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Real Madrid monitoring Zenit centre back Robert Renan

AS understands that Los Blancos are monitoring the Brazilian centre-back, who would not require a large fee to be signed.

AS understands that Los Blancos are monitoring the Brazilian centre-back, who would not require a large fee to be signed.
Buda Mendes - FIFAFIFA via Getty Images

As the scouting process of possible centre-backs to sign in the January market intensifies, Real Madrid are narrowing down several options. AS understands that one of the names on the list at the Bernabéu is the Brazilian Robert Renan, a 20-year-old defender currently playing for Zenit St. Petersburg.

Renan is a central defender who meets the three main requirements that Los Blancos are looking for: he is left-footed, young and with a great future ahead of him. Recently called up to the senior Brazilian national team, his price is not sky-high: Renan could be signed with a very affordable transfer fee or, preferably, through a loan with an option to buy in the summer - a perfect way to evaluate his performances before making a final decision.

Renan is on the list of Brazilian talents that chief South American scout Juni Calafat has been following. Born in the Corinthians youth academy, he would also comply with one of the requirements that Madrid want to maintain: acquire young players who come from selling clubs where the price is not a deterrent, as they did with Valverde (Peñarol, €5m/$5.5m), Lunin (Zorya, €8.5m/$9.4m) and Camavinga (Rennes, €32m/$35m), for example.

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The formula of a loan with a purchase option has also been used in recent times with Castilla winger Vinicius Tobias, a 19-year-old Brazilian on loan from Shakhtar; the LaLiga club negotiated a clause to keep him in July 2024 for a figure close to €15m ($17m).

This method could please Zenit, who just a year ago reached an agreement with Corinthians for an estimated €10 million ($11m) with the idea of increasing Renan’s value for a future sale. As sometimes happens in Brazil, Renan is a player with multi-ownership: Zenit own half the rights of the central defender and the rest is shared between Corinthians, Novorizontino and the player himself and his agents.

The main stumbling block to a potential deal between the two clubs would be a non-sporting problem: football clubs with ties to the Russian government are still under European Union and U.S. sanctions for the illegal invasion of Ukraine. According to the rules, clubs are prevented from paying more than €108,000 ($100,000) to any Russian club or doing business with people or companies connected to Vladimir Putin.

Robert Renan, en acción con el Zenit de San Petersburgo.
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Robert Renan, en acción con el Zenit de San Petersburgo.NurPhotoNurPhoto via Getty Images

Real Madrid prefer a loan deal for a centre-back

Zenit are a club owned by Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled gas company. Even so, an investigation carried out by the journalist consortium Follow de Money and published in Spanish newspaper El País revealed two weeks ago that 28 European clubs ignored these sanctions and conducted business with Russian teams, all without apparent problems.

The idea of a loan is the option that most pleases Madrid the most regarding all their potential options (Renan, Rafa Marin, Varane) as the club expect Militão to be back for the final leg of the campaign. The club estimate that the Brazilian could return in March or April, once he has recovered from his cruciate surgery.

That is another reason why Madrid prioritise a loan over buying one of the most promising young defenders on the market, such as Gonçalo Inàcio (Sporting de Portugal), Antonio Silva (Benfica) and Scalvini (Atalanta), all of whom would cost no less than €40 million ($44m).