Should Real Madrid return for Bruno Fernandes in January?

Paul Pogba was the central midfielder Zinedine Zidane wanted. The Real Madrid manager reportedly believed that the French midfielder would be delivered to him by Florentino Perez over the summer. When it became clear that Pogba would stay at Manchester United for at least another season Real Madrid shifted their aim.

Christian Eriksen was mentioned as a potential target, but in the final days of the summer transfer window Bruno Fernandes emerged as Real Madrid’s best option. The Portuguese midfielder had been linked with both Man Utd and Tottenham over the summer, but was left on the shelf as Premier League interest was overstated.

In the end, Fernandes’ proposed move to the Santiago Bernabeu never materialised, but there is talk that Real Madrid could return for him once the January transfer window opens. Would that be the right move, though? Is Fernandes what Zidane’s team needs at this moment?

While the start to the season was difficult for Real Madrid, they have started to find some form and consistency in recent weeks. Since losing to Real Mallorca before the last international break, they have gone unbeaten, winning four of five and keeping clean sheets in all five fixtures.

Their midfield has looked a lot better as well with Fede Valverde becoming a key figure over the past few weeks. Both Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have upped their performance levels, but Zidane still seemingly wants another attacking midfielder and Fernandes could well fit the bill for him.

Fernandes has kept his form from last season going and then some. The 25-year-old has five goals and five assists in 10 league appearances this season as well as three goals and an assist in four Europa League games. The Portuguese international has actually improved on the standard he set for himself over the 2018/19 campaign.

Pogba might still be Real Madrid’s dream signing, with the Frenchman still believed to be unhappy at Old Trafford. It’s entirely possible that he will still make the move to the Spanish capital at one point, possibly at the end of the season, but Zidane might feel he needs someone sooner than that. In that case, he do a lot worse than Fernandes, a player who looks ready for the next step in his career. That next step could carry him to the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Has Antoine Griezmann been a success or failure at Barcelona?

Though it came a year too late, Antoine Griezmann finally donned the Blaugrana from the beginning of the current season.

Seemingly seeing the error of his ways, the Frenchman departed Atletico Madrid for Barcelona with the good wishes of his former club.

To say that he wasn’t well received by the Barca fans who felt cheated by his behaviour from a year before, however, is an understatement. Continue reading

Gareth Bale must recapture his Wales enthusiasm at club level again

It’s no secret that Gareth Bale has found the last year or so at Real Madrid tough going. The Welsh winger has been made a scapegoat by sections of the Spanish press, criticising him for everything from playing golf to leaving the Santiago Bernabeu too quickly after games. It’s remarkable that he has put up with it this long.

Indeed, Bale was on the brink of finally leaving Real Madrid during the summer with the 30-year-old expected to make the move to the Chinese Super League. However, the deal fell through at the last moment and the Welshman still finds himself in the Spanish capital. His future has never been so unclear.

Bale has actually played well at times for Real Madrid this season, but a recent interview given ahead of Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Hungary revealed the depth of his unhappiness at the club. “I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales,” Bale said.

“I’ve been with most of the older players since we were in the under-17s. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday. With Wales, I’m speaking my own language and feel more comfortable. But it doesn’t change what I do on the pitch. I always give 100% on the pitch wherever I am; that’s what I always strive to do.”

At 30 years old, Bale still has plenty more to offer. If he can stay injury-free, he might have another three to four years left at the top level. And yet Bale is wasting what remaining time he has as an elite player. He must seek to recapture the enthusiasm he has playing for Wales at club level.

That might involve finally leaving Real Madrid. The Spanish club have done all they can to push Bale out the door. So far, the Welshman has been reluctant to leave. By staying, though, Bale is only doing himself more damage. He needs a fresh start. He needs a new club where he will be harnessed.

Wales have got the best out of Bale in recent times. Like most players, the winger plays at his best when the environment he finds himself in is a healthy one. Real Madrid is a toxic environment for Bale. That doesn’t look like changing any time soon. If he enjoys himself more with Wales, he should like to find something similar in a new club.

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Is Kylian Mbappe destined to end up at Real Madrid?

