Not too long ago Real Madrid appeared to be stockpiling the best emerging talent from Spain. They were seemingly moving away from their Galácticos policy, instead focusing more on long-term squad building.
But after collecting a number of talented youngsters things haven’t quite worked out, and the project may be abandoned before it’s had time to bear fruit. That means this summer several players could leave the Bernabeu, either permanently or on loan.
It will be a chance for many to get their careers back on track after a season mainly spent on the sidelines. And Premier League clubs should be watching carefully.
According to Marca, Achraf Hakimi, Marcos Llorente, Jesús Vallejo, Theo Hernández, Dani Ceballos and Borja Mayoral could all depart the Spanish capital ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. So which clubs should should be ready to step in and offer them a new home?
We have analysed the six players and determined the Premier League sides that would suit them best. They could certainly all prove bargain signings.
The young Moroccan full-back could find himself in the strange predicament of going to the World Cup but then returning to his club and finding himself unwanted, or at least, nudged out the door on loan.
After starting his Real Madrid first-team career with a series of impressive, assured performances, Achraf soon showed signs of being slightly out of his depth in the Real side. Given how quickly he was thrown into the mix that’s understandable, and there’s no doubt a career at the top level is possible for the defender.
While boasting plenty of pace and good technique, his 1.7 successful dribbles per game emphasise his ability to drive forward and have an influence in attacking situations. Where he must improve, however, is defensively.
Far too often he can be brushed off the ball by physical attackers, and he needs to improve his awareness and positioning when in his defensive third.
Still, he’s made 2.6 tackles per game in his six La Liga appearances this term, which suggests the raw tools to succeed are in place, he just needs to hone and improve.
A mid-table English side could offer him first-team football without the same pressure and scrutiny he’s under at Real. One that aims to play smart, progressive football would be best.
Premier League sides that should be interested: Bournemouth, Swansea, Watford
He has been restricted to just 17 appearances in all competitions this season and that has harmed the young midfielder’s development.
Llorente averaged 3.91 tackles and 2.75 interceptions per 90 in La Liga last season, figures that were among the best in the division. This term though those numbers have dropped to 2.81 and 1.00.
Of course, he is now playing in a Madrid team that dominates matches and his lack of game time will also be a factor. But the drop off is nonetheless indicative of his season.
When trusted Llorente is a player who can sit at the base of midfield and, rather than muscle opponents off the ball, uses intelligence and awareness to nip in before attacks can formulate.
His passing range is also impressive and for any side needing to build from the back he’s an ideal linchpin between the defence and midfield.
For top clubs, he could offer a low-cost alternative to Napoli’s Jorginho, while he could star for sides who have ambitions of qualifying for the Europa League next term.
Premier League sides that should be interested: Liverpool, Newcastle, Crystal Palace
A defender of immense ability, Vallejo’s season has largely been derailed by injury.
He has been restricted to just 554 minutes and his debut was blighted by a sending off. Undeniably talented, Vallejo is a Gerard Piqué-style defender, blending strength with class on the ball.
He is able to move out of the backline effortlessly while in possession and has the vision to play passes into the feet of attacking players. He also has a decent turn of pace, is strong and reads the game adeptly.
No player has averaged more than his 2.75 interceptions per 90 this term, although he has featured just four times in the league with Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane and Nacho ahead of him in the pecking order.
The former Real Zaragoza player, who captained his boyhood club when just 18, needs more minutes to improve his game and a loan move next season could greatly help his development.
Premier League sides that should be interested: Everton, Bournemouth, West Ham
Real Madrid flexed their financial muscle when they paid £26million to sign the full-back from city rivals Atlético Madrid.
After a scintillating year on loan at Alaves in 2016/17, the French-born defender was expected to add new skills to his armoury and then challenge Marcelo for a starting berth.
While featuring regularly in match-day squads, it has been a tough learning curve for Hernández and he has found minutes hard to come by.
When given a chance, however, he’s disappointed and spent a lot time on the periphery of games, looking nervous and overcome by what it means to play for Real Madrid.
— Theo Hernandez (@TheoHernandez) March 31, 2018
Quick, strong and with shades of Gareth Bale about his style with the ball, much more was expected from Hernández.
Tellingly, his good work has been done when he attacks – he’s averaged 2.21 successful take-ons and 0.91 key passes per 90 this term – but defensively he lacks confidence.
Spending another year out on loan would be beneficial for his development, and if he were to move to the Premier League joining a club with a smart tactical, defensive coach, such as Rafael Benitez, could unlock Hernández’s potential.
Teams that should be interested: Newcastle, Watford, Leicester
Perhaps the saddest case of them all. Ceballos was outstanding for Real Betis last season and followed it up with exquisite showings at the European Under-21 Championships in Poland last summer.
Those performances earned a move to Madrid but he has found it difficult to even get into the match-day squad and has seen much of the season pass him by.
Ceballos appeared to turn a corner in September with a brace against Alaves but he has failed to build on that performances and hasn’t won over Zidane.
He’s a player that would suit several top European clubs given his ability and personality on the ball. Ceballos likes to collect possession deep in midfield and construct attacks, control games and take the initiative when others are unwilling to.
In both La Liga and Champions League this season, despite playing minimal minutes, his passing accuracy has been above 93 per cent.
The midfielder is a precise player and his desire to dictate matches is a rare quality. He can be an elite player in the future and is worth spending big on this summer.
Teams that should be interested: Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea
The young striker, who cites Karim Benzema as the reference point for his game, was expected to feature regularly this season after Àlvaro Morata was sold to Chelsea. But he’s been stuck on the sidelines and has been unable to force his way into the team.
Mayoral has, at times, appeared a natural in front of goal. On other occasions he looks anxious and lacks conviction.
His lack of regular football may have to something to do with that, however, in the little game time he’s been handed, the youngster tries to hard to impress and doesn’t play his natural game.
It’s why he needs a confidence-building move away, either on loan or permanently. Several mid-table Premier League sides would be happy to take on a player with Mayoral’s skillset and he could turn out to be a shrewd addition.
Teams that should be interested: West Ham, Swansea, Brighton