Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has expressed his disappointment at losing striker Àlvaro Morata to Premier League champions Chelsea. The Spanish international recently joined the Blues for a club record fee of £58m.
Zidane’s side enjoyed a glorious 2016/17 campaign, in which they won both the La Liga title and the Champions League trophy in emphatic style. Speaking following his side’s Saturday pre-season training session, via Marca, the two-time Champions League-winning manager addressed the departure of the 24-year-old striker, as well as the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the possible purchase of Monaco wonderkid Kylian Mbappé:
“At the moment, we are missing a striker. Morata gave us a lot last year”.
Happy! On my way to Singapore and very excited to be with the team! // Muy feliz y con ganas de estar ya con el equipo!! pic.twitter.com/dCvq8yWU7p
— Álvaro Morata (@AlvaroMorata) July 21, 2017
Despite playing a bit-part role for Los Blancos last season, perpetually in the immense shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo, Morata still managed to score 15 league goals for his club. Morata has also impressed during his showings for the Spanish national team, scoring nine goals in 20 appearances thus far. Real will certainly wish to secure a solid replacement for the goal-scorer.
Addressing the possible signing of Monaco’s highly sought after striker Kylian Mbappé, Zidane kept his cards close to his chest, stating:
“We always try to improve, the player is good and interests many clubs, but now I’m thinking about tomorrow’s game.”
3- U20 players with the most goal contribution in Top-5 European leagues and Super League in 16/17
Mbappe 23 Dembele 18 Cengiz 12
— OptaCan (@OptaCan) July 14, 2017
The comings and goings at the Bernabéu Stadium show no sign of stopping, as the likes of Danilo and James Rodríguez have already left the club this summer. The future of footballing icon Cristiano Ronaldo is also believed to be uncertain, given that the player is rumoured to be keen to leave Spain amid tax controversies. Addressing the issue of Ronaldo, Zidane claimed:
“As you say there has been a lot of talk about Cristiano. When I talk to him he is calm and enjoying his holiday. I look and listen as everyone does, but what matters to me is what he wants to do with Madrid and I think it’s going to stay.”
Yesterday Real Madrid full-back Danilo said his final goodbyes to his teammates at the Spanish club’s training camp in Los Angeles, according to Spanish news outlet Marca.
The Brazilian is following in the footsteps of former teammate Alvaro Morata, who left the training camp on Wednesday, to join the Premier League after a deal worth around £27m was agreed between Man City and the Spanish champions.
Danilo, who was also linked with a move to Premier League champions Chelsea, is set to sign a deal that will keep him at the Etihad Stadium until 2022 and is the second right-back to move to the blue side of Manchester after former Spurs defender Kyle Walker signed last week.
The former FC Porto full-back started his career at his native América MG before impressive performances for Santos saw him sign for the Portuguese giants in 2012. A move to the Spanish capital was made in 2015 and the Brazilian achieved successive Champions League titles alongside winning the La Liga during his time with Los Blancos.
It is understood that manager Zinedine Zidane did not want the full-back to leave, but was resigned to seeing the Brazilian’s departure after he expressed a desire for first team football. Spanish defender Dani Carvajal was Madrid’s first choice right-back for much of last season and with the World Cup just one year away, Danilo saw an exit from the Bernabeu as a necessity if he was to win back a place in the Brazilian national side.
Despite Danilo’s imminent departure it is believed that Madrid will not seek a replacement, with defender Nacho and even winger Lucas Vazquez deemed good enough to provide cover for Carvajal at right-back if necessary.
Lucas Vázquez is understood to be unsettled at Real Madrid amidst transfer rumours linking Kylian Mbappé with a move to the Santiago Bernabéu. The signing of Real Betis wonderkid Dani Ceballos has only added fuel to the fire over Vázquez’s future, grabbing the interest of Arsenal and Liverpool.
The 26-year-old has only just broken into the Real Madrid team over the last couple of years; a product of the Los Blancos academy, Vázquez is now on the shortlist of both Arsène Wenger and Jürgen Klopp, according to Diario Madridista.
