Goal.com’s summer transfer special puts the spotlight on phase two of the Neo Galactico project.
Every summer almost every footballer on the planet will be inextricably linked to Real Madrid at some point. It’s no different this time around and, if anything, the rumor mill has been forced into hyper-drive.
As one of the most successful managers in the game, Jose Mourinho, prepares to take over the Santiago Bernabeu coaching hot-seat, every world class superstar not in a Barcelona shirt has been rumored to be on his way to Los Blancos.
Florentino Perez’s unsuccessful first phase of his Galacticos rebuilding project has spurred the club on to continue with their mammoth investments for the second year in a row. Madrid director-general Jorge Valdano has already revealed that they will spend again this summer to strengthen the team, although he admitted that there won’t be another €250 million-plus shopping spree.
Still, with a healthy war chest at their disposal, allegedly around €100m, expect the Merengues to lure another wave of galactic superstars to the Bernabeu.
Iker Casillas did not have the best of seasons last term, but he remains the undisputed No. 1 at Madrid. But crucially, experienced back-up Jerzy Dudek is reportedly set to extend his stay in the Spanish capital despite at one point looking likely to depart at the end of his current contract, which expires in June.
This means that Madrid can save from spending unnecessarily on goalkeepers. And with young reserves Antonio Adan and Tomas Mejias expected to be given a push up next campaign to further prepare them to take over from Dudek as the future permanent deputy to Casillas, this is one position where Europe’s top clubs won’t have to worry about losing their star shot-stoppers.
There were big games last season in which Madrid’s usual chronic weakness was cruelly exposed. Defensive frailty is likely to be the first key issue that Mourinho will address when he arrives, given his penchant for disciplined, organized defending.
A player that almost everyone is certain will be wearing the famous white shirt next term is right-back Maicon. The Brazilian had an average season at Inter by his lofty standards and the Italian treble champions might be willing to let him go for a sizable fee as club patron Massimo Moratti seems eager to see young Davide Santon become Maicon’s successor.
On the opposite flank Mourinho could turn to another of his former clubs, Chelsea, to poach Ashley Cole in order to patch up what was Madrid’s weakest link last season. The England left back is another name that has been heavily tipped to swap Stamford Bridge for the Santiago Bernabeu, and his knack for finding the right balance between defense and attack has made him a prime target.
Should the Blues and Roman Abramovich put up a stubborn fight to fend off Madrid’s advances, the Spanish behemoths could fall back on Benfica’s David Luiz. The 23-year-old is being chased by a number of Europe’s elite thanks to his ability to play as a central defender or as a left back, a dual role that will always come in handy at Madrid. His club-mate Fabio Coentrao, a left-sided winger/defender, has also been linked to the Blancos, but his similarities with Marcelo have already seen Mourinho shoot down the possibility of him moving to the Bernabeu for the time being.
Juventus hardman Giorgio Chiellini has also been rumored to be on Madrid’s radar, but with three center-backs already in the squad, Raul Albiol, Ezequiel Garay and Pepe – four including Sergio Ramos – a move for another central defender who can’t operate in multiple positions is unlikely.
The number of high profile superstars linked to Madrid is enough for the club to assemble two world class midfield lines. Two prominent figures who have been mentioned are Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Chelsea talisman Frank Lampard.
Mourinho has expressed his admiration for veteran players who are reliable and who always deliver the goods on command and Gerrard, 29, and Lampard, 32 in mid-June, are two such footballers. Their arrivals, however, will depend hugely on whether Kaka stays or goes.
Two more central midfielders who will be of interest to Madrid are Lampard’s team-mate at the Bridge, Michael Essien, and Roma’s Daniele De Rossi. They are extremely talented box-to-box, all-round, all-action midfielders who can give an often imbalanced Madrid side the perfect harmony between defense and attack. But luring De Rossi away from the Eternal City will be near impossible as he has Roman blood coursing through his veins much like Xavi has Catalan. Essien, on the other hand, will not come cheap, but if Perez can turn on that negotiating charm of his, he might just be able to cut a decent deal.
Wingers will also be a priority for Valdano and co. There have been reports that the Merengues are close to striking an agreement to bring in David Silva from Valencia. The Spanish international will be a welcome addition to the team, given his incredible attacking versatility, but if Los Che play hardball, Madrid’s next option could be Jesus Navas, although his employers Sevilla are not a club who will make life any easier for the ‘Casa Blanca’. If neither of the two sides are willing to part with their star players, then Benfica’s wing wizard Angel Di Maria could be the solution.
Ricardo Quaresma, strangely, has also been linked.
Mourinho’s former clubs Inter and Chelsea could come under siege again if the ‘Special One’ deems this department in need of strengthening. Didier Drogba’s name has been mentioned the most, especially in the English press, as the Premier League braces itself to lose another of its star players.
Diego Milito could also be an interesting capture as he would provide Madrid with the kind of ruthless Ruud van Nistelrooy-type goalscoring consistency, something that current Blancos hitman Gonzalo Higuain delivers, but not frequently enough against big teams in big games. However, Mourinho has already admitted that he doesn't believe Inter will release 'El Principe' at any cost.
Much like Kaka’s case, Karim Benzema could hold the key to how much the Madrid board will invest in strikers this summer, as a mega-money signing is unlikely if the Frenchman is going to warm the bench again next term.
IN: Maicon (Inter), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Michael Essien (Chelsea), David Silva (Valencia)
OUT: Royston Drenthe, Mahamadou Diarra, Guti, Rafael van der Vaart
LOANS OUT: Sergio Canales
PREFERRED STARTING XI (4-4-1-1)
Maicon - Sergio Ramos - Pepe - Ashley Cole
Silva - Xabi Alonso - Essien - Ronaldo