Ramos, Hazard, Bale... Mbappe? What are Carlo Ancelotti's priorities at Real Madrid?

By Sports Desk June 01, 2021

Carlo Ancelotti is back in charge of Real Madrid and has plenty on his plate after succeeding Zinedine Zidane.

The Italian called time on an 18-month stay at Everton in order to return to the club where he won the Champions League, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup in a spell between 2013 and 2015.

However, Ancelotti inherits a Real squad with plenty of question marks over it.

The Spanish giants have just endured their first trophyless season since 2009-10 and so there is plenty for the 61-year-old to consider as he starts his second stint.

Sergio Ramos' future

Ancelotti joins a Madrid side who are on the cusp of losing captain Sergio Ramos for nothing. The Spaniard has long been in talks over a new deal but, with his current contract days from expiry, no breakthrough seems imminent.

Although his last season was hampered by injury that has cost him a place at Euro 2020 with Spain, Ramos still proved his worth time and time again.

Looking at his performances in LaLiga, the 35-year-old posted better statistics in tackle success rate (80 per cent) and tackles won per 90 minutes (0.85) than any of his fellow Real centre-halves.

He was also dribbled past fewer times per 90 minutes (0.28) than Raphael Varane (0.3), Eder Militao (0.48) and Nacho (1.03).

These statistics could well be enough to convince Ancelotti to keep him around.

Does Hazard have a role?

With 21 appearances, four goals, and further injury issues all Eden Hazard has to show for last season, it has been suggested a departure could be the best outcome for all parties.

But Ancelotti will no doubt be tempted to try and get the best out of the Belgian as he looks to fix an attack that needs to offer a wider threat.

Karim Benzema remains from the Italian's first stint, but no other Madrid player got close to the French striker's 23 goals in LaLiga last term, with Casemiro (6), Marco Asensio and Luka Modric (both 5) next best.

Hazard could be key to bridging that gap if he can stay fit for long enough periods.

What next for returning loanees?

One man who could help on the goal front is Gareth Bale, who scored 11 times in 20 Premier League appearances for Tottenham during a season-long loan stay in 2020-21.

The Welshman first joined Real under Ancelotti in the summer of 2013 and could be more open to staying put with a manager who has faith in him after becoming frustrated under Zidane.

It remains to be seen what happens with Martin Odegaard, who will return from a loan spell at Arsenal where he impressed but perhaps not to the degree necessary to earn a starting place in Madrid.

The futures of Luka Jovic and Brahim Diaz are also uncertain as they return from Eintracht Frankfurt and Milan respectively.

One big sale?

With Real feeling the pinch of a season without supporters, it is likely that the new manager will have to generate his own funds in the transfer market.

And, with moving on fringe players likely to be tricky, the possibility of selling a more in-demand asset increases.

Raphael Varane is one possible contender as he heads into the final year of his contract amid reported interest from the likes of Manchester United.

The Frenchman established himself as a regular starter in Ancelotti's second season and has missed just 68 of the 266 league games played since that point.

Real conceded an average of 1.1 goal per game without Varane across the past seven seasons, and 0.9 in the fixtures in which he featured.

Interestingly, though, their win percentage rose to 73.5 per cent without him in the side from 66.2 per cent with - will these statistics inform the manager's decision?

One big signing?

Money may be tight at Real Madrid, but that won't stop them being linked to the biggest names in world football.

Kylian Mbappe is one of them, the Frenchman having enjoyed another remarkable season in which he scored more goals (21) and landed more shots on target (55) than anyone else in Ligue 1.

The 22-year-old also converted 60.5 per cent of his big chances - a rate that would help ease Real's problems with lack of goals outside of Benzema.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Ancelotti can pull together the funds to start off his reign with such a high-profile signing.

Related items

  • 'Anything is possible' with Steph Curry 15 shy of Ray Allen's three-point record 'Anything is possible' with Steph Curry 15 shy of Ray Allen's three-point record

    Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry is just 15 three-pointers shy of Ray Allen's all-time record after sinking seven more in Monday's 126-95 win over the Orlando Magic.

    The three-time NBA champion and two-time MVP is chasing down Allen's regular season benchmark of 2,973 made threes and moved to 2,958 against the Magic.

    Curry was successful with seven of his 13 attempts from beyond the arc, including a stunning half-court buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter, finishing with 31 points and eight assists in the game.

    With Allen's record moving into view, Curry was asked if he could match that mark in Wednesday's home game against the Portland Trail Blazers and simply replied: "Anything is possible."

    If he were to achieve the feat by making 15 in one game, Curry would also top team-mate Klay Thompson's single-game record of 14 threes made.

    Thompson shot 14 of 24 from deep against the Chicago Bulls in October 2018, taking that record from Curry, who had made 13 of 17 against the New Orleans Pelicans in November 2016.

    "What is it, 15?" Curry said of tying Allen's record. "That's funny because I know what that means is Klay's record and all that, too. So we will see. 

    "If you've seen the way I've played, especially recently, I'm not shy about shooting the ball, so the game will dictate what that looks like. I'm not coming out with that as the true goal of how I play, but crazier things have happened."

