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Real Madrid: Valverde could take Kovacic's squad place

The 20-year-old's promising performances on Real's US tour have left him in the frame to fill the void left by Mateo Kovacic, who has joined Chelsea on loan.

Real Madrid: Valverde could take Kovacic's squad place

Real Madrid last week finally bowed to Mateo Kovacic's desire to move, sending the player out on a season-long loan to Chelsea as he bids to hold down a more regular first-team spot. "If he leaves, we'll look for solutions," head coach Julen Lopetegui had said shortly before the central midfielder's departure. "We'll have to look for someone of his level, because we always talk about the importance of challenging on all fronts and, to do so, we need a balanced squad. Mateo was a big help in that regard, without a doubt."

Real Madrid unwilling to break bank on Kovacic replacement 

Real are combing the market in search of available replacements, but have found a shallow pool of potential signings (one that has been reduced by the close of the Premier League transfer window last Thursday) all seemingly requiring the kind of financial outlay that Los Blancos are not willing to make. For example, several reports in Italy say the club have been in contact with Lazio over Serbia midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic; however, the Serie A side are thought to be after 100m euros for the 23-year-old, who caught the eye at the World Cup in Russia.

Real Madrid won't be drawn into parting with a fee of that size and, unless they are unable to identify an attractive, moderately-priced option - something which, as a result of the inflation that has followed Neymar's 222m-euro move to Paris Saint-Germain last year, has become a taller order - the European champions will not bring anyone in before the LaLiga window shuts at the end of August.

Ceballos set to step up, Valverde in line for promotion

Kovacic's exit is expected to see Dani Ceballos, who impressed on tour, handed a more central role, while academy youngster Fede Valverde has now emerged as a candidate to take the Croat's place in the squad. After loaning Valverde out to Deportivo La Coruña last term, Real had planned to send the Uruguayan midfielder back out for a further year's experience in Spain's top flight. However, Kovacic's departure and Valverde's encouraging displays in the US have left the 20-year-old in the shake-up to be part of Lopetegui's 2018/19 first-team group.