The landscape may be changing in Catalonia but in Spain’s capital it’s very much ‘as you were’ for Real Madrid.
After a spending spree last summer that makes Chelsea look like idle participants, Los Blancos head into the new season with another engraving on La Liga’s coveted trophy and Zinedine Zidane entering his sixth campaign at the helm (albeit not consecutively).
Real usually have the busiest paddle at the auction but it’s been uncharacteristically quiet this summer, with Florentino Perez thus far keeping his cards close to his chest. That could yet change, but for the moment Zidane is gearing his side up for their first match against Real Sociedad without any drastic changes to his squad.
Despite this, there are still plenty of unknowns in the dressing room and a lot of major talking points ahead of 2020/21. And we’ve tried to predict a few of the outcomes for this forthcoming season, which promises to be a belter.
1. Eden Hazard to finally translate Chelsea form
One of the reasons for Real’s inactivity this summer may boil down to the £300m+ they spent on a raft of new signings last season, with the major acquisition being Eden Hazard from Chelsea. The Belgian was seen as the coup of the summer window, despite his then-reported £88.5m price tag, but he was unable to hit the ground running.
Accusations of weight gain, which Hazard himself later admitted to be true, soured his first few months and a string of injury complications only exacerbated his teething problems. In short, the Hazard of Chelsea, was nowhere to be seen last season.
Although Real lifted a record 34th La Liga title, the 29-year-old was quick to highlight his own shortcomings from an individual perspective. “We have won the title collectively this year, considering it has certainly been the worst season of my career individually,” Hazard told franceinfo in July, having manged one goal and three assists across 16 games in 2019/20.
Having now overcome the ankle injury that hampered his debut campaign and Zidane overseeing what appears to be a harmonious dressing room, there is really no reason why Hazard will not flourish in 2020/21. The Bernabeu stage is now set, it just needs its lead actor to come to the fore.
- Lionel Messi: 1/2
- Karim Benzema: 5/1
- Antoine Griezmann: 8/1
- Eden Hazard: 14/1
- Alvaro Morata: 20/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of writing (17:30, 09/09/2020). BeGambleAware.
2. Zinedine Zidane to win his first Copa del Rey
Whether as a player or a coach, Zidane has been a magnet for silverware since making his debut for Cannes in 1989, and his managerial bow for Real in 2016. On the touchline he has lifted two La Liga titles, hogged the Champions League for three successive years, and won a bunch of other non-major trophies.
But, the one cup that has thus far eluded his grasp is the Copa del Rey. Even as a player for Real, Zidane failed to get his hands on the domestic bauble. He has won league titles and continental titles for Los Blancos as a player and a manager, but the Copa del Rey is yet to take its place on his mantelpiece.
That could all change this season. Barcelona still remain something of an unknown entity. How will Ronald Koeman fare? Will Lionel Messi bow out (if he does indeed leave next summer) in style? But, one thing is guaranteed, if recent trends are anything to go by, Barca will mount a ferocious title charge.
In the past decade alone Barca have conceded their title three times, only to win it back the following season. That pattern points favourably in Koeman’s favour, and as long as Messi’s on board, anything is possible. So, if it is to be a season of rejuvenation for Barca, Zidane could very well put extra emphasis on the Copa del Rey. A trophy is a trophy after all.
3. Martin Odegaard to become the ‘new Isco’
So, when Real prised Martin Odegaard away from Stromgodset in 2015, all eyes were on the fledgling midfielder. Naturally, he didn’t get a sniff, as those ahead of him in the pecking order were Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Isco. When Odegaard was loaned out to Heerenveen in 2017/18, fans thought that was pretty much it for his career in Madrid.
However, a successful spell in the Eredivisie, followed up by another for Vitesse, where he was named in the 2018/19 Team of the Year, sparked interest from Real Sociedad, who acquired him on a one-year loan deal last summer. And well, let’s just say he was exceptional for the Basque club last season.
Odegaard now returns to Real as not an unpolished gem but a closer to the finished article. Will Zidane finally find a way to embed Odegaard into his system? Or will he fall by the wayside? Like Rodriguez and particularly Isco, whose genius is evident every time he steps onto the turf, but just isn’t fancied on a consistent enough basis. We think it will be the latter.
4. Gareth Bale saga to stretch out for another season
This one just isn’t going away is it? Unlike the whole Messi fiasco, which dominated headlines but was eventually put to bed after much seesawing action, the Bale one looks like it’ll drag on for another year, and possibly another after that.
After Perez made a dramatic U-turn and cancelled Bale’s proposed move to China last summer, which would have seen the Welshman pocket a reported £1m a week, the 31-year-old has been a peripheral figure in Zidane’s plans and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon.
The problem now for Real is that Bale has two years left on his current deal, and not many clubs are willing (or have the financial capabilities) to match the Welshman’s wage package at the Bernabeu. Coupled with Bale’s ageing legs and the actual transfer fee it would take to interest Perez, a move away just doesn’t seem likely at the minute.
Gareth Bale – To Sign For Before 6th October 2020 – selected William Hill odds:
- Everton: 8/1
- Man Utd: 10/1
- Any MLS Club: 12/1
- Inter Milan, Juventus, PSG: 16/1
- Any Chinese Super League Club: 25/1
- Southampton: 33/1
5. Madrid to avoid a ‘Galactico’ style signing this season
Zidane has a cache of talent at his disposal so doesn’t necessarily need to upgrade… just yet. At some stage Real will conform to stereotype and do what Real do best by smashing the transfer record and recruiting another Galactico (maybe multiple Galacticos). But, that is unlikely to happen this season.
There are reports from Spain that Real are holding out until next summer to unleash their full raid upon Europe, with Perez said to be eyeing deals for Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland and Eduardo Camavinga, three of the most sought-after players in world football.
So, it seems it’s make do with what you’ve got for Zidane. One can’t have too much sympathy with the Frenchman, though. He still has a trove of rich talent to call upon. So we can certainly expect a more subdued Real in this window and January, while next summer there are no such guarantees.