Lucas Vazquez can’t score goals. So he will fit in as a right back.
— Ahmad Rufa’i (@_AhmadRufai) July 22, 2017
Arsenal’s pursuit of the Spanish international also rests with the success of trying to bring Thomas Lemar or Riyad Mahrez to the Emirates. Leicester City have rejected a bid from Serie A side AS Roma for their Algerian star, with Arsenal growing increasingly confident of completing the signing of Monaco’s Lemar.
Liverpool manager Klopp is keen to bolster his already strong attacking options. Having already completed the £34m signing of Mohamed Salah this summer, the ex-Dortmund boss is looking to compete for silverware next season with the signing of Vázquez, who could be available at a cut price.
Real Madrid are yet to receive an offer for the 26-year-old, although Roma’s manager Eusebio Di Francesco is also now turning his attentions to Vázquez as a replacement for Salah at the Stadio Olimpico.
Bayern Munich’s newest signing, James Rodriguez has set the bar high as he has revealed his ambitious plans to surpass Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the world’s leading footballers – if he can get enough game time.
The 26-year-old joined the German club on an initial two-year loan deal – with an option to make the move permanent – after struggling to break into the Real Madrid starting eleven under three different managers, one of whom is now at the helm of Bayern Munich – Carlo Ancelotti.
However, Rodriguez’s move has seemingly reinvigorated him as he has revealed his very ambitious plans to establish himself as one of the world’s greatest footballers, even aiming to succeed Messi and Ronaldo who have dominated the game for a considerable amount of years.
Asked if he could take the reigns from the two stars, Rodriguez said this week: “Why not? They are big players. I’ll be ready for what happens in the future and improve in world football.
With only 30 La Liga starts in two seasons with Real Madrid, the Colombia international struggled to justify his reported €70m move from Monaco in 2014, and as such the 26-year-old is aware that he is not guaranteed a place in the star-studded Bayern line-up.
He added: “We have big players at Bayern and the competition for the team is very intense.
“I have to win my place through training hard every day. I want more minutes and more success [than last season].
“It’s a unique club, with the obligation of winning trophies and I hope it continues next season.”
Chelsea have confirmed the signing of Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata on a five-year contract, bringing the forward to Stamford Bridge in a deal thought to be worth an initial £58m.
The club confirmed in an official statement that the Spaniard will now join their squad for a pre-season tour of Asia, which will see them play Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Inter over the next week.
Speaking after signing, Morata said: “I am so happy to be here. It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”
Technical director Michael Emenalo added: “We are delighted to complete Alvaro’s signing and welcome him to the club. We believe he can make a great impact for Chelsea and look forward to seeing him in action. Alvaro has proven class at the highest level and his quality will be a huge asset to Antonio and the squad.”
Los Galacticos. To become one and join the elite club of stars is the dream of many footballers. To wear the white shirt; to shake hands with the infamous Florentino Perez; to perform some keepy-uppies on the Santiago Bernabéu pitch in front of a hundred flashing cameras; to hear the words ‘Bienvenido al Real Madrid’.
For some, that glory never ends. Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Zinedine Zidane never looked back. For others, that’s where the glory ends. Jonathan Woodgate, Thomas Gravesen and Julian Faubert can turn away now. For others it’s a mixed bag.
This summer has seen two more ‘Galacticos’ head through the door, as Álvaro Morata and James Rodriguez head to the Premier League and Bundesliga respectively. Questions circulate as to whether Los Blancos were glamourising their ability or suppressing it.
With that in mind, here is an XI of players that proved the latter to be true, and became true stars elsewhere.
1. Goalkeeper – Santiago Cañizares
Maybe not the glamorous start you were all waiting for, but a worthy one all the same. Born and bred in Madrid, Cañizares spent a total of 11 years associated with the club but never truly broke through as the first-team starter between the Bernabéu sticks.
