David Silva’s Real Sociedad move just another compelling La Liga storyline

It was the move nobody saw coming, not least Lazio who believed they had agreed a deal with David Silva with a medical even scheduled for the Spanish midfielder in Rome. Indeed, Real Sociedad caused waves with their announcement on Sunday evening that Silva had signed for them ahead of the 2020/21 season.

This is quite the coup for La Real. Silva has been one of the game’s most prolific and gifted playmakers for the past decade or so, earning his place as a Premier League legend over 10 years at Manchester City. Silva is held in such high esteem that City plan to erect a statue of him outside the Etihad Stadium next year.

He might be 34 years old and into the twilight of his career, but Silva was a key player for Manchester City right up until the moment he left at the end of his contract. He still has plenty to offer and Real Sociedad will be the beneficiaries of that. He will lift their midfield and creative play to a higher level.

It was already at a high level after the successful loan signing of Martin Odegaard, with the Norwegian marking himself out as one of La Liga’s best young talents over the course of the 2019/20 campaign. Odegaard has now been recalled to the Santiago Bernabeu, though. Silva is an exceptional replacement.

This should see Real Sociedad continue their development as one of the most exciting, exhilarating teams in the Spanish game at this moment in time. Last season saw La Real made great progress under head coach Imanol Alguacil and the signing of Silva should allow them to continue that.

While Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid might have occupied the top three places in La Liga for another season last term, there are plenty of storylines at a lower level to hold interest. Silva’s arrival at Real Sociedad is another of them. Unai Emery’s appointment at Villarreal and his signing of Dani Parejo from Valencia is another.

Real Sociedad have been building something for a few years now. They boast a number of exciting young players and experienced veterans who give them a good balance. Silva could become the player who makes them tick, though. The player to take them that little bit further. One wonders if Lazio will be watching.

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Dani Carvajal deserves more credit as a Real Madrid giant

Think of the stalwarts of this current Real Madrid team and your mind will likely flash to the likes of Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, maybe even Luka Modric. These players provide the spine of Zinedine Zidane’s side and have done for the best part of the last decade, even more in the case of the former pair.

Dani Carvajal deserves to be mentioned among such company, though. The right back has been at the Santiago Bernabeu for the last seven years, nailing down a starting place in the Real Madrid defence. The Spanish international has been an integral figure for some of the most successful years of the club’s entire history and there’s no sign of any real decline despite some injury troubles in recent seasons.

And yet Carvajal’s contribution is often overlooked. His energy and drive gives Real Madrid a real attacking outlet down the right side, something which is particularly useful at the moment given Los Blancos’ lack of a true right winger. Gareth Bale, of course, could play that role, but the Welshman is currently out of the picture under Zidane. Carvajal brings many of the qualities that an out-and-out winger would.

Zidane recognises just how important a player Carvajal is even if others overlook him. Many expected Achraf Hakimi to challenge the 28-year-old for a starting place next season having enjoyed two extremely successful seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund. Indeed, the Moroccan is widely seen as one of the brightest youngest full backs in the game at this moment in time.

But Hakimi didn’t even make it back to the Spanish capital at the end of the 2019/20 season before being sold to Inter. This was a show of faith from Zidane in Carvajal. Alvaro Odriozola is another who was bought to provide competition to Carvajal, but was farmed out on loan when it became clear he wasn’t up to the task.

On the left side of the defence, Ferland Mendy has replaced Marcelo as Zidane’s first choice. The Frenchman has become Real Madrid’s primary left back, but on the other side of the pitch Carvajal can be as assured of his place as ever. Even if others don’t readily recognise the contribution of the 28-year-old, it is there and Zidane sees it. That’s all that really matters in the end.

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Barcelona crisis gives Real Madrid shade for their own problems

There is no other talking point in Spanish football at this moment in time. The crisis Barcelona have been plunged into after their humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the quarter finals of the Champions League, with the Camp Nou club seemingly crumbling a little more with every passing day.

Quique Setien paid for the loss with his job, with Eric Abidal also sacked from his role as Sporting Director. The way forward isn’t clear for the Catalan club. Most agree, despite the looming appointment of Ronald Koeman as their new manager, that nothing will change until there is a change of regime in next year’s presidential election.

This has provided Real Madrid with some shade for their own problems. Los Blancos might have finished the 2019/20 season as La Liga winners, putting together an extremely strong run of form after lockdown to beat Barcelona to the Spanish top flight title.

Zinedine Zidane still has issues to solve before the start of the 2020/21 campaign, though. Real Madrid’s wage bill is hindering them as a club. High paid players like Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have been deemed surplus to requirements at the Santiago Bernabeu and yet the capital club will struggle to move them on this summer, leaving an incredible amount of money tied up in their bumper contracts.

