Meet Mariano Diaz: The Latest Real Madrid Reject Who Is Outscoring Ronaldo & Benzema at Lyon

​Defending league and European champions Real Madrid have not, as you may have noticed, had an ideal start to the season.

Their controversial home win over 19th-placed Malaga at the weekend keeps them in fourth, level on points with Atletico Madrid, four behind Valencia and, crucially, eight adrift of leaders Barcelona after just 13 games.

As anyone who has ever won a title will tell you, they are particularly hard to defend. Shifts in momentum, coupled with the threat of re-strengthened opponents make back to back league titles a rarity outside all but the most imbalanced of divisions.


However, Real Madrid have made the 2017/18 season much harder for themselves than they needed to.

While Barcelona fought tooth and nail to plug the gaping Neymar-shaped whole in their side over the summer, Florentino Perez was uncharacteristically thrifty and blasé about key squad departures such as Alvaro Morata, Danilo, Pepe and James Rodriguez – who, combined, played a total of 78 times in La Liga in 2016/17.

The results of this self-inflicted reduction in squad depth have been self evident, particularly in attack. Incredibly, there is not currently a single Real Madrid player in the 20 top scorers in La Liga and ​the club are on course for their worst league goal return since 2007.

However, as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema inexplicably continue to fire blanks (prior to this weekend they had the worst goal return rate of any front two in any of Europe’s top five leagues bar Serie A’s bottom side Benevento, according to Marca), one other man might have been worth keeping on the books at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Mariano Díaz Mejía is currently the top scoring Spaniard in any of Europe’s top five leagues, with 11 goals in all competitions for Lyon.

While Morata and James’ transfers were poured over relentlessly, Mariano made the switch to Ligue 1 without much fanfare or indeed much of a transfer fee. In fact, the 24-year-old’s €8m move was comfortably less than the loan fee Bayern Munich paid for James.

However, it is now like the least celebrated of Real Madrid’s outgoing stars this summer who is looking like the most missed in Los Blancos’ pursuit of goals this season.

Mariano was always an unlikely Galactico. He was born in Catalonia for a start, to a Dominican mother and a bodybuilding father. He was released by Espanyol before he was a teenager for being too short.

However, after a growth spurt that would’ve made his dad proud, the young striker impressed enough at Badalona in the Segunda B division to earn a move to Real Madrid’s La Fabrica in 2011.

Real Madrid v Cultural Leonesa - Copa del Rey

After working his way through the ranks at Real’s C and Castilla teams – most notably netting 27 in 32 in the 2015/16 season – he was eventually promoted to Zinedine Zidane’s first team, albeit at the unusually late age of 23.

Amongst the glittering talents, household names and Ballon d’Or contenders, Mariano was always unlikely to be afforded much playing time in his favoured position and remained one of the most peripheral first team figures in Los Blancos’ charge for honours, despite Zidane’s preference to rotate between the league and Europe.

Unlike fellow young upstarts Lucas Vasquez or even Marco Asensio, he is not much of a wide man, a link up man, a number ten, or even a trequartista. Mariano is an old fashioned poacher in the mould of Michael Owen – another man whose career in the Spanish capital failed to ignite despite an appetite for goals.

Deportivo de La Coruna v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

As Lyon assistant Gerald Baticle put it Eurosport (via ​Goal): “When others might want to make a pass, his [Mariano’s] first idea is to find an angle to shoot towards goal. All his play is in the centre towards goal.”

In the Copa del Rey last season, Mariano was afforded his main opportunity to impress, and he did his best to provoke Zidane into using him bigger fixtures, scoring four times in five outings. However, he seemed to leave more of an impression on the watching scouts, with Liverpool among those linked.

It was Lyon who took the gamble on the raw talent last summer, hoping to be the next club to scoop up the never-ending stream of talent seeping through the cracks at the Santiago Bernabeu.

So far, the risk has paid off, and Mariano – who cites Samuel Eto’o another Real Madrid castoff among his footballing idols – has been one of France’s revelations of the season. His ten league strikes are more than that of Mario Balotelli, Kylian Mbappe or indeed Neymar, as Lyon sit in second in Ligue 1.

As a front three Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and Mariano have more goal contributions (goals plus assists) than Paris Saint-Germain’s celebrated front three, with 38 to 36.

Clinical, strong and good in the air, talk has already linked Mariano with a move back to Madrid less than six months after his departure. He himself stoked the rumour fires with an interview with ​El Pais at the start of November in which he claimed he would “never close the door to Madrid.”