After 54 appearances, Cañizares switched the white of Real Madrid for the white of Valencia. Ten years of first-team football, 418 appearances, two league titles, two cup medals and a UEFA Cup win later and I think it’s safe to say that the move was a success.
2. Right Back – Juanfran
Few things can be more painful than seeing a man you let go become a success at your local rivals. Well that is the case with Juanfran, as the Atletico Madrid full-back did, in fact, begin his career at their bitterest enemies.
The 32-year-old made only six first-team appearances two years for Real Madrid, being shipped out to Osasuna for €10m in 2006. After 153 appearances in Pamplona, Juanfran returned to the capital with Atletico Madrid.
Seven years later and the Spanish international remains one of the best right-backs in world football. He was part of Atletico’s title fairytale in 2013/14 and has helped Diego Simeone’s men to reaching two Champions League finals.
Unfortunately, both of those finals were lost to Real Madrid so Juanfran can’t quite have the last laugh, yet…
3. Centre Back – Ezequiel Garay
Ezequiel Garay arrived in Madrid with a solid domestic reputation, after a successful four-year spell with Racing Santander. At £8.5m, the Argentinean was not the most high-profile of signings, but he was a solid addition to a defence that was losing Fabio Cannavaro to Juventus.
After a fairly successful first season – making 23 appearances – José Mourinho’s arrival the following summer demoted Garay to fourth-choice centre-back. He was soon sold to SL Benfica as part of the deal to bring Fabio Coentrão to the Bernabeu.
His spell in Portugal was a successful one, and his continental stock rose attracting the interest of Manchester United and Chelsea. He opted, however, to move to Russia with Zenit St.Petersburg and immediately won the league title in 2014/15.
He is now back in La Liga, having signed for Valencia in a €20m deal in August 2016.
4. Centre Back – Walter Samuel
Walter Samuel, a name with enough burly connotations to make any striker shiver. The Argentinean was purchased by Real Madrid in a €25m transfer, after impressing in Serie A with AS Roma.
Samuel was signed to be a leader in Real Madrid’s defence and to keep the more fragile attacking players in-line and in-check. Despite making 40 appearances in the 2004/05 season, it was to be his solitary campaign in Spain, as he moved back to Italy with Internazionale.
Il Muro (The Wall) was back where he belonged, and intent on staying there. He spent nine seasons at the San Siro, winning five Serie A titles, three Coppa Italias and one Champions League in 2009/10. Real Madrid’s loss was Inter’s gain as Samuel became a legend in Milan.
5. Left Back – Zé Roberto
It’s been a long time since Zé Roberto last pulled on the white of Real Madrid – 19 years to be precise – but the Brazilian veteran is still going strong. Now at the tender age of 43-years-old, Roberto is a current starter in Brazilian champions Palmeiras’ starting line-up, bombing up and down the left-wing at every opportunity.
His two season spell in Madrid was just the flint to ignite Roberto’s career, but he did pick up a Champions League winning medal from it. The versatile Brazilian made his biggest mark in the Bundesliga, making 282 appearances in ten years of action with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.
With the latter, Roberto won an incredible four league and cup doubles. He was a cult hero in Bavaria, renowned for being able to play in almost every position on the pitch. His career shows no signs of slowing down, as he has made 97 appearances in two years for Palmeiras.
6. Central Defensive Midfield – Claude Makélélé
Only a few players in football history have earned themselves an entry into the sport’s dictionary. Johan Cruyff inspired ‘The Cruyff Turn’. Jean-Marc Bosman created the ‘Bosman Rule’. Then there’s Claude Makélélé. The ‘Makélélé Role’ is one of minimum glamour, maximum effectiveness.
Makélélé’s spell Madrid was by no means forgettable. He won two La Liga titles and one Champions League in a three-year spell at the Santiago Bernabéu, racking up 140 appearances along the way. However, the juxtaposition of industrial midfield play with Los Galacticos was too much for Florentino Perez to handle, and he sold Makélélé to Chelsea in the summer of 2003.
