Who is Real Madrid target Dani Olmo?

One of the best youngsters in European football Dani Olmo is a new target for Real Madrid.

The 21-year old attacking midfielder had a promising season in Leipzig scoring three goals in 12 matches, numbers that do not sound very impressive, but his talent didn’t go unnoticed by the scouts of many European clubs.

Real Madrid has shown serious interest in the youngster who is one of the leaders of the U-21 Spanish national team and has already played twice for the senior squad scoring one goal. His confidence and maturity in his game in the Bundesliga are something that Zinedine Zidane would like to see in his squad.

According to Transfermarkt Olmo’s price tag  is €31.5 million, but Real are reportedly ready to pay up to €40 million for the young Spaniard. Leipzig has already lost Timo Werner and Patrik Schick in this transfer window and are not likely to be keen to lose another of their star players from the starting squad but it is hard to refuse an offer as large as this.

The interest from Real is confirmed by the player’s agent Andy Bara who says that his player is happy in Leipzig but that anything can happen in the next 10 days.

Olmo is seen as one of the most talented players in Spain’s latest generation of midfield maestros. What makes him outstanding are his technical skills with the ball at his feet. His close control is impressive to watch. Also he has the ability to score from outside the box.

The young Spaniard started his career at La Masia, the Barcelona youth academy which has produced players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Leo Messi.

At the age of 16 he went professional and signed his first contract with Dinamo Zagreb. He won the award for the best player in the Croatian championship at only 19 years of age. The same season he made his Champions League debut in a 4-0 win against Atalanta and only a few weeks later he scored his first goal on the big stage against Shakhtar Donetsk.

After five seasons with Dinamo, in January 2020 Olmo signed a four year deal with Leipzig. Spending only half a season with his new club and establishing himself as one of the main players in Julian Nagelsmann’s squad it seems like staying with the Bundesliga team is also an option, but if Real Madrid put €40 million on the table it is an offer that likely cannot be refused.

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Is the new La Liga season Diego Simeone’s last stand with Atletico Madrid?

What Diego Simeone has achieved at Atletico Madrid has been nothing short of brilliant. The team usually in the shadow of their neighbours Real Madrid experienced their most successful decade in the 2010s under Simeone which included a La Liga title, domestic cups, the Europa League and 2 Champions League finals.

However time waits for no man, and especially in football that rings true. One wonders if even Simeone is now on borrowed time at the club? Much of this comes down to last season when Atletico were tipped to do very well. But they ended the season without any silverware and it was the way they performed during the season that simply had a word in neon headlights- underwhelming.

Atletico finished 3rd last season but that could have been 4th as they finished on the same points as Sevilla. Whilst 3rd isn’t bad considering the league has Real Madrid and Barcelona in it, this was seen as not a vintage season for Spanish football. Atletico finished 17 points behind Real Madrid and even 12 points behind Barcelona who had a forgettable season by their standards.

Atletico only scored 51 goals, 35 less than Barcelona and Sevilla and even Villarreal who finished in 5th place scored more. In short not only were Atletico not getting the right results they were also quite boring to watch. Perhaps losing Antoine Griezmann who finally switched to Barcelona was the last straw? However over 120m euros was spent on Joao Felix as his replacement.

At the beginning of the season Felix looked exciting and sharp, and every time he was on the ball the crowd got excited. That dissipated quickly enough though and at the end of the season Felix was much like his club, underwhelming. Scoring just 6 goals and assisted in just one, was very poor for a player that had cost so much. True Felix was hit by injuries too but still played more than half the season. Felix has time on his side, but perhaps Simeone doesn’t?

Of course Simeone has been incredibly loyal to the club, and it would feel odd if they sacked him for having another mediocre season, but maybe Simeone will see that it is time to go. Let’s not forget that Simeone’s contract with the club doesn’t expire until the summer of 2022, but we all know that in football contracts count for very little if the time is right for a coach to move on.

This season will be very interesting where the fans will be expecting Felix to have a much better season. Alvaro Morata is back with the club after they purchased the striker for 56m euros.

