If this season is meant to be a revival for Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane has his work cut out for him as the campaign nears a triumphant beginning.
After a third-place finish in La Liga last season plus elimination in the Champions League Round of 16, Real Madrid has spent big this summer looking to refresh the squad with young and prime talent. Yet things have not gone entirely to plan.
New signing Luka Jovic was withdrawn in the 28th minute of Real Madrid’s somewhat embarrassing 7-3 preseason defeat to rivals Atletico Madrid, and while the club would not elaborate on any potential injury, he looked in pain as he was taken off the field after colliding with Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak, appearing to have an ankle issue.
A potential problem for Jovic would make the 21-year-old the fourth player injured this preseason tour. The most serious of the medical issues befell Marco Asensio, who tore his ACL against Arsenal on Tuesday just minutes after scoring a wonderful goal. His injury has caused a trickle-down effect as the club looks to prepare for a lengthy absence, seeing the club reportedly about-face on the sale of James Rodriguez, instead wishing for the Columbian to stay and help replace Asensio.
Brahim Diaz was also injured in an International Champions Cup match against Bayern Munich, although he is reportedly expected to recover in time for Real Madrid’s first league match against Celta Vigo on August 18. Ferland Mendy, another new signing, was not so lucky as he went down with a thigh injury in the Arsenal game and is likely to miss the start of the campaign.
While none of these injuries directly affects the starting lineup aside from Asensio’s gut-wrenching fate (the glittering 23-year-old was finally ready to make the leap as a regular starter, having failed to reach 2,000 league minutes in each of his first three seasons with the club), it poses a problem for Zidane who built his previous success at the club on squad rotation and keeping players fresh. Jovic was brought in as a challenge for Karim Benzema, while Mendy represents direct competition for Marcelo who struggled at times last season but could only be spelled by the since-departed Sergio Regulion. Clearly, as the James Rodriguez situation shows, the injuries have already affected transfer strategy and therefore has a direct impact on squad makeup.
Zidane overcame plenty of bouts with adversity in his three Champions League winning seasons last time he led Los Blancos, so there is plenty of reason to believe he can work around these blips, but the club can ill-afford any more trips to the trainer’s office as the season nears its opening.