Losers of the summer transfer window

Last week we looked at the winners of the summer transfer window now that we have a fairly substantial sample size of games, while today we’ll look at the teams that so far have not received many positive returns from their summer acquisitions:


Juventus- the first summer window without Beppe Marotta was rather challenging for Fabio Paratici and Pavel Nedved. It’s bad enough that the team would likely be far worse off had they sold Gonzalo Higuain, who was so at the margins of the project that he changed numbers from 9 to 21, and Paulo Dybala who was very close to both Manchester United and Tottenham, but beyond that, so far you can question the decision of investing significantly on Mathijs De Ligt over a stud midfielder like Milinkovic Savic or Pogba.

One of the reasons you can question the De Ligt signing is however the emergence of Mehdi Demiral, but by the same token investing a ton in wages in both Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot has so far backfired even though they arrived on Bosman deals just like another player at the margins of the project in Emre Can.

Paratici has so however looked like a genius with the sales of Joao Cancelo and Moise’ Kean, who just like Caldara have yet to make an impact at their new clubs. While Danilo has failed to make an impact at wingback, Juan Cuadrado has reinvented himself as a well above average right winger and Rodrigo Bentancur has been the biggest beneficiary of the Sarri hire. Paratici has been able to move both Perin and Mandzukic. But he still has a bloated payroll and question marks in his midfield.


Milan- safe to say Marco Giampaolo was completely in over his head at Milan, but he also wasn’t set up to succeed since his squad wasn’t built for the (only) formation he was known to use. Now you can forgive a bit of chaos when you consider that Milan had four different sporting directors in four years and this summer had the inexperienced Boban, Maldini and Massara trio in charge, but the only new addition that clearly looks like a keeper is Theo Hernandez.

Leao showed some flashes but has also been described as immature off the pitch, Bennacer had as many dreadful performances as great matches (but at least does seem like a potential building block), Duarte and Krunic battled injuries, Rebic could return to Germany after just 6 months and the two big additions from last January Piatek and Paqueta’- who were brought in a bit early to try to clinch the last Champions League spot- could both leave in January.

While the Ibrahimovic signing shouldn’t be seen as a repudiation of the youth movement at the club, it also could be seen as a sign of desperation after another poor summer transfer window.


Genoa- I was very impressed with what Preziosi’s club did in the summer since they bolstered their defense by signing Zapata, who had his moments at Milan, and bringing back Barreca to Serie A where he used to be an above average left back. Landing Schone, who just a few months before was starting in a Champions League semifinal for Ajax, was quite the coup as well as adding highly rated Inter prospect Pinamonti to their front line.

But while things can look good on paper, in the end “decide il campo” (the pitch decides). Genoa never clicked under former Empoli manager Andreazzoli and hiring Thiago Motta as his replacement was a gamble that didn’t pay off. Genoa now already added Mattia Perin and Valon Behrami to try to avoid relegation in the second half of the season.

Sampdoria- while Genoa looked good on paper to me, you could see their cross town rivals were in big trouble going into the season. They banked on Quagliarella coming close to his standards from his previous, sold their best defender in Andersen and their best midfielder in Praet. With the club up for sale, president Ferrero wasn’t going to invest significantly but Andersen’s replacement Murillo and highly rated Argentine prospect Maroni have been busts.


Torino- going with continuity really paid off for Lazio so far this season, but the same cannot be said for the granata who brought back manager Mazzarri as well as essentially the same squad. Center back N’Kolou was essentially kept against his will rather than letting him reunite with Petrachi at Roma and Izzo, who signed a rich extension, hasn’t performed at the level of last season making the defense significantly worse than a year ago.

