Villarreal 2-2 Real Madrid: Los Blancos Settle for Point After Spurning Lead Ahead of UCL Final

​Real Madrid capped off their La Liga season with a 2-2 draw away to Villarreal despite having a two goal lead ahead of their Champions League final in a weeks time. First half goals from Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo but Zinedine Zidane’s side in a commanding position, but Roger Martinez and Samu Castillejo goals in the second half meant both sides had a share of the spoils. 

Chances fell for either side inside the opening 10 minutes at the Estadio de la Ceramica, as Villarreal’s Enes Unal narrowly dragged his effort wide, while Andres Fernandez was called into action at the other end to beat away speculative efforts from Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Madrid, however, would find the breakthrough not long after thanks to Gareth Bale’s 16th La Liga goal of the season. Played in by some quick thinking from Luca Modric, the Welshman’s cute step-over gave himself the room before firing hard and low down to Fernandez’s right and open the scoring after 11 minutes. 

Villarreal v Real Madrid - La Liga

Despite seeing more of the ball after Bale’s strike, Villarreal’s only real effort of note after conceding was a Pablo Fornals strike that drifted wide a debuting Luca Zidane’s post, before Javi Calleja’s side were soon two goals behind. 

Found in space on the left after a lovely ball from Isco, Marcelo was afforded too much time to cross, picking out an unmarked Ronaldo who simply nodded home his 26th league goal of the season and double Madrid’s lead. 

It could’ve been even more for Los Blancos as chances began to fall much more frequently towards the end of the half, with Isco, Ronaldo and Toni Kroos all coming close to adding a much-deserved gloss to the scoreline before the half time interval. 


With fifth place and Europa League football secured, Villarreal looked to make a game of it in the second half, as Nicola Sansone’s free kick brought a fine save from Zidane, while Unal’s set piece effort curled agonisingly wide soon after. 

Sergio Ramos then had to be alert to clear Unal’s header off the line after some brilliant skill from Sansone in the buildup, before a stunning strike from Roger Martinez pulled a goal back for The Yellow Submarine to set up an interesting final 20 minutes. 


Villarreal’s improved performance caused Madrid problems throughout the second half, and were deserving of their equaliser five minutes from time. Beating the offside trap, Samu Castillejo kept his composure to round Zidane and slot the leveller home. 

There was even time for Karim Benzema and Lucas Vasquez to go close late on, but their failure to find a winner meant both sides finished the season with a point. 


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Zinedine Zidane Admits He Faces Selection Headache Ahead of Champions League Final Against Liverpool

Zinedine Zidane has admitted he faces a huge selection dilemma ahead of Real Madrid’s Champions League final meeting with Liverpool.

​The Spaniards secured their passage through to the final after beating Bayern Munich ​4-3 over two legs, as they look to become the first side to win three consecutive Champions Leagues since Bayern Munich in 1976. The only thing standing between them and the trophy is a Liverpool side who will be looking to secure their sixth European Cup.

Real Madrid v Bayern Muenchen - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg

Speaking to ​the Mirror ahead of the final at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev on Saturday, Zidane admitted he faces a huge selection headache having all 24 members of his squad full fit and wanting to play. He said: “I have 24 players available and I’m f*****.

​“Sorry, but I can’t find a better word, because there are players that will stay in Madrid and not come with us for the last two games. That’s the hardest part for me.”

Real Madrid v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg

It’s been a difficult domestic season for Madrid having lost out on the league title to rivals Barcelona and currently sit a hefty 15 points behind them, putting more emphasis on the need for Madrid to win the Champions League. Zidane went onto state how important he believes winning the competition for a third consecutive year would be and that his players are ready.

​He added: “It’s huge. It means a lot, above all that the work we’re doing here is good and we’ve got through to the players as we wanted. The players are very hungry to go on winning and they’ve shown that.

Zidane will be hoping he can win his ninth trophy since his arrival at the club in January 2016 as Real look to cap off what has been a disappointing season by their standard with a major piece of silverware. 

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Kylian Mbappe Casts Doubt Over PSG Future But Insists​ He’ll Remain in Paris Next Season

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappé has admitted that it is unlikely he will see out the entirety of his five-year contract in the French capital.

