A quiet transfer window for Real Madrid: Strategic or a missed opportunity?
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.
Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place
Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.
The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.
Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.
1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?
The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.
An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.
The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.
Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.
In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.
It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.
2. A day of farewells
Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.
Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.
With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.
The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.
Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.
3. A tight race for second place
There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.
Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.
Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.
With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.