Every year, the world of football lights up with a special buzz between July and September. The summer transfer window may be the most stressful period for club offices and media, but it is also the most entertaining and anticipated part of the year for fans.
Over the past three months, offices at Santiago Bernabeu worked day and night to oversee a perfect summer transfer window. The recent window will go down as a historical one, for it not only saw many legends depart the club but also witnessed the arrival of players who can define an era.
Meanwhile, the Atletico Madrid offices have been no less busy. Diego Simeone’s side had a relatively conservative yet effective transfer window that could change the entire equation in the La Liga race.
Madrid Universal brings you a comprehensive review of both the Madrid side’s activity in the recently concluded window.
Antonio Rudiger: 8/10
Signing a UEFA Champions League-winning defender is a move that can seldom go wrong. To do the same on a free transfer is a bargain.
Rudiger is a player who will not only bring physicality but also a sense of fearlessness to Real Madrid’s back line. More importantly, his versatility is a key that unlocks numerous tactical possibilities in Ancelotti’s roster.
The German international can play as a centre-back alongside Eder Militao, helping David Alaba return to his natural position of left-back. Alternatively, Rudiger himself is capable of playing at left-back.
All in all, a practical signing that goes a long way in improving the depth of Los Blancos’ squad.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 9/10
Real Madrid initially signed the youngster to be Casemiro’s deputy for the coming season. The club hoped that he would eventually replace the Brazilian legend and take over the reins in holding midfield.
However, the tables turned when Casemiro left the Spanish side anti-climactically. All of a sudden, Tchouameni is a regular member of the starting lineup and has big shoes to fill.
In his first few games as a Madrid player, the Frenchman has been spectacular. His defensive play and work rate have been on point since day one. Additionally, he has shown a mature understanding of his role and possesses a spark in his attacking contributions too.
The price tag of €100 million may be off-putting, but the Frenchman will definitely be worth it.
Perhaps the most shocking move of the entire summer transfer window was Casemiro’s move to Manchester United. What began as an overlooked proposal from the Premier League side slowly grew into a possibility. Eventually, the Brazilian made the switch to England amidst heavy criticism.
From Real Madrid’s point of view, parting ways with the midfielder is difficult. The veteran carried the club’s defensive midfield for close to a decade and was a key component of all of Real Madrid’s successes.
Yet, this is the best departure the club could hope for. Los Blancos managed to recover €70 million for a 30-year-old player in a move that can not be considered a bad decision by any means. Moreover, Real Madrid already have a replacement in place for the veteran.
Luka Jovic: 8/10
Rating Jovic’s move away from the Bernabeu is a difficult task.
On the one hand, the Serbian international had no role in the team under Ancelotti. It was very clear from the first day that he did not have the quality to succeed at Real Madrid, and the statistics show it.
Last season, Jovic made only 15 appearances for the club, scoring one goal and providing three assists. Quite clearly, he was not the replacement to Benzema, the club are looking for, and an exit would suit all parties involved.
He eventually joined Fiorentina on a free transfer last month. While the move does clear space on the wage bill, one cannot help but think of the €60 million that Real Madrid spent on his transfer three years ago.
In conclusion, a vital departure that is relieving but could have been on better economic terms.
The Spanish star’s contract with Real Madrid expired in June, and he eventually joined Sevilla on a two-year deal.
Though Isco was a crucial part of Real Madrid’s setup under Zinedine Zidane, his career saw a sharp decline in the past two seasons. He saw barely any game time under Carlo Ancelotti, a clear message that his time at Real Madrid was over.
Once again, the club could have tried to sell him earlier and recover some monetary compensation. Nevertheless, a vital departure to clear the deadwood.
Gareth Bale: 9/10
The Welsh international was quite frankly inexistent in his final years at the club. Despite being on the bench, Bale was never called on to play, even in the direst of situations.
He will always remain a Real Madrid legend for his UCL-winning contributions, but his departure was long-awaited. He moved on a free transfer at the end of last season and is currently playing for LA Galaxy.
The Brazilian left-back and former captain of the club left Real Madrid after their UCL win over Liverpool. His presence on the left wing will be missed for years to come, but his departure was inevitable given his poor form and age.
Marcelo has not yet joined any new club, and it remains to be seen if he will announce his retirement in the coming months.
Atletico de Madrid
Nahuel Molina: 8/10
Since Kieran Trippier left Atletico Madrid to move to England, the team struggled to find an able replacement at right-back. Daniel Wass was signed as a potential solution, but it became quickly obvious that he was not the man for the job.
Enter Nahuel Molina. The Argentine right-back was signed by Los Rojiblancos for €16 million + Nehuen Perez last month and can rightly be called their marquee signing of the window.
Molina will be the undisputed starter at right-back this season. While he is solid in defence, one can expect many goal contributions from the wing-back given his promising record in the final third.
While he picked up a red card against Villarreal, Molina will eventually understand the responsibilities asked of him by Diego Simeone soon enough.
