If you would've asked me a week or so ago what I thought of Real Madrid's 2015 offseason I probably would've told you that I loved it. Personally, I had several areas clearly in mind that needed reinforcement and the club was right on track in addressing them. Then, in the span of a few short days, many in the fanbase was left with a sour taste in its mouth with a pair of inexplicable decisions that have left the club wide open to scathing questions. So, how'd they do overall? Well...
- Asier Illarramendi, Real Sociedad, €15 million. Disappointment, overrated, underrated, underdeveloped. All words which could be used to describe Asier Illarramendi's tenure with Real Madrid, which has mercifully come to an end as he returned to his childhood club. The club is covered in terms of losing his defensive presence due to the acquisition of Casemiro, but Casemiro doesn't have his passing range and control from deep and one can't help but look at the hefty financial loss Madrid has on its books via Illarramendi. Still, it was clear his future lies elsewhere and the club did well to recoup some of his fee. 6/10
- Sami Khedira, Juventus, €0. Almost a forgotten man in the last two seasons, Khedira's departure was met with more thoughts of what could've been than anger or disappointment. A true workhorse when healthy back in the day, Khedira's injury concerns made the fact that Madrid didn't get a single penny for him just a little more tolerable. Still, with rumors of club willing to pay €15-20 million for him last summer perhaps Madrid should've cashed in on someone who never really fit Carlo Ancelotti's style. Overall, his absence shouldn't be felt too much. 6/10
- Fernando Pacheco, Alaves, €0. Pacheco joins a long line of third-string keepers who weren't poor by any means, but just had little to no chance getting any minutes behind a club legend. The club not receiving any transfer fee for him shouldn't be seen as a problem and him being replaced by an academy option in case of emergency should be just fine. 9/10
- Iker Casillas, FC Porto, €0. The biggest summer controversy and a transfer which did little to repair a fragmented fanbase. From a sporting perspective, this was a good move as Casillas was obviously past his prime despite not being the colossal liability some circles made him out to be. The way in which his exit was handled was far from gracious and Madrid took a notable PR hit, something which was a familiar theme this offseason when the primary goal should've been to quietly address the roster flaws. Financially, the club received nothing though Casillas likely wouldn't fetch much in the market. Overall, not a sporting or financial hit but rather a notable public image one that might take some time to repair. 3/10
- Lucas Silva, Marseille, loan. Silva is a player that's clearly talented, but given the club's non-EU limit and the potential minutes logjam in the midfield a loan option was the best move for the young Brazilian. Michel, current manager of Marseille and former Real Madrid player, took Silva on as a loan project where he should be able to get good minutes on an okay squad. It remains to be seen if he'll spend just one year on loan, but he's someone to watch going forward. 7/10
- Fabio Coentrao, Monaco, loan. An excellent player when healthy, a total mystery when not. Coentrao was the yang to Marcelo's yin, a much more consistent defender with notably less offensive impact. However, injuries, odd form and apparent lack of trust from his manager culminated in the club shipping him to Monaco on a loan. The problem here is two-fold. First, why loan Coentrao instead of just selling him when the club clearly doesn't trust him? Yes, maybe he'll get his game on track and will return to be a valuable member of this squad but that kind of seems unlikely when you consider how the last couple of years have gone. Second, the club loaned him so late in the window that there was practically no time to find a replacement leaving Rafa Benitez to have to rely on Nacho and Alvaro Arbeloa. Honestly, it doesn't even seem like this club was seriously linked to any LB after the Jose Gaya rumors died down months ago. We can talk all we want about Casillas, DDG, no backup striker, etc., but only having one LB on the roster, one with questionable defensive qualities, is a catastrophe of the highest order and something the club should face serious criticism for. 1/10
- Javier Hernandez, Manchester United, end of loan. A late window pickup last season that left many puzzled, Chicharito actually proved his worth late in the season with a priceless winner versus Atletico Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals. Though he didn't get many minutes, Chicharito worked hard and genuinely seemed to have a passion for the club. With Madrid opting not to pick up a second striker, perhaps it would've been a smart idea to buy Chicharito outright but non-EU rules prevented that and he returned to Manchester before being sold to Bayer Leverkusen. One can't help but think if his services will be needed this season should Karim Benzema be unavailable. 4/10
- Danilo, FC Porto, €31.5 million. A breakout RB at Porto last season, Danilo made his name for his marauding surges forward and his consistently solid defense at the back. Seen a a superfluous and expensive buy by some while a necessary backup/starter in a thin position worldwide by others, Danilo provides a good change of pace from incumbent Dani Carvajal. Perhaps a bit of an exorbitant price for a defender, Madrid did allegedly nab him before rivals Barcelona could and given that RB was a position of need for the Catalans maybe this buy wasn't all that bad. Still, one would hope the club would learn to spend a little less on a rotation defender, even one as quality as Danilo. 6.5/10
- Kiko Casilla, Espanyol, €6 million. Casilla returns to Madrid as a backup goalkeeper having spent several years on loan. Casilla, a solid if unspectacular keeper, is expected to pick up the odd matches here or there when Navas is rested or should he pick up a knock. Not a bad price for one of the better league keepers. 8/10.
