Roberto Martinez

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Hazard ‘recovering well, no complications’ after ankle surgery

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It’s been six weeks since Eden Hazard underwent surgery to repair a fracture in the fibula of his right foot, and Real Madrid’s Belgian superstar is reportedly right on schedule as he is “recovering well” and has dealt with “no complications,” according to his national team manager, Roberto Martinez.

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The injury and operation were originally supposed to keep Hazard out for the vast majority, if not all, of the rest of the season, but the 29-year-old is now expected to be available when play resumes following suspension for the coronavirus pandemic. With Real Madrid trailing Barcelona by two points, Hazard’s return for the final 11 games could prove decisive.

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Martinez spoke to local media in Belgium this weekend and provided an update on Hazard’s recovery — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I know he is recovering well. He is not far from running again and there are no complications. Everything went well with the operation, but you also hope that everything goes well in the four to five weeks afterwards without complications, and there were none.

“We know he will return stronger. We were also fortunate, of course, to have his surgery take place just before the coronavirus outbreak. Otherwise he would not be able to travel or be treated outside of Madrid. I have a positive feeling that Eden will be back soon.”

Hazard has just one goal in 15 La Liga appearances this season, after arriving from Chelsea for $113 million (with the potential to rise to $165 million) last summer.

Lukaku urged to leave Man United

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Romelu Lukaku‘s future seems to be far away from Manchester United, and his national team boss is urging the Red Devils to let the striker move on this summer.

In a statement released to our partners Sky Sports, Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez suggested that Lukaku and United need to come to an agreement soon and that he “has to leave United” this summer.

The 26-year-old has spoken glowingly about Antonio Conte, who has just take over as boss of Inter Milan, and also about Serie A in general as he’s been linked with a $75 million move to Inter.

“Romelu Lukaku and Manchester United need to find the right solution for both parties. If United and Rom are happy with a change, it will be a matter of finding the right club and challenge for Rom,” Martinez said. “Romelu is under contract with Manchester United, and the club will make the decision on his future. If the future is for Romelu to have a big role at Manchester United, Romelu will be ready to fulfill it.”

Lukaku’s future is more than a little up in the air and his agent Federico Pastorello has previously said his future would be sorted by the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

And here we are.

Despite a poor 2018-19 campaign where he struggled with confidence and found himself out of the team under both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Lukaku’s record since joining United from Everton in 2017 for $90 million isn’t that bad.

He’s scored 42 goals in 96 games in all competitions, which is just under the hallowed ratio all strikers aim for of a goal every other game. But Lukaku’s hold-up play and the fact he has missed big chances for United have seen fans turn on him, plus the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard are better suited to the counter-attacking style Solskjaer prefers.

United will want to get a large chunk of the $90 million that paid Everton for Lukaku back if they do sell him, but that’s unlikely given his poor second half of last season. His transfer value will drop even further if, as expected, he isn’t one of the main men for Solskjaer early in the upcoming season.

Like the situation with Paul Pogba, now is the best time for everyone involved for Lukaku to move on.

Barcelona reportedly want Martinez to replace Valverde

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A report out of Spain says that Barcelona will cut ties with manager Ernesto Valverde, following a rough finish to its treble-chasing season.

Barcelona ran away with La Liga but coughed up a big second leg lead over Liverpool in the Champions League before losing to Villarreal in the Copa del Rey Final.

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Valverde’s firing would open the door for a familiar name: Roberto Martinez.

The ex- Wigan and Everton boss is under contract with the Belgian national team through 2020, but may find it hard to pass up the opportunity to manage Lionel Messi and the Blaugranas.

Martinez did not dismiss the idea, instead saying he wouldn’t make any moves without speaking to his Belgium bosses.

The 45-year-old Spaniard played with and managed Swansea City and Wigan Athletic before moving to the Toffees, then Belgium. He won League One with Swansea, the FA Cup with Wigan, and led Belgium to third place at the 2018 World Cup.

Would he be a good fit for Barca? The knock on Martinez has often been defending, and Barca has the tools to give him a leg-up on any of those perceiving shortcomings.

Barcelona won La Liga in both of Valverde’s seasons, but were the favorite to win the Champions League only to fall short this season.

Martinez names Kompany in Belgium squad

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Roberto Martinez is going to suit up a manager as Belgium fights to qualify for EURO 2020.

Okay, okay, that manager is Anderlecht player-manager Vincent Kompany, mere days removed from sealing a domestic treble for Manchester City.

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Kompany, 33, has been called up by Belgium for the first time since November. He has 87 caps with four goals for the Red Devils, and perhaps the nickname will be a little less awkward now that he’s not a member of the Premier League’s “noisy neighbors.”

Here’s what Martinez had to say about Kompany’s inclusion.

“In modern football it is not easy to combine the job of player and coach,” Martinez added. “In England they have a tradition of that but less and less because the job of coach has become enormously demanding. We must give him time. We will support him in everything he does.”

Belgium is in a qualifying group with Russia, Cyprus, Scotland, Kazakhstan, and San Marino, and should waltz into the tournament.

Roberto Martinez favorite for Real Madrid job

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Roberto Martinez is the favorite with bookmakers to become Real Madrid’s next permanent manager, but the Belgian FA have said they have had no contact for their manager and have warned against any “tapping up” of their boss.

With Julen Lopetegui fired earlier this week after Real’s 5-1 humiliation at bitter rivals Barcelona, reserve team coach Santiago Solari has been promoted to take charge of the first team on an interim basis.

Solari is also believed to be among the leading candidates to take charge and considering how well it went for Real promoting from within last time — Zinedine Zidane’s three-straight UEFA Champions League titles prove that — Florentino Perez may go down that route again.

Various reports suggest that Antonio Conte has ruled himself out of taking charge of Real, plus Mauricio Pochettino seems unlikely to leave Tottenham, while many other candidates such as Arsene Wenger would be seen as a short-term option (which is pretty much what every Real manager is, but whatever…) to take over at the Santiago Bernabeu.

And then there’s Martinez.

The Spanish coach led Belgium to third-place at the 2018 World Cup and can clearly manage some of the biggest egos in the game. But how much further can he take Belgium? Will he still be in charge of them in four years time at the 2022 World Cup? His reputation took a hit after he suffered a poor second season in charge at Everton, but his adventurous tactics and ability to give senior players power could suit this ageing Real Madrid squad well.

Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and Luka Modric, among many others, are said to have a huge influence on who Real president Perez selects as the next manager and reports claim that Ramos scuppered any deal for Conte as the players were against the defensive tactics of the former Chelsea coach.

Martinez is the opposite of Conte, tactically, and surely the Spaniard would jump at the chance to return to his homeland after a long-road traveled at Wigan, Swansea and through the lower leagues in the UK before succeeding as a manager with Swansea, Wigan and Everton.

For many the jury is still out on Martinez as a manager, with his time at Everton being used as the main measuring stick. But you cannot deny his success with Belgium and the panache his teams play with would certainly suit the squad Real have. The main problem for them under Lopetegui has been scoring goals, as Real have lost four of their last five league games, scoring twice in that stretch and picking up just one point.

Martinez’s attack-minded philosophy would suit this situation well and, let’s be honest, the situation at Real cannot get any worse than it is right now. It seems like a perfect time for Martinez, or anybody else, to come in and play the hero role.