James Rodriguez among the big-name stars who have shined since leaving Real Madrid

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James Rodriguez has been in glittering form this term.

With Real Madrid‘s wretched and inconsistent La Liga form showing no sign of letting up following Saturday night’s disappointing draw with lowly Levante, it has raised plenty of question marks about the Los Blancos squad and if indeed boss Zinedine Zidane has the right personnel at his disposal.

The Whites trail Barcelona by 18 points in the table and face a do-or-die first leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain in the second round of the Champions League on February 14.

Here, we look at how players, who were ousted by Zidane in the summer, have fared since being shipped out of the Bernabeu.

JAMES RODRIGUEZ

Moved to Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal 

Without doubt, the Colombian has been the player Madrid have missed most this term. The 26-year-old playmaker has been at the heart of Bayern’s resurgence, plundering four goals and seven assists in 15 matches – helping the Bavarians to 10 straight Bundesliga wins.

Indeed, he has been involved in a goal every 106 minutes in 2018 and his finish in the win over Mainz was stunning. These damning stats shouldn’t make unusual reading for Zidane and Madrid, given Rodriguez scored eight goals in just 22 La Liga appearances last season, as well as weighing in with six assists.

This, however, wasn’t enough to convince Zizou to keep him despite the attacker saying he had no issue with the Frenchman. He was crucial in rotation last season and the dip in form of chief midfield orchestrator Isco only reinforces the reason for not allowing him to leave.

While Madrid can’t cut short the loan agreement and recall Rodriguez, Bayern can make the deal permanent given a clause in the terms which sees the German giants have the option of purchasing the former Porto star for €48.5m (€42m transfer fee plus annual €6.5m loan fee) this summer.

That won’t be music to the ears of Madrid fans, with many being keen to see him back in a Whites jersey in the future. Expect Bayern to sign his permanently.

How much he is missed – 9/10

Form of his life: James Rodriguez.

ALVARO MORATA

Moved to Chelsea for €67m (Dh306m)

Real’s chronic goal shortage, particularly in the league, has been one of their biggest problems this season and with hindsight, the decision to sell Spaniard Morata last summer seems now like the wrong call.

Despite suffering with injury problems and indifferent showings of late, the 25-year-old has netted 10 Premier League goals in 20 appearances. It’s a pretty good return for a player who is still finding his feet in England and his league goals haul is to the betterment of Cristiano Ronaldo (8), Gareth Bale (6), Marco Asensio (4) and Karim Benzema, who has incredibly only found the back of the net twice.

Morata may have struggled to cement himself as a Zidane favourite during the club’s double-winning campaign last term, but the decision to oust the boyhood Madridista perhaps came too soon despite the big transfer fee received last summer for his services.

Having proved himself as a goalscorer at Juventus and worked hard to establish himself in the Spanish capital, the school of thought is Morata was harshly treated by Zidane.

How much he is missed – 8/10

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Alvaro Morata of Chelsea during the Carabao Cup Semi-Final First Leg match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on January 10, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Morata has generally led the line well for Chelsea this term.

DANILO

Moved to Man City for €30m (Dh137m)

Fresh from his wonder goal in Saturday’s draw at Burnley, the Brazilian is starting to show his full worth at his new club despite having to operate in various positions.

While the 26-year-old only played a bit-part role for Madrid last season, his versatility offered Zidane’s side different options and given the likes of Marcelo, captain Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal have all spent time out injured, in addition to Raphael Varane’s inconsistent positional play at centre-back, perhaps he was worth keeping as a squad player.

In the end, the Spanish giants received a sizeable fee for a man who wasn’t playing regularly but looking at Danilo’s stats for City, a high pass completion of nearly 90 percent in all competitions and two goals from defence have underlined he was a good signing for Pep Guardiola’s men from a defensive and attacking perspective.

How much he is missed – 6/10

Manchester City's Brazilian defender Danilo celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Manchester City at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on February 3, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Danilo celebrates after netting a screamer for City at Burnley.

PEPE

Moved to Besiktas on a free 

A club stalwart for a decade at the Bernabeu, the 34-year-old’s contract was winding down and his free transfer to Besiktas was the right decision all round.

An argument could be made that Madrid miss his leadership and experience on and off the pitch, but it would be harsh to say the club made the wrong decision in not offering him a new deal.

Pepe rarely featured last season and was prone to too many errors. Still, his contribution to the cause will always be fondly remembered.

How much he is missed – 3/10

VISEU, PORTUGAL -NOVEMBER 10: Portugal defender Pepe during the match between Portugal and Saudi Arabia InternationalFriendly at Estadio do Fontelo, on November 10, 2017 in Viseu, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

Pepe departed in the summer after a decade-long spell at the Bernabeu.

