Even with all of the justified hoopla surrounding Real Madrid's young, talented summer signings, some players will undoubtedly show their age this year and begin to regress in their abilities. Who are these players? What can we expect to see out of them?
The most obvious of Real Madrid's declining talents is none other than Iker Casillas. Since his dropping by Jose Mourinho in late 2012, Iker has been an absolute shadow of the once elite keeper he was. Casillas has lost command of the penalty area, is extremely liable on set plays, and has been exposed on his near post on a multitude of occasions. As the face of Real Madrid, it will be difficult to envision Casillas leaving this year, but in all likelihood this will be his last season donning the white strip. Iker will be given a chance to prove his worth, again, in the UEFA Supercup- but judging by his recent performances and the arrival of Keylor Navas, the writing is on the wall for San Iker.
While the decline of Iker Casillas has been evident for some time, the decline of his compatriot Xabi Alonso has been somewhat of a recent revelation. Is a poor World Cup paired with poor preseason play reason enough for Carlo Ancelotti to be worried? According to El Confidencial, Real Madrid are apparently ready to listen to offers for the 32 year-old Basque. While this report is likely rubbish, Real Madrid have been very proactive in improving their midfield this summer, perhaps anticipating the decline of Xabi. It is a fact that Real Madrid seriously struggled to find Carlo Ancelotti's "equilibrio" without Alonso last season, so replacing the aging midfield maestro will be critical. Which direction will Ancelotti turn? Perhaps Toni Kroos will drop deeper, or maybe Asier Illarramendi will finally begin to flourish in the Capital. Whatever the case, the task will be tough for los Merengues.
Finally, a taboo subject must be discussed. Will this be the first season that there will be a noticeable decline in Cristiano Ronaldo? While Ronaldo should be at his physical peak, as he nears 30, concerns must be raised with his niggling knee injury. Knee tendinitis is very tricky, and if not allowed to heal properly, can derail an athlete's career- even if that athlete is the greatest footballer on Earth. Last season, Ronaldo's injuries were dealt with extremely poorly, resulting in his lack of fitness during the season's most critical point. It is imperative that Ronaldo be willing to rest at various points throughout the campaign, and while it may hurt his individual statistics, it will greatly benefit the team in the long run. Ideally, Ronaldo and Real Madrid's oft-criticized medical team will devise a recovery plan that will allow the Portuguese to continue flourishing.