What will Real Madrid’s transition to 2019/2020 look like?

MADRID, SPAIN - 2019/04/02: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane during a press conference ahead of La Liga match against Valencia C.F. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - 2019/04/02: Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane during a press conference ahead of La Liga match against Valencia C.F. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Zinedine Zidane appears like a man who doesn’t say much but says enough. He is not the kind of football manager who would reveal his transfer plans to the press and is also difficult to read because more often than not, he is expressionless. What does the manager have planned for Real Madrid this summer?

One can only get a feel for Zidane’s plans by judging his responses to questions about his players – which is subject to interpretation – and more cognitively his team sheets. Going by both parameters, it doesn’t seem like Real Madrid fans will get the holy grail transition we are all hoping for this summer.

Thibaut Courtois has not been in goal since Zidane resumed his second stint. This can be attributed majorly to a hamstring injury which kept him out for five games, but even before that, there has been strong speculation Zidane would prefer Keylor Navas over the Belgian, partly due to his poor form but principally because Keylor was one of Zidane’s favorite Real Madrid players.

It wasn’t much of a surprise that Keylor was reinstated in goal ahead of Courtois since Zizou returned. The sheer favoritism of Keylor, and, more objectively, his good form since he was restored, means he is more likely to be in goal next season.

When asked about the goalkeeping situation for next season, Zidane said:

"“I would understand if a goalkeeper asked me to leave, it could happen, but I assure you that next season there will be no debate about the goalkeeper, I’ll tell you that now. It’s going to be very clear.”"

What looks very clear right now is Keylor Navas in goal with Lunin and Luca Zidane as back up goalkeepers for next season.

Much has been heralded about Real Madrid’s inability to convert chances which, not surprisingly, has been attributed to the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the defense has also been a leak all year.

Real Madrid has conceded 63 goals in all competitions, eight short of an all-time club record set during the 1950/51 season with four games to go. The right back position for Real Madrid looks stable for several years to come.

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Dani Carvajal is expected to remain as the undisputed right back next season, backed up by Álvaro Odriozola. New signing Eder Militao can also slot in as a right back much like Nacho Fernandez.

The center back pairing of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos are Zidane’s tried and trusted partnership and barring any injury or exceptional performance by Militao, they are likely to lead the defense once again next season.

The rumors of Varane leaving the capital has a thick smell of a new and improved contract. Zidane recommended him to Real Madrid and he has thrived under his guidance, the chances of him leaving right now are almost close to non-existent. When asked about it, Zidane said he, does not want a Real Madrid without Varane”.

Sergio Ramos, on the other hand, remains the symbol of this Real Madrid. The leader on and off the field, a club legend, at 33, his powers do not seem to be waning. He is still going strong for club and country and should continue to be reliable for the next two to three years at the least.

Invariably, Eder Militao was signed as a back up and understudy to the great man, just as Varane was signed in 2011 to be the understudy to Pepe. Nacho is a curious case – a Real Madrid youth academy graduate who rose through the ranks and has patiently waited for his time in the light, which in most cases he never disappoints.

GETAFE, SPAIN – APRIL 25: Nacho Fernandez of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between FC Getafe and Real Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano on April 25, 2019 in Getafe, Spain. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
GETAFE, SPAIN – APRIL 25: Nacho Fernandez of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between FC Getafe and Real Madrid at Wanda Metropolitano on April 25, 2019 in Getafe, Spain. (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

Often reliable but just like most of his teammates this season, he has been inexplicably poor. The upside of keeping him is his ability to fill in at any position in the backline which gives the manager options to rest players and vary tactics over the course of a season.

I expect Zidane to squeeze one more year out of Nacho before making a call on him. With Javier Sanchez showing promises in a few cameos under Santiago Solari, I expect that Jesús Vallejo will be sold.

He is a promising center back who has not been able to stake a claim due to niggling injuries. He has been denied many minutes this season and has only played one game under Zidane during this “assessment era” end to the season – when Nacho was suspended – so clearly the boss does not count on him.

The left back position is a rather intriguing one. For all his defensive frailties, an average Real Madrid fan will always forgive Marcelo, due to all the add-ons he brings to the team. And despite the good and consistent performances of Regulión, Zidane is always likely to play Marcelo as the undisputed left back.

This is the only position that looked like would witness a transition in the defense line but has looked less likely under Zidane as Marcelo was reinstated and has been constant despite his continuous below par performances. With Nacho as additional back up if required, this is a position that is not likely to witness any transfer dealing this summers.

