We are now a few days into the January transfer window and speculation has already been intense over whether Real Madrid will strengthen.
Club president Florentino Perez revealed recently that boss Zinedine Zidane has a blank chequebook in which to lavish big funds this month, with up to three signings being touted as incomings.
However, it remains to be seen just who Los Blancos will bring in.
Real are 14 points adrift of La Liga table-toppers and arch rivals Barcelona, while their ability to defend their Champions League crown will come under serious scrutiny during the upcoming second round clash with Paris Saint-Germain, beginning next month.
Here, we look at six big-name players the Spanish side could turn to in the window.
Los Blancos have made no secret that they are looking to add firepower to an attack which has been all too-reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo, with neither he or Karim Benzema, enjoying their best seasons – in La Liga at least.
Equally, Bayern Munich hitman Lewandowski has mentioned in the past that it is his dream to play for the Bernabeu side, and at 29, he may not have too many more chances to make the move.
For all parties, it could make sense for the German giants to cash in on their leading marksman – who has been banging in the goals frequently this term – for a big fee.
While he is still contracted to the Bundesliga outfit until 2021 – the length of his current deal shouldn’t be a problem if Real choose to sign him for a fee of £60m. Manchester City are also interested but Real could well and truly land the Pole with an offer this month.
The only negative is the fact he’s cup-tied in the Champions League but his addition would provide Madrid with welcome goals to kick-start their 2018 in the right way after a difficult start to the season.
RATING – 8/10
Heralded as Juventus‘ next Alessandro Del Piero, Paulo Dybala’s apparent decline in form in the latter part of 2017 has raised question marks over his long-term future.
But, like with the Lewandowski case, if the 24-year-old Argentine was to leave Turin – then Real Madrid is likely to be his preferred destination.
Dybala is Serie A’s top goalscorer this term and has all the attributes to become a long-term replacement for Benzema, and certainly grow into a role to fill the void that will be left by Ronaldo in a few seasons’ time.
Despite a rough patch on the pitch, Dybala is only set to get better and that is good news for both Juve and Madrid.
A move in January may perhaps come too soon as the Old Lady don’t need to let their star man leave, that said, Real could test Juve’s resistance with a bid.
It’s a transfer to watch.
RATING – 7/10
While the future of Keylor Navas has been speculated for some time, the Costa Rican has been an excellent servant for Madrid during the past two trophy-laden years.
But, the Whites are desperate to sign a new goalkeeper and Chelsea star Courtois is at the top of their list, with David de Gea seemingly out of reach for the time being.
The Belgian’s family still reside in Madrid following his stint at Atletico and the 25-year-old’s big-game experience is more attractive to Zidane’s side, than taking a gamble on hot prospect Kepa Arrizabalaga, of Athletic Bilbao.
Reports have revealed Courtois is keen to return to Spain and he would be an excellent addition for Madrid, if they can prise him away from Chelsea.
It’s a transfer not to rule out this month.
RATING – 6/10
Another Chelsea man, and Belgian, who has often been touted as a player with Galactico status.
The diminutive playmaker has been in fine form in each of the past two seasons and was the Blues’ star man last term as Antonio Conte’s side wrapped up the Premier League title.
Hazard, 26, would not come cheap whatsoever and Chelsea would hold out for at least £120m for the attacker.
Real could test Hazard’s loyalty to the west London club with a bid in the window but Conte is unlikely to allow his key player to leave at a time when his job will be dependent on how well they perform in the Champions League, as well as their final finishing position in the league.
Reports circulating that Gareth Bale could be used as a makeweight in the deal, do however, seem wide of the mark.
RATING – 5/10
Yet another striker who Real Madrid have had their eyes on for some time.
The talismanic Inter Milan captain would be a coup for Los Blancos and with a reported release clause in the region of £97m, is well within in reach.
Icardi has let it be known that he is interested in a move to Manchester United and the Argentine has plunged further doubt over his future by not signing a new deal with the Nerazzurri.
It means, the 24-year-old is likely to end his five-season stay at the San Siro this year – and Real will be hoping they can pip the Red Devils to his signature by bidding for his services this month.
