Real Madrid’s attack looked blunt in their goalless opener but there was still no spot for £58m man Luka Jovic… Zinedine Zidane sent a clear message to the board by not bringing him on
Luka Jovic is available on loan this summer – that was the clearest conclusion to be drawn from Real Madrid’s opening day 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad.
The 22-year-old Serbian international, who scored 17 goals in 32 appearances in the Bundesliga for Eintracht Frankfurt the season before last and 10 in 14 Europa League matches, was left on the bench on Sunday night as Real Madrid’s blunt attack failed to break down Real Sociedad’s defence.
Zidane requested the signing of Jovic for £58million in the summer of 2019 but instead of turning to him to break the stalemate he put on 20-year-old winger Marvin Park and 18-year-old attacking midfielder Sergio Arribas. His message could not have been clearer.
Luka Jovic (left) did not come on in Real Madrid’s goalless draw against Real Sociedad
Jovic joined Real Madrid – at the request of Zinedine Zidane – for £58million in summer of 2019
The Serbian striker has been left out in the cold and will be available to loan this summer
After the game Zidane said: ‘I did not want to change the formation and Karim Benzema was playing well.’ It was not the most convincing of explanations. Throwing Jovic on with Benzema and playing 4-4-2 looked the obvious plan B after plan A had impressed but failed to find the opening goal of the season.
Park, who was at Tranmere as a kid before moving back to Spain in his early teens and under-18 prospect Arribas are both highly thought of but once the season is in full flow they are unlikely to feature again.
This felt like a message from Zidane. He has moved on Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez and now he wants shot of someone else he does not see a future for at Real Madrid.
Zidane’s decision to ship out Rodriguez, Bale and Sergio Reguilon has already come under scrutiny. Don’t think Marca’s headline last week: ‘Zidane gets his way’, was anything other than a clear message to the Madrid manager: you have given up on these players, you had better make it work with those who are left.
Jovic has been looked at by several Premier League clubs. His performances against Chelsea in the Europa League in 2019 put him in the diaries of various directors of football and there would have been a great scrap for his signature had Madrid not been prepared to pay such a big fee last year.
Now he is on the table again. Madrid learned the hard way from their experience with both Bale and Rodriguez that if Zidane sets his mind on overlooking a player then he will barely feature and his price will plummet.
Zidane instead opted to bring on Marvin Park (right) while Jovic stayed stuck on the bench
Young midfielder Sergio Arribas also got the nod ahead of Real Madrid’s £58m man on Sunday
Borja Mayoral was another centre-forward left kicking his heels on the bench. The 23-year-old former Spain Under-21 international was out on loan at Levante last season.
With one year left on his current deal Madrid are holding back on loaning him out again because they would rather sell. Zidane could keep Mayoral if Jovic goes but it really does seem that Zidane fancies neither of them.
‘It’s going to be a long wait for Mbappe’ read the Diario AS headline on Monday morning. He is the player Zidane really wants but there is no chance of that happening this summer.
Perhaps the best news for the Real Madrid coach after the first game of the new season was the form of Martin Odegaard. It was back in May 2015 when Odegaard made his debut for Madrid. He came on after an hour to replace Cristiano Ronaldo that night.
It was a clear message from Zidane that he doesn’t want Jovic (pictured) at Real Madrid
The same happened with Gareth Bale, who has now returned to Tottenham for the season
The score was already 5-3 in Madrid’s favour and Odegaard helped the team to two more goals. But coach Carlo Ancelotti would later refer to the debut as a PR stunt by the club. They had wanted their youngest Galatico to become the youngest player to play for the club, aged 16 years and 156 days.
He has returned as the complete midfielder after loan spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse and Real Sociedad.
He is yet to get full fitness because of a lingering problem in his right knee but he showed enough in the first half to suggest Real Madrid have done the right thing ending his loan odyssey.
He looked on the same wavelength as Karim Benzema and Zidane will hope that, in the absence of Mbappe, he can call upon the still unfit Eden Hazard sooner rather than later and enjoy the three of them trying to improve Real Madrid’s attacking threat.
James Rodriguez was also forced out by Zidane and has got off to a flying start at Everton
Martin Odegaard was one bright spark for Real Madrid as they started the season with a draw