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Madrid, on the hunt for a ‘9′

The Spanish side will have their gaze firmly fixed on Qatar in their search for the missing piece in their squad.

Joe Brennan

Qatar is the hunting ground. The eyes of the football world will be on the Persian Gulf between 20 November and 18 December. As for the players, there is no greater stage on Earth: they will try to maximise their chances of seeing their name in lights.

Real Madrid are no strangers to using this tournament as a scouting report, they are experts in fishing for talent among the stars that break the mould at the World Cup. This time will be no different. And it is not just the 13 Real Madrid footballers present at the World Cup that the club will be keeping an eye on. As well as supporting their own, the Madrid’s goal is to find a number ‘9′ that catches their attention. If somebody steps up and performs, Madrid will make them their priority.

This search from the club does not imply a distrust of Benzema, the Ballon d’Or winner and “best striker in the world”, as Ancelotti has repeated time and time again. However, everyone accepts that the Frenchman is not immortal. On 19 December, the day after the World Cup final, he will turn 35 and this season he has shown a physical level that has only allowed Madrid to enjoy his talent on a few occasions. The ex-Lyon striker has played just 53% of the minutes for his club, scoring six goals in 954 minutes, missing the last four games due to muscle fatigue (In case you were worried, Madrid’s desire for a striker now does not mean that the ‘Haaland plan’ has changed: the Norwegian monster is still the main goal for 2024).

A trusted system

When it comes to Madrid buying the star of the World Cup, we are talking about ground that has already been well trodden. It was a ‘modus operandi’ used by Madrid’s ex-President Ramón Calderón, who was attracted - thanks, in part, to Calciopoli - to Fabio Cannavaro after his wonderful 2006 World Cup win for which he was awarded the Ballon d’Or.

However, with Florentino Pérez sitting in the Presidential chair, this method has been strengthened, both in his first and second stint at the helm. In 2002, Ronaldo crushed Germany and announced to everyone through his goals that a knee injury was not going to keep him away from the elite level. Madrid pounced and pulled the trigger on a €45 million deal with the striker.

PlayerPrice (M€)YearPrevious Club
Di Maria332010Benfica
Özil182010Schalke 04
James Rodríguez752014Monaco
Kroos252014Bayern Munich
Keylor Navas102014Levante

After triumphantly returning to the presidency in 2009, Florentino Pérez quickly moved to make his mark after the World Cup the following year. Di María, Özil and Khedira were chosen after shining with Argentina and Germany in Brazil. These three footballers broke out in the World Cup and earned their move to Madrid, showing that the focus was not only on consolidated stars.

2014 was the year of James Rodríguez, the top scorer at the Brazil World Cup with six goals (including that famous volley against Uruguay) who became Madrid’s Galáctico, in a €75 million move from Monaco. But the he did not come alone. The world fell in love with Costa Rica and Keylor Navas as he was the hero in the ‘tico’ miracle (the Netherlands beat them in the quarter-finals on penalties). Tournament winner, Toni Kroos, arrived as well.

James Rodríguez, with Florentino Pérez on the day of his presentation.
Full screen
James Rodríguez, with Florentino Pérez on the day of his presentation.EFE

The circle closed in 2018 with two Belgians, one of them a deferral. In a similar way to Keylor fours years earlier, Courtois caught the eye after being the standout goalkeeper at the World Cup, and he himself played a part in forcing through a move from Chelsea to Real Madrid. Curiously, his transfer saw the end of Keylor’s time at the club, and the Costa Rica keeper subsequently moved to PSG.

Eden Hazard meanwhile, although everything was made official in 2019 (at an eye-watering €100 million), he had already enamoured Los Blancos with his sensational performances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In total, €362M has been invested in World Cup stars. On this occasion, the aim to strengthen is the forward unit; although the situation is different given that the World Cup is in winter, Madrid, with their notebook in hand, will go out hunting again.


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