Julen Lopetegui addresses the futures of Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric, Thibaut Courtois
Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui has confirmed that while Mateo Kovacic wants to leave the club, he is reluctant to see such an "important player" exit the Bernabeu.
Speaking after Real Madrid's final preseason friendly -- a 2-1 International Champions Cup win over Roma in New Jersey -- Lopetegui addressed the rumours surrounding the 24-year-old, as well as his compatriot and Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric.
"There's nothing 100 percent certain," Lopetegui said. "Mateo has said he wants to leave, I've said he is an important player. If he wants to leave, we'll look to find solutions.
"Regarding Modric, the president has spoken on the issue and I've nothing further to add.
"Obviously if Mateo does leave, we'd look for players of his level. We need to have a balanced team and he's an important player."
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The reigning Champions League holders have been strongly linked to Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who skipped Chelsea training on Monday, but the Real Madrid boss refused to be drawn on any of the speculation. Instead, the Blancos manager threw his support behind incumbent keeper Keylor Navas.
"First of all, as I've said, I do not speak about players that do not play for Real Madrid," Lopetegui said. "The only goalkeepers I can talk about right now are Keylor [Navas], Kiko [Casilla], Andriy [Lunin] and Luca [Zidane].
"If we get to that point, I will speak about it. Keylor is phenomenal, he's had a great preseason, he's an extraordinary goalkeeper and we're thrilled to have him."
Navas enjoyed a solid performance against Roma on Tuesday, but it was Gareth Bale who really caught the eye for Lopetegui's side. The Wales international notched a goal and an assist on the way to a man-of-the-match performance as Real move closer to their first competitive game since Cristiano Ronaldo left the club.
Bale has been earmarked by many to succeed Ronaldo as Madrid's talisman, but Lopetegui stressed that he expects all of his squad to step up and fill the void left by the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.
"It's not about replacing someone or filling their role; it's about being part of the team," Lopetegui said. "Gareth Bale is obviously a great player but it's not for me to make comparisons. That's for [the media].
"I see soccer a bit differently than you do. No player puts the team on their back. it's about the team playing for each other and that's what we're pushing for.
"Bale is an extraordinary player and we're confident he will have a great season."
Roma's Eusebio Di Francesco was less enthusiastic about his side after the loss, explaining that the heavy preseason workload and travel across the United States had begun to take its toll on the Giallorossi.
"These games are important to put into practice what we work on in training. Two shots on target [over the three games] is just a stat," he said. "The performance we put in, the half-chances we created in a number of situations are positives to focus on.
"There are a lot of things we can still improve on. Tonight we played one of the best teams in the world. What I didn't like for sure was our defending at the beginning of the first half, especially our defending for Real's opening goal.
"I think my team is not 100 percent yet in shape. We've been working hard, the workloads we've been putting in have been huge. For example, Ante Coric played only 20 minutes [tonight] and had stiff legs by the end.
"We've been doing a lot of traveling, it's been a long preseason and we are focused on having everyone fit for the beginning of the season and not on putting out the best XI vs. Real Madrid."