Looking back to the start of the European football season, La Liga looked to be in a state of austerity. The coronavirus pandemic had clearly implemented the resources of even Spain’s biggest clubs, as both Real Madrid and Barcelona failed to renegotiate contracts for their best talent. The likes of Lionel Messi, Raphaël Varane and Sergio Ramos all parted ways with the Spanish top flight, and with the Catalans struggling at the start of the season, Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid looked destined to win consecutive titles.
Madrid, still in a period of transition after losing Cristiano Ronaldo, had looked a pale imitation of the side that won three Champions Leagues in a row, but under Carlo Ancelotti, back at the Santiago Bernabéu for a second stint in charge, it was impossible to rule them out in the title race on the betting exchange. Nine months on, and Los Blancos are champions, gearing up for another European final as they take on Liverpool at the Stade de France in Paris, hoping to win the big-eared trophy for the 14th time. But where do they go from here?
The squad isn’t getting any younger and while Vinícius Júnior, Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga are rare exceptions, the majority of the dressing room are ageing and fresh faces will be required if Madrid are to remain competitive. With a transfer attempted spurn for Kylian Mbappé now the Frenchman signed a new deal at Paris Saint-Germain, Ancelotti will have to delve into other options to bolster the ranks in the Spanish capital. Let’s take a look at three players which will improve Real Madrid next season.
While it looked for some time that Aurélien Tchouaméni was set to join Madrid’s Champions League opponents Liverpool, it seems like the midfielder has performed a U-turn and is now set to ply his trade in La Liga. One of the most sought-after players in Europe, the Monaco man has the perfect blend of dynamism and creativity, and at just 22 years old, can be a mainstay in the team for years to come.
His versatility means he can play as a holding midfielder as well as a ball carrier, similar to French compatriot Camavinga, but given the experience and consistency of the current Madrid midfield, he might find game time hard to come by in his debut season.
It looks more and more likely that Gareth Bale will be heading for the Madrid exit door this summer. As indispensable as he was in his early years, the last two or three years have been tough for the Welshman, who should really be held in higher regard at the Santiago Bernabéu. Bale is realistically a club legend and replacing him won’t be easy. But given Madrid’s reputation of signing promising Brazilians, Anthony could be the next in line to wear the famous white strip after impressing at Ajax.
The 22-year-old is blessed with the same natural pace as Rodrygo on the right wing and while the latter has produced some big moments in Europe, his best performances have come from a substitute role and Anthony could provide the proficiency that neither he or Federico Valverde can offer. Eric ten Hag leaving Amsterdam will be a massive boost for the transfer, with Anthony more likely to leave, set to cost Madrid well over £50 million.
Now the Mbappé deal is officially off the cards, Madrid have to look at a different long-term successor for Karim Benzema, who will be 35 by the end of the season. As much as he is ageing like a fine wine, and will probably still find goals despite his age, Ancelotti will be reluctant to not try and find someone else to bring in, and turn their attention to AC Milan striker Rafael Leão.
Having scored 11 goals and provided 10 assists in 34 Serie A games, Leão was instrumental in the Rossoneri winning their first league title in over a decade, and having proved he wasn’t just a flash in the pan at Lille, the Portuguese international could well make the next step to La Liga. With Ancelotti having a good relationship in Lombardy, he could well influence a move for the 22-year-old, who would bring a different dimension to the Madrid team with his pace to run in behind as well as play as a target man, compared to Benzema who prefers coming deep.