Have Real Madrid forgotten about Vinicius?

Real Madrid tend to get their man, even if it takes a few years. Eden Hazard had long appeared destined to one day pull on the famous white jersey of the Spanish giants with the Belgian finally making the move to the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. It’s a move that had been a long, long time in the making.

Of course, Real Madrid still have a void to fill after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus last summer. Not just in terms of goals, but in terms of stardust. They need players who can handle the weight of carrying a club of such stature. Hazard certainly fits the bill in that regard.

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But positionally and tactically, did Real Madrid really need Hazard? He is a left-sided attacker and it’s on the left side where Zinedine Zidane’s side are strongest. They have Marco Asensio, but more notably it’s where Vinicius Junior made himself the brightest teenage talent in Spanish football last season.

Indeed, the Brazilian was the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season. He was a revelation for Real Madrid, becoming their most important player for a spell between the turn of the year and Easter. Were it not for injury he might well have done more to save Real Madrid’s campaign.

It was expected that Vinicius would hold down a starting place next season, but will that still be the case now that Hazard has been signed? Can Zidane find a way to fit both the Brazilian and the Belgian into the same team? If he can’t, could the money used to spend Hazard have been used elsewhere?

Real Madrid had a number of positions to fill this summer. They needed a centre forward and got one in the form of Luka Jovic, signed from Eintracht Frankfurt after an excellent season in Germany. They needed a left back and got one in the form of Ferland Mendy, signed from Lyon.

Zidane also needs a central playmaker, with Real Madrid linked with both Christian Eriksen and Paul Pogba. Might it be the case that Hazard becomes more of a central force so that both he and Vinicius can be accommodated in the same side? He has, after all, played that role on occasion for Belgium.

Real Madrid needed players who could perform here and now. But they mustn’t neglect their future in the process of overhauling their team. Hazard represents the here and now, while Vinicius represents their future. The challenge for Zidane is to look after both.

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Eden Hazard is now La Liga’s gain and Premier League’s loss

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After Friday’s breaking news in England and Spain, it is now official that Eden Hazard has moved from Chelsea to Real Madrid for a reported figure of around £100-£120million. Following the constant reports summer after summer, the Belgian international finally completes his dream of playing for the club he supported as a youngster, which he has expressed in interviews time and time again.

Going a bit deep into the two parties, they have had their ups and downs throughout the term but will be looking to make huge amends over the summer. The Blues may have found themselves in a sticky situation, with the transfer ban coming into effect for the next two windows whilst manager Maurizio Sarri is expected to leave the club for Juventus. Meanwhile, with Real Madrid, they have already signed Eder Militao and Luka Jovic as well as continuing to target a few of the best players within Europe.

Focusing back onto Hazard, it always looked like a deal would be more of when rather than if it happens, which would really be seen as an insane shift in power as La Liga will arguably be bringing in someone that has been the best player in the Premier League for the last couple of years. With his individual brilliance, end product in the final third and his mentality to show up in the big games, he has unsurprisingly been ahead of the likes of Harry Kane, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and co.

Spending seven full seasons within English football, it is no secret that the 28-year-old joined the club as a quiet and shy boy, but is now leaving as a Chelsea legend, potentially a Premier League great and most importantly as a complete man. Achieving six major trophies in 352 appearances, including two league titles, he has dominantly completed 110 goals and 92 assists in all competitions.

For sure, the 2018/19 La Liga season seemed a bit one-sided and uncompetitive as Barcelona won the league by 11 full points. However, Los Blancos will have learnt their lesson from the lack of business they completed last summer, which led to an average season compared to their usual standards, as they finished in third-place and were embarrassingly eliminated from the Champions League in the round of 16.

With Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the capital of Spain for Italian giants Juventus last year, Ernesto Valverde’s system hindering both Barcelona and Lionel Messi, whilst Diego Simeone’s men are beginning to experience a crazy transition period on and off the pitch, the rising signs are clearly there, that neither of the sides are quite ready to dominate the Spanish league consistently for the next couple of years or so.

The quality in La Liga may no longer be the same as it used to be, on the other hand, all three of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid will surely be looking into taken the title challenge up a notch and aim to regain European dominance again. Fortunately, the Eden Hazard factor will come into play for Zinedine Zidane’s side, as they were somehow lacking the cutting edge in the opposition’s half and could not beat the mid-table teams, a really concerning issue that has now been resolved with ease.

Looking back at the Premier League, they have lost the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho over the last five to ten years, due to the pulling power that both Barcelona and Real Madrid have been boasting about for such a long time. And even after that, English football has still remained popular and truly thrilling, but the departure of Hazard will eventually lead Chelsea to fall down the pecking order and maybe a shit in power within London.

