These observations — where I look at Real Madrid’s history, its players on loan, Castilla, tactical tidbits, and other relevant thoughts — are now a regular thing. All previous editions can be found here.
Less than three weeks have passed after the season ended on June 4th, on Real Madrid’s last game of the season vs Athletic where Karim Benzema left the field as a club legend to a standing ovation by thousands of appreciative fans.
Since then, Real Madrid have already announced four new players: Jude Bellingham, Joselu, Fran Garcia, and Brahim Diaz. It’s been an active, busy start to the summer transfer window.
But are those signings enough? A video released by a fan this week, where Florentino Perez was seen responding with “no” to a supporter who asked if there will be more signings, has the fan-base panicking. The club’s second highest ever goal scorer, Karim Benzema, has departed. Marco Asensio, scorer of 12 goals and provider of eight assists last season, has left. Mariano Diaz and Eden Hazard have unceremoniously bowed out.
That leaves question marks in attack. How does next season shake out if Florentino Perez indeed means it when he says no more signings? Here are three questions:
Is Joselu enough?
In a vacuum, Joselu is a good signing. He is a risk-free veteran presence and seems to be, somehow, at 33, in the thick of the best stretch of his career. His 16 goals this past season were a career best. He was the third-highest goal-scorer in La Liga. He also provides a real aerial threat. No player in all of Europe’s top-five leagues won more aerial battles (281) in the 2021 - 2022 season. This season, only two players won more aerial duels in La Liga. And all it took to bring Joselu — a former Castilla player — back to the club was a measly loan fee.
Joselu is a player that the club could’ve really benefitted from bringing in last summer as an insurance policy to Karim Benzema. Better late than never. His signing now still makes sense. It’s hard to say no to an experienced player on the cheap, especially one as competent as Joselu who is also one of your own.
But asking Joselu to lead the line is risky, and having him as Real Madrid’s starting striker game-in, game-out, is a little beyond his pay grade. Benzema was a superstar. Beyond being a better goal-scorer than Joselu, he was an elite play-maker and organizer. He marshalled the initial line of defense. Joselu, with all due respect, is a significant downgrade as a passer, ball-carrier, and overall player.
In short, Joselu is not enough, but he can be an important piece.
Was Florentino telling the truth?
After the video of Florentino Perez answering “no” while signing autographs for a fan who asked him “will there be any more signings after Joselu?” went viral, the fan base, in pure and simple terms, melted.
My initial reaction — a sentiment that Euan Mctear shared with me on a podcast Sunday night — was that we are collectively reading too much into that video. It’s always best to under-promise and over-deliver. Why would a president come out and publicly tell a fan ‘yes, we’re signing more!’. Doing so only puts pressure on the board, but, more importantly, does the club no good in the negotiation room if the hands are revealed publicly in such a manner.
Real Madrid lost Benzema and Asensio while ‘freeing up’ two more attacking slots with the departures of Mariano and Hazard (though, in the latter’s case, will still pay a chunk of his salary). There are still voids to fill. Perhaps Joselu getting the ‘14’ and not the ‘9’ is a hint that there is still one more big signing left in the tank.
In short, I don’t think Florentino was telling the truth, but if he is, the club is in for a rude awakening next season.
If he was telling the truth, what’s the rationale?
The striker market isn’t great right now. Splashing on someone who isn’t an apex superstar striker seems like a tough pill to swallow. Some of the names that were thrown out may not be worth the juice. The elite strikers are either impossible to attain or have a risk-factor involved. Harry Kane is the best scorer outside the Mbappe - Haaland duopoly, but Real Madrid have always had reservations splashing big money on players his age. (I think 100m+ for four years of healthy Kane is worth it, but that’s an entirely different article altogether.)
There have been no links with Victor Osimhen, who would cost north of 120m. Dusan Vlahovic, 70m+, doesn’t bring enough to the table outside of goals, and he only scored 10 of those in Serie A last season. Lautaro Martinez is better than Vlahovic, but also significantly more expensive.
But Real Madrid could go another route, and go with younger, cheaper options on players who are on a promising trajectory. A player like Goncalo Ramos, 22, could fit nicely. Ramos is a good goalscorer and heavily involved in build-up play — though not nearly as polished in his link-up play as Benzema. He would be cheaper than any of the aforementioned names, and a depth chart of Ramos, Joselu, and Rodrygo as a false nine, could work.
But you already know where this is going: Committing to more contracts in attack gets in the way of you know who: Kylian Mbappe. Mbappe’s contract runs out in 2024, and maybe there is a chance you can send your cash reserve for him this summer or wait for him for one more year while relying on Alvaro Rodriguez and Joselu as your plan B in the interim.
But relying on Mbappe, who could at any moment’s notice just renew at PSG on another mega-deal, is a huge risk. There are real consequences for not being good next year, including financial penalties for missing out on prize money, something that could easily happen if you can’t compete with the best teams in the world due to lack of goals.
In short, if Florentino is telling the truth, it’s because he’s waiting on Mbappe, which is a huge risk, but, admittedly getting him this summer would be well worth it.