Zidane's list at Real Madrid for 2016-17: De Gea, Pogba, Lewand..
Zidane's shopping list
Clarity has been the feature most lauded of Zidane's short but successful step into the hot seat at the club blanco. He's been clear from the very beginning about the way he wants to play and about who is going to play. The Frenchman has grabbed his passport and booked flights for his summer holidays, but not without leaving a shopping list for the coming season on Florentino Perez' desk. Top of the list are: a wing-back, a central midfielder and a striker. Departures, the possibility of a transfer ban in the winter and summer 2017 windows will play a part in the planning, but once again Zidane is very clear about what he wants.
A left-sided wing-back
Zidane wants at least two players per-position and as things stand, there is no natural replacement for Marcelo. Nacho, Danilo and Carvajal have shown that they can cover the position to a reasonable degree of reliability, but Zizou wants a pure left wing-back as backup to Marcelo. The man who's most impressed is Bayern's David Alaba (23), but it'll prove difficult to prise him away from the German champions. Bayern have closed ranks around the Austrian international with a big red sign that reads 'Not for Sale' in the shop window. Anyone who even dares will have to have at least €80 million lying around in loose change.
Alaba's father spoke to AS a couple of weeks ago saying: "Real Madrid are a really great club and we're very proud of their interest. This is all I can say, nothing more."
Along with being a natural sidekick and eventual replacement for Marcelo, Zidane would be buying a true factotum: Alaba can play anywhere along the backline and also acquits himself well in central midfield, where he plays with his Austrian national team. Real Madrid, however, do not wish to pay €80 million for his services.
Plan B, however, has a name: Ricardo Rodríguez (23). The Wolfsburg player has been present on the Real radar for a while and it's said he dreams of pulling on the White jersey. The Swiss-Hispanic wing-back (Who has a Galician father) thinks his time has been served at the club, and the Volkswagen powered vehicle have concluded that he has ambitions beyond their capacity. His father José Manuel Rodríguez had this to say: "My son wants to go to a bigger club, he wants to make a career at a bigger club and Spain would be a great option. Maybe in time he'll make his way to Real Madrid, he'd be happy there", on Spanish radio station Cadena Cope on April 7. Another name that's been underlined on the Real agenda is Wendell, the 22 year-old Brazilian at Leverkusen. The club blanco made contact with the player's circle and he's very, very keen to make a dream move to the Bernabéu. "I hope this comes true", he said to AS.
Zidane has had one 'obsession' for the past two years: Paul Pogba. Juventus' 23 year-old star has been the subject of endless transfer rumours these past two years, and Zidane has wanted him in the squad since he was Ancelotti's second-in-command. During that time he made various calls to the player using his French connections to persuade him to change his wardrobe to all-white but was consistently met with resistance from Juve and a reticent Florentino considering the €100M price-tag involved.
Zizou winked in his general direction again this week at the inauguration of his sporting centre in Turin: "he's a great player, every team wants him, but he's a Juve player and we have to wait". Next week Real Madrid have a big meeting with Juventus, and a number of names will be on the table with the club bianconero: Isco, Kovacic, Dybala, Morata... and Pogba.
One of Zidane's priorities for next season is to reinforce that defensive midfield position, currently under the sole watch of Casemiro, and although Pogba is more of an attacking midfielder and would play alongside Modric in front of the Brazilian (Tony Kroos' future is currently up in the air with temptation reaching the Spanish capital from the Premier League), he could be a good fit to cover defensively in midfield with his extraordinary capacity to eat up the pitch and his seemingly endless energy, he could easily take a step back and do two jobs at once. Real Madrid are very aware of the price they'll have to pay to see Paul Pogba kick ball in a white kit, it would be another record-breaking signing.
Pogba isn't the only midfielder in the world, though, Verratti (22, Italian, PSG), N'Golo Kante (25, French, Leicester) and Kramer (25, German, Leverkusen) have all been closely watched this season.
Zidane believes in Benzema, and Benzema, Zidane. It has been very important for the French striker who's had a troubled year off the pitch to have someone around him who understands where he comes from, both, of course, are of Algerian descent and grew up in similar circumstances in Marseilles. But if FIFA ban Benzema for his involvement in the Mathieu Valbuena sex-tape scandal, Real Madrid may feel that a Galáctico signing is required to cover that position pending developments of Karim's predicaments. That Galáctico is Robert Lewandowski. Bayern's Polish star believes that he's done all he can at the German champions and is already plotting a way to force a move to Madrid.
With talks stalled on a renewal with the Bavarians (His contract is up in 2019), and differences over his value (the player wants 20 million and Bayern are not willing to stretch to that figure), his agent has maintained contact with Real Madrid and a path is being hacked from Munich to Madrid. All told, Lewandowski isn't top of the list of priorities for Zidane, with Benzema still Zizou's no.9.
Another name on a bit of paper being manhandled around the central Madrid offices is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The 26 year-old Borussia player has caused a sensation this season with 39 goals in 49 games hasn't stopped dropping hints and flashing some leg in the direction of the 11-time European Cup-winners. "I promised my Grandfather I'd play for Real Madrid", he said in an interview with France Football, also admitting that his front-flip goal celebration is an ode to Hugo Sanchez. In recent weeks he's had various meetings with his current club to discuss his future with Madrid and Manchester United the front-runners to secure his services.
Real Madrid have not discarded the possibility of promoting some of the rising stars and talented youngsters already under contract at the club: Borja Mayoral, 19, and the prolific Mariano, 22, the most likely candidates (Jesé looks likely to go out on loan or to be sold with a buy-back clause in his contract). Both have trained with the first team on various occasions with Mayoral making his first-team debut against Las Palmas and acquitting himself well, as close to scoring a debut goal as you can possibly be, the ball hitting the post, hitting the goalkeeper and going in.
Mayoral has been eclipsed this season by Mariano at Castilla, however, he's three years Borja's senior at 22; the Dominican striker has the physique and the natural striking instincts to make that step into the Primera, and would look at home in almost any side. Pichichi of the Segunda B with 27 goals in 30 games, Zidane made the decision to offer him a professional contract last season and he's tied to the club until 2021.
2016-17 is a big year for Mariano, and he's hoping that year will be spent in the first team squad under his old Castilla coach, Zinedine Zidane.
This summer Real will also trigger Álvaro Morata's buy-out clause at Juve (€30 million). The madrileño dreams of triumph in his home city, but he may not feature in the plans of his spiritual home this summer, and he does not want a return if it means sitting on the bench; instead the club may buy to sell and use the proceeds for a big-name purchase like Lewandowski or Pogba. Arsenal and PSG have the biggest offers on the table at this moment, in the region of €65 million.
Zidane has a plan, now it's up to Florentino Pérez to bring the players to fit that plan...