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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Pablo Fornals: Lowdown on West Ham’s latest signing who is more than ready for English football

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Over the past few seasons, it’s been quite easy for a young individual to announce himself as a player with an immense career ahead of him and be regarded as the next big talent. However, the situation has quietly been different for Pablo Fornals, someone who was a regular starter in midfield and was a key player for La Liga side Villarreal. However, the club and player did not have a solid season as per their normal standards, as the lack of consistency and squad quality became concerning month by month.

Fornals only returned to Villarreal in the summer of 2017 after spending five beneficial seasons in Malaga’s first team as well as their reserve team, and was recently linked with a £24million move to Premier League’s West Ham United. With the deal now becoming official yesterday, it would mean that Villarreal would be making an estimate profit of around £15million and potentially any add-ons or bonuses, which is quite good for a player that was seriously looking for a move since the January transfer window.

Before West Ham smartly snapped him up, both Arsenal and Napoli were interested in the Spaniard a couple of week ago, but were no longer looking at the player and have moved onto the other midfield targets they have in mind. The Yellow Submarines have not seen many major departures so far this summer, but it has shockingly began with Pablo Fornals moving from sunny Spain to rainy England.

It’s time to look at everything you will want to know about the 23-year-old…

Villarreal background

Over the last 10 to 15 years, Villarreal have been recognised for the types of centre-backs and central-midfielders they have purchased for quite a bargain, before going on to developing and nurturing them into top quality players. The likes of Giuseppe Rossi, Joan Capdevila, Marcos Senna, Ruben Cani and currently Bruno Soriano have played for this beautiful and passionate club, individuals who have given their all on the pitch whilst becoming fan favourites during their good moments and bad moments.

The current Villarreal squad is still blessed with quite a number of individuals that are born and raised in Spain, including the experienced Santi Cazorla, captain Bruno Soriano, the calm and collected Vicente Iborra and Gerard Moreno, someone who has not had the best of seasons in front of goal but will always be a huge aerial threat, as long as the crossing is effective from the flanks.

Which world-class central-midfielder is he similar to…

It’s still early days for Fornals to be dubbed or regarded as the next Cesc Fabregas or Koke, however, his style of play is very similar to team-mate Santi Cazorla, who once upon a time was a crucial player for Arsenal and was seen as one of the most underrated players in England. With his constant knack for wanting the ball and his ability to dominate it whilst being seen as the focal point of the midfield, he is able to avoid the press with his dribbling skill as well as his intelligent movement.

On top of that, he is more than capable of producing a large number of perfectly-timed passed thanks to his range of passes and his sharp vision to even attempt, which is something that many central-midfielders don’t take the risk to complete. The style of play of both himself and Cazorla is something to admire, given that the latter flourished in the Premier League and the former will without a doubt, do the same as long as a system is in place and the team is built around him, and no one else.

Strengths

Complete midfielder. Not many players within La Liga, especially from outside of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid, can boast about playing in a number of tactical roles within midfield whilst dominating the match and the opposition. Due to this natural blessing, Fornals’ quality has always been undervalued, purely because of the other talented midfielders and attacking-minded players produced within Spain.

Being a player that does not rely on pace or physicality, the Castellon-born midfielder has proven himself to be dominant on both sides of the pitch. From completing the second most key passes (42) and fourth most successful dribbles (39) when compared to the rest of the squad, he has actually achieved more than expected as the side have recently not been known as a possession-based team. Thanks to his intelligence and positive thinking on the ball, he is able to work really well within tight areas and has the actual ability to get past one or two defenders or midfielders without even trying.

Weaknesses

Although it will be his range of passing as well as his rising quality to get the best out of the midfield that may be what the West Ham supporters will be looking forward to the most. However, Fornals’ has had a bit of a consistency to give away cheap fouls and also in a number of dangerous positions. Unfortunately for him, the Premier League referees will not be be too lenient and inconsistent like the ones in La Liga.

On the other hand, it is ideal and useful to have a player that is quite stocky, aggressive and is willing to go into the much needed tackles and tactical fouls. With a number of players that come to play in England from other European countries, they tend to lack the defensive duties or the mentality to help the team to retrieve possession, which will surely not be a problem for Pablo Fornals at all, as he always puts the team before him.

How would he fit into West Ham?

Fornals could potentially play alongside Mark Noble and just ahead of defensive-midfielder Declan Rice in 4-1-4-1 formation, which is a system that manager Manuel Pellegrini has used time and time again, that has allowed the Hammers to play with the ball confidently and also more productively.

Given that Jack Wilshere has become unreliable and is still battling his own injury issues whilst both Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass are starting to age and decline, it makes sense Pellegrini’s side to continue to play their football in a 4-1-4-1 setup, providing more space and time for Fornals to pull the strings deep in midfield or to advance up the pitch in possession to create chances for his team-mates or for himself.

With a lot of things spicing up for West Ham, including the fact that they have been scouting and recruiting players effectively for the last couple of seasons. It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see them aiming for a Europa League spot finish for the upcoming campaign, despite the competition from the likes of Everton, Leicester and Wolves.

On the other hand, the budding transfer of Fornals and Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez could prove to be perfect signings in the long run, and only if the East London side go on to finish within the top seven, especially in what could potentially be a really competitive season. Now that the deal is official, the Spanish international will certainly be regarded as one of the best signings of the summer window and also for such a really low fee.

Top La Liga Strikers in 2018/19: Luis Suarez

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Remembered for his time with Ajax and Liverpool, Luis Suarez is now known as a veteran of Barcelona after completing his 5th season with the club and as a result he was one of the finest strikers in La Liga this past season.

In winning the league title Suarez has picked up his 13th major title with Barcelona and his switch from Liverpool was certainly a good one for the Uruguayan. He instantly found a chemistry with both Neymar and Lionel Messi and continued that this year with Messi even if at times Suarez has not had his strongest season.

But at the end of the day Suarez still managed 21 goals in La Liga coming joint 2nd with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema and only beaten by Messi. Yet because of picking up 5 yellow cards Suarez dropped a few points and as a result finished 3rd in European Fantasy League rankings for La Liga strikers.

Along with his goals Suarez also assisted in 6 further goals and finished on a total of 93 points for the season. His value this season was 15m.

Suarez’s highlight of the 2018/19 season came in the biggest game in Spain if not world football when Barcelona at home played Real Madrid in El Clasico. The game ended up being one sided in which Barca ran out 5-1 winners with Suarez scoring a magical hat trick, he finished with 13 points, which could have been more but he picked up a yellow card in the game.

The beginning of the La Liga campaign was in fact a slow one for the striker and apart from picking up 10 points when he scored 2 goals and made an assist in Barcelona’s emphatic 8-2 victory over Huesca Suarez was really struggling to pick up the points. Take out the Huesca game and in his first 7 games of the season the 32 year old player picked up seven points. It was all tit for tat and there was no consistency to his game. This form inevitably brought on pressure from the media and the fans who thought that Suarez was finished as a Barcelona player. But as the season went on he had points to prove and prove he did.

His goal and assist in a tricky match against Sevilla which ended up in a 4-2 victory for Barcelona was vital. There was also his dominance in the Eibar victory which ended 3-0 with Suarez grabbing 2 goals and setting up the third to earn 9 points.

Towards the end of the season only Atletico Madrid had any chance of catching Barcelona for the league after Real Madrid’s chaotic season and Barcelona beat them 2-0 which effectively ended the league title that day- again Suarez was on hand to get one of the goals.

In all Suarez had a very good season, perhaps not his best but still good enough to star in a team that won the league with what seemed like ease. The one minus against him will be the 15 games where he failed to score and he also had a very quiet time at the turn of the year. But Suarez remained with enough quality to at least convince Barcelona to retain him for a 6th season.

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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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Top La Liga Strikers in 2018/19: Karim Benzema

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Real Madrid had a season to forget after Zinedine Zidane parted ways with the club last summer, only to come back in March. And Cristiano Ronaldo finally waved goodbye and joined Juventus in Serie A. Madrid went on to win nothing this season but one bright spark was French forward Karim Benzema who at 31 scored 21 goals and assisted in 6 other goals. In short he was Madrid’s best player this season.

In the Fantasy football rankings for strikers in La Liga Benzema finished 2nd only to Lionel Messi although still finished a cool 75 points behind the Argentinian. He started 35 games for Madrid and his disciplinary record was superb receiving only 1 yellow card all season. Overall if we take into account all of the major leagues his striker rank would be 8th, and that isn’t bad for a player who would have cost you 10m to be in your team.

What was incredible about Benzema’s total score and finishing 2nd in the La Liga rankings was that he started the season very poorly where he earned just 17 points from his first 11 games. Indeed it seemed that the former Lyon player was overpriced, but it was at that point where his quality came through and his fortunes changed.

His two best games this past season were against Athletic Bilbao when he scored a hat-trick and earned 14 points and his outstanding display against Rayo Valladolid when he scored 2 goals and then assisted in another in Madrid’s 4-1 win. His last game ended in a 2-0 defeat against Real Betis thus earning no points.

But this season was a massive improvement from Benzema, who earned more points than he has in the last 2 seasons combined. In 2016/17 he got 54 points and last season just 40.

And of course Benzema broke a near 60 year record with Madrid this season. In April Benzema scored all of the last 8 goals that Madrid had netted in La Liga breaking a record set by the great Ferenc Puskas in the 1961/62 season when he netted the last 7.

Speculation is rife that Benzema has played his last season for the club after spending 10 years with Los Blancos. Despite his personal successful season Zidane may feel that after 10 years Benzema should call time on his Madrid career and play elsewhere and let’s face it Benzema could still command a big club if he was to leave Madrid. If this is to be his last season with the club he has scored 222 goals from 465 appearances and been incredibly consistent in a period for the club where he won 17 trophies including 4 Champions Leagues.

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Philippe Coutinho to end underwhelming Barcelona stay

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Philippe Coutinho is likely to be on the move this summer after a hugely underwhelming 18 months at Barcelona. It would be unfair to call his spell a disaster but considering the financial outlay the club made to secure his signature in January 2018 – his signing can only be described as a miss.

The Brazilian international has made 75 appearances for the Catalan giants, has won two league titles and the Copa del Rey crown. But he has not once appeared to be the side’s star man, even on an individual game basis. For the second most expensive player in transfer history, this just simply is not good enough. Continue reading

Jasper Cillessen to leave Barcelona for game-time

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Barcelona backup goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen looks certain to leave the club this summer and his is an interesting case study on the career trajectory for ‘squad’ players who join a European giant. The 30-year-old joined the Blaugrana three years ago after making 143 first-team appearances for Ajax and was first choice shot-stopper for the Netherlands.

The goalkeeper arrived at the Camp Nou at the age of 27 – he should have been entering the prime of his career when he made the move from the Dutch giants. Yet he was a fringe player at best throughout the rest of his 20s despite being one of the most highly regarded goalkeepers in European football. Continue reading

Espanyol wary of summer of sales and instability

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Espanyol are back into Europe for the first time since 2007 and there is a tangible sense of excitement and optimism around the club. Espanyol went unbeaten through their last nine matches of the season, including winning each of their last three, to clinch seventh place and a return to the Europa League – their first European venture since losing the 2007 final on penalties against Sevilla.

Yet within weeks of the league finishing, there is already a sense of anxiety and unease about events that are unfolding this summer. Boss Rubi already appears certain to depart, having told the club chairman Chen Yansheng that he wants to be allowed to join Real Betis. The two clubs are currently locked in negotiations to find a fee to confirm the move. Continue reading

Girona future unclear following La Liga relegation

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This season: Girona won at Real Madrid. They won at Valencia. They defeated Sevilla. They drew at Barcelona. They drew three times against Atletico Madrid. Despite all this, Girona were relegated from La Liga. The Catalan club celebrated their first ever promotion to the top flight two years ago but their adventure, for now, is over.

After last year’s top half finish, the prospect of relegation was not one that was obviously on the table going into this season. Charismatic and energetic boss Pablo Machin left for Sevilla, but the appointment of Eusebio Sacristan appeared to be a steady hand coming in to steer the ship, having performed reasonably at Real Sociedad over three years. Continue reading