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Assessing the seven stars on Real's summer shortlist

 • by Ryan Baldi
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After years of setting the benchmark for transfer-market extravagance, Real Madrid have steered away from their big-spending ways in recent seasons.

Although they have continued to be successful, winning three Champions Leagues since their last £50million-plus signing – James Rodríguez in 2014 – now on their third manager of the season, it is clear that Los Blancos need to spend big on a squad rebuild.

Here, we run the rule over seven players who’ve been linked with moves to the Bernabéu since Zinedine Zidane returned to the club and analyse which, if any, are likely to be done.

Kylian Mbappé

Arguably the most valuable player in the game, there isn’t a team in the world who wouldn’t want to sign Mbappé from Paris Saint-Germain.

And Real were among the favourites for his signature two years ago, when he burst on to the scene as an 18-year-old with Monaco, guiding the Principality club to an unlikely Ligue 1 title, only for the youngster to elect to remain in France and sign with PSG.

The deal that took Mbappé to the Parc des Princes – eventually, after an initial year on loan with the club – made him the second-most-expensive player in history, behind team-mate Neymar. Any move away from the French capital will surely see him usurp his Brazilian colleague.

Tactical fit: In terms of personality and scoring prowess, Mbappé has the potential to step into his hero Cristiano Ronaldo‘s vacant boots at the Bernabéu and become the attacking centrepiece of the world’s biggest club.

Likelihood: 2/5 – He might prove too costly even for Real Madrid. PSG will want Mbappé to be the face of their team for years to come.

Neymar

Real have been tracking Neymar since his days as a teenage star developing at Santos in his native Brazil. They were beaten to his signature by Barcelona in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped rumours of serious interest in the 27-year-old from the Spanish capital from cropping up each year.

Whether or not Real have a chance of getting their man this summer likely depends on the Financial Fair Play pressure exerted on PSG, and whether Neymar is willing to force through a move back to Spain.

And even if the stars align for Real, they would have to eclipse the world-record €222million PSG paid to snatch the Brazilian from Barcelona two years ago.

Tactical fit: Until a few short months ago, there was an obvious place available for Neymar in the Real line-up, with Ronaldo’s central shift and then departure freeing up the former Barça man’s preferred spot on the left flank. The emergence of 18-year-old compatriot Vinícius Júnior in the second half of this season makes this a little more tricky, however.

Likelihood: 3/5 – Real would surely jump at the chance to sign Neymar, but any deal would require them splashing the vast majority of their transfer budget on one player when other areas of the squad need attention too.

Christian Eriksen

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Perhaps a little burnt out, Eriksen hasn’t been attaining his usual standards of late, but there is no questioning the Tottenham Hotspur playmaker’s immense gifts.

One of the most feared and revered creative players in the Premier League, the Dane is a pillar of the club’s success under Mauricio Pochettino. Signed from Ajax for just £11million in 2013, Spurs could expect to fetch several multiples of that figure if they were to cash in on the 27-year-old even though he only has just over a year remaining on his contract.

Tactical fit: Although there is little in common between Zidane’s Real and Pochettino’s Spurs, Eriksen is versatile and intelligent enough to adapt to an attacking midfield role in almost any system, whether fielded wide, centrally as a No.10 or deeper in a midfield three.

Likelihood: 3/5 – Spurs are notoriously difficult to negotiate with, meaning any deal for Eriksen would likely cost Real close to what they paid for Gareth Bale in 2013. However, Daniel Levy would be loathed to lose the Dane for nothing in the summer of 2020.

Eden Hazard

It just wouldn’t be a summer transfer window without rumours of a big-money move to Real Madrid for Chelsea‘s Eden Hazard.

This year, though, things are a little more complicated. Firstly, there is the matter of Chelsea’s transfer ban, meaning the Premier League club would be unable to replace Hazard if they were to sell him, which surely makes them much less inclined to part ways with their most important player.

But there is also the issue of Hazard’s Chelsea contract, which expires at the end of next season. Might the Blues take the hit on losing their top star without being able to seek a replacement, rather than risk him leaving for free in year’s time?

Tactical fit: As is the case with Neymar, Hazard’s arrival at the Bernabéu would require some tactical Tetris from Zidane. A switch to 4-2-3-1 might be necessary, in order to play Vinícius on the left and Hazard centrally as a No.10.

Likelihood: 3/5 – Zidane is said to be a fan, and, at 28, it might be now or never for Hazard.

Mauro Icardi

A contract dispute turned toxic has seen Icardi stripped of the Internazionale captaincy this season and exiled from Luciano Spalletti’s side, thus sparking rumour that the former Barcelona youngster is set for a summer exit from the San Siro.

A clause in his contract makes him available to non-Italian clubs for €110million, a figure that once would have seemed prohibitive to any potential move, but now, given how the market has inflated in the last two years, it looks eminently affordable to Europe’s elite clubs.

Tactical fit: One of the deadliest goal-scorers on the planet, Icardi would help fill some of the void left by Ronaldo’s departure last summer. His arrival at the Bernabéu would require some tactical adjustment, though, as he does not share Karim Benzema’s unselfishness and ability to link play.

Likelihood: 2/5 – Remaining in Italy seems the most likely outcome, with Juventus and Napoli interested.

Paul Pogba

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It’s that time of year again. An international break at the tail end of the season means star players from around the world are asked questions about their summer transfer plans, which are then dubiously translated and selectively clipped to form sensational headlines.

While on duty with France this week, Manchester United midfielder Pogba admitted playing for Real Madrid under Zidane would be “a dream for anyone”.

The gifted World Cup-winning midfielder has been linked with a switch to the Bernabéu throughout his career, and his superlative form under caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has inevitably led to rumours of reignited interest in the 25-year-old.

Tactical fit: With Luka Modrić’s powers waning, there will soon be an opening in the Real midfield for a world-class creative midfielder. And if anyone knows how to unleash the potential of a skilled, mercurial central midfield playmaker such as Pogba, it’s surely Zidane.

Likelihood: 1/5 – With Mourinho gone, Pogba seems happier than ever at Old Trafford, and United would almost certainly refuse to sell.

Sadio Mané

One of the stars of Liverpool‘s title challenge this season, Mané, like team-mate Mohamed Salah last term, is on course to record the highest goals return of his career, already having notched 17 times in the Premier League.

Mané was also on the scoresheet in last season’s Champions League final, when Real defeated Liverpool 3-1. Of the Reds’ vaunted front three, the Senegalese stood out that night for his work-rate, determination and technical ability.

Tactical fit: Capable of playing anywhere across the second line of attack and with the discipline to adjust to and thrive in any role, Mané would be an asset for Zidane, a player who could balance any forward line.

Likelihood: 1/5 – There are conflicting reports over whether Real are genuinely interested in Mané, and Liverpool are under no pressure to sell one of their best players who evidently enjoys playing at Anfield.

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