REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: The only problem with David Alaba...

Real Madrid are keeping a close watch on the defender, who is now available for zero cost, if negotiations to renew Sergio Ramos' contract fail.

At the stroke of midnight, just as the New Year was ushered in, a couple of new developments occurred. Firstly, Sergio Ramos is now able to leave Real Madrid on a free transfer. And secondly, the race between several European clubs began for David Alaba, who will also be a free agent this summer. In Madrid's case, Alaba is one of the options they have in mind if negotiations to  renew their captain's contract hit the rocks. According to sources close to Ramos, contact with the club about a new deal has yet to be established.

At 28, Alaba is in his prime. He is a versatile defender, who can play in any of the back four positions, he is experienced and accustomed to the pressures that go with playing for a big club. With Bayern Munich, he has won the Champions League twice and the Bundesliga nine times. He has played a key role in all of those triumphs, playing an average of over 40 games per season. He would be a perfect replacement for Ramos, even though he doesn't have the same level of authority that the Madrid skipper has.

The only problem for Madrid is Alaba's high wage demands, which is the main reason why he has decided to move on from Bayern Munich. The Austria international is looking to earn over 10 million euros per season, which for Madrid would mean a total pre-tax cost of 20 million. Meeting those demands would break up the squad's salary scale - it is basically what Karim Benzema earns at the moment and a million more than Luka Modric earns - both senior members of the squad and key players for Zidane. If Alaba really wants to play for Madrid, he would have to lower his salary expectations.

But the reality is that Alaba will be one of the most attractive proposals in this transfer window. His agent, Pini Zahavi, is also keen to negotiate the best possible terms for the player. The race to land Alaba is on with Manchester City, United, Chelsea PSG - even Barcelona, whose candidates for the presidency could use him as electoral bait.