Real Madrid vs Levante Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battles, Team News & More

​Real Madrid host Levante in La Liga’s midday kick-off on Saturday, and Zinedine Zidane will be adamant that his side respond to their recent draw with Valencia by claiming all three points.

With the return of Sergio Ramos amongst their starting line-up, Los Blancos head into their home tie as sure fire favourites to come away with a win after an underwhelming performance before the international break.

However, Levante have had a good start to their season, unbeaten in their opening two matches against Villareal and Deportivo. Currently sat on equal points with their Madrid based opponents, the visitors will be hoping to shock the masses with a win, and kick on with a very impressive opening few weeks.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Saturday’s clash at the Santiago Bernabeu:


Classic Encounter: Levante 2-3 Real Madrid (October 2013)

Levante UD v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

It’s rare that Madrid fans are ever sat desperately hoping for their team to find a last minute winner, but that’s exactly what they had to endure in October 2013. 

A game that started out as a tedious affair suddenly burst into life on 57 minutes when the home side found an unlikely opener. Baba Diawara kicked off what would finish an intense match with a beautifully timed half-volley.

However, the lead didn’t even last five minutes. Madrid’s goal-scoring centre-back Sergio Ramos managed an equaliser in the 61st, only for Nabil El Zhar to seemingly seal the winner four minutes before time – which would’ve handed Levante an incredible victory.

However, Carlo Ancelotti’s men were resilient, and a 90th minute equaliser from Alvaro Morata was only bettered by the eventual winning goal from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 94th. Madrid made their fans sweat, but managed to get there in the end of what became a fascinating final half hour.


Key Battles

Sergio Ramos vs Alex Alegria

Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid - La Liga

Levante’s biggest hopes in this encounter will come through the performance of Alex Alegria. With Roger Marti and Nano both injured, as well as a suspension to wide man Jose Morales, Alegria’s teammates will be looking for the on-loan Betis man to lead the way.

Though starting both of Levante’s matches this season, the youngster is yet to find the back of the net. However, if the forward can make the most of Ramos’ tendency to dive into tackles, the forward could well kick-off his season with a potentially crucial goal against Zidane’s men.

Marco Asensio vs Ivan Lopez

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This is where Madrid fans will be getting excited. The rapid speed of Asensio against the not-so-fleet-footed Lopez has the potential to cause Levante all sorts of problems.

If the young Spaniard can continue the kind of form he’s been showing since the back end of last season, he’ll be too much for any La Liga defence to handle, let alone Levante’s. In Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence, Asensio is the man to turn to.


Team News

Real Madrid

Real Madrid head into this game with the much appreciated return of previously suspended Sergio Ramos.The same cannot be said for Raphael Varane, though. The Frenchman remains sidelined with muscular problems and his return is so far unknown.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Supercopa de Espana: 2nd Leg

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to miss two more matches (including Saturday’s) before his suspension is finished, and Los Blancos will be without summer signing Dani Ceballos – who is still recovering from injury.

Levante

The visitors are quite severely weakened in their attacking line this week – missing three players who could make quite a difference to the side. Last season’s star man Roger Marti continues to miss out through his ruptured cruciate ligament – expected to return in January. Meanwhile, Nano misses out with a muscle injury sustained at the beginning of August.

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Left winger Jose Morales will be a big miss for Levante. The wide man had shown a promising start to the season before he received his marching orders in the club’s 2-2 draw with Deportivo before the international break.


Predicted Starting XI’s:

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Navas, Carvajal, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, Isco, Asensio, Benzema, Bale

Levante (4-2-3-1): Fernandez, Lopez, Postigo, Chema, Tono, Campana, Lerma, Jason, Bardhi, Ivi, Alegria


Predicted Score: Real Madrid 4-1 Levante

Anything other than a Madrid rout will be a big surprise. With Levante’s depleted attack, the visitors will have little to offer going forward – and Madrid can easily be seen pinning them into their own third like cattle in front of the Bernabeu crowd. 