Casemiro is the embodiment of Zidane’s first reign as Real Madrid manager. He was the main personnel change Zidane made to Rafa Benitez’s team that went from losing El Classico 0-4 at Bernabéu to becoming European Champions back to back to back.

Casemiro has had a tough season and at times lost his position to Llorente, but his performances have improved since Zidane returned to the dugout. His best performance this season was against Getafe where he made many good tackles and looked like his old self once again. Zidane, more than anybody, understands and appreciate the importance of a water carrier in a team like Real Madrid, which is why Casemiro remains one of the favorites of the manager.

There have been rumors of meetings with Ndombele Tanguy’s representatives but basically that will be to replace Llorente who clearly, Zidane does not rate and could well be on his way out. Another player Zidane never rated and still does not seem to rate is Dani Ceballos.

The Spaniard, who claimed he would have left if Zidane had not left at the end of last season, is finding minutes hard to come by. Although with slightly different role, Fede Valverde has been preferred to both in games having participated in 5 of 7 games under Zidane while Ceballos and Llorente together have featured in 3 games. It wont be a surprise to see them both depart the Bernabéu after two years, however, they would be leaving with a tag of untapped resource.

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With the rumors linking Paul Pogba to Real Madrid getting stronger by the days, coupled with Zidane’s interesting comments that he likes Pogba “very much”, and because as he brings something entirely different to the team, I favor this deal to be done this summer. But then, Pogba will not come in as a replacement for Modric or Kroos, he will rather come in to join them, except either of them requests a transfer.

Zidane has shown consistent loyalty to his midfield generals. He understands their importance to his play as it is the role he played in his footballing days. Despite the season winding down slowly, with at best a third position, Zidane still gave more minutes to Modric and Kroos compared to younger midfielders, which is an indication of the manager’s plans for the next season.

Another absorbing story is Isco Alarcon. Isco has only had a consistent stay in the first team under Carlo Ancelotti. He won the right to feature in Zidane’s plans, ahead of the injury prone Gareth Bale in his first stint that is after Zidane had said severally that the then trio of Bale Benzema and Ronaldo (BBC) were untouchable. Julien Lopetegui built his team around Isco during his short stay followed by Solari’s banishment from the first team.

Along with the other trusted allies, Zidane reinstated Isco in his first game in charge and has shown confidence in the Malaga born midfielder ever since giving him minutes in all the games Zidane has been in charge this season. Lucas Vazquez is also a huge favourite of Zidane for his work rate, commitment and another whom I expect to remain in the team next season. With Fede Velverde as back up to Kroos, Matteo Kovacic will very likely be sold along with James Rodriguez.

The final third of the pitch might just be where the fans will witness the much-anticipated transition. The attack needs an upgrade on this seasons performance and with the rumored agreement with Eden Hazard, that is already an improvement on the Left Wide position. Zidane has shown a lot of faith in Asensio.

Having prevented him from going on loan in 2015/16, he has nurtured Asensio gradually and will likely continue where he stopped at the end of last season where Asensio was more of a constant substitute who can be relied upon for rotation with first team players.

With Karim Benzema having staked his claim for next season and Mariano definitely leaving, the last spot depends a lot on what will happen to Gareth Bale. Zidane does not seem to fancy him. The fans are tired of watching him play for their club through incessant whistling (even in away games these days) but it won’t be easy to get rid of him.

Next. Three takeaways from Real Madrid’s draw against Getafe. dark

Gareth Bale is not attractive to top clubs. His age becomes an added barrier to his propensity to be injured. His huge wage means that Gareth is likely to start next season at the Bernabéu.

That clearly means that two of Vinicius, Rodrygo, Ødegaard, and Brahim will likely be out on loan. Vinicius has clearly earned a stake to remain at the club while Rodrygo might need time to bed-in hence Brahim, in particular, seemed to be tied to whatever decision is taken on Bale. Bale leaves, he remains. Bale stays, he leaves on loan. There have been rumors of Ødegaard being sold, whilst this is not good news for Real Madrid fans, I feel the club would sell if the offer meets the valuation, we can just hope a sort of clause is placed in the deal.

All in all, judging by the little Zinedine Zidane gives away, Real Madrid fans should not expect a revolutionary summer like we had in 2009/2010. The word that has been mentioned most with Real Madrid this season has been “transition”, however, it is likely to be gradual and not a revolving-door summer. Expectations should be limited to 2-3 major inflows while low profile players are loaned or transferred out.

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