Real Madrid: Odriozola, James, Mariano, Brahim stare into abyss
The quartet are all enduring unsuccessful seasons at Real Madrid, and have their work cut out to turn things around under Zinedine Zidane.
Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane is starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together, but there are a good few which, it appears, don't fit - just ask Álvaro Odriozola, Brahim Díaz, Mariano Díaz and James Rodríguez.
Having fallen out of the Madrid rotation by taking an extended trip back to his native Colombia for the birth of his child, James looks to have spurned a golden opportunity to re-establish himself under Zidane and become a key part of the coach's new project at the Bernabéu.
The 28-year-old attacking midfielder hasn't played for Los Merengues since, and his slide into obscurity has been topped off by the knee injury he suffered on international duty last week (its exact extent is still to be ascertained).
Odriozola appears the best placed of the four to get himself back into contention; but, as things stand, the 23-year-old, who was a Spain international and one of LaLiga's most sought-after young stars when he signed from Real Sociedad for 30m euros, is paying the price for his stuttering start to the season.
Indeed, since Odriozola's error-strewn display in the opening-weekend LaLiga win at Celta Vigo, Zidane has left him out of nine of 15 matchday squads, handing him just three further appearances - the most recent of which, October's defeat to Real Mallorca, saw him sent off for two bookings.
Mariano's situation is the bleakest of the lot. The arrival of summer signing Luka Jovic was always likely to push him even further to the fringes this season, but he nonetheless opted to stay at the Bernabéu. And while Jovic hasn't played a lot (about 300 minutes), Mariano hasn't played at all. Other than long-term injury victim Marco Asensio, he is the only member of the squad not to have been given any game time.
Among the reasons why Mariano didn't leave last summer is his high salary at Madrid: the 26-year-old is believed to earn about four million euros a season. There aren't many clubs who'll be willing to match that.
Madrid signed Brahim from Manchester City for a 17m-euro initial fee which, for a player of his apparent potential, seemed more than reasonable. Having arrived at a badly struggling club in last season's January transfer window, his early appearances offered plenty of promise: 400 minutes, one goal and one assist.
This term, however, he has not followed up on these encouraging signs. Clearly viewed as too inexperienced by Zidane, the 20-year-old has made just two matchday squads in 2019/20, and featured for a total of just 18 minutes.
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