With the sale of their superstar player and catalyst over the last nine seasons, Florentino Perez’s Madrid side are in need of a rebuild. The £105 million deal which took Ronaldo to Juventus this summer, will give Madrid a prime opportunity to reinvest and reconstruct their side as they bid to win a fourth consecutive Champions league title. A change of system will also accompany a change in personnel, as Zidane stepped down at the end of the season and was replaced by the inexperienced Spaniard, Julen Lopetegui. So what options do Madrid have in the transfer market? Whatever approach Madrid take you can expect a net spend of above £150 million this summer, due to the uncharacteristically conservative approach Madrid took under Zidane, which saw them spend little while cashing in on the likes of Alvaro Morata, James Rodriguez and Danilo.
The first option is the signing of Hazard, Icardi and Courtois, which would involve the selling of Karim Benzema but holding onto the Manchester United target Gareth Bale. This would allow Madrid to line up in a 4-3-3 system, in which Carvajal, Varane, Ramos and Marcelo start as the regular back four as they did last season. Kroos and Modric would play as central midfielders ahead of the anchor man casemiro, with Hazard and Bale playing as roaming inside forwards while Icardi started up top centrally.
This system would allow Hazard and Bale to move inside centrally to affect the game, whilst Carvajal and Marcelo kept the width while providing threats from advanced positions through their crossing ability. What this system would give Madrid would be defensive protection from counter attacks as Kroos and Modric could sit deeper and dictate play, allowing Hazard and Bale to move into the half spaces behind the oppositions midfield. With the full backs advanced, Modric and Kroos playing deeper would prevent opposition teams countering effectively in the space left, which was seen as opposition teams last season looked to exploit the space Marcelo leaves on the left side of Madrid’s defence.
Defensively Lopetegui’s side would fall into a 4-5-1 which would provide security in the centre of the park and allow the potential counter attacking options out wide with Hazard and Bale.
So could Madrid do this from a financial point of view. Madrid could spend about £150 million plus the £105 million from the Cristiano Ronaldo deal, the sale of Keylor Navas could bring in about £25 million and Karim Benzema could also be sold for around £45 million. This would give Madrid a total of around £325 million to spend. Chelsea would likely command a fee of around £150 million for Hazard and Icardi would cost around £100 million. With Thibaurt Courtois’ contract running out next season, Real should be able to secure the Belgian for around the £50 million mark. Adding on the signing of Alvaro Odriozola for £35 million and this transfer rebuild would likely cost Florentino Perez about £335 million, which Real should be able to fund.
The second option for Madrid could involve selling Gareth Bale to add funds to the revenue received from the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer. Bale, who will be 29 at the start of the season, could be sold to the Premier League for a fee of around £110 million, with Manchester United potential suitors. So how would Madrid rebuild?
With Benzema in decline, Madrid need a new centre forward and with Ronaldo gone, Florentino Perez needs a new Galatico. Kylian M’Bappe, the French 19 year old who has lit up the world cup is the stand out choice. His pace and dribbling ability would allow Lopetegui to use him in a variety of systems, out wide or centrally. The loss of Gareth Bale and Ronaldo would also see a lose of pace in Madrid’s attack, so the signing of M’Bappe would help restore this aspect to their attack. Despite M’Bappe only being at PSG for one season and only confirming his £166 million move earlier this summer, PSG’s financial disputes with FFP may help persuade them to let go of M’Bappe. Madrid’s pursuit of M’Bappe could also be helped by PSG’s reluctance to sell Neymar, as PSG under pressure from FFP may seek to sell M’Bappe at a profit and keep their star signing for another year at least. Paulo Dybala, Juventus’ main talent over the last two seasons could also be attained to play up top with M’Bappe. The Argentine would provide Madrid with a more creative influence, a sort of second striker who would knit the passing of Modric and Kroos with the pace and movement of M’Bappe. His ability is clear as he had which 2.8 dribbles per game in Serie A last season, 1.6 key passes and 22 goals, which would go along way to replacing the strike rate of Cristiano Ronaldo. Courtois, as I spoke about previously, would be the obvious option for Madrid to go for in goal, in order to replace Keylor Navas. With the signing of M’Bappe and Dybala, Lopetegui could set up a system that would defend in a 4-4-2 shape, with Dybala and M’Bappe defending as a front two, Isco and Modric playing as narrow wide midfielders, with Casemiro and Kroos playing as a holding two protecting the usual back four of Carvajal, Ramos, Varane and Marcelo. Defensively this would be similar to the defensive structure Zidane employed last season with the four in midfield all central players rather than wingers. With the two strikers dropping into the defensive lines, this would create compactness and force the opposition out wide into the flanks, rather than finding space centrally.
Whilst in possession, the 4-4-2 shape would become more of a 4-3-2-1, with Marcelo and Carvajal playing as advanced full backs. M’Bappe would play as the most advanced player, sitting on the last defender looking to move into the channels and isolate centre backs before using his pace and dribbling ability against them. Dybala would drop deeper between the lines playing more on the right side, whilst Isco moved further forward to also play in the half space. This would allow Kroos and Modric more space as the opposition central midfielder would have to drop off to prevent balls going into Isco and Dybala. If Lopetegui were to go for this option, it would provide Madrid with a system suited to possession domination in the oppositions half, with more players moving centrally, whilst also allowing Madrid to drop into the 4-4-2 structure that suited them so well under Zidane.
So would this be financially realistic for Madrid? The answer is maybe. The selling of Ronaldo and Bale would generate around £200 million, add on the sales of Benzema and Navas and thats close to £270 million from sales alone. The M’Bappe transfer would have to be a world record transfer fee, probably reaching the £250 million mark, whilst Dybala would also cost around £120 million. Add the £50 million for Courtois and the £35 million for Odriozola and Madrid are spending over £400 million in one summer. Whilst this would set the transfer window alight, Madrid could potentially afford it considering their conservative approach in the transfer market in the last two summer windows. Whatever players Madrid decide to pursue, they will undoubtedly need to fill both the stature and the goal scoring void left by Ronaldo’s departure.