Zero signings but Real Madrid can win La Liga simply by not being Barcelona

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Sergio Ramos Zinedine Zidane Lionel Messi Martin Odegaard Real Madrid GFX
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Lionel Messi may be staying but Camp Nou remains in a state of constant chaos, meaning Zinedine Zidane's settled side are favourites to win La Liga

Because of all of the chaos at Camp Nou during the off-season, it's been easy to overlook the almost eerie sense of serenity that has descended upon the Santiago Bernabeu.

While Barcelona are embroiled in a civil war, Real Madrid are at peace.

That's not to say that 2020 hasn't been hard on Los Blancos. Like everyone else in football, they, too, are suffering the effects of the economic crisis caused by Covid-19.

However, whereas negotiations over salary cuts exposed the deep divisions between the boardroom and the dressing room at Barca, an accord was amicably and swiftly reached at Real.

As Madrid's grateful president, Florentino Perez, told El Transistor, "If the players hadn't voluntarily lowered their salaries, the company would have suffered significant losses."

The situation is bad enough as it is. Madrid have already seen a 25 per cent reduction in revenue because of the closure of the stadium.

Madrid may be one one of the most popular clubs in the world but a total lack of gate receipts is an issue for everyone bar those lucky enough to be part of the Premier League, which is primarily funded by colossal television rights deals.

And this is precisely why Madrid will begin a new Liga campaign on Sunday without having made a single signing during the off-season.

That is a remarkable state of affairs, particularly when one considers that Perez is responsible for the word 'Galactico' becoming a part of football's lexicon.

The man who has previously signed Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard is preaching prudence.

Florentino Perez Kylian Mbappe Real Madrid GFX

When asked if he would consider acquiring Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe this year, Perez said, "No, the situation is really bad.

"It's difficult to ask the players to take a pay cut to help deal with the situation and then make signings like that. That can wait.

"Madrid will sign the best again when the situation changes."

Consequently, Madrid have spent their off-season trying to make as much money as possible from selling dead wood.

James Rodriguez has already been offloaded to Everton after failing to ever recapture the form that made him a star at the 2014 World Cup, while Bale is set to return from whence he came, with Real completing a deal with former club Tottenham for the unwanted Welsh winger.

Meanwhile, Sergio Reguilon and Achraf Hakimi both excelled out on loan, at Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund respectively, allowing Madrid to make a tidy profit on a pair of full-backs that Zinedine Zidane had deemed expendable.

Spurs were willing to pay £28m ($36m) for Reguilon and, crucially, cede to Madrid's request for buy-back option. As for Hakimi, he should excel in Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 formation at Inter but Zidane evidently saw no place for such a player – or character – in his squad.

The Frenchman's focus is clearly on maintaining not only the momentum of last season, but also the spirit of self-sacrifice that propelled a team in transition to an unexpected title triumph.

Indeed, it was telling that after Madrid's decisive victory over Villarreal, Zidane told La Liga TV, "I'm happy because the players are a group of good people. Even the players who didn't play as much were committed."

That team spirit certainly proved crucial, as Madrid didn't play particularly well for the majority of the 2019-20 campaign. But they were full value for their victory.

As Sergio Ramos told La Liga TV, "The title is a reward for work, consistency and balance. What we have done has great value, despite what they may say."

Real were a better team than Barcelona in every sense. While the Catalans fell apart, Madrid united like never before. While Zidane's players fought for one another, Barca fought among themselves.

However, will stability, solidity and team spirit be enough for Real to retain their title?

The fans would obviously have liked to have seen some fresh faces but it is worth pointing out that over €300 million (£275m/$355m) was spent on transfers last summer.

Reinier Jesus and Rodrygo are destined to do great things at Madrid, but, of the new arrivals, only Ferland Mendy could claim to have played a meaningful role in Real's Liga success.

The hope, of course, will be that Eden Hazard will be fully fit for the duration of the 2020-21 campaign, which would invigorate an attack that has become heavily reliant on Karim Benzema.

With the unwelcome distraction that Gareth Bale had become having been sent back to Tottenham and Luka Jovic still stumbling from one catastrophe to another, Madrid will also need the fit-again Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior to lighten the load on Benzema, because the age of some of Madrid's main men is a cause for concern.

Benzema is coming off one of his best-ever seasons in Spain but he is 32 now, while the similarly revitalised Ramos is two years older.

Naturally, Madrid would have liked to rejuvenate their squad during the summer window – Dayot Upamecano, Eduardo Camavinga and Donny van de Beek were all of interest. However, they simply weren't in a position to make a big move in the market.

Sergio Ramos Real Madrid GFX

Consequently, the most noteworthy arrival was that of Martin Odegaard, who is merely making an earlier-than-expected return after a loan spell at Real Sociedad.

Zidane knows the Norwegian well, of course. The World Cup winner was in charge of the Castilla when Odegaard arrived in the Spanish capital as a teenager and he believes he can help the attacking midfielder build upon his breakout season in San Sebastian.

Fitness permitting, Odegaard may well feature against his former club on Sunday, when Madrid begin their title defence at the Anoeta. He would be the only 'new' face in the champions' line-up, though.

Madrid have taken a sensible, frugal approach to the transfer window at a complicated time for clubs across the globe.

Of course, doing nothing could be construed as a gamble in itself, but Madrid are happy sticking with what they've got.

And who can blame them? Nobody knows what to expect from a still-disgruntled Lionel Messi this season, let alone new coach Ronald Koeman.

By contrast, we can anticipate more of the same drive and commitment from Madrid. Zidane has a solid, settled side. Merely not being Barcelona might just be enough to win Real another Liga title.

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