The Frenchman thrived in London. He won two Premier League titles and became an icon in the defensive midfield role. Chelsea loved him, José Mourinho loved him, everyone loved him. Makélélé will never be forgotten by football fans, and Perez’s decision to sell him looks one of his worst to date.
As Zinedine Zidane said: “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you’ve sold the engine?”
7. Central Midfielder – Wesley Sneijder
When Inter won the Champions League in 2010, there were few players on the planet that were more valuable than Wesley Sneijder. The 33-year old, who started his career as another Ajax boy wonder, moved to Madrid in 2007 for €27m. He was the second most expensive Dutchman of all time, and the pressure was on.
Sneijder was a revelation in his first season in Spain. He scored nine goals in 38 appearances, including the winner in the Madrid derby, as Real Madrid won La Liga in 2007/08. He was given the holy number ’10’ shirt for his second season, but suffered injuries and only made 28 appearances. The hype was fading and his spell as a Galactico was cut short.
So the Dutchman found himself in Milan and, like Samuel, stardom awaited. His first season under José Mourinho ended in Champions League glory. He also guided Holland to the World Cup final and was reward with a spot in UEFA’s Team of the Year for 2010. A move to Galatasaray added more trophies to a sparkling cabinet in the Sneijder household.
He never did get that move to Manchester United, though…
8. Central Attacking Midfielder – Mesut Özil
When Mesut Özil signed for Arsenal in 2013, it felt like the world had temporary frozen in time. For a start, Arsene Wenger had spent over £42m on a player. Furthermore, this wasn’t just any player; this was Mesut Özil. He had just finished as the top creator in Europe with 28 assists and was widely regarded as the best attacking midfielder in the world.
So why was he at Arsenal?
Well, Özil claims that he was forced out of the club and that his coach – José Mourinho – did not have ‘faith’ in him. In a parallel manner that Makélélé’s selling irritated Zidane, Özil’s sale did not go down well with Cristiano Ronaldo who said: “He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal…I’m angry about Özil leaving”.
It’s hard to say that the move hasn’t been a success, well, for Arsenal at least. Whilst success has been limited to a few FA Cups, Özil has been one of the Gunners’ star players and has made 42 league assists in four seasons. Oh, and he also won a World Cup…
9. Right Wing – Arjen Robben
When Arjen Robben faces up a left-back on the right side of the pitch, everybody in world football knows what is about to occur. Yet the Dutchman still performs the same, rehearsed routine, and executes it perfection. The cut-in, the shifting feet, minute touches of the ball, the left-footed curler into the corner. No matter how many times you watch it, it feels just as original and poetic as the first time.
When Robben arrived in Madrid, after a break-through spell at Chelsea, his skill-set was slightly less predictable. Yet, as with Sneijder and Özil, his spell in Spain was effective and his traditional wing-play was appreciated by the fans. The jinking runs and impermeable confidence was vibrant and worthy of the Bernabéu pitch.
It didn’t last though, unfortunately, and after two seasons the flying Dutchman was off to Bayern Munich for €25m. Robben claimed he was “forced” to leave and “didn’t want to go” but, as we’ve already seen, that’s a battle that the player rarely wins.
The 33-year-old was soon able to forget all about Madrid, however, as he embarked on a stunning career in Germany. To this date he has won 16 trophies with the Bavarian giants – including a Champions League – and has scored 131 goals in 242 appearances, an impressive goal every 1.85 games.
10. Left Wing – Samuel Eto’o
Before you start, I know what you’re going to say. ‘Samuel Eto’o on the wing? You don’t know anything.’ Yep, well actually it’s not as wrong as you think. The Cameroonian’s favoured position is on the left-wing, and he even refused to play centrally for his country in their 2014 play-off against Tunisia. He also played wide in spells for Barcelona and Inter Milan; but we all know he’s on the wing to fit the formation.
Eto’o only made seven appearances for Real Madrid’s senior team, spending the majority of his spell with the club either on loan or in the Castilla reserve side. My bet is that Madrid’s executives weren’t quite aware just how much the sale of the striker to lowly Mallorca would come back to bite them.
