The Rafa Benitez era at Real Madrid got off to a disappointing start on Sunday when the team was held to a goalless draw by newly promoted Sporting Gijon on the opening weekend of La Liga’s season. The match saw the continuation of the team’s preseason scoring problems as Benitez attempts to find the right combination in attack between the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. But there is some encouraging news for the club’s fans ahead of Saturday’s encounter with Real Betis.

Karim Benzema’s absence with a thigh injury since the start of August has been keenly felt, but he is now back in training and aiming to return against Betis. More than that, though, the France international has finally ripped speculation linking him with a transfer away from the club this summer. The 27-year-old has repeatedly been cited as a leading target for Premier League side Arsenal, but was emphatic in his dismissal of those rumors in a Twitter post on Monday.




Despite so much talk about a transfer to Arsenal, it always appeared an unlikely deal. While Benitez may experiment with different attacking formulas this season, Benzema is the club’s only natural, established striker. With no prospect of getting a replacement of equal or greater quality, especially at this late stage of the transfer window, Real Madrid would be taking a major gamble to allow him to leave.

And the Spanish giants also appear unsurprisingly unwilling to allow another of their attacking stars to depart. Amid a difficult season at the Bernabeu last term, Gareth Bale was frequently linked with a transfer to Manchester United. Sky Sports has reported that United remain interested in the man Madrid signed for a record fee form Tottenham two years ago. However, in line with the message repeatedly uttered by both Bale and Madrid, ESPN reports that Los Blancos have no intention of selling him this summer.

Real Madrid will hope that the only contact with Manchester United in the final week of the transfer window is over a long-mooted deal for goalkeeper David de Gea. Despite pursuing the Spain international throughout the summer, he remains in situ at Old Trafford, although not in the team’s lineup. De Gea has yet to feature for United this season, with his manager Van Gaal citing the unsettling impact of the speculation surrounding his future.

Van Gaal hinted last week that De Gea would not be sold before the transfer deadline in Spain next Monday -- comments which Spanish daily AS reports has not gone down well with the 24-year-old. The report also states that De Gea’s agent Jorge Mendes has informed his client that there is still a good chance of the deal going through.

One transfer that now does look set to happen is the exit of Asier Illarramendi. The midfielder was signed from Real Sociedad for €30 million two years ago, but, having failed to hold down a regular starting berth, has seen his playing chances further diminished by last week’s arrival of Mateo Kovacic. And now, according to AS, he is poised to complete a return to Real Sociedad for €15 million.