With Madrid’s ridiculous midfield and attacking threat, it won’t be a question of ‘if’ they score, nor will it be ‘when’ they score – but ‘how many more’ will they score?

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Picking the Best Potential Real Madrid Line Up to Face Levante on Saturday

Saturday afternoon will see Real Madrid host Levante as Los Blancos aim to rectify their failure to pick up three points against Valencia before the international break.

Though star player Cristiano Ronaldo remains absent through suspension for Los Blancos, the return of Sergio Ramos will sit very well with Madrid fans, and the entire home section of the Santiago Bernabeu will expect nothing less than a victory in La Liga’s early kick-off.

Here we take a look at the best possible starting XI that Zinedine Zidane could line his squad up with.​

Goalkeeper

  • Navas

    Navas1

​Between the sticks for Los Blancos will most likely be Keylor Navas – the preferred choice in goal for Madrid ever since his arrival in 2014.

Defence

  • Carvajal

    Carvajal2

  • S. Ramos

    S. Ramos4

  • Nacho

    Nacho6

  • Marcelo

    Marcelo12

​The big news for Madrid is the return of the previously suspended Sergio Ramos after his red card against Deportivo – pushing Casemiro out of the starting XI. With Raphael Varane still injured, Nacho Fernandez is the most likely candidate to partner the Madrid captain in the heart of the defence.

Ever present full-backs Dani Carvajal and Marcelo are the obvious choices down the flanks.

Midfield

  • Isco

    Isco22

  • Kroos

    Kroos8

  • Modric

    Modric10

The omission of Casemiro from this midfield trio could potentially be a questionable one – after all, every team needs that defensive minded holding midfielder, and the Brazilian fits the bill perfectly.

However, Zidane is an attack minded coach, and in front of his home fans​, the Frenchman will be looking to impress. With Kroos and Modric making up one of the world’s best midfield duos, Isco will be given the freedom to roam and continue to show just how impressive he is against a Levante side that isn’t expected to put up much of a fight.

Forwards

  • Bale

    Bale11

  • Benzema

    Benzema9

  • Asensio

    Asensio20

​However strange it might sound, fans could be forgiven if they’ve forgotten about Cristiano Ronaldo. In the Portuguese legend’s absence, the rising star of Marco Asensio has stepped in and shone as bright as one could expect – scoring both of Madrid’s goals in their draw with Valencia.

Alongside the young Spaniard will stand Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale – with the Frenchman looking to net his first goal of the season. 

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Real Madrid Star Cristiano Ronaldo Predicts Lionel Messi Will Suffer With Barcelona This Season

​Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo is reportedly confident that he has an edge in the pursuit of individual honours over Lionel Messi this season as his side have a clear advantage over arch-rivals Barcelona – who are seemingly set for a tough year.

Zinedine Zidane’s side secured a La Liga and Champions League double last term and Ronaldo is said to be of the belief that another triumphant season awaits for Real Madrid, whilst Messi is set for anguish on both domestic and international fronts.

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According to Spanish outlet​ Don Balon, Ronaldo is optimistic that his success for Real Madrid will alleviate the pressure he feels on the international stage as he views the World Cup as a game changer for individual honours, which poses as an issue for Messi.

The Barcelona ace has seen Argentina struggle in the World Cup qualifiers, as they currently sit fifth in the South American standings with two games remaining. 

The top four qualify automatically, whilst the fifth-placed side will face a two-leg play-off against New Zealand – which isn’t necessarily a straight forward game. 

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With Ronaldo said to be expecting Barcelona to languish behind his side, the 32-year-old striker expects Messi will need to shine consistently for Argentina if he has any chance of competing for individual honours alongside him. 

As Portugal are continuing their rich vein of form following the Euro 2016 triumph, Ronaldo seemingly has an edge on his rival at this stage of the season, but as we know football can change in a flash and Messi is no ordinary footballer. ​​

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Karim Benzema Waxes Lyrical About Natural Winner Zinedine Zidane & Insists Success Is ‘Not Luck’

Karim Benzema has praised his manager and countryman Zinedine Zidane for his impact at Real Madrid, while dismissing any idea that luck has played a part in Los Blancos’ recent successes.

