Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The Hazardous Road to Eden

Its summer time in Madrid and always a volatile time when Real Madrid president Florentino Perez ruminates over possible new signings. These moments are often accompanied by club clear-outs which over the last few summers have seen the departure of James Rodriguez, Mesut Ozil, and Alvaro Morata – not long after returning from Juventus. All of whom followed the departure of Angel di Maria to Paris Saint German months previously.

Open rumours now suggest that Neymar is the new target – although he has no buy-out clause - but cost PSG £198M when he moved from Barcelona a few seasons ago. If Neymar did arrive in Madrid he would join a distinguished roster of his countrymen that played at the Santiago Bernabeu over the decades. Regretfully, few of whom have been outstanding during their stay, as the likes of Kaka arrived past his peak; Robinho never matured into the promising talent he was; with Ronaldo similarly arriving late in his career and not making a good account of himself beyond 2002 season. The injuries beginning to take their toll on his body. 

The most successful being Roberto Carlos and in more recent seasons, Marcelo. Both allegedly defenders yet more devastating in attack than in their primary roles. Although Casemiro was a favourite of previous manager. Zinedine Zidane, in the middle of the park, it remains to be seen whether he hits it off with new boss Julen Lopetegui. Who traditionally seems to have a preference for more agile players. Then if either Eden Hazard or Neymar Jr arrive at the club it will change the shape of and team and Casemiro no longer looks the right fit. 

Both Hazard and Neymar are players with very different CV’s, the Brazilian having been injured for part of last season and not the same force since his success at Barcelona. The Belgian playmaker meanwhile a steady-eddie at Stamford Bridge since 2012 and able overcome a very difficult season under Jose Mourinho two years ago. With Hazard probably more of what Madrid need given the talented Modric is now on the wrong side of thirty-three – and possibly also facing prison time in Croatia. 

Though an argument can be also made that Neymar fits well into that left-wing spot now left vacant by Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus. Although it is Gareth Bale’s more natural position as he has been accommodated on right side playing second fiddle to Cristiano for the past three seasons. The Welshman made his name at Spurs rampaging down the left flank and that was what made him attractive to Madrid and saw him debut for Wales side under John Toshack. Himself a former Real Madrid manager.

What does seem very clear is that James Rodriguez is not making a return to the Spanish capital from Bayern Munich after his two-year loan period. With an unsettle Matteo Kovacic now looking for more game time after Croatia’s World Cup success and prepared to go elsewhere. Although many might baulk at Madrid’s release clause of €264M. In addition, Karim Benzema has one of the highest buyout clauses at £886 million which makes his future look tricky at 30 years of age. But Perez may have to wheel and deal in order to reduce the playing squad and secure the names he so badly wants. So, anything is possible 

Yet as all managers find out when they arrive at Madrid the club’s commercial needs overrule the playing needs and if Karim has to play to attract a buyer then that is what will happen Also, the attacking midfielders Isco and Marco Asensio were tipped for a bright future at the Santiago Bernabeu and have hefty release clauses. But they maybe on their way too so Perez can fund a Hazard or Neymar’s arrival. Yet Asensio offers the club a huge profit opportunity having been bought for less than 4m euro back in 2014. 

The German Tony Kroos has also attracted interest from the Premier League and at 28 - with three Champions league medals and a World Cup - might feel a change might be good. But he just signed a new deal until 2020 amidst rumours that either of the Manchester clubs were keen on signing him. But Real Madrid perhaps couldn’t afford him to lose him if Perez is targeting the 2019 La Liga title. Although as a life sided player he does add to the clutter with Bale now about, and a Neymar and Hazard. However, that is where Lopetegui has to earn his wages and do his magic to keep all the players happy.

Regardless the road to Eden is well over €200M… so there will be real change aplenty in Madrid this summer. 

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