Does Zinedine Zidane’s return signal the end for Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Within minutes of the full time whistling after last season’s Champions League final, with Real Madrid’s players still celebrating on the pitch at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Gareth Bale threw fresh doubt on his future in the Spanish capital. His remarks were the clearest sign yet that the Welshman could be set to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Of course, as we know, Bale ultimately stayed at Real Madrid. His relationship with Zinedine Zidane had broken down, but the Frenchman resigned from his position before the Welsh winger could plot a route out for himself. With Cristiano Ronaldo also leaving for Juventus, this was seen as a fresh start for Bale.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale look dejected after the first goal of Sevilla team during their soccer match in Seville

The 29-year-old has failed to make the most of this opportunity, though. Under both Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, Bale failed to make himself a first team pick. He has become a scapegoat for the notoriously tough to please Santiago Bernabeu faithful, involved in a number of incidents which have made negative headlines in the Spanish capital.

And now Zidane is back. Indeed, the Frenchman made a shock return to Real Madrid on Monday, taking over from Solari following a week in which their entire season fell apart, dropping out of the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Liga title race and the Champions League all in the space of six days.

With Zidane back at the helm, an overhaul is now expected in the summer. Players like Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have all been linked with a move to Real Madrid as the capital club look to move into a new generation, but many are also expected to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are weighed down by a number of ageing stars on big money. Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, among others, may well be club legends, but the time has come for them to be moved on. Bale might be another who is moved on.

A parting of ways might be best for both parties at this point. There is now such a circus around Bale that it’s difficult to envisage how he will ever turn things around. The Welshman’s options have never been narrower, with Manchester United no longer so keen and Chelsea recently handed a transfer ban, but staying at Real Madrid might not be open to him either.

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Zidane’s Real Madrid return could offer reprieve for Isco

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The return to La Liga side Real Madrid of Zinedine Zidane could spell a return to first team action for midfielder Isco, after previous boss Santiago Solari froze out the Spanish international this season.

The former Malaga player has not started a La Liga game since Solari replaced Julen Lopetegui in back in October 2018, and the club announced earlier this week that they would be opening disciplinary proceedings against him, after he missed a team meeting.

However, with Zidane coming back to the club he left nine months ago, he could look to bring the 26 year-old back in from the cold.

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Is Zidane the right choice for Real Madrid?

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No one could’ve predicted a scenario that saw Zinedine Zidane take over the Real Madrid hotseat just 10 months after he left it, but that’s precisely what’s happened in the aftermath of Los Blancos sacking their second coach this season, Santiago Solari.

The reasons could be many and though he’s not short of a euro or two, financial considerations will surely have played a huge part.

A promise from Florentino Perez that certain players will arrive or that Zidane will have a war chest of cash to go out and buy the very best is likely to be another. Continue reading

Real Madrid all but surrender late title bid with shock defeat to Girona

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Last Sunday morning, the Santiago Bernabeu bore witness to what may well have been the end of Real Madrid’s thin hopes of a late La Liga title challenge.

The Spanish giants and current Champions League holders stumbled to a 2-1 defeat to bottom-half side Girona in front of their disillusioned fans.

Girona are enjoying only their third season in the top flight of Spanish football having been promoted to La Liga for the first time in 2016.

Let’s take a look at the fantasy football heroes and zeroes after this surprise win for the Catalonian club.

Real Madrid fans are wrong to turn on Gareth Bale

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If any player deserves myth status at Real Madrid currently than you could do no more wrong in suggesting that accolade should go to Gareth Bale. But it seems that every time Bale makes an error it is this the fans are remembering him for and not his greatness as a player.

Let’s be blunt, Bale has become the best ever British import- he has joined Real Madrid, competed in a side with Cristiano Ronaldo, scored countless goals- most of them important ones and most of them awe inspiring and has won so many trophies that it is easy to lose count of them all. But for some reason that doesn’t matter diddly to Madrid fans.

