By Charlie Scott
As the Real Madrid squad return to pre-season training ahead of the forthcoming campaign, coach Jose Mourinho must ensure that his charges are ready to challenge on all fronts. Last season Los Blancos enjoyed one of their most successful years in recent history, as they wrestled the Liga title from their rivals Barcelona's grasp and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, but for president Florentino Perez, and Mourinho, their perfectionist trainer, that was not enough.
The Portuguese signed a new contract as he knew, despite last season's success, that he had unfinished business at the Santiago Bernabeu. This season will be planned with two things in mind: retaining La Liga and finally succeeding in the their quest for La Decima - a 10th crown in European football's premier club competition. And to do that he must have the right squad at his disposal, and use his players in the best way possible.
Below, Goal.com looks at the matters Mourinho must resolve ahead of the new season if Los Merengues wish to succeed both domestically and on the continent.
|SECURE THE ARRIVAL OF MODRIC
Tottenham appear resigned to Luka Modric leaving the club, despite successfully fighting to keep him at White Hart Lane just 12 months ago. The Londoners failed to secure Champions League football in the subsequent campaign, and this appears to have been the final straw for the Croatian, who now looks set to be granted a transfer away from White Hart Lane.
His performances in the European Championship for his country caught the eye of Madrid, who have made the diminutive playmaker their number one transfer priority for the summer.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is demanding in the region of €40 million for the player, and Madrid are set to match that asking price in order to tie up a deal sooner rather than later. A number of Mourinho's players have already expressed their admiration for the player, with Gonzalo Higuain the latest to praise his talents. The move appears likely, and now seems to be a question of when, rather than if.
Madrid's first pre-season match is the fifth edition of the Eusebio Cup against Benfica on July 27 at Estadio da Luz, and it would be surprising if Luka Modric was not a Real Madrid player by that point.
|SIGN A RIGHT-BACK
Mourinho let Dani Carvajal, a product of Madrid's cantera, join Bayer Leverkusen last week, leaving Alvaro Arbeloa short of competition at right-back, and this is something that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks. Carvajal's transfer does include a buy-back option for Madrid that stretches for the next two years, and such was the hype surrounding the Spain youth international's ability in recent years, it looks likely that this clause will be exercised at some point.
Madrid were previously linked with Mario Fernandes and Mauricio Isla, but both have since moved clubs, while another reported target, Tottenham's Kyle Walker, recently signed a new long-term contract.
Meanwhile, Real are rumoured to have been offered the Brazilian full-back Maicon by Inter, and although Mourinho is a fan of the player, having worked with him during his tenure at San Siro, it is believed his age (he turns 31 later this month), and therefore his lack of potential re-sale value rules out any transfer.
More suitable options could include Bayern Munich's Philipp Lahm, and Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, while Mourinho may utilise Lassana Diarra as an auxiliary right-back if the club fail to identify a new man this summer.
|STREAMLINE THE SQUAD
There are a number of high-profile, high-earning, pieces of deadwood in the Madrid squad at present, and Kaka is the pick of the bunch. The Brazilian's time at the Bernabeu has been interrupted by a succession of injuries, and though he has put in some decent performances during his three years at the club, things just have not really worked out.
He started less than half of their 38 Liga matches last season, and found himself confined to the bench for Madrid's biggest matches: the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich, and the Liga-deciding clash against Barcelona at Camp Nou.
The former Ballon d'Or winner, valued by his current club at around €25m, has been heavily linked with a return to AC Milan, while there has also been reported interest from Inter and Paris Saint-Germain.
Some players look certain to leave the club, such as Ricardo Carvalho and Fernando Gago, both of whom failed to turn up to the first day of pre-season training, while others could still have a future at Madrid depending on their patience. Nuri Sahin was one of the shining lights in the Dortmund side that won the Bundesliga in 2010-11 but has failed to get a look-in since his move to Madrid, while Diarra may be kept as an emergency measure to fill in at right-back for Alvaro Arbeloa.
|PROMOTE PROMISING YOUNGSTERS|
The success of Jese Rodriguez at the Under-19 European Championship as the spearhead of Spain's title-winning team has not gone unnoticed by Europe's top clubs, and in order to keep the youngster happy at the club Mourinho may need to promote him from the cantera and provide him with more first-team opportunities in the forthcoming campaign. The 19-year old forward has only played twice for the first-team in the past, and his current contract is set to expire in 12 months time.
Another youngster likely to feature more frequently in the first team in the near future is forward Alvaro Morata. The 19-year-old, who can play up front, 'in the hole' or on the wing, is a product of Atletico Madrid's youth team but he arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu via Getafe in 2008. Morata is rated highly by the club's coaching staff, and is tipped to have a big impact following a couple of impressive seasons for Castilla.
|DECIDE ON A FORMATION|
As Modric teeters on the brink of a move to the Bernabeu it looks like Mourinho will be adapting his formation to 4-3-3, as opposed to the 4-2-3-1 he favoured last year. The Croatian's likely fee of around €40m, coupled with the imperious form of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira last year, means it is unlikely Mourinho will stick with his current tactical set-up, making a 4-3-3 the most obvious option. It would be somewhat surprising if Madrid spent such a vast sum on Modric, only to introduce him to a seat on the bench, while it would be equally strange if the coach were to drop either Khedira or Alonso.
The Portuguese coach is unlikely to stick to just one system for the entire campaign, with tactical variations needed, particularly in the biggest games. But once Modric arrives, he must decide on his first-choice formation for 2012-13.