As it turns out, that was quite a large amount. Eto’o turned out 199 times for FC Barcelona – Madrid’s greatest rivals – and scored 130 times. He was a huge part of the Catalan club’s successful periods – under Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola – and won three league titles and two Champions Leagues in his five year spell with the club.
If that wasn’t enough, the 36-year old went on to win a major treble with Inter Milan in a prolific spell with the Italian club.
11. Striker – Gonzalo Higuaín
Speaking of goals, I introduce Gonzalo Higuaín. Hated in his homeland, loved in Italy, the Argentinean is the epitome of a ‘Marmite’ player. He arrived in Madrid with a buzzing reputation – having scored ten goals in 17 league games for River Plate – and, in all honesty, didn’t disappoint.
His career in Spain was a turbulent one, and his first few seasons were clouded with doubts regarding his consistency. In 2009/10, it all clicked, and Higuaín hit 29 goals in all competitions; only Lionel Messi scored more in La Liga. In total he hit 121 goals in 264 games for Real Madrid, yet never quite managed to oust Karim Benzema as Los Blancos’ starting striker.
He couldn’t accept the supporting role anymore and moved to Napoli in a €40m move. Whilst the world knew of Higuaín’s goal-scoring prowess, no-one quite knew just how high his limits were. Well, 91 goals in 146 games should give you a good idea. He became an icon in Naples, and some eve compared his status to that of Diego Maradona.
That was somewhat reversed, however, when he decided to move to league rivals Juventus in a record €90m move last summer. Whilst the hero became the foe in southern Italy, he won the hearts of Juve fans with another prolific season – 32 goals in 52 games – as the Old Lady won Serie A and reached the final of the Champions League.
12. The Reserves
As if this array of talent wasn’t enough, there’s a diamond-encrusted set of reserves in case any of these bitter Galacticos picks up an injury.
The star of the pack is Ángel Di Maria who many would say deserves a spot in the XI but misses out due to his lukewarm spell at Manchester United. It’s ironic that the Argentinean could get into Real Madrid’s team, but not into this team of players that couldn’t get into Real Madrid’s team. Keeping up?
Some players have taken a step down to a more appropriate level after leaving Madrid, and have thrived in their own right. Pedro León had an impressive spell with Getafe, and goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco is now vice-captain at over-achieving Alavés.
On the continent, Fabinho has become one of the most-wanted talents in Europe, having converted from a right-back to a defensive midfielder at AS Monaco, and José Callejon is a crucial part in Mauricio Sarri’s Napoli side.
Finally, in the Premier League, Juan Mata has gone onto become one of Europe’s best attacking midfielders, Rafael van der Vaart was a fans’ favourite at Tottenham Hotspur after leaving Madrid and Esteban Cambiasso had a great season at Leicester City ‘before they were cool’ (he also won the Champions League with Inter Milan, just so you know).
This summer, Monaco starlet Kylian Mbappe has dictated much of the narrative with Europe’s elite circling around the French international striker.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arsenal and Liverpool have all expressed an interest, with many saying that world record bids would be tabled but now, the Ligue 1 champions have issued a formal warning to the clubs.
Monaco report “unnamed important European clubs” to FIFA & French League for making unauthorised contact with Kylian Mbappe & his entourage
— Kaveh Solhekol (@SkyKaveh) July 20, 2017
They released the following statement, per Sky Sports: “AS Monaco regretfully notice that ‘important’ European football clubs made contact with Kylian Mbappe (and his entourage) without its authorisation.
“AS Monaco want to remind to these clubs that such actions are contrary to the article 211 of the Administrative regulation of the French Football League (Ligue de Football Professionnel) and to the article 18.3 of the Regulation of the Status and the Transfer of the Players of FIFA.
“To put an end to this unacceptable situation, AS Monaco consider asking the French Football League (Ligue de Football Professionnel) and FIFA to commit disciplinary procedures against clubs offenders.”
