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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James Rodriguez’s return from injury could be timely for Real Madrid

Many at the Santiago Bernabeu had forgotten about James Rodriguez. It’s likely that a number of Real Madrid fans were unaware that the Colombian playmaker was still on the books of their club. But James returned to the Spanish capital over the summer and earned himself a place in Zinedine Zidane’s squad again.

James endured a difficult end to his two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich and so it was expected that Real Madrid would sell him to raise funds for another transfer, potentially a move for Paul Pogba. Now, though, Zidane might well be counting down the days until the Colombian returns from injury.

He contributed over the early part of the season, proving that he still has something to offer Real Madrid. James then suffered an injury and has been missed for the past two months as his team have gained some momentum, sitting just two points behind Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

With Real Madrid set to return from their winter break next week, James is expected to feature. He will almost certainly get some game minutes against Getafe before Real Madrid head off to Saudi Arabia to play in the expanded Spanish Supercopa. The Colombian will play a part.

“He’s in a process of recovery,” Zidane said in a recent interview when asked to assess James’ recovery. “He’s had a bad injury, but he’s working a lot and we want to get him back fit, this is clear.” It took some time for Zidane to settle on his midfield formula, but between Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Fede Valverde he was found an effective unit.

Players like James, as well as Isco, will be key to getting Real Madrid through the whole season, though. The fixtures will come thick and fast after the winter break and Zidane will have to rotate his squad. James provides experience and the sort of creativity that will sustain the likes of Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard in the final third.

If Zidane can get something out of these fringe figures, Real Madrid might well boast the strongest squad in La Liga this season. That could be key in deciding who finishes top of La Liga. James might have been the forgotten man at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he has now become an important figure.

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Isco and James have been given a second chance at Real Madrid

Not so long ago, Isco and James Rodriguez seemed to be on their way out of the Santiago Bernabeu. The former found himself a peripheral figure while the latter was on loan at Bayern Munich with the Bavarians widely expected to make the deal for the Colombian playmaker permanent. Now, however, Real Madrid need the pair again.

Injuries to Toni Kroos and Luka Modric suffered over the international break have stretched the Real Madrid squad, particularly in the midfield. That has opened the door for Isco and James to make themselves key members of Zinedine Zidane’s team again. The Frenchman needs them to help fill the gaps starting with this weekend’s La Liga fixture away to Real Mallorca.

The pair will hope to evoke the spirit of the 2016/17 season when they both played an important role in leading Real Madrid to a Champions League and La Liga double. Many believe that only one of Isco or James can play in the same team. However, back then there was a place for both. They thrived and Real Madrid thrived on the back of that as a result.

Isco scored 11 times and contributed nine assists in all competitions over the course of the season while James found the back of the net 11 times and contributed 12 assists. At a time when the role of the playmaker is changing, these two were perhaps the purest manifestation of the position in the European game.

Real Madrid have struggled to find their groove over the early part of the season. A large part of the problem has been in their failure to strike the right balance in the final third of the pitch. In Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard they boast three of the most potent attackers in La Liga, but at times their supply line has been lacking. That certainly hasn’t helped Hazard find his feet in his new surroundings.

This is where Isco and James could make a real difference. Both players thrive on confidence and with injury ruling out Kroos and Modric for the time being this is an opportunity for them to find some heading into the winter months. Zidane won’t have welcomed these injuries to two key figures, but it could prove to be something of a watershed moment in their season.

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Serie A Wishlist: One Player Each For Calcio’s Top Four

With the mercato closing in just under two week’s time, many of Italy’s top sides are scrambling to complete their sides. Inter have been linked with every striker remotely available, Roma desperately need a defender while Napoli are looking at a number of James Rodriguez alternatives. But who exactly should these sides be targeting before the window shuts? Let’s have a look starting with the Italian champions, Juventus.

1) Juventus

Juventus started the transfer window in swash-buckling fashion securing the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt, but have recently taken a back seat focusing on player sales. While their roster is arguably the strongest in Italy, there’s no denying it still has a few holes. For one, Danilo has to come good or they’re without a top class right back. On the other hand, the bianconeri could really use another midfielder. That being said, both positions are extremely unlikely and Juventus seem intent on going into the season with what they have.