Madrid’s fans have always been very hard to please. Especially if you are a player of flair- even Ronaldo has been booed at the club before, and if he can be then anyone can. But these are fans that probably wish the likes of Roy Keane had played for the club. The harder you are the more loyal you are etc etc.

It’s not that the fans do not like Bale, and any of them would have to admit he has been one of the best foreign players the club have had in their last 25 years, but they won’t let things lie down. So when Bale missed a sitter against Atletico Madrid that was brought to the forefront so much so that Spanish daily reported on it, is Bale in crisis at Madrid moment? What was bizarre is that Bale scored in that game and Madrid won 3-1, which has consequently brought them  back into the league.

But this is Madrid fans in a nutshell, they did the same to another British player-who scored important goals and won 2 Champions Leagues, Steve McManaman. Now the ex Liverpool player is welcomed back at the Bernabeu with open arms and you get the feeling that once Bale leaves the club and the years go on and retirement comes, Bale will be seen as a very important figure at the club. Surely that was cemented last summer when he came off the bench in the Champions League final and scored an incredible bicycle kick against Liverpool- and let’s be honest it was his involvement in the game that ended up winning Real Madrid their 3rd consecutive Champions League title.

Madrid fans will never change- but they need to show Bale a little bit more respect- after all he is the best player they have at the moment.

Real Madrid’s average season continues as they look to appoint big name coach

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Real Madrid have not been themselves this season and that continued after they could only draw 2-2 against Villarreal in their latest game in midweek. To rub salt into the wounds Madrid were leading 2-1 with just minutes to go but could not see the game out.

Despite Madrid winning the World Club Cup in December the pressure is on Santiago Solari to keep his job in the hot seat because the cup was won by beating two sides who with all due respect were not on the same level as Madrid. But the club keep continuing to underwhelm in La Liga.

This latest draw means that with 17 games played they have 30 points and are are 7 behind league leaders Barcelona. Los Blancos are also in the very unfamiliar position of 4th place. Both Deportivo on 28 points and Real Betis on 26 are not far behind and the worry is that if the team do not go on a consistent run they could fall even further behind.

In fairness to Solari who stepped in two months ago when Julen Lopetegui was sacked he has done a decent job in a very chaotic environment, but why are Madrid not firing on all cylinders?

The departures of coach Zinedine Zidane is a major factor, with the French legend guiding the club to an historic treble of Champions League trophies. Although it should be noted that Madrid only won the league once with Zidane in charge.

Madrid have always been about having the very best players- even if it hasn’t always worked out and they have been trumped in that department this season. With Cristiano Ronaldo leaving for Juventus, Madrid never replaced him and he has left a gaping hole in that team. This isn’t to say that Madrid have been poor this season, they just have not been their usual confident selves. Much of the limelight has gone onto the shoulders of Gareth Bale.

Bale has scored 10 goals in all competitions for the club this season and is on course to score his personal best. That is 22 which he achieved in his debut season. Still he only has 4 goals in the league and more would have been expected of him.

This season feels like a write off for the club and yet they won’t be giving up anything just yet especially in the Champions League. However you feel there will be a new dawn at the club in the summer which could mean more star players in, some out and certainly a new coach.

 

Aaron Ramsey should join Juventus if he wants to become a complete player

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It’s not everyday that Juventus come calling for you, and what will end up being Arsenal’s loss and Juventus’ gain could well happen this summer when the Arsenal playmaker Aaron Ramsey becomes a free agent.

Arsenal seem to have made a faux pas in letting Ramsey wind down his career, only last season he was voted as the best Arsenal player by the fans which was the 2nd time he had won it. Ramsey is a player that in todays market could fetch anywhere between £40-£60m but in the summer he will be leaving for absolutely nothing.