MARIANO DIAZ

Moved to Lyon for €8.1M (Dh37m)

The promising forward was always going to struggle to break through into Real’s brilliant double-winning side last season but did he deserve more than his 14 outings in white, which in turn yielded five goals?

The answer now is certainly a resounding yes given the 24-year-old has struck 15 goals (13 in the league – two more than Neymar) in 28 appearances for Lyon since his move and generally looked in outstanding form, having the highest conversion rate (20 percent) from shots fired outside the box too.

With youth on his side, Diaz deserved more of an opportunity at the Bernabeu and you could make a good argument that he offers a lot more in terms of pace, goals and natural ability than Borja Mayoral.

Behind closed doors, Real must regret discarding him so cheaply and quickly – and you have to say, ultimately – it was a poor move given the amount of investment Madrid made in the player through his C team and Castilla days. Similar to Morata, why treat one of your own, so to speak, with such little remorse?

How much he is missed – 7/10

Lyon's Spanish forward Mariano Diaz (C) celebrates after scoring a goal during the French Cup round of 16 football match between Monaco and Lyon at the Louis II stadium in Monaco on January 24, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Among the goals: Mariano Diaz has led the line superbly for Lyon.

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Cristiano Ronaldo gestures to TV camera to film the pitch, not him after substitution in Real Madrid draw

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Cristiano Ronaldo was given the hook on 82 minutes by Zinedine Zidane.

Cristiano Ronaldo was withdrawn by Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane with just eight minutes remaining at Levante on Saturday night.

The Whites, at the time, were 2-1 to the good and seemingly on course for a third straight La Liga victory.

Ronaldo, himself, had not enjoyed his best evening – having had seven shots at goal but hit the target just twice.

With the fixtures coming thick and fast this month, including the first leg of Los Blancos’ second-round Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain on Valentine’s Day (February 14), Zidane opted to give Ronaldo’s legs a breather for the last few minutes.

After he was withdrawn from the action at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, the cameras predictably zoomed in on the visibly frustrated 32-year-old as he took his place on the bench.

According to Marca, the club legend gestured at the television cameras, putting his fingers over lips, and saying: “not this” – inferring they should be filming the action on the pitch and not him.

As it was, Levante conjured up an equaliser in the 89th minute to compound Real’s misery and Ronaldo’s as the match finished all square at 2-2.

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Zinedine Zidane says Real Madrid are "united in hard times" as he looks to save season

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Zinedine Zidane says his team needs to put in the work to forget their early-season struggles.

Zinedine Zidane is confident hard work will see his Real Madrid players produce a positive end to the campaign – both in La Liga and Europe.

Los Blancos head to Levante on Saturday having all but surrendered their La Liga crown, sitting fourth and trailing leaders Barcelona by 19 points.

The pressure continued to mount on Zidane after his team crashed out of the Copa del Rey to Leganes after a second-leg defeat at the Bernabeu, but they returned to form with a 4-1 win at top-four rivals Valencia at the weekend.

Zidane wants everyone to stay focused on the positives of a group which not so long ago completed a LaLiga and Champions league double.

“When it’s time to work, you have to get stuck into it,” the head coach said ahead of Saturday night’s trip to Ciutat de Valencia.

“In my first year we had three weeks to work and we did very well, we improved a lot. Now we have to do the same – strength, resistance, speed.”

Zidane added: “We remain united in the hard times. I think my players always remain dedicated and driven.

“I have real faith in my squad and I tell them that, they repay that faith with hard work, fight and knowing this is not the end.”

With the small matter of a Champions League showdown against Paris Saint-Germain on the horizon, Zidane maintains there are still plenty of reasons to be positive.

“You are sitting here acting like La Liga is done for, but I don’t think that is the case. We will keep plugging away, trying to win those games,” Zidane said at a press conference, quoted on the club’s official website.

“In the European Cup we feel excited, raring to go. Real Madrid have won plenty of those cups already and we are going into the next Champions League game looking to win as always.”

Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco were all able to join in with Real’s final training session of the week.

Ronaldo – who scored twice against both Deportivo La Coruna and Valencia – had been doing work in the gym as he shook off a calf problem, but should be involved on Saturday.

Opponents Levante are scrapping at the other end of the La Liga table and sit just two points clear of the relegation zone.

Head coach Juan Muniz feels the struggle of all teams are relative.

“With Ronaldo, (Gareth) Bale, (Karim) Benzema or Isco, the crises are different,” Muniz said at a press conference, as reported by Spanish media outlet AS.

“They are one of the best sides in the world, so losing a match is a crisis for Madrid.

“But when a machine works well, it goes to Mestalla and wins 4-1.”

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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