Otherwise, if Juve are able to sell Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic, and those remain big ifs, they should go all out for Inter’s Mauro Icardi. After all, they could use fresh legs in the final third and have recently sold Moise Kean. You just feel if the Italian champions don’t sign Icardi, they’d have sacrificed Kean for nothing. A player like Icardi, while he comes with personal baggage, is extremely hard to find. As a result, Fabio Paratici should do all he could to be in a position to sign the Inter man come the end of August.

2) Napoli

At the time of writing this, Napoli have reportedly signed PSV’s Hirving Lozano. The Mexican is a versatile forward capable of playing anywhere across the front-line but will likely feature on the wing. Despite his signing, the partenopei are still lacking something in the final third. All too often last season, they dropped points as a result of their own profligacy in front of goal, costing them on their ultimate Scudetto objective.

While Icardi would arguably do wonders under Carlo Ancelotti, the player Napoli should be looking at is James Rodriguez. The Colombian remains on Real Madrid’s chopping block and would add some much needed creativity in the final third. With Insigne and Lozano on either wing and Rodriguez in the hole, Napoli’s front-line would be truly devastating.

3) Roma 

Where to begin with Roma? The giallorossi could arguably use another winger and right back but for the time being will have to settle for a new central defender. Right now, Roma’s centre-backs consist of Juan Jesus, Federico Fazio, Gianluca Mancini and the newly-acquired Mert Cetin.

Out of them, Mancini is of starting quality, but none of the other three names inspire confidence as regular starters. While Cetin is reportedly a top talent, it would almost be too much to ask of the 22-year-old. As a result, Roma would be wise to secure another centre-half. Recently, it’s been reported they’ve been in the market for Daniele Rugani or Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren.

Either would frankly add some much-needed depth at the heart of defence, but what Roma need is a long-term solution. Someone like Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld would be ideal. Before the end of July, he was available for just under 30 million euros, yet the giallorossi refused to meet the Belgian’s release clause. A decision that might come back to haunt them.

4) Inter

The truth is Inter, much like Roma, could use a few players: a left-back to challenge Asamoah, a right back in case Valentino Lazaro flops and another striker for depth. While they could use all three and will likely make a push for three more players, their most pressing need remains a vice-Lukaku. Currently, Inter only possess Lautaro Martinez that they can rely on besides the Belgian.

As Conte typically deploys two strikers and Inter will be competing in three competitions, adding another striker is vastly important. Recently, they’ve been linked with Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik, Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez and Fernando Llorente among others.

Of the three names Inter would be wise to sign the Chilean. Despite his struggles since moving to Old Trafford, moving to Inter could revitalize his career. Under Conte, Sanchez will have new-found motivation and will find a familiar partner in Romelu Lukaku.

Bonus: 

Milan: Angel Correa

Lazio: Bas Dost

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Matthaus links Rodriguez to Juventus and Higuain’s future update

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Lothar Matthaus revealed in an interview to AS Colombia that he believes James Rodriguez will move to Old Lady after chatting with the player: “I met him during the celebration for the last Bayern title and talked about everything, from Colombia to the history of football. I think he will join Juventus: he is very close with Cristiano Ronaldo, they are in touch and the Portuguese would like to bring him to Turin. James is a great assist man and they do brilliant things together.” Rodriguez will leave Bundesliga as the club did not pick the €45M option to buy him, so it will be up to Real Madrid to decide his future. He has often been linked to the Madama in the past, but in recent weeks he appeared way closer to Napoli, which is helmed by his former coach Carlo Ancelotti. He scored 15 times and provided 20 helpers in 67 apperances in the last two years in Germany. Continue reading

Zidane pushing for Real Madrid summer clear out

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Zinedine Zidane will push ahead with plans for a squad overhaul this summer, as he pledges to challenge Barcelona for the La Liga title in 2019-20.

The Frenchman has been clear in his desire to make changes at the club he led to three Champions League title between 2014 and 2017, and that means moving on some big names from the Santiago Bernabeu.

Club President Florentino Perez will fund certain transfer targets, but Zidane will have to clear out players to fund extra moves.

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Is there a role for James Rodriguez back at Real Madrid?

He was the star of the 2014 World Cup and the last true Galactico signing. Real Madrid have a habit of picking up the best player from any given major tournament. Take Mesut Ozil, for instance, who shone for Germany at the 2010 World Cup only to make a move to the Santiago Bernabeu that very same summer. Rodriguez was Real Madrid’s 100-pound marlin to show off for the cameras in 2014.

And yet the Colombian never quite settled into his new surroundings in the Spanish capital. He was far from a failure, scoring once every three appearances over three seasons for Real Madrid. James was a La Liga winner during his time there, also winning the Champions League twice. There was just something about the player that Zinedine Zidane didn’t take to, though.

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As we all know, James was shipped out to Bayern Munich on loan with the assumption that the Colombian would eventually make the move to Bavaria permanent. The two clubs had even negotiated a future purchase price of £35 million, which would surely be activated after the initial two-year loan deal.

Now, however, James’ future is up in the air. Niko Kovac is believed to be edging the Colombian back towards Real Madrid, with the Bayern Munich boss leaving the playmaker out of his team for the crunch clash with title rivals Borussia Dortmund two weeks ago. That was taken as a sign that Kovac no longer sees James as a part of his plans for the future.

So would there be a place at Real Madrid waiting for James? Previously, one of the issues for the Colombian at the Santiago Bernabeu was that he occupied one of the three places permitted for non-European Union players in La Liga. Zidane wanted to free up James’ spot for others.

James has recently gained Spanish citizenship, though, and so Real Madrid wouldn’t have to use one of their non-EU places to keep the Colombian international in their squad. It’s certainly true that Zidane needs renewed creativity across his attacking line and so James could come in handy in this regard.

But would James really displace Isco in the Real Madrid first team, though? With Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba widely expected to join the Spanish giants this summer, James would largely be a peripheral figure at the Santiago Bernabeu. A player of his ability should perhaps expect better for himself.

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James Rodriguez to lead Real Madrid summer exodus

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James Rodriguez is set to leave La Liga this summer, with Real Madrid happy for the Colombian international to move on after an unfulfilled five years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Rodriguez, 27, signed for Los Blancos ahead of the 2014-15 campaign, on the back of an outstanding performance at the World Cup two months before, however his face never seemed to fit at the club particularly under previous boss Zinedine Zidane.

Despite the last two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich, he does not appear to be guaranteed a continued role in Bavaria either.

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Juventus announce Ramsey and Paratici discusses transfer market topics

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Eleven days after the end of the January transfer market window, Juventus announced the signing of Aaron Ramsey for next summer, which was secured weeks, if not months, ago. The Bosman move will cost the club only €3.7M in agents’ fees, while the midfielder has penned a four-year contract, with a reported €7M salary.

Ramsey has been a regular at Arsenal since 2010 and racked up 359 appearances with the Gunners, scoring 61 goals and providing 64 assists. In London, he has won the FA Cup and the Community Shield three times. The 28-year-old will be the third Welsh in the history of the Bianconeri after John Charles in the late 50’s and Ian Rush in the 80’s. Continue reading

Soccerex study released, new UCL list and Rodriguez linked to Juventus

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Cristiano Ronaldo turned 34 yesterday and briefly talked to the club’s TV after practice: “I am very happy to be celebrating my birthday here, it is nice to be in Italy. I want to thank the fans to the messages and the affection. Being at Juventus in a great experience and I feel lucky to play in Serie A. People are treating me very well, especially within the club and Torino is a very nice and quiet city. My family and my kids are happy and therefore so am I. The squad is in a good moment, we feel well and we are top of the league, we advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals and we won our first trophy. We are ready for the upcoming games.” Continue reading