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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Paul Pogba is wrapped up in such an enigma even he doesn’t know what club he wants to play for

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Rewind four months ago, it is the beginning of December and Paul Pogba, a moody Paul Pogba arrives for training at Manchester United. He doesn’t want to be at the club, not because he doesn’t like the club or like playing in the Premier League but because. well, let’s say he’s not on best friends terms with the manager Jose Mourinho. There have been coded tweets about it, face gestures and Sky Sports once caught some tension in United’s training session between Pogba and Mourinho. There is a constant grey cloud over the club and Pogba wants out.

Pogba has friends in Europe, many friends who are influential and such is his CV which includes playing for Juventus and winning a World Cup with France last summer that his options are wide open. A few months ago there are hints that he will leave United for Barcelona, Lionel Messi seems interested and Barcelona is a million miles away in terms of happiness for Pogba than United with Mourinho in charge. The flirtation seems genuine. But like a professional that he is Pogba will sit it out, maybe something will change.

Just before Christmas it did, and whilst this may sound cruel, Pogba and United’s players got an early Christmas gift when Mourinho was sacked. It may not have been what they wanted- we won’t know until they decide to write their inevitable autobiographies- but it was most certainly what the players needed.

When it was announced that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer former legend with the club would take over, there was relief around the dressing room. The Norwegian may not be the right man for the club, but he was the perfect man for the club right now, right bang in this situation. Since December he has proven that he is the right man for the club and for the next 3 years as he signed a deserved full time contract. He has worn a smile that could have warmed Christian Bale after a press interview and it is no coincidence that Pogba has looked back to his French international best.

Even when Pogba has played bad, he’s played well for Solskjaer. Even when Pogba saw red or threw a strop, Solskjaer has defended him. The manager has more knowledge of human psychology in one finger nail than Mourinho has in a lifetime and it has worked wonders. Plus of course United do have very good players, they just needed motivation and needed to be told that the best form of attack is to attack.

And yet Pogba remains coy on his future. There are reports linking him to Zidane’s Real Madrid, we say Zidane now because it is clear since his return to Madrid the club have turned a corner and will mean to do serious business in the summer. Pogba could fit an attacking midfield role at the Bernabeu perfectly for the club. You get the feeling if a firm offer came in Pogba would say thanks very much and leave. Of course maybe the pinnacle of his football would be at United who are now set on a course to relive some of the glory days of the past.

But maybe Pogba doesn’t entirely know what Pogba wants. What he shouldn’t do like many have before him is join the worlds best team thinking that trophies will naturally come.

When you think like that the joker card of football will ultimately play its hand.

 

Week 29: Best 11 Players in Fantasy La Liga

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It was a weekend where the top 3 clubs all won including two wins out of two for Real Madrid since Zinedine Zidane returned to the club. The full top six is still undecided as European places will be up for grabs. Below we take a look at the best 11 players who performed this past weekend in La Liga. Formation: 4-4-2.

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak

Only 3 goalkeepers earned 7pts and Jan Oblak was one of them. Already in first position for goalkeepers Oblak had an outstanding game for Atletico Madrid as they destroyed Alaves 4-0 to stay in 2nd place ahead of their rivals Real Madrid. Want Oblak? Well he will cost you 11m but seems worth every penny.

Defender: Diego Godin

Staying with Atletico Madrid, one of the very best defenders to grace the Spanish league makes it into our team of the week and that is Diego Godin. Godin was part of a team that kept a clean sheet and earned 5pts and is valued at 9m.

Defender: Gerard Pique

Gerard Pique the Barcelona legend had a solid game at home and it was an important one as Barca beat their rival Espanyol 2-0 in the local derby. Pique earned 5pts and it was Barcelona’s first clean sheet in 2 games. Pique can be brought in for 7.5m and is currently the highest ranked defender.

Defender: Jose Gaya

Jose Gaya, the Valencia player earned 5pts as his team won a massive game away to Sevilla 1-0. Gaya’s performance was rock solid as Valencia try to cement a European place and he has had good consistency about him and can be bought for 6.5m.

Defender: Jonathan Silva

Jonathan Silva is the defender of the weekend as he earned the most points with 7. The Leganes player assisted for his sides first goal and kept a clean sheet as they beat Getafe 2-0. That was his 6th assist of the season and he is valued at 5m.

Midfielder: Juanfran

Juanfran had an excellent game as Leganes beat Getafe 2-0 and it was Juanfran who got his clubs winner, scoring a goal and helping his side to get a clean sheet too. Juanfran has only had 12 starts but might be finding his best form now and can be snapped up at 5.5m.

