With attention turning to next season, Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has made it very clear that he expects to challenge for the La Liga title in 2019-20.
The Frenchman has been widely reported to be keen on bringing in a number of new faces to inject some life into his ageing side in the coming months.
However, despite club president Florentino Perez confirming he would be backing Zidane in the transfer market, he will have to make some space in his squad with some high profile departures – with goal keeper Thibaut Courtois the latest name to be linked with an exit.
All eyes are on Real Madrid who have imploded since the beginning of the season. Strange for a club who of course are current European champions and have won that competition for the past 3 years. This was another season that was supposed to go smoothly but it hasn’t been that way at all.
For no other reason than to bring in another star, Real Madrid president sanctioned the deal to bring Thibaut Courtois to the club from Chelsea in the summer. It was no secret that Madrid had been after the former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper for the past couple of seasons. Chelsea understandably would not budge, which financially ended up working in Madrid’s favour as they got him for a cut price deal. Make no mistake Courtois is a top 10 goalkeeper in the world. However his start to the season where he has played 7 of the first 9 games has not suggested so.
This past weekend Real Madrid lost again in the league, this time at home to Levante and Courtois looked to blame for at least one of the goals. Whilst it is easy to point the finger at Courtois, one needs to be reminded that he has been one of the best and most consistent goal keepers of the past few years. He will get better at the club and grow stronger because the reality is that the whole team are not performing as they should and he is just one cog in the machine. But the attention has been focused on the keeper and boos could be heard from the infamous difficult fans towards him.
Of course they have a soft spot for Keylar Navas the man behind the sticks who led Madrid to so many European titles. To be fair Navas has done very little wrong at the club and his only wrongdoing seems to be that he is five years older than Courtois. One senses that there could be a rift between the two goalkeepers, where Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui has opted to drop Navas from the league games but play him in the Champions League.
This is a massive week for Real Madrid who should beat Viktoria Plzen at home in the Champions League, but it is a result they need to win after losing in Russia last time out. And then following that is the Barcelona match away from home. Which goalkeeper will be ruling the roost then? And you have to wonder if Courtois felt happier in the confines of Stamford Bridge rather than Santiago Bernabeu, where the circus seems to be just beginning.
The 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.
There was an unnatural sense of excitement in the air as journalists whispered furiously amongst themselves at the end of an emphatic 3-1 win for Spain against Italy in the semifinals of the UEFA European U-21 Championship conducted in 2017. While the hero of the night undoubtedly was Atletico midfielder Saul who smashed a hat-trick under pressure, there was another youngster who had caught the eye with his spectacular performance, bewitching the audience with his tricks and mesmerising gameplay.
It was none other than 20-year-old Real Betis midfielder Dani Ceballos who made heads turn with his patience, vision and a perfectly weighted assist for Saul’s opener despite the presence of established players like Gerard Deulofeu, Héctor Bellerín. Italian midfielder Roberto Gagliardini lost his mind completely when nutmegged by Ceballos, going to the extent of knocking him to the ground in a desperate attempt to salvage some pride earning him a red card.
The appointment of then Spain manager Juen Lopetegui as the eventual successor of legendary manager Zinedine Zidane whose sudden, unexpected exit sent shockwaves down the spine of Madrid supporters all around the world invited contrasting viewpoints from different sections. With the likes of Andre Villa-Boas, Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochetinho hailed as potential favourites, the appointment of a Spanish manager was greeted with suspicion especially considering the fact that none of the last 5 native managers appointed for the managerial role had managed to exceed 7 months.
Lopetegui was sacked just a day before the commencement of the world cup by the Spanish footballing federation who were bemused at the utter disrespect on show by the Galacticos who announced the appointment of Lopetegui on the eve of the world cup. Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has not been known to see eye-to-eye with the federation on numerous occasions which certainly played a key role in the harsh decision by the board.