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.
Rodrygo, Ceballos start in a 4-4-2: How Real Madrid could line up against Napoli
Real Madrid will be eager to lock down the top spot in Group C of the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League when they host Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu tomorrow night.
Los Blancos are already through to the knockout stages of the competition, having won each of their four matches so far, and have a five-point lead over second-placed Napoli.
A win or a draw tomorrow would ensure Carlo Ancelotti & co. progress through as the group winners, irrespective of what happens in their final game against Union Berlin next month.
The injury list, though, continues to grow for Real Madrid as Luka Modric has joined the seven other casualties – Vinicius Jr., Eduardo Camavinga, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Aurelien Tchouameni, Arda Guler, Eder Militao, and Thibaut Courtois.
It has forced Ancelotti to dip into the academy reserves and call up young talents like Nico Paz, Mario Martin, Gonzalo Garcia, and Theo Zidane, the son of club Zinedine Zidane.
There will be some changes made to the team that took the field against Cadiz last time out and here’s how Real Madrid could line up against Walter Mazzarri’s Napoli.
With Kepa Arrizabalaga still not ready, Andriy Lunin will once again get a starter in between the sticks for Real Madrid and will be eager to carry forward his good run of form.
Dani Carvajal should continue at right-back ahead of Lucas Vazquez, who will get an opportunity in the coming games with Ancelotti expected to rotate. Ferland Mendy is also expected to retain his place at left-back ahead of Fran Garcia.
David Alaba should return to the starting XI after featuring from the bench against Cadiz. He will pair up with Antonio Rudiger and try to keep the dangerous Victor Osimhen quiet, provided the latter is fit to feature.
Given the lack of resources in midfield, Ancelotti has no choice but to continue with Toni Kroos at the base of the four-man diamond formation while star man Jude Bellingham, who had tormented Napoli in the reverse fixture, starts at the tip.
Dani Ceballos is all set to make his first start of the season as one of the interior midfielders, replacing the injured Modric. Federico Valverde will be the fourth man in the middle for Real Madrid against the Partenopei.
Up top, there is simply no looking past Rodrygo Goes, who is starting to hit top form in recent weeks. The Brazilian will once again likely be paired up with Joselu in the absence of Vinicius Jr.
Real Madrid Predicted XI: Lunin, Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Mendy, Kroos, Valverde, Ceballos, Bellingham, Joselu, Rodrygo.
Brahim Diaz is back fit after missing the Cadiz game due to illness and he is expected to get some minutes off the bench as Ancelotti would look to give a breather to Rodrygo or Bellingham.
Gonzalo Garcia made his first-team debut for Real Madrid this past weekend and could get his Champions League bow as a late sub against Napoli while fellow academy aces Nico Paz and Mario Martin could also get some minutes in midfield.