Midfielder: Daniel Parejo

It was all down to Parejo as his team beat Sevilla 1-0 and it was Parejo’s penalty that won the day for the away side. Parejo earned himself 6pts and can be brought into your team for 8.5m.

Midfielder: Thomas Partey

Not only did Thomas Partey play his part in keeping a clean sheet for Atletico Madrid but after the club went 3-0 up he rounded it up with his 3rd goal of the season to win the match for the club 4-0. He has been consistent this season and looks a steal at 6m.

Midfielder: Saul Niguez

Another Atletico Madrid player inclusion but richly deserved Saul Niguez opened up the scoring for his club which would lead into a 4-0 victory over poor Alaves. The player earned 6pts in the process and can be bought for 6.5m.

Striker: Iago Aspas

Iago Aspas is worth his weight in gold to Celta Vigo this past weekend as his 2 goals helped the team beat Villarreal 3-2 as they try to survive in La Liga with the skin of their teeth. Aspas was fantastic and he is 8.5m if you think his goals will be able to save the club.

Striker: Lionel Messi

For the second week running Lionel Messi makes the team as the Argentine genius scored both of Barcelona’s goals in their derby match against Espanyol. He has a massive 151pts and got another 8pts at the weekend and would set you back 20m.

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Five players that Zinedine Zidane will want to buy in the summer for Real Madrid

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With Zinedine Zidane back at Real Madrid his hands will be tied for the next two months with the transfer window shut and there will be players in the squad that will be playing for their futures. A clear out will happen at the club as Zidane will try and return Madrid back to the pinnacle of European football and win another Champions League and try to topple Barcelona’s dominance in the Spanish La Liga.

So who will be on Zidane’s wish list? It has been reported that he could have up to 500m euros to spend, that is of course hear say, but at the end of the day we all know that Madrid President Florentino Perez has been holding out and that the club will be spending big money this summer.

We name five players below that should be topping his list.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe is the best centre forward in Europe, once we consider his rate of goals and his age. Still only 20 the French international and World Cup winner is having another superb season for PSG and is simply a devastating goal machine. He is the genuine article and would fit into Madrid no problem. The problem is that he cost PSG around £150m, and so could cost Madrid over £200m.

Neymar

Sticking with PSG, Neymar’s name has been mentioned on more than one occasion. The world’s most expensive player at £197m may be available on a loan deal to buy given that for the second consecutive season he has picked up a long term injury. The sticking point is that he is an ex Barcelona player, which could provide some tensions- Madrid would surely love this to rile up their enemies though.

Paul Pogba

Paul Pogba is a new link but it does make sense. Zidane would have watched the French national team last summer and saw just how potentially great Pogba is. His surging runs were fantastic and he could imagine that at Madrid. If Pogba is happy he plays great football. Again a transfer would easily topple the £100m mark.

Sadio Mane

Mane has arguably been Liverpool’s best player this season. He has stepped up this season when at times Mohamed Salah has gone quiet and has scored 17 goals so far. Don’t be fooled into thinking he would come cheap. Liverpool do not sell their players cheap- just look at Phillipe Coutinho for that. Mane would provide that bit of quality when all guns aren’t firing.

Eden Hazard

Last but not least there is Eden Hazard who has been linked to Madrid for over a year. It would actually feel like a shock if this deal was to fall through- but it could given that Zidane is back at the club. If he’s not an admirer then Hazard won’t be coming. Still the Chelsea player could add a lot of pace and depth to the team and would be a great buy for them, and Chelsea could do with the transfer fee.

 

Will Zidane axe Bale at Real Madrid next season?

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Was Gareth Bale’s fate sealed at Real Madrid when Zinedine Zidane made a stunning return back to the club a few weeks ago? Well that is open to debate but when we think of Bale and Zidane’s relationship we think of immediately what happened after the Champions League final last year.

Even though Madrid had just beaten Liverpool to win their 3rd straight Champions League title and their 4th in 5 years, Zidane was being coy and Bale was being irritable. It felt that change was imminent- and it was. Gone was Ronaldo to Juventus and Zidane quit the club, and Bale stayed.

In the following season it was painfully evident that Madrid had lost too much quality and Bale was not able to carry the club, even though he has scored 14 goals this season. The famously difficult Madrid fans have really vented their anger and frustration at Bale, easily one of their best players in the last decade and even Ronaldo would get booed at times.

But fan negativity has been hard on Bale who knows that his quality would be appreciated much differently at another club. Zidane has made it clear that he sees no problem with Bale, but given that there is still two months of the season to go this is what the Frenchman is going to say.

