Khedira wouldn't be the first promising player that los Merengues turned their attentions to...
It has been a year of startling progress, internationally speaking, for Sami Khedira, the VfB Stuttgart midfielder who is coveted by Real Madrid. Last June he led the Germany under-21 team which humbled England at the 2009 UEFA European Championships; a year later he was doing the same thing for the senior side at the World Cup.
The 23-year-old epitomises the regeneration and renewal philosophies of the national team trainer, Joachim Loew. The tactician, renowned for a perceived soft-spot for Stuttgart players, had no qualms about placing Khedira at the fulcrum of his team in the enforced absence of Michael Ballack. That faith was not misplaced; Khedira was efficient in the centre of midfield alongside the dynamic Bastian Schweinsteiger and showed, in seven caps in South Africa, his pedigree to an audience outwith the Bundesliga.
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One man who has had his interest piqued by Khedira's displays is the newly appointed Madrid coach, Jose Mourinho. Los Blancos are already richly stocked in the central midfield position but that has never stopped them before. This summer, despite the presence of the two Diarras, Fernando Gago, Xabi Alonso and others, Madrid have identified the Germany international as the solution to their problems in that area of the field.
And such is the lusture of the Chamartin team that transfer targets rarely refuse their calling. With Khedira's contract expiring in a year's time, VfB might not be able to resist either. But at this stage of his career, it is debatable that Khedira's star would continue to rise at the Santiago Bernabeu. In the immediate aftermath of the World Cup, the 2007 Bundesliga winner is riding the crest of the publicity wave following a good tournament. But before he gets carried away with being pursued by one of the continent's foremost teams, he would do well to heed the advice of a man who knows Real Madrid well.
Guenter Netzer played for Los Merengues for three seasons in the mid-70s after joining from Borussia Moenchengladbach, winning two Liga titles in the process. Netzer feels that a move to a destabilised club like Madrid could be detrimental to Khedira.
Last week he told the press: "It's a club full of problems, and last season was chaotic and that tradition does not win titles. There was and are many very expensive but unhappy players at the club. That's one thing that Khedira should be aware of."
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And those unhappy players are the same ones who have had their heads turned and pockets lined by the prospect of turning out every week for the institution that is Real Madrid. However the likes of Karim Benzema, Royston Drenthe, Gago and company have quickly seen their burgeoning reputations, and their development, erode. It is a well worn path; from potential stardom to Real Madrid to the scrapheap. Witness the improvements in form of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben since leaving the Bernabeu as evidence that the Spanish capital is not always the place for a career to peak.
Khedira is undoubtedly a player of rare class. He has a fine eye for a pass, good positional sense and an intrepid spirit that often leads him to the opposition goal. But at VfB he is the top dog. The Swabians' coach, Christian Gross, has described him as a player around whom a team could be built. It is safe to assume the praise or blueprint for him at the Bernabeu is not quite that.
The player has told Bild that he would leave VfB only for Real Madrid and Mourinho but perhaps he should have a word with his former club-mate, Aleksandr Hleb, about 'dream moves' to one of Spain's top two. And perhaps Stuttgart should not become too disillusioned with the prospect of losing one of their key players either; gain €10m to €15m this summer and they will probably have him back on loan next season.