It is more than fair to say that Liverpool and Manchester City are ahead of the rest of the top sides in the league, two well-known teams that have incredibly gone head-to-head with one another for the league title in the season that just went passed. On that note, the last thing either Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United or Tottenham Hotspur want, is to lose their key players and fail to reach their ambitions of being successful.

The flaws and weaknesses that Real Madrid constantly showed this term, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see it being harshly passed onto Chelsea football club, who will now be missing the much needed creativity and intelligence in the final third of the pitch. Not only that but if Maurizio Sarri leaves soon, the Blues may end up having a catastrophic season and could finish outside of the Champions League/Europa League spots.

Overall, there are no doubts at all that Eden Hazard will take his pure brilliance and sheer class from the Premier League to the La Liga, an incredible league that is focused on proactive and technical football rather than relying on the players’ physicality and intention to solely counter during transition. At the end of the day, the Belgian winger has deserved this huge move and it should have happened straight after the 2018 World Cup. Nevertheless, he has remained professional and stayed patient.

Eden Hazard can put Real Madrid back on the map after £88m deal is completed

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Football’s worst kept transfer secret saga has finally been completed and Eden Hazard has joined Real Madrid from Chelsea in an £88m deal.

That deal could rise to £130m after add ons and Madrid will be relived to have got their man, a player that they had originally targeted at the beginning of the decade. In fact it was Zinedine Zidane still youth coach at Madrid that asked the then Madrid manager Jose Mourinho to go for Hazard, alas Mourinho didn’t but Madrid usually get what they want in the end.

After a frustrating season at the Bernabeu the fans will be happy with the clubs first major summer transfer and Hazard should be able to fill the missing magic at the club. He is the ultimate play maker and surely will only improve with the club the longer he stays. Hazard and Madrid seem like the perfect fit and Hazard’s objective apart from scoring goals and setting them up will be to deliver Madrid only their 3rd La Liga title in the past 9 seasons.

Hazard is obviously looking forward to a new chapter in his life and was respectful also to the Chelsea fans and his club, he had this to say: “I hope you understand I had to pursue my next chapter, just as each and every one of you should when you have the chance to pursue your dreams. Leaving Chelsea is the biggest and toughest decision in my career to date. Now it’s in the open I would like to put on record one thing was always clear to me, I have loved every moment at Chelsea and not once did I ever consider, nor would I have left for any other Club.

Hazard went on to say: “Even when we were not playing well, I tried to do my best and this has been thanks to your amazing support. Chelsea and especially Chelsea fans will always be special to me and next season I will look for your results first. I hope that we are drawn against each other in the Champions League next season and every season so we can meet again. I must thank the owner Mr Abramovich and his board for helping me realise not one, but two dreams, my first in becoming a Chelsea player and today my second, becoming a player at Real Madrid.”

It will be interesting to see how Hazard will develop within the team and it is sure that Luka Modric will be some kind of mentor to the player. At the same time Hazard has years of experience and make no mistake Zidane will make it clear to the team that Hazard is the big fish, he is the stardust and in that Real Madrid’s set up will be formed around the Belgian player.

El Clasico the match Madrid play against Barcelona just got that much more interesting as Real Madrid clearly mean business once again after a chaotic season.

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Real Madrid to sign Eden Hazard, but is it too late?

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Chelsea star Eden Hazard is set to arrive at Real Madrid in the coming weeks, with the deal set to signal a significant transfer policy shift from the club. In the past five years, Los Blancos have scaled back their investment in new players in a sharp contrast to the ‘Galacticos’ era by which many still define the club.

Not since the arrival of Toni Kroos in 2014 has a true star arrived at Madrid, one who unquestionably slotted into their starting line-up. Sure, Thibaut Courtois arrived from Chelsea last year but his was a knock-down price due to his contractual situation at Stamford Bridge and, besides, it was unclear if he would truly replace Keylor Navas as a starter. Continue reading

Arsenal destroyed in Europa League final by Chelsea and Eden Hazard

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Usually same country finals can be incredibly close affairs. Look at when AC Milan and Juventus battled for 120 minutes in the 2003 Champions League final and still the game ended 0-0 and needed to go to penalties. Chelsea and Manchester United in the 2008 final ended 1-1 and Bayern Munich squeezed past Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 final. Close and tense, and for the first half this Europa League final was just that, until Chelsea moved up a gear.

In the end this wasn’t a beating that Arsenal took but a total battering, and this was against a Chelsea side who aren’t even at their strongest if we compare the team from a few seasons ago. But the natural reserve and quality in the team was simply too much for the Gunners to handle.

