Real Madrid’s summer spending spree has done little to lift the mood of doom and gloom at the Bernabeu as the team lumbers into the new La Liga campaign on the back of a disastrous pre-season. Real have splashed out around €300 million ($335 million) on new talent this summer as part of Zinedine Zidane’s major rebuild following their worst league campaign in 20 years last season.
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The Frenchman has reportedly been forceful in his demands as part of his Bernabeu second coming as head coach, with Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Ferland Mendy, Eder Militao and Rodrygo all arriving for large fees.
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Belgian ace Hazard was the long-awaited main arrival this summer. © firo Sportphoto / Marcel Engelbrec But the pre-season evidence indicates that the team has picked up where they limply left off last season.
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A 7-3 hammering by Atletico Madrid in the US was sandwiched between disappointing displays in defeats against Bayern Munich and Tottenham and a victory on penalties against Arsenal.
Also on rt.com ‘Never change, Diego Costa’: Atletico ace bags FOUR goals and red card against rivals Real Madrid Pre-season is a time to get minutes in the legs and build fitness, but for a club with a point to prove the disgruntlement over performances on the pitch and disorder off it will sound serious alarm bells ahead of the new season.
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What should be a time of optimism of a Real revival has been overshadowed by the saga surrounding Gareth Bale as well as concerns over how the team will line up and whether it was right to turn to Zidane a second time around
Bale has posed the biggest headache for the team this summer, with Zidane desperate to sell a player he has long deemed ill-suited to his tactical plans
But after Real president Florentino Perez scuppered the Welshman’s move to China over fears he was undervalued, Zidane remains lumbered with a player he neither wants nor trusts – and who barring remarkable developments will start the season kicking his heels on the bench but still picking up €650,000 a week in wages
Bale is stuck in a loveless marriage at Real and didn’t travel with the team for the game against Tottenham. © Global Look Press via ZUMA Press Zidane’s handling of the Bale debacle has reportedly caused anger at Real, while questions remain as to how the new arrivals will slot into the team
Hazard, who finally arrived to much fanfare in a €150 million deal from Chelsea this summer, will be an automatic starter, likely partnering Karim Benzema up front
But elsewhere, as AS journalist Marco Ruiz has pointed out, it’s less clear if the new boys fit into the Los Blancos first XI
Serbian forward Jovic, 21, a €60 million buy from Frankfurt, will likely provide back-up for the more established Benzema.
Jovic is not guaranteed a starting berth at Real. © firo / Sebastian El-Saqqa Brazilian Rodrygo, 18, will also not be seen as first choice and instead will play second fiddle to Hazard or fellow youngster Vinicius Jr, whose performances were a rare bright spot for Real last season before his campaign was cut short by injury
French left back Mendy, 24, will fight it out with veteran Marcelo, while Militao, 21, is set to be an understudy to skipper Sergio Ramos
Marcelo was heavily criticized for a mistake that led to a goal against Spurs. © Fotostand Wagner Bale’s aborted China transfer also suggests funds may not be available to bring in major Zidane target Paul Pogba in midfield
That means the pairing of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos – who looked off the pace for much of last season – are set to start in the middle of midfield again alongside the anchor of Casemiro
Modric and Kroos look like being Real‘s central midfield pairing again. © Reuters / Albert Gea Real still have depth with the likes of Isco, Lucas Vazquez and Nacho, while the returning James Rodriguez is a high-class option to have on the bench – should he remain at Real beyond the transfer window
Real have young talent in abundance, with Brahim Diaz – a 19-year-old arrival from Manchester City last season – also highly rated, as is 21-year-old Uruguayan Federico Valverde. Footage from training of Japanese wonderkid Takefusa Kubo, 18, has also showcased what a precocious talent he is.
Real Madrid's new signing, Japanese wonderkid Takefusa Kubo shone at a public training session 🇯🇵🇪🇸⚽ pic.twitter.com/13qDWJfmMl
— RT Sport (@RTSportNews) July 24, 2019 But although they may emerge as crucial for the team in years to come, none will be ready-made, regular starters for Zidane next season.
The upshot is that despite the money spent, Real’s starting XI is unlikely to be radically different from the one that stuttered so badly in finishing 19 points behind Barca in the league last season and exiting the Champions League in the last 16
What started out as a much-heralded overhaul is starting to look anything but
Fans were furious after the abysmal pre-season showing against Atletico and Real still looked rusty in the most recent game against Spurs
As if to sum up their stodgy state, there are even grumblings over new star man Hazard carrying extra weight since arriving from his summer break
Hazard reportedly arrived carrying extra weight. © firo / Sebastian El-Saqqa Club legend Zidane, 47, famously guided Real to three successive Champions League crowns and a La Liga during his first spell in charge, and was tempted back to the club with the promise of big money to rebuild a struggling side last season
With the exception of Pogba, the money and signings have been forthcoming
But Zidane will have a much bigger job on his hands the second time around, and one that might take years to restore Real to the pinnacle in Spain and in Europe
Real will return eventually, but for a notoriously demanding fan base and club hierarchy, that might be too long to wait