Maybe after spending 9 years at the club the time is right soon to move on. However at the other end he has been superb, last season was a blip, and perhaps Atletico will be firing on all cylinders for the forthcoming season. It will certainly be engrossing to have Morata back on the scene, as the club really need goals.

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Real Madrid set to reduce wage bill further

Zinedine Zidane looks set to clear some more dead wood from his Real Madrid squad this summer with reports suggest James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale are on their way out of the club.

Bale has been out-of-favour under Zidane but still has two years left on his deal at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, worth a staggering £30 million a season. The Wales international is believed to want to see out his contract in the Spanish capital, is already 31 years old and has a long history of injuries, making it difficult for the club to sell.

However, the winger has come out today and said he is open to a return to the Premier League, even claiming that Real Madrid blocked a move last year. If the club can get him off their wage bill it would be huge for the future.

Likewise, James Rodriguez is another big earner who is not in favour with the current head coach. But the Colombian is believed to be headed to Everton in a £20 million deal.

Money for the attacking midfielder and getting him off their wage bill would be a huge bonus for Real Madrid moving forward.

The world footballing giants have already moved Achraf Hakimi on to Internationale in a €40 million move this summer, with Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola as the options at right-back.

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Does football need fans inside stadiums?

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought up many questions, indeed more questions than answers as the world tries to adapt to life with the pandemic. It is sadly a pandemic they may dissipate somewhat but could well never go away. Everything seems to have changed and that of course has affected the world of football.

There are no fans allowed in the major European leagues. So much has changed so fast because of the spread of the virus. Let’s go back to the summer when UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was adamant that fans would be attending the Champions League final. He could not visualise that no fans would be able to witness the match live, even though domestic football had already been told that fans could not attend games. The Champions League final without fans, it was simply unthinkable. Even the knock out games seemed a stretch. The best teams, the best players, the sponsors, the spectacle all this going on, but no crowd atmosphere, surely the death of football was around the corner?

True the death of football is going over the top, but surely the game was going to miss something? And yet has it? One of the first major leagues to kick off again in Europe was the Bundesliga, did no fans really effect the outcomes of the games? True home wins dipped from 46% to 18% but that was only in the first few weeks. After that Bayern Munich played some incredible attacking football just like they would have with fans, and won the league in incredible style.

And the other leagues started up and the teams did what they do, they played. There were many incidents off the ball, yellow cards, sending offs, attacks, corners and goals. Perhaps the first few games were slow to start with especially in the Premier League when most of the early games goals were coming in the 2nd half of play. But still, the players just got on with it. There was no atmosphere in the stands but that didn’t stop the intensity on the pitch.

In the Champions League the quality of football was the same as a season with fans.There was the beauty in how Bayern played such incredible attacking football against Barcelona. The fans did not influence a game that ended with Bayern scoring 8 goals. There was also the thrills, PSG made it to the final, (their first one) but the French champions were going out at the quarter final stage after they were trailing Atalanta 1-0 on the 90th minute. They then did an infamous Manchester United comeback from the 1999 final and found not one but two goals in injury time to break Italian hearts.

One could see this in reverse of course. Look at West Ham in the Premier League, who looked like a different team with no fans especially at home. It felt as though the shackles and pressure from the fans was all too bearing on David Moyes side who before the season was paused in March looked like one of the favourite clubs to be relegated. But without the added pressure of critical fans, they played good football and easily stayed up. Of course no one at the club has admitted that it could be a key reason, but it is worth thinking about.

With television companies providing noise crowd and the cameras clearly angled at a certain position, as an armchair fan the fans at the games simply were not missed. And even though this wasn’t an experiment and was indeed needed, the result one has to wonder, is that perhaps fans are not needed to enhance a game of football.

At the same time revenue is of course lost, though for the most elite teams the bulk of the money comes through television. The lower league clubs would obviously fold and dissolve without the fans and of course especially for the smaller teams there is a sense of community when supporting your local team. In that case and even in the case of a fan attending a Manchester City game or Real Madrid one, it comes down to watching a live match, like a live concert, it is socially entertaining, and the game can be a fun way of relaxing and having a story to tell.

