Copa del Rey exit underlined group of players Real Madrid must cast aside

The quarter finals of the Copa del Rey haven’t been especially kind to Real Madrid in recent years. Last season, they crashed out at the last eight stage to Barcelona. The season before that they suffered a humiliating home defeat to Leganes. This season, Zinedine Zidane’s side somehow contrived to concede goal goals at home to Real Sociedad, exiting the competition on Thursday evening.

Real Madrid’s late fightback made for a grandstand finish, with the scoreline closed from 4-1 to 4-3, but nonetheless this was a damaging defeat for the capital club. The Copa del Rey might not be as high on the list of priorities as La Liga, but it’s still a domestic honour that has largely managed to evade the Santiago Bernabeu for the majority of the last decade.

Of course, the rotation of Zidane’s side for the game against Sociedad suggests that he would rather focus on La Liga and the Champions League, but in that rotation a certain group of players that need to be pushed out of the club as soon as possible made themselves apparent.

Zidane has done an admirable job in evolving his squad this season with the likes of Ferland Mendy, Fede Valverde and Rodrygo bringing a new verve after a busy summer in the transfer market. But there remains the likes of James Rodriguez, Marcelo and Brahim Diaz, players who offer very little at this stage to the Real Madrid boss.

Brahim actually impressed in spells against Real Sociedad, but has struggled for first team opportunities this season. It’s difficult to envisage where he fits into Zidane’s plans and so it’s likely that he will leave the Santiago Bernabeu, whether it’s on loan or permanently, in the summer.

James and Marcelo, however, are only taking on salary space which would be better used elsewhere. Both players have served Real Madrid well, particularly Marcelo, but the time has come for them to be moved on and Thursday’s performance in the Copa del Rey illustrated this.

It was always likely to take a number of transfer windows for Zidane to get his squad right. He has harnessed many of the club’s Old Guard, the likes of Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, but others no longer have a purpose at the Santiago Bernabeu. What happened on Thursday night underlined just how important it is that these players are cast aside.

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