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 RCD Mallorca vs Real Madrid
Real Madrid have seldom struggled against RCD Mallorca in recent years. The men in white have scored a whopping 15 goals in their last four games against the Palma-based side and their last loss versus them came back in 2019.
If this season’s numbers are anything to go by, however, it would be wrong to overlook Javier Aguirre’s side. Mallorca have won seven of their nineteen La Liga games so far and sit in tenth place with 25 points.
While they have not scored a lot this campaign, they have conceded the fourth-least goals in the Spanish top flight and have an excellent defensive record.
Real Madrid play Mallorca before Barcelona’s game on Sunday and have a chance to reduce the deficit at the top of the table to two points temporarily if they can win at Son Moix.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Mallorca vs Real Madrid.
1. Tchouameni time again?
Aurelien Tchouameni spent close to a month on the sidelines after hobbling off injured in Real Madrid’s clash against Villarreal last month.
In the defensive midfielder’s absence, Carlo Ancelotti was forced to patch the void with unconventional options including Dani Ceballos, Eduardo Camavinga and Toni Kroos as the pivot.
The Frenchman finally made his awaited comeback to the squad in the team’s game against Valencia midweek. As he was returning from a relatively long time on the sidelines, Ancelotti preferred to have him start on the bench.
Tchouameni eventually entered the field in the 66th minute of the game when Toni Kroos asked to be substituted out for precaution. In his 24 minutes on the field, the youngster was almost flawless with 97% passes completed and 100% accurate long balls.
As Los Blancos gear up to play their second game in three days, the time could be right to re-incorporate the 23-year-old into the starting lineup. After all, Tchouameni has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent players this season and it is glaringly clear that they have missed him in recent weeks.
2. Two more casualties
The men in white produced 90 minutes of high-quality football against Los Che on Thursday and reduced the gap with Barcelona to a mere five points. However, the cost of the win was far more than what the manager would have liked to pay.
In return for the three points, Real Madrid saw Karim Benzema and Eder Militao leave the field with injuries to rub salt into Ancelotti’s fresh wounds.
The captain is expected to miss the next two games at least, leaving his team once again without a central striker. In Benzema’s absence, Ancelotti will have to put on his thinking hat and field a forward line that not only creates threats but also has the cutting edge to convert them.
Militao is also unavailable for Sunday’s game. With the Brazilian centre-back ruled out, Real Madrid will likely field a combination of Antonio Rudiger and Nacho Fernandez against Mallorca. After all, David Alaba is also returning fresh from injury and might not be fit to start the game.
3. Can Camavinga convince again?
It is almost criminal that a club of Real Madrid’s stature do not have a natural backup for the left-back position.
Ferland Mendy has been Ancelotti’s most preferred position in the player throughout the season. David Alaba was seen as a possible backup option, and though the Austrian International is capable of playing that role, he does not fancy the left-back position anymore.
When Mendy limped off injured in Real Madrid’s game against Atletico Madrid, Eduardo Camavinga thus emerged as a surprise option to fill his shoes. The youngster started the next two games at left-back and did a reasonable job, even earning praise from the manager.
With Tchouameni back running for the Merengues, the left-back role is the only available vacancy for the French International to claim a starting spot.
With Alaba returning, if Camavinga wishes for continuity as a starter, he must produce another exceptional display on Sunday and stake claim as the left-back until Mendy returns.