News From Spain: Analysis: The three ‘sentenced’ players in Real Madrid’s squad for next season

Real Madrid are already well underway with their plans for next season, as they look to ensure their business is done early once more this summer.

Although some calls may well be made down the line, depending on who comes in, Los Blancos have already decided the futures of much of their squad for next season.

Despite the fact that seven of their players are out of contract in the summer, most of their situations are clear. Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos will all be offered new short-term deals to stay at the club.

There is less clarity on Nacho Fernandez, who the club are happy to keep, but also aware that he may want to pursue more game time. A similar line of thought holds true for Marco Asensio, although negotiations over role and money are expected to be even tougher.

As per Fichajes, three of the Real Madrid squad are already ‘sentenced’, and will not continue. The remaining two of the seven running down their deals are amongst them, while the other is a chronic problem for the club. Here’s how they got here.

Mariano Diaz

Perhaps the most obvious of the lot. The 29-year-old has rarely featured for Real Madrid in four and a half of his five-year contract. The coming six months are his last at the club.

Disregarding one season coming through at Badalona as a youngster and a singular successful season at Lyon after leaving Real Madrid, Mariano has spent his whole career at Valdebebas. He has done so without ever making much of an impact though.

Perhaps the most famous of his 12 goals came against Barcelona, sealing El Clasico with a late second strike in 2020. Those goals were accumulated over 78 appearances, most of which have been for minor minutes towards the ends of games.

Theoretically not a bad signing as a back-up striker at the time, there were concerns they had overspent (€25m). Mariano has proven those theories correct, with Real Madrid unable to move him on sooner. This season has been perhaps his least involved yet, playing a measly 25 minutes so far. It would not be a surprise if he did not make to 100.

Dani Ceballos

Dani Ceballos is also out of contract this summer and is expected to bid farewell to Los Blancos after six years.

Making the move at just 20, for €16.5m from Real Betis, Ceballos’ talent has rarely been doubted. Yet coming into such a star-studded team that young, it always felt as if he never got the game to develop.

Leaving on loan to Arsenal in 2019 for two seasons, there he did get games, but didn’t quite convince the Gunners to part with enough cash to keep him. Through injury and competition, Ceballos has been restricted to a bit-part role at Los Blancos again.

Racking up 85 appearances and 10 goal contributions, Ceballos has also shown spells of his quality, without ever threatening to push for a starting spot. Carlo Ancelotti speaks highly of him, calling Ceballos the closest thing they have to Modric, but another month out and just 363 minutes this campaign have not been enough to persuade that he is worth keeping around.

Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard’s exit will depend on whether they can find someone to take him for the final year of his deal, which based on recent form, might be tricky.

The Belgian arrived as one of the best forwards in world football for a fee of €115m from Chelsea in 2019, but ever since has been slowly eroding that credit.

Never managing a single season of 20 league appearances, fitness issues have hampered Hazard, but not more so than his performances. Hazard has talked a good game, even shown instances of his quality, but never more than that. Both Zinedine Zidane and Ancelotti have tried repeatedly to recover the player that once terrorised defences, but patience appears to have finally run out.

After 73 appearances, 7 goals and 11 assists, Los Blancos have come to the conclusion that Hazard will not be a redeemable version of what he was, even for the bench. Three starts and just 296 minutes this season are evidence that all trust in him has been decimated. Florentino Perez is prepared to write off a very expensive transfer.