The end of 2012/13 Spanish season means the dawn of the ever-exciting summer transfer window.
What can be described as a truly disappointing campaign, Real Madrid are expected to splurge the cash in the pre-season, with Santos starlet Neymar and Wales international Gareth Bale reportedly at the helm of Los Blancos' transfer wish-list.
Hence, we analyze who among the two highly-rated attackers, fits the bill for Madrid's "Galactico" signing of 2013.
The Madrid Style
Before analyzing the players, it is important to understand what Real Madrid expect from their attackers on the pitch.
Under Jose Mourinho, the Whites have seen their attackers play a highly versatile role.
Hence, an ideal potential attacker for Madrid must possess pace, adequate finishing skills, great positional understanding, ability to get the ball into the box from wide areas and the traits to beat his marker. Lastly, he should also be able to provide defense-splitting through balls (since they average seven through balls per-game, second highest in the league) and link up extremely well and speedily.
The traditional No 7s and No 9s can't easily play in Madrid's system, fortunately though, both Neymar and Bale are habitual to playing in different roles.
Although Neymar seems to heading towards Camp Nou this summer, reports suggest that the Brazilian could still be donning a Madrid jersey if things go as planned.
As his performances in Brazil have showed, Neymar is a promising lad. With lightning-fast pace and exemplary dribbling skills, Neymar can easily beat defenders in one-one-situations, which often opens up space in the final third for his team. His crossing needs improvement, but the youngster's finishing is of top-notch quality.
Moreover, Neymar can easily draw defenders out of position to open up channels and can team-up equally well. Any Santos fan will tell you that that also Neymar exhibits wonderful vision to pick out his teammates and with Madrid playing a influenced by a direct counter-attacking approach, this trait could serve as an invaluable asset to Mourinho (or whoever replaces the "Special One" at the end of the term).
Not to forget, Neymar can play all along the attacking line, although like many, I believe his best position is as a left-winger.
Struggler Outside of Brazil?
As impressive as Neymar is inside Brazil, the latter hasn't performed at the same level against top-level clubs and in international matches.
He gets dispossessed way too easily, is slow with his decision making, fails to link-up well, gets very clumsy with his tackles and succumbs to the pressure of playing on the big stage.
This is mainly because against the 'good' sides, Neymar is not provided with the same time on the ball as he is against the 'minnows' in the Brazilian league. He is quickly pressed and crowded, which actually could benefit Madrid during games as it will open up space for his colleagues- however, it looks unlikely whether Neymar will be able to get the ball into these 'gaps' as his passing when pressurized looks mediocre.
Nonetheless, since Madrid's game is very technical and pacey, Neymar could find it hard to gel with the team, mainly because his inability to react quickly when being hunt down by the defenders.
Therefore, the Brazil international needs some years of development at a European club, to learn to cope up with the pace of European football. However, after spending around £50million on the lad, will Madrid want to wait for around two seasons to see the true worth of Neymar? Highly unlikely.
Neymar potential transfer fee makes him a player who needs to make an instant impact at any club he joins, but looking at his performances against the likes of Barcelona and Russia, it's hard to see that happening.
1. Possess all the skills to flourish at Madrid if given around two years development time.
2. Great marketing tool.
3. Will add great depth to the team as he can play all along the attacking line-up.
4. With his breakout pace and trickery, he can easily open up space in congested areas.
5. His finishing is world-class, something both the Madrid strikers have lacked this season.
1. He requires some development years
2. Largely inexperienced.
3. More options available at the same price in the transfer market.
The talisman of the Tottenham Hotspur side, Bale recently accomplished the rare 'double' at the annual PFA awards.
Rightly so, the Wales international has been in impressive form this season and according to virtually all the transfer stations, Madrid is the most likely destination for the former Southampton youngster.
Bale's most fearsome attribute is his pace. He can't play with the back to the goal and frankly, only flourishes when given space to utilize his speed.
Since AVB likes his players to swap positions, Bale can gel in well at Madrid, although he needs to work on his ability to beat his marker not just with pace, but with dribbling skills.
Playing in the No 10 role for the past few months, Premier League teams have realized that if they close down the zones for Bale to roam in, the Welshman can't make a significant impact on the game. Even though, with Madrid's counter-attacking team, Bale will be bound to find the much-needed space and gaps, he will certainly struggle in games like against Espanyol.
It has been in such games that Madrid have lost most of their points this season, therefore, one needs to think about more dynamic players who can provide something different to break up the opposition.
Finally, Bale is also a decent crosser of the ball but shows unwillingness to track back and help out his teammates while defending.
If Bale arrives at Madrid, the biggest question is about his role in the team.
He can't plays as the No 10 as the 23-year-old can't control the team's attack in the same way as Oezil. The German's silky through balls, meritorious vision and fantastic link-up play make him a shoe-in for the 'trequartista' duty and it's hard to see Bale taking over the former Werder Bremen's man role.
Bale struggles to play in congested areas and unlike Oezil, tends to focus on goal-scoring rather than his creative threat (moreover, if Madrid want more of a goal-scoring threat then Neymar is clearly the better option).
On the wings, Bale can only provide cover for Angel Di Maria and Ronaldo. His playing time will depend on how the manager rotates his starting XI and Bale's capability to outperform Di Maria on a regular basis.
Hence, Bale will have an unsettled role at Madrid.
On the other hand, apart from the flanks, since Neymar can also play as the striker, this makes the Barcelona-target a more suitable option.
The Olympics star will have a decent shot at playing ahead of Karim Benzema due to the France international's inconsistencies this season (on the other hand, Gonzalo Higuain will probably leave if Neymar happens to join Madrid).
1. Given space, he can wreak havoc against any defence.
2. As a winger, Bale can be highly productive and provide width to Madrid's game.
3. Potential long-term replacement for Ronaldo.
4. Experienced and has European pedigree.
2. Questions regarding where to play him.
3. Better and cheaper options available in the market.
Conclusion: Personally, I believe Madrid should invest money in a true striker like Edinson Cavani, who is proven goal-scorer and can execute the chances created by Di Maria, Özil and Ronaldo. Both Neymar and Bale are highly overrated.