Despite a full programme of do-or-die La Liga football fixtures in Spain this weekend two of the biggest sports paper had Eden Hazard and Paul Pogba on their front pages on Saturday.
Manchester United’s meeting with Chelsea matters as much to Real Madrid as any other game to be played over the next 48 hours.
The question all of the club’s supporters are asking as the season runs its course is: Will it be Hazard? Will it be Pogba? Or will it be both?
Real president Florentino Perez, his director general Jose Angel Sanchez and coach Zinedine Zidane will all be watching from afar when their two big summer transfer targets meet on Sunday at Old Trafford.
Real Madrid kick-off late in Spain, first comes Manchester United v Chelsea in a fixture that could be dictated by two players bound for the Bernabeu, or one depending, on whether Zidane gets his way this summer.
He wants both players. He believes he can turn Pogba’s still-raw potential into something really special. He may be inconsistent to the extent that his place in the PFA team of the season was derided this week but he remains only 26 and Zidane can see huge room for improvement.
He believes his Madrid team lacks legs, a midfield engine, that will not go cold in games and throughout the long campaign next season when La Liga will again be the priority – they finished 17 points behind Barcelona last year, now they are 15 points behind them with four games left – things have to change.
But the French coach also wants Hazard. He believes the Chelsea man can give Real Madrid a large chunk of the goals that have been missing this year in their first post-Cristiano Ronaldo season.
Pogba would operate in a midfield three with Casemiro and either Toni Kross or Luka Modric. Eden Hazard would start in a three-pronged attack alongside Karim Benzema and one other (that’s a whole different casting with a larger pool of candidates including Luka Jovic, Vinicius, Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale if he stays).
Pogba is a hit with the Spanish sports media who have bought into the glamour and personality of the World Cup winner. One Friday football show excitedly announced on Friday that he has not yet sorted out his Visa for the club’s summer tour.
The words of Zidane from one of his livelier press conferences earlier this month are still ringing out: ‘I like Pogba a lot. That is not something new. I know him personally, he’s different and he gives you something different that very few players can offer. If when his experience at United is over and he wants to come, why would he not come to Madrid?’
The biggest obstacle for Pogba’s move will be money. Manchester United’s asking price for a player who will still have two more years left on his contract at the end of the season and cost £89 pounds in 2016, may be too much for Perez who remains unconvinced by the French international.
The Spanish giants had hoped they could use one of their players to, in effect, bring the price down. But for all that United have shown interest in Bale, Kroos and Raphael Varane in the past that particular tactic looks to have fizzled out.
Neymar popped up on Fox Sports saying: ‘Hazard is a special player with a similar style to me,’ when asked who he would like to play alongside at some point in his career. There can be no better stamp of approval than from the player Perez would most like to sign if only he could.
Perez promised Zidane full powers when he came back but if the club convince him that signing Pogba is simply not financially viable then he will accept it. Hazard will be the sweetener. His arrival looks far more signed and sealed.
Watching the young Belgian for the first time at Lille in 2010, Zidane was left in no doubt that he was destined for great things and he alerted Madrid to the talent. Hazard was still only 19 and Madrid hesitated losing him to Chelsea two years later.
This was now a mutual appreciation society because Hazard had been a fan of Zidane long before the Madrid and France legend had noticed the Belgian. He was seven when Zidane was winning the tournament for France in 1998.
When the World Cup kicked-off his loyalties were split between his own country and that of his hero but with Belgium out by the group stage failing to win a single game it was a small step to adopting the host nation and he wore Zidane’s France number 10 shirt as the now Real Madrid coach had his finest hour.
Sooner or later we will see Zidane next to the Belgian who idolised him or the Frenchman he believes he can turn into the world’s best midfielder. For the time being, Real Madrid’s enigmatic coach will have to watch both as Manchester United and Chelsea clash and he prepares his players for their Sunday game at Rayo Vallecano.