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De Gea in, Casillas out and Aguero targeted - Real Madrid's summer transfer plans

By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Another new era begins at Real Madrid. After Carlo Ancelotti was sacked last month, president Florentino Perez signed Rafa Benitez as coach. The former Liverpool manager will be charged with winning titles after the club missed out on the major trophies at the end of last season.

His first task, however, will be to strengthen the playing squad as Madrid seek to draw a line under a season that started so well but ended in forgettable fashion as they failed to win any of the prizes handed out in May and instead saw fierce rivals Barcelona claim the treble.

Benitez won't have complete control of transfers, but he does have his own ideas about how he wants to improve the team for the coming campaign and more changes are expected soon at the Santiago Bernabeu.

And here, Goal takes a look at the possible comings and goings at the capital club over the next couple of months...

TRANSFER TARGETS

Real Madrid could face a difficult summer in the transfer market, with few world-class players available and transfers therefore difficult - even for a club of their size.

One player who looks certain to sign is goalkeeper David De Gea, who is keen on a Madrid move despite his past with Atletico. De Gea wants a return to the Spanish capital and is expected to sign for Real sooner rather than later as his contract with Manchester United expires in 2016. The only sticking point right now is the transfer fee.

With right-back Danilo already recruited, Madrid are now looking for a left-back to compete with Marcelo for next season, with Chelsea's former Atletico full-back Filipe Luis, Porto's Brazilian defender Alex Sandro and Bayern Munich's David Alaba heading the list of targets in that position.

In midfield, Madrid are admirers of Juventus' Paul Pogba, although they face competition from a number of Europe's elite clubs for the Frenchman's signature, including Barcelona, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. PSG midfielder Marco Verratti is another player who has long been admired by Real, but Lazio's Argentine midfielder Luca Biglia (currently at the Copa America with his national team) is a player liked by Benitez and he now looks a more likely option.

Madrid's summers are usually characterised - particularly in the Florentino Perez era - by the arrival of a world-class forward player. This time around, the club are considering the purchase of a top-level centre-forward to compete with Karim Benzema, with Sergio Aguero their first choice.

Aguero is happy at Manchester City, however, and Liverpool's wantaway winger Raheem Sterling looks a more realistic option to strengthen the club's forward line. Former Real striker Alvaro Morata is another alternative, but he will stay at Juventus at least another season after moving to Turin only last year.

Borussia Dortmund forward Marco Reus is also under consideration, but he signed a new contract with the club only months ago, while Angel Di Maria has also been discussed at boardroom level. However, the Argentine did not leave the club on good terms last summer and is unlikely to return at this stage.

PLAYERS WHO COULD LEAVE

With De Gea almost certain to arrive, Madrid are keen to part with long-serving club captain Iker Casillas. The Spain goalkeeper is also ready to move on, but is keen to leave with a big pay-off and therefore cannot publically admit he wants to depart. A summer of tense negotiations awaits.

In defence, Alvaro Arbeloa is almost certain to move on because the club have signed right-back Danilo and have no intention of selling Dani Carvajal, while they are also looking for another left-back, which means Portugal's Fabio Coentrao is likely to be surplus to requirements. Central defender Nacho is also set to seek a move after receiving limited opportunities last season.

In midfield, Sami Khedira has already departed to join Juventus. He could be followed out of the club by Asier Illarramendi, who hasn't lived up to expectations in his two seasons at the Bernabeu, with Lucas Silva set to leave on loan to accommodate the three non-EU players (Casemiro, Danilo and James Rodriguez).

Further forward, homegrown talent Jese is wanted by Benitez and should play a bigger part next season after making a full recovery from his anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered last year, but Chicharito will leave the club as his loan spell is up and he will not have his contract renewed for next season. 

THE COACH

Rafa Benitez spent seven years as a player at Real Madrid's B team, Castilla, and started his coaching career with the club's youth side, working closely with Vicente del Bosque.

An analytical coach who was known for his meticulous methods even then, Benitez was one of the first to study video tapes of his rivals before a game - even at youth level.

A two-time Liga winner with Valencia in 2002 and 2004, his last few years have been less successful, yet he has been chosen as the man to bring back the good times to Madrid after a disappointing 2014-15 season.

Rafa's emotional speech during his unveiling earlier this month showed he has returned to the club he considers his home, but if he wants to stay for more than a year or two at the Bernabeu, results will need to be exceptionally good. 

HOW THEY COULD LINE UP

First of all, a change of formation is on the cards for Real Madrid as Benitez is set to revert to 4-2-3-1 next season instead of Ancelotti's favoured 4-3-3.

De Gea will start in goal if - as expected - his signing is confirmed, with Danilo on the right in an otherwise unchanged first-choice defence.

Biglia and Kroos could form the double pivot, with Luka Modric, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco all competing for four places in attack, along with any of the potential forward signings mentioned above.

And just like many of the Real coaches before him in recent years, the hardest part for Benitez will be finding a way to keep all of his attacking players happy in the coming campaign.

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