They say it’s never over until it’s over. That, if anything, has been the biggest takeaway from Real Madrid’s pursuit of Kylian Mbappe.
The Frenchman has been constantly flirting with the Madrid based club for close to a year now. All signs indicated that the winger was set to join Los Blancos on a free transfer in June.
Yet, at the last moment, there has been a twist in the tale. The young sensation has decided to renew his contract with PSG after the club improved their economic offer, and thus rejected Real Madrid for the second time in a year.
Most faces in the Spanish side’s administration took Mbappe’s signing for granted as it was seen as a deal virtually completed. The shock of him not being a Real Madrid player next season comes along with the realisation that the club now need a new transfer plan.
There is, however, a silver lining to Mbappe ‘s decision. Given that the player is already a bonafide star in world football, the Frenchman would have commanded a hefty salary from the Spanish club.
His decision to stay means that now, Florentino Perez can look to use that salary limit to reinforce more positions in the team that require urgent attention.
Bolstering an already solid defense
Central defense has not been a big worry for Carlo Ancelotti for it is in safe hands with Eder Militao and David Alaba. However, reinforcements are needed for both fullback positions.
Dani Carvajal has had a rocky season, and finding a backup to the Spanish veteran should be one of Perez’s main goals. Real Madrid have scouted Pedro Porro for a long time now, and his signing could now become a reality given the economic freedom of the club.
At left-back, Marcelo played his final game for the club on Friday. Fran Garcia is best placed to replace the Brazilian star as a backup to Ferland Mendy next season. The defender is a graduate of Real Madrid’s academy, and his consistent performances for Rayo Vallecano could seal his move home.
Shoring up the midfield
Real Madrid’s midfield has some of football’s biggest names is the form of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro. However, the trio are on the wrong side of 30 and their inevitable decline has begun.
Ancelotti has two young stars who could mark an era for the club in the form of Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga. However, they still lack a like-for-like replacement for Casemiro.
Aurelien Tchouameni has been long seen as the ideal signing to cover the defensive midfield. However, his contract with AS Monaco runs until 2024, and it would require a massive fee to swoop him from the French side.
Atletico Madrid were said to be in the driver’s seat to secure his signing, but Mbappe’s decision to stay at PSG could have implications on Tchouameni’s future. With more financial leeway, Perez must look to secure the young midfieder even if it means spending the extra dollar.
Is a marquee signing necessary in attack?
When one hears of Mbappe’s decision to reject Real Madrid, the first instinct would undoubtedly be to look for an alternative star signing. However, upon introspection, one realises that a big-money transfer is more of a want than a need.
Madrid have Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr to take up two spots in the forward line. The duo have been lethal in front of goal this season and will only get better in the coming year.
The third spot in attack has been the weak link for Ancelotti’s side, but that problem too was solved at the tail end of the season. Rodrygo Goes’ exponential rise in the final months of the 2021-22 season almost secures his spot as a starter in the side.
Real Madrid cannot afford another Eden Hazard saga. Wise utilisation of resources can help the club go a long way. The last thing Los Blancos need is a hasty decision that sees their finances topple, much like how Barcelona failed to manage their resources after Neymar’s departure to PSG.
Modric, Kroos start in a 4-3-3: How Real Madrid could line up against Atletico Madrid
Real Madrid will battle it out with neighbours Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Having gotten the better of Villarreal in the previous round, Los Blancos will be hoping to produce a solid performance against Diego Simeone’s side so that they can take a step closer towards winning the trophy that they have not won in over eight years.
Heading into the match, Carlo Ancelotti has four players unavailable for selection, with Aurelien Tchouameni, Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez and Eden Hazard missing out.
The good news, though, is that David Alaba is back to full fitness and has been included in the squad list for the Atletico Madrid clash.
Ahead of the much-anticipated derby on Thursday night, Madrid Universal looks to predict how the Merengues could line up against the Colchoneros.
For the previous cup tie, Ancelotti selected Thibaut Courtois ahead of Andriy Lunin and given the magnitude of Thursday’s match, the Belgian is expected to continue between the sticks.
The manager has already confirmed that David Alaba will be playing tomorrow and the Austrian is likely to slot in as the centre-back alongside Eder Militao, with Antonio Rudiger dropping out.
With no Carvajal and Vazquez, Ancelotti will once again count on Nacho Fernandez at right-back, something he already confirmed in his press conference. Meanwhile, Ferland Mendy will continue occupying the left side of the defensive line.
Eduardo Camavinga showcased his quality while operating as a defensive midfielder against Athletic Club over the weekend. With Tchouameni still sidelined, it makes sense for the Real Madrid boss to continue with the 20-year-old as the deepest of the three midfielders.
Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were both shock omissions from the league game against Athletic over the weekend. But having given the veterans some rest, Ancelotti will likely recall them for the derby versus Atletico Madrid.
This would lead to Federico Valverde, who was on target in the last meeting vs Atleti, starting on the right flank. Vinicius Jr, who has been under the pump of late, ought to occupy his customary position on the left, with Karim Benzema spearheading the attack.
Vinicius · Benzema · Valverde
Kroos · Camavinga · Modric
Mendy · Alaba · Militao · Nacho
Rodrygo Goes has often made a difference for Real Madrid when coming on from the bench and he will be one of the first members on the bench that Ancelotti will turn to on Thursday.
Dani Ceballos will feel unlucky to drop out to the bench given his recent performances but should get some minutes in the second half. Marco Asensio is another player who the Real Madrid manager will call upon in the latter stages of the contest.
Antonio Rudiger could replace Alaba at some point in the second half considering that the latter is just returning from an injury.
Even though Ancelotti has been reluctant to use Castilla players, Sergio Arribas has been called up to the squad and could be given a few minutes, depending on the situation of the game.