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10:59pm – Can Real lure away Hazard?
Eden Hazard would be worthy of fulfilling that role, but the 27-year-old’s future is still unclear, with Chelsea wanting him to stick around.
6:30pm – Milinkovic-Savic fits better at Chelsea
The Lazio defender has been linked to multiple clubs, including Real Madrid, while Chelsea have already had a bid turned down.
While the Serbian could make an impact in a number of places, Stamford Bridge may be the best fit for him and his style of play.
Check out our detailed scouting report on Milinkovic-Savic.
It has been one of the craziest summers so far on record for Real Madrid.
The departure of coach Zinedine Zidane, the appointment of new boss Julen Lopetegui from under the noses of the Spanish national team days before the World Cup and club icon Cristiano Ronaldo‘s exit to Juventus, being three huge stories in their own right.
Slowly but surely the focus is moving back to the pitch as the three-time consecutive Champions League winners embark on a summer tour Stateside, where they will face the likes of Manchester United, Juventus and Roma in the International Champions Cup.
There are sure to be plenty of key plotlines on the horizon and here we tackle five key questions president Florentino Perez is almost certainly mulling over in the Whites boardroom as you read this.
Kicking things off with a brilliant Belgian…
Will Eden Hazard become Real’s Galactico signing?
The saga over the Belgian’s future is expected to drag out throughout much of pre-season but there is no doubt Chelsea’s chief orchestrator has his heart set on a move to the Spanish capital.
New Stamford Bridge boss Maurizio Sarri is desperate to hold talks with the 27-year-old, who is currently holidaying in Marbella post-World Cup, but by the looks of it, it could take some convincing to persuade Hazard to extend his six-season stay in west London.
Hazard is at the peak of his powers and would be a worthy acquisition. He may not have the same commercial pulling power or perhaps global status as other would-be targets, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, but is the most realistic option and a man who could domineer Real’s No10 role.
As such, he would be a statement signing – like the bygone Galactico Era – one of which Real need in what feels like a new project and team. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and a big marquee capture is a true statement of intent. His anticipated price tag, in the region of €150m, is a big fee but the going rate in today’s market.
Where that leaves Isco is for Lopetegui to figure out, but accommodating them both shouldn’t be an issue. The supply line is certainly there along with a robust central midfield filled with experience, given you expect Luka Modric, especially, still has a good few years left in him yet.
What to do about Gareth Bale?
In theory, Ronaldo’s exit should realistically give the Welshman a platform to be the main man at the Bernabeu.
Clearly, the club’s record signing had always felt he deserved to be appreciated more, and with CR7 departed, the four-time Champions League winner could enjoy something of a rebirth at the club.
His display in May’s thrilling win over Liverpool and that goal, has almost relaxed Bale and his plight. Folklore has been achieved from that night in Kiev and he will feel he has nothing to prove – even though he struggled for large parts of last season and fell out of favour with Zidane.
Bale is still on staggering financial terms at the Bernabeu until 2022, a contract few teams could match. Manchester United or Paris Saint-Germain would potentially be his likely destinations but the rumours seem to have slowed and Lopetegui may just be happy to work with what he has.
Making a fully fit 28-year-old a key focal point in this side is a possibility and Real hierarchy will be keeping a close eye on him as stars returned for pre-season training at Valdebebas this week.
That said, if Madrid can recoup anywhere near close to the €91 million they shelled out for him all those years ago, then the cash could form the hedge fund for a Hazard swoop.
How do you replace Cristiano Ronaldo?
An impossible task. Plugging a superstar void, one who supplied 450 goals in 438 games over a nine-year period, is not even worth thinking about.
As such, Los Blancos don’t need to front-up exactly to that issue but instead find ways around it.
In keeping with Real’s recent policy of not only promoting youth but giving young Spanish blood a chance to thrive, Marco Asensio should view the 2018-19 campaign as the biggest of his career. He now has the platform to progress into the role of a lone frontman and significantly increase his goal, which is not beyond him.
Karim Benzema faded in La Liga this past season, netting just five goals, and 12 in total, and could soon move on. No longer will the Frenchman be gifted a relatively easy ride at the club, given he was a favourite under Zidane as Lopetugei has no allegiance with the player, although he will respect his experience all the same.
Transfer window options, particularly in the striking ranks, are limited to Real’s long-term pursuit of Robert Lewandowski and Mbappe. France World Cup winner Mbappe would appear out of reach, and at 29, this is the last realistic window where the Spanish giants could chase the Pole with such force.
What can we expect from new boss Lopetegui?
A former Real Madrid goalkeeper, there is no doubt Lopetegui has Los Blancos in his blood and he said as much at his official unveiling.
Experience as well managing Real Madrid Castilla for one season always made him a marked man on Perez’s radar and while his two-year spell with Porto in Portugal was largely underwhelming, spells either side of that with La Roja under-19, under-20 and 21 sides between 2010 and 2014 and then his stint as Spain head coach, kept his stock high.
However, his sacking just before the World Cup puts him under the microscope immediately and he could be in for some hostile receptions when Real travel away.
Madridistas should, though, expect free-flowing football from a man who typically gives his players freedom to express themselves in a clear structure (notably, a 4-3-3). That said, he has been known to implement differing styles and is not afraid to mix things up, whether Madrid will counter-attack or use high-pressing methods next term.
He is a manager who likes fluid concepts and seamless transitions between defence and attack, midfield to attack, and vice-versa, which should be something Real stars enjoy given the focus before was rather more rigid to accommodate Ronaldo’s central threat and role.
Lopetegui may have taken the job under the pretenses Ronaldo was about to leave, nevertheless, the 33-year-old Whites idol’s departure actually makes his job easier in a sense as the Portuguese’s departure flagged up a new era, a new style and new team.