Still that doesn’t take away from what we have witnessed over the past few months, sure the biggest games ignite a special atmosphere, who could imagine Liverpool’s Kop stand empty during a classic European night of football? It simply isn’t the same. At the same time the players are professional and perhaps we have learned that when it comes down to winning games, fans make little to no difference, if in attendance or watching from home.

 

Is James Rodriguez the right player to improve Everton?

Everton have started moving in the transfer circles after a disappointing last season and a slightly underwhelming one even once Italian legend Carlo Ancelotti stepped into the dug out.

And now Everton under Ancelotti are set to sign their first let’s say dazzling player in James Rodriguez. He who seduced Real Madrid into once paying over 60m euros for his services. Such was the excitement around the player that 45,000 Madrid fans turned up just to his induction. Though Rodriguez had a decent first two seasons with Los Blancos his influence soon tallied off in the heated atmosphere of that famous midfield which at the time included Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric. Still James as he is fondly known won 9 trophies with the club including 2 Champions Leagues. And it was Ancelotti who brought him to Madrid.

He later played for Napoli also under Ancelotti and that is why Everton fans will be optimistic of the players arrival. It has been reported that Everton are closing in on the Colombian’s signature and it seems at least from the outside that this would be a major signing for the Merseysiders and to top it off James is only 29.

So Ancelotti and Rodriguez know each other very well and that is already a great start. The problem is that whilst Rodriguez has been brilliant at times for every club he has played for he hasn’t really shown that brilliance over the course of a season. Could that be a problem? Are Everton going to break their wage allowance for a player akin to a Ferrari that revs his engines up when he feels like it but plays in gear 1 on a Tuesday evening away to Southampton?

In all honesty history says Everton are going to get a player that performs brilliantly well for a third of the season. At the same time maybe that will just do the club fine at this present time. Rodriguez is going to show the fans some wonderful tricks and goals. Maybe a superb free kick here and there and his hooking up with the likes of Richarlison when everything clicks will make Everton look like a top 6 side. Whether they will finish there is another matter.

Everton are also in the hunt for Allan the Brazilian midfielder who currently plays for Napoli. Allan is set to have a medical this week and should join for around 25m euros. And finally the club are also in talks with Watford who were relegated last season for their midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure.

If anything Everton are moving in the transfer market, and that will make their fans happy as they try to finish in the top half of the table next season.

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Real Madrid favourites to win back-to-back titles

Real Madrid have been made the bookmakers’ odds on favourites to win the 2020-21 La Liga title after winning the league for the first time since 2017 last month.

The world footballing giants have not won back-to-back crowns since 2008 under head coach Bernd Schuster, such has been the dominance of Barcelona since.

However, their arch rivals are currently in a mess and needing somewhat of a squad rebuild, which could be made worse should Lionel Messi leave this summer. Reports yesterday claimed that the Argentine superstar has handed in a transfer request at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have been through a few managers over the past couple of seasons, which included dismissing Ernesto Valverde in January despite being top of the league table. After the league restarted they blew their lead to allow Real Madrid to take the title. Ronald Koeman has been appointed as the new manager this summer.

Meanwhile, Zinedine Zidane’s side were much strong defensively this past season, conceding a league low 25 goals. However, they weren’t always so efficient going forward, ending the season with 16 goals less than their Catalan rivals.

The French manager is also blooding a number of young talents – Federico Valverde (22) and Vinicius Junior (20) somewhat regular first teamers last season, whilst Rodrygo (19), Eder Militao (22), Luka Jovic (22) all appeared in 15 or more La Liga matches.

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Dani Carvajal deserves more credit as a Real Madrid giant

Think of the stalwarts of this current Real Madrid team and your mind will likely flash to the likes of Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, maybe even Luka Modric. These players provide the spine of Zinedine Zidane’s side and have done for the best part of the last decade, even more in the case of the former pair.

