How might Real Madrid line up without Cristiano Ronaldo?
A week ago that seemed like a question that would not be asked for some time. But now with rumours of the Portugal star demanding his exit from the Bernabeu, it’s something that has to be considered.
While replacing a player like Ronaldo, who alongside Lionel Messi has an argument to be considered the best in the world, would be near impossible, you would be hard-pressed to find a side more capable of it than Real Madrid.
WITHOUT NEW SIGNINGS
The team’s base would likely remain intact, with the midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro providing indispensable support for the attacking trio.
Up top, Karim Benzema would likely retain his place. Despite questions about his role on the side, he continued to perform well as the centre-forward this season.
Meanwhile, Isco, who came into the side for an injured Gareth Bale toward the end of the year, impressed with his ability to drive play for Benzema and Ronaldo. At the same time, Ronaldo, whose role involved him playing further inside rather than on the wings, could see his spot taken by Bale.
At the very least, that would help solve the issue of what to do with Isco, who proved himself worthy of a place in the lineup with his performance at the end of the year for Madrid.
As for who from outside the club could step in for Ronaldo, the possibilities are endless. The money Madrid would bring in from the transfer itself — his release clause reportedly stands at €1 billion — and freeing up Ronaldo’s wages would be astronomical, and could probably entice most players into joining if the club so chose.
But one intriguing option could be French teenage prodigy Kylian Mbappe. Could he slot into Ronaldo's old position, forcing either Bale or Isco back to the bench?
WITH NEW SIGNINGS
Again, the spine of the team is likely to remain the same after a tremendous season, and Mbappe's pace could be used in a number of ways. A like-for-like switch with Ronaldo would make good use of the French youngster's speed, but then begs the question of what to do with Isco, whose form proved key in 2016-17.
The Spaniard could also slot in behind Benzema and Mbappe, or even Bale, giving Zidane plenty of options should he need to switch up his tactics.
Ronaldo's alleged impending summer exit certainly poses more questions than it answers, but the biggest question of all is how Madrid will replicate the Portugal captain's goalscoring output.
Can Zidane realistically hope to pick up where he left off without the club's all-time leading goalscorer? Let us know how you think the club will cope in the comments section below.