As clubs across Europe burnt the midnight oil trying to work out transfers are paperwork, the lights in Real Madrid’s offices stayed off. Florentino Perez, too, admitted that the January transfer window was one of the quiet ones in the club’s history.
As the club see it, it is the calm before the storm planned for June. Indeed, there is a logical backing to Los Blancos‘ decision to keep a low profile. However, was it the right choice in retrospect?
The biggest factor: Mission Mbappe
Just as one saves up penny after penny patiently to purchase his dream car or home, Real Madrid have been filling their treasure in pursuit of their dream signing. Kylian Mbappe is a name that has taken the football world by storm over the past few years.
The youngster has grown exponentially season after season and has brought his name amongst the best in the business. Now, it seems like the time has arrived for him to join the club of his dreams.
Though he will probably arrive on a free transfer, Madrid are preparing for his massive wages. Moreover, it is in the capital outfit’s veins to have a miserly January window and push hard in the summer.
A missed opportunity
The club have a sizeable lead over arch-rivals Barcelona in La Liga, but the job is far from done. Sevilla lingers just four points behind Ancelotti’s side. Needless to say, even a single slip-up could end up costly for the men in white.
The Champions League poses no easy path either. PSG are the team pitted against Los Blancos in the round of 16, with more formidable oppositions lined up ahead.
A couple of signings to cover the voids in the team would undoubtedly have helped the manager rotate more efficiently and maximise the team’s output. In that sense, the January window could be seen as a missed opportunity.
Clearing the deadwood
Isco, Marcelo, and Gareth Bale are in the final six months of their contracts. Renewals seem to be off the table for all three players as they are set to depart the Bernabeu in June. However, the situation could have been handled more efficiently.
A costly summer lies ahead of the club, and every dime matters at this point. Placed in such a situation, Florentino Perez could have looked to sell the three players for at least a minor fee in the winter market to profit at least marginally from their departure.
The need of the hour: Backups
When compared with other teams in La Liga, Real Madrid’s defensive record shines bright. However, that is far from reality.
Apart from David Alaba and Eder Militao, the team have no experienced campaigner to fill into the centre-back role. Makeshift rotations are not the right way forward, and an economical solution on the market could have helped.
Antonio Rudiger is said to be the candidate leading the club’s wishlist. However, his signing would command a high fee that would not be practical mid-season. A young and upcoming defender from a lesser-known team is an option the club could have considered.
The full-back positions have been very concerning for Ancelotti this season. Dani Carvajal’s poor injury record coupled with his less-than-ideal on-field performances continue to be a cause of headache.
Lucas Vazquez has filled in that role well but is far from the prime candidate in the long-term.
On the left side, age has truly caught up with Marcelo. The Brazilian is nowhere close to the player he used to be and is currently more of a liability than an asset to Ancelotti.
That leaves the manager with Ferland Mendy as the only option to play at left-back. In the event of any injury to the Frenchman, it is Nacho who makes a makeshift adjustment.
Undoubtedly, a reinforcement at left-back would have gone a long way in helping the manager with his rotation. Though it would require a sizeable investment from the club, the benefits outweigh the costs.
The same can be said about the midfield, where Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro are nearly irreplaceable. All three stars are on the wrong side of 30 and require careful monitoring to ensure longevity.
While Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga are excellent deputies, but Casemiro is still left without a backup. Bringing in someone on loan in that role could have gone a long way in maintaining a healthy squad for the second half of the season.
There is no denying that a few signings in winter could have made Real Madrid a better-oiled unit. However, the approach of saving up for the summer is a valid one too. It remains to be seen how many positions the club manage to reinforce in June.
Three talking points ahead of Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid | La Liga GW 25
Nestled in the outskirts of Madrid is Vallecas, the home of Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid’s next destination as per the La Liga calendar. The Estadio de Vallecas is famed as one the Spain’s more difficult stadiums for away sides to perform at, but as the league leaders, Real Madrid will gun for nothing short of a win tomorrow.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men enter the game on Sunday with a five-point lead at the top of the table. With five wins in their last six games across all competitions, they also have the momentum on their side.
Their opponents, meanwhile, are not on quite similar terms based on form. Rayo Vallecano have won just five of their 24 league games this season and have scored just 21 times in that duration. Moreover, they currently sit in 14th place on the standings, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Rayo Vallecano vs Real Madrid.
Test for the attack
Very few teams have been able to avoid the wrath of Real Madrid this season. The men in white have come out on top in most of the clashes that they have played across all competitions, winning 100% of the UCL games and 19 of their 24 games in La Liga.
Rayo Vallecano is one of the few teams that has managed to take points off the leaders this season, and that goes a long way in establishing their defensive supremacy and resilience this term.
When Vallecano visited the Santiago Bernabeu earlier this season, they ground out a 0-0 draw. Notably, they are the only team other than Atletico Madrid this season to take points away from Real Madrid at home.
Los Blancos created several chances on the night and even missed two big chances. However, the truth behind the statistics is that Rayo Vallecano’s defence was on point, with Stole Dimitrievski dishing out a clinic in goal.
Heading into tomorrow’s clash, all eyes will thus be on the attack. Will Real Madrid’s dynamic forward unit succeed in getting past the defensive unit that plagued them back in November?
Champion worthy team
Everything about Ancelotti’s side this season screams of the word champion. After all, they have made it look ridiculously easy to drop high-class performances week after week, all while battling with debilitating hurdles along the way.
Purely from a fitness perspective, the 2023-24 campaign has been far from simple for Los Blancos. Having lost three players to ACL injuries in addition to the regular list of shorter injuries players have suffered, the manager has never had the entire squad at his disposal.
Yet, the players drop sensational performances whenever called on. Be it in their niche position or a completely alien one in that, every player donning the Real Madrid crest this season has delivered beyond expectations. That, if anything, is the mark of a champion unit.
The Merengues showed their grit and determination to take down Girona by a 4-0 scoreline earlier this month before pulling away with a tight, yet well-fought 1-0 win over RB Leipzig in the UEFA Champions League.
They head into tomorrow’s clash riding on the same momentum, knowing full well that every win from this point only engraves their name deeper on the league trophy. As long as the fire continues to burn in them, it will take something very special to take apart this Real Madrid unit.
Nearly at the end of the tunnel
Of all the dilemmas Carlo Ancelotti has faced over the course of the season, his recent defensive crisis was the most serious by far. The manager was pushed into a situation where he had no fit centre-backs to call on, forcing him to start Dani Carvajal and Aurelien Tchouameni in defence.
Not many expected the same game to turn out to be Real Madrid’s best showing of the season, and though both makeshift defenders put in enormous shifts, Nacho Fernandez’s return for the next game came as a welcome arrival.
The Spaniard is fit for tomorrow’s clash and will be joined by Aurelien Tchouameni once again, for Antonio Rudiger is yet to receive the medical all-clear. Considering that the German is expected to be fit in time for Real Madrid’s next league clash, tomorrow could be the last time the French midfielder is forced to play out of position in defence.
Needless to say, this can only be described as the light at the end of a long and winding tunnel. Tchouameni put in a tremendous shift to ensure that the handicap did not affect Real Madrid’s season, and the manager will be delighted to see that the days with two fit central defenders are not far away.