There’s a picture that surfaced a few years ago. It shows a young Kylian Mbappe, no older than 12, sitting on his bed surrounded by posters on the walls. On those posters is Cristiano Ronaldo, the player the French kid idolised. Indeed, it’s believed that Mbappe has always held an affinity for Real Madrid, the club Ronaldo played his best football for.

Now, the French forward is considered one of the best players in the world and has Real Madrid chasing him. Mbappe’s contract at Paris Saint-Germain expires in 2022, but there is already a race being contested regarding his next move. PSG are desperate to sign their prize asset to a new deal, but Mbappe and his representatives have so far rejected all approaches.

This has encouraged Real Madrid who view the young forward as their ideal signing. They wanted Mbappe in the summer of 2018 when he made the move to the Parc des Princes from Monaco. They have kept up their interest and now there are reports that the Spanish giants could make a staggering £340 million over for the player next summer. This illustrates how badly they want him.

So is Mbappe destined to end up at the Santiago Bernabeu? With Real Madrid in the midst of a transition between a generation defined by the exerts of Ronaldo and the new crop of youngsters fronted by the likes of Rodrygo and Vinicius Junior, Mbappe would be the perfect addition to lead them into a new age.

Real Madrid is a club that revels in fast and furious football. While they have attempted to change their ways in recent years, favouring more technically-skilled players like Isco, the Santiago Bernabeu still like to see a player bombing forward at pace more than anything else. Mbappe, of course, would satisfy those preferences.

Such is the expectation that Mbappe will make the move to the Spanish capital sooner or later there are already reports that PSG have started searching for his replacement, with Antoine Griezmann seen as a top target due to his failure to settle in at Barcelona following his summer move from Atletico Madrid.

Indeed, the pieces seem to be falling into place for Mbappe and Real Madrid. Seen as world football’s next true superstar, if he’s not already at that sort of level, Real Madrid wouldn’t just be buying a player, but something to define an entire generation at the club. His price could come to reflect that.

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Lionel Messi: Barcelona’s solution or their problem?

For the best part of 15 years now, Lionel Messi has wowed fans of FC Barcelona.

Even as a young 17-year-old, the Argentinian had the ability to get supporters off of their seats with consummate ease.

As soon as he’d made his debut in the first team, there was never any doubt that he would go on to become a world star, but that’s been almost as much of a curse as it’s been a blessing. Continue reading

Fede Valverde becoming one of Real Madrid’s most important players

Eden Hazard might have been Real Madrid’s marquee signing over the summer, but he wasn’t their top target, at least according to reports. Instead it was Paul Pogba who Zinedine Zidane wanted above all others, so when the summer window closed and the French midfielder remained at Manchester United discontent swept through the Santiago Bernabeu.

This was, after all, reminiscent of the way Zidane was treated in his first spell in charge of the club, when Perez refused to deliver the transfer targets his manager wanted. Now, though, Real Madrid look to be in better shape for not securing the signing of Pogba. It has certainly benefited Fede Valverde.

Valverde is the Uruguayan who has made himself a key part of Zidane’s Real Madrid team over the past few weeks. He is the 21-year-old who is ensuring Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are having to fight for one starting spot between them, the midfielder who has given Real Madrid much of what they were missing earlier in the season.

Quite simply, Valverde makes Real Madrid a better team. He is good on the ball, possesses strong positional awareness, shows leadership qualities beyond his years and seems to be adding more of a goal threat to his game, demonstrated by his Kroos-esque finish in the 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday.

“Zidane helps to get the best out of me and for me not to hide away and to go and prove why the coach plays me,” Valverde explained in a recent interview. “I thank him for the advice he gives me, just as I do the rest of my teammates. I’m delighted that he has good things to say about me.

“My target is first and foremost to continue to grow as a person and a player. When you play for this badge, you can’t rest on your laurels. I’ve won a Club World Cup and want to win all of the competitions going. There’s still a long way to go.”

Real Madrid are still a work-in-progress under Zidane, but there is a growing sense that they are getting closer and closer to being the finished article. Valverde is becoming a big part of that finished article, at least on the basis of his recent performances. It turns out Pogba wasn’t what Real Madrid needed after all.

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Real Madrid finally finding momentum after sticky start to season

There were those who doubted Zinedine Zidane would even survive the last international break. The two-week break after the defeat to Real Mallorca left Real Madrid president Florentino Perez with a long time to fester on what was the club’s worst result of the season so far. If Real Madrid were making progress under Zidane, it was difficult to see it.

