5 changes Real Madrid should make next season
Following what was a pretty dismal season by the club’s very lofty standards, things are looking brighter at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Longtime target, Eden Hazard has finally arrived from Chelsea. The striker issues look to have been fixed with the arrival of Serbian hotshot, Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt. Left-back looks to become a position of strength over the next decade with the arrival of French international, Ferland Mendy from Olympique Lyonnais.
This is coupled with the already agreed arrivals of Brazilian international centre-back; Eder Militao from FC Porto and young starlet, Rodrygo Goes from Santos.
The sum of €303m has already been spent to bring in these players and a significant number of players are expected to go the other way as well as the club looks to balance the books.
With Zinedine Zidane firmly entrenched as the head honcho at Real Madrid, here is a look at 5 things they need to do differently next season:
#5 Send out starlets on loan
Unlike El Clasico rivals, Barcelona, Real Madrid’s La Fabrica has produced a decent crop of players in the last decade or so. Real’s cantera has not had a Golden Generation similar to the 1984-1987 set at Barca (Gerald Pique, Cesc Fabregas, and Lionel Messi were a couple of years behind Xavi and Andreas Iniesta).
However, the current crop of young guns looks to have the potential to be decent for the club in the long term. The likes of Borja Mayoral, Raul De Tomas and Sergio Reguilion as well as others like Federico Valverde, Martin Odegaard, Jesus Vallejo and one of either Rodyrgo Goes or Vinicius Junior will need loan spells or sales with buyback clauses at clubs where they see regular action.
Currently, when all the on-loan players return, the club could have as much as 37 players on its books for the pre-season. It would be ludicrous to suggest that all the unwanted players especially the younger ones should be sold.
It would make more sense for the younger ones to be sent out on loan for at least a season so they can gain much needed experience.
#4 Give more game time to the bench players
One of the hallmarks of Zidane’s best season as Real Madrid manager (2016-2017) was the quality coming off the bench. The likes of Isco Alarcon, Marco Asensio, James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata, Mariano Diaz, Mateo Kovacic provided an unreal strength in depth the envy of many First XIs across Europe.
The French manager was set in his ways however, and his failure to involve these players led to agitations for moves away from the club; Morata, Diaz, James (loan to Bayern) all moved the following season.
With an avalanche of players to choose from in his second coming, Zidane will need to be smarter in how he makes use of the very large squad (at least 25 players) he will have to choose from next season.
Nothing less than 8 players are expected to move (sales and loans) before the transfer window shuts down in. This will still leave a very talented squad of 25+ players to choose from.
Zidane will need to keep the squad happy. With 3 competitions to look forward to, the manager and his backroom staff will have to take up rotation as a matter of necessity.
#3 Continue reducing the average age
Real Madrid has one of the younger squads in Europe thanks to a deliberate culture of buying young talent in the last few years.
Brahmin Diaz, Asensio, Andriy Lunin, Dani Ceballos, Theo Hernandez, Vinicius amongst other players have come along in the last few years. These has helped the club drop its average age to 26.8 last season.
Of all the buys brought in so far in the summer window, only Hazard is in his late 20s’ (28). The others are aged between 17 – 22 which speaks well of the club’s long-term planning.
While the first team is still predominantly filled with elder statesmen; Sergio Ramos and co, the support cast are getting younger and with adequate game time will be ready to step up when the older guys start getting phased out.
Therefore, rumours about a move for Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen do not make sense. The Dane is a very good player but unlikely to bench either of Toni Kroos or Luka Modric. Paying the outrageous fee Daniel Levy (Spurs chairman) is likely to ask for makes no sense for a 27-year-old.
Stories about Tanguy Ndombele have begun to surface in recent days. The French international would be a better fit for the club’s long-term needs especially if the stories about Marcos Llorente joining Atletico Madrid prove to be true.
#2 Clear out unneeded players
With so much youthful and experienced talent already in the team, it is inevitable that some players will feel left out and angle for a move outside.
The list of players on Real Madrid’s pre-season roster will read like a who-is-who sheet for some of the world’s most talented players.
James Rodriguez, Kovacic, Diaz, Theo Hernandez, Navas are just some of the many talented stars who may have no place in Zidane’s team next season. Gareth Bale is clearly unwanted while Asensio, Isco may be let go as well if suitable offers come in.
Apart from the returning loanees, the likes of Llorente, Ceballos, Mayoral and the earlier mentioned players clearly have no place in Zidane’s plans.
Napoli has been mentioned as a possible destination for James, Ceballos may move back to Real Betis if Giovani Lo Celso is sold, Llorente may move to Atleti if Rodri is sold to Manchester City as is being speculated.
Kovacic is said to be intent on a return to Inter Milan as well. The club may recoup between €150-200m if these sales come through and would leave a more manageable but still quality squad to pursue the 2019-2020 season.
#1 Create a coherent style of play
One of the features of Zidane’s first two-and-a-half seasons as Real Madrid manager was the adaptability of the team.
On a given day, the team would line up in a 4-3-3 formation with Karim Benzema drifting to the flanks to make room in the middle for Cristiano Ronaldo.
On other occasions, it would be a four-midfield formation behind Ronaldo and Benzema. The extra midfielder (usually Isco) given the freedom to drift anywhere he liked.
The departure of Ronaldo means that such a free-wheeling approach may no longer work as no-one on the team currently has the ability to deliver the mind-bending goal haul which the Portuguese superstar became synonymous for.
Therefore, a set system to fit in with the players available would be preferable. The arrival of Jovic could mean that Zidane could go two upfront (Jovic and Benzema) with Hazard having a free role behind them.
This would mean lots of space for the fullbacks: Dani Carvajal/Alvaro Odriozola and Marcelo/Mendy to bomb up and down the flanks as in such a system, they would be responsible for providing the width.
However, a 4-3-3 seems the most likely with one striker, Hazard and another wide forward in the front three. The three-peat UCL midfield of Casemiro, Kroos and Modric should start as well. In defence, capitan Ramos will start alongside Raphael Varane with Thibault Courtois in goal.
There will be less of the millions of crosses that characterized the team’s play at the end of last season following Zidane’s return.