Once the second half got under way there was only one team in it and it was evident that Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri had got the desired affect in the dressing room at half time. Chelsea came charging out of the blocks and were 1-0 up within five minutes of the re start. It came from Olivier Giroud the ex Arsenal player and it was a simply stunning goal, a header from 20 yards out that caught out Petr Cech in goal. The goals followed which included a brace from Eden Hazard far and away Chelsea’s best player of the decade if not the Premier League’s. This will have surely been his last game for the Blues before his expected move to Real Madrid in the summer.

Ex Arsenal player Martin Keown seemed to sum it all up by saying Chelsea have Hazard and Arsenal have Mesut Ozil, and it was hard to argue with him. Ozil’s time at Arsenal will not be remembered and for whatever reason the playmaker has been a huge failure at the club only showing slight glimpses of what he is capable of. He has cut a frustrated figure at Arsenal for years now and surely enough is enough and he will not be back in an Arsenal shirt- if anything both parties need a change.

This match simply showed the gulf between the two clubs even if their league finish was close in the end. When it all really mattered Arsenal simply didn’t have it. And yet in Alex Iwobi’s consolation goal they probably got the best one of the night.

Petr Cech played his final professional game and how ironic it was against the team that made his career. He will now join Chelsea as a goalkeeping coach for next season. It is also ironic that even though Arsenal conceded 4 goals that Cech actually had a decent game and he kept the score more respectable because it could have been 7 or 8 in the end. Every time Chelsea went forward in the 2nd half it looked like they were going to score.

Sarri has been proven right and it will be interesting to see if he will stay with the club or leave and join up with Juventus? There must be a huge temptation to go to Juventus given that Chelsea could be banned from buying any players this summer and their play maker Hazard is leaving, why should Sarri stay?

His opposite number Unai Emery cut a sad figure. It felt as if he couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to win a 4th Europa League trophy after his successes with Sevilla earlier in the decade. At times he looked bitter and angry and perhaps the realisation of the job at his hands has been laid bare.

Emery has had a decent season in some ways. Reaching a European final in his debut year was very good. But at the same time his appointment was all about moving on from Arsene Wenger, which hasn’t happened and now Arsenal will have to play in the Europa League next season as well. His real judgment needs to be delayed until next season and it will be interesting to see who he sells and who he brings in the summer, it is a big season for Emery, who knows he won’t be afforded the time that Wenger had.

As for Chelsea a huge congratulations to them for winning the London final. That is the clubs 3rd European trophy in 8 seasons and even though they have had their up and down moments they have had a strong few years in England and in Europe.

Zinedine Zidane’s biggest season is coming up at Real Madrid

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They say never go back, but in the case of Zinedine Zidane that is what he did at Real Madrid. Walking away after the 2018 Champions League final win over Liverpool, Madrid went into meltdown. Not only did Zidane leave but so did Cristiano Ronaldo and president Florentino Perez went through two managers before Zidane waltzed his way back into the Bernabeu 10 months after leaving.

Truth is though results have not improved since he took over from the beleaguered and unfortunate Santiago Solari. Zidane holds just a 50% win rate compared to a near 70% from his first spell. One wonders if the appointment of Zidane should have been delayed until the end of the season, because at the moment everything looks so deflated even with Zidane in charge.

Real Madrid’s latest defeat came at the hands of Real Sociedad in a 3-1 loss, though to be fair Madrid have never travelled well up to Basque Country. And it does feel that players have switched onto holiday mode and the league still has one more game to go. Real will finish 3rd whatever happens and that guarantees Champions League football for next season, and next season is what it’s really all about for the club.

There will be huge change at the club in the summer and this is when Zidane will be making some sweeping changes to the club. Gareth Bale is almost certain to leave the club. The Welshman still boasts superb quality and would be a fantastic addition to any club in the world, but he needs change, a refresher course so to speak and Madrid still know that he is worth at least 70 million euros to buyers. Toni Kroos seems to have let the season pass him by and could leave also.

But one wonders if Zidane is really ready to shake the apple tree up. Is it time for Sergio Ramos and Marcelo to depart, staple players of the team in the 2010s, but one has to question if their hunger and desire is really there at the club anymore. If they can convince Zidane that it is then maybe they will stay. Karim Benzema who has actually had a decent personal season with the club may have played his last only because of the players that could be coming in.

Madrid have been linked to the likes of Eden Hazard, Neymar and even Kylian Mbappe. It will be interesting to see who the club bring in, but for sure they will have to sell first and at least 6 first team players will be playing their last games for the club next weekend.

For Zidane his 2nd term at Madrid really starts at the end of this season and it could be a career defining one. This will be the season targeted as the comeback one, Barcelon beware.