Madrid need change at the club that is evident and whilst Bale is good enough to play for many more years, the fact that he has already been at the Bernabeu for 6 seasons and is 29, he is sellable. Zidane will understand that money will be available for his side, but that selling Bale could bring in anything between 80-100m extra which is going to give the club’s spending that much more power.

It is not that Bale isn’t good enough, the real issue lies with the fact that Zidane who is ever trying to refresh his sides will simply want new blood, and if Bale is sold in the summer which does look expected he should leave a hero and one of the very best players to have played for Madrid in the last 10 years.

As far as which club would Bale join, the offers should be plenty and of course there will be a temptation for him to come back to the Premier League. A return to Tottenham should not be ruled out and it would be an emotional one for the Welshman- a new stadium for Tottenham together with Bale’s return would be magic.

Otherwise such is the quality of Bale that he could play in any major league and with his fitness at a great level he has at least four years at the very top.

Zidane offers a new lifeline for Real Madrid after chaotic season

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Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid as coach has been well documented but once the dust has settled, the press conferences taken place and the excitement dissipated what Madrid fans needed and owner Florentino Perez was a reaction from what has been on the large part a dismal season for Los Blancos. That reaction came at the weekend after a solid 2-0 win at home to Celta Vigo.

It was a relief win because anything else would have felt like a comedown after the high of Zidane returning or even worse a continuation of Santiago Solari’s leadership. In truth Solari was offered a dream job and took it but was in no position to take it up, and he shouldn’t be completely blamed for what has been a forgettable season.

So what will be Zidane’s objective until the end of the season? First and foremost his job will be to install a winning mentality again, that of invincibility and it is obvious that his players are thrilled that he is back in the dug out. Giving Zidane those 10 matches or so until the end of the season was a smart choice from Perez as it gives Zidane a feel for the role again before more serious issues of having a smooth pre season and then a serious next one.

But the issue of this season will be trying to finish in 2nd place and the runners up spot to Barcelona. With Atletico Madrid losing 2-0 at Bilbao at the weekend Madrid have been able to close the gap on Diego Simeone’s side to just 2 points and it is clear that with Zidane stepping in Real now has the drive to progress.

Neither Atletico or Real will be catching Barcelona this season who have taken a 10 point lead at the top with 10 games remaining. In theory it’s up for grabs but the way that Barcelona have been playing they would have to suffer one of the biggest meltdowns in their history and that seems simply too unlikely.

But who can get 2nd place? And make no mistake 2nd place is important to Real Madrid in a season when if they finish 3rd simply seems odd. Atletico still have some very tough matches including having to play Barcelona away from home and it seems that these two who have been in many battles before are about to under go another one, albeit one which is less glamourous.

The way Allegri is perceived hasn’t changed but his future outlook certainly has

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Juventus’ impressive comeback against Atletico Madrid probably didn’t do much to change your opinion of Massimiliano Allegri. If you’ve been criticizing him for the past two season you can feel vindicated by seeing what his team looks when they actually play attacking football and get the most out of their impressive weapons, if you have been one of his defenders, then your takeaway from the match is this just another tactical masterpiece from the Tuscan manager.

 

 

Before we go any further, let’s get one thing out of the way- regardless of which camp you fall on with Allegri, there’s no doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo was the hero of Tuesday night’s showdown at Allianz Stadium and his performance needs to be taken into account when evaluating Allegri. CR7 was the difference between getting past the round and a heroic comeback that fell just short like the ones against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in previous seasons.

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But back to Allegri, let’s look at this match from the point of view that someone who has been critical of him for the past two years as a result of too many 1-0 wins where Juventus did the bare minimum to win. While I’m certain these folks received plenty of tweets from Allegri defenders after the match, they had their own version of “I told you so” since they can easily say “You see this is what we could be watching all the time, if Allegri didn’t keep putting the brakes on all of the talent on our squad”.

 

 

They probably see Allegri like someone who can only get it together when his back is truly against the wall, essentially like a husband who has been in the doghouse for awhile and to avoid a costly divorce starts buying flowers, playing Adele records in the house and suggests rewatching “The Notebook” on Netflix. To an Allegri critic the comeback against Atletico shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place had Allegri simply not botched the first leg so badly- and they certainly have a point.

 

 

An Allegri defender looks at this game from a radically different point of view. They are likely to say that just like Juventus struggled at the Wanda Metropolitano, so did Atletico Madrid in Turin- in matches of this caliber, the home field advantage is a big deal and that the matchup against Simeone’s team was always going to be incredibly difficult.

 

 

Certainly it’s more than reasonable to say that all too often Juventus plays boring and uninspired football, but someone completely in the tank for Allegri (even more so that one of his defenders) could say that Juventus’ manager is like a great head coach in the NFL who saves all his best plays and formations for games that truly matter in the playoffs. To these people Allegri is football’s version of Larry Bird who back in 1986 famously played a game against the Portland Trailblazers using his left hand, so he could save his right one for the far more formidable Lakers.