However, club president Jean-Michel Aulas has already taken to Twitter to insist there is no ‘buy back’ agreement for the striker, who has a five-year contract at Lyon.

One place Mariano could yet end up next summer is Russia, as he targets a place on the plane with the Spain squad. His solitary Dominican Republic cap in 2013 was a friendly and despite near-constant phone calls from his mother’s nation, he has his heart set on playing for Spain.

“It’s a season before the World Cup, and going there would be magnificent. I’ve not yet spoken to coach Julen Lopetgui but I know I’m being watched,” he told Le Progres.

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While Lopetgui will surely be keeping an eye on the striker’s progress, one or two others in need of a goalscorer surely will, including perhaps Zidane.


Sergio Ramos Warns Zinedine Zidane to Up His Game as Los Blancos Target Antonio Conte

Real Madrid need to step up their game and return to playing like they did last year, otherwise Zinedine Zidane will have to worry about keeping his job.

This is not just common opinion, but also – Diario Gol claim – Sergio Ramos’ advice to Zidane himself. Los Blancos have indeed had a different, less explosive beginning of the season compared to last year, when they almost completed the treble by winning La Liga and the Champions League. 

The Spanish giants have struggled both in Europe and domestically as they qualified for the Champions League’ round of last 16 behind Tottenham and sit eight points behind leaders Barcelona in the league. 

Despite winning their last Primera Division match against Malaga 3-2, media in Spain report that president Florentino Perez is losing his patience with the French manager and could be already looking for a replacement. 

Having eyed Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and Germany’s Joachim Low as possible candidates, Perez is reportedly waiting for Real Madrid’s match against Barcelona to consider his options. 

And Real defender and captain Ramos seems to know this very well, as he is thought to have given Zidane a warning to up the ante. 

The pair are said to have met to discuss the Frenchman’s chances at Real Madrid, and Ramos reportedly told him that he needs to raise the level. 

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​​Real Madrid still have a few matches to prepare before the Clasico, during which Zidane will need to put in good performances and earn more points if he hopes to avoid the axe in January.


Report Claims Chelsea Defender David Luiz Is Set for Shock January Move to Real Madrid

​Chelsea defender David Luiz could be set for a shock January move to La Liga giants Real Madrid, according to reports in France.

According to ​RMC Sport, the 30 year-old has become the subject of transfer speculation with reports stating conversations between the Blues and Los Blancos have been initiated, over a potential switch to Spain in the new year.

RMC claim that talks between the Madrid club and Luiz’s representatives have begun at an early stage, with a move mooted following the relationship between the defender and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte breaking down, after the player was dropped versus Manchester United earlier this month.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League

After being left out against the Red Devils, Conte told reporters that he wasn’t sure if Luiz had a future at the club. Since the win versus United, Andreas Christensen has deputised in defence alongside Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, with a route back into Chelsea’s starting lineup looking a murky prospect for the Brazilian defender.

Conte is no stranger to his ruthless approach with players, following the Italian’s much-publicised spat with former striker Diego Costa which saw the Spanish international’s return to Atletico Madrid in the past few months.

Luiz’s return to West London from Paris-Saint Germain in his second spell, saw him become a regular fixture for Conte in a back three system, as Chelsea lifted the Premier League crown once more last term. With the player now seemingly having been frozen out however, a move away does not seem so far-fetched.

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It is believed RMC are well connected to the former PSG defender from his time in the capital but it remains to be seen for the moment, if this report is anything more than speculation.


Gareth Bale Set to Return to First Team Action With Real Madrid After Recovering From Injury

Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale, is set to make his return to first team action for Los Blancos on Tuesday, according to Zinedine Zidane.

The Welshman had been out for two months with various injuries. Bale was set to return to first team action in October after recovering from a calf problem, but unfortunately sustained a thigh injury prior to his comeback.

Finally, the 28-year-old is seemingly good to go and – according to the manager – will feature against third-tier side Fuenlabrada in the Copa del Rey.

Real Madrid Training And Press Conference

The Spanish giants will be thrilled with his return, having last seen the speedy winger against Borussia Dortmund, in September’s Champions League clash.

Zidane, when questioned about Bale by the ​BBC, revealed: “The idea is that tomorrow he can play and he looks good.”

The Frenchman – who last week said he did not know when Bale would return to action – added: “As always he needs game time and how the matches go will determine what the best route for us to take is.”


Bale missed the latter stages of Wales’ unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign and has failed to play a single minute alongside formidable team-mates Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, through both injuries and suspension.

“I want to see Gareth, Cristiano and Karim,” said Zidane. “It has been a long time since I have seen them together.”

