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REAL MADRID

Bale, James... Zidane not one for second chances at Madrid

The days of Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez featuring for Real Madrid may be numbered, and others have found it tough to turn things around with the boss.

One of the biggest challenges to players under Zinedine Zidane's management is getting back into his good books after falling out. And there have been a number of cases like this that have developed under the Frenchman.

Turning Zidane around

Some players have somewhat resolved their issues with the coach by putting a few kilometres (Marcos Llorente) or countries (Ceballos) in between them and the boss. Others, namely Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez, looked to have been given a second chance in the early part of the season. Following a summer that had them pointing towards the exit door, they both briefly flourished, but this now looks to have just been circumstantial, and is all could be lost.

The Welshman's starring role for his country during the international break showed the truth, or otherwise, of the injury stories. On the other hand, the Colombian has indeed suffered. James will be out for another month and a half, after the FIFA virus struck. The Clásico of 18 December is beyond him now, and it may be that he'll struggle to get his place back, seeing that Fede Valverde and Rodrygo look like they're here to stay.

There are more extreme cases too, like that of Mariano. Zidane had suggested that he left the club as he was the third-choice striker after Luka Jovic was added as support to Karim Benzema in the summer. He chose to stay and has not seen a single minute almost three months into the campaign.

Happy Dragon | Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates after the match against Hungary.

Happy Dragon | Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates after the match against Hungary.

"The situation has not changed," repeats the coach every time he is asked about Mariano. It would appear that the former Lyon man will have to find a new club for himself in January if he wants to play, because the Frenchman's position is unlikely to change. Roma has eyes on him and could be the escape route he requires. Another in a difficult position with Zidane was Kovacic. An unrecoverable disagreement that stretched back to the end of the 2017-18 season, and one that was resolved with a loan, then transfer, to the Premier League.

James unfortunate absence

For James, there is another issue, one that sees a young prodigy return to the Bernabéu. Missing the Clásico is one thing, but the next fixture against Real Sociedad is likely to put on display Martin Odegaard, another who is benefitting from time away from Zidane.

The Norwegian's performances this season in LaLiga have put him on a clear path to return to the capital next summer. Madrid's 'Operation Return' will see a number of those impressing at other clubs make their way back into a revitalised, young, Los Blancos squad. Odegaard is a clear threat to James' place.

After living through a cloud of doubt in the early part of this campaign, Zidane has shown signs in recent games that he may have unlocked the potential of his current side. A change to his usual playbook may be one of the reasons, with fewer rotations than in his previous spells, but second, or third chances will have to be managed carefully over the rest of this term to ensure it ends well.