With the 2019 summer transfer window approaching, we’re rolling out a new regular feature: Let’s Go Shopping! We’ll examine teams likely to spend over the summer and weigh in on who they may target and who we think they should buy. First up: Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are coming off a year of record revenue…and record disappointment. They were eliminated from the Champions League before the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009-10. They are more likely to miss UCL qualification than win La Liga (spoiler alert: they’re still qualifying). They have a new(ish) coach in Zinedine Zidane who is there to restore order and aging roster that needed a reboot a year ago. The times they are a changin’ for Real Madrid. Here’s a look at who they’ll likely sell and more importantly, who they should buy.
Who’s Out at Real Madrid?
Chops: First things first, who is most likely out: Gareth Bale? Karim Benzema? Agree?
Tyler Everett: I agree, Bale seems 100% gone. Marcelo is as likely to be out as Bale, and Isco is probably out as well (though new coach Zinedine Zidane already seems like he may have other plans). Luka Modric and Toni Kroos may very well be gone too. Those aren’t the only ones, and obviously I wouldn’t be shocked if Benzema stays, but I think there’s at least a chance he’s back.
Katya Gokhman: Before Zidane’s first match back, I was heavily leaning towards Bale being out no matter what. But, if Bale continues to perform as he did under Zidane’s lead last match, he may convince Zidane otherwise. Zidane came back to Real to win. If Bale can produce – why kick him to the curb? In regards to Benzema … Benzema is a product of Zidane’s schooling … and he’s French. He also hasn’t been doing a bad job of scoring this season with everything going on. With 13 goals in La Liga and 22 goals total — it’s not a bad average to have. In fact, he’s Real’s leading goal scorer. When the big names and changes happen, whether or not he starts will be the big question but I think he’d be a good sub coming off the bench at least.
Chops: I think with Bale, it comes down to the contract. Who’s buying him? However, it seems like he needs a fresh start away from Madrid fans who’ve tired of him. How about Sergio Ramos? On one hand, he’s on the wrong side of 30 (as in, he’s over 30). He’s [opinions are mine and mine alone] a thug [who I’d be fine with having on my team]. He’s an undisputed leader, though, and reportedly lobbied for Zidane to management.
Katya: Ramos could go either way. On one hand, I see Zidane being a loyal guy to the players that he gained success with in the past, especially his team leader. So, Zidane may be adamant of having him stay (especially since, as you mentioned, Ramos reportedly lobbied for Zidane). Otherwise, I think it’s time for Real Madrid to gain a new leader. Ramos is 32 — edging toward the end of his career. If Real is going to rebuild, they need to do it with newer, fresher players. Also, let’s not forget the huge argument he had with club President Florentino Pérez. I see Sergio Ramos getting sold this summer.
Tyler: Thinking about it more, with Zidane back at the helm, Isco and Asensio will both have their future decided by what happens the rest of the season. Santiago Solari obviously wasn’t crazy about either, but I bet they get plenty of minutes down the stretch.
Katya: I agree with Tyler. Isco and Asensio could go either way too. But if Real Madrid build the team as many think they should with younger players, I think Asensio is a good one to keep. He’s only 23 and has a contract until 2023 anyways. He’s had a slump of a season but, if we look at what Ryan O’Hanlon says, a player’s success highly depends on who he’s surrounded by. Asensio has done well when Zidane was around and I don’t think he’s reached his peak yet.
Isco is a great talent but his success, again, will come from who he will be surrounded by. I could see him being Real’s “Iniesta” (ok I may be pushing it with that comment, but all I’m saying is that I see the attack building up through him) but it depends on how the team will be built up. And then there’s the fact that he’s been wanting to leave Real Madrid anyways…
Chops: Isco in particular could stick. He’s on the right side of his prime curve. I can see Modric getting one more year to help the transition of young to old. There’s value there. He’s the reigning Ballon d’Or winner afterall.
Katya: I’ve always loved Modric and definitely agree. He’s well-respected and has always seemed to keep his cool — he would be a great transitional leader, especially if Ramos leaves.
