Real Madrid completed its penultimate home match of the season when recording a 3-2 victory over Villarreal on Sunday. With a Champions League spot already secure next year, los Blancos have nothing to play for, and that fact was mirrored in the stands at the Santiago Bernabéu.
The crowd on hand of 46,294 was the lowest for a league game all season. With a capacity of 81,044, the legendary stadium was only at 57 percent capacity. And those who came saw a strange smattering of players, including 22-year-old center back Jesús Vallejo, 20-year-old Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde, and a front three of Lucas Vázquez, Mariano and 19-year-old Brahim Díaz.
And while the crowd did get to see the return of 18-year-old Vinícius Júnior — making his first appearance since injuring his knee against Ajax back on Mar. 5 – the big news was manager Zinedine Zidane’s decision to omit Gareth Bale from the 18-man squad despite the absence of an injured Karim Benzema.
“I’ve got to pick a squad and that’s it,” Zidane said. “Is it a message to him? No, interpret it how you will. But I’ve got to pick a team, there’s nothing more to it.”
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) May 5, 2019
The biggest news of the day for Real actually probably transpired in West Yorkshire, England, where Huddersfield Town confirmed Manchester United’s place in the 2019-20 Europa League with a shock 1-1 draw.
United’s Paul Pogba has been heavily linked with a move to the Bernabéu this summer, and the absence of Champions League football at Old Trafford may well force the transfer.
“There will be many changes in the squad but many of the current players will remain,” Zidane said. “Pogba? I know him well but today he is owned by Manchester United. At the end of the season, we will see what happens. I won’t talk about him anymore.”
Real has also been heavily linked with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jović.