To start with, it's impossible for me to grade the impact of a transfer class immediately after the transfer window ends. Deals may look great on paper but turn out to be utter busts, and vice versa as well. Ideally, we'd be evaluating these moves at the end of the season when we've had a larger sample size to work with and not before some players have even had a chance to make an impact. However, what we can grade is the price, length of contract, how well the players appear to fit the scheme and what player(s) had to be shipped out to accommodate the arrivals.
Here are my grades on Real Madrid's transfer activity this summer, feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section.
Toni Kroos: Arrived from German powerhouse Bayern Munich for €30 million following the World Club. From a financial perspective, €30 million for someone who has a Champions League and World Cup title under his belt as a starter is a fantastic deal and especially with it weakening a European rival. Of course, him being in the last year of his contract with Bayern helped but that price for someone of his control of a game and versatility as both a central midfielder and central attacking midfielder is a coup. Kroos was immediately installed as a starter and has generally been excellent. His defense could use improvement but his passing range, calm under pressure and experience will make him a surefire starter in almost every game under Carlo's new possession-heavy scheme and for years to come in his six-year contract. Grade: A.
James Rodriguez: Arrived from Monaco for €80 million with the contract length being six years. At first glance, the price for someone who is so young and hasn't played in a major league or on a major club is concerning. Yes, he has had a couple of very good seasons coupled with an excellent World Cup (six goals in five matches to his name), but this price is paying more for potential rather than current ability. He has experience playing on the wings but thrives best as a CAM, though Carlo doesn't really employ such a player in his system so it remains to be seen how J-Rod will adapt to the system. So far, he's played in a number of roles for Madrid and has done best as a #10, but will primarily play on the left as either a deeper midfielder or Cristiano Ronaldo's backup. However, the first thing anyone will think about when discussing him is the astronomical price and his transfer potentially driving other players out of the club, whether that's fair to him or not. Grade: B-.
Keylor Navas: Arrived from Levante for €10 million, signing a six-year contract. Navas was arguably the best goalkeeper in La Liga last season and one of the two or three best keepers in the World Cup, especially when you consider the defenses trotted out in front of him. Agile and with springs in his feet, Navas was thought to be serious competition to club legend Iker Casillas but it appears that the coaching staff has other ideas as Navas has barely seen the pitch and might be destined to only tend the net in the Copa del Rey. However, as Navas arrived that meant that former keeper Diego Lopez had to leave for A.C. Milan since he deserved starting minutes as well. That being said, considering that walking error Claudio Bravo cost Barca €12 million to sit on the bench, the Navas deal will be an excellent one should he ever get to play. Grade: A-.
Javier Hernandez: The man known as Chicharito arrived on loan for €2.5 million with an option to buy at the end of the season. Hernandez has built his career on being an impact substitute off the bench as over half of his 37 league goals for Manchester United have come as a sub. Chicharito is essentially the textbook definition of poacher, he's not particularly elite at anything but he regularly manages to find a way to get in front of net with a goal soon to follow. While he may not be the most viable option to be a regular starter, bringing him on late in games to run at tired defenses gives Carlo another strong option in order to unlock the opposition. Hard-working and enthusiastic, he'll certainly be a welcome alternative to what Karim Benzema can provide even though he's not the big-name striker some fans clamored for. Given his price, experience and track record, this is a sneaky good deal by the club. Grade: B+.
Nuri Sahin: Still somehow under Madrid's possession, Sahin finally returned to Borussia Dortmund for a fee of €7 million. Unfortunately, his Real Madrid stint never panned out as he was eventually loaned to Liverpool and back to BvB. Considering that he was never going to return to Real Madrid, getting something back for his transfer is better than nothing. Ultimately, the way in which this transfer never panned out was not good for the club or the player.Grade: C.
Alvaro Morata: Departed for Juventus for €20 million on a five-year loan with Real Madrid having the option to purchase him back for a fee reported to be around €30 million. While Morata was a youth product who certainly gave it his all on the pitch, he just seemed to be a little bit short of first-team quality at times and the opportunity to get more minutes at Juve is good for both him and Madrid. When you take into account that Morata was replaced by Chicharito, and given the somewhat shocking price that Morata was sold for, this is certainly a good deal for Real Madrid in every way. Grade: A+.