Real Madrid’s current squad is an ageing one. Zidane managed to get that little bit more out of the likes of Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos last season, with Karim Benzema arguably the most important player at the Santiago Bernabeu. A generational transition is coming.

Zidane is already preparing for that, with Martin Odegaard recalled to his parent club for next season after an extremely impressive campaign on loan at Real Sociedad. The Norwegian is seen as the natural heir to Modric, with the Croatian midfielder’s Real Madrid contract set to expire next summer.

There’s a sense that Real Madrid still haven’t moved on from the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and a sense that Zidane has only succeeded in patching up his team to keep them moving forward in the short to medium term. A greater transition will have to happen at some point in the near future and just because Barcelona are in a bigger mess doesn’t mean Real Madrid don’t have their own problems.

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Will Kylian Mbappe ever make the move to Real Madrid?

When Real Madrid target a player, they tend to get their man, even if they have to wait. They had to wait to lure Eden Hazard to the Santiago Bernabeu, trailing the Belgian for a number of seasons before eventually signing him from Chelsea last summer. This track record suggests to many that Kylian Mbappe will one day play for the club.

Real Madrid’s interest in the French forward is thinly veiled. Zinedine Zidane is widely believed to be a huge fan of Mbappe, although at this stage who isn’t given his undeniable status as one of the best forwards in the European game at this moment in time?

As if he needed to, Mbappe reminded us all of his quality in coming off the bench for Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League quarter final against Atalanta, turning around a match which looked set to send the French side crashing out of the competition in humiliating fashion.

It was the sort of performance that only bolstered further the widespread belief that Mbappe is the sport’s next great superstar. And the sort of display that surely had Zidane along with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez dreaming of seeing the Frenchman in all white at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Until the global coronavirus pandemic struck, it seemed likely that Real Madrid would make their move for Mbappe this summer. The forward’s PSG contract ends in the summer of 2022 and reports have consistently stated that he is putting off signing an extension, keeping his options open as long as possible.

Now, though, noises are coming out of the Santiago Bernabeu that Real Madrid won’t have much money to spend this summer. Any transfers they do make will have to be funded by the sale of players already on their books, perhaps explaining why Los Blancos accepted an offer of €40 million from Inter for Achraf Hakimi earlier in the summer.

It appears highly unlikely that Real Madrid will be able to raise the funds required for a move for Mbappe and so the Frenchman is expected to stay at PSG for at least another season. Many believe it is his destiny to one day become a ‘Galactico,’ but another summer looks set to come and go with the French forward still not pulling on the famous white shirt.

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Dortmund could be perfect for Reinier Jesus’ development

If Reinier Jesus is in any doubt about the value of a loan move to Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid, the Brazilian playmaker need only look at the success Achraf Hakimi had at the Westfalenstadion. Indeed, the Moroccan was a sensation in the Bundesliga, earning himself a reputation as one of the game’s best young full backs.

What was somewhat surprising was that Real Madrid made the decision to sell Hakimi to Inter after the end of his two-year Dortmund loan. Zinedine Zidane decided he had no need for the Moroccan despite Dani Carvajal’s injury troubles of the last few years, but nonetheless there is no doubting that two years in Germany was hugely beneficial to Hakimi.

Now, it seems likely that Reinier will be making a similar move, with the Brazilian reportedly close to signing for Dortmund on loan. Discussions are still continuing over whether the loan will be for one season or for two, as was the case with Hakimi, but it seems highly likely that the 18-year-old will be in black and yellow for the start of the 2020/21 campaign.

Dortmund could use a player like Reinier. Lucien Favre has a number of top tier attacking talents, with Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho giving them one of the most potent frontlines in European football, but he doesn’t have a central playmaker in the mould of the Brazilian.

Of course, Mario Gotze was capable of playing this role, but left Dortmund at the end of the 2019/20 season. Marco Reus is also someone who can operate through the centre of the pitch, but the German international has suffered dreadfully with injuries over the years. It’s entirely possible, and maybe even likely, he could leave the club at the end of his contract next summer.

Reinier would be joining a club with a proven track record of taking young players and turning them into fully-fledged superstars. Whether or not Real Madrid have a long term plan for the Brazilian, this looks to be the best move for the January signing’s future. He will play in Germany. He will play in one of the best leagues in Europe and also in the Champions League for a team that likes to attack and gives opportunities to young players. This would be ideal for Reinier’s development.

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James Rodriguez should have been a Real Madrid great

He was, undoubtedly, the star of the 2014 World Cup, shining for Colombia as they made a run to the quarter finals of the tournament. Indeed, James Rodriguez had the world at his feet and so it was unsurprising when Real Madrid signed him from Monaco that summer, making him their latest ‘Galactico’ addition.

