Man City rout highlights need for signings: who will Real Madrid buy?
After Real Madrid were thrashed in the Champions League semi-finals, it is clearer than ever that Los Blancos need to do business in the summer transfer window.
“They played us off the park.” That, in the words of Dani Carvajal, is how Real Madrid’s Champions League thrashing by Manchester City can be summed up. At the Etihad Stadium, the 14-time European champions were found wanting - both in quality and desire. The club’s squad already has plenty of talent that will be key to the Madrid team of the future: the likes of Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo Goes, Eduardo Camavinga, Fede Valverde and Éder Militão. However, Wednesday’s mauling in Manchester has underlined the need for further fresh blood.
Real Madrid crying out for Bellingham boost
When it comes to summer signings, the name at the top of Madrid’s list is Jude Bellingham. The Borussia Dortmund star was already a crucial close-season target; now, the importance of luring him to the Spanish capital has been further highlighted. Identified by Madrid as the heir to Luka Modric in the role of string-puller-in-chief, the 19-year-old has chosen the Bernabéu as his preferred destination, as this newspaper revealed last month. This leaves the ball in Los Blancos’ court. Madrid must now attempt to bargain Dortmund’s asking price down from €150m to the €100m that the Spaniards have set as their spending limit.
Were Madrid’s move for Bellingham to fall through, Celta Vigo’s Gabri Veiga is the club’s ‘plan B’. The 20-year-old, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise since emerging from Celta’s youth academy, is one of the most sought-after young players on the market. Madrid are keeping close tabs on Veiga, as are Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Barcelona. According to the German newspaper Bild, Dortmund are also keen on the Spaniard, who they view as a potential replacement for Bellingham if the Englishman leaves Signal Iduna Park this summer.
Even if veteran duo Modric and Toni Kroos remain at Madrid for another year, Los Merengues are determined to bolster their midfield options. This could lead to Dani Ceballos’ departure: the 26-year-old, who is also out of contract in June, is reluctant to remain at Madrid if he is likely to be limited to a bit-part role next term.
Will Madrid sign striker ahead of 2024 pursuit of Haaland, Mbappé?
Madrid’s European elimination by City also threw the spotlight on the need to sign a centre-forward. Without an in-form Karim Benzema - and when the Frenchman is absent altogether - the team have a distinct lack of attacking bite. “Vinícius has been Madrid’s main threat,” City defender Kyle Walker said on Wednesday. “When you cancel that threat, do they have a Plan B?”
Benzema is set to extend his deal until 2024, at which point Endrick is due to arrive. So, too, could Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappé, if the right conditions are met. In the case of Haaland, a Madrid swoop depends on the Norwegian, who will have an exit clause in his City contract, making the decision to leave for the Bernabéu. As for Mbappé, Madrid’s interest is contingent on the striker choosing not to trigger a unilateral one-year extension to his Paris Saint-Germain deal in summer 2024. Madrid would then be able to sign him on a free transfer. However, with a year to go until Haaland and Mbappé potentially become available, Madrid have a season ahead of them in which Benzema, who turns 36 in December, will need greater back-up at No. 9.
The problem facing Madrid is the lack of attractive options on the market. There are two strikers who look plausible: Dusan Vlahovic and Harry Kane. After an unconvincing season at Juventus - he has scored 13 goals in 40 games - Vlahovic is being strongly linked with a summer exit, having come close to leaving for an English club in January, in a €120m deal. Meanwhile, there can be little doubting Kane’s goal return - 29 in 47 this term - and the England captain, who is a target for PSG, is yet to renew at Tottenham. He’s out of contract in North London in 2024 - a situation that would strengthen Madrid’s bargaining position in talks with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who is a tough negotiator. However, a move for Kane is complicated by the fact that he would be unlikely to accept any role other than first-choice centre-forward.
New signings needed at right and left-back
The final position in which Wednesday’s heavy defeat set alarm bells ringing was full-back - both right and left. Madrid don’t have a dedicated alternative to right-back Dani Carvajal, who is now 31. Carvajal’s understudy, Lucas Vázquez, is a converted winger. One of the players that Madrid are most interested in is Chelsea’s Reece James, who is experienced yet, at 23, still very young. Reece would ideally fit the profile of player that Madrid are looking for, but his signing would be far from straightforward: he’s under contract at Stamford Bridge until 2028, and Chelsea are hardly a selling club.
On the left, meanwhile, Alphonso Davies is Madrid’s chief target - but Los Blancos don’t plan to go after the Bayern Munich player until 2024. As Diario AS reported in December, the club are preparing to move for Davies once he enters the final 12 months of his Bayern contract, allowing them to negotiate a knockdown fee for the Canadian. Fran García is to rejoin Madrid from Rayo Vallecano this summer, but with David Alaba mostly used at centre-back and Ferland Mendy enduring a poor season, the club feel that further surgery will be needed beyond the recruitment of García. If an attractive offer came in for Mendy, whose fitness struggles have seen his first-team status plummet, the club would not be against selling. A move for Davies in 2024 is therefore part of Madrid’s planned efforts to freshen up their squad.