REAL MADRID

Real Madrid could face serious problems in central defence

Real Madrid could lose both of their first-choice centre-backs from last season and replacing them is too expensive. Vallejo returns from loan.

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Real Madrid will start the pre-season not knowing who will form the centre-back partnership next season. The club could lose both of the players who were first-choice in central defence last season. One of them has already left - Sergio Ramos is close to signing for PSG on a free transfer and Raphaël Varane, who is on Manchester United's shopping list, could depart in the new few weeks. It will depend on whether the player finally decides to leave (he is in two minds whether to stay or go) and also if United or any other club meets Madrid's asking price, 70 million euros.

If Varane leaves, Madrid will start the new season with three regular central defenders: Nacho (his three-year contract extension could be announced this week), Militão and recent arrival David Alaba, although  he will serve in other roles, at full-back, midfielder as well as in central defence. They could be joined by Jesús Vallejo who is back after spending last season out on loan, but his position is not assured. The club have not ruled out including him in a part exchange deal. He is under contract until 2025 and has a decent reputation in Spain and Germany, where he enjoyed the best moments of his career with Eintracht Frankfurt. He won;t be taking part in the pre-season as he will be with Luis de la Fuente's Olympic team at the Tokyo Games. That could go against him, and he will have to put in good performances at the Olympics to convince Ancelotti that he deserves a place in the squad.

Jesus Vallejo training with Spain's U21s

Solutions: signings or the youth team

There are few options open to Madrid in the current circumstances. The economic situation which isn't great because of the pandemic, means that the club cannot afford either of their prime objectives to reinforce the rearguard - Koundé and Pau Torres. Koundé would jump at the chance to play at the Bernabéu, but Sevilla are demanding interested clubs meet his buy-out (80 million) - that is out of Madrid's price range at the moment. It's a similar situation with Pau, although he comes a little cheaper. His buy-out is 65 million, but his club would be willing to negotiate and accept a slighter lower offer. But Madrid are not the only ones interested in the defender - Man United are also following him, and according to the UK press, are lining up a part exchange swap deal including ex-Villarreal player Eric Bailly plus cash.

The other option open to Madrid is to bring someone up from the youth ranks. Both the club and Carletto want Castilla players to have a more prominent role this season and in central defence, the coach has three players to choose from. The first is Mario Gila, a 20-year-old centre-back who was set to be sold this summer but after reviewing his showreel, the technical team have decided to put the brakes on him moving elsewhere. The second, Castilla captain Víctor Chust, already has experience of playing for the first team. And lastly, Pablo Ramón  who is one of the pearls of the youth team but will stay with the reserves because at 20, he is a year younger than the others.

Madrid won't rush into making a decision, but once the pre-season gets underway on Monday, they will start addressing the issue. The players who are unable to take a step up and form part of the first team squad will be left behind.