At that point, James had the makings of a true superstar. He brought a certain star quality to the Santiago Bernabeu and enjoyed a successful first two seasons in the Spanish capital. The Colombian arrived at the club around the same time as Isco and in the end the two playmakers got in each other’s way.

Rather peculiarly, Isco and James’ futures at Real Madrid have been intertwined from the moment they arrived at the club. Last summer, it seemed that both players would be given another chance to prove their worth at the Santiago Bernabeu. This summer, though, it seems likely that both will be made available for sale, especially James.

James is still only 29 years old and so there should still be plenty left in the tank. At Bayern Munich, he struggled to make his mark and the Colombian has been a peripheral figure for Real Madrid this season. He needs to find a club where he will be truly embraced. There is still a lot to embrace.

A move to the Premier League has been mooted. Arsenal and Manchester United are reportedly interested, but this has the look of speculation sparked by agents rather than the clubs themselves. Instead, James would likely have to look to a lower level to get his next move.

Everton could be the perfect place for him next season. The Goodison Park club need a playmaker in the mould of the Colombian and Carlo Ancelotti is at Everton. The Italian coach always managed to get the best out of James while at Real Madrid and so a reunion could be in both parties’ best interests. There would be some logic behind such a move.

If James is to leave the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, as looks likely, he will do so racked with regret. Real Madrid will surely feel some regret too. The Colombian should have been a great, a true ‘Galactico.’ Instead, he will be remembered for shining brightly, but burning out too quickly.

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Sevilla have the quality to beat Manchester United

The Europa League and Sevilla has been a match made in heaven over the last decade-and-a-half, with the Andalusian side winning the competition five times since 2006. This season has seen them once again made a run deep into the latter stages of the Europa League where they will face Manchester United for a place in the final.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are, for many, favourites to go all the way in Germany. United finished the Premier League season strongly, recovering after a dismal first half of the campaign to ultimately finish in third place, qualifying for next season’s Champions League. They don’t need the Europa League to get back to European football’s top table.

Sevilla also don’t need to win the Europa League to qualify for next season’s Champions League, with Julen Lopetegui’s side finishing fourth in La Liga. This is a tie that will solely be about the glory of winning a European trophy and Sevilla, at this level, know how to do that better than most.

Things weren’t so rosy at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan last summer, with Monchi returning to Sevilla after two seasons at Roma. The famed sporting director started immediately on pointing the club in the right direction again, hiring Lopetegui despite his abject failure at Real Madrid the season before.

At Sevilla, Lopetegui has gone some way to restoring his damaged reputation. He has forged a free-flowing team that plays an attractive brand of football. Sevilla are energetic, full of drive and won’t be lacking for intensity as they take on Manchester United for a place in this season’s Europa League final. Solskjaer’s side will need to be in peak physical condition.

“[Sevilla] are a very well organised team, [with an] aggressive style of play [and] pressing,” Solskjaer said when asked what it will take to beat Sevilla. “They have got some very good individuals so we have to play our best game.”

Players like Sergio Reguilon, Diego Carlos, Ever Banega and Lucas Ocampos have all enjoyed excellent seasons, with the latter doing the damage to Wolves in the quarter finals. Sevilla could do with a proven goalscorer, but they have the quality to get past Manchester United. This has the potential to be the match of this season’s Europa League, the match to define the whole tournament.

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Real Madrid have the quality to evolve their team without signings

Only Florentino Perez, and possibly Zinedine Zidane, truly know what Real Madrid’s plans for the summer transfer window were before the global coronavirus pandemic struck. The crisis changed the footballing landscape across Europe and Real Madrid have seemingly been hit harder than most, with Los Blancos’ crippling wage bill putting them in a difficult position.

The noises out of the Santiago Bernabeu are that Real Madrid will not be making any serious moves in the transfer market this summer. Quite simply, the club doesn’t have the money to be shopping from the top shelf, with Perez counting the cost of the game’s shutdown for much of the year.

Even if some of the deadwood is shifted from the club, with the likes of James Rodriguez, Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz up for sale, the expectation is that Real Madrid will use the money to help balance the books, with the redevelopment of the Santiago Bernabeu taking a lot of resources at this moment in time.

Zidane will still have the quality to evolve his team, though, before the start of the 2020/21 season. Real Madrid have a number of exceptionally talented young players out on loan, with Martin Odegaard the first to be recalled by his parent club this summer. After much speculation over his future, the Norwegian bid farewell to Real Sociedad this week after a season on loan there.