Since Zidane’s arrival as first team manager in 2016, Benzema and has teammates have won back to back Champions League titles as well as La Liga in 2017/18.

The 29-year-old forward, now in his ninth season in the Spanish capital, has worked under six bosses at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, Zidane’s record speaks for itself.

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Speaking with Spanish site ​Fichajes the striker said: “I would say that Zidane had a great impact because we won titles. We are the best team, the titles prove it.”

Benzema also revealed an insight into the 45-year-old former Ballon d’Or winner’s man management style.

“Zidane conveys a lot of confidence, although I already have a lot,” Benzema explained. 

“He is patient, calm and knows how to give good advice. He is important in the locker room. He has many meetings, talks a lot with the players. Everything he says makes sense. We are always attentive.”

The former Lyon striker, who has scored 122 league goals for Real Madrid, also hinted that being managed by a former ‘Galactico’ had a beneficial effect on the players and that Zidane’s trophy-laden career both on the pitch and off it are well-deserved.

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“You can get lucky once, but you can not always have it. After so many successes, it can not be just luck,” he added.

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Jorge Mendes Part of 3-Man Team Set to Testify in Ongoing Ronaldo Tax Evasion Case

​World renowned football agent Jorge Mendes is set to testify alongside two other advisers in Cristiano Ronaldo’s ongoing tax evasion court case.

The Real Madrid player is currently battling against accusations that he has failed to fork over around £13m in tax to the Spanish authorities and, according to ​Marca, has called on Mendes and two others to stand before the courts and talk up his good character.

Mendes, along with Luis Correia and Carlos Osorio, have been referred to by Ronaldo as his “closest team” whom he pays vast sums of cash to in order to prevent “this sort of nonsense” from occurring.

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Correira is reportedly responsible for Ronaldo’s image rights deals that allow the forward to earn extra money from sponsorship deals and the like, while Osorio is the lawyer of Mendes’ ‘Gestifute’ agency and is tasked with running the rule over every conceivable law to make sure they are not being broken.

The judge in charge of the case, Monica Gomez Ferrer, wants to check that the trio’s responsibility and participation in any tax avoidance on Ronaldo’s part.

Mendes, Osorio and Correira will testify when the case is reconvened on Thursday 19th October in the Madrid suburb of Pozuelo de Alarcón.

Ronaldo vociferously denied the charges put towards him when he appeared in court for his prelimiary hearing on 31st July.

The ex-Manchester United and Sporting star is alleged to have only declare around £10.5m, relating to his Spanish income, between 2011 and 2014, when the prosecution claims he made in excess of £39m during those three years.

Further accusations levelled at the Portugal captain also claim that he “voluntarily” refused to include around £26m in income linked to image rights he will receive between 2015 and 2020 – more charges that Ronaldo steadfastly denies.


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This is not the first time that Mendes has been embroiled in supposed tax evasion, with the agent also implicated in other Spanish tax authority queries relating to clients such as United boss Jose Mourinho, Monaco star Radamel Falcao and Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria.

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Hazard is Happy at Chelsea But Says “Why Not” to a Potential Future Switch to La Liga

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has admitted that although he is currently ‘happy’ at Chelsea, he would strongly consider a switch to La Liga in the future, a major division which the diminutive winger believes is ‘special’ – according to a report published by Spanish outlet Marca (via Club Call).

Since being rendered sidelined in June after sustaining an ankle injury, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard presumably avoided a summer transfer window frenzy for his signature from some of Europe’s biggest clubs​, including Real Madrid, who have in the past made their interest in the Belgian attacker known.

Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League

Hazard, 26, desires to return to the fray for Antonio Conte’s outfit to help them retain the Premier League title this term and push for success in the Champions League, and despite being touted on Los Blancos’ wish-list in recent windows, he insists that he is already playing for one of the continents ‘best’ clubs, whilst not entirely ruling out a future jump to La Liga.