The 19-year-old only moved to PSG last summer following a brilliant breakthrough season with surprise Ligue 1 champions, AS Monaco. Despite initially joining the club on loan, the Parisians will have to fork out €145m to sign Mbappé permanently this summer – where his contract will run until 2022.

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But the France international has admitted that he is unlikely to remain at the Parc des Princes for the entirety of his contract, even suggesting that he could be out the exit door as early as next summer.

I have a five-year contract and I am happy here,” Mbappé said, quoted by ESPN. “PSG have given me the opportunity to play and develop. Next year, I will be here, but all five years of my contract? I do not know. We will see – that is football. 

“We worked all year towards an objective, so if there is a black mark, it was the Champions League. However, our entire season should not be judged on Europe. Even if everybody assumed we had already won everything domestically, we still had to go and do that.”

​​Mbappé was linked with moves across Europe last summer, with interest in the teenage striker high in both the Premier League and La Liga. The 2017 Golden Boy winner opted to stay in France last season, but these latest comments suggest that his mind is already on a move away from Ligue 1.

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Report Claims Arsenal Have Held Talks With Real Madrid Forward’s Agent Over Potential Summer Switch

​​Arsenal representatives have met with the agent of ​Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema to hold talks over a potential summer move to the Emirates.

That is according to Spanish source Diario Gol, who have given just about everyone reason to question their transfer claims in the past. But per their report, the Gunners recently had their people meet with the Frenchman’s agent at a Madrid hotel.

Real Madrid v Celta de Vigo - La Liga

They are also claiming that the London side are prepared to offer £52.4m (€60m) to secure a deal for the player.

Benzema is said to be upset over his exclusion from France’s World Cup squad. And after scoring just 11 goals during the season, Los Blancos are also looking to offload him.

Real president Florentino Perez is rumoured to be keen on a deal for Bayern Munich and Poland forward Robert Lewandowski. But the club are also heavily linked with Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar.

Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg

Arsenal, though, are understood to be facing a lot of competition for the 30-year-old, with Serie A outfits AC Milan and Inter also having sent their representatives to Spain for negotiations.

Benzema, who is contracted to Madrid until 2021, has already rejected a lucrative move to China as he wants to keep playing high-level football, and it will be interesting to see what unfolds over the summer.

Arsenal v Burnley - Premier League

From a realistic standpoint, Arsenal spending over £50m on a 30-year-old forward who has had a poor season, especially when they already have both Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack, just doesn’t seem likely.

They are also in a transitional period and are yet to announce a manager, something which could leave transfer negotiations on hold for a while.

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Picking the Best Potential Real Madrid Lineup to Face Villarreal on Sunday

​Real Madrid go into Sunday’s clash with Villarreal on the back of a 6-0 home win against Celta Vigo last weekend.

However, with one eye on the Champions League final on the 26th of May, Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane may be looking to rest his key players in preparation for their biggest game of the season. 

Here’s how Zidane might set up for this one. 

Torhüter

  • Navas

    Navas1

While Kiko Casilla may be disappointed not to get a run out against Villarreal at the weekend, it is unlikely that Zidane will feel it necessary to rotate his goalkeepers and Keylor Navas should start ahead of the Spaniard.  ​

Verteidigung

  • Hakimi

    Hakimi19

  • S. Ramos

    S. Ramos4

  • Vallejo

    Vallejo3

  • Theo

    Theo15

Real Madrid have a full clean bill of health ahead of the weekend, meaning Zidane has the luxury of options across his backline.

It is unlikely though that Real Madrid will field a full strength defensive lineup. Daniel Carvajal has only recently recovered from a hamstring injury that saw him out for 21 days meaning Hakimi should get the nod at right back. Theo Hernandez should also come into the starting lineup to give Marcelo a rest ahead of the Champions League final. 

Whether Sergio Ramos keeps his place is the biggest question in defence. Nacho is fit and many will expect him to start ahead of his more experienced teammate. But Ramos was rested against Celta Vigo last weekend, and it may be detrimental to his Champions League performance if he starts having not played for two weeks. Ramos will also add experience to a very young backline. 

Mittelfeld

  • Vázquez

    Vázquez17

  • Kovacic

    Kovacic23

  • Llorente

    Llorente18

  • Asensio

    Asensio20

Both Kovacic and Marco Llorente should start as a midfield pair. Real Madrid’s normal midfield starters Kroos and Modric are ageing and a rest ahead of the Champions League will be extremely beneficial for Madrid’s chances against ​Liverpool. Casemiro will also likely be rested.

