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REAL MADRID

Nine Real Madrid players have to prove themselves to Zidane

Isco

Zidane has 10 games to study his squad and see which players will fit in to next season's project. Marco Asensio will stay but Jesús Vallejo is set to leave.

Zidane has started off with a clean slate at the start of his second spell as Real Madrid coach and the squad have taken the message on board. Before the weekend game against Celta, made it clear that everyone in the squad was starting off on an equal footing and players like Isco, Marcelo, Bale and Keylor have made the most of the second chance they've been given. It's alll part of the coach's plan for the next 10 games - he wants to take a good look at everyone in the squad, and decide which ones which fit in to his project for the 2019-20 season.

“This isn't a school playground”, Zizou told reporters after Saturday's 2-0 win over Celta. Publicly, Zidane refuses to comment on who will be staying and who will be leaving, but his efforts to reintroduce outcasted players into the dynamic of the team has a clear purpose. It's partly to vindicate those who have been left out and heal any bad feeling - such as the case with Isco. It's also an exercise to try and convince Marcelo to stay, and forget about joining Cristiano at Juventus - and the reverse with Gareth Bale - putting him on show not just to review his performances but also to potentilly increase his market price...

For purely economic reasons, Real Madrid will have to sell some players to part finance proposed summer signings (Hazard, Mbappé, Pogba...) and Zidane knows that his squad will need to be trimmed back. The coach handed Keylor Navas a rare start at the weekend and the keeper responded by keeping a clean sheet - the team's first in 11 games. Keylor has his heart set on a move to the Premier League but if he is getting regular playing time he could reconsidered his decision.

Nine players whose future is in the air

The players who, in the past, didn't figure that often under Zidane (Ceballos, Marcos Llorente...), have two months to prove themselves. The Madrid coach must decide whether Mariano has a place at the club or if they should bring Raúl de Tomás back on a permament basis. Asensio won't be going anywhere but Jesús Vallejo could find he is surplus to requirements once new signing Éder Militão arrives.

Keylor. He renewed his contract as a gesture of goodwill after the club brought in Courtois. Zizou has defended him in the past and his return to the starting XI Celta was not simply symbolic. His situation has changed...

Valverde. The club has high hopes for him but for Zidane, he's still a bit of an unknown quantity. This season he's had scant playing time (714 minutes) - far too little for a player who needs to be racking up regular minutes.

Bale. He's called a truce (and even celebrated his goal against Celta) and is in the spotlight as far as the transfer rumour mill goes... He turns 30 in July but Madrid could rake in a significant price for him on the market.

Marcelo. He has another three years to run on his contract but recently lost his place to Reguilón; Cristiano wants him to come and join him in Turin. Against Celta, he showed some glimpses of the Marcelo of old going forward. Zidane's return could have an influence on his future.

Isco. From outcast to hero in less than a week. Zidane's return has given him a lifeline and he must use these next two months to mend his relationship with the club.

Asensio. He also returned to the line-up against Celta and looked like the player he was at the start of the campaign. The club and Zidane consider him an invaluable member of the squad - in spite of his fluctuating form. He must compete for a place with Vinicius - and with whoever is signed in the summer - possibly Hazard...

Marcos Llorente. His situation is a bit strange. He showed his worth under Solari but was hardly used by Zidane in the 2017-18 season ( he totalled 1063 minutes playing time). He didn't fit in and now he's back from injury but he doesn give the team solutions in a key position.

Ceballos. Back in September he opened up about his unhappiness playing under Zidane (“If he was still here, I would havbe to leave”), but in the Celta game, Zidane paid him a lot of attention and handed him a run-out for the final half hour. It was a sign that he's being given a new chance.

Mariano. A series of muscular injuries and a nerve issue combined to reduce his on-field time to just 551 minutes this season. He was Zidane's third choice striker after Benzema and Morata). Raúl de Tomás, who is out on loan at Rayo, is pushing hard for a return having scored 11 goals already this season...