Torino invested significantly to acquire Ola Aina on a permanent basis, but the former Chelsea wing back was often benched in favor of Ansaldi and new addition Simone Verdi, who was expected to go back to his Bologna form after a difficult season at Napoli was called out publicly by both manager Mazzarri and president Cairo,



Perin headed to Genoa, Raiola dishes on De Ligt and Kean

After a season and a half in Turin, Mattia Perin will leave on a temporary basis. The goalkeeper, who joined in the summer 2018 from Genoa, has already taken medicals with his former club, where he will return on a six-month loan to help them avoid relegation. Perin played nine times in the previous campaign, conceding eight goals before suffering a shoulder injury in April. Once the Old Lady brought back Gianluigi Buffon in a back-up role, he was supposed to move to Benfica, but the deal fell through due to the recovery from surgery. Continue reading

Inter Reinforcing Ahead Of Scudetto Push

Before the season started, many expected Inter to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto, but few foresaw the nerazzurri going toe-to-toe with the Italian champions like this. After seventeen match-days just eight goals and their head-to-head encounter separates the two at the top of the table. Since his arrival, Antonio Conte has already imprinted a clear identity at the San Siro, something that was lacking for years at the club.

Along with his trade-mark 3-5-2 and defensive solidity, the former Chelsea tactician has ensured his Inter side are among the toughest to break down in the peninsula. However, their lack of squad depth has been pegged as the defining factor in their title bid. As a result, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta appears to be dipping into their war-chest and taking to the January mercato aggressively.

Reports suggest that former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is on his way to the club, but Inter will reportedly not stop there. In recent times, they have also been linked with Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Marcos Alonso, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Acuna among many other names, highlighting clearly Inter’s intent. While their list of targets grows as the mercato is set to open, Inter’s needs are clear: Midfield depth, another wing-back to compete with Asamoah and Biraghi, and a striker to provide Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez with some much-needed rest. Alexis Sanchez is also expected to return to action shortly, giving Conte another weapon in the final third. Beyond bolstering the side in key areas, Inter’s reported winter activity highlights one thing clearly: The title is there for the taking this season and they’re going for it.

When Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi went down injured, Conte’s men struggled to create chances and Inter barely overcame their opponents in tight affairs. Recognizing this, Inter loosened their purse strings. That’s where the experience of Vidal comes into play. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Chilean remains one of football’s elite box-to-box midfielders and will add some valuable experience in the middle of the park, in what is a relatively young midfield trio.

Up front, Lukaku and Martinez deserve a break. Up until now, the former Manchester United man has featured in all of Inter’s 17 Serie A clashes while his Argentine counterpart has appeared in 16 of the nerazzurri’s domestic affairs. While Sanchez’s injury complicated things, Conte will be eager to add another forward to his offensive ranks. Given he’s already familiar with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman’s arrival makes perfect sense. The former Arsenal man still has plenty to offer as a link-up man in the final third and could form quite the partnership with any of the nerazzurri’s front-men.

While adding another fullback is a luxury more than a necessity given Inter’s depth out wide, it demonstrates Conte and Marotta won’t stop until they’ve built a comprehensive side capable of competing on multiple fronts. With the title race likely going down to the wire this season for the first time in years, Inter are reinforcing significantly and won’t go down without a fight. Brace yourselves, we’ve got a title race.

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Dejan Kulusevski is Everything Juventus Need

Today it was reported that Juventus beat fierce rivals Inter to the signature of Atalanta’s highly-rated Dejan Kulusevski. After spending last season with gli Orobici’s youth setup, the 19-year-old was loaned out to Parma this season and has since broken onto the scene in Italy, with four goals and seven assists in 17 appearances.

Beyond his output, Kulusevski has established himself as one of the league’s rising stars and is a major reason behind Parma’s positive start to the season. The Swedish international will remain at the Tardini for the rest of the season to continue his development. But who exactly is Kulusevski?

Player Profile:

Position: Attacking midfielder/winger.

Age: 19.

Height: 6’1 (186cm)

Nationality: Sweden.

Preferred Foot: Left.

Since arriving in Italy, Kulusevski has proven to be an extremely versatile player, capable of playing through the middle or on the wing. Given Parma’s counter-attacking setup, the 19-year-old has often been deployed on the left-wing, making the most of his impressive pace. The former Atalanta man thrives when tasked with running behind opposition defences, however, is equally capable at picking the final ball.

In fact, only Lazio’s Luis Alberto has more assists (11) than him this season. Kulusevski’s departure next summer will leave a gaping hole in Parma’s attack as he has played a direct role in 11 of gli Crociati’s 24 goals this season thus far. Moreover, the 19-year-old is currently averaging 2.4 key passes per game and has registered over 30 shot assists on the season already.

