Ancelotti says midfielder Casemiro will leave Madrid


Casemiro is close to ending his successful spell at Real Madrid to reportedly join Manchester United, leaving the Spanish powerhouse without one of his key midfield anchors of the last decade.

Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said on Friday that Casemiro was in negotiations for a move and a deal was imminent, although he didn’t specifically mention United.

He said he spoke to Casemiro and felt “there was no going back”.

“He wants to try a new challenge, a new opportunity,” Ancelotti said in a press conference. “The club understands. With everything he’s done for this club and the person he is, we have to respect that. Talks are ongoing, he’s still a Real Madrid player at this point, but he wants to leave.”

Ancelotti said he didn’t try to change Casemiro’s mind about the exit.

“I didn’t try to convince him, I just listened because I’ve been talking to Casemiro my entire time here and he’s helped us so much,” said Ancelotti. “Once he hears what he wants, there’s no turning back. If he doesn’t stay, we will feel a tremendous sense of gratitude to him for everything he has done.”

Casemiro, 30, has been at Madrid since 2013 and is considered one of the best midfielders in the world. Madrid’s midfield has been one of the best in the world in recent years, with Casemiro playing alongside Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

Casemiro helped the club win five Champions League titles and three Spanish leagues, among several other trophies.

However, Ancelotti said Madrid will have replacements for Casemiro, including young French midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, who was signed in the off-season. The club also have other players who could step in, including Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga, Dani Ceballos and even David Alaba, a defender who can play in midfield when needed.

“Tchouameni was signed for this position and he is one of the best central midfielders on the market right now,” said Ancelotti. “Then we have Kroos, he can play in that position too, like he did my second year here, and Camavinga is there too.”

Ancelotti said the six midfielders he still has in the squad would be “enough to negotiate the season”.

“These are six first-class players,” said the coach.

Ancelotti said Madrid’s goals would remain the same despite Casemiro’s departure.

“Real Madrid’s plans don’t change,” he said. “Our plans are to fight and compete in every competition, which we will do with or without Casemiro. Despite that, everyone knows how important the player is and how much we love him.”

Madrid won the Champions League, Spanish League and Spanish Super Cup last season. He opened this season by winning the UEFA Super Cup.

United, who have lost their first two games of the Premier League season, have been in the market for a central midfielder since the transfer window opened.

Casemiro would join former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo at United, although the Portuguese striker’s future with the English club is still in doubt.

AP sportswriter Steve Douglas contributed to this report.