Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has dismissed reports Cristiano Ronaldo could quit the club before the transfer window's closure on Thursday. Meanwhile, Los Blancos have also reportedly said midfield playmaker Mateo Kovacic is not for sale amid interest from Premier League side Liverpool.
Zidane addressed the question of Ronaldo's proposed departure, playing down the idea, per Ewan Roberts of Metro: "Cristiano is here and is not leaving. I don't want to consider a team without Cristiano. This is his club, his team, his city. He is delighted with everything he has here. No doubts."
The manager also didn't let himself be drawn into talk of Ronaldo getting a new deal. Neymar overtook the Portuguese powerhouse as the biggest earner in football following his world-record switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this summer.
Zidane deftly steered clear of the issue of Ronaldo's pay: "I don't talk about money here. This is an issue for Cristiano and the club, not for me."
Real's manager was forced to answer questions about his attacking talisman's future after Spanish publication El Pais reported Ronaldo was questioning his future (h/t Metro). Earning a five-match ban for pushing an official during the Spanish Super Cup victory over bitter rivals Barcleona is said to have angered Ronaldo.
Yet despite any qualms he has, it's still tough to see Ronaldo leaving Los Merengues anytime soon. After all, the 32-year-old remains the focal point of arguably the most talented squad in Europe.
Ronaldo has inspired Real to winning the UEFA Champions League in three of the past four seasons. The club also won La Liga last season, only Ronaldo's second domestic championship since moving to Los Blancos from Manchester United in 2009 for a then-world-record fee.
As long as Real keep winning and building around Ronaldo, don't expect the prolific No. 7 to leave.
Another member of Zidane's squad set to stay in the Spanish capital is Kovacic. The Croatia international won't be sold despite interest from Liverpool, per Sky Sports La Liga expert Guillem Balague (h/t Rhys Turrell of the Daily Star).
Balague made it clear Los Blancos won't sell the 23-year-old schemer this summer when he was asked whether the midfielder could join Liverpool, saying: "No. Kovacic was actually approached by two Italian clubs, one of them being Juventus, and Real Madrid said in no uncertain terms that he's not for sale. It's difficult to leave a club like Real Madrid in any case."
Kovacic "emerged as a possible target for Liverpool this week with Philippe Coutinho's future still uncertain amid interest from Barcelona," per James Benson of the Daily Star.
Real's hard-line stance on Kovacic is somewhat curious since the midfielder only started 19 games in La Liga last season, per WhoScored.com. He naturally finds playing time hard to come by behind the most balanced midfield trio in Europe: Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Even so, having a player of Kovacic's quality in reserve sums up the strength of Zidane's squad. Such depth helped Real win two major trophies last season.
It could also help Los Blancos maintain their dominance this season, but only if Ronaldo is still around to lead the line.