Real Madrid are only playing two pre-season games this summer, so we had a two-week wait between the loss to Rangers and Sunday’s match against AC Milan in Austria. It finished 0-0 and there were a few positives. Here comes a look at three questions we had before the game and at three new questions this match has conjured up.
1. How would Alaba do?
David Alaba’s unofficial debut was the big storyline of this game. The Austrian remains the only signing of the summer so far and it’s vital that he adapts as quickly as possible, given that both Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane have moved on. All eyes were on him and all eyes were surely impressed. It was only a friendly and it was only 45 minutes, but Alaba was brilliant. He was kept busy from the very beginning, having to be alert to deny Olivier Giroud, while his passing was slick and he even threatened at the other end too. Alaba needs to be ready for Matchday 1 and it looks like he is.
2. Has Isco really rediscovered his spark?
All summer, we’d been hearing reports from inside the Real Madrid camp about how well Isco was doing. But, he didn’t offer much against Rangers despite playing 90 minutes. So, how would he do in this one, with another couple of weeks of training under his belt? The answer is that he was good. The Spaniard played 84 minutes and looked quite sharp in the centre of the park. For him to become a regular starter again is asking a lot, but Isco might just have a place in this season’s squad. If he can stay fit and motivated, having Isco as a backup is a decent option.
3. What is the #AthletesVersus Cup?
Because of the pandemic, pre-season has changed a lot compared to a couple of years ago. This kind of match would ordinarily have been played in New Jersey or Miami, but instead it was held in Klagenfurt in Austria. It was also held as part of what was being called the #AthletesVersus Cup. So, that is that? Well, Athletes Versus is a non-profit organisation that helps sportspeople to tackle all kinds of forms of discrimination. That’s certainly a better cause than some of the pre-season tournaments of the past.
1. Will this be another season of over-reliance on Benzema?
Karim Benzema hasn’t featured in either of Real Madrid’s two pre-season games and you noticed his absence, which is a concern. Even if they do have players who try, Los Blancos need more than that. As Yoda famously said, score or don’t score at Real Madrid, there is no try. Real Madrid can’t afford to have a stale attack again and they need players who can consistently put the ball in the net. Benzema can do that, but there was too much dependence on him last year as he scored 30 and the next top scorers were Marco Asensio and Casemiro on seven each. That over-reliance can’t happen again, especially because Benzema will now be going away with France during the international breaks. I feel it’s not being spoken about enough, the fact that Benzema’s France return will mean he needs to be rotated out of the Real Madrid XI more than he has been in recent years. That could be a problem.
2. Will Bale score for Real Madrid again?
Gareth Bale was back in a Real Madrid shirt, something few expected would happen when he set off for his Tottenham loan this time last year. The Welshman had a chance to score against AC Milan after he himself won a penalty, but his tame effort was comfortably saved by Mike Maignan. So, will he ever score for Real Madrid again, whether in an official or unofficial match? The answer to that depends on whether he stays of not. If he is in Ancelotti’s squad for 2021/22 then Bale will surely bag a few goals. He could yet depart, though, and would do so with his most recent Real Madrid goal having come on January 22nd 2020.
3. Are Real Madrid actually too old?
Even though Real Madrid shifted their transfer policy a few years ago to focus on acquiring young talent, this is actually a very old first-team squad. The average age of the starting XI that faced AC Milan was 29 and there were five players who are aged 30 or older. The average age of Real Madrid’s squad as a whole is 27, which is the LaLiga average, but many of the likely starters are the wrinkly side of 30 and that could see Los Blancos running on fumes by the time the business end of the season comes around.