Bale has scored 70 goals in 159 appearances for the Real, winning three Champions Leagues and last season’s La Liga title.

Manchester United will also be interested to see how Bale performs in the coming weeks, as they’re reportedly readying a move for the Welshman next summer.

Jose Mourinho previously admitted prior to the Red Devil’s Super-Cup clash against Madrid, that he would: “Wait for him [Bale] on the other side and fight with other coaches”, if Zinedine Zidane was to deem the Welshman surplus to requirements in Spain.


Real Madrid Star Cristiano Ronaldo Has Told Board to Offload Teammate Lucas Vazquez

Real Madrid icon Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly told the board at Madrid that he believes Spanish international teammate Lucas Vazquez should leave the club, as the Portuguese man doesn’t believe the Spaniard has the talent required to play for Real.

According to Don Balon​, Ronaldo is baffled by the fact that Vazquez continues to get into the team, with the Spaniard already making 19 appearances this season. Vazquez is said to be a favourite of manager Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldo claims that it is the only reason the player is getting game time.

It is also suggested that club president Florentino Perez is in agreement with Ronaldo that Vazquez is a favourite of Zidane’s. It seems to be the case that many do not think of Vazquez as a Real Madrid player, due to his lack of personality on and off the pitch.

The Spaniard is a hard-working player, who shows glimpses of skill but mainly relies on his pace and interplay. It might be the case that he doesn’t fit the Galactico description, and that is why Ronaldo wants him gone. 

Vazquez in the past couple of weeks has been filling in for the injured Welshman Gareth Bale. However, the ex-Tottenham star is currently back in training and is hopeful of a return sooner rather than later.

As for Zidane, he has not faced a problem like this before in his managerial career. The pressure is now on him, as he must deal with this situation while his team continue to perform poorly. It hasn’t been a memorable season for Los Blancos so far, as they currently sit 4th in the league, eight points behind leaders Barcelona. 

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​​The January window will be interesting for Madrid, and if they were to sell Vasquez, they could possibly replace him with a big money signing in the hopes of reigniting their season.


Spanish Media Claims Real Madrid Know Alexis Sanchez Has His Heart Set on Summer Exit

Alexis Sánchez has his heart set on leaving Arsenal next summer and Real Madrid are believed to be monitoring the Chilean winger, according to a report from Spanish media outlet Mundo Deportivo.

The 28-year-old could be the perfect player to help Los Blancos regain their form that has seen them dominate European football over the last two years.

However, Real Madrid could find persuading Alexis to move back to Spain difficult because of the three-year spell he had with their bitter rivals, Barcelona.

There have been a number of reports in recent weeks linking Inter Milan captain Mauro Icardi with a move to Madrid. 

Although the 24-year-old goal machine would be a fantastic long-term replacement for Karim Benzema in their attack, news that Barcelona are looking to sign Mesut Özil – a former Real Madrid player – could persuade club president Florentino Pérez to move for Alexis instead.

Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League

Both Alexis and Özil are out of contract next summer, with clubs allowed to approach the two Arsenal stars in January over a potential move. 

The Gunners would much prefer to see Alexis and Özil leave the Premier League next season, especially considering that Manchester City and Manchester United are interested in poaching the Chilean and German respectively in the summer.

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Regardless of where Arsenal’s key duo end up next season, the Gunners will have a huge mountain to climb when it comes to identifying replacements.

Lyon’s Nabil Fekir has been linked with a £60m move to north London in recent weeks, with the potential of linking up with his former teammate, Alexandre Lacazette, believed to be enough to convince the 24-year-old of leaving the Groupama Stadium next season.


Chelsea Legend Frank Lampard Doesn’t See Eden Hazard Quitting Blues for Real Madrid

Former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard says he doesn’t believe that Eden Hazard will leave for Real Madrid as long as he keeps his performances up and remains happy.

Hazard has been one of the Premier League’s best talents since joining the Blues from Lille in 2012, but is constantly linked to Madrid – and his admiration for Los Blancos and their manager Zinedine Zidane hasn’t helped.

Liverpool v Chelsea - Premier League

Lampard, though, doesn’t see his former teammate joining the Champions League holders, especially if things keep going well for him at Stamford Bridge.

“If you are Eden Hazard or any top player in the world, the talk of Real Madrid and Barcelona will always hang over you whether it’s spoken about out loud in the newspaper or whether it is just a fact they go after the best players in the world,” Lampard told BT Sport, via ​Goal.

“Eden Hazard is one of those so I don’t think it’s going to be any problem.

“He’s very aware that probably for the last two or three seasons that these big teams would like to take him from Chelsea.

