January transfer window: which players should Real Madrid sign?
Real Madrid aren’t expected to sign any new recruits in the January window but they will be able to start negotiating with one of their prime transfer targets.
Carlo Ancelotti admitted this month that he isn’t expecting the club to sign anyone during the January transfer window but that doesn’t mean that Real Madrid are in for a quiet month. There will be plenty happening behind the scenes.
The team will go into the New Year top of LaLiga with only one team, Sevilla (who are eight points behind them - a considerable gap even at this stage), the only rival capable of denying them the title.
On top of that, Ancelotti has a very balanced squad, with at least two players for each position - some of those fringe players will be needed when other competitions start in a few weeks’ time. Madrid enter the Copa del Rey on 5 January away at Alcoyano then the following week will contest the Spanish Super Cup semi-final against Barcelona.
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There is no real urgency for Madrid to reinforce the squad in the winter window - and besides, they usually tend to do all of their business over the summer when there is more time, fewer distractions and more players on offer. But the back offices at the Bernabéu will be a hive of activity throughout January with the club aiming to tie down one of their principal transfer targets. Kylian Mbappé will be free to begin negotiating with Madrid from 1 January. His contract with PSG comes to an end in June and it looks like he will be joining Madrid on a free transfer in the summer. The finer points of the operation will be hammered out next month - the signing-on fee, his salary and other basic arrangements relating to his move to Madrid...
Erling Haaland is the man who Madrid want to partner Mbappé up front at some point in the future but it is unlikely that the club will sign both strikers next summer. The idea is for Haaland to spend another season in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund. Madrid hope to sign him in 2023 when their finances are back to normal, healthy levels, with the newly refurbished Bernabéu up and running and when Karim Benzema’s current contract comes to an end (unless he signs a one-year extension). There is just one course of action that could alter Madrid’s strategy. Haaland is due to discuss his future with Dortmund over the festive period. If he tells them that he wants to leave next summer, then Madrid will set the wheels in motion to place a bid for the Norwegian a year early.
Other positions which need strengthening
A few players will be moving on over the summer when their contracts expire but in general, their positions are covered. Marcelo is a case in point. He will leave in June but Férland Mendy has already settled in at left-back and David Alaba or Castilla's Miguel Gutiérrez can deputise if need be. Madrid have been linked with Antonio Rüdiger who will be a free agent when his contract with Chelsea ends in June. With Alaba and Militão as the first choice pairing in central defence, strengthening the position isn’t a priority. Ancelotti might be more concerned about shoring up the right-back slot - Dani Carvajal has missed six league games and a couple of Champions League games this season through injury. His position was filled by Lucas Vázquez or Fede Valverde providing emergency cover - neither of them are natural full-backs. Álvaro Odriozola is out on loan at Fiorentina where he is getting regular playing time. Madrid will have to decide what to do with the Basque defender when he returns this summer - he is under contract until 2024 and the Italians do not have an option to buy him when his loan arrangement ends.
Along with Odriozola, Reinier and Take Kubo will also be back in Madrid from their respective loans. There is a possibility that all three could end up staying on although it’s hard to see any of them breaking into the regular starting line-up.
Players moving on
Whoever Real Madrid end up signing, there will be a number of movements in the opposite direction. Marcelo, Gareth Bale and Isco will be free to move on once the season ends as their contracts won’t be renewed; others, such as Mariano, Jesús Vallejo, Dani Ceballos and perhaps even Eden Hazard - players who are pretty much at the end of the road at the club, could be sold to boost the club's coffers.