Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane reportedly "doesn’t have faith" in the club's summer acquisitions after failing to name any of them in the starting lineups for either of his two games in charge and bringing just one off the bench.
According to AS, 2015 recruits Kiko Casilla, Mateo Kovacic, Danilo and Casemiro, as well as Lucas Vazquez and Denis Cheryshev, who were kept at the Bernabeu rather than loaned out this season, all failed to make the starting XI in either of Zidane's matches and only Kovacic made a 25-minute cameo as a substitute in the second, a 5-1 win over Sporting Gijon.
Meanwhile, 2014 star signing James Rodriguez was a substitute in both outings.
AS believes "the fact he hasn’t called on them with things going so well is a clear sign he doesn’t have faith in them and it is a worrying signal for whoever is in charge of transfers at the club."
While Los Blancos' transfer policy could certainly do with an overhaul—aside from their impending embargo—Zidane's exclusion of those recruited under predecessor Rafa Benitez is hardly worrying.
First and foremost, it's important to remember the Frenchman has taken to the dugout just twice so far so it's somewhat early to be inferring a lack of faith in any of his players.
As for most of the players, such as Cheryshev, Vazquez and particularly No. 2 goalkeeper Casilla, their presence in the squad is clearly to provide back-up to the first team, so it would have been far more noteworthy had any of the trio started.
Kovacic—their most high-profile summer acquisition—was suspended for the first game and while a 25-minute showing is below his average game time of 44 minutes per appearance it's not an insignificant amount of time for a sub to be on the pitch.
Is it too early to be discussing a lack of faith from Zidane in his players?
Danilo and Casemiro both enjoyed plenty of minutes under Benitez—1,491 and 1,123 in La Liga and the Champions League, respectively—but the former has arguably only racked up so many minutes due to injuries earlier in the campaign to Dani Carvajal, while the Spaniard's inclusion of Casemiro often drew criticism as it sacrificed one of the more marquee names in the team.
The only possible worry is Rodriguez's omission from the starting lineup in both games—a continuation of a trend that began under Benitez—with Isco the man to replace him.
However, as football writer Callum Read and Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe noted, both Isco and Carvajal performed excellently in the previous match and fully deserved their place in the team:
Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo taking all the plaudits but Carvajal and Isco deserve their fair share, wonderful players.— Callum Read (@callumread) January 17, 2016
Isco gets 60 minutes. Some lovely slick touches and a divine assist for Benzema in 1H. The Isco we know and love. #RealMadrid— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) January 17, 2016
Zidane himself did not give the impression James' absence from starting games is a long-term issue and also admitted he found picking his XI difficult, per Dermot Corrigan:
Zidane: “We are all in the same boat here. At the moment Isco is playing ahead of James, next game could be different."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 17, 2016
Zidane: "Most difficult for me is picking the team. I've 25 players, training well, very good. But my responsibility is to take decisions."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 17, 2016
Real already have a fairly strong squad and though they will certainly need to add to it ahead of their transfer ban, they will benefit from having the likes of Kovacic, Danilo and Co. as players they can utilise in their long campaigns.
Expect them to earn more minutes as the season wears on, and if they still haven't been used several months down the line, it's then time for talk about a "lack of faith."