Dani Carvajal deserves to be mentioned among such company, though. The right back has been at the Santiago Bernabeu for the last seven years, nailing down a starting place in the Real Madrid defence. The Spanish international has been an integral figure for some of the most successful years of the club’s entire history and there’s no sign of any real decline despite some injury troubles in recent seasons.

And yet Carvajal’s contribution is often overlooked. His energy and drive gives Real Madrid a real attacking outlet down the right side, something which is particularly useful at the moment given Los Blancos’ lack of a true right winger. Gareth Bale, of course, could play that role, but the Welshman is currently out of the picture under Zidane. Carvajal brings many of the qualities that an out-and-out winger would.

Zidane recognises just how important a player Carvajal is even if others overlook him. Many expected Achraf Hakimi to challenge the 28-year-old for a starting place next season having enjoyed two extremely successful seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund. Indeed, the Moroccan is widely seen as one of the brightest youngest full backs in the game at this moment in time.

But Hakimi didn’t even make it back to the Spanish capital at the end of the 2019/20 season before being sold to Inter. This was a show of faith from Zidane in Carvajal. Alvaro Odriozola is another who was bought to provide competition to Carvajal, but was farmed out on loan when it became clear he wasn’t up to the task.

On the left side of the defence, Ferland Mendy has replaced Marcelo as Zidane’s first choice. The Frenchman has become Real Madrid’s primary left back, but on the other side of the pitch Carvajal can be as assured of his place as ever. Even if others don’t readily recognise the contribution of the 28-year-old, it is there and Zidane sees it. That’s all that really matters in the end.

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Barcelona crisis gives Real Madrid shade for their own problems

There is no other talking point in Spanish football at this moment in time. The crisis Barcelona have been plunged into after their humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the quarter finals of the Champions League, with the Camp Nou club seemingly crumbling a little more with every passing day.

Quique Setien paid for the loss with his job, with Eric Abidal also sacked from his role as Sporting Director. The way forward isn’t clear for the Catalan club. Most agree, despite the looming appointment of Ronald Koeman as their new manager, that nothing will change until there is a change of regime in next year’s presidential election.

This has provided Real Madrid with some shade for their own problems. Los Blancos might have finished the 2019/20 season as La Liga winners, putting together an extremely strong run of form after lockdown to beat Barcelona to the Spanish top flight title.

Zinedine Zidane still has issues to solve before the start of the 2020/21 campaign, though. Real Madrid’s wage bill is hindering them as a club. High paid players like Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have been deemed surplus to requirements at the Santiago Bernabeu and yet the capital club will struggle to move them on this summer, leaving an incredible amount of money tied up in their bumper contracts.

Real Madrid’s current squad is an ageing one. Zidane managed to get that little bit more out of the likes of Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos last season, with Karim Benzema arguably the most important player at the Santiago Bernabeu. A generational transition is coming.

Zidane is already preparing for that, with Martin Odegaard recalled to his parent club for next season after an extremely impressive campaign on loan at Real Sociedad. The Norwegian is seen as the natural heir to Modric, with the Croatian midfielder’s Real Madrid contract set to expire next summer.

There’s a sense that Real Madrid still haven’t moved on from the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and a sense that Zidane has only succeeded in patching up his team to keep them moving forward in the short to medium term. A greater transition will have to happen at some point in the near future and just because Barcelona are in a bigger mess doesn’t mean Real Madrid don’t have their own problems.

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Will Kylian Mbappe ever make the move to Real Madrid?

When Real Madrid target a player, they tend to get their man, even if they have to wait. They had to wait to lure Eden Hazard to the Santiago Bernabeu, trailing the Belgian for a number of seasons before eventually signing him from Chelsea last summer. This track record suggests to many that Kylian Mbappe will one day play for the club.

Real Madrid’s interest in the French forward is thinly veiled. Zinedine Zidane is widely believed to be a huge fan of Mbappe, although at this stage who isn’t given his undeniable status as one of the best forwards in the European game at this moment in time?

