Ancelotti's task of rebuilding Real Madrid's defence without Ramos and Varane
With Varane's departure, following Sergio Ramos' exit, Alaba, Nacho, Militao, Vallejo, Chust and Mario Gila are candidates to form a new central defence pairing.
Sergio Ramos was Real Madrid's leader in central defence during the past decade, usually partnering either Pepe or Varane. But with the departures of both the captain and the Frenchman, Madrid's back four faces an overhaul. There has been one new signing - David Alaba, who looks set to be first-choice but Ancelotti must decide who will accompany him at the back. Unless there are more new arrivals, the candidates include a few well-known faces from the current squad plus young players coming up from the youth categories.
David Alaba (aged 29)
The Austrian, Madrid's only reinforcement so far (he joined on a free from Bayern), is guaranteed one of the two centre-back places; he has even inherited Ramos' old No.4 squad number and earns the same salary as the Spaniard (12 million euros after tax). He was signed to strengthen the central defence positions although he can also play in other roles such as left-back and midfield as he has done throughout his career.
Nacho Fernández (aged 31)
The youth team graduate has been a useful auxiliary, stepping in to any of the back four positions when needed. He has more than shown that he can hold down a first-choice place in central defence. He underlined his credentials with some fine performances at the tail end of last season. When Ramos was out injured, he played 22 of the team's last 23 games (missing the Getafe match due to suspension), and exceeded all expecactions. A one club man who recently renewed his contract with Madrid until 2023.
Eder Militao (aged 23)
The Brazilian dissipated any doubts which fans might have had about him with a string of solid performances at the end of last season when he was called on to partner Nacho in the back four. He joined in 2019 with the weight of being the most expensive central defender in Madrid's history, but was soon relaged to fourth-choice in the pecking order. He got his chance while Varane was out recovering from coronavirus and the French defender's subsequent injury problems allowed him to keep hi place in the side.
Jesús Vallejo (aged 24)
He is confronting what could be his second spell with the first team squad (he has played a total of 19 games between 2017 and 2019) after loan stints in England with Wolves and a season and a half on the books in Spain with Granada. He didn't stand out particularly during either of his two loans although he fared better at Los Cármenes. He is with the Spain squad at the Tokyo Olympics. When he returns, Ancelotti will have just a few days to take a closer look at him and decide where he might fit in within the team.
Víctor Chust (aged 21)
He was in the starting line-up in the recent friendly against Rangers in Glasgow - not an entirely new experience for him. Last season, he made his first team debut in the Copa del Rey, t made a brief (four minutes) appearance in LaLiga against Getafe and was back in the starting XI for the reverse fixture against the same rivals. He is part of the generation of players who won the UEFA Youth League last summer. He will be registered with Castilla whatever happens.
Mario Gila (aged 20)
He has received offers from other clubs (he rejected one from Sassuolo at the start of the year), but Ancelotti, who is delighted with the glowing reports he has received about the player, is not willing to let him leave. He played 26 minutes of the friendly against Rangers, coming on for Chust) in his debut appearance for the first team.
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