Jesús Fernández: Departed for Levante for €500 thousand. Honestly, he was always a consummate professional who deserved to be a starter elsewhere as there was virtually no way he'd be guarding the goal for Real Madrid. Good deal for all parties. Grade: A.
Diego Lopez: Lopez left for A.C. Milan on a free transfer. Yes, free. Real Madrid apparently bought out the rest of his contract thus allowing him to sign with the Italian side. Given that he cost Real Madrid €3.5 million two years ago and that they had to pay him to leave for free, this was very poor business on behalf of the club. Then we have to factor in that the team is now short of a genuinely tall goalkeeper and someone who was willing to stay and fight for his spot. Poor business, poor public relations, poor roster management. Grade: F.
Casemiro: Departed on loan to FC Porto for €1.5 million with the option to buy him back at the end of the season. Casemiro got very few minutes last season after initially impressing in the preseason. He played fairly well but minutes were hard to come by so it's natural that the club sent him out on loan where he can be a consistent starter with the chance to develop his game. He cost Real Madrid €6 million so getting €1.5 million is a pretty decent amount. Grade: B.
Angel Di Maria: Departed for Manchester United for €74.95 million with an additional €10-15 million in potential performance-based bonuses which Real Madrid would receive. Depending on which side of the fence you sit on, this could either be the death knell of this club's title chances this season or a brilliant business move by the board. I sit in the middle. I think the amount the club got for him when he probably wouldn't have even cost €30 million last season is a masterclass in business, but I worry about the midfield's balance and penetration with him gone. I'm not one who thinks the J-Rod transfer drove him out as the alleged raise which ADM was offered took place far before J-Rod joined, not to mention that they play different positions. He was offered a new deal, he declined and took a bigger on at Manchester United. I can't fault him for that nor can I fault the club for making an absurd amount of money off of his transfer. But from an on-pitch perspective, the team is (for now) weakened with his departure. Grade: C-.
Xabi Alonso: Departed for Bayern Munich for €10 million. While ADM left for a struggling midtable side which probably won't be a threat to Real Madrid in the Champions League for a while, Xabi was sold to one of the very few teams considered to be serious contenders in the Champions League. Even worse is that he's exactly what Bayern needs and that he'll be managed by a man disliked by a large portion of the Real Madrid fanbase. Alonso, for as much as I love him, isn't the player he used to be though and struggles with fast, physical sides that are unafraid to press him. My bigger issue isn't so much with replacing him on the pitch (as Illarra has to play eventually), but it's that he requested to be transferred so close to the transfer deadline, thus putting the club in a brutal position to try and find a quick midfield addition to compensate for his loss (which they didn't do). Losing ADM hurt the midfield depth, losing Xabi was rubbing salt in the wound. Time for Illarra and Isco to step up. Grade: C-.
The club added arguably the best attacker in the World Cup, one of the best midfielders in the world, the league's best goalkeeper from last season and possibly the most honed poacher in the game. They did all this with an approximate €8 million net loss. Financially this was an A+ summer. Additionally, they DID address certain needs which were evident going into the summer. They bought a younger goalkeeper to eventually take over, they signed a world-class CM, they added a versatile attacker in light of Jese's injury and they added a backup to Karim Benzema.
If we stopped right there then we'd have no cause to complain, but what this club had to give up in order to acquire those players, namely Di Maria and Alonso, could prove to be an unnecessary hurdle to overcome. The players to replace them are at the club and ready to contribute but the amount of growing pains and lack of experience in big matches makes Carlo's job potentially even more challenging than last year in a season where we thought this club would cruise for the most part. Two of the biggest keys to Real Madrid's balance, penetration and control are now gone and their replacements are no older than 24. While I don't think that all the players coming and going are linked to each other and that any blame can be aimed at one person only, it seems that the offseason strategy that started so well with Kroos fell apart so quickly by the time Xabi asked to be shipped out. That's genuine cause for concern.
It's still incredibly early in the season and I still think this team will gel sooner or later and that they'll be serious contenders across multiple competitions as this is still one of the best collections of talent in the world, but I feel less confident about that now as opposed to three months ago when you consider who left and how the competition has gone about their summers. Overall grade: C-.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments section and remember, please keep things civil as these grades are by no means scientifically developed. They're just our subjective takes on the summer.
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