Vasquez and Asensio typically occupy the positions on the wing when Zidane sets up in a 4-4-2. The two wingers and pace and creativity to the Real Madrid midfield, and both will want to give Zidane something to think about when he selects his team for the Champions League. This game could dictate whether Zidane selects Asensio or Isco for the big game in Kiev.  

Sturm

  • Mayoral

    Mayoral21

  • Bale

    Bale11

Mayoral should come into the starting lineup in order to continue his progression. The young Spaniard has scored just one this season, but has featured off the bench eleven times indicating that Zidane has faith in his ability. 

His strike partner should be Gareth Bale who has been in scintillating form in Ronaldo’s absence, having scored seven in his last nine games. 

The Welshman has staked a claim to be a part of the Real Madrid eleven that faces Liverpool on May 26, and a good performance against Villarreal​ could add fuel to the debate on whether he should start or not. ​Zidane himself admitted after Bale’s man-of-the-match performance against Celta Vigo last weekend that he now faces a selection dilemma for the match in Kiev. 

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Villarreal vs Real Madrid Preview: Previous Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More

Villarreal welcome Champions League finalists Real Madrid to the Estadio de la Cerámica on Sunday in the last game of the league season for both sides. 

Villarreal have already secured a spot in the Europa League group stages for next season, and Real Madrid have predictably finished within the Champions League places. The motivation for both clubs, therefore, will be merely to secure the highest possible league position that they can. A win for Real Madrid opens the possibility of a second place finish if ​Atletico Madrid fail to overcome ninth-placed Eibar on the same day; while Villarreal will be looking to consolidate a fifth-placed finish.  

The Champions League final against ​Liverpool is on the horizon, but Real Madrid will be eager to put in one final display against a Villarreal in order to build momentum for the big game on 26th of May. 

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the final day in La Liga:


Previous Encounter

Real Madrid v Villarreal - La Liga

The last time these two sides faced each other was back in January of this year, and Villarreal came out surprise winners against Los Blancos with Pablo Fornals grabbing the only goal of the game. 

Real Madrid predictably dominated but the home team were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal. Madrid’s total of 28 shots included just seven that were on target. Madrid did have the ball in the net though. Cristiano Ronaldo flicked a Toni Kroos cross onto the head of Gareth Bale, but the Welshman’s close-range effort was correctly judged offside by the third official. 

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Villarreal looked dangerous on their rare forays into the Real Madrid half. Denis Cheryshev and Carlos Bacca nearly capitalised on Madrid’s hesitant defending, but the breakthrough came midway through the second period.

Cheryshev broke clear down the left hand side and found Enes Ünal in the penalty area. Ünal’s shot was well blocked by an onrushing Keylor Navas but it rebounded into the path of Fornals, who cooly dispatched a first-time chip over the goalkeepers head to settle the game.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-VILLARREAL

Villarreal’s steely determination was characterised by Asenjo in goal for the away side, who’s efforts went a long way to sealing the win.

Before the half time interval the Spaniard denied rasping efforts from Marcelo and Ronaldo, but a heroic save late in the second-half to deny Ronaldo’s close-range effort was arguably his best.


Key Battle 

Sergio Asenjo vs Gareth Bale

Real Madrid v Celta de Vigo - La Liga

If Villarreal are to come away with something from Sunday’s game, they will need to contain an in-form Gareth Bale. The Welsh forward has scored seven in his last nine games, and turned in a man-of-the-match performance ​last time out against Celta Vigo. 

Villarreal’s season has largely been defined by the man in the sticks, Sergio Asenjo, who will be the key to keeping Gareth Bale off the score sheet this weekend.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-VILLARREAL-VALENCIA

Villarreal have conceded a lot of chances this season as exemplified by the performance against Real Madrid in January, and their fifth-place league position can largely be attributed to Asenjo who has kept them in a number of games. 

But the home team have conceded seven in their last two games, and Asenjo was remarkably poor in the 5-1 loss to Barcelona. He made just one save all game, and cannot replicate that performance if Villarreal want to take points off of Madrid on Sunday. 


Team News

With the Champions League final quickly approaching Zinedine Zidane is expected to heavily rotate his squad for Sunday’s fixture, with youngsters Marcos Llorente and Borja Mayoral likely to be given the nod. 

