"I do not think the club's policy changes much because of this game,” was Julen Lopetegui’s answer after the game in Tallinn when asked about new signings – a small complaint that perhaps masked his true feelings: he wants reinforcements.
Concretely, he wants a centre forward, a central defender and a physical midfielder. He has 15 days until the transfer window closes to reinforce his squad and the justification for his petitions has only gained weight after the defeat to Atlético exposed the lack of depth on the bench.
Casemiro came off injured and his replacement was Dani Ceballos. For his last change in extra time, he had to bring on Borja Mayoral, his only substitute striker on the bench. Not so long ago, the year of the Champions League and LaLiga double, Zidane could afford to have the likes of James, Isco, Asensio and Morata sitting on the bench. But that situation had already changed before Zidane left, with the exits of James, Morata and Pepe. And that was no doubt one of the reasons that the Frenchman decided to hand in his resignation at the end of May.
Lopetegui toes the line in public
All summer, Lopetegui has had to grapple with the issue of reinforcements, or more precisely, the absence of them. Since his appointment, he has always given off the air of an obedient club man. “If nobody comes in and nobody else goes, I will be happy,” he said in his first press conference in Miami during the US preseason tour.
He saw other priorities ahead of Courtois (who was really more a target for the club than for Lopetegui). He understands and assumes that he must plan ahead for this season without a Galactico singing like Neymar to fill Ronaldo’s void. But at the same time he had not anticipated that Vallejo would be injured again and that Kovacic would leave, and that he would now need to bring in a strong defensive midfield option.
And then of course is the matter up front. From the beginning, the board have ruled out the signing of strikers such as Kane, Lewandowski and Cavani and are now watching Icardi from a distance. Madrid has not been imposing on the transfer market this summer, limiting itself to the signings of back-up players (Odriozola), and young players with potential for the future (Rodrigo and Vinicius). This is the club’s policy that Lopetegui has referred to. But the Basque coach has launched an SOS: he needs new players now.