The reasoning seems to be down to new manager Unai Emery who just can’t fit him into his system and it is the reason that Ramsey has had to start games from the bench. At 28 the Welshman seems to be getting better and better in his role, but it is clear that role is not with Arsenal anymore.

But with Juventus calling Ramsey needs to make the jump to them or any other big continental club. It might be that the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea could throw in their interest, but staying in the Premier League would not be a good move for the player.

Just take a look at his Wales teammate Gareth Bale for evidence. Bale has been utterly brilliant for Real Madrid, and has on the face of it become the greatest British import of all time. It isn’t the fact that Bale has won numerous trophies in his time in Spain, although that does help. But also Bale has grown as a player and reached the potential of his footballing capabilities, few football players ever get to that level but when Bale made that decision to go to Spain he opened the door.

If Ramsey does join Juventus he will be bathed in a rich history of a team that accept nothing more than winning. He will have Cristiano Ronaldo as a teammate and will be most likely be setting him for chances.

It would be a massive move for the player and the obvious obstacles would be the new culture and change of language, but surely that is worth the pay off? Footballers are immensely lucky in the fact that when they move to a foreign land they are instantly looked after and respected, and the Italian game may just suit Ramsey’s one down to a tea, or an Italian cappuccino.

Real Madrid edge closer to Conte appointment

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Real Madrid are set to announce Antonio Conte as their new boss in the coming days, in the wake of their 5-1 La Liga thrashing away at Barcelona last weekend.

That defeat at the Camp Nou is likely to be the death knell for Julen Lopetegui as manager of the 2017-18 Champions League winners, with his departure in the offing.

Club President Florentino Perez, famous for his ruthlessness and lack of patience with managers, is set to confirm Lopetegui’s departure before the end of the week.

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El Clasico will have no Messi, no Ronaldo as TV faces huge challenge

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We already knew, of course, that Cristiano Ronaldo would not be competing in El Clasico the match up between Barcelona and Real Madrid after his summer move to Juventus. But now Lionel Messi, the greatest player of his generation has been ruled out of the clash after fracturing his arm against Sevilla.

First it was the fans to gasp when Messi went down in pain, then it was the stats people, pundits followed and it quickly became known that Barcelona’s next game in the league is against Real Madrid, the super tie in world football. Next it was the television guys to cry. Still reeling that Real Madrid can only serve up Gareth Bale as a game changer, now they have lost Messi. Of course Bale is a superb player, arguably the greatest British player of all time and certainly of a generation, but still he’s not next level, which is shared by Ronaldo and Messi.

The news that Messi will miss 3 weeks which most probably will only be two just sets a huge damp squib of epic proportions on next weeks game. TV will certainly lose viewing figures though they are set to still have their highest of the season so far, they will be working overtime to create ads and promos and try to lure in more viewers, but that’s hard when the main ingredients are not there.

For hardcore fans of Spanish football though this game could be very interesting. Some will believe that the playing field will be level now and Real Madrid losing again at the weekend has put huge pressure on them and coach Julen Lopetegui who has got off to a nightmare start with the Champions League champions. His job is reported to be on the line after just 4 months in charge and a defeat against Barcelona could signal the end of his short tenure.

But back to the fans, the viewing ones at least who will still feel some excitement here given that they could be glimpsing a little into the future with no Messi in the team in such a high profile match, because of course only injury would otherwise keep him out.

For the ones that will be travelling far and wide to come here for a match that can cost upwards of 500 euros to witness live it’s a c’est la vie moment. What is undeniably true and can’t be ignored is that this game has had the shine taken off it.

How have previous Player of the Year winners fared the following season?

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Liverpool have started the 2018-19 Premier League season by winning six of their seven matches, picking up 19 points along the way, and they currently lie in second place with an impressive tally of 15 goals scored and only three conceded.

Several players have stood out in the early weeks of the campaign for Jurgen Klopp’s side, from Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to Joe Gomez and Andrew Robertson, but the form of Mohamed Salah has been of concern.

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