Real Madrid: Who should be sold and which players will stay at the Bernabeu

Matt Jones - Editor 08:32 28/05/2018
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Will they be reunited? Ronaldo and Zidane.

The club season is finally over, with Real Madrid bookending the European domestic season with a momentous third Champions League triumph in a row and 13th title overall.

On the surface their Champions League triumph paints a picture of a team in the midst of a glorious period, with the canvas being coloured by the brushstrokes of a manager emulating his brilliance as a player.

But for all Zinedine Zidane’s success as Madrid manager, concerns linger that he is getting the best out of a squad of (admittedly) supremely talented individuals rather than building an empire.

Although they remain the undisputed kings of Europe following a third-straight crown and became the first club in 32 years to do so – their continental dominance papers over the cracks of a crumbling palace domestically.

They were dethroned as La Liga champions by Barcelona and have won just one league title in the previous six years, while the Copa del Rey has not been hoisted in four years.

A 16-point chasm existed between champions Blaugrana and third-placed Real this term. So despite the distraction of Europe, there is a desperate need for change this summer, with very few players within the squad free from scrutiny.

With that said, we take a look at which Madrid players should be sold, who should stay and whose futures are unclear this summer.


Love him or hate him, Sergio Ramos is a Madrid icon.

The scourge of Liverpool and Egypt following his dastardly dark arts approach to dealing with Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final, yet Sergio Ramos remains much-loved in Madrid. Say what you will about his often snide, underhanded tactics, as well as a checkered disciplinary record, the man is a leader and a warrior who is just as important to Madrid as poster boy Cristiano Ronaldo.

Expect the 32-year-old, who has two years remaining on his contract, to sign one final deal in 2020 that will see him play out his days at the Bernabeu.

Another player in defence who won’t be left out in the cold is left-back Marcelo, one of the longest-serving players at Madrid. Has just completed his 11th year at the club and despite not being the most attentive of defenders, is a hugely popular figure in the Real dressing room and often a valuable contributor in attack.

Crafty Croat Luka Modric is another player who will find himself comfortably remaining in Zidane’s plans this summer, despite speculation earlier in the term that he might make way after the World Cup.

A metronome who glides beautifully in the middle of Madrid’s midfield, he forms a creative axis with Toni Kroos that often plays opponents into submission – Liverpool’s industrious engine room had little answer to their craft in Kiev.

Like Ramos, is tied to the club until 2020, although expect him to take his leave in two years’ time.

Dani Carvajal’s tears will be as much the enduring image of the 2018 final as Bale’s wondergoal, with the right-back’s obvious anguish running much deeper than putting World Cup plans with Spain in jeopardy. In many ways he is Real Madrid, having been born in the city’s suburb of Leganes.

A limited player perhaps in terms of ability, but in terms of what he offers his team, in work ethic, desire and relentless energy, Carvajal is crucial.

He may have dreadful taste in music, with Robbie Williams among his favourite artists, but Toni Kroos is the conductor of the Madrid orchestra that play a pretty sweet tune.

Top of the charts in numerous categories in La Liga, including average passes per game (76.7) and pass completion (93.1 per cent, second only to teammate Mateo Kovacic), Kroos controls Madrid’s midfield alongside Modric and isn’t going anywhere.

Karim Benzema peered from underneath the rock he usually calls home (in other words Ronaldo’s shadow) to outshine his attacking partner in Kiev, and reminded us of what a talent he is.

While the often derided Gareth Bale has rode the bench this season, Benzema is consistently selected by Zidane, despite a paltry goal return of 12 in 47 appearances.

It’s his worst in white since his debut campaign nine years ago where he scored nine – and played 14 fewer games.

But he brings the best out of Ronaldo, as evidenced by his leading 10 assists in La Liga for Real.

Karim Benzema seems untouchable at Real Madrid.

Karim Benzema seems untouchable at Real Madrid.

This season began with such spectacular promise for rising talent Marco Asensio – whose stunning goal in the 3-1 first-leg Supercopa de Espana win over Barcelona got Madrid fans excited.

And even though he’s gone on to register 11 goals in a bountiful 53 appearances, he so often has played just a bit-part.

But Madrid would be well advised to persevere with such a precocious talent, and he’s unlikely to be going anywhere having extended his contract until 2023.


Dani Ceballos is said to be on incoming Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti's radar.

Dani Ceballos is said to be on incoming Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti’s radar.

Nacho has performed admirably when called upon this season. He has the eighth best pass accuracy (90.8) in La LIga, yet at 28 he hasn’t pulled up any trees and is unlikely to ever get a proper look-in at his preferred centre-back slot.