The game may also see the continued involvement of Gareth Bale who scored twice against Celta Vigo last weekend, in Madrid’s 6-0 victory. The Welshman will be looking to give Zidane a ​selection headache ahead of the Champions League final, with his form in recent weeks justifying his claim for a starting berth in Kiev. 


Villarreal are still without Bruno Soriano, Ramiro Guerra and Rúben Semedo through injury, but the three stars have not made a big impact this season. It is likely that manager Javi Calleja will keep faith with the same back four that he has used all season, with Denis Cheryshev featuring on the left-hand side of the attack against his former club.


Potential Villarreal Starting Lineup: Asenjo Costs, Ruiz, Gonzalez, Gaspar; Trigueros, Rodri, Cheryshev, Fornals, Castillejo; Bacca. 

Potential Real Madrid Starting Lineup: Navas, Hakimi, Vallejo, RamosHernández; Vasquez, Kovacic, Llorente, Asensio; Bale, Mayoral.


Prediction

FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-VILLARREAL

It is difficult to know what to expect from Real Madrid in this fixture. The possible presence of numerous fringe players in the starting lineup may jeopardise their chances of taking anything from the game, especially with Villarreal in fine form.

Villarreal have won four of their last five home games in La Liga, with Valencia, Celta Vigo, Leganes and ​Atletico Madrid all recently falling short at La Ceramica.

Only Barcelona have triumphed over the Yellow Submarine since the middle of April, and the host’s form has allowed them to easily secure themselves a spot in the Europa League for next season.

With Los Blancos having their eyes firmly on the Champions League a tight game may be on the cards this Sunday.

Prediction: Villarreal 2-2 Real Madrid

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Report Claims Chelsea Among 3 Clubs Willing to Pay £175m for Liverpool Hotshot This Summer

​​Chelsea are among three clubs willing to pay ​Liverpool’s asking price of £175m to land star forward Mohamed Salah, per Spanish source ​Diario Gol.

The publication claims that Real Madrid are also keen on signing the Egyptian this summer but are unwilling to meet the Reds’ valuation, while Manchester City and Bayern Munich aren’t averse.

Salah, now considered to be Chelsea’s biggest mistake given the season he’s had at Liverpool, was on the Blues’ payroll after joining from Basel in 2014. But he failed to hit the heights under Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge and was loaned out to both Fiorentina and AS Roma before signing a permanent deal with the latter.

The crafty forward made the switch to Liverpool last summer and has since notched 44 goals in just 51 appearances, winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot and the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in the process.

He is also set for a Champions League final against Madrid later this month and could possibly end his first season at Anfield in the best way possible by winning the coveted European trophy.

City, who won the Premier League title this season, could have an interest in the player and it wouldn’t come as a shock if they decided to spend the aforementioned amount. But Bayern are notoriously careful with their purse strings and spending £175m on one player just doesn’t seem like something they’d be keen on doing.

Liverpool v Brighton and Hove Albion - Premier League

It would be quite a surprise to see the Blues get involved too, based on the asking price, especially for one of their former players.

Madrid, meanwhile, are said to be ready to offer Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez in a part-exchange.

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Antoine Griezmann Included in France World Cup Squad But Anthony Martial & Dimitri Payet Miss Out

Frances’ World Cup squad for the competition in Russia later this summer has been announced, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba​ and N’Golo Kante all being included in the final 23-man squad.

Griezmann, who scored twice during ​Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 Europa League final win on Wednesday night, is included while Marseille’s Dimitri Payet, who was substituted due to injury, misses out.

​Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris will lead Les Bleus in Russia, Paris Saint-Germain youngster Kylian Mbappe is included, while ​Manchester United’s Paul Pogba makes it but club teammate Anthony Martial misses out.

Benjamin Mendy, who has been sidelined for most of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, makes his way into the 23 alongside Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti, 

Big things are expected from France, who are widely regarded to have one of the best squads in international football. In their last international tournament, Didier Deschamps’ side reached the final of Euro 2016 but were defeated 1-0 by Portugal.

Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette misses out, with former Gunners teammate Olivier Giroud preferred up front 

Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (PSG)

Defenders: Djibril Sidibé (AS Monaco), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Adil Rami (Marseille), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Manchester United), N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla), Thomas Lemar (AS Monaco)

Forwards: Kylian Mbappé (PSG), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Ousmane Dembélé (FC Barcelona), Nabil Fékir (Lyon), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)

​​France begin their World Cup campaign on 16 June against Australia before facing fellow Group C opponents Peru and Denmark.

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Lionel Messi Hands Real Madrid Unlikely Compliment & Laments Shock Champions League Exit

​​Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has handed rivals ​Real Madrid some high praise, claiming that they have the best players in the world position for position.

The crafty Argentinian notes that, while Barca are similarly built, Madrid can win games even if they’re playing badly, something typified by their run to the Champions League final despite being seemingly outclassed by most of their opposition.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-REAL MADRID

“Position by position, Madrid have the best players in the world,” Messi said in an interview with TyC Sports. “[Barca] do as well, but Madrid have something that only they have. When they play badly, they still get results. We have to be the far superior side to win.”

The Catalan side made quite the mess of their own European campaign, going out in the quarter final stage courtesy of AS Roma despite claiming a 4-1 advantage in the first leg.

“The Champions League [loss was a mistake],” he lamented. “Given the [4-1] advantage we had before the second leg, we [should have reached] the semi final. It was a huge disappointment.

AS Roma v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg

“[But] it motivates me to see Madrid in the Champions League final again; to see them winning leagues. I want to win the Champions League every year. I want to be a league champion every year — it’s what we all want.”

The forward also ​touched on the rumours linking him with a Pep Guardiola reunion at Manchester City, claiming that the only way he will play alongside compatriot Sergio Aguero at club level is if the City forward joins Barcelona.

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Messi will be hoping to end his ten-year international drought with Argentina in this year’s FIFA World Cup after several disappointments. La Albiceleste won their last piece of silverware in the 2008 Olympics, going home with the gold. 

Yet that’s hardly something for Messi to look back on, especially as he’s been to a World Cup final.

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Chasing Barça: 5 Things Real Madrid Must Do to Return to the Top of La Liga Next Season

As Real Madrid prepare to take on Liverpool in the Champions League final in Kiev at the end of the month, there is a very real possibility that Los Blancos could win Europe’s elite trophy for an unprecedented third consecutive season.

There will, however, be an underlying concern in amongst the excitement at the prospect of further European glory over their (relatively) poor domestic campaign.

Madrid have dropped a long way off the pace in La Liga, as they currently sit behind local rivals Atletico Madrid in third place and 15 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona.

Ahead of Zinedine Zidane’s side’s final league game of the season away to Villareal, here is a look at what the 2017 champions must do ahead of next season to dethrone their rivals and return to the top in Spain.

5. Settle on a Starting XI

In amongst Madrid’s Champions League exploits this season, the team which Zidane has fielded in La Liga matches has often been heavily rotated, particularly in the latter stages of the season, to give priority to the European competition.

Whilst this has proved successful in terms of getting Madrid to the final in Kiev, it has also been detrimental to Los Blancos’ league campaign. The recent 3-2 defeat to Sevilla was a clear example of Madrid’s rotated side not being up to scratch in domestic competition.

Next season, it is important that Zidane maintains a core set of players which forms a spine of the team which can be maintained in most matches, barring any injuries, and rest given to minimal amounts of players from game-to-game.

Making two or three changes each game is a lot different to the wholesale changes which Zidane has been ringing in his Madrid side week by week this season. It disrupts the stability of the side, with the squad players often thrust into action all together with few around them having played regularly, giving the team a disjointed look and a subsequent lack of results.

4. Improve Tactical Discipline

Madrid’s team boasts a vast number of global superstars, each with tremendous individual quality, but they do not always seem to be on the same page.

The likes of Marcelo, Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo often seem to be playing their own game, shouting to others for not doing what they expect of them, not passing to them when they want the ball, and often lacking a clear team mentality and identity in the side.

There is an over-reliance at times on the likes of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Karim Benzema to compensate for the individualism of others, as they try to sew things back together, fill the gaps left by their marauding teammates and try to bring others into play.

This may be adequate in the Champions League, in which it can only take one moment of individual brilliance to seal a tie – and Madrid have plenty of that. The league, however, is a marathon, not a sprint, and ZIdane’s side have often been found out for not having a clear tactical approach or team dynamic this season.

