Real Madrid are showing others how to get rid of deadwood

A squad overhaul was always likely at Real Madrid this summer. Indeed, their 2018/19 season unravelled so quickly it gave everyone at the Santiago Bernabeu time to devise a strategy and in the space of two weeks the Spanish giants went about spending the best part of £300 million on new signings.

They signed Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt with Brazilian attacker Rodrygo arriving from Santos. Eder Militao was added, joining from Porto, while left back Ferland Merland was signed from Lyon. And of course, the long pursuit of Eden Hazard finally came to an end, with the Belgian signing for a fee reported to be around £100 million plus add-ons.

Isco

This is what has hogged the headlines in the Madrid press over the off-season. Real Madrid might not be finished spending either with recent reports claiming they have made an offer to Manchester United for Paul Pogba, a player Zinedine Zidane has been keen on for quite some time.

But Real Madrid’s summer has been about more than just big money signings. Zidane spent the final weeks of last season testing his squad, rotating players in and out of the team to determine who would be kept and who would be sold on. He is now acting on this, with numerous exits already secured.

Real Madrid are showing others how to get rid of deadwood from their squad. Mateo Kovacic has been sold for a fee of around £40 million to Chelsea, with Marcos Llorente leaving for Atletico Madrid. Then there’s Raul de Tomas, the striker who spent last season on loan at Rayo Vallecano. He’s been sold to Benfica for £20 million.

On top of this, Real Madrid are reportedly in talks to sell Dani Ceballos, Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Nacho Fernandez, Isco and Lucas Vazquez. Whether or not some of these players should be listed for transfer in the first place is up for debate, but Real Madrid are acting quickly to overhaul their squad.

Contrast this to the way Manchester United have struggled to free up space in their squad. Mateo Darmian, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Alexis Sanchez and Ashley Young have all been tipped to leave Old Trafford and yet they still remain. Some have even been handed new contracts in the past few months.

The past year hasn’t exactly seen Real Madrid painted as the perfect football club. They have made bad decisions and were made to pay for them. But they are now correcting some of their past mistakes. They are setting a precedent not just in the players they are bringing in, but in those they are moving on as well.

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Real Madrid’s clear out begins

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The news that Sergio Ramos has personally requested a transfer from Real Madrid should sound the alarm bells.

With a plethora of staff already being made available by the club, losing their talismanic captain just a year after Cristiano Ronaldo is a sure sign that Los Blancos are still on the way down.

Zinedine Zidane knew when he returned to the helm at the Santiago Bernabeu that this wouldn’t be an overnight job, but even he must’ve been surprised at just how far behind Barcelona his side have fallen. 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.

Continue reading

Chelsea To Prove Too Much For Bournemouth?

Chelsea–Bournemouth

English Premier League, Week 4

1.9.2018

Having won each of their first three league games of the season, Chelsea will hope to continue their good start to the campaign when they take on Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon. Continue reading

Chelsea To Extend Winning Run?

Newcastle United–Chelsea

English Premier League, Week 3

18.8.2018

Having won their first two league games of 2018/19, Chelsea will head north to St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon hoping to extend their good start to the new season while also looking to end their surprisingly poor recent record against Newcastle United.  Continue reading

Kovacic’s Arsenal cameo shows why he can be a big player for Chelsea this season

Maurizio Sarri could hardly have asked for more from his first half an hour in the home dugout at Stamford Bridge. Goals from Pedro Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata gave Chelsea a deserved 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes of Saturday’s London derby against Arsenal, with the Blues completely in control as they repeatedly carved open their opponents at will.

Towards the end of the first half, though, Sarri’s side allowed Arsenal a route back into the game. Unai Emery’s men had not played at all well in the opening 30 minutes, but they had still managed to create two golden chances which were spurned by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The next two opportunities that came the Gunners’ way were ruthlessly dispatched by Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi, putting the visitors on level terms heading into the interval.

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Are Man City wise to back out of Kovacic deal?

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After losing out on their top target, Jorginho, to Chelsea, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City expressed an interest in Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic.

The Croatian has made it clear that he sees his future away from the Santiago Bernabeu but Los Blancos are hugely reluctant to let him leave, despite the fact that his appearances have been sporadic since his transfer from Internazionale in 2015.

Julen Lopetegui needs time to assess his squad before the start of the new La Liga season and it’s perhaps for that reason that Real have slapped a prohibitive €90 million price tag on him. Continue reading

What will new-boy Mateo Kovacic bring to the Real Madrid side this season?

Real Madrid recently completed a deal to sign coveted Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic this summer for around €30M, with manager Rafael Benitez bolstering his midfield options to slowly remove the deadwood in the team. His arrival is likely to see the likes of Asier Illarramendi and Casemiro out of the team on a permanent basis, while leaving time for the club to develop one of the brightest young talents in the world.

Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini admitted that the sale of Kovacic was motivated purely on financial fair play regulations, with the young midfielder having previously been a regular in the Serie A side, making 97 appearances in his two-and-a-half years. During his time in Italy, Kovacic showed himself to be a brilliant box-to-box midfielder capable of performing multiple tasks on the pitch with consummate ease.

“I want to thank the club. I am at the biggest club in the world, and that means something special. I expect a lot of myself and all the team. I am most comfortable in position as defensive midfielder, but it will be the coach who decides where I play. Madrid is the biggest club in the world. I had no doubts (about the move). I am very happy to be here,” he said following the switch to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid have stiff competition for places, with the likes of James Rodriguez, Luka Modric, Isco and Toni Kroos all likely to be ahead of Kovacic in the pecking order initially. The young midfielder will provide the side with a different threat to his compatriots, however, with his brilliant ability to bring the ball from defence into the attack.

He made 91 successful dribbles in the Serie A last season, while creating 62 chances. Kovacic also showed real defensive capabilities too, averaging a tackle or interception every 32 minutes.  The Croatian is also proficient at ball retention, with only Toni Kroos making more short passes than the Real new-boy in 2014/15. Club president Florentino Perez has been full of praise for Kovacic as a result.

“We have a magnificent squad and a great coaching team to set out to achieve our ambitions this season, but all the world knows that not conforming is one of our characteristics. Real Madrid does not tire in looking for players with talent who want to wear our badge. (Kovacic) is a young player, but with experience. He has a lot of talent and for sure will help us to be better,” he said.

Mateo Kovacic certainly faces a task to force his way into the Real Madrid first-team next season, but he certainly has the quality to be a key addition to a strong lineup. Given how much he’s already impressed on the European stage at such a young age, it perhaps  won’t be long before the 21-year-old is commanding a starting place.