Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has denied a local media report that he wants to sell Isco, and said that, despite the team's lack of consistency through recent months, he still believes his current squad can turn their season around.
With Madrid 19 points behind runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona, and already eliminated from the Copa del Rey by neighbours Leganes, even captain Sergio Ramos has admitted that the upcoming Champions League tie with Paris Saint-Germain is the "final card they have to play" in 2017-18.
Ahead of that game, the local media have been speculating about a summer shake-up at the Bernabeu, with Zidane himself reported to have told club president Florentino Perez he wanted to sell playmaker Isco.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of Saturday's league game at home against Real Sociedad, Zidane said the Isco report was just not true, as his unwillingness to sign any reinforcements in the winter window showed the faith he had in his current squad.
"You were all asking before why I did not want to sign players in January," Zidane said. "It is because I believe in my team. When I begin something, I go to the death with what I have. I want Isco to spend all his career here. That will not change. He is a very good footballer, he has shown that, and can always show that, so [the report] is a lie. I am happy you asked me so I can answer this."
Cristiano Ronaldo has been among the Madrid players criticised for below-par performances through this campaign, but Zidane said the Portugal captain, 33, and his teammates were looking to the PSG game as a chance to put things right.
"Maybe [Ronaldo] is more motivated at the moment," Zidane said, "and wants to show what he can do. There have been moments when he has not scored goals, but he will always be there in the important moments. We know the reality we have. That it will be a difficult game, but these are the games that the players like."
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Zidane has no new injury issues ahead of Saturday's game against Real Sociedad, with his starting XI likely to again include Gareth Bale after the Wales winger's newfound popularity around the Bernabeu saw him voted by fans as the club's player of the month for January.
The clash is a chance for Madrid to both improve their position domestically and prepare well for Wednesday at home against PSG, Zidane said.
"We just want to keep going, to cut the gap to the leaders, without thinking about Wednesday," he said. "We know a big game is coming, but we have worked well all week and are ready for tomorrow. Things have not always gone as we wanted, yes. But we know who we are, and that when there are difficult moments we must hold tight and get out of it, working hard and thinking positively. We know the weapons we have, and that this can change very quickly."
Zidane said there was no one thing he could change so that a team that, in recent weeks, has lost at home to Villarreal and Leganes -- and drawn with Celta Vigo and Levante -- would get back to the level they showed when winning La Liga and the Champions League less than 12 months ago.
"It is a mix of things," he said. "When things go well, there are many things that come together so you can win. The same when things are negative. It is not just physical or mental, but a bit of everything. We must try and be more consistent. This year we have not gone on a run of seven, eight, 10 games in a row. We can turn this around, as we have the capacity to do that."