met him yet. He’s not shy.”

Rooney and Ronaldo famously clashed in the World Cup 2006 quarter-final, during which England were reduced to ten men after Rooney was red-carded following a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho and a spot of gamesmanship from his United colleague.

“When I walked to the tunnel, I knew I couldn’t really blame Ronaldo for what had happened because he was trying to win the game for his country.

“I knew what was in store, so when I bumped into him in the tunnel after the game I gave him a heads up.

“‘The fans will be going mad over this one,’ I said. ‘They’ll be trying to make a big deal of it, so we’ll just have to get on with things as normal because there will be talk all summer.’

“He understood, he’s a bright lad, but not long afterwards the papers reckoned he was off to Real Madrid; apparently me and him weren’t talking, which was absolute rubbish.

“The truth is I like Ronaldo, always have done. He’s a good lad and great to have around the dressing room.”

Mourinho wary of Dortmund threat in Champions League

Jose Mourinho - Real Madrid / Shinichiro Ema

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has labelled Borussia Dortmund a threat to his side’s progression from Group D of the Champions League, which also features Manchester City and Ajax.

The Portuguese praised the progress exhibited by the German champions over the past couple of seasons, and maintained Los Blancos would have to be wary of their opponents’ capabilities.

“I’m not sure [if Manchester City are our biggest opponents]. Borussia Dortmund have been champions of Germany twice in a row,” cautioned the 49-year-old to AS.

“They are well organised and very experienced, with many international-calibre players from Germany, and the top two from Poland. Their stadium and fans are impressive too.”

Mourinho then aimed a sideswipe at Roberto Mancini’s Premier League winners, claiming all the money in the world would not necessarily buy them European success.

“The Abu Dhabi investors have invested so much, because they want to ensure the European Cup does not slip out of their hands,” the former Chelsea boss added.

“Nevertheless, the tradition of clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich cannot be bought. The best players in the world will always go there.”

Nigel Martyn backing Hart to be as good as Casillas

Former England goalkeeper Nigel Martyn has said that current Three Lions shot-stopper Joe Hart can be as good as Iker Casillas.

Martyn, who played 23 times for England, believes there are parallels to be drawn between Hart’s club career at Manchester City and that of Casillas at Real Madrid.
He told talkSPORT: “He reminds me of Casillas. He got into the team at Real Madrid very early and you can see the career he has had.

“Hopefully Joe can emulate that because he’s doing fantastically well.

“As long as you steer clear of the injuries, don’t do anything silly and stay at one of the top clubs then it all bodes well for his international future.

“It’s up to the even younger lads to try and oust him and that will make him better as well.”

Hart has made 22 appearances for England and has conceded just 14 goals, keeping a clean sheet in the Three Lions’ 5-0 victory over Moldova in their first World Cup 2014 qualifier.

Messi urges Argentina team-mates to keep up the pace

Argentina forward Lionel Messi has praised his side’s showing in their 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Paraguay.

The Albiceleste took the lead minutes into the tie courtesy of a Angel Di Maria effort, with Gonzalo Higuain and the 25-year-old also finding the net to help the Argentines move to the top of their group, but the Barcelona star has warned his team-mates that their task is far from complete.

“Being top of the table is not important. We have to do as well as we can,” the Barcelona ace told reporters following the match.

“I messed up my first header and it hit the post. The first free kick was also an unlucky one, but luckily I was able to score [my third chance].

“We knew they would close it up at the back, how they would come and play and what was at stake. We made a quick opening, then they scored a penalty but we recovered and put in a good game.”

Messi’s compatriot Angel Di Maria, has also expressed his delight at the victory, and believes his nation are on course to reach the tournament.

“We wanted to make the fans happy,” the Real Madrid forward explained.

“The team is good. We have to keep it up and improve on some things, but we are on track to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil.”

The Seleccion will look to build on their recent win when they take on Peru on September 12.