“At the moment I am happy in England,” he claimed. “I am playing for one of the best teams, but the Spanish league is special. Why not some day? But having said that, at the moment I am here [at Chelsea].”

Galacticos boss Zinedine Zidane is said to be a great admirer of the Blues’ number 10, and Hazard then continued to add that the Frenchman is ‘magic’, both on the pitch in his playing days, and in the technical area at the Santiago Bernabeu in the present.

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“[Zidane] has won everything as a player and a coach. He is a special guy. Everyone knows him as a player. When we think about football we think about Zidane as he could do anything on the pitch. And now, off the pitch, he has achieved great things. He is magic and I am very happy to see him.”

After winning the Champions League back-to-back for the past two seasons, Madrid are considered as the tournament favourites, and Hazard also agrees with the notion of the Spanish giants retaining their title once more.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Supercopa de Espana: 2nd Leg

Zidane’s men may be seen as the ‘best team in the world’ in Hazard’s eyes, but the south west Londoners’ star man knows that the Champions League is a tough prize to win, and Chelsea, supposedly, could themselves challenge for the coveted trophy this year, as you just ‘never know’.

“I believe that, at the moment, Real Madrid are the best team in the world,” he proclaimed. “They have won everything and have good players, a great coach. The Champions League is very difficult to win. It is like the Premier League, anybody can win it. You never know.”


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Spanish Playmaker Isco Says He Wants to Remain With Real Madrid for Many Years

​After reestablishing himself in the Real Madrid set-up and forcing his way into Zinedine Zidane’s plans, Spanish attacking midfielder Isco is ready to commit his future to Los Blancos, per ​Cadena Ser.

The 25-year-old seemed very much against remaining at the Bernabeu last year and was open to considering other options because of him being made to sit out some big games early last season. An upturn in form, however, has seen him emerge as a key man under Zidane, and the fine fettle has seeped into his international performances as well.

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The midfielder found the target on two occasions against Italy on the weekend, helping Spain to a huge 3-0 win against one of the strongest defences in international football.

He is now in the final year of his contract, and although reports of a €6m five-year contract surfaced back in April, the player has yet to sign a new deal at Madrid.

Speaking whilst on duty with his country, though, Isco expressed his desire to remain at Madrid for the long haul.

Spain v Italy - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier

“I have always thought about being a success at Madrid, even in the moments when I was getting less playing time,” he said. 

“I knew I should not give in, and here I am today. I feel important at the moment and very comfortable, and hope to keep going like this for many years for both Madrid and Spain.”

Madrid return to action on Saturday at home against Levante, and will kick off their Champions League defence in a match against Apoel Nicosia next week.


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Premier League Duo Set to Move for Underused Real Madrid Midfielder in January

Real Madrid are set to allow midfielder Marcos Llorente to leave the club this winter, with Premier League giants Chelsea and Tottenham keen.

Talksport have reported that manager Zinedine Zidane is set to review the 22-year-old situation in January, after Llorente has struggled for game time this term.


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The Spain U21 international enjoyed a successful loan spell at Alaves last season featuring 32 times, but has struggled for game time on his return to the Bernabeu, making only one appearance of the bench against Deportivo La Coruna.

Madrid were unwilling to listen to offers in the summer but with the midfielder struggling for game time, a move away would benefit both parties with a host of clubs interested in his services. 

2017 MLS All-Star Game: Real Madrid v MLS All-Stars

As well as reported interest from the Blues and Spurs, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla, Liverpool, Arsenal, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have all declared their interest in Llorente since his return to Real in the summer.

With the likes of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro in midfield paired with the talent of Isco, Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio it is seemingly unlikely that the Spaniard will be able to force his way into the team, perhaps persuading him to exit the current La Liga champions.

