Movers and Shakers: Real Madrid in the transfer market

by Charlie Coffey

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

A typically emotional and protracted ceremony at Santiago Bernabeu finally saw the back of Real Madrid’s heartbeat for the past 15 years. The departure of Raul Gonzalez Blanco, patron saint of Real Madrid, has paved the way for a new generation of talent to end what has been, by Real’s gargantuan standards, a barren spell encroaching on disaster.

While the worldwide poverty standard is about three dollars per day, in the lavish, gluttonous world of Real Madrid silverware is bread and water. Anything less is punishable by death, and so we have seen eight heads roll in the past eight years. The remedy: an appointment with Dr Mourinho, the man who pulls superstar squads together to function as one powerful organism and, most importantly, wins trophies with ruthless precision and consistency. The departure of Raul, known to be a huge influence in the dressing room, has given Mourinho license to mould the club in his image.

Without Raul, what does Mourinho have? In short, a squad packed with talent who should challenge the best in the world. The problem is that this is exactly who they will have to beat. Last year Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Madrid scored more goals and accrued more points than any Real team in history (96) but were still second best to Barcelona, who have squeezed probably the world’s best striker, David Villa, into their groaning ranks of talent since then.

Mourinho will doubtlessly bring in defensive players, with his old stalwart Ricardo Carvalho already earmarked to follow his master to pastures new. Pepe and Raul Albiol will have to prove their worth if they are to achieve a position in the side of a manager who favours regular starters and a minimal squad, especially with talk of the hyperactive Sergio Ramos tucking infield to accommodate a marauding but disciplined full-back in the Real tradition (that’ll be Maicon, then!). The priority, though, is at left-back, where the converted wingers Marcelo and Royston Drenthe (who it is rumoured will sign for Liverpool) hardly fit in to the Mourinho work ethic.

With Xabi Alonso and ‘Lass’ and Mahamadou Diarra already in place the defensive midfield screen is strong, so all Mourinho needs to do is decide which attacking formation will shape success at home and in Europe. The key men, of course, are the £140 million duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka. If Mourinho can use his famed man-management skills here Madrid have the advantage of physical power with technique over Barcelona’s vertically challenged attack.

Mourinho’s teams often function as 10 defenders with one big striker: a Drogba, Ibrahimovic or Milito. Will Ronaldo be that Striker, shorn of the defensive responsibility that he can often shy away from? He did not look too happy in that role in South Africa. If not can Mourinho make him work for the team, as he did so successfully with Samual Eto’o last season?

Kaka can be the central playmaker, as he was for Milan with incredible results. Last season he was pushed out left and was a shadow of his former self. Kaka can be for Real what Wesley Sneijder was for Inter last season, but only if he is allowed the space to do so. If Ronaldo can swallow his pride and operate as an out and out winger in a three-pronged attack Real could be devastating.

On the other flank there are choices in the shape of a trio of young attackers Real have already signed in the off-season: The purchases of Pedro Leon (a right winger) and Angel Di Maria (a left winger) suggest that Mourinho will persevere with a three-pronged attack. The presence of Raul, predominantly a central second striker, would have made this hard to implement and last season starved Kaka of the central berth he craves. Mourinho also has the prodigious young talent of Sergio Canales in attacking midfield as cover for Kaka.

The only decision left is in the central striking position. As already mentioned Mourinho likes a big man but also a reliably finisher. Gonzalo Higuain ticks both boxes, is unfashionable and works hard: a perfect striker in Mourinho’s surgical eyes. The Special One could also be the one to turn around the Real fortunes of Karim Benzema, who also has his required attributes, if they resist the courtship of Manchester United.

Do you agree? What would your dream Real Madrid XI be?

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