By Gabriel Pessoa
After one of its worst seasons in club history, Real Madrid has made some exciting summer signings in the form of Luka Jovic, Eden Hazard and Ferland Mendy.
While the new arrivals will provide one of the world's most demanding fanbases with a much-needed morale boost, they will also have some of their new teammates questioning their positions in an already ego-laden locker room.
As Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca once said, “one in, one out. That’s the way it goes.” Granted, Rick Blaine existed in a different white house but his point still applies for the disaffected members of Madrid's squad.
Gareth Bale has become a divisive figure in Madrid. Even though the Welshman has produced some of the club’s most iconic goals, his ongoing struggles to acclimate to life in Spanish capital continue to haunt him. An inability to build rapport with his teammates, coupled with his reported indifference toward learning the local tongue have made him an easy target for disgruntled fans.
Then there’s the little matter of his frosty relationship with coach Zinedine Zidane. Since the Frenchman’s return in March, Bale only managed five starts and was either benched or left out of the roster entirely for the final three matches of the season.
At 29 years of age, the time has come for Bale to part ways with Los Blancos and rediscover his world-beating best in his old stomping ground: the Premier League. There he can choose between returning to Tottenham as the prodigal son, or making a real start fresh at a new club like Manchester United, where he could potentially wind up for a cool $70million.
After two seasons on loan with Bayern Munich, James Rodriguez has finally returned to Madrid. But how long he sticks around for remains to be seen.
Despite adding two Bundesliga medals to his collection, the Colombian failed to find consistent playing time with the Bavarian club, and will look to distance himself from the sub’s bench ahead of the upcoming season.
Now back at the Bernabeu, the midfielder still seems to suffer from the same problem as Bale, in that Zidane has never shown much faith in his abilities.
Not to suggest the 27-year-old is a dud, but with a squad stacked with talents like Marco Asensio, Brahim Diaz, Vinicius Jr., Lucas Vazquez, and Luka Modric, there are no guarantees of him locking down regular playing time.
Reuniting with former Madrid and Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli could be the perfect for solution for the baby-faced midfielder. And the purported $55million signing fee could help Florentino Perez towards balancing the books after a busy summer of transfer business.
Besides Karim Benzema, the 2018/19 season was one to forget for Real Madrid’s old guard. This rings especially true for Marcelo.
The left-back’s defensive frailties were put into sharper focus than ever as his attack prowess seemed to dry up.
Eventually, the Brazilian lost his spot in the starting lineup to previously unknown academy kid Sergio Reguilon. And to add further insult to injury, last week Ferland Mendy joined Los Blancos from Lyon.
With his club legend status still intact, Marcelo should leave Madrid on good terms and head to a club with a bit less pressure where he can sit out the occasional game.
Following in Dani Alves’ footsteps and signing for Juventus could be the way forward for the Marcelo.
During his brief stint at the helm last season, Santiago Solari called Isco’s professionalism into question and refused to include the Spaniard in his roster due to “weight issues.”
Isco seemed to have proved Solari wrong when he returned to the starting lineup and scored in Zidane’s first game back as Madrid’s manager. However, following that bright start, he only started in five of the remaining ten league games of the season.
His lack of playing time has less to do with Zidane and more to do with a highly competitive midfield. Lucas Vazquez has racked up the largest number of minutes during Zidane’s second spell in charge of the club, while Vinicius Jr., Brahim Diaz and Marco Asensio are all younger options in the attacking third, where Isco has been criticized for slowing down play.
If that weren’t enough to overcome, Zidane’s major summer signing Eden Hazard has already been unveiled and, given the Belgian’s price tag, can be presumed to be a nailed-on starter.
While injuries and interpersonal issues with Solari prevented Isco from making a significant impact on the team last term, Isco still has plenty of potential for growth in his career.
Linking up with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City could give the “bandy-legged beauty” the fresh start he needs, a move that would reimburse Madrid’s war chest with approximately $65million.
Since signing for Real Madrid in 2014, Keylor Navas has consistently performed admirably, saving Los Blancos’ blushes year in, year out.
Yet despite all his goalkeeping heroics (and three Champions League medals), the Costa Rican’s position between Los Merengues’ sticks has always been a precarious one.
Each transfer window is greeted with fresh rumors of goalkeepers being linked with Real Madrid. Famously, David De Gea was a faulty fax machine away from sending Navas packing in 2015, and the arrival of Belgian shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois last season finally saw the Tico relegated to the bench.
Navas is unquestionably one of the best goalkeepers in the world and should not have to compete with anyone for a starting spot. He should move to where he is respected.
The 32-year-old has been rumored to be in talks with Paris Saint-Germain for a reported transfer fee of $20million. With Gianluigi Buffon out, Navas would have the red carpet rolled out for him at in the City of Lights (sorry, Alphonse Areola).