News ID: 219858
Published: 0220 GMT August 14, 2018

Real faces up to life without Ronaldo

Real faces up to life without Ronaldo
PAUL HANNA/REUTERS

Following up Zinedine Zidane’s treble Champions League success with Real Madrid was always going to be a difficult job for Julen Lopetegui, but having to do it without Cristiano Ronaldo is a monumental challenge.

Real Madrid finished third in La Liga last season after a thoroughly disappointing campaign, 17 points behind the archrival and champion Barcelona, but Zidane papered over the cracks by guiding the team to a third European cup in a row, Reuters reported.

The coach decided to walk away while he was on top and his surprise departure in May was followed by another, as Ronaldo joined Juventus.

Over the previous nine years Ronaldo was crowned the best footballer in the world five times, helping Real Madrid to four Champions Leagues, with 450 goals in 438 games for the club.

However, in that period Ronaldo only won La Liga in 2012 and 2017, often losing out to Lionel Messi’s Barcelona.

While Barcelona has reinforced in the transfer window, Real has not replaced Ronaldo and has found it hard to secure its reported targets.

The Madrid club has only added Real Sociedad defender Alvaro Odriozola and Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who is expected to replace Keylor Navas in the team and Los Blancos can also use young Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior, although he is primarily expected to feature for the B team.

Real needs both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema to step up a level to cover for Ronaldo’s absence and Marco Asensio will also be given a more prominent role.

Lopetegui, sacked by Spain on the eve of the World Cup after Madrid announced he would take over from Zidane, was reportedly not one of the club’s top choices for the role.

Other coaches turned Madrid down, conscious of the difficulty of following in Zidane’s footsteps, but Lopetegui said taking over was the happiest day of his life.

“It’s an exciting challenge reinventing the team without Ronaldo, making it competitive and capable of winning titles,” said Lopetegui.

“I have no doubt that it will happen with these players that we have.”

Madrid president Florentino Perez has not proved patient at the best of times and if Lopetegui does not deliver on those words his time in the Spanish capital may be quickly curtailed.

An early test against crosstown rival Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup on today may set the tone for the Spanish coach. Win and the transition begins smoothly, lose and worries will surface.

 

Modric Move

 

Luka Modric's agent opened the door to a potential move to Inter, insisting the Real Madrid midfielder is enthused by the idea of playing for the Serie A side.

The Croatia captain has been linked with a Real Madrid exit having won La Liga once in 2016-17 and four Champions League titles, among many other trophy triumphs since his move from Tottenham in 2012, goal.com reported.

Modric was included in Madrid's 29-man squad for today's meeting with Atletico, although speculation regarding his future has refused to go away.

Indeed, Italian publication Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday that Inter has not given up on signing Modric, and that the player will discuss his future with Madrid president Florentino Perez on Thursday.

And Modric's agent talked up the 32-year-old's chances of moving to Italy, insisting that the midfielder has been thinking about playing a big role for Luciano Spalletti's side.

Marko Naletilic told Tuttosport, "Modric didn't just think about playing at Inter, he's really thrilled by the idea of having a big role with the Nerazzurri.

"I have the feeling that sooner or later, Modric will play in Italy: he grew up watching Serie A."

Modric was one of the standout performers at the World Cup, playing in all seven of Croatia's matches on his way to winning the Golden Ball, where the Croatians were eventually beaten in the final by France.

Perez and Lopetegui have been emphatic in their public assertions that Modric would not be sold, with the Madrid president joking that he can leave for his release clause value of €750 million (£670m/$870m).

Modric has made 257 appearances to date for Real Madrid, scoring 13 goals.

 

   
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