For context, Juventus superstars Paulo Dybala and Cristiano Ronaldo are averaging 1.8 and 1.7 key passes per game, respectively. Bar Pjanic, no Juventus midfielder comes close to Kulusevski’s production in the final third. And even then, the Bosnian international’s output still pales in comparison to the Parma man. While it remains to be seen if the Swedish international can translate his breakout season to a big team, one thing’s for sure: He will add some much-needed creativity, precision, and unpredictability to an otherwise machine-like and sloppy Juventus.

Given his creativity and versatility, it begs the question: Where exactly will Kulusevski fit in Sarri’s plans? The question itself raises more questions than answers. After all, the Parma man can play a multitude of roles and Sarri is yet to define his best formation with the bianconeri. Is it a 4-3-1-2 or a 4-3-3? Time will tell.

From a young age, the 19-year-old mainly featured as a trequartista, but has since evolved as a winger under Roberto D’Aversa’s watchful eye. He’s also played deeper in the midfield with Atalanta’s youth teams and has incredible progression numbers to match a mezz’ala role. As the season wears on and Kulusevski joins his new team in the summer, his role will undoubtedly become clearly defined. There is much uncertainty surrounding his position as of right now, but he will provide Sarri with valuable tactical flexibility.

Another factor to consider in this equation is Juventus’ future acquisitions: Will they finally splash the cash for a big name midfielder? The bianconeri are in dire need of a technical midfielder since Pogba’s departure, but appear to have addressed that with Kulusevski’s signing. While the two players couldn’t be more different in terms of what they bring to the table, the Swedish international has proven to be quite the creative force in the final third. The reality is Juventus wouldn’t drop nearly forty million euros on him if they didn’t believe he can play a significant role as early as next season.

Moving forward, Kulusevski will need to demonstrate his end-product on a more consistent basis. After all, it’s only his first season in the top flight. Regardless, the 19-year-old appears to have all the tools necessary to take the next step in his career and establish himself as an elite creator at the top level; as long as the bianconeri are ready to properly accommodate him and give him the playing time he requires to fully develop. If Kulusevski and Juve can do this, he’s exactly what the Italian champions have been missing all these years.

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Frank Lampard will feel he has managed 3 seasons in his first 4 months in charge at Chelsea

The Chelsea players may not have realised it yet but if their manager Frank Lampard’s hair goes grey before the end of the season they would have contributed to it.

In some ways Chelsea’s poor start to the league campaign which in fact only lasted one month made perfect sense. Lampard is young very inexperienced and the club had a summer transfer ban on players not to mention they had just lost Eden Hazard to Real Madrid. Let’s face it Chelsea could have finished 8th this season and the board would not have blinked, Lampard a club legend always had a pass in his debut manager season for the Blues.

For once under performing was of no great concern, just get enough points on the board and some deep cup runs, and go with the flow. But this young Chelsea team didn’t read the script and instead went on a blazing run, winning games, beating teams and scoring lots of goals. They settled into 4th place very nicely and it was at that point that the club started to lose games. Chelsea have made keeping 4th place much harder work than it ever should have been. True they currently have a 4 point lead to 5th but at one point that was 9.

One of the biggest surprises for Chelsea is that they are actually performing better away from home, only just but it’s still a surprise. We can cast our minds back to when Lampard was a Chelsea player and the club had such a proud home record once going 4 years at Stamford Bridge without losing a game. Now the club seem fair game against anyone. If you lose to Liverpool here it can happen but getting beaten by Bournemouth and Southampton shouldn’t be an option at home for a top 4 side but that is what has happened this season.

It must seem odd to Lampard that his side can lose so many games at home to bottom half table teams and yet in the last few weeks record wins against Tottenham and Arsenal both away for added measure. For this Chelsea could be seen as the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde team.  You just don’t know what is going to happen next and what team will turn up.

So because Chelsea have shown the board what they can do there has ended being way more pressure on Lampard than there should be. This team has proven after 20 games that they are good enough for the top 4. Drop out of that now and whilst his job won’t be under threat there will be a sense of disappointment.

The likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and perhaps Sheffield United and Wolves will have their say and try to make life harder for the Blues. With the top 3 looking like it be wrapped up by Liverpool, Manchester City and Leicester that leaves a mad dash for 4th, who will get it is anyone’s guess, but Lampard will be determined not to give it up now, even if his hair does go grey.

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Mikel Arteta has stepped into the storm at Arsenal can he prove his worth?

No wins in his first two games does not bode well for Mikel Arteta and one has to wonder if Arteta will be the right man to lead Arsenal forward?

Arteta’s first game in charge of Arsenal ended in a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth. The result was seen as acceptable given that Eddie Howe’s side had taken the lead but at the same time Bournemouth had been in very bad form and fallen in the league, this could have been an opportunity to beat them.

That match was followed up by the recent Chelsea game. A grudge London derby match was not what Arteta and Arsenal needed right now. But the club played good football and took the lead through the excellent Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and everything seemed like it was going well. Even with five minutes remaining one could see Arsenal winning the game. Although there was the niggling thought that despite good play the Gunners had only had 2 shots on target and this was a home game.

And then it happened, Bernd Leno made a shocking error and Chelsea scored not one but two goals in the last few minutes to snatch the win. Perhaps a draw would have been the fair result as this was a game of two halves but Arsenal had lost again.

Arteta then has started with 1 draw and one loss and it is clearly too early to judge him yet. However the modern game has turned cruel at times and if Arsenal have not picked up and changed in a months time he will be judged by some.

Have the Arsenal board made the right decision and what is expected of Arteta this season? Well Arteta was one of the leading favourites to be appointed as Arsenal manager after Arsene Wenger had left the club after 22 years but instead the board chose Unai Emery, on paper that seemed like a fair choice. The board have now gone for Arteta, but again on what grounds?

Arteta has no top flight managerial experience however the one card he does have up his sleeve is that he has been Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City in the last few years and has stuck to the former Barcelona legend like glue. But surely management of your own team and making those decisions is quite a different job altogether? When one looks at the fact that Everton were able to lure Carlo Ancelotti one of the most decorated managers of the past 20 years and Arsenal make do with Arteta, one also wonders just how far the Gunners expectations have fallen.

Of course let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Arteta could well end up being a brilliant manager, but maybe Arsenal needed that experience and quality now and not to flourish slowly in the next few years. With the exception of Chelsea hiring Frank Lampard most big clubs go with experience. The other worrying aspect is that with new managers usually come the results. Look at Ancelotti at Everton and Nigel Pearson at Watford.

Arsenal are now 11 points from a top 4 position and it is quite clear that this season is a near write off in terms of the league. There are simply too many points and too many positions in between the clubs, and this league has been fiercely competitive this season.

Arteta’s objective is too surely get the club winning games again and make coming to the Emirates a fortress. The confidence factor has to be reversed. So forget league positions and cups, the priority has to be making Arsenal what Arsenal have been for the past 20 years, a very good attacking club.

On the little evidence that we have seen Arteta is in for a major job, and one has to wonder if he has been thrown in at the deep end? On New Year’s Day Arsenal will face Manchester United to begin their first game of a new decade, good luck Mikel, you will need it.

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Burnley 0-2 Man Utd: The Red Devils continue their fine form with a strong victory over the Clarets

With the main focus of gameweek 20 being on how the Premier League table shapes up on both sides of the division, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the great opportunity of pushing towards the top four positions, as they travelled away to Turf Moor to face Sean Dyche’s Burnley.

Ahead of the game, both managers would have looked well into the squad depth and any other individuals available, given the hectic list of fixtures in December and where nearly all the teams in the league are playing in three games in ten days. The Red Devils were looking to start being consistent when it came to victories whilst the Clarets were hoping to pull off a potential upset.

Overall, the visitors had dominated possession effortlessly and were hardly under much pressure, which isn’t a surprise as the hosts are the type of team that prefers to defend in a deep block and take the opposition on with a more direct and long ball approach. However, there were only six shots on target throughout the game, as both sides had lacked the much needed creativity.

