Real Madrid: the end of an era?
With the season effectively over for Madrid, questions will be asked of Santiago Solari, Florentino Pérez and several players.
As weeks go, the past one couldn’t have been much worse for Real Madrid. After being knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Barcelona, then effectively eliminated from the Liga reckoning by the same side, Tuesday’s Champions League humbling at the hands of Ajax has left Santiago Solari’s to tread water until the end of the season.
The end of an era at the Bernabéu is inevitable and it is now down to the board to decide how deep the restructure needs to go. It seems unlikely that the Argentinean will be in charge next season and a new coach will bring with him his own ideas about playing staff. There are several squad members who have fallen out of favour with fans and coach alike this season and even Pérez, who has been at the helm throughout Real’s most successful period of European dominance in the modern era, is not immune to supporter unrest.
Of the players, Gareth Bale is the target of most of Madridismo’s ire and the Welshman will probably be sold in the summer. The Bernabéu has grown tired of the forward, whatever his previous stellar service to the club, and the board will listen to offers in the summer. Billed as the player to fill the void left by the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale’s form, fitness and attitude have all been causes for concern this season.
Isco is in a similar boat, at least under the current manager. While the Spain midfielder remains a firm fan favourite, he has fallen out of favour with Solari and has barely featured in 2019. Reports of a bust-up between coach and player have been bandied about and it certainly appears that the pair have a fractured relationship. Isco will continue to be frozen out under Solari but the final word on the midfielder’s future will be down to the new coach. Pérez is finally ready to listen to offers though for a player who has never really managed to nail down an undisputed starting place at the Bernabéu.
Marcelo, meanwhile, finds himself in a situation that was unthinkable at the start of the season. Real’s vice-captain and starting left back for a decade has lost his place to academy graduate Sergio Reguilón. Although Marcelo has never complained and is highly regarded in the Bernabéu boardroom, it is an untenable situation and if nothing changes between now and the end of the season, a move appears likely, possibly to join his friend and former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus.
Real's second string striking a mournful chord
While the fate of the three established stars remains to be seen, there are secondary players whose futures will also have to be resolved: Mariano, Jesús Vallejo and Brahim Díaz.
The striker has not been in the same form that saw him repurchased from Lyon last summer and he didn’t even make the bench for the Ajax game, despite being the only natural replacement for Karim Benzema. Both Julen Lopetegui and Solari have largely overlooked the 25-year-old this season and he is likely to be on the move again this summer.
The cases of Vallejo and Brahim are different. The technical staff have faith in both but the former’s injury-plagued season means he will probably go out on loan for more experience and playing time. Brahim, meanwhile, has featured only fleetingly since his 15-million-euro move from Manchester City but may find there are more place available in Real’s midfield next season.
Toni Kroos has been below par all season and his previous status as one of Real’s key players is now no longer the case. Real will not be keen to sell the Germany midfielder, but Kroos may well feel that a change of scenery is overdue. Luka Modric, 33, has been linked with a move to Inter for some time and may also be in the market for a final big-money move after seven seasons at the Bernabéu.
Finally, Real’s second string will also be a matter for a new manager to address. Álvaro Odriozola has rarely made the squad since the turn of the year while the likes of Nacho, Dani Ceballos, Fede Valverde and Lucas Vázquez are hardly indispensable. Most have been completely blameless for the recent debacle, either through inactivity or decent form, but whether they represent a bright new dawn for Madrid is another matter entirely.