The Real Madrid captain is reportedly considering leaving the Bernabéu after 14 years but the search for a replacement will be tricky and costly.
The potential departure of club captain and longest-serving current player Sergio Ramos will leave Real Madrid in a bit of a pickle if the search for a successor becomes a necessity. It could be that Ramos is simply posturing, a demonstration of his personal worth to the club, and if he does hand in a transfer request the list of suitors will be considerable but finding a replacement will not be an easy affair.
The prospect of going into a season when the pressure on Madrid to perform will be greater than ever after a disastrous 2018-19 campaign with new arrival Éder Militão, Raphaël Varane, Nacho and Jesús Vallejo is not one that will warm cockles around the Bernabéu boardroom. The Frenchman is at his best alongside Ramos but struggles to marshall the back four when he is the senior defender while Nacho has had a poor season by his standards, Vallejo has failed to live up to expectations and Militão, despite his form for Porto, remains an unknown quantity.
Should Ramos decide to leave Madrid, the list of possible replacements is not a long one but all will prove extremely costly and possibly even break the transfer record for a defender.
Madrid have been admiring the Senegal defender from afar for some time and had him lined up to replace Varane when the Frenchman was considering a move. Koulibaly has been in excellent form for Napoli and is considered one of the finest central defenders in world football, which is why Aurelio Do Laurentiis has slapped a 120-million-euro price tag on his star man. Madrid may be able to whittle that down with a player included – Raúl Albiol, José Callejón and Gonzalo Higuaín have all left the Bernabéu for the San Paolo in the not-too distant past – but the 27-year-old will still fetch a record fee for a defender.
Matthijs de Ligt
Real Madrid had a chance to witness the precocious talent of the 19-year-old Ajax captain first-hand as he helped to end their Champions League title defence but face competition from the traditional staging post in LaLiga for Dutch talent, Barcelona. The Netherlands international is valued at 70 million euros by Transfermarkt but in reality he will cost considerably more than that and his agent, Mino Raiola, will doubtless wish to insert his finger into proceedings and relations between the agent and the Bernabéu board are practically non-existent.
Virgil van Dijk
Arguably the best central defender in the world on current form, but pursuit of the Dutchman is almost certain to fail: Liverpool paid a world record fee for a defender of around 80 million euros to sign Van Dijk from Southampton just two summers ago and have subsequently reached two Champions League finals, which few would argue is coincidental. Liverpool will be in no mood to negotiate with any club for Van Dijk and much less Real Madrid after the events of last June in Kiev. Any potential deal for the 27-year-old would surely break the 100-million-euro mark and Real have equally pressing concerns across the entire squad.
José María Giménez
An equally thankless task will be handed to whoever is instructed to make this particular phone call: with Diego Godín and Lucas Hernández gone, the Uruguayan and Stefan Savic represent the present and future of Diego Simeone’s defence and moves between the city rivals are hardly commonplace. Add in a release clause of 100 million euros and an approach for Giménez seems unlikely in the extreme.
Hermoso, Skriniar, Rüdiger...
Other cheaper options are also a possibility, with Espanyol defender Mario Hermoso available for the 7.5-million-euro buy-back clause Real wrote into his deal when selling him to the Parakeets in 2017. Milan Skriniar is another possibility, with the 24-year-old Inter defender valued at around 60 million euros. Antonio Rüdiger could be persuaded to leave Chelsea for the Bernabéu and is valued at around 50 million euros while the easiest yet riskiest option would be to promote Javi Sánchez from Castilla for the 2019-20 season.