“He doesn’t change anything as long as he performs week in week out. And he certainly has in recent weeks, then nothing changes as far as I’m concerned.”

Hazard had previously stated his intention to remain at Chelsea, but did not rule out a move in future. For now, though, he seems set on continuing his glittering career in London.

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“I am always very fine at this club,” the Belgian told reporters in France last week. ” I still have two years of contract [left]. When I feel the desire to leave, I’ll leave. But, for now, I’m a Blue.

“We know the admiration that I have for Real, but I’m at Chelsea. Every year, things were said about me but I stayed.”


The 20 Teams With the Highest Wage Bills in the World of Football

As reported by the Mail on Sunday, the biggest football wage bills have been calculated to reveal which team spends the most on paying its players each week.

Premier League clubs dominate the top 20 more than any other league, so let’s take a look at which teams feature…

20. Valencia – £2.4m per week

19. Leicester City – £2.5m per week

18. Roma – £2.6m per week

17. Inter Milan – £2.6m per week

16. Borussia Dortmund – £2.7m per week

15. Everton – £2.8m per week

14. West Ham – £2.8m per week

13. AC Milan – £3.1m per week

12. Tottenham Hotspur – £3.1m per week

11. Liverpool – £3.6m per week

10. Atletico Madrid

Total wage bill per week: £3.8m

Moving into the top 10 this year, jumping three places to leapfrog both Liverpool and Spurs, Atletico Madrid’s wage bill has increased as a result of holding on to wanted men such as Antoine Griezmann, Saul Niguez and Koke. 

9. Arsenal

Total wage bill per week: £4m

Arsenal fans will actually be hoping that the Gunners’ place in this list will be significantly higher next year if it means that more lucrative deals for both Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez can be agreed upon.

8. Chelsea

Total wage bill per week: £4.4m

Since Roman Abramovich’s arrival in west London, the Blues have never been shy from paying their stars extortionate wages and despite a changing of the guard at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea remain one of the biggest spenders in Europe.

7. Juventus

Total wage bill per week: £4.8m

By far the richest team in Italy, despite attempts to close the gap from both Milan clubs, the Old Lady ensure that some of the world’s best talent play their football in Turin by compensating the likes of Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain nicely.

6. Bayern Munich

Total wage bill per week: £5.2m

Germany’s version of Juventus, Bayern Munich have been dominating the Bundesliga in every sense of the word and their ability to pay the biggest wages has allowed them to steal the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Niklas Sule and Mats Hummels from their biggest rivals.

5. Manchester City

Total wage bill per week: £5.2m 

Just edging out the Bavarians into the top five, Manchester City have a plethora of world class talent at their disposal but it does take over £5m-a-week to keep all those stars employed by the Citizens. 

4. Manchester United

Total wage bill per week: £5.2m 

The Red Devils have actually dropped three places from the top spot since last year, as a result of the exits of both Wayne Rooney and Bastian Schweinsteiger, but they still have enough big names to warrant the title of the Premier League’s best paid team.

3. Real Madrid

Total wage bill per week: £6.2m

Up a place from last season, the reigning European champions have an enormous wage bill each week, with big earners like Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Gareth Bale remaining on Los Blancos’ books.

2. Paris Saint-Germain

Total wage bill per week: £6.5m

The biggest movers in the top 10, PSG have jumped five places following a frantic summer which saw the arrivals of both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to enhance the Ligue 1 side’s reputation as a European superpower. 

1. Barcelona

Total wage bill per week: £6.6m

With an average wage of £126,875 a week, Barcelona are officially football’s best paid team and the recent news of Leo Messi’s contract extension has only reinforced the Catalan club’s policy of paying big bucks to their coveted stars. 


Cristiano Ronaldo ‘Furious’ After Lionel Messi’s Lucrative New Barcelona Contract

​Cristiano Ronaldo has reacted angrily to the news that Lionel Messi has signed such a lucrative new contract with Barcelona, according to a report in ​Diario Gol.

The Argentine talisman put pen to paper on a new three-year deal to end constant speculation over his future.

Ronaldo is said to be furious that Messi secured a salary of €640,000-a-week, which equates to €100m over the course of the contract.

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The Real Madrid forward reportedly earns just over €400,000 a week, now a considerably lower wage than his rival.

Ronaldo, like Messi, is also under contract at the Bernabeu until 2021.

The 30-year-old recently admitted that he is unsure whether he and Ronaldo, who routinely compete for the Ballon d’Or, will ever be friends.