 

 

As often is the case with these things, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Allegri does deserve criticism for Juventus’ uninspired play the past two season, but there’s also no doubt he’s proven he’s a master tactician who can win you a very tough match in the Champions League by making some surprising adjustments like using Emre Can as essentially a false center back.

 

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But while the outcome of the match likely reinforced your opinion of him rather than change your mind, another event this week radically changed the outlook for Allegri’s future. In fact Zinedine Zidane’s surprising decision to return to Real Madrid took a way a potential landing spot for the Tuscan manager while taking off the table the most realistic and palatable replacement for him at Juventus (assuming you take Pep Guardiola at his word when he said he wouldn’t be moving to Turin any time soon).

 

 

It’s hard to imagine there are many Juventus fans who are excited by the prospect of either Didier Deschamps or Antonio Conte returning to the club, because they don’t play a very different style than what Allegri has used recently. As a matter a fact, Zidane’s decision did more to change the minds of Juventus fans with Allegri than the win against Atletico Madrid.

 

 

Interestingly to those outside the Juventus bubble (and let’s add the Milan one too), Allegri would have been considered to be a top manager regardless of the outcome of Tuesday night’s match. I guess it’s easier for these people to appreciate Allegri’s qualities since they probably aren’t watching all Juventus games, to them he’s someone who has kept Conte’s dominance in Serie A going while also vastly improving the team’s outlook in Europe.

 

 

The only way Allegri will fully change the minds of his critics is to actually lead Juventus to the elusive Champions League win, that is a very lofty standard but in it of itself it should tell you a lot about how much Allegri has achieved in Turin.

 

 

Does Zinedine Zidane’s return signal the end for Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Within minutes of the full time whistling after last season’s Champions League final, with Real Madrid’s players still celebrating on the pitch at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, Gareth Bale threw fresh doubt on his future in the Spanish capital. His remarks were the clearest sign yet that the Welshman could be set to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Of course, as we know, Bale ultimately stayed at Real Madrid. His relationship with Zinedine Zidane had broken down, but the Frenchman resigned from his position before the Welsh winger could plot a route out for himself. With Cristiano Ronaldo also leaving for Juventus, this was seen as a fresh start for Bale.

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale look dejected after the first goal of Sevilla team during their soccer match in Seville

The 29-year-old has failed to make the most of this opportunity, though. Under both Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, Bale failed to make himself a first team pick. He has become a scapegoat for the notoriously tough to please Santiago Bernabeu faithful, involved in a number of incidents which have made negative headlines in the Spanish capital.

And now Zidane is back. Indeed, the Frenchman made a shock return to Real Madrid on Monday, taking over from Solari following a week in which their entire season fell apart, dropping out of the Copa del Rey, the Spanish Liga title race and the Champions League all in the space of six days.

With Zidane back at the helm, an overhaul is now expected in the summer. Players like Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar have all been linked with a move to Real Madrid as the capital club look to move into a new generation, but many are also expected to leave the Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid are weighed down by a number of ageing stars on big money. Karim Benzema, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, among others, may well be club legends, but the time has come for them to be moved on. Bale might be another who is moved on.

A parting of ways might be best for both parties at this point. There is now such a circus around Bale that it’s difficult to envisage how he will ever turn things around. The Welshman’s options have never been narrower, with Manchester United no longer so keen and Chelsea recently handed a transfer ban, but staying at Real Madrid might not be open to him either.

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Zidane’s Real Madrid return could offer reprieve for Isco

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The return to La Liga side Real Madrid of Zinedine Zidane could spell a return to first team action for midfielder Isco, after previous boss Santiago Solari froze out the Spanish international this season.

The former Malaga player has not started a La Liga game since Solari replaced Julen Lopetegui in back in October 2018, and the club announced earlier this week that they would be opening disciplinary proceedings against him, after he missed a team meeting.

However, with Zidane coming back to the club he left nine months ago, he could look to bring the 26 year-old back in from the cold.

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Is Zidane the right choice for Real Madrid?

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No one could’ve predicted a scenario that saw Zinedine Zidane take over the Real Madrid hotseat just 10 months after he left it, but that’s precisely what’s happened in the aftermath of Los Blancos sacking their second coach this season, Santiago Solari.

The reasons could be many and though he’s not short of a euro or two, financial considerations will surely have played a huge part.

A promise from Florentino Perez that certain players will arrive or that Zidane will have a war chest of cash to go out and buy the very best is likely to be another. Continue reading