Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he held talks with club president Florentino Perez regarding the possibility of making new signings in the January transfer window, although he does not want any players to depart.
Madrid are reportedly close to sealing a €20 million move for Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, while for months now there have been calls for more experienced cover in the squad at centre-forward and centre-back.
There has also speculation that defeat to runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona before the winter break could lead Perez to make a big signing, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard possible targets.
Zidane told the pregame news conference ahead of Thursday’s Copa del Rey round-of-32 first leg at second division Numancia that he was currently happy with his squad, but added that anything could happen before the transfer window closes on Jan. 31.
“Kepa is not a Real Madrid player,” Zidane said. “I think only about my players. With the president, we talked about everything, and maybe about reinforcements. As of today there will be no signings, but anything can happen until [Jan.] 31.
“Maybe somebody comes, anything can happen, but I do not want any player to leave this squad. A coach always at the start of the season puts his squad together, and I am happy with it, whatever happens.
“The defeat in the Clasico hurt, but Madrid never gives up, and we will not give up. We will fight until the end of May for everything we are facing, for sure.”
Zidane was less clear when pushed repeatedly to clarify a “mystery” hamstring injury suffered by much criticised centre-forward Karim Benzema, which will see him out for about three weeks.
“After the Clasico [Benzema] felt something — we do not know exactly what,” Zidane added. “There was talk that he had something before the game. That is lies for me. I trust in the player, nothing else, he did not get injured on holidays, he was injured before he left.
“He felt something during the game. We do not give much importance in the moment. We felt it was not so big, but after the holidays we realised, after the scans, that it was more important.”
Cristiano Ronaldo, who turns 33 next month, is expected to be excused from the early rounds of the Copa again this year, but fit again Gareth Bale could make his first start in any competition since late September at the Nuevo Estadio Los Pajaritos on Thursday evening.
Youngsters Marcos Llorente, Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos could also get runs with Zidane having one eye on Sunday’s tricky La Liga game at Celta Vigo.
“It is very important for [Bale] now,” Zidane said. “He is training regularly, which is the most important. He will be with us tomorrow. Then we will see. The idea is for him now to pick up regular games.”
Soria-based Numancia have only ever spent four seasons in the top flight, most recently 2008-09, but are currently in fifth in the Segunda Division, one point off an automatic promotion place.
“What they are doing in their own league is very good,” Zidane said. “They knocked out Malaga, a Primera team [in the last round]. We know how important the first leg is, away from home, and we will try and play a serious game, respecting the opponent as always.”
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan