What has happened to Marco Asensio?

It was after a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup back in 2017 that Gerard Pique admitted he felt, for the first time, Barcelona to be “inferior” to Real Madrid. There were a number of factors that led the Catalan centre back to make just a bold confession and one of them was surely Marco Asensio.

Asensio scored twice over the two legs of that Spanish Super Cup final, with one of them a stunning strike from distance that deceived Marc-Andre Ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal by moving one way and then the next before finding the back of the net. It was just another moment of brilliance from a player destined for the top.

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Or so it seemed at the time. Asensio was seen as Real Madrid’s next Galactico, the future face of the club. Possibly even a future Ballon d’Or winner. Things have gone a little differently since then, though. In recent times, Asensio has been a shadow of his former self. A pale imitation of the player who shimmered so bright not so long ago.

Zinedine Zidane seems to have lost faith in the 23-year-old, with Asensio now a peripheral figure at Real Madrid. The hope was that Zidane’s return would help restore Asensio. It was, after all, the Frenchman that brought through the young attacker. There has been no such resurgence, though.

Instead, Asensio is, according to reports, being touted around Europe. Liverpool have long tracked the 23-year-old and with Real Madrid supposedly open to a sale it seems that the Anfield outfit might well get their man. Chelsea have also been linked with a move for the attacker, although their transfer embargo could prove to be an obstacle.

This wasn’t how Asensio’s Real Madrid career was meant to pan out, but it appears that Zidane has decided that the 23-year-old doesn’t fit into his plans for the future. The Spanish capital club find themselves in a mess and Zidane must be ruthless in his restoration of his squad, even if it means cutting Asensio.

Along with Gareth Bale, there has been no greater victim of the chaos that has engulfed the Santiago Bernabeu over the past year or so than Asensio. There is still time for him to retrace the upward trajectory he has diverted from, but increasingly it seems that he will do so away from Real Madrid.

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Is Eden Hazard the right man for Real Madrid?

Anyone who watched Chelsea’s comfortable 2-0 win over West Ham United on Monday evening surely drew one conclusion – Eden Hazard really wants a move to Real Madrid this summer. The Belgian has been the subject of much speculation linking him with a switch to the Spanish capital and against the Hammers at Stamford Bridge, he was in sparkling form.

Zinedine Zidane was surely watching. So certain are some outlets that Hazard will join Real Madrid at the end of the season they have even reported the exact fee, with Chelsea said to be demanding £100 for their prize asset. With just one year left on Hazard’s contract, that would appear to be market value.

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Do Real Madrid need Hazard, though? Zidane will lead an overhaul of the tired and creaking squad at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, with outgoings expected along with incomings. Real Madrid never really replaced Cristiano Ronaldo and Hazard is seen by many as the natural successor to the Portuguese forward.

It’s certainly true that Hazard as the strength of personality to handle the pressure that comes with being a ‘Galactico.’ He has been building up to this moment his entire career and so it’s unsurprising that the Belgian has ramped up his performances for Chelsea just as speculation has come to a head.

But what about his positional use to Real Madrid? Hazard, by trade, plays on the left wing. That is, arguably, where Real Madrid are best equipped for the future, with Vinicius Junior the youthful face of the club after a breakthrough season. Zidane also has Marco Asensio in that position. So where would Hazard fit in?

Could he play on the right side? That’s Gareth Bale’s position right now, but the Welshman could be sold to make way for Hazard, so there could be a gap to fill there. But that would require Hazard to adapt his natural game. Are Real Madrid really going to pay £100 million for the Belgian only to turn him into a different player?

Zidane could feasibly use Hazard through the middle, behind Karim Benzema as the central striker. The Belgian has played there before in his career, but not always to great effect. So while Hazard might be destined to pitch up at Real Madrid this summer, it’s not yet clear where he will actually fit in.

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Zidane’s Real Madrid rebuild not just about attracting new ‘Galacticos’

The speculation started swirling almost as soon as Zinedine Zidane walked through the Santiago Bernabeu door again. The Frenchman’s return as Real Madrid manager was a shock, not least because of the way he’d left the club just nine months previously. His relationship with Florentino Perez, it was said, had broken down over direction and transfers, or a lack thereof, so Zidane surely got what he wanted in being lured back.

Indeed, Real Madrid are expected to make big moves in the transfer market this summer. Zidane will be afforded the freedom to mould his team as he likes, with a deal for Porto defender Militao already secured. But other, more illustrious names have been linked – the likes of Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar etc.

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Zidane’s rebuild should be about more than just attracting a new generation of ‘Galacticos,’ though. This was demonstrated by the performance of three players in particular as the Frenchman got off to a winning start in his second stint as Real Madrid manager with victory over Celta Vigo last weekend.

Having been ostracised by previous manager Santiago Solari, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale and Isco were all handed starts by Zidane and all three repaid that faith, with the latter two scoring. It was a reminder of the under-utilised talent that remains at the Santiago Bernabeu. Neither Santiago nor Julen Lopetegui made the most of that.

Questions remain over Bale. The Welshman’s relationship with Zidane wasn’t the warmest, leading him to make comments after last season’s Champions League final suggesting a move away from Real Madrid was on the cards. Bale only stayed because Zidane left, so the return of the former Ballon d’Or winner rakes up old questions.

Asensio and Isco, on the other hand, were seen as the future of Real Madrid by Zidane in his first spell. Asensio, in particular, flourished under the Frenchman, when he looked like one of the best young players in the European game. Since then, Asensio has lost his way, but his performance against Celta Vigo suggests confidence is flowing back into his game.

It’s certainly true that Real Madrid need rejuvenation. They need a new direction and new players in the transfer market this summer. But they also need to make the most of what they have got. They haven’t done that this season, but Zidane might be the man to change this.

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

Real Madrid v Girona

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.

Marco Asensio’s comments reveal Real Madrid problems

There was a moment last season, just a few weeks into the 2017/18 campaign, when Marco Asensio looked to have taken that next step. With one particularly stunning strike in the Spanish SuperCopa win over Barcelona in August, he became the vanguard of the next generation. A world beater.

Over the course of the season, though, Asensio lost his way. Zinedine Zidane seemingly lost faith in the youngster, who was a peripheral figure by the time Real Madrid went on to win their third successive Champions League title. There were even rumours that he could leave the Spanish capital, with a move to the Premier League mooted.

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The summer, and Zidane’s exit, should have been a fresh start for Asensio. Julen Lopetegui was a manager renowned for his faith in young, homegrown talent and had got the best out of Asensio during his time as Spain coach. And yet with Lopetegui gone and Santiago Solari already appointed as his replacement, Asensio is still a shadow of his former self.

Comments made by the 22-year-old this week, on the same day that Solari’s appointment was confirmed, were revealing of the nature of the Real Madrid dressing room this season. “For me, I don’t see Madrid in a crisis,” he insisted in an interview. “And I don’t think it’s for me to carry the team – there are players who are much more experienced, have more years playing under their belts and more status than I have and they’re the ones who have to lead the team. When the new coach arrived I started off playing but now I am getting less chances but we’ll draw any conclusions when the season has ended.”

These remarks painted a picture of a dressing room lacking in leadership. Much has been made of Real Madrid’s failure to replace the goals lost through the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, but they also lost his character and driving spirit. Ronaldo dragged his teammates through stages of last season and without him Real Madrid have become spineless.

The argument could be made that as a 22-year-old with not much in the way of top tier experience, Asensio shouldn’t be the one to carry and lead Real Madrid. But this is a player who is tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner, he could go on to become one of the best players in the game, and with that quality comes a burden of responsibility.

Asensio is one of the players who must raise his game to help Real Madrid out of the hole they currently find themselves in, and he can’t rely on others to take the lead. The likes of Asensio, Isco, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale need to take responsibility for their own performances, but this week has revealed the true extent of the problems Solari has inherited.

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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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Messi’s absence opens El Clasico door for Dembele

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Barcelona have confirmed that captain Lionel Messi will miss this weekend’s La Liga El Clasico clash against bitter rivals Real Madrid through injury.

He was withdrawn after 26 minutes during their 4-2 win over Sevilla at the Camp Nou on Saturday night, after injuring his shoulder.

The club’s medical team confirmed he is expected to be out for three weeks with a fractured arm, missing the Champions League double header against Inter Milan, La Liga games against Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis and a Copa del Rey tie against Cultural Leonesa, as well as the crunch tie with Real.

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La Liga Weekend Picks – Round 9

cheryshev2The next round of La Liga fixtures is all set for this weekend, and so it is now time to take a look at which players may be worth giving a second look for inclusion into your fantasy teams over the coming days. La Liga bottom club Huesca face a difficult trip yo Espanyol, and while that may prove a tough test for the hosts they do not have the worst goalscoring record in the league. Villarreal, Valencia and Getafe have all been disappointing in front of goal this term, netting just six goals each so far. Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, are the only side in the top six yet to reach double figures with their nine successful strikes so far, while Barcelona have scored the most on 10 – just a shade ahead of league leaders Sevilla on 18. Real Betis have scored the least in the league, though, with just five strikes. With that in mind, let’s take a 4-4-2 and get cracking.

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Casemiro- The Next Makelele

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14962557423749The Santiago Bernabeu wore a festive look with the club supporters in a state of excitement. It seemed as if Christmas had come early. There was every reason to believe so with their beloved team Real Madrid all set to battle it out against fierce rivals Barcelona at home, trailing the latter by just 3 points. A win at home had every chance of generating the momentum necessary for a league challenge.

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique had opted to rest Argentine superstar Lionel Messi who had been a major threat in previous fixtures scoring goals and assists with great splendour which was nothing short of music to the ears. At the same time, Spanish manager Rafa Benitez had fielded a lineup consisting of some of the most attacking minded midfielders in the business like Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos.

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La Liga Best XI – Week 5

benyedderSevilla were arguably the stars of this past weekend’s La Liga action, recording a 6-2 away win at Levante. That allowed Wissam Ben Yedder and Sarabia  make it into this week’s list straight away, while there were also some big hits from Alaves as they earned an equally impressive 5-1 win at the home of Rayo Vallecano. Celta Vigo, meanwhile, played out a thrilling 3-3 draw against Reakl Valladolid. Girona did well to earn a 2-2 draw at league leaders Barcelona, which allowed Real Madrid to catch up some ground near the top following their 1-0 victory at home against Levante. Let’s now take a look at the best players from the latest round of action in Spain’s top flight, using a 4-4-2 system this week.

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