Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio can shine in Real Madrid's new inter-Galactico empire

Chris Bailey 29/07/2018
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Real Madrid’s inter-Galactico empire still exists but not as we know it after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo is unlikely to be directly replaced at the Bernabeu, with new coach Julen Lopetegui happy to work with a familiar face in Isco and play down talk of a pursuit for Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.

But it’s not just the bigger names who will be hoping for a more prominent role under former Spain coach Lopetegui as their tour of the USA gets under way with a match against Manchester United on Tuesday (UAE: 04:05 +1).

DANI CEBALLOS

_Dani Ceballos

A dream move to Los Blancos after scooping up Player of the Tournament for his sparkling performance at the European Under-21 Championship – the summer of 2017 was one to cherish for Dani Ceballos.

The following season, however, is best forgotten. With Zinedine Zidane resolutely sticking to the triumvirate of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos with Mateo Kovacic in reserve, Ceballos mustered 12 La Liga appearances. Of those, just four were starts.

Real Betis boss Quique Setien has been putting on a charm offensive all summer long in an effort to tempt Ceballos back to the club. But the 21-year-old could not have wished for a better appointment in Lopetegui.

The former goalkeeper coached various age groups for Spain before taking the top job – with a two-year stint at Porto sandwiched in-between – and though he did not directly manage Ceballos, will have a stockpile of information on what he can do.

Golden Ball winner Modric, at 32, will need occasional relief after a draining World Cup and a 24-year-old Kovacic could leave the club before the summer is out has he pines for a regular role.

Ceballos’ style of play is best described as a hybrid of Modric and Kroos – a disciplined and creative midfielder who is also very effective at dribbling out of tight spaces. He should fit like a glove in a Lopetegui possession-based system.

To give up on such a talent after one season would be foolish and Lopetegui has extinguished talk of a departure. Watch this space.

MARCO ASENSIO

Marco Asensio 1

Marco Asensio is another stand out from the Spain team that reached that Under-21 final but his star was already very much on the rise, having scored in the 4-1 Champions League final victory over Juventus last May.

Unlike Ceballos, there is no suggestion – apart from the most spurious of transfer rumours – that he is dissatisfied with his progress at Madrid but he too can be excited about the future under Lopetegui.

The 22-year-old’s versatility has both been a blessing and a curse, as he can fill a hole anywhere along the attacking line for Los Blancos but has not yet threaded together enough performances to fully convince that he is the definitive answer to a position.

His time will surely come now. Isco is clearly a huge part of Lopetegui’s plans and that should also be a help to Asensio.

Isco, undoubtedly Spain’s best player at an otherwise horrendous World Cup for the country, freely roamed under Lopetegui for La Roja whereas he habitually drifted to the left under Zidane at Real.

Asensio then, naturally left-footed, could be positioned to nail down a spot on that wing. A certain Mr Bale may stand in his way but there is an option to play the Welshman through the middle depending on Karim Benzema’s status under Lopetegui, or the right.

One thing’s for sure – without Ronaldo, a world of opportunity awaits Asensio.

LUCAS VAZQUEZ

1110 Lucas Vazquez

Lucas Vazquez perhaps has the most concerns over where he will fit into Lopetegui’s plans from this three, but his body of work clearly impressed his new coach last season.

He was called up to Spain’s World Cup squad after featuring the most times of any player under Zidane in 2017/18, racking up eight goals and 12 assists.

The arrival of Alvaro Odriozola has muddied the waters somewhat. Though a right-back by trade, it’s unlikely that he will push first-choice Dani Carvajal out of the picture and he has history playing as a winger at Real Sociedad.

Even still, Vazquez, no longer just potential having turned 27, is the only true right-sided attacking option that Madrid possess and there has been no suggestion from Lopetegui that he’ll shoehorn the biggest names into the starting XI in an effort to make them fit.

Indeed, take reputations out of it and Vazquez was one of, if not Madrid’s best player for a long spell last term. It’ll be intriguing to see whether Lopetegui has a particular vision for him.

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Theo Hernandez could say farewell to the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid defender Theo Hernandez is on the verge of completing a loan move to Real Sociedad, AS reports.

The 20-year-old, who moved to the Bernabeu from city rivals Atletico Madrid 12 months ago on a six-year contract, struggled to play himself into Zinedine Zidane‘s plans last season and has yet to convince new boss Julen Lopetegui that he is ready for extended first-team action.

Hernandez made just 13 La Liga outings and 23 in total, whereas he enjoyed a productive loan spell at Alaves in the 2016/17 campaign.

Club legend Marcelo is still the stalwart in Real’s left-back role, stifling Hernandez’s opportunities, but the France Under-20 international did travel stateside for the club’s pre-season tour.

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Real Madrid arrive in Miami ahead of International Champions Cup matches

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New boss Julen Lopetegui is getting ready to manage his new team.

Real Madrid have arrived stateside as Los Blancos ramp up their pre-season preparations.

Julen Lopetegui’s men touched down in the US on Saturday night, arriving to the cheers of thousands of fans in Miami.

The Whites are due to play Manchester United on August 1 at the Hard Rock Stadium before facing-off against Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Juventus at the FedExField in Maryland (although the Portuguese star won’t be playing).

Real then take on Roma at the MetLife Stadium in New York on August 8.

A 32-man squad made the trip from the Spanish capital.

Off the back of the tour, the La Liga giants will face city rivals Atletico Madrid in the European Super Cup in Tallinn on August 15.

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