The update coming out of Monaco could spell the end for the on-going saga regarding Mbappe, with the Frenchman looking ever more likely to remain in his homeland.
One update from Sky Sports presenter Bryan Swanson suggests that the complaints from Monaco are not about any of the aforementioned European giants, they relate to Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.
Understand Monaco’s complaint to FIFA over Mbappe relates to alleged conduct of Manchester City and PSG, not Arsenal. #SSN
— Bryan Swanson (@skysports_bryan) July 20, 2017
Pep Guardiola is known to be a big fan of the player, with PSG also tracking the teenager but they appear to have now switched their attentions to Barcelona superstar, Neymar.
Seems odd that City are mentioned, though, given that they haven’t had many stories linking them with Mbappe in the press.
Following the confirmation of an agreement between Chelsea and Real Madrid for the transfer of Alvaro Morata, the striker’s domestic and international teammate Sergio Ramos has reacted to the news on his Twitter account.
Ramos wished the 24-year-old the best of luck on his new adventure at Stamford Bridge, and admitted he will be missed at the Bernabeu next season.
Moratoski, toda la suerte del mundo. Disfruta de tu nueva etapa y sigue metiendo goles como lo haces.Te echaremos de menos. @AlvaroMorata
— Sergio Ramos (@SergioRamos) July 19, 2017
The tweet, loosely translated, read: ”Moratoski, all the luck in the world. Enjoy your new stage and keep getting goals as you do. You will be missed.”
With game time a number one priority for Morata after playing second fiddle behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, a move this summer was expected with Manchester United seemingly the early front-runners for his signature earlier in the summer.
However, after a fee was agreed with Chelsea on Wednesday the Spanish international has now taken the opportunity to be the leading man at Stamford Bridge following the imminent departure of Diego Costa.
13 – Alvaro Morata’s goals won Real Madrid 13 points in the La Liga last season; only Cristiano Ronaldo won more for the side (15). Crucial. pic.twitter.com/porHNrISY8
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 19, 2017
In his most prolific season to date, the 24-year-old scored 15 goals from 26 La Liga matches last season. Of which 12 of were from the bench, and with the likelihood of featuring more predominantly for the Blues his goal tally may only get better.
He is likely to take time to adjust to the demands of English football but his talent is unquestionable and Antonio Conte will be looking to make the most of the established relationship between the pair – from their time at Juventus – to get the best out of his new striker.
Alvaro Morata has already begun laying the foundations to get Chelsea’s fanbase on his side by calling the Blues “the best club” he could join.
The Real Madrid striker exclusively told Sky Sports that he was happy to be moving to Stamford Bridge for an initial fee of around £58m after he jetted into Heathrow Airport on Thursday.
Morata had already told the Spanish press that he was eager to be reunited with former manager Antonio Conte – the pair having previously worked together at Juventus – and described Chelsea as the best club around upon his arrival through customs.
He said: “This is the best club. Antonio Conte is one of the best coaches in the world and I’m so happy to work with Antonio.”
Morata had been slated to join Manchester United earlier in the summer before the Red Devils performed a massive U-turn on the deal and, instead, opted to secure the signing of Romelu Lukaku for £75m.
United boss Jose Mourinho noted how “obvious” it would be for Chelsea to swoop for the 24-year-old after his side poached Lukaku from under their noses and, asked how close he actually came to being transferred to Old Trafford, Morata didn’t give a definitive answer.
He continued: “I don’t know, the most important thing is I’m here playing for Chelsea. Finally I’m here.”
The Los Blancos forward, who found game time hard to come by due to the sheer wealth of attacking options available to Zinedine Zidane, also reiterated how speaking to Spanish team-mate Cesar Azpilicueta had helped convince him that a move to the Premier League was worthwhile.
He added: “[It’s] One of the best leagues in the world and I’m so happy to be here. I spoke with Azpilicueta and he told me everything is OK and he found it something easy.”
Morata is set to undergo a medical at Chelsea’s Cobham training base and, if no issues are found, will allegedly pen a five-year contract worth £8m-a-year.