FIFA are correct to uphold decision to ban Chelsea for two transfer windows and Sarri should be happy with the outcome

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Chelsea have been told by FIFA that they will indeed serve a two window transfer ban which was imposed on them earlier in the season for breaching signing of youngsters and that means the club will not be able to sign any new players until the summer of 2020.

Chelsea will appeal to the courts of attribution but could be likely to lose. Whilst Chelsea should be punished, one cannot get away from the fact that UEFA are not promoting the game in the right direction. Unless one truly hates the club does anyone associated with football want to tie two hands behind a clubs back? Chelsea could win the Europa League enter the Champions League and not be able to buy any new players. Basically killing their chances of winning the competition before they have even started.

On top of that Chelsea have the problem of Eden Hazard their star player who looks like he will be leaving the club in the summer to join Real Madrid. This was further highlighted when the star player was seen nodding his head in a no fashion when fans asked him to stay at the club last week.

Surely the situation is a harsh one for the club who, yes, should receive a ban this summer but not extended to two windows. Ideally why not fine the club £500,000 and give back to hospitals or put back into the grassroots of the game. After all the ban won’t hurt as much as not being out of a little pocket for the club.

Of course the good news if the club are to be banned for purchasing players is that Maurizio Sarri’s job will be safe. It was oddly under threat a few months ago, even though he has steered Chelsea to a Europa League final, a Carabao Cup final and a top 4 place ensuring Champions League football either way next season, that’s not too bad for your debut season surely?

Still who will want to join the club now knowing you can’t buy any players for over a year? That would be like playing Monopoly and going round the board several times until your rivals all have the properties they want. In that sense Sarri suddenly holds all of the cards and with a strong link to Roma, Sarri may just think enough is enough and walk in the summer if he is not being respected at the club.

For now Chelsea are doing well, but the future hardly looks bright.

 

Real Madrid must ease reliance on Karim Benzema next season

Almost from the moment Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid was confirmed, the Santiago Bernabeu outfit have embarked on the longest pre-season programme in football history. Indeed, with Real Madrid out of the Liga title race, out of the Copa del Rey and out of the Champions League, the final couple months of the season became about preparing for the next one.

This has seen Zidane experiment with a number of options in essentially dead rubber games. He has tried different options in goals – Thibaut Courtois, Keylor Navas and even his own son, Luca Zidane. He has alternated between Marcelo and Sergio Reguilon at left back. Alvaro Odriozola and Dani Carvajal have taken it game about at right back. Jesus Vallejo has earned the Frenchman’s trust while even the forgotten man Mariano Diaz has been given a chance up front.

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Of course, Mariano has only been given a run in the first team due to the injury suffered by Karim Benzema. Questions were asked of the Frenchman last season, to the extent where his exit from the Santiago Bernabeu looked probable. However, the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer changed things and Benzema has delivered, crossing the 30-goal mark.

However, Real Madrid have become too dependent on the goals of Benzema. With Mariano’s goal in the win over Villarreal last weekend, he became the first player that isn’t Benzema to find the back of the net in 568 minutes. While they were once reliant on Ronaldo to provide a cutting edge in the final third, now it’s Benzema they lean on.

This is arguably the most pressing of all the concerns Zidane must have in his mind ahead of next season. Real Madrid will undergo a summer overhaul, with the squad almost certain to be replenished. It is in the final third where their efforts will be focused most acutely and they must find goals.

Quite simply, the likes of Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Isco and Lucas Vazquez haven’t contributed enough in front of goal this season. Even Vinicius Junior, the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season, needs to sharpen up his finishing. The addition of players like Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic, both expected to join Real Madrid this summer, should held, but Zidane knows what he must find ahead of next season – goals.

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Predicted lineups for the final EPL games of the season

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The Premier League season draws to a dramatic close this Sunday. All 20 teams are in action, playing out their final game of the 2018/19 campaign.

If Manchester City can take all three points at Brighton, then they will be crowned Premier League champions for the second consecutive season under Pep Guardiola.

If City lose or draw and Liverpool win at home to Wolves then Jurgen Klopp will have delivered the first league title to the Merseyside club for 29 years.

It’s all to play for.

Here are our predicted lineups for those EPL fixtures so have a read in preparation for another EPL fantasy football round. Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Week 37

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The curtain is almost down. The business is almost done. With just a single round of games remaining in the Premier League, the relegation battle is finished but the title race remains very much alive. With the final game of the season being the time that this year’s Premier League champions will be identified, there is still plenty to play for at the summit of England’s top flight. With that said, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this week and see which players performed the best for their clubs this past weekend.

Continue reading