Let’s Go Shopping
With that out of the way and a little extra money in the coffers, who should Real Madrid be targeting this summer?
Chops: The most interesting target to me is João Félix (if Manchester United don’t snag him first). Who better to take the old Ronaldo’s place than The Next Ronaldo? They’re already tracking him. He gives Zidane a chance to take a young player (20) and build him up, grow with him. He fits a definite need (attacking midfielder/striker). It seems like a no-brainer.
Katya: I think João Félix would be a great signing but we’ll have to see if Real can battle out Juventus and Man United for him … Man United I’m sure they can beat out. But Juventus would be a tough one …
Tyler: Eden Hazard was the first name I was going to say they will look at, but I think they go after Kylian Mbappé and or Neymar too. Many expect this summer to be like 2014, when they loaded up, adding James Rodríguez and Kroos. I doubt Zidane would have come back without a guarantee that they’ll spend like crazy — and it’s already started, as RM has reportedly agreed to a €50M deal for 21-year-old Porto center-back Eder Militao.
Katya: I’m with you, I definitely think that Hazard will be coming. He’s been talking about his interest in Real for quite some time and, now, with his childhood hero Zidane back at the helm while another coach may or may not be sacked by Chelsea this summer, I think it’s a no-brainer for Hazard. From a coaching standpoint, I think Hazard will do well under Zidane as well.
Chops: Yeah, the Sarri coaching situation is a trainwreck, and if Hazard’s patience at Chelsea is worn out, it’s hard to blame him. Mbappé seems destined to one day play for Real Madrid though.
Katya: Yeah, for me, the biggest signing would be if they got Mbappé. I love Kylian Mbappé so I am a bit biased, however, I think he could be the Ronaldo “replacement” at Real Madrid. I’m not sure he would be willing to leave France though. He’s had offers outside of the country before and he’s always been adamant to stay “local.” He grew up in Paris, so being back in Paris close to his friends and family now is a dream come true for him I think.
Tyler: I think 20-year-old River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios is a strong possibility. There were rumors he would join RM in January, but no deal was signed. Palacios has been on the radar of Spain’s top three clubs, as well as a number of others in Europe, for a while now. Another young player I expect RM and Europe’s other wealthy clubs to make a move for is Luka Jovic. The 21-year-old is excelling for Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt — he has 15 goals and five assists in 24 matches in the German league this year — and it is widely believed that he’s in for a big payday this summer.
Chops: There’s been talk of Harry Kane being a target for awhile. As with Christian Eriksen. And reports had Zidane interested in Sadio Mané at one time (how…dare…you). Do any of those Premier League scorers get a big offer?
Tyler: I don’t think money’s going to be an object for RM. With that in mind, I think Kane will get some interest, if not an offer, but that it won’t be enough to land him.
Katya: Harry Kane would be a tough one considering he’s valued at about 250 million pounds. Also, I wonder how he would do within a different playing style. Christian Eriksen seems to be a more likely purchase. As for Mané, he’s a huge Zidane fan, that we know. But Liverpool is definitely not a bad place to be right now …
Chops: All right, give me your one big name you think is the most likely to join Los Blancos this summer. I’m going to be super boring and say Hazard, with a run at Felix and Mbappé in two years.
Tyler: At this point, I’d more surprised if they didn’t land Hazard. But that seems more and more chalk by the day, so I’ll be a little bolder and say that they manage to land Mbappé. Yes, I’m predicting they get them both. And yes, I understand how outrageous that sounds. But if we believe the reports they’re willing to spend nearly $400M — and keeping in mind they’re likely to make a ton of money from player sales — I’m going to go with it.
Katya: I like the boldness, Tyler, and I would love to see Mbappé at Madrid! I’m also sticking with Hazard — I think he’s ready for a change and has nothing to lose. But my bolder prediction is Christian Eriksen — his contract will be up soon (2020) and I think this will be a good next step in his career.