    When asked the same question, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said: "I'm guessing he's going to shoot a lot against Portland on Wednesday.

    "He's Steph Curry, so anything's possible."

    Curry has averaged career highs in three-point shots attempted (13.2) and made (5.5) per game this season, although he has yet to reach double-figures for made threes in a single game in 2021-22, four times finishing on nine – each of those coming over a sensational six-game stretch in November.

  • Lewandowski hopes Messi's Ballon d'Or comments were 'not just empty words' Lewandowski hopes Messi's Ballon d'Or comments were 'not just empty words'

    Robert Lewandowski has questioned whether winner Lionel Messi was sincere with his praise towards him after beating the Bayern Munich striker to the 2021 Ballon d'Or award.

    Messi claimed the coveted accolade for a record-extending seventh time last week, with Lewandowski finishing second as he settled for the inaugural Striker of the Year award.

    Lewandowski was somewhat unfortunate to miss out to Messi, having scored 53 times in 42 games for Bayern between the start of 2021 and the award being handed out.

    That was the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues across all competitions, with Messi – who won the Copa America with Argentina – joint-fifth on the list with 32 goals.

    Poland international Lewandowski averaged a goal every 67 minutes over the same period. Among those with 10 goals or more, club-mate Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting was the next-most regular scorer, netting every 84 minutes.

    Lewandowski would also have been favourite to win the award last year had it not been scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    In his acceptance speech when collecting the award, Messi said Lewandowski deserved a Ballon d'Or of his own for his exploits in 2020.

    "Last year, everyone was in agreement to say that [Lewandowski was] the big winner," Messi said. "Hopefully [France Football] give you the Ballon d'Or 2020."

    However, Lewandowski appeared unmoved by those comments from Messi and admitted to feeling upset about once again missing out on football's top individual honour.

    "I felt sadness," he told Polish channel Kanal Sportowy. "I can't deny it. I can't say I was happy – on the contrary, I have a feeling of sadness. 

    "To be so close, to compete with Messi, of course I respect how he plays and what he has achieved. The mere fact that I was able to compete with him shows me the level that I was able to reach.

    "I'm not that enthusiastic about getting the 2020 award. I would like [Messi's statement] to be a sincere and courteous statement from a great player and not just empty words."

  • Aubameyang situation 'causing a problem at Arsenal' – Neville Aubameyang situation 'causing a problem at Arsenal' – Neville

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's lack of playing time will cause problems for Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, according to Gary Neville.

    The Gabon international dropped to the bench for Monday's 2-1 defeat to Everton, with Arteta instead using Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli in attack.

    Arteta turned to Eddie Nketiah from the substitutes' bench before finally introducing Aubameyang five minutes from time.

    Aubameyang missed a glorious chance shortly after Demarai Gray had fired in what proved to be a superb late winner for Everton to relieve the pressure on Rafael Benitez.

    Arsenal's out-of-form captain has now failed to score in his last six Premier League appearances, which is his longest run in the competition and his longest goalless league run since going 14 without a goal for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga between February and August 2014.

    Former Dortmund striker Aubameyang has had 15 shots across that barren spell and has failed to find the net from an expected goals (xG) return of 3.1.

    Neville does not believe Aubameyang will react well to being left on the bench for so long, with the Manchester United legend predicting a possible parting of the ways between the player and club in January.

    "I think there will be a problem with Aubameyang off the back of this game," Neville told Sky Sports. "I don't think he'll like the idea of Eddie Nketiah coming on before him. I don't think he'll like the idea of being a substitute, full stop.

    "There's always that little bit of a bug there between Arteta and Aubameyang. I know he's the captain but he leaves him out and it just feels like something that's a little bit awkward, and it's going to cause a problem.

    "I suspect, if Arteta could probably get money for Aubameyang and he could get someone else, they probably would. And I bet if Aubameyang could move on he probably would as well because it could maybe turn a little sour."

    Aubameyang failed to find the target from his two efforts against Everton and now has a big chance conversion rate of 33.33 per cent in the Premier League this season.

    That is down from 46.2 per cent last season and 63.0 the season before when registering 22 goals in 36 games, matching his tally from 2018-19.

    Arsenal, who had taken the lead against Everton through Martin Odegaard's strike before late goals from Richarlison and Gray, are seventh in the league after losing three of their last four games.

    The Gunners have named the youngest average starting line-up in the English top flight this season and Neville believes a lack of experience is costing Arteta.

    "I think when we talk about this being a young team in terms of the average age, when you go to places like Old Trafford and Goodison Park in a night game one or two of the young players won't have experienced it too many times," he said.

    "I remember my first game going to Anfield and it was tough, going to Arsenal at Highbury. You need experience to get you through those difficult moments when the crowd go up and a few decisions go against you and you can feel something happening.

    "You need comfort in there. You need that spine. Arsenal's senior players are not really massive characters. They are not really leaders. They don't get those young players through those difficult moments in the game so the other players just go under a little."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.