“I don’t know if we will be [friends in the future]. Friendship is built through spending time together and getting to know each other,” he told ​Marca.

“We have no relationship, mainly because we only see each other at awards ceremonies and that’s the only time we speak. Everything is fine, but our lives don’t cross over very often.”

He added: “There are many great players around today who can win the Ballon d’Or. In recent years there have just been two, but now players like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Luis Suarez can compete for that award.”

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Messi won his fourth European Golden Shoe award on Friday, drawing him level with his Real Madrid counterpart. Ronaldo could also match Messi’s total Ballon d’Ors if he is awarded his fifth in January.


Real Madrid 3-2 Malaga: Los Blancos Rescued as Ronaldo Finally Begins to Fire in La Liga

Real Madrid closed the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona, albeit potentially temporarily, to seven points after managing to eventually drag themselves to a 3-2 win over Malaga on Saturday afternoon. 

Karim Benzema’s early point-blank opener gave the hosts a deserved lead, but was quickly cancelled out by striker Diego Rolan less than 10 minutes later with his side’s first away goal of the season. 


But just moments afterwards, Los Blancos restored their lead courtesy of Casemiro, an advantage that could arguably have only lasted until half-time had the referee’s decision to rather harshly disallow Boquerones’ second of the afternoon on the stroke of the break been avoided. 

However, justice was served midway through the second half, with a costly goalkeeping error allowing Chory Castro to level things up from range before Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty rebound with 15 minutes to go eventually sealing a vital three points for the Spanish capital side.  

Real Madrid v Malaga - La Liga

It was a fairly even start inside the Santiago Bernabeu – packed out as ever – with Malaga’s counter attack in the opening stages showing promise.

However, it seemed an afternoon where the hosts were not prepared to lose any more ground on current league leaders Barcelona, with Los Blancos going forward with both pace and purpose, and it only took nine minutes for that to make a difference, as Benzema netted the opener. 

The Frenchman was left with the simplest of finishes into an unguarded goal after Ronaldo’s initial headed effort dragged Malaga keeper Roberto towards his far post before cannoning off the crossbar and finding its way into the path of the Real striker to convert from close range. 

However, Madrid’s advantage was short lived, as just nine minutes later hosts’ custodian 

Kiko Casilla was left to pick the ball out the back of his net after Toni Kroos’ lackadaisical backpass found the feet of Keko, whose first time delivery was dispatched home by Rolan to secure Boquerones’s first away league goal of the season

Less than 60 seconds after drawing level, Malaga found themselves three-on-three with the Real defence, but poor decision making allowed Los Blancos to fashion a break of their own and force a corner, which then provided the opportunity for Madrid to grab the lead once again. 

Zinedine Zidane’s side’s second of the afternoon came as simply as any can from a set piece, with Casemiro rising above the rest deep inside the visitors’ area to nod home Kroos’ cross for his third of the campaign, and put his side back in the driving seat after a rather frantic opening 20 minutes.  

As the half ticked on neither side really threatened in front of goal, but the opening 45 came to an end shrouded in controversy with referee Jesus Gil Manzano well in the centre of it. 

During the final additional minute, Real captain Marcelo was booked for a challenge near the centre circle, allowing Malaga one last opportunity to get back on level terms before the break. 

The cross was lifted into the area and substitute defender Paul Baysse rose above Dani Carvajal and directed his header into the back of the net, only for the 33-year-old official to seemingly draw the half to a close while the ball was en-route past Casilla for a push on the Spaniard. 

Understandably the extremely soft decision provoked and less than impressed reaction from Malaga’s players and manager, but despite their protests the score remained 2-1 at the break. 

As the sides re-emerged for the second-half, Real struggled to really get back into their stride, and just before the hour mark found themselves pegged back yet again as Castro’s long-range effort skipped under Casilla to give Malaga a deserved second of the afternoon. 

The 33-year-old picked up the ball around 30 yards out from goal before unleashing his low, swerving pot-shot, which seemed to get the better of the Spanish shot stopper as it squirming under his hands and into the back of the net.


After drawing level again the visitors looked the side most likely out of the two to grab a third, however, as Luka Modric was brought down in the area with 15 minutes to go, it allowed Ronaldo to eventually double his tally for the season. 

The 32-year-old, who had converted just 2.6% of his chances in the league this term ahead of kick off, finally slotted home from the rebound to spark sheer relief inside the Santiago Bernabeu after his initial penalty was well saved by Roberto

That is how the tie remained, and it is now over to Barcelona, who come up against fellow high-flyers Valencia on Sunday evening, to put the pressure back on their Clasico rivals.