- Lucas Vazquez, Espanyol, €1 million. A player many fans have been underwhelmed with in the preseason, Vazquez was brought in to be a creative and technically skilled hard worker off the bench. Perhaps his purchase was guided by his history in the Madrid youth system, his low cost and his homegrown stats but perhaps it was guided by the fact that he's content with coming off the bench to serve as a traditional winger on a team with wide players who love to cut inside. He's fast, good in tight spaces and a creative passer. All in all, a solid rotation option for dirt cheap, not too bad. 6/10
- Mateo Kovacic, Inter Milan, €35 million. The biggest purchase of the summer, Kovacic is touted by some to be the heir apparent to Luka Modric. Not only sharing nationalities with Modric, but a similar skillset highlighted by his dribbling skills, Kovacic should serve as the dynamic center midfield bench option that was sorely missing at times last season when Modric went down. The price is a bit on the high side given Kovacic's up and down form with Inter, but the club is paying for potential and he's clearly got it. 7/10
- Casemiro, FC Porto, €7.5. Casemiro returns from his loan at FC Porto where he blossomed into a very solid defensive-minded midfielder to serve as the physical presence fans were clamoring for last summer. Though he's still got room to grow, he should be able to chip in versus sides outside of the upper echelon as long as he's got a capable passer next to him. Due to some strange accounting, the club did end up paying more than they should for him but hey, defensive midfielder is a hot commodity and Madrid got themselves a decent one for a decent price. 7/10
- Denis Cheryshev, Villarreal, end of loan. Cheryshev is an interesting player that some question his place on this team. An out-and-out winger, Denis joins a logjam on the left side of the pitch and likely won't be seeing a great deal of minutes. Though he had a superb season with Villarreal when healthy, and though he can fill in at LB in cases of emergency, perhaps it would've been wisest for him and the club to find a new home with some of the rumored €20 million offers being bandied around. Still, a good option happy to be a rotational player. 5/10
- Marco Asensio, RCD Mallorca, €3.5 million. Technically, Asensio was bought from Mallorca in November and he has featured in the preseason, but he's clearly a project for the future given him being loaned to Espanyol for the season. Widely considered one of Spain's brightest young attacking gems, if not the brightest, Asensio was a steal for that price given how he was Mallorca's leading offensive weapon. He'll have a challenge getting consistent minutes with Madrid in the near future given the attacking talent already on the squad, but the sky is the limit with him should he keep developing. 9/10
- Jesus Vallejo, Real Zaragoza, €5 million. For almost any club, the purchase of Asensio would be the feather in their cap but Real Madrid actually one-upped that buy with the coup of Vallejo's transfer for a paltry €5 million. A player who already has the quality to be playing in the Primera, Vallejo is seen as a generational talent and someone who many view as the future of not only Madrid's back line but Spain's as well. A club captain at age 18, Vallejo has everything one would want in a modern centerback and should be able to crack Madrid's first team within the next year or so. On loan with Zaragoza for one season. 10/10
- Jese as backup striker. Did Madrid need a backup striker? Perhaps. Is it a disaster that they didn't sign one? Not particularly. Jese is someone badly in need of minutes and the hole behind Benzema on the depth chart could provide him that chance. No, he's not a striker and yes, sometimes Benitez will likely field Cristiano Ronaldo there. But Jese is a hard worker capable of harrying opposing backlines and that should win him Benitez's favor sooner than later. A decent change of pace from Benz. 6/10
- Martin Odegaard remaining with Castilla. I'm not sure I get this one. Yes, the club can claim he stayed in order to help the side gain promotion and to learn from the best, but personally this is a move based of his contract and the stipulation that he gets to train with the first team. He's arguably Castilla's most talented player and can certainly help them, but one has to wonder what good getting kicked around in such a low division will do him if expectations are so high. Maybe he'll get a couple first team minutes, but I wouldn't bet much money on it unless some behind the scenes pressure makes it happen. Hopefully he'll help Castilla reach his goal before going on loan to a Primera side next season. 4/10
- Backup striker. Mentioned above, it's not a critical hole on the roster but a stylistic alternative to Karim Benzema could've been valuable when Benz fails to break down an Atletico Madrid type of defense. Rumors of Fernando Llorente persisted and made sense given his skillset being the opposite of Benzema's, but he opted for Sevilla instead. Madrid should still be able to cope given its firepower, but this should be addressed next summer for sure. 5/10
- Backup leftback. How was this not addressed? HOW? We all know what Marcelo brings and how this offense can drop off without him, but his defensive prowess won't set the world on fire and the club should've acquired a defense-first alternative to deal with tricky wingers. Additionally, Marcelo isn't Abou Diaby, but he has missed 35 matches since the start of the 2015 so surely someone capable needs to be able to step in his place in case of emergency. Instead, fans will be treated to non-LB Nacho and non-LB and not good enough anymore Arbeloa trying to replicate the performance of the best offensive LB in the game. A disaster to not replace Coentrao, there's no way around it. 0/10
- David De Gea. Just when you think Madrid couldn't look worse in the public eye this summer, the manage to bumble their way through negotiations for their biggest summer target and miss the deadline to complete the deal. You had all summer and all day to get the deal done, jump on your damn jet and get to Manchester to complete the deal for good, not sit around your Windows 95 twirling your thumbs while United plays you like a fool. Keylor Navas is still there and will give it his all, but Madrid had a chance to guarantee the next goalkeeping era begins right now and missed it. Assign blame however you will, but this was a failure and now the club has to hope De Gea will still be wanting to come to Madrid next summer on a free. 2/10
Net spending: €74.5 million. Overall, the club filled many of the holes it had this summer and made arguably the most talented roster in the world even deeper top to bottom. There are now (almost) two quality players for every position and the side is a good blend of surefire starters and players happy to come off the bench. The offense should still be one of the two best in the world while the defense is locked in for years to come. Additionally, the moves to buy young talents should keep this club well stocked for when the older stars move on.
However, it's impossible to overlook the fact that the club did not replace Fabio Coentrao and is putting all its LB eggs in one basket. With fullback being such a vital position on today's game, it's simply unacceptable to rely on an offense-first FB with an injury history of his own. Toss in the De Gea calamity and the last few days have put a serious damper on what had been a great summer to date.
Overall grade: 6.5/10.
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