Season over, Real Madrid face turbulent summer

Real Madrid's players acknowledge fans at the end of the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on May 19, 2019. (AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)
Updated 21 May 2019

Season over, Real Madrid face turbulent summer

  • Loss at home to Real Betis brought to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in years
  • Madrid finished in third place and 19 points adrift of champion Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain: The best thing for Real Madrid about this season is that it is finally over.
A humiliating 2-0 loss at home to Real Betis on the last day of the Spanish league on Sunday brought to a close one of the most disappointing seasons in years for the most successful team in European club competition.
Madrid’s last match exemplified the collective decline of a group of players who had won four of the previous five Champions League titles but found themselves practically out of the running for any major trophies months ago. Defenders often a step too slow, midfielders unable to maintain ball possession, and forward incapable of producing sufficient scoring chances, much less put the ball in the net.
Madrid finished in third place and 19 points adrift of champion Barcelona, the largest-ever deficit with its fiercest rival by the end of a season.

“When you want to try harder and you can’t even achieve the smallest little thing, it is complicated.”

Real Madrid Coach Zinedine Zidane

Madrid was effectively out of the league title race by January and was eliminated from the Champions League and Copa del Rey in early March, leaving the club with nothing to play for other than pride.
And pride couldn’t stop the team from failing to get a win in its last five away matches, or ending the season with back-to-back losses.
Coach Zinedine Zidane wants his players to remember this feeling.
“When you want to try harder and you can’t even achieve the smallest little thing, it is complicated,” Zidane said. “We have to accept that it has been a bad season. We can’t forget it; we have to have it very present in the future so it can help us improve.”
Now Zidane and club president Florentino Pérez can finally put in motion their plans to breathe some life into a squad that performed far below what its fans expect.
“Football is motivation ... Next season this is going to change,” Zidane said.

WHO’S OUT?
Candidate No. 1 to leave is Gareth Bale.
Bale arrived at Madrid in 2013 as the biggest signing in football history. Six years, multiple titles and more than 100 goals later, Zidane looks more than ready to part ways with the Wales winger.
Zidane has rarely counted on Bale since he returned to the club in March nine months after stepping down, becoming Madrid’s third manager of the season following the failures of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari. Bale didn’t leave the bench on Sunday in what many believed was his last game for Madrid.
But with Bale under contract until 2022, his exit may hinge on finding a club that can cope with the 29-year-old winger’s salary of a reported 15 million euros a season.
Goalkeeper Keylor Navas is reported to be unwanted after he became a second-choice player following the signing of Thibaut Courtois.
The future of midfielders Toni Kroos and Francisco “Isco” Alarcon and defender Marcelo are also in doubt after their sub-par campaigns, while Zidane has shown little interest in playing midfielders Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and left back Sergio Reguilón.
“Nobody is going to take away what these players did for five years,” Zidane said. “(But) we don’t have excuses. We ask our fans for forgiveness because we have the obligation to give it our all.”

WHO’S IN?
Of all the names floated, Belgium midfielder Eden Hazard’s is the most commonly heard. His contract with Chelsea expires in 2020 and he may be ready before then for a change after seven years in London.
The other major name is Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who Zidane has said he admires.
But unless Madrid can somehow succeed in prying Kylian Mbappé away from Paris Saint-Germain, then the goals that went missing when Cristiano Ronaldo left last year won’t be found in a single player.
Zidane will still have to solve the pending problem of retooling a team that spent most of the last decade feeding that goal-scoring machine called Ronaldo.
If not, then next season may not be much better.


Police investigate $615,000 burglary at home of Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez

Updated 31 May 2020

Police investigate $615,000 burglary at home of Algeria’s Riyad Mahrez

  • Three watches worth more than £300,000 were taken
  • Cartier bracelets and rare football shirts worth nearly £150,000 also robbed

LONDON: Police are investigating after £500,000 ($617,000) worth of items were stolen in a burglary at the penthouse apartment of Manchester City player Riyad Mahrez.

Three watches worth more than £300,000 were taken along with £50,000 in cash, as well as Cartier bracelets and rare football shirts worth nearly £150,000, according to The Sun newspaper.

The Algerian international was not at home when the intruders used a key fob to access his apartment and three others in the Manchester city-center building on April 24.

A letter from building management sent to residents, seen by The Sun, informed residents of the apartment block about the break-ins and said “the (key) fob in question is now in our possession, has been fully deactivated and cannot be used again.”

A Greater Manchester Police spokesperson said: "At around 5pm on Friday April 24, police were called to reports that four separate apartments had been burgled at a city-center block." 

Mahrez and Manchester City have declined to comment on the incident.It is not the first burglary involving a Premier League player in 2020.Earlier in May,

Tottenham and England striker Dele Alli was attacked by burglars entering his home while he was with his girlfriend and brother, during which they stole watches and jewelery.

And the family of his teammate at Tottenham, Jan Vertonghen, were burgled at knifepoint in March while he was in Germany on Champions League duty for his club against Red Bull Leipzig.