Barcelona and Ateltico Madrid are highly regimented sides, with Diego Simeone’s team in particular punching regularly above their weight because of their outstanding team mentality and collective approach to every match. That is largely why Madrid have fallen short of their two rivals in La Liga this season. 

3. Add Fresh Impetus This Summer

Madrid are widely renowned for their Galactico approach to buying the best players around the world to cement their status as Europe’s elite club. Their record 12 European Cup wins owe much to that approach, as it has successfully set them apart and above the global standing of all others.

The important aspect of adding big names for big money goes beyond the excitement that it generates among fans and the media. It also gives the team a huge boost and added belief that they can win every game and beat all who come before them, because they have these star players around them. It has a galvanising effect which gets the best out of everyone.

The previous summer transfer window had very much the opposite effect at the Bernabeu, with high profile departures overshadowing the understated recruitment of younger squad players.

The likes of Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez and Pepe all departed Madrid last summer, with the expectation being that those funds would be used to recruit new stars to challenge the current team. The arrivals of Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos as Madrid’s only purchases, however, failed to do so, and as a result the Madrid team has largely gone stale. Devoid of fresh faces to inject new life into the side, Madrid’s withered league campaign has rather reflected their uninspired transfer window. 

The likes of Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois have been linked with big money moves from Chelsea to Real this summer, and it is that calibre of additions that is required this summer to add renewed impetus into Madrid’s title challenge next term.

2. Maximise Youth Potential & Manage Squad More Effectively

Madrid’s transfer activity last summer seemed to focus primarily on the promotion of youth and investment into the future. The signings of Hernandez from Atletico and Ceballos from Real Betis seemed to point in that direction.

The recalling of Jesus Vallejo, Marcos Llorente, Borja Mayoral and Diego Llorente from loan spells, along with the promotion of Achraf Hakimi to the first team picture seemed to further suggest a new approach to success from Florentino Perez and Madrid, moving away from the Galactico philosophy and instead promoting youth to breed long-term success.

The use of these young players so far has, however, been more a case of misuse. Instead of truly embedding these players into the Madrid setup organically, playing alongside Ronaldo and co, they have generally been thrown in at the deep end when the senior stars needed a rest.

The defeat to Sevilla, again, was clear evidence of this. Players who had lacked competition throughout the season which would allow them to be eased into the action and demands of playing for Real Madrid were instead thrust into games which Zidane and Madrid were clearly not prioritising.

Therefore, the careless approach to such domestic commitments and the use of these young players in a team which was essentially thrown together, devoid of an identity or direction, largely hindered these players’ progress this season, and so too Madrid’s league results.

The use of the squad needs to be better structured, better organised and better managed by Zidane next season if he is to maximise the potential of his young stars and achieve a greater consistency in results across all competitions.

1. Stop Depending on Ronaldo

Madrid’s dependence on the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo is not a new topic of discussion or issue which has only surfaced this season.

Ronaldo’s presence has come to be the defining feature of this Real Madrid side almost immediately since he joined the club in 2009. His 25 La Liga goals this season make him the joint second top scorer in Spain this term, whilst his 15 strikes in the current Champions League campaign make him the competition’s top scorer this season.

Rather than diminish in significance over the years, Ronaldo’s goals have become ever more important to Madrid since he joined the club. This has been both a blessing and a curse for Los Blancos.

The question is often: where would they be without him? This is not a healthy question to be asking of any top European club and their over-dependence on the input of a single player.

The great Real Madrid sides of the previous decade, the original Galacticos, were not all about just one great player. They had several, all of whom were capable of making the difference for their side. The Brazilian great Ronaldo of Madrid’s past was their primary source of goals during his time at the club, but he also had the likes of Raul, Zidane, Luis Figo and many more around him.

Madrid have tried to supply Cristiano with a similar supply of accomplices, but the likes of Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Kaka and more have all shrunk in the Portuguese’s shadow.

Perhaps one of the biggest tasks before Madrid next season is to lessen their reliance on the presence and consistency of Ronaldo in the side and his goal scoring exploits, and to instead focus more on their approach as a team, not as individuals. 

This could be key to getting the best out of the likes of Bale, and may even free up Ronaldo to play under less pressure and take up a more team-based role similar to that which made him a star at Manchester United.

Let’