REAL MADRID

Jovic: Zidane sends a message with Castilla debutants

The Real Madrid manager insists he does not have a problem with Jovic but elected to play reserve team youngsters Marvin and Arribas against Sociedad.

If Zinedine Zidane has expressed satisfaction with his Real Madrid squad for the coming season, there was little evidence of it on the pitch in the 0-0 draw at Real Sociedad on Sunday evening. The Frenchman elected to hand debuts to two Castilla players, Marvin Park and Sergio Arribas, rather than trusting first-team squad members Borja Mayoral and Luka Jovic to try and find a breakthrough in the Reale Arena.

“Anything can happen between now and October 4,” Zidane said in his pre-match press conference. The emergence of Martin Odegaard as a genuine contender for a regular midfield spot and the departures of James Rodríguez and Gareth Bale, two players who were hardly Zidane favourites, has gone some way to pacifying the Frenchman but he has asked for reinforcements that have not materialized – Eduardo Camavinga and Dayot Upamecano – while the club concentrates on a move for Kylian Mbappé next summer.

Zidane not keen on his striking options

Sergio Arribas in action against Real Sociedad.

It seems that Zidane has little space for three of his four number nines – Jovic, Mayoral and Mariano – and it doesn’t seem as though that is likely to change. “I don’t understand Zidane because I think that one of those strikers can make a difference on days like today, said former Spain keeper Santiago Cañizares commentating on television. Madrid director Emilio Butragueño said after the match in an interview that “as things stand, we have a squad that gives us guarantees.” That “as things stand” may prove instructive in the next two weeks.

The debuts of Marvin and Arribas can be considered a reward for their work at Castilla and the backing of Raúl after the reserve side’s run in the UEFA Youth League. Zidane though, unlike José Mourinho, does not seek to point out how many players he has given debuts to. The Portuguese blooded 17 youngsters. Zidane has given first team starts to just 12, including Marvin and Arribas. The Real manager tends to make debuts hard to come by, as Mariano, Álvaro Tejero, Rubén Yáñez, Achraf, Óscar Rodríguez, Luismi Quezada, Jaime Seoane, Franchu and his sons Enzo and Luca can attest.

We didn’t change our formation. It’s tricky, because if you throw on another centre-forward, you have to change the formation and I didn’t want to. We needed to bring on players on the wings, and that’s what we did,” Zidane said after the match.

“The line up and these debuts were last minute decisions,” he added, in reference to Casemiro’s absence from the starting XI.

Zidane may look to Marvin and Arribas again this season, as well as two other Castilla players knocking on the door of the first team, Antonio Blanco y Miguel Gutiérrez.

Until 4 October, Jovic and Mayoral will have to wait and see how things stand for them.