Real Madrid are going to be very busy in the summer of 2019.
Los Blancos have endured a torrid last couple of seasons in La Liga. Since winning the title in 2016/17 they finished 17 points behind winner’s Barcelona last term and are currently 12 points behind the Blaugrana, who look like Champions-elect, right now. The 2017/18 Champions League win was a fluke that masks an inexorable decline for a side that peaked in Cardiff.
What makes this so exciting is that Real Madrid, being Real Madrid, are linked with just about everyone. There’s no concept or clear plan of action; every single big name is being linked to the Bernabeu even if a move makes little sense (e.g. look at all the left-wingers being linked even though Madrid’s only bright spark right now is a left-winger).
Still, with all those options we’ve had a look and come up with four possible ways Los Blancos could look come the end of the year using only players that have been linked to Real Madrid in the recent past.
Normally you’d tell a side to dream big, but Real Madrid don’t do anything else. Every single XI here is a swing for the fences but this particular side is a hypercapitalist return to the absurd summer of 2009 when Florentino Perez sanctioned over €250m to be spent in one summer, twice breaking the world transfer record (first on Kaka, then on Cristiano Ronaldo).
This team sees similar madcap spending. Starting in defence, the Brazilian Eder Militao is brought in at great expense. Militao provides a genuine alternative to Sergio Ramos and (likely) Raphael Varane, anchoring Madrid’s defence. They don’t really need him but hey, it is what it is. Dani Carvajal is too good to get rid of at right-back so he stays there; and at left-back we have the brilliant Junior Firpo; a low-key signing but a brilliant left-back who is a self-confessed Madridista.
In midfield Tanguy Ndombele joins Casemiro as the defensive anchors for the side. Two defensive shields doing the dirty work for the big names that lie ahead. Vinicius has earned the love of the Bernabeu faithful and Asensio is a maverick who needs more minutes so both youngsters are out wide. Up-top the magnificent Memphis Depay is brought in. The Dutchman is a versatile and fluid forward who has an ego that matches Real Madrid’s. He’d be an ideal striker for this team, capable of scoring and creating.
Then the centrepiece of the side is, of course, Neymar. This is the purest fantasy because PSG aren’t likely to let him go, but Florentino Perez has long coveted the brilliant Brazilian so would leap at the chance to get him in – especially as his arrival would irk Barcelona fans. Neymar would have free reign to do whatever he wanted, linking with all the maverick talent around him, not having to defend, and being the star.
The Pochettino Project
As well as players, Real Madrid have long coveted certain coaches as well. There’s a genuine chance that José Mourinho could return for a second spell in charge, for instance, despite all the evidence that he’s finished. Florentino Perez is just such a fan. Another coach Perez loves is Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, But if he showed up at Valdebebas, we’d get a very different Real Madrid.
Courtois would remain in goal and the back four would actually stay as it currently is. They’re all really talented players and Pochettino would love to work with them and coach them to improvement rather than simply splurging on new players. Obviously he would rotate Odriozola and Nacho in with Carvajal and Reguilon, but the starters would be clear.
Pochettino would return to the diamond formation that he has used before and that Zinedine Zidane is such a fan of as well. Except he would bring through Madrid’s brilliant young core; Marcos Llorente would be the defensive anchor whilst Dani Ceballos thrives at the heart of the midfield, carrying the ball forward. Christian Eriksen is the major midfield signing and essentially replaces the departed Toni Kroos and the ageing Luka Modric (who would be on the bench).
At the head of the diamond, fan favourite Isco is spared from being sold and is thrust into the side. Pochettino has tried to sign Isco before and the Spaniard’s beguiling talent is just begging for a steady guiding hand like Pochettino’s.. In attack Vinicius is the speed, but his partner, and Madrid’s big signing in this XI, is Harry Kane. The England captain is a world-class striker with loads of big match ability and he already looks good in white. He’d command a world record fee (like Neymar) but he’d be worth it.
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Garden of Eden
Madrid’s longest-standing target has been Eden Hazard. The Belgian has been coveted by Los Blancos for what seems like a decade by now. So in this side, they get their man even though the form of Vinicius would necessitate a change of formation to get the most out of both men.
So 3-4-2-1 is the system of choice, after all it’s what Chelsea used to win the Premier League in 2016/17 so we know it suits Hazard. Here his compatriot Courtois remains in goal, Meanwhile Eder Militao joins and forms a formidable three-man defence with Ramos and Varane. Reguilon and Carvajal move forward to act as wing-backs and provide the side’s width.
In midfield we have Casemiro doing an alright impression of N’Golo Kanté, tackling everything in sight. Meanwhile Dani Ceballos adds tackling, passing, dribbling and shooting too. In attack we have Hazard and Vinicius in what are, essentially free-roles in which they can do what they want – and in order to facilitate his Karim Benzema has to get back on his selfless grind, which suits him perfectly.
Sense and Sensibility
Of course whilst Madrid do need to make a lot of changes, the vast majority of replacements they need are already at the club. They’ve bought players very sensibly lately, lots of young talent with enormous potential – so why not use it?
Courtois in goal, and yes Ramos and Varane in defence (although give Jesus Vallejo much more minutes to learn how to be their replacements. The full-backs are different, however, as making use of Alvaro Odriozola’s excellent forward runs and Junior Firpo’s tremendous skill and ability should be a priority for Los Blancos.
In midfield, again Dani Ceballos is given the reigns. The Spaniard is very much the heir to Luka Modric (who would stay on to mentor the young side and understudy for Ceballos). Next to him is Marcos Llorente; descended from Real Madrid royalty and possessing genuine quality, he’d be a huge upgrade over Casemiro at defensive midfield.
Playing as the side’s creative hub is Nabil Fekir. The French wonder is a sublime creative force and would thrive at a club as large as Real Madrid. Given the support of Madrid’s young stars Fekir would have Los Blancos purring like a cat.
Vinicius plays on the left again, and on the right we have Lucas Vázquez. Even though the likes of Toni Kroos, Isco, Gareth Bale and Marcelo have been sold to finance this rejuvenation (something that will likely happen no matter what this summer), Vázquez stays in the side because he offers ceaseless hard work, natural width and great crosses which would be so important because up-front Madrid would bring in the 20-year-old striking sensation Luka Jovic.
Obviously Barcelona have been linked as well, but Madrid need a proper no. 9 to score the majority of their goals and Jovic would be that (young) man. A supreme goalscorer he hits them early with any part of his body and from all angles too. He’d lead the line for Los Blancos over the next 10 years and rack up and obscene amount of goals as Real Madrid moved bravely forward into 2020 and beyond.