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Real Madrid will be able to move forward without Ángel Di María

In Kroos and James, Real possess a player that's currently better than di Maria, and one with the potential to surpass the Argentine.

Shaun Botterill

One of the key components regarding long-term success in sports is evolution. Defending a title is easier than knocking a champion off their perch, and resting on your laurels will lead to humbling consequences.

The same logic applies in football - look no further than Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs being dethroned in their respected domestic leagues over the past five years. While the aforementioned German and Italian clubs suffered financial issues, no English club has retained the Premier League crown since 2010, due to a reluctance to build on their success.

In Spain, Barcelona's fall from grace was a bit different; injuries and the opposition identifying a solution to Pep Guardiola's successful philosophy played a significant factor, but the Spaniard's constant tactical tinkering thwarted the clubs cohesion.

While no success is permanent, complacency results in stagnation. Equally, too much change in one period can provide similar issues.

Simply, there needs to be a balance when strolling along the lines of growth and declination.

But here we are in 2014, and Real Madrid lies in the middle due to their superfluous transfer model. Florentino Perez targeted arguably the best performer at the World Cup in James Rodriguez, for a whopping fee of €85m. Toni Kroos also moved to the Santiago Bernabeu for a measly fee hovering around the £20m region, as the German had one year remaining on his contract.

This led to heavy scrutiny following what appears to be their typical post-World Cup transfer activity. In 2002, Golden boot winner Ronaldo made a move to the Bernabeu. Four years later, while Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane moved on - the former was transferred to Milan, while the latter retired - the Spanish giants signed Fabio Cannavaro, star performer throughout Italy's run to their fourth World Cup. Then Madrid settled for Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira in 2010 following a groundbreaking showing in South Africa, as majority of their Barcelona rivals enjoyed World Cup success for Spain.

The trend of purchasing players they don't need continued last year, with Gareth Bale moving to the Bernabeu for a world record fee of £85.3m, following a sensational season at Spurs.

A year later, the criticism has increased as Angel di Maria and Sami Khedira have expressed their intent to leave the club. With the former set for a move to Manchester United for a reported fee of 70m euros, Real will be losing their star performer of last season.

At the turn of the year, Ancelotti's move to a 4-3-3 saw di Maria operate in his natural position as a left-sided shuttler. The Argentine often played deeper and closer to the double-pivot under Mourinho - to compensate for Ozil and Ronaldo's advanced positioning - but his displays were fairly inconsistent.

The move into central midfield, however, enabled the Argentine to play his natural position. Di Maria's dynamism linked midfield and attack with his explosive penetrative runs, devastating pace and trickery to bypass the opposition's midfield.

Ultimately, United will receive a world-class player for an astronomical fee, but Real's decision to allow di Maria to move abroad has been questioned.

Real's two-legged Supercopa defeat against Atletico provided further evidence that the Argentine's admirable work-rate and tireless running were missed. In the first leg, he offered the guile and invention that upped Real's performance - leading to Atletico Manager Diego Simeone praising his compatriot - and his second leg absence saw Atletico claim their first trophy of the season.

"The game changed with Di Maria," Simeone stated following the first leg draw. "It's logical - he's the best player they have."

"He's the player most likely to create openings in the opposition half."

In Kroos and James, though, Real possess a player that's currently better than di Maria, and one with the potential to surpass the Argentine.

The German is a composed midfielder with proficient passing, and the tactical intelligence to locate space throughout central areas to receive the ball. James, on the other hand, is a nifty no.10 that's at his best behind the striker, but can offer a goal-threat in a front three. They both fit Ancelotti's preference of highly technical ball-playing midfielders.

From a financial perspective, it would be foolish to reject United's desperate bid, as the move doesn't place Real in any significant severe danger.

Ancelotti will be familiar with the current situation, following past experiences with money-driven owners and constant squad turnover.

Ideally, the Italian is the best fit at the Bernabeu. Unlike Mourinho, Ancelotti is the ultimate pragmatist, who utilizes systems that benefit his players, opposed to fitting his team around his philosophy. Between being ordered by owner Silvio Berlusconi to play two strikers, to packing several scintillating ball-playing midfielders into his starting XI, Ancelotti found the perfect balance that saw Milan transform into one of Europe's most devastating sides of the current millennium.

Ancelotti strayed away from the popular 4-3-3 at Stamford Bridge during Mourinho's tenure and adopted an unorthodox 4-4-2 diamond, that eventually became a 4-2-3-1 to ensure both Nicholas Anelka and Didier Drogba were on the pitch together; guiding Chelsea to their first league and cup double.

Following a logical, yet harsh Roman Abramovich sacking - Chelsea conceded the league the following season by nine points, with the team performances drastically declining - Ancelotti was lured into a job at PSG. Where PSG was too narrow in the Italian's first season, Ancelotti quickly modified the shape into a 4-2-2-2, which offered natural width and a Ligue 1 title.

Ancelotti is no stranger to trial and error; once the man who refused to stray away from his system to sign Roberto Baggio, Ancelotti is now a shrewd realist.

The Italian's constant tinkering epitomizes his tactical beliefs. Ancelotti is handed jobs that demand immediate results, which could explain the significance of maximizing his players' ability with his exceptional man management skills, and basing his systems on form.

He offers no expression on the touchline, and his simply the coolest figure in the stadium. Not even a move to the Bernabeu raised the grey hairs on Ancelotti's body.

The 55-year-old experimented with a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 last season before acknowledging that 4-3-3 offered his side the required balance to mount a challenge on three fronts.

The formation modifications enabled the world's best wide players in Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo to operate higher up the pitch, whereas each member of the midfield trio offered a divergent element of attack - di Maria was the dynamic shuttler, Modric linked midfield and attack with his passing, while Alonso was the deep-lying playmaker.

Real's recent transfer activity places Ancelotti in a situation reminiscent to his time at Milan. Following Milan's European triumph in 2003, they were victims of two historical Champions League comebacks against Deportivo La Coruña and Liverpool, conceding three goal leads on both occasions.

Then, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf were declining with age, whereas here, both Khedira and di Maria are seeking moves abroad as they can't break into the squad. Currently, there's an issue to address as they don't possess a player with direct attacking verve, and while Kroos and Modric proved they could compete against physical outfits, the lack of a direct combative midfielder could prove costly.

Nonetheless, Real still remain favourites to reclaim their domestic title based on the activity of their two title rivals. Although Atletico defeated Ancelotti's side over two legs - displaying that their philosophy will be left unchanged - does Simeone's side have the gusto and quality to replicate last season's success?

Likewise, will Barcelona immediately transmit Luis Enrique's new approach and push the Catalan club to a title winning campaign?

Of the three clubs, Real represents stability, and they're arguably a stronger squad with the inclusion of their summer signings. Ancelotti has only won three league titles since the turn of the century - despite managing Juventus, Milan, Chelsea, PSG and now Madrid - but with Madrid simply a class above majority of the teams in Spain, going the extra mile domestically is a fairly attainable goal.

There are few logical reasons as to why Real would sell their best player of last season, as the move illustrates the obsessive desire for sheer individualism that represents the club's transfer policy.

The arrivals of Kroos and James forces Ancelotti back to the drawing board, but the Italian's flexibility and Perez's short-term planning - and Ancelotti's lack of a long-term vision, a flaw the 55-year-old possesses, although the jobs he attains could explain his disinterest in developing teams for the future - forms the perfect pair.

Expectations to build on last season's success remain high, but Ancelotti's experience cramming an abundance of attacking players into a fine-tuned cohesive unit offers optimism.

It will take time, but under Ancelotti Real will move forward with, or without, the energetic Argentine.

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