A forgettable campaign looks set to spark a summer of change at Real Madrid – will Zinedine Zidane assemble a fresh group of ‘Galacticos’ to help turn their fortunes around?
Real suffered 18 defeats in all competitions last season, an unwanted feat last achieved in 1995-96.
Among those defeats was a 5-1 humiliation defeat at Barcelona in October, which cost Julen Lopetegui his job, and then three disastrous losses in seven days in early 2019, which saw them knocked out of the Copa del Rey, fall further behind in the title race, and then crash out of the Champions League.
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That was enough to send Santiago Solari packing and paved the way for Zidane’s return just nine months after leaving the Bernabeu.
Real ended the season with a whimper under Zidane, finishing third in La Liga – 19 points behind champions Barcelona – but the focus in the Spanish capital had already turned to the promise of a summer revolution…
Hazard, Mbappe and Pogba heading to Real?
James Rodriguez’s £63m move from Monaco in 2014 was the last time Real made a marquee signing, but after five years it appears Zidane will front a major squad transformation – so could we witness the dawn of a new ‘Galacticos’ era?
Real have already confirmed the arrival of defender Eder Militao from Porto and 18-year-old Rodrygo Goes from Santos, while striker Luka Jovic is set to join for £52.4m from Eintracht Frankfurt.
But even those acquisitions could merely signal the start of a summer spree.
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Eden Hazard’s Chelsea future is expected to be resolved imminently, but the Londoners are at odds with Real, who value the 28-year-old at no more than €100m (£88m) – a whole £42m off Chelsea’s own valuation for a player who has one year left on his contract.
Potentially breaking the £100m-barrier for Hazard is one thing, but the prospect of smashing the current world record is another matter entirely, and that is what it could take to prise Kylian Mbappe away from Paris Saint-Germain.
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The French forward has admitted he is open to a “new project”, and though PSG insisted he is staying, coach Thomas Tuchel said he could not guarantee the futures of both Mbappe and Neymar, who has also been linked with a move to Real.
The list does not stop there, either, with Sky Sports News reporting last month that Real are confident of signing Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.
In March, Pogba said playing for Real under Zidane would be a “dream for anyone”. Whether that becomes a reality could well depend on who leaves the Bernabeu
Who’s heading for the exit door?
Described as a “soap opera” with an unknown ending by former Real president Ramon Calderon, Gareth Bale’s future at the club remains up in the air.
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Our dedicated article on Bale’s future features quotes from the player’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, plus insight from Spanish football expert Graham Hunter, while almost 40,000 Sky Sports readers have had their say in a poll, with 83% believing the Welshman should leave the club this summer.
At the end of May, president Florentino Perez revealed captain Sergio Ramos asked to leave the club to join a team in China on a free transfer.
The defender’s request was refused, with Perez stating: “Real Madrid could not afford to let its captain leave for free as that would set a terrible precedent for other players.”
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Meanwhile, Keylor Navas looks set to leave this summer, with Madrid-based paper AS reporting Real told the Costa Rican goalkeeper he is surplus to requirements, in what is seen as a boost for Thibaut Courtois.
Real also have a number of players returning from loan spells, namely James Rodriguez from Bayern Munich and Mateo Kovacic from Chelsea.
Kovacic’s future could depend on whether Chelsea’s transfer ban is upheld – though the club are yet to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport – while Bayern are yet to take up the option of a €42m permanent deal for Rodriguez, with Arsenal among the clubs to have been linked with the Colombian.
Hints from the manager…
“We’re going to change things in the squad,” Zidane said after their last game of the season – a home defeat to Real Betis. “We are going to have plenty of time to focus on our work and set up a great season. We’re going to compete from the off.
On Bale, Zidane added: “I don’t know what will happen. I’ve called upon other players lately. I’m making decisions about who plays and who is on the bench, but next year anything can happen.
“I have to take decisions and when I don’t like things or something doesn’t seem right I have to change them. Nobody is going to change what the player has done at this club but day to day it is like that. We live in the present, although we will not forget the past.”
What are the local media predicting?
Sell to buy, and avoid loan deals. AS claim Real have €190m to spend this summer, but they will need to offload a number of players if they are to make several big-money signings in addition to Militao and Jovic.
Marca are reporting that deals to sign Hazard, Jovic and Ferland Mendy could be finalised and announced very soon.
AS reports up to €300m could be raised in sales, with Bale and Rodriguez half of that amount alone, while the club will also look to avoid sending players out on loan.
Eleven players were loaned out in 2018-19, including Rodriguez and Kovacic, but the club would rather sell unwanted players to fund their potential incomings.
Marca say Napoli have entered the race to sign Rodriguez. The Colombian has just ended a two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich and has been linked with a move to Juventus.
Meanwhile, Marca also reports Real’s spending could soar to €485m, should they sign Pogba for €170m, while Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen is deemed the ‘cheaper’ option at around €100m.
If it happens, that would see Real smash their previous record of €254m in one summer.
Some fascinating months at the Bernabeu await.