Are Real Madrid targeting another rebuild?

Are Real Madrid targeting another rebuild?

Every club is eager for football to return but perhaps none more so than Real Madrid. It will have been a fraught five weeks for Zinedine Zidane, whose side headed into the shutdown off the back of four defeats in seven games.

Dumped out of the Copa del Rey at home by Real Sociedad and with one foot out of the Champions League following a 2-1 loss to Manchester City at the Santiago Bernabeu, the season has not gone according to plan.

So much was expected of this new Madrid side following a summer of heavy spending, with £275m forked out on players such as Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy, Luka Jovic, Rodrygo and Eder Militao.

But with the side trailing Barcelona by two points with 11 La Liga games still to play, Zidane may well have used these dormant weeks contemplating ripping up his attempts at a reboot and starting all over again.

Buzz Sports caught up with Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero to run the rule over the current squad and what could happen this summer…

Lunin expected to challenge Courtois

Andriy Lunin will provide competition for Thibaut Courtois next season
Andriy Lunin will provide competition for Thibaut Courtois next season

“Thibaut Courtois will remain No 1. Zidane is happy with him and [club president] Florentino Perez loves him,” Montero told Sky Sports.

“The club’s general director Jose Angel Sanchez – Perez’s right-hand man – has been promoting a transfer policy that is not based on massive expenditure ever since the turn of the century. They are keen to bring in players and turn them into superstars where their values go up.”

Alphonse Areola was brought in by Zidane from Paris Saint-Germain on loan to provide competition for the Belgian, but having failed to oust him from the No 1 spot, neither the player or club will look to make this a permanent arrangement.

Thibaut Courtois remains first-choice goalkeeper and is yet to reach his peak
Thibaut Courtois remains first-choice goalkeeper and is yet to reach his peak

Zidane is well-stocked in this department, with the promising Ukrainian Andriy Lunin and the manager’s son, Luca, set to provide additional pressure on Courtois to perform next season.

Montero added: “Real Madrid now feel they can’t compete financially with the money from Manchester City and those clubs backed by Arab countries.

“Lunin didn’t play much at Leganes and Valladolid but they have confidence that he will be a very good goalkeeper in the future.”

SETIEN: MESSI INCENTIVE FOR MARTINEZ

SETIEN: MESSI INCENTIVE FOR MARTINEZ

Barcelona head coach Quique Setien has labelled Lautaro Martineza “great footballer” and believes the chance to play alongside Lionel Messi is a huge incentive for the Inter Milan striker.

“Lautaro Martinez is a great footballer,” Setien told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Messi likes him? We will have to ask him. All good players can attract Barcelona’s interest.

“As well as the fact that for many the fact of being able to play with Leo represents a huge incentive. Who wouldn’t want to play with Messi?”

BALE KEEN ON MLS SWITCH

BALE KEEN ON MLS SWITCH

Gareth Bale has declared he would be interested in joining the MLS at some point in his career. 

Bale, who has at times been frozen out under Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, acknowledged that a lot of other world-class talents have made the move Stateside. 

When asked about MLS, the Welshman told the Hat-Trick Podcast: “I really like the league, it’s grown so much over the years. 

“When we come over and play in pre-season the games are difficult…it’s a league that’s on the up and still rising. A lot more players want to come to America now. I would definitely be interested in it.”

KEPA STILL HAPPY WORKING WITH LAMPARD

KEPA STILL HAPPY WORKING WITH LAMPARD

Kepa Arrizabalaga has underlined his commitment to Chelsea and insists his relationship with manager Frank Lampard is healthy.

Chelsea paid £71.m – a world-record fee – to sign Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao in August 2018, but Lampard favoured backup Willy Caballero earlier this season, leading to speculation about his future. 

But Kepa told Marca: “The relationship with Frank is very good. “He has shown me confidence from the first moment. He must make decisions, but I feel I have his confidence, both his and that of the whole club. We all like to play in every game.

“It is true that, in the last 10 years, Chelsea is the English team that has won the most titles, and I think we should have that ambition. In fact, I came here for that and in the first season, we already achieved the Europa League. We have a young team. 