It was at Real Sociedad where Odegaard truly marked himself as one of the very best midfielders in La Liga, proving to Zidane that he is ready to play an important role for Real Madrid next season. Many see Odegaard as the natural successor to Luke Modric, and with good reason.

Then there’s Dani Ceballos who has rediscovered some of his best form on loan at Arsenal. Until recently, it seemed that the midfielder would be sold this summer, but now there are suggestions Ceballos could be recalled to his parent club for next season. The former Real Betis man might finally be given a chance to show what he can do for Los Blancos.

Real Madrid also had Achraf Hakimi on the books before they sold him to Inter, with Takefusa Kubo sent on loan to Villarreal for next season. Zidane might not get the new signings he would ideally want, but he will still have the players at his disposal to evolve his team for next season.

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Sevilla need a new goalscorer to take the next step

There were doubts over Sevilla’s decision to hire Julen Lopetegui as their new head coach last summer. After all, this was a guy whose last two jobs in the game had ended in humiliation, sacked as Spain boss on the eve of the 2018 World Cup before being sacked as Real Madrid manager just a few months after that.

Lopetegui has done a lot to restore his reputation since pitching up at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan just over a year ago, though. Sevilla finished the 2019/20 La Liga season in fourth and are still in the Europa League, with the Andalusians set to take on Wolves in next week’s quarter finals.

A number of players have thrived under the stewardship of Lopetegui. Ever Banega has enjoyed an exceptional final season at Sevilla, while Diego Carlos has earned himself a reputation as one of the best central defenders in the Spanish game right now, drawing attention from a number of Premier League clubs.

Sergio Reguilon is another who has flourished at Sevilla this season, on loan from Real Madrid, but for all that Lopetegui has taken Sevilla in the right direction, aided by the return of sporting director Monchi to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, there remains one area where they must strengthen to progress further.

Lucas Ocampos was Sevilla’s top league scorer for the 2019/20 season with 14 strikes. Beyond that, Luuk de Jong was the club’s top marksman with only six goals. Contrast this to the 18 La Liga goals Wissam Ben Yedder scored as Sevilla’s number nine last season and the lack of cutting edge in the final third becomes clear.

Indeed, de Jong simply hasn’t done enough since making the move to Sevilla last summer. The Netherlands international played the majority of the season as Lopetegui’s first choice centre forward, but Sevilla must look to find a more reliable goalscorer in this summer’s transfer window.

There is no doubting the progress Sevilla have made under Lopetegui, but there’s only so far they can go while being so toothless in front of goal. Ocampos provides goal threat, but the Argentine needs help. He cannot shoulder the goalscoring burden on his own. De Jong has had his chance and hasn’t been of the necessary standard. Now it’s time for Sevilla to find the true replacement for Ben Yedder.

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Is Vinicius Junior getting the game time he deserves?

Real Madrid were desperate for a late goal, for a way back into their Champions League last 16 second leg against Manchester City and back into the competition as a whole, but Vinicius Junior was never called upon. Los Blancos could have used a player of the Brazilian’s mould to open up the opposition defence, but he stayed on the bench.

Indeed, Vinicius wasn’t even told to warm up as Real Madrid suffered an exit from the Champions League at the round of 16 stage on Friday night. Zinedine Zidane seemingly didn’t believe the teenager was what was needed at the time, although that decision doesn’t look so great in retrospect.

Reports surfaced in the Madrid press the following morning concerning Vinicius’ unhappiness at the decision of his manager. It is claimed that this disgruntlement has been growing inside the Brazilian for quite some time, with it even reported that Vinicius could force his way out of the Santiago Bernabeu to find more game time elsewhere.

Paris Saint-Germain has been mentioned as a potential destination for the Brazilian youngster who would surely have a number of suitors were it made clear that he is willing to move on from Real Madrid this summer. But is Vinicius right to feel disgruntled? Does he have a point about the opportunities he is receiving?

It was somewhat baffling that Vinicius wasn’t called upon against Manchester City, but this is a player who still made 37 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid this season. He only started 16 of those, but that is largely down to the sheer level of competition for left-sided attacking positions in Los Blancos’ squad at this moment in time.

Indeed, Zidane is spoiled for choice on the left side. He has Eden Hazard, Rodyrgo, Marco Asensio and Vinicius to choose from, and that’s without even considering Isco who can also play in that position. If Vinicius hasn’t received the game time at Real Madrid his talent warrants, it’s not because of a lack of faith. It’s because Zidane has so many other options and players to keep happy too.

Vinicius might want to try his luck somewhere else, but Zidane and Real Madrid have shown a great deal of faith in the young Brazilian. He is seen as a key part of the future for the Santiago Bernabeu club. The fact he didn’t get on against City doesn’t change this.

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