The Next Galactico
The year was 2000. Real Madrid had just won "la octava" its eighth European cup by beating fellow Spanish side Valencia in the final. The Whites, who wore black on the night, comfortably disposed of Valencia (3-0) in Saint-Denis, in what was the first European Cup Final to pit two teams from the same country against one another. Morientes, McManaman and Raúl got the goals to hand the los Blancos the victory. It was their second European cup triumph in 3 years and it seemed Real were well underway to becoming the dominant force in Europe. Alas....
That summer a former Spanish civil engineer turned construction magnate took over as president of Real Madrid. His name was Florentino Perez and the era he ushered in was that of the galacticos. It involved paying enormous transfer fees for the best and most marketable players in the world. Although Real Madrid won its ninth European cup in 2002 and the league title in 2003, the first galacticos era was considered a failure as the club managed to win very little between 2003 and 2007. When Perez took over as president in 2009, it was only a matter of time before the mammoth signings were announced. Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema, Raul Albiol (well they had to buy a defender of some sort) were signed in his first season. Mezut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Sami Khedira followed in his second season. Also a certain Jose Mourinho was brought in as manager. A superstar manager for a superstar squad. 2011 saw the arrival of Fabio Coentrao from Benfica for the tune of 30 million euros and 2012 saw the signing of Luka Modric for 42 million euros. 2013 will undoubtedly see the arrival of another galactico. Who will it be which player would best fit into Real Madrid? In this article I go over all the players who might join Los Blancos next season.
This season has been Gareth Bale's best season. One of the best players in the premier league, the Welshman has scored 22 goals and provided 6 assists in 36 appearances in all competitions for club and country. He would be an asset to any team with his blistering pace and crossing ability. However this season, Bale has shown that he is more than capable of scoring goals when playing in a more central role. Real Madrid possesses a multitude of talent in the attacking department and Bale would just add to that. But where exactly would he play?
1. On the wing: The thought of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo running down the wings is truly a scary thought. The duo would be capable of switching flanks midway through a match and the in tight matches Bale's pace would be the key in unlocking tight defences. The problem is that Madrid already has a brilliant winger in Angel Di Maria. Di Maria is one of the best wingers in the world and on his day can be unplayable. His trickery and ability to take on defenders is second to none. In 27 appearances this season for club and country, he has scored 6 goals and provided 8 assists. Also Di Maria has always performed well against big teams. He has provided the most assists in this season's Champions League with 4 assists in 6 games. Some might say that Bale would be replacing Ronaldo, who is going to leave the club. I can assure you that, this will not be the case. Ronaldo is already a Real Madrid legend and is well on his way to becoming its leading goal scorer.
2. Down the middle: Bale could play down the middle in place of Mezut Ozil alongside Di Maria and CR7. He has been employed in this position by Spurs, but I doubt he will replace Ozil. Bale does not have Ozil's passing ability and ability to carve teams open with that one key pass. Also playing Bale down the middle wastes one of the Welshman's biggest talents: His ability to cross the ball. Also the German maestro was instrumental in Real Madrid's surge to the title last year. He provided the pass that led to Ronaldo's title clinching goal at the Camp Nou. This season he has scored 7 goals and provided 9 assists for club and country. He will likely be Madrid's No. 10 for some time to come.
3. Left Back: Bale started out as a wing back early in his career and could play in this position at Real. The problem is that Madrid already have to quality left backs in Marcelo and Coentrao. Coentrao especially has been brilliant lately for Real and Marcelo before his lengthy injury layoff had had a brilliant year which saw him get named in the FIFA Team of the year. Coentrao/Marcelo might play in the right back position in place of Arbeloa and Bale could play on the left. The problem with this is that Bales ability as a defender aren't the best and I can hardly see him starting at left back against a team like Barcelona or Bayern Munich.
4. Wing Back: A rare possibility. Playing 3 central defenders and using Bale and Di Maria down the wings. Highly unlikely, but still a possibility. Madrid used this system in 2002 with Roberto Carlos and Michel Salgado playing as wing backs with Hierro commanding the defence. Could happen in the future with Varane assuming a similar role.
The 21 year old Brazilian already commands one of the highest transfer fees in World Football. Many believe that Neymar will make the switch to Europe this summer. Those vying for his signature: Almost every big club in the world including Barcelona. Madrid would buy him just so that Barcelona can't have him. Neymar has scored 16 goals in 21 appearances this season for club and country and with Brazil hosting the world cup in 2014, the forward will be eager to gain some experience at the highest level before the tournament. Neymar like many Brazilians possesses extremely quick feet and his ability to take on defenders makes him a very dangerous player to play against. Although it will take him some time to get used to the more physical style of play used in Europe, a move to Spain will provide him with the best platform to do so due to the high level of technical ability seen in La liga. Technical ability is something that Neymar possesses in abundance. For Santos, he plays usually as a striker or down the wing. He is often given the permission to roam free in front of the opposition defence and it is here that he is at his best. His role at Madrid would probably be one of the following:
1. Down the wings: At 21, Neymar has a lot to learn and at Real Madrid he would be able to learn from one of the best wingers in the world. When Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United, he shared many of the attributes that Neymar has. If Madrid can follow United's example and mould Neymar, he could develop into a truly fantastic player.