The first half was pretty much a snooze fest, with very little happening on both areas of the pitch as a lack of risks and opportunities were actually taken by the influential players. It took until the 44th minute of the game to see the first goal, which was taken by the away side due to a defensive mistake made by Charlie Taylor, as Andreas Pereira latched onto the ball on the right side of the pitch before placing into to the feet of Anthony Martial, who calmly slotted it into the net.

Following the half-time break, the game began to open up for both teams, especially for the hosts as the likes of Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil and substitute Aaron Gudmundsson were picking up the ball within the advanced areas of United’s half. Because of this, Solskjaer’s men had to be more compact and proactive on the defensive side, as they have been dominated aerially in recent weeks.

There wasn’t much to go into detail or cover of the second half, until what actually occurred in the final moments of the game. As Burnley won a free-kick in a very dangerous area, which led to a counter-attack for United in a couple of seconds thanks to Daniel James and his burst of pace, and it was just about completed by Marcus Rashford as he went past the keeper and his fortunate touch was able to take the ball away from the Burnley player on the goal line and into the back of the net.

With Manchester United leaving Turf Moor with the much needed three points, it pushes them back to fifth-place and just four points behind fourth-place Chelsea, who have started to become quite inconsistent themselves. Meanwhile for Burnley and Sean Dyche, they have unsurprisingly dropped by one or two spots into 13th place, leaving them with just six points above the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continue to produce the goods

A lot of questions were rightfully asked at the start of the season, on whether the club will regret letting go of both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, especially with no effort being made in replacing the attacking duo. Despite the fact that they were not in Solskjaer’s long-term plans, the side have been better without them, which has to be more down to the brilliance of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who have only started to play again together and have been running riot.

Rashford has been incredible so far this season, having bagged 12 goals and four assists in 20 league appearances, with a number of his goals coming in the crucial matches and he is yet to hit his peak. And with Martial, he has been out with an injury here and there for around two months so far this term and has still managed to hit double figures in goals and assists by the end of December.

Fred has stepped up massively over the last couple of weeks in midfield

When looking at a midfielder like Fred, it’s quite obvious that he doesn’t have the presence or brilliance that makes him to be seen as a standout defensive-midfielder or attacking-midfielder. On the other hand, his personal role is more of making the team tick and being able to break up the opposition’s play to setting the team on the counter, which he is starting to be appreciated for.

Although he needed some time settling into the physicality and high intensity side of the Premier League, the Brazilian international has now gained a better understanding of how everything is set out and what he had to do on his end. Due to his determination and hunger to succeed, he has turned his United career around and has become one of the side’s best players so far this season, having produced some dominant displays against the likes of Brighton, Man City and Spurs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men picked up a huge victory and have to build on from here

It’s been the side’s second time this season where they have completed back to back victories in the league, which does imply that the ideal consistency is not there in order for the team to convincingly finish in the top four. However, with both Chelsea and Leicester City slipping up slightly in recent weeks, the race for a top four finish could become wide open once the busy fixtures are finally over.

Most importantly, Solskjaer and United will have to focus on their own games and begin to pick up the three points week in and out, and then depend on other results in the league to go their way. If the momentum can shift into their favour and they get down to business in the January transfer window, then the side’s chances of seeing Champions League football next season increases massively, especially when the first half of the campaign has been quite forward and backwards.

The 10 best strikers in world football 2010-2019

There have been some truly fantastic strikers this decade, that have helped their clubs to win countless trophies and score some beautiful goals. That have helped changed the landscape of football and created history and tore up those same books. So which players are amongst the best and who has made the top 10 best goal scorers based on goals scored this decade running through 2010-2019?

10. Radamel Falcao

A goal machine and the Colombian proved his worth in different leagues including France, Spain and England. But it was his time at Monaco where he will be remembered the best. Falcao always seemed to be on the score sheet when Monaco won games and he scored over 160 goals in this decade alone.

9. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

A brilliant centre forward who made his name at Borussia Dortmund and done so well there that Premier League side Arsenal called on his services. He has become the main player at Arsenal now and even in difficult times for them is able to score goals.

