La Liga

Four Players Fighting For Their Real Madrid Future

 • by Thomas McIlroy
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Real Madrid are top of La Liga, one point clear of second-placed Barcelona with a game in hand, but with their transfer ban coming to an end this summer, they will surely want to reinvigorate the squad at the Bernabéu.

While there will be a number of incoming transfer targets for Los Blancos, you will expect them to also freshen up their plantilla with departures.

So with Madrid fighting on two fronts, there will be a number of players who want to prove to boss Zinedine Zidane they are good enough to stay at Real Madrid.

But who exactly are they? We look at four players fighting for their future.

Keylor Navas

The talk of Real Madrid bringing in a goalkeeper doesn’t seem to go away.

It’s been an uphill battle for Keylor Navas ever since he arrived at the Bernabéu.

The 30-year-old joined Los Blancos in 2014 in the middle of the row over whether Iker Casillas should start or not, and played second fiddle to the Real Madrid legend.

He started the following season as No.1, but many expected him not to be the main man in goal for the capital club.

And indeed, the Real Madrid hierarchy didn’t seem to think that either, and he would have joined Manchester United in a swap deal for David De Gea had it not been for the infamous fax machine incident.

And since then, it’s always felt like Navas has been living on borrowed time at Real Madrid.

READ MORE: Five Potential Real Madrid Summer Targets

Fans have voted for him to be dropped for Kiko Casilla.

Zidane has publicly praised the Costa Rican in the face of the fans’ disapproval, saying: “I have faith in Keylor, a lot of faith.

“We cannot control the comments outside. He is used to all of this.

“Everyone can do better, all of us, me too.

“We cannot always do everything as we want.

“In football there are moments when you must work hard, but I have faith in him, which is the most important thing.”

But no matter how much Zidane backs him publicly, you feel like the Real Madrid board wanted a big name in goal – like Thibaut Courtois or De Gea – and Navas will really have to be on top form from now until the rest of the season if he wants to carry on in his current role as No.1 at the Bernabéu.

Isco

Another Real Madrid player whose future at the Bernabéu seems uncertain is Isco.

Despite clearly being a quality player, the 24-year-old has struggled for playing time this season, only completing 90 minutes on the pitch in the league twice since October.

The Spain international has hinted he may need to look for a new club.

“I am calm although I am worried about getting more minutes,“ he said after Los Blancos beat Espanyol earlier this month.

READ MORE: The Time Is Right For Isco To Leave Real Madrid

“I am very happy here but a player’s career is small.

“We’ll make a decision at the end of the season – it’s my future at stake:”

And it’s clear that when he says he’ll make a decision at the end of the season, it will depend on playing time.

Isco has impressed in his limited minutes on the pitch so far this season, but undoubtedly, he will need to find his way into Zidane’s first team plans before the end of the season, or he will have to leave for his own sake – he can’t risk his career at such a crucial stage of his development.

James Rodríguez

When you look at James Rodríguez this season, it’s hard to believe Real Madrid once paid €80million for him.

It’s not even like it was that long ago that he was so expensive – he’s only been at the club since 2014.

But when you pay that sort of money for a player, you would expect him to be an undoubted first choice.

Yet he has played just 828 minutes for Los Blancos in all competitions this season – making just five league starts.

He doesn’t really fit into any of Zidane’s favoured formations, and although he’s struggled with injuries, it’s hard to see him playing regularly when fully fit.

Real Madrid star James Rodriguez

READ MORE: How Zinedine Zidane Has Refined Real Madrid

But he reportedly wants to stay at the Bernabéu, with international team-mate Rafael Santos Borré recently saying that his compatriot is happy where he is.

While Rodríguez may be happy at Madrid, it may be down to him to prove he deserves to stay.

He is thought to be an Inter Milan target for the summer and his currently club are reportedly talking to the Italians.

With the two teams reportedly agreeing a fee of £76million last summer, he will need to prove his worth at the Bernabéu it may be hard for him to convince the Madrid hierarchy to keep him at the club if a similar amount of money is being offered.

Karim Benzema

There were once questions over whether MSN (Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez) was better than BBC (Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo), but now it feels like the Barcelona trio is undoubtedly regarded as the better attacking option.

And the Real Madrid hierarchy will not be happy about that.

Both Bale and Ronaldo have recently received new contracts, so it is clear that those in charge believe their future lies at Real Madrid.

But Benzema is a different prospect altogether.

Real Madrid attacking trio Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale

His case has not been helped by fellow forward Álvaro Morata coming off the bench and scoring the winner as Real Madrid came from 2-0 down to beat Villarreal 3-2 on Sunday.

And the Spanish press have picked up on this too – the first question after Sunday’s game to Zidane was whether Isco and Morata deserved more time on the pitch.

The Frenchman answered diplomatically saying: “Everyone wants to play. This is going to be a long season and we are going to need everyone.”

But that won’t stop the talk – Benzema only has five league goals this season and Real Madrid will want more.

Unless he really steps up and scores the crucial goals to fire Los Blancos to the title, he is at real risk of being replaced as first-choice striker, especially as the rumours linking Sergio Agüero with a move to the Bernabéu won’t go away.

For the latest from Spain, check out our La Liga page.

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