A somewhat breakthrough season was enjoyed at the Bernabeu by Jesus Vallejo this season, the defender making 12 appearances having previously been sent on loan to old side Zaragoza and Eintracht Frankfurt after joining Real as long ago as 2015. Yet Zidane has deemed him not first-team ready. Will the 21-year-old have enough patience?

While older brother Lucas has thrived at city rivals Atletico, Theo Hernandez has been a disappointment since Real splashed an eye-watering €24m on him last summer. Madrid might have done well to note how their pursuit of the younger French sibling was met with little resistance.

Marcos Llorente is part of Real royalty, with three of his elder relatives having featured for the club throughout the years.

His great uncle Francisco Gento is a club legend, having won six European Cups and 12 La Liga titles with Los Blancos, while father Paco and grandfather Ramon Grosso also played over 100 games. But with confidence an issue for the 23-year-old he is unlikely to follow in his family’s famous footsteps.

Former Madrid coach and incoming Napoli boss Carlo Ancelotti is said to be keen on bringing Dani Ceballos to Stadio San Paolo. The 21-year-old joined last summer from Real Betis but has been unable to cement a first-team spot.


Champions League match-winner Gareth Bale.

Like many men in this category, Gareth Bale’s future in the Spanish capital largely depends on the man himself. Accused by his critics of being streaky this season but he has still notched his second highest tally for goals in five years – netting 21 times in 39 games, his best figure since a fine 22 in his debut season.

Bale may feel sick of constantly being forced to prove himself when team-mate Benzema undoubtedly appears one of Zidane’s favourites. At 28 he’s in his prime and has a big decision to make this summer.

Between the sticks, Keylor Navas has barely placed a glove in the wrong spot since joining Real in 2014, but with the club’s continued pursuit of Manchester United’s David De Gea, he must dread every summer.

The Costa Rican international chalked up his 100th win as Real’s custodian in Saturday’s final, coming from 141 games. His future depends simply on whether the club feel the need to finally bring the De Gea chase to a conclusion.

OK, so obviously Cristiano Ronaldo is bulletproof, right? Perhaps not, although if he’s to leave the Bernabeu, there’s no mistake that it will be on his own terms.

He had an off night in Kiev but there can be no doubting his continued impact, with an astonishing 44 goals in 44 games making a mockery of idle talk earlier in the season he was on the wane.

A maniacal figure in Madrid’s engine room is the powerful Casemiro. A scorer in the Champions League final a year ago, he’s had his critics this season after a sub-par campaign.

He still does what he does best better than most (3.6 tackles per game is the fourth best in La Liga) but he has been less untouchable – Zidane benching him in favour of Kovacic for the semi-final second-leg against Bayern Munich being evidence of that.

Preferred to Bale in the final, Isco was replaced by the Welshman after an hour, and his poor show will heighten the possibility of a summer departure.

The 26-year-old has the joint second highest club assists in La Liga (seven) but has started just 21 times (a slight improvement on 18 last term), with Manchester City said to be interested.

Could Isco be on the move this summer?

Could Isco be on the move this summer?

If this list was being compiled 12 months ago, you will definitely have found Raphael Varane’s name in the ‘Out the door’ section after a tough 2016/17. But he has bounced back this season and formed a solid duo at the heart of Real’s defence with Ramos. Bale and Benzema will get the limelight for their third European crown but the Frenchman was arguably their finest performer.

With Modric entering the twilight of his career, Madrid have a Croatian magician waiting in the wings in Kovacic. But like others in the same boat, will the 24-year-old get bored with his role from the sidelines. Remarkably the former Inter Milan man leads La Liga in the pass accuracy stakes (93.7 per cent). Yet he has only made 10 starts and has 21 appearances in total.

You have to applaud Lucas Vazquez. The wide man recorded back-to-back 50 game seasons, doubling his previous best tally of four goals in 2017/18.

Was used as an auxiliary right-back in the Champions League semi-final second-leg against Bayern Munich and his versatility in essence is why his future, at 26, is up in the air. Ironically Liverpool are interested in his services.

Weighed in with the third most assists in La Liga for Real (seven) and made the most appearances (33), the problem is he was a substitute (17) more times than he started (16).

Borja Mayoral stated earlier in the season a desire to leave in the summer in order to get regular football. A decent return of seven goals in 21 games could result in him seeing more action next year, particularly if someone like Bale moves on.

Kiko Casilla, the one-time Spain cap, is never going to be anything other than second-choice. But with a question mark over the No1 slot amid another predictable and protracted summer pursuit of De Gea, he should remain.

Back in October, Achraf Hakimi made his debut against Espanyol, becoming the first Moroccan to play for Real and the youngest player in La Liga this season. In December he became only the sixth African to join an illustrious list of Los Blancos scorers. He’s heading to the World Cup and, at just 19, has plenty of time to make more of an impression on the first team after 17 appearances in his debut campaign.

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