As if he needed to, Mbappe reminded us all of his quality in coming off the bench for Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League quarter final against Atalanta, turning around a match which looked set to send the French side crashing out of the competition in humiliating fashion.

It was the sort of performance that only bolstered further the widespread belief that Mbappe is the sport’s next great superstar. And the sort of display that surely had Zidane along with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez dreaming of seeing the Frenchman in all white at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Until the global coronavirus pandemic struck, it seemed likely that Real Madrid would make their move for Mbappe this summer. The forward’s PSG contract ends in the summer of 2022 and reports have consistently stated that he is putting off signing an extension, keeping his options open as long as possible.

Now, though, noises are coming out of the Santiago Bernabeu that Real Madrid won’t have much money to spend this summer. Any transfers they do make will have to be funded by the sale of players already on their books, perhaps explaining why Los Blancos accepted an offer of €40 million from Inter for Achraf Hakimi earlier in the summer.

It appears highly unlikely that Real Madrid will be able to raise the funds required for a move for Mbappe and so the Frenchman is expected to stay at PSG for at least another season. Many believe it is his destiny to one day become a ‘Galactico,’ but another summer looks set to come and go with the French forward still not pulling on the famous white shirt.

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Barcelona in crisis but may turn to the comfort zone of Ronald Koeman

A season with no trophies topped off with losing 8-2 against Bayern Munich has made the 2019/20 season Barcelona’s worst in a generation. They also saw their rivals Real Madrid race to another La Liga title too. It’s been a bad 12 months for the club.

For now, somehow Quique Setien remains the coach of Barcelona. Many expected him to be sacked when it was was clear that Barca had conceded the league, but the board stuck with the former Real Betis coach. Then following the 8-2 loss to Bayern on Friday evening surely that was it? And yet 72 hours later he is still there. But surely the time is ticking.

Barcelona need change and the front runner to get the new job is Ronald Koeman, but is he the right choice? Koeman was of course a legend with the club in the early to mid 1990s winning lots of trophies and in that sense he would be welcomed by the hardcore fans.

As a coach though Koeman has been hit and miss, winning some titles with Ajax and although he has coached clubs like Benfica, Valencia and PSV that was over a decade ago. He has also recently failed at clubs like Southampton and Everton in the Premier League. However his reputation has been seen as better in the last 2 years as he took over the role of the Netherlands where he led the nation to the UEFA Nations League final. He also has a win rate of 55% and the nation who have struggled in recent years are enjoying an upturn.

With Euro 2021 to look forward to it and a World Cup in Qatar in 2022 it may seem doubtful that Koeman would want to give that up to coach a Barcelona side who look like they are heading for decline. Perhaps it depends on how much transfer budget they will have but at the same time everyone knows they will have to sell a lot of deadwood players like Ousmane Dembele and Phillipe Coutinho.

But Koeman seems like a comfort zone choice for Barcelona and one wonders if by not progressing with forward thoughts that the club could stay stale. Look around Europe and one can see that German coaches are dominating the game from Jurgen Klopp to Hans Flick. If they are unavailable why not go for a coach like Julian Nagelsmann at RB Lepizig? At just 33 Nagelsmann has become the youngest coach ever to have a team in the Champions League semi-finals, and his future looks bright.

A risk perhaps for Barcelona, but seems like an option rather than bringing in the beleaguered Koeman whose reputation may dry off quicker than a damp suit in Dubai.

Another manager who has been linked to Barcelona is the very likeable Mauricio Pochettino. Indeed it seemed that the ex Tottenham manager was close to signing a deal a few days ago. Now word has it that Barca have cooled their interest, or have they? Pochettino’s infamous words on the eve of the 2019 Champions League final that winning trophies isn’t important could haunt him for the rest of his career. That simply isn’t an option at clubs like Barca.

One thing is for sure if Real Madrid are not in crisis then Barcelona must be, and it really does seem to be going south very quick for the Catalan giants. A decision on who will be their new coach will surely be taken this week.

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