“Changes are needed and we will make changes,” said Zinedine Zidane during his first press conference after returning to Real Madrid last March. Los Blancos appeared set to rebuild most of their squad after a disastrous season where almost every player failed to perform under all three coaches Lopetegui, Solari and Zidane himself.
The transfer window has closed and it turns out that Real Madrid will face the upcoming season with the same starters they had last year and the addition of Eden Hazard. Madrid needed what Hazard provides after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, but it’s clear that coach Zidane wanted to add some quality players to his midfield as well. Paul Pogba was reportedly his main target, with Christian Eriksen, Donny Van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes as other options if Manchester United refused to sell the French star.
In the end, Real Madrid needed to improve their midfield and got rid of Dani Ceballos —loan deal to Arsenal—, Mateo Kovacic —sold to Chelsea— and Marcos Llorente —sold to city rivals Atletico de Madrid—. Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric will be the undisputed starter and Fede Valverde will be their one and only pure replacement in the entire roster, with Isco and James playing as central midfielders if needed.
What happens if Modric or Kroos get injured? Neither Isco nor James provide that steady presence in the midfield and Valverde just isn’t ready to be a key starter in a team competing for all three titles, no matter how much Zidane likes him.
The Casemiro-Kroos-Modric midfield trio hasn’t worked properly for over a year. Now, not only they’ll spend another season as crucial starters, they also don’t have a quality backup. Real Madrid added some solid depth to the roster by signing Jovic, Militao and Mendy. Hazard will be one of the team’s leaders. Still, Los Blancos needed some desperate help in the midfield and ended up falling very, very short.