Antonio Rüdiger in defence; Aurélian Tchouaméni in midfield. And in attack? In attack, the plan was to have Kylian Mbappé, whose snub let Real Madrid down so badly that only winning the Champions League for the fourteenth time could console us. He was the ideal man to lead the club for the next decade. But he said no. Someone at Madrid thought of Serge Gnabry, whose contract at Bayern Munich ends in 2023, but of Mbappé you can say what Guerra said of himself: “Behind me, ‘nobody’; behind ‘nobody’, ‘the Fuentes’”. And we would disagree about who would take the place of ‘el Fuentes’ in this case.
So all eyes now turn to Eden Hazard, who many of us had written off. I was encouraged and surprised when Jorge Valdano told me a few weeks ago that he thinks this is finally going to be his year. Valdano’s criteria is not just any old thing and as far as I can see, he’s not the only one who is thinking that way. Apart from the injuries, the plates, already removed, and all that, in his failure there have been reasons of guilty abandonment. He arrived at Real Madrid fat. He was getting fit when he got injured and came back fat in the second year. In the third year he arrived in better shape, he was a starter, but then a young Vinicius burst onto the scene and gave him no hope.
Not the same without Mbappé
The first quarter of next season is very special because in November there is the World Cup. Hazard is fine-tuning his motivation. He may have lost some of his spark of old, but he was so good that he can still be better than Marco Asensio and Rodrygo. Of course, the left side is for Vinicius, who is unstoppable there, but Ancelotti has already played Hazard on the right or behind Karim Benzema, with who he gets on well. It will not be the same as it would have been with Mbappé, but maybe still.