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Homegrown: Zinedine Zidane & 5 Other Real Madrid Players Who Went on to Manage Los Blancos

Zinedine Zidane has worked wonders at Real Madrid. Since taking over first team duties in January 2016 as a novice at top level management, the former Ballon d’Or winner as a player became the first boss in history to lift back-to-back Champions League trophies with trophies in 2016 and 2017 – while also pipping fierce rivals Barcelona to La Liga title last season.

The pressure as a Real Madrid player is suffocating as tabloid attention and internal politics are virtually unparalleled in the capital. 

Therefore, it is very rare in the game that an ex-player will also take the hot seat as manager of the club, especially given the expectations of a club with a winning culture like Real.

However, here are six ex-Madridistas who later in their career became the man in the dugout at the Santiago Bernabeu, with varying levels of success.

1. Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane scores the second go

This iconic picture shows the moment Zidane wheels away in joy after a magnificent volley in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 to cement his place as one of the greatest players of all time. 

As manager of Los Blancos, he has somehow enhanced his status as a football great even further by becoming the first manager to win consecutive Champions League titles, while also lifting a league title in imperious fashion and nurturing young talent like Marco Asensio.

2. Bernd Schuster

Real Madrid's German coach Bernd Schuste

An important figure in Spanish football during the eighties and early nineties, German international and European Championship winner Bernd Schuster is a rare example in La Liga of a player who featured for all of: Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid. 

Winning two La Liga titles and one Copa Del Rey, he was well like by the Real fans, despite his Barça past.

As a manager, Schuster spent just one full season as Real Madrid boss, helping Los Blancos to a La Liga title in 2008. However, his confrontational style and failure in Europe led to his resignation in December of his second campaign.

3. Rafa Benitez

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Rafa Benitez worked wonders as manager at Liverpool with a Champions League victory back in 2005, after surprise La Liga titles for Valencia in 2002 and 2004. However, his time as a Real Madrid man did not go quite to plan,

He started out as a young player in the Real Madrid Castilla, leaving the Santiago Bernabéu after failing to break into the first team. 

After success as a manager later in his life, he hoped to achieve what he never could as a player as the chief commander in charge of Los Blancos when appointed Real Madrid boss in 2015. 

However, he lasted only six months at the helm, and was replaced by legendary figure Zidane.

4. Vicente Del Bosque

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Iconic coach Vicente Del Bosque is a national hero after helping Spain lift their first World Cup in 2010. 

As a player at the Santiago Bernabéu, he featured in a period of dominance with Real Madrid lifting four La Liga titles, as well as four Copa del Rey trophies.

He took this form into management, as Del Bosque guided Madrid to two Champions Leagues, and as many league titles. 

Shockingly, at the height of the club’s Galactico period, this was not enough to please the Madrid board, who decided to not renew his contract after clinching the league title in 2003.

5. Jorge Valdano

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A World Cup winner in a Diego Maradona inspired Argentina side, Jorge Valdano is often overlooked as a secondary figure to greater players for both club and country. 

However, during his time at Los Blancos, Valdano performed impressively up front and bagged two La Liga trophies and two UEFA cups in the eighties.

As manager of the club between 1994 and 1996, he lifted one league crown but never earned the same status he had as a player. 

An outspoken individual, he also had a spell as director at the Santiago Bernabéu, but was moved on in 2011.

6. Alfredo Di Stefano

Real Madrid CF v SL Benfica - UEFA Youth League

Perhaps saving the best for last, Alfredo Di Stefano was a Real Madrid club great before his sad passing in 2014. 

Di Stefano created a dynasty in the capital and amassed an amazing five European Cups and eight league titles. He helped to make Real Madrid the most desired team in the world for any player by ushering in a new era of dominance through majestic play in attack.

As a manager during two separate stints, the ‘Blond Arrow’ had less success as a coach, with a terrible first spell in charge as they failed to lift a trophy between 1982 and 1984, and famously lost to a Sir Alex Ferguson led Aberdeen side in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final.

In his second spell in the 1990/91 season, Di Stefano did at least guide his team to a Supercopa de España.

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Playing the Market: 7 of the Best Ever Jose Mourinho Signings From Throughout His Career

Jose Mourinho is embarking on what could be the most crucial season in his career. 