While the pressure is intense in the Bernabeu hotseat, it gives him a chance to craft his team like never before. The 51-year-old is living the dream and will certainly be doing everything to make it work.
Is winning the La Liga title a priority or retaining their Champions League crown?
Both are, it’s Real Madrid at the end of the day. But, if you are to look at that question analytically, wrestling a stranglehold on domestic matters against Barcelona and building a winning team in La Liga is surely right at the top of Lopetegui’s remit.
Although Madrid are synonymous with success in the Champions League, the historic feat they achieved last season coupled with the changing of the guard and the dawn of a new era, believe it or not, has actually took a bit of pressure off this side defending their title for a third successive year.
Still, they will be expected to compete at the business end of proceedings.
Certainly, you could foresee a scenario where Blaugrana direct their focus towards claiming a first European Cup since 2015 and see that as their main objective. As such, it could see them take their eyes off the boil in the league.
Vinicius Junior, the latest Brazilian wonderkid off the production line, is set to be unveiled by Real Madrid on Thursday (15:00 UAE time).
The 18-year-old talent arrived in Spain earlier this week to begin pre-season with Los Blancos following his €45 million transfer from Flamengo – the second most expensive sale of a player in the history of Brazilian football, behind only Neymar, who cost Barcelona €86m.
Vinicius will be officially presented at the Santiago Bernabeu and will then try and force his way into Julen Lopetegui’s plans.
Cristiano Ronaldo‘s departure to Juventus has left a void to be filled in attack and the teenager may well have an early chance to shine before the checkbook is opened again and more likely stellar incomings before the 2018/19 La Liga season kicks off.
Here is our fact file on Real’s latest young superstar in the making:
Name: Vinicius Jose Paixao de Oliveira Junior
Birthplace: Sao Goncalo, Rio de Janeiro
Height: 5ft 10in
Career stats (club)
2015/2016 Brazil U-15s
2016/2017 Brazil U17s
# In June 2017, Vinicius appeared in 39th place on The Telegraph’s list of the best under-21 players in the world. He was the only player playing in South America at the time to feature on the list.
# He was called up to Brazil’s under-15 national team at the age of 13 and their star player despite being a year underage.
# In 2015, he led Flamengo to the Copa Votorantim, one of the major football tournaments at that level in his homeland. He was the top scorer with six goals in nine matches.
# In 2016, Vinicius moved to the under-17 team, again a year younger than his team-mates. It was the same outcome, though, as he excelled, scoring 10 goals and leading the league in assists, delivering the 2016 under-17 Rio de Janeiro State League title to Flamengo.
# He achieved his highest level of fame as a youth player in 2017 when he led Flamengo to victory in the Sao Paulo Youth Cup, the largest under-20 football competition in Brazil. Even though he was three years younger than the maximum age, Vinicius was one of the stars of the tournament.
# Flamengo signed Vinicius on a three-year professional contract as soon as he turned 16 with a buyout clause of €30m, inclusive of the club retaining 90 per cent of his economic rights. Major European clubs like Barcelona and Madrid were among the first to express interest in signing the young striker after his outstanding performances at youth level.
# Vinicius debuted for Flamengo on May 13, 2017 as an 82nd minute substitute in a Brazilian Serie A 1-1 draw against Atletico Mineiro. Two days later he extended his contract with the club from 2019 until 2022, with a significant salary increase and a buyout clause increase to €4m5. Ten days after his senior debut, his planned transfer to Real was made official.
# On 10 August 2017, he scored the first professional goal of his career in a Copa Sudamericana second-round leg two match against Palestino, in which his team won 5-0. He scored the goal, Flamengo’s fifth of the game, 30 seconds after coming on in the 72nd minute. On August 19, 2017, he scored his first Brazilian Serie A goals for Flamengo, in a 2–0 victory against Atletico Goianiense.
# In March 2017, Vinicius debuted in the under-17 South American Championship for Brazil with a goal in a 3-0 victory over Peru. In the final stage, he scored two more in a 3-0 win over Ecuador and a brace in a the success over Colombia by the same scoreline, securing Brazil’s place in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup in India. He was named the tournament’s best player and was top goal-scorer with seven goals.
WHAT DO PEOPLE SAY ABOUT HIM:
“We’ve got to be careful with him because there are big expectations and that could affect him,” said the former Flamengo man.
“He’s 16, everyone’s putting pressure on him, saying that he has to play. Yes, that’s good in certain conditions, but we have to be calm and not think that he has to do the same as what he produced in the under-20 side. We can’t put him under pressure.”
“Real Madrid are gambling and they think that he’s going to be a key player, a Galactico,” noted the 1997 Copa America champion.
“They need a replacement for Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and the other players. Their team needs rejuvenating. They don’t want Vinicius to go to another team in Europe and then have to sign him from there. I think that it’s a gamble.
“And if it goes well at Real Madrid? Then he’d cost €200m. He’s good, for his age, he’s above average. He’s still got a lot to learn. Neymar didn’t drop away when he went for big money, Robinho did.”
“He’s got to go calmly, he’s only 16,” stated the 53-year-old.
“I started to play professionally at that age. I know Vinicius, he’s a good guy, calm, with a good head. He’s a very quick and intelligent player, he knows how to score goals.
“I think that he has everything to be a great player but we’ve got to stay calm. If the lad didn’t have his family it would be more difficult, but he’s got a good head.”
BRAZIL U-17s COACH CARLOS AMADEU
“Vinicius has everything to become a top-quality player, to move up to the senior Brazil squad and play for the biggest clubs around the world.
“If he remains focused on his goals, he has all the tools. He has a lot of technical qualities and is showing a cool head in amongst all the glamour that is currently surrounding him. He has remained balanced, and if he stays like that he can reach the top.”