8. Neymar

Started this decade off in Brazilian football and then made the successful switch to Barcelona and once he hooked up with the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez a real dream team of a front three was established. In a shock transfer Neymar was sold to PSG for a world record of 220m euros and continued to score goals at ease in the French league and win even more titles. Neymar has over 200 goals this decade.

7. Sergio Aguero

Aguero has been the outstanding striker in the Premier League this decade for Manchester City and the best striker the country of England has seen. He just keeps scoring goals and creating chances and got into this list after netting 205 this decade.

6. Edinson Cavani

Cavani has done the business for both Napoli in Serie A and PSG in France. His move to PSG made perfect sense as he has scored so many goals for the French champions which has led to title after title and when he eventually leaves the club he leaves as a club legend.

5. Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski has been a Bayern man through and through and won countless league titles and the Champions League he has scored an incredible 239 goals and is far and away the best striker in German football this decade.

4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

What a player, so intelligent and he got better with age too. Has played for so many teams including Milan, Manchester United, PSG and went to America and played for LA Galaxy too. One thing throughout all of that time with Zlatan is that he has scored goals, not poor ones too but beautiful and amazing ones. A true star of football.

3. Luis Suarez

Suarez changed Liverpool’s way of thinking when he joined and scored so many goals and did so for his club before them Ajax too. Then he joined Barcelona and was simply electric and in one of his seasons notched 40 league goals scoring more than Messi himself. Scored over 250 goals. A true talent with a lot of bite.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the best players in history, he changed the landscape for both Manchester United and Real Madrid and has won 5 Champions Leagues. Always consistent and scored so many goals, almost 100 more than 3rd placed Suarez. Now winning titles in Italy with Juventus, one of the greats.

1. Lionel Messi

Who else? The Argentinian and Barcelona great has scored 378 goals in this decade alone. He just keeps scoring and keeps getting hat tricks and keeps getting goals against the very best teams and players. The greatest player ever to have graced the game? That is up to you to decide but surely the best in his generation. The one and only Lionel Messi

- Please note all goals quoted are league goals only.


Genoa sack Motta and hire Nicola

Genoa have made their second coaching change of the season, moving on from Thiago Motta after nine games and appointing Davide Nicola, who agreed to a six-month contract with a conditional second season. The new manager previously helmed Crotone and Udinese in the top league, guiding the former to an improbably successful bid to avoid relegation in 2016/2017 and resigning the following season, while he lasted 15 games on the Friulani bench. The Griffon is currently at the bottom of the standings, four points below the 17th-placed cross-town rivals of Sampdoria. Continue reading

James Rodriguez’s return from injury could be timely for Real Madrid

Many at the Santiago Bernabeu had forgotten about James Rodriguez. It’s likely that a number of Real Madrid fans were unaware that the Colombian playmaker was still on the books of their club. But James returned to the Spanish capital over the summer and earned himself a place in Zinedine Zidane’s squad again.

James endured a difficult end to his two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich and so it was expected that Real Madrid would sell him to raise funds for another transfer, potentially a move for Paul Pogba. Now, though, Zidane might well be counting down the days until the Colombian returns from injury.

He contributed over the early part of the season, proving that he still has something to offer Real Madrid. James then suffered an injury and has been missed for the past two months as his team have gained some momentum, sitting just two points behind Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

With Real Madrid set to return from their winter break next week, James is expected to feature. He will almost certainly get some game minutes against Getafe before Real Madrid head off to Saudi Arabia to play in the expanded Spanish Supercopa. The Colombian will play a part.

“He’s in a process of recovery,” Zidane said in a recent interview when asked to assess James’ recovery. “He’s had a bad injury, but he’s working a lot and we want to get him back fit, this is clear.” It took some time for Zidane to settle on his midfield formula, but between Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Fede Valverde he was found an effective unit.

Players like James, as well as Isco, will be key to getting Real Madrid through the whole season, though. The fixtures will come thick and fast after the winter break and Zidane will have to rotate his squad. James provides experience and the sort of creativity that will sustain the likes of Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard in the final third.

If Zidane can get something out of these fringe figures, Real Madrid might well boast the strongest squad in La Liga this season. That could be key in deciding who finishes top of La Liga. James might have been the forgotten man at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he has now become an important figure.

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