Axel Witsel: 8/10
The Belgian international was Los Rojiblancos’ first signing of the summer window, and perhaps the most well-known signing too. Over the years, Witsel has carved a name for himself as a solid defensive midfielder.
Simeone, though, has preferred to use the player as a centre-back, where he has looked refreshing.
Sergio Reguilon: 7.5/10
The former Real Madrid right-back joined Atletico in the closing days of the window and will serve as a deputy to new signing Nahuel Molina. He arrives on a one-year loan with no obligation to buy.
Renan Lodi: 4/10
Lodi’s future was a subject of discussion in the media throughout the transfer window. The 24-year-old was a major part of Simeone’s plans last season but saw his prominence reduce after the arrival of Reinildo.
His departure to Nottingham Forest did not come as a surprise, for the player was not very happy with his lack of playing time at Atletico. His deal with the Premier League side is a one-year loan with an option to make it permanent for €30 million.
Now, the club neither have a left-back as good as him nor are they guaranteed any money from his loan. Clearly, the deal is not amongst Atletico’s best decisions.
Daniel Wass: 9/10
The Danish international looked like a fish out of water since his first day at the club and never got going. It was in the club’s best interest to part ways with him.
Three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli | UEFA Champions League
Fresh off their 3-0 win against Cadiz at the weekend, Real Madrid return to the field late on Wednesday night to take on Napoli in a critical UEFA Champions League fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A lot has changed since the two teams last met. Napoli sacked Rudi Garcia not so long ago and appointed Walter Mazzarri as the new manager. The Italian got off to a great start in the form of a 2-1 win over Atalanta in his first game in the position.
Yet, he will face his first big test in the form of Real Madrid later tomorrow. The Naples-based side will have a lot to prove to their manager and the fans on the night, but it is clear that the Merengues will not treat the fixture lightly either.
Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Napoli.
The headlining clash
The UEFA Champions League leaves fans spoilt for choice, for it offers the highest quality of football between some of the world’s best teams on a regular basis. The headlining fixtures begin as early as the group stages and only grow in promise as the season progresses.
When Real Madrid were drawn into Group C in this year’s UCL, all eyes were on the team that would take the next highest-seeded spot. It was eventually Napoli that made the cut, making the Spanish-Italian clash the group’s most-awaited game.
Since then, the two teams have already faced off once at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Matchday two of the competition. The clash was evenly balanced for the most part, but Jude Bellingham’s masterclass enabled a narrow 3-2 Real Madrid win.
Close to two months on, the two European giants face off once more, this time at the Santiago Bernabeu. One cannot help but call the upcoming clash the title clash of the matchday, especially considering the two team’s recent history and what rides on the result.
Real Madrid’s place in the Round of 16 was confirmed after their win over SC Braga in the last matchday. Napoli, however, are yet to secure such confirmation and a defeat tomorrow could potentially reduce their gap over Braga to one point.
Napoli thus need the win to maintain security over their qualification, while Real Madrid hope to cement their place as group leaders with a win. With both teams having a lot riding on the result, the game will have no dearth of life on the night.
Carlo Ancelotti spent many a day in the recent international break plotting means to overcome his midfield crisis. After all, he was without the services of Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga had also suffered a gruesome injury on national team duty.
The manager thus deployed his best midfield quartet for the clash against Cadiz, hoping to improve the harmony between the four stars. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham all started but the situation got ugly after the 38-year-old walked off injured in the second half.
Ancelotti thus now faces a bottleneck in midfield. Modric has been excluded from the squad after his latest injury, leaving the manager with just four options from the first-team in midfield. Needless to say, all four players are expected to start in Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond formation on the night.
Bellingham will be deployed as the attacking midfielder while Kroos is likely to play as the pivot. The two interiors will be Dani Ceballos and Valverde, the former of whom has not started a single game all season.
The situation in midfield is thus grim, for the manager can not afford any further injuries in the department.
The man in form
The beginning of Real Madrid’s 2023-24 campaign was all about Jude Bellingham. The Englishman could not stop scoring goals for fun across all competitions and single-handedly won games even in situations where all hope seemed lost.
Rodrygo has stolen the limelight from the English protege in recent weeks, and his resurgence could not come at a better time for Ancelotti. After all, the Brazilian was enduring one of his worst-ever starts to a season but managed to find his footing exactly after Bellingham suffered the blow to his shoulder.
The 22-year-old has been nothing short of spectacular in Real Madrid’s recent games. His purple patch began against Braga when he scored once and assisted once to give Los Blancos three critical points.
In the team’s subsequent clash against Valencia, Rodrygo stole the show. In 90 minutes against Los Che, the youngster scored two goals and provided as many assists in the team’s 5-1 win. He added another two goals and an assist to his tally in Real Madrid’s most recent clash against Cadiz.
Needless to say, the spotlight will shine brightly on Rodrygo in tomorrow’s game. As the team’s most in-form player, the onus will be on him to find the required breakthroughs on the night and lead the attack from the front in Vinicius Jr.’s absence.