The in-form hitman is just the kind of direct striker Madrid need and is crucially not cup-tied, meaning he is eligible for the Champions League.
RATING – 8/10
The Brazilian’s Chelsea future hangs very much in the balance and he is likely to leave Stamford Bridge this month.
It follows a tough couple of months for the centre-back, amid reports of a fall-out with Conte, being dropped from the first-team picture after the 3-0 Champions League reverse to Roma and picking up a knee injury.
Indeed, if Luiz was to leave the blues for the second time, then it would be a sad way to end his time with the club – just a season and a half after rejoining from Paris Saint-Germain.
In no uncertain terms, Luiz has been told he can leave which has left the door wide open to a switch to La Liga.
Real are looking to bring in defensive reinforcements in the centre of defence following a catalogue of injury and suspension problems, and the the 30-year-old’s experience would fit the bill.
It is highly likely the Whites could come in with a low offer this January to test how quickly Chelsea are willing to cash in on the defender.
RATING – 7/10
After enjoying extraordinary success in 2017, with an unprecedented haul of five trophies, Zinedine Zidane begins his third year in charge of Real Madrid with a trip to second-tier Numancia in the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
The match will mark the second anniversary of Zidane’s appointment as Madrid coach as the successor to the sacked Rafael Benitez.
The Frenchman has since gone on to win eight out of a possible 10 trophies from just 116 games in charge, a remarkable tally for someone who had never previously coached at the top level.
“Your appetite comes from eating. We are never tired of winning,” Zidane said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“Perhaps it does wear you down a bit. Certainly, when you are at such a high, the only way to go is down a bit before you can then climb back up again.”
After last season’s Champions League and La Liga double triumph, Real have already won three trophies this season.
They followed their victories in the European and Spanish Super Cups at the start of the campaign by winning the Club World Cup in December to make it a record five trophies for the year.
However, the year ended with a 3-0 home defeat to Barcelona in the clasico, a result that left them fourth in La Liga, 14 points behind their great rivals at the summit, albeit with a game in hand.
The Copa del Rey is the one trophy Real have not won under Zidane, and they will be eager to avoid a slip-up when they go to the bitterly cold northern town of Soria to face Numancia in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
It is the start of what will be a hectic month, as long as Real continue to progress in the Cup, before they host Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League in February.
“I will try to finish the season as well as possible because we still have a great chance of winning things again,” added Zidane, who is without Karim Benzema due to injury.
“That is what motivates me and the team. I am not looking beyond the next six months.”
Meanwhile, Zidane was guarded on suggestions that the club would make a move for the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in this month’s transfer window.
“We have the possibility of signing players until January 31 so anything could happen.
“I am satisfied with my squad. I have built it myself, so I take responsibility for that.”
Holders Barcelona also play on Thursday, travelling to Celta Vigo, who eliminated Real last season in the quarter-finals. The return matches will be played next midweek.
Copa del Rey last 16, first leg fixtures this midweek
Formentera v Alaves, Lleida v Atletico Madrid (both 1800 GMT), Cadiz v Sevilla, Las Palmas v Valencia (both 2000 GMT)
Celta Vigo v Barcelona, Leganes v Villarreal (both 1800 GMT), Numancia v Real Madrid, Espanyol v Levante (both 2000 GMT)
— Real Madrid C.F.🇬🇧 (@realmadriden) January 3, 2018
Mbappe had reportedly been a target of Real after he helped fire Monaco to a first French league title in 17 years last season, but instead he joined Paris Saint-Germain in August on an initial loan deal that will become permanent for €180m next year.
“There were many rumours of a transfer, it’s true that we spoke, but I think that’s now in the past for me and for Real Madrid.
“I play for PSG now and I am going to defend these colours 100 percent,” he said in an interview published Wednesday in Spanish sports daily Marca.
Mbappe, who turned 19 last week, said he wanted to play for PSG because Paris is his hometown.
“It is like a child from Madrid has the opportunity to play in his team and goes somewhere else, another country. No, I wanted to play for PSG and I am happy for now with how things are going,” he added.
“I have time, and as I have said I want to play in the best team in the world and PSG has everything to achieve this. If this team grows with me, there is no reason to leave.”