Having endured a miserable campaign and suffered the ignomy of seeing their season ended at the start of March, Real Madrid took the drastic decision to fire Santiago Solari and reappoint Zinedine Zidane.
The Frenchman had achieved legendary status at the capital club first as a player and then even more so as a coach, masterminding the club’s greatest successes in recent years from the Bernabeu bench.
He departed in rather acrimonious circumstances last May but returned less than a year later to steer the cub back in the right direction.
Zidane’s return offers a promise of fresh beginnings for Los Blancos and as with any other managerial change, there are bound to be repercussions and changes in the playing pattern, with hitherto guaranteed first teamers needing to undergo new series of auditions.
While a number of players would undoubtedly benefit from Zidane’s return, there are others who are bound to suffer.
It is no hidden secret that Real Madrid’s squad is in need of a serious overhaul, with that being one of the factors behind Zidane’s departure last year and reports suggest that he has been given the green light to proceed with his transfer pursuits.
The three-time Champions League winning manager has identified a number of players that he is interested in, and Real would likely need to get rid of some players to facilitate these moves in order not to fall foul of FFP regulations.
In this piece, we shall be taking a look at five Real Madrid players who might not have a place in Zidane’s plans and might need to be sold off.
#5 James Rodriguez
James was signed in the summer of 2014 for £71m following his splendid performance at the World Cup in Brazil where he won the Golden Boot.
The Colombian international was expected to become a mainstay in the Real midfield, but that failed to happen, as he struggled to cement a starting spot in the side, despite his status of being the 4th most expensive player of all time upon his arrival.
Things went from bad to worse under Zidane, with the 28-year-old making just 22 LaLiga appearances (most of which came off the bench) during the 2016/2017 season.
His lack of gametime prompted a two-year loan switch to German giants Bayern Munich in 2017 and despite initially impressing leading to speculations that the deal would be made permanent, things have once more gone downhill for Rodriguez.
Repots of a rift with Niko Kovac as well as general dissatisfaction with the club indicate that his move would not be made permanent upon its loan expiration at the end of this season.
The former Porto midfielder signed a six-year contact with Real in 2014, meaning that he would be entering the final year of his deal and the Bernabeu hierarchy would be keen to offload him rather than lose him for nothing next summer.
Despite his struggles, James Rodriguez remains one of the very best playmakers in the world on his day and as such would not be short of suitors, with Arsenal and Juventus among clubs reportedly interested in him.
#4 Luka Modric
A rather curious choice at first glance given his status as the current best player in the world and all his contributions to Real Madrid over the years. However, a deeper look at he situation suggests this idea is not as far reaching as it looks.
Luka Modric has been nothing short of exceptional ever since he arrived Real Madrid in 2012, cementing his reputation as unarguably one of the best midfielders in the world, helping the club win a plethora of titles. His ability to dictate the tempo of matches, and pin-point passing played a key role in each of the club’s triumphs.
Nevertheless, for all his excellent attributes, the Croatian international is very much human, suffering from the same decline and drop in form that has afflicted all other footballers past and present.
So far this season, Luka Modric has performed significantly beneath his usual high standards and this was brought to the fore earlier in the season when Real Madrid struggled horribly which led to the sack of Julen Lopetegui.
Moreover, given the fact that the former Tottenham man would be 34 by the time next season rolls around, it makes little sense from a football perspective for the club to keep him beyond this summer.
#3 Thibaut Courtois
Having previously donned the colors of city rivals Atletico (even going as far as to mock Real during title celebrations in 2013), the Belgian international embarked on a bitter campaign to join the Spanish giants last summer.
Personal strikes, refusing to turn up for training – Courtois spared no punches in trying to force through the move and finally got his wish as Chelsea caved in to his demands and agreed a transfer with Real Madrid for his signature.
The 26-year-old’s signing was seen in many quarters as a rather unnecessary one, as despite the fact that he does not get as much accolades as he deserves, Keyor Navas is more than a decent goalkeeper in his own right, contributing his fair share to Real Madrid’s successes in recent years.
With more glaring problems in other sectors, the goalkeeping area was the least of Real’s worries, and quite why the club sanctioned the purchase of Courtois beggars belief.
Zidane is likely to stick with his tested and trusted choice in Keylor Navas (evidenced by his immediate restoral to the starting lineup in Zizou’s first match in charge) and the fact that Courtois has too much pedigree and high profile to remain a second choice means that it might be more profitable for Real to cash in on him.
#2 Mariano Diaz
It was always going to be almost impossible for Real Madrid to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, as the Portuguese’ achievements and displays meant he left huge boots that anyone else would find difficult to fill.
The number 7 has always had a special place in Real Madrid’s history, worn by some of the most legendary players to ever don the white of Los Blancos including Raul, Emilio Butragueno, Raymond Kopa, Amancio Amario but to name a few.
And any player wearing the shirt number has this weight of history upon him, much less being the immediate occupant after the legendary Ronaldo.
Fans worldwide expected that the club would go all out in a bid to bring a superstar galactico to the club to replace Ronaldo and continue the illustrious history of the number 7 shirt at the club.
So it came as a major shock when the club’s only outfield signing was the announcement of the return of former academy graduate Mariano Diaz, further exacerbated by handing him the hallowed number 7 jersey.
The 25-year-old had just one breakthrough season at Lyon, prompting his return to the Bernabeu. However, the move has not exactly worked out in the manner expected.
So far this season, Mariano has made just 15 appearances in all competitions scoring two goals – numbers which are some way off matching those posted by the man he ‘replaced’ at the club.
Given the intense competition for places in the current Madid attack coupled with the fact that the club is being linked with a number of high profile forwards, it is highly likely that Mariano’s Madrid dream could be over just a year after it begun.
#1 Gareth Bale
Bale was made the most expensive player of all time when he signed for Real Madrid in the summer of 2013 from Tottenham.
The Welshman had performed at an extraordinary level for Spurs, winning two PFA Player of the Year awards and it was expected that he would bring such displays with him to the Bernabeu.
However, it did not quite work out like that for him, as despite impressing significantly, he was never really spectacular, and failed to impose himself in the squad like he did at Tottenham and with his national team.
The presence of Ronaldo was given as a reason for this and this was valid, as with the Portuguese present, there could always only be one captain of the ship.
Ronaldo’s departure opened up the gateway for Bale to step out of his shadow, offering the chance for him to be the main man of the team and carry the club forward into its new era.
However, that has not quite worked out, as Bale has performed constantly below par, leading to numerous boos by the notoriously demanding Bernabeu crowd and prompting his agent to wade into the matter.
Zidane’s appointment might not make things better, as the Frenchman had earlier shown distrust of Bale, dropping him from his starting 11 and with rumors indicating that Zizou is interested in signing his compatriot Kylian Mbappe then Bale might further find himself pushed down the pecking order.
Six years on after his record breaking arrival, it is yet to truly tick for Bale at the Bernabeu and given his extremely high talent levels, Real Madrid are guaranteed to generate a sizable amount from his sale.