Since that defeat, though, the capital club have finally found their groove. There is a sense that Real Madrid are starting to build something, underlined by their comprehensive 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday and the sight of Zidane’s men at the top of La Liga for a few hours before Barcelona’s win over Celta Vigo on the same night.

Zidane is finally settling on a favoured lineup, most notably in the centre of the pitch. Luka Modric has returned from injury, but he is having to fight for his position alongside Toni Kroos, with Casemiro and Fede Valverde currently favoured for two of the three central midfield spots. Valverde in particular has been a revelation. The Uruguayan’s emergence at the Santiago Bernabeu is a big reason behind Real Madrid’s recent resurgence.

In attack, Rodrygo has electrified the Spanish and European game, scoring a hat-trick in the Champions League win over Galatasaray during the week. Indeed, the Brazilian teenager has become Real Madrid’s ‘Next Big Thing’ over the past weeks, making the position on the right side of Zidane’s front three his own.

Then there’s Eden Hazard. The Belgian has faced his critics since signing for Chelsea in the summer transfer window, with some even questioning his fitness levels. It is certainly true that Hazard has taken his time in growing accustomed to his new surroundings, but there are signs that he is starting to find his feet.

Hazard was at his sparkling best in the 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday. Most encouraging, from a Real Madrid point of view, is the understanding with Karim Benzema the Belgian seems to have developed. That is a relationship Zidane should seek to build around. It could be the key to Real Madrid’s season.

Since that defeat to Real Mallorca, Real Madrid have gone five games without conceding, scoring 16 in the process. Zidane was widely seen as a dead man walking when the last international break arrived. Now that we are heading into another international break, the last of the year, Zidane and his side have a very different complexion.

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Is Neymar’s return to Barcelona a foregone conclusion?

It’s a deal that’s never really been off of the table, but Neymar’s return to Barcelona didn’t get over the line in the summer.

That was despite the Catalans seeming to do everything possible to get the Brazilian back at the Camp Nou.

In light of other information that only recently came to light, however, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that Neymar will soon be wearing the Blaugrana once again. Continue reading

LaLiga match previews

LaLiga returns on Friday night and there are some interesting matchups to look forward to over the whole weekend.

Enjoy these games before another international break kicks in next week!

Real Sociedad Vs Leganes

Key men: Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad); Martin Braithwaite (Leganes)

Prediction: Real Sociedad 2 – 0 Leganes Continue reading

Barcelona slump presents Real Madrid with an opportunity

It’s been a peculiar start to the 2019/20 season in Spain. Before a ball was kicked, predictions were made of a tight title race at the top of La Liga that would take many twists and turns over the course of the campaign. That has so far materialised, but not in the way most expected.

Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid have all suffered faltering starts to the season. Diego Simeone, Ernesto Valverde and Zinedine Zidane have all come under pressure and have all fielded questions over their ailing teams. Just one point separates the three sides at the top of La Liga, but that is a picture of their struggles so far rather than their strength.

This week, the picture is bleakest for Barcelona. The Catalans looked to be finally hitting their stride with five consecutive victories and Lionel Messi finding something close to his best form again, but that rise has been stunted by a shock defeat to Levante at the weekend followed by an insipid 0-0 draw at home to Slavia Prague in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Atletico Madrid are also toiling, winning just two of their last six fixtures in all competitions. Meanwhile, Real Madrid might well be the team in the best shape at this moment. They suffered a shock loss to Real Mallorca before the last international break, but have responded with wins over Galatasaray and Leganes, although the weekend’s draw at home to Real Betis was below-par.

Barcelona’s slump presents Real Madrid with an opportunity to really kick-start their season. Injuries have eased for the capital club in recent weeks and Zidane is now able to pick something close to his full-strength team. Karim Benzema is in goalscoring form, while there are signs that Eden Hazard is starting to grow accustomed to his new surroundings.

Real Madrid take on Galatasaray at home in the Champions League on Wednesday. A win is required after a poor start to their European campaign, but there would be a larger significance to three points for Los Merengues. It would show that they are starting to build something. They might be a long way from being the finished product, the finished article, but there is at least some signs of progress. The same can’t be said for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona right now.

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