2. As a striker: This is Neymar's preferred position and this is the position he would want to play. If Madrid's strikers continue to show the poor form they have been exhibiting of late, then Neymar might be brought in to play upfront.
3. Free Role: This would see Neymar playing in the same position that Messi plays for Barcelona. Madrid have had trouble against team that have defended deep and a tricky player like Neymar could provide key to unlocking tight defences.
The best Spanish player in La liga at the moment. The midfielder has scored 11 goals and provided 4 assists in 32 appearances for Malaga. But that's not the whole picture. Isco is one of the best passers of the ball and has one of the highest pass completion rates at 87%. Only a few players in the world can match that. To put simply Isco has all the abilities that are possessed by both Xavi and Iniesta. He is one of the best Spanish players right now and in my eyes is the one player who Real Madrid should buy at all cost. His 35 million euro price tag will no doubt be lessened considering that Malaga will miss out on Champions League Football for the next two seasons. At 20, Isco will only get better with age. Considering that Madrid have already let one Spanish jewel in the form of Juan Mata slip away, I doubt they would do the same with Isco. At Madrid, Isco would probably play in the midfield alongside Xabi Alonso or Luka Modric and might even be the long term replacement for the Spaniard. A midfield trio of Ozil, Isco and Khedira might be the future of Real Madrid.
The only player who I want Madrid to buy more than Isco is Hummels. The German international is an absolute beast of a defender. At 24 years Mats Hummels isn't even remotely close to his peak years, yet he has already established himself as one of the top center-halves in all of Europe. He has been imperious for Borussia Dortmund in their last two title-winning campaigns, and had it not been for a single lapse against Italy at the Euro 2012 semi-finals, he would've finished the stand-out defender of the tournament. Rumour has it that Bayern Munich only acquired fellow defender Jerome Boateng after Mats Hummels made it clear he would not return to his boyhood club. The current 2012/13 Champions League campaign has finally announced the arrival of Mats Hummels at the European stage. Borussia Dortmund not only topped Group D, the infamous group of death that included Real Madrid, they went unbeaten too. Though Dortmund's attack deserves its plaudits it also has one of the best defences in the world with Mats Hummels at the heart of it. Real Madrid already have one prodigal defender in Raphael Varane and the arrival of another would make Los Blancos a very difficult team to score against. One position where Hummels could play is at centre half alongside Ramos and later alongside Varane with Ramos playing at right back. Real could also switch to a 3 man defence with wing backs. A defence that includes Ramos, Varane and Hummels would be a nightmare for opposing attackers.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
For those of you who do not follow the Bundesliga, this is the man who they consider to be the next big thing. It's not often that a teenager helps bring a club to safety and avoid relegation, but that's exactly what Marc-Andre ter Stegen did for Borussia Monchengladbach during the 2010-2011 Bundesliga season. After having only 16 points from 22 games, ter Stegen was called up from reserves to replace Logan Bailly in net, and the young German did not disappoint. The then 18-year-old keeper played inspired football, and Borussia Monchengladbach turned their season around and avoided the relegation zone to stay in the top flight. Marc-Andre hasn't looked back since his prominent debut and has taken over the reins of the Monchengladbach goal, making 45 appearances for the club since his initial season. He might only be 20 years old now, but ter Stegen has already taken over the responsibilities of team leadership. Many compare him to German legend Oliver Kahn with his aggressive decision-making and his emotional reactions on the field to errors that his defence commits. In two years as the full-time starter, ter Stegen has not only helped his team solidify its place in the top division, but has also helped earned them a place in European competition. His knack for top level performances in big games hasn't gone unnoticed, as he can add Bundesliga shutout victories over top German clubs Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich to his growing resume. After working his way up through the German national team youth squads, ter Stegen was called up to the German provisional squad for the Euro 2012 championships. But, beating out Manuel Neuer for the top German goalkeeping spot is going to be tough as German National Team Manager Joachim Low has made Neuer a first-choice keeper game in and game out. While ter Stegen is still young enough to compete for Germany at the youth national team levels, expect the 20-year-old to become a regular in Low's squads leading up to the World Cup in 2014. Although Casillas has a long way to go, I strongly believe that Marc-Andre ter Stegen should be the next Real Madrid goalkeeper.
These are 5 players who I would like to see join Real Madrid over the next few years. There are many other players who are currently being linked to Madrid, chief among them being Kun Aguero and Edison Cavani. Although they are both good players, I doubt that either of their transfers will happen. Let me know the players that you would like to see join Real Madrid over the next few years and why?