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Zidane faces important decision over conditioning of his players

The Frenchman needs to manage the rest of his players.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Zinedine Zidane will likely be glad when the Euro 16 final between Portugal and France is over.  It's one thing supporting your players in the tournament but having to sit back and watch your pre-season plans gradually becoming more and more eroded as time goes by is quite another.

The latest headache for ZZ is the situation highlighted in AS Sports by Marco Ruiz concerning holidays for the players who took part in the latter rounds.  Specifically, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and Pepe are all keen to have a break after a lengthy season and a draining Euro 16.

Real Madrid are due to meet up in just over a week's time to begin preparations for the new season, and you don't need to be a genius to work out that those who played in France these last few weeks are now going to want a bit of time off to rest, recuperate, or even just take a break and spend some time with their families.

The longer their countries were involved in the Euro campaign the greater were the chances that these players in particular would be would be looking for a bit of time away from the office.

To complicate matters further, in addition to Euro-sustained injuries to Luka Modrić and Pepe, there are still unanswered questions to be addressed over the fitness of Keylor Navas and Danilo; and although Dani Carvajal is reported to be recovering well from his own injury we have still to see an official communication from the club detailing the progress that has been made while everyone else has been away.

We have seen videos of Keylor Navas working extremely hard at his rehab following Achilles tendon surgery and, having given up his own summer as he strives to be fit enough in time for the real games in August, the Costa Rican has impressed with his commitment.  However, most of the videos released have focussed on Keylor doing abdominal work, core stability training etc and working out in the gym, while the actual Achilles tendon rehabilitation appears to have been kept well under wraps.

Keylor has posted some images of himself the other week doing some gym work and in the pictures is still wearing an aircast boot; this would suggest that he's not at the stage of becoming involved at too great an intensity for the time being.

Often referred to as an "aircast walker", the type of boot Keylor was pictured wearing recently is a protective plastic boot that contains an inflatable padded shell that once applied, can be pumped up to provide support and protection to the injured part.  These pneumatic walker boots basically provide an inner cushion of air giving compression and support to the ankle or foot without the usual constrictions that a normal plaster cast would have.  The inner shell can be inflated to a comfortable pressure which gives the correct support while providing added compression and protection from further injury to the affected part.

Being light and removable, these are ideal for allowing players to train while injured and at the same time allowing the body weight to be taken through the ankle and foot.  This helps to increase the functional capability of the injured joint while at the same time avoiding compromising an injury further by unprotected movements.

It can be very difficult to accurately predict return-to-play dates following surgery since the body needs to recover at it's own pace; but the early indications are that for the present time at least, he's still got quite a way to go before he's fit enough to think about taking part in competitive activities.

It's looking, therefore, as though the odds are against Keylor being fit enough for the UEFA Super Cup in Norway in August.

Danilo spent some time in Madrid concentrating on the early stages of his rehab but then flew home for a short break after his ankle surgery had been reviewed; while Dani Carvajal has been quite high profile around the city over the past few days.  That's a good sign; since players don't generally like to be seen out and about while they're injured.  In most cases they'd rather keep out of the way until their return date is imminent; and Dani himself has said that he feels everything is going as it should be.

Luka Modrić will have left France with mixed feelings though.  Having sustained a groin injury as Croatia's Euro campaign drew to a close, the enforced break will have allowed him the opportunity to rest and have the injury properly assessed; even if he'd much rather have progressed further in the tournament with Croatia.  Now as a return to the bread and butter of club football approaches, (if playing for Real Madrid can ever be classed as bread and butter that is), the Euro 16 will seem like a lifetime away.

So although by this time next week Real will officially be back in training, it will likely be a depleted squad that meets up in Valdebebas.  There's even talk of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo not travelling to the USA for the pre-season tournament -€” what a disappointment that will be for all Real Madrid fans in America and Canada -€” but they are after all only human.  If the season turns out to be a difficult one, then everybody will be saying that those who took part in Euro 16 are showing the effects of it; so it's essential for Zidane to get the balance right.

The forthcoming season will involve a lot of travel for Real Madrid.  Although everyone's happy about not trekking away to the Southern Hemisphere in pre-season, Japan and the FIFA Club World Club beckon in December.

Whether Zinedine Zidane can manage to compromise with regards to granting some time off for those who've been involved in Euro 16 or not, the fact remains that the coming season is going to be every bit as hectic as the last one.   With just as much travelling involved, the players and staff will quickly be clocking up the air miles once again; and that's before we've even spoken about the league games!

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