Failure to win the Premier League with Manchester United after two seasons of financial backing could mean failure and even the sack for the Special One.

The Red Devils have started the 2017/18 season in great form and new signings Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof have all started strongly.

Here are seven times throughout his career Mourinho has lived up to his nickname and got his signings bang on.

7. Paulo Ferreira

MK Dons v Chelsea XI - Pre-Season Friendly

Paulo Ferreira was one of Mourinho’s first ever signings when at Porto. 

He bought him for £1.7m in 2002. Jose converted the young Portugal star from a right midfielder to a right back. 

Ferreira went on to win back to back league titles at Porto, a UEFA Cup and a Champions League title. In his two years at Porto he only missed two league games.

Jose was so proud of this signing that he signed him again when appointed Chelsea manager in 2004, this time though for £17m, which shows just how much Ferreira impressed at Porto. 

Once again Paulo would go on to achieve back to back league title wins and three in total. As well as four FA Cups, two League Cups, another Champions League title and another Europa League.

6. Mesut Ozil

Real Madrid CF v Athletic Club - La Liga

When Mourinho became manager of Real Madrid in 2010 he faced the mammoth task of trying to overhaul Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona. 

One of the new Madrid bosses first acquisitions was Mesut Ozil, who had shone for Germany at the World Cup, for £15m. 

In Ozil’s first season Real Madrid won the Copa Del Rey, but in the league they fell just short of Barcelona’s incredible 96 points. 

The following year, Ozil played a crucial role in the Mourinho jigsaw. Scoring four goals and getting 17 assists as Madrid amassed an incredible record breaking 100 points to wrestle La Liga title back from their greatest rivals.

5. Didier Drogba

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Drogba is one of the Premier League’s greatest strikers and was signed by Chelsea for £24m in 2004. 

While he had a fairly slow start to life at Stamford Bridge, it was in his third season at Chelsea that he would start to become the legend we now know him to be. 

Scoring 33 goals in all competitions and winning the golden boot that season, Drogba had the highlight of netting the only goal in a 1-0 win over Manchester United in the 2007 FA Cup Final.

He would score in many finals for Chelsea, most famously in the Champions League final of 2012, and became the archetypal Mourinho striker against which all other forwards were compared

4. Ricardo Carvalho

Chelsea v Cardiff City - FA Cup 5th Round

Having played under Mourinho at Porto originally, Carvalho played twice more for the Special One – following him to Chelsea in 2004 and Real Madrid in 2010. 

It has often been said that to win league titles you need a solid defence, and the acquisition of the Portugal international proved a shrewd move on multiple occasions for Mourinho. There is simply no way a Mourinho all-time signings XI could not feature Carvalho.

3. Lucio

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Mourinho brought in veteran Brazilian Lucio in his final (but most important) season at Internazionale in 2009 for just under £6m – an absolute bargain even if Lucio was 31 at the time.

Lucio would be pivotal that season in helping Inter achieve an historic treble ending a 45-year wait to be crowned European Champions and delivering Jose’s second Champions League title. 

If you ever want to understand what it means to play with heart and without fear just watch Lucio’s performance against Barcelona in the second leg of the semi final of the Champions League.

2. Luka Modric

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Mourinho signed the magic Croatian in 2012 for an absolute steal at around £30m.

In his first season in the Spanish capital, Modric completed the most passes in the team and in his time at Madrid, he has so far won a league title, a Copa del Rey, three Champions Leagues and voted La Liga’s best midfielder twice.

1. Ashley Cole

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What makes the Cole signing so significant? Well, in landing the Arsenal left back Mourinho and Chelsea managed to capture the greatest left back in the world, in his prime, on the cheap and get one over on their biggest rivals at the same time.

Cole may not be a well-loved figure in the game. However, what is undeniable even to his biggest critics, is his talent. 

If Mourinho’s signings can emulate the quality and success of Cole, Man Utd fans will probably be celebrating their first league title since Fergie.

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