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Luka Modric insists Mariano Diaz has the trust of his Real Madrid teammates, despite reports linking the striker with Everton and West Ham United, while speaking to Football Italia.

In his first La Liga start since May 2019, the Real academy graduate seized a rare opportunity with both hands on Saturday. Inside two minutes, he stooped to guide Dani Carvajal’s sand-wedge cross into the bottom corner during a 1-1 draw with Villarreal on the Castellon coast.

But don’t let that fool you – Mariano has not suddenly resuscitated his perishing Real career.

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Corriere dello Sport claims that the £25 million striker has been told by coach Zinedine Zidane and president Florentino Perez that he has no future at the Santiago Bernabeu.

West Ham are interested. Sport, meanwhile, claim that Everton and Crystal Palace are also offering a fresh start to Mariano, Real’s £70,000-a-week bench-warmer.

Yet, with Karim Benzema injured and Luka Jovic unavailable again, the Dominican international is gearing up for perhaps the most important game of his Los Blancos career – Wednesday night’s crucial Champions League clash with Inter Milan at the San Siro.

Could a match-winning display change Zidane’s mind?

“Karim is a very important player for us, while Mariano Diaz is a different type of role,” said 2018 Ballon D’Or winner Modric. “But we trust he’ll prove his worth.

“When some players are missing, we need to be even more of a team to cover the gaps in the best possible way.”

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At the age of 27, Mariano has just 33 senior league starts on his CV.

All but three of those came during a spell at Lyon in 2017/18, where the powerhouse number nine shone brilliantly and briefly. Mariano scored 21 goals in France, showcasing the kind of ruthless finishing skills and line-leading excellence that convinced Real to offer him a second chance at the Bernabau.

But, with his 28th birthday just a few months away, Mariano cannot afford to waste another of his peak years on the sidelines, waiting for injuries to open a window of opportunity.

Photo by Ricardo Nogueira/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

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