“Then came the penalty of not signing players (the transfer ban) but you have to keep fighting for titles. I want to win everything with Chelsea and with the national team.”

Ligue 1 & 2: France’s top two divisions will not resume this season

Ligue 1 & 2: France’s top two divisions will not resume this season

The Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 seasons will not resume after France banned all sporting events, including behind closed doors, until September.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the 2019-20 sporting season was over as he announced plans to ease France’s coronavirus lockdown on 11 May.

French football’s governing body had hoped to resume the season on 17 June and finish the campaign on 25 July.

Football was suspended indefinitely in France on 13 March.

It is not yet known whether Ligue de Football Professional (LFP) will choose to abandon the season with no promotion or relegation and no champions or base the outcome of the campaign on current standings.

Defending champions Paris St-Germain are 12 points clear of Marseille at the top of Ligue 1, with 10 rounds of matches and one outstanding fixture left to play.

Toulouse are bottom of the table, 17 points from safety, and 10 points behind Amiens. Nimes are 18th and in the relegation play-off spot, three points behind St Etienne in 17th.

Ligue 1 top six

PSG chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi said after the announcement: “We respect of course the French government decision – we plan on competing in the Champions League with Uefa agreement – wherever and whenever it is held.

“If it is not possible to play in France we will play our matches abroad subject to the best conditions for our players and the safety of all our staff.”

The top five sides in Ligue 2 are separated by just four points, with Lorient and Lens currently occupying the automatic promotion spots.

The LFP had previously met on 10 April and voted to resume the Ligue 1 season.

However, Philippe said: “The 2019-20 season of professional sports, including football, will not be able to resume.

“It will be possible, on sunny days, to practice an individual sporting activity outdoors, obviously respecting the rules of social distancing.

“It will not be possible, neither to practice sport in covered places, nor team or contact sports.”

European leagues have until 25 May to tell European football’s governing body Uefa whether they want to complete or cancel their seasons.

Javier Tebas, president of Spain’s La Liga, said after the announcement in France: “I do not understand why there would more danger in playing football behind closed doors, with all precautionary measures, than working on an assembly line, being on a fishing boat on the high seas, etc.

“If important economic sectors cannot restart, in a safe and controlled manner, they could end up disappearing. That could happen to professional football. In other countries teams are already training, that’s the example to follow.

“In Spain, football is an important economic driver that we need to reactivate like many others. We continue to focus on this reactivation, in a responsible manner and adhering to health recommendations, as soon as possible.”

The Dutch top flight was abandoned on Friday with no promotion or relegation and no champions, while on Monday Belgian clubs postponed a vote on confirming the cancellation of their top flight until next week.

The head of the Dutch FA told BBC Sport he thinks it is “very doubtful” the Premier League will be able to complete the 2019-20 campaign.

Uefa has said it will use on-field performance to determine which clubs make up next season’s European club competitions.

If league seasons cannot be finished, it said national associations would need to select clubs to qualify for Europe.

Analysis

French football expert Julien Laurens on BBC Radio 5 Live

What the prime minster announced came as a bit of a shock.

Our league had a plan in pace with resuming training in May and playing behind closed doors in June. This afternoon, we were briefed that he would announce something big and perhaps there would be no football until August, so there was still a bit of hope. But now it will end the season.

Although it is the right decision it is still a bit of a shock to know there will be no football until September in France. We don’t know yet whether there will be relegation or promotion because not playing any games was not in anybody’s mind.

Financially, it is going to be a disaster, so now all the top-two tier clubs will vote in May. What looks most likely is PSG will be crowned champions and you will take the table as its stands, although for Lyon with a game in hand – who were fifth after matchday 27 and seventh after matchday 28 – it makes a huge difference.

For relegation and promotion it is not very clear. Maybe the bottom two will go down because it was not tight, but promotion from Ligue 2 is much tighter.

The last thing Uefa wanted was for one of the five big leagues not to continue but the prime minister said it is just not safe enough to play. Even in September, I am not sure it will be safe enough for football to resume