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Transfer Rater: Icardi to Madrid, Godin to Milan

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Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos 8/10 as Real Madrid sneak a win at Huesca

Bale, left, scored his first goal in over 100 days and lifted Real to a big win at Huesca.

Real Madrid's first-ever La Liga visit to Huesca's El Alcoraz stadium brought a workmanlike 1-0 win. Gareth Bale volleyed Madrid ahead after just nine minutes and Santi Solari's side thereafter did just enough to gain the three points, which lifted them to fourth in the Primera Division table.

Positives

Bale's first La Liga goal in over 100 days -- and 40 shots -- will quiet some of his local critics. A second away La Liga clean sheet of the calendar year should help with confidence at the...

Real Madrid's Isco, Marco Asensio make Copa del Rey cases for regular first-team inclusion

Real Madrid strolled into the last 16 of the Copa del Rey, with a mostly second-string side winning 6-1 on the day for a 10-1 aggregate victory to progress against third-tier Melilla.

Positives

Madrid had not won a Copa del Rey game at the Bernabeu for two seasons, so the victory was welcome. Marco Asensio stood out clearly during his time on the pitch, Isco showed he still has great quality with two fine strikes, while youngsters Javi Sanchez, Fede Valverde and Vinicius Junior all showed welcome...

Real Madrid opponents Melilla face epic 11-hour overnight trip by sea, land and air

Melilla's 11-hour overnight trip to Madrid takes in journies by sea, land and air
Melilla have to use three different modes of transport just to complete a cup tie they are already losing 4-0.

"A super extraordinary thing" is was how UD Melilla president Juan Jose Imbroda described the chance to play Real Madrid when the teams were drawn to face each other in the Copa del Rey round of 32.

The opportunity to face the European champions in Madrid does come at a cost, however, for the Spanish third division team.

After losing the first leg 4-0 at home, Melilla must now embark on an 11-hour journey on Tuesday night ahead of Thursday's return leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The team from...

Real Madrid find rich vein of young talent as Barcelona's conveyor belt all but stops

Real Madrid head coach Santiago Solari is upbeat after his youthful team beat Valencia.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno explains why Gareth Bale has not been the player that Real Madrid needs him to be this season.

Xavi Hernandez would have appreciated the irony at the Camp Nou on Sunday very much indeed. Barcelona were about to bring on a talented, highly exciting kid from their academy to replace a battle-scarred, high-profile midfield general: Carles Alena ordered to take over from Arturo Vidal.

Boos and whistles rang out around the Camp Nou. A brutal reminder, if your memory is long enough, that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

The reference to Xavi is that, when he was Alena's age,...

 By Simon Kuper

Inside the Ballon d'Or: No Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, tears for Kylian Mbappe and Luka Modric's 'stage fright'

From the "Most Time Spent Horizontal" to "Nutritionist of the Year," the Exploding Heads present their quirky alternative Ballon d'Or awards.

PARIS -- You almost felt sorry for Luka Modric, receiving the Ballon d'Or ("Golden Ball") for player of the year on stage in Paris' Grand Palais. It looked as if the French were punishing him Monday for depriving one of their world champions of the prize.

There, on a table beside the stage, taunting him, stood the World Cup trophy itself, the one that his Croatia team lost in the final in Moscow this past July. On stage, David Ginola, the former France winger turned moderator, was throwing fatuous...

Isco asks his Instagram followers 'Am I Fat?' after being dropped by Real Madrid

Real Madrid's Isco asked his followers for their verdict on whether he is out of shape or not
Isco asked his followers for their verdict amid accusations that he has been dropped by Real Madrid for being out of shape.

Tired of criticism that his lack of playing time at Real Madrid is down to poor fitness, Isco has conducted his own poll on Instagram asking followers to decide whether he is fat or not.

The Spain international has seen his minutes reduced drastically since Santiago Solari took over at the Bernabeu on Oct. 29, following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui.

Isco hasn't started in any of Solari's seven games in charge and the midfielder, a key player under Lopetegui at Madrid and in his national team,...