In May 2018, Real Madrid stood at the summit of European football.
Sergio Ramos lifted their third successive Champions League trophy in Kyiv after Real Madrid 3-1 win over Liverpool. Spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo and (occasionally) Gareth Bale, Real stood unchallenged as European football’s best side.
Much has changed since that night in Ukraine. While Zinedine Zidane resigned then returned as boss to guide the side to La Liga’s title in 2019-20, his future is once again in doubt amid the team’s struggles in 2020-21.
Real Madrid are seven points behind leaders Atletico Madrid in La Liga, having played a game more than their cross-city rivals, and were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by 10-man, third-tier Alcoyano.
Los Blancos’ recruitment has come in for plenty of criticism, and we’ve examined their signings since 2018 to see how they’ve managed to spend €500million on 17 different players, with only two of those players – Thibaut Courtois and Ferland Mendy – establishing themselves in Zidane’s starting XI.
As European champions, Real could have been tempted to show faith in the squad that had secured the title in May. However, the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus meant new manager Julen Lopetegui needed to revamp the team to compensate for the loss of an iconic goalscorer.
In fairness, only Thibaut Courtois could have been expected to slot straight into the first team. Joining from Chelsea after a protracted transfer saga, Courtois made an unsteady start to his career in Spain and became lampooned by smug Chelsea supporters on social media.
Despite some Madrid fans pining for Keylor Navas, the Belgium international has come good at the Bernabeu. Courtois only conceded 25 goals as Real won the La Liga title in 2019-20 and has reminded everybody why he is one of the world’s best goalkeepers. Not bad for somebody who looks plucked out of a 1930s newsreel.
It’s a shame the other deals haven’t been quite as successful. Two of the purchases, Brahim Diaz and Omar Mascarell, are currently on loan at AC Milan and Schalke respectively. The much-hyped Vinicius Junior, seen by many in Brazil as Neymar’s natural successor, has impressed in flashes but has struggled during the current season.
Of the other deals, Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Lunin was shortlisted for the 2019 Golden Boy award but, after three loan moves, only made his Real debut in the humbling defeat to Alcoyano; left-back Alvaro Odriozola has made a handful of appearances at both Real Madrid and on loan at Bayern Munich; while Mariano Diaz scored against hated rivals Barcelona but has made just 35 appearances in all competitions across two and a half seasons.
Combined total since 2018: €162.5million
The Santiago Bernabeu is one of the world’s most famous stadiums, but it’s certainly been no garden of Eden.
One of the world’s best players throughout the past decade, the arrival of Hazard in Spain bought with it great expectations. Safe to say these haven’t been met – the Belgium forward has been hit with injury problems and has struggled to replicate his Chelsea form, prompting questions of how he maintains his own fitness.
Whatever the reason for his struggles, 33 appearances and three goals have simply not been good enough.
If anything, Luke Jovic has fared even worse. Signed after his exploits in the Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt, Jovic only scored two goals during a miserable 18-month spell for Real before returning on loan to his former club. Damningly, he matched this goal tally during his first game back at Frankfurt.
Eder Militao has become a squad player since joining from Porto and, aged only 23, will feel confident of dislodging Sergio Ramos once the legendary centre-back has been prised kicking and screaming from the team.
Fellow Brazilians Rodrygo and Reinier have been signed amid plenty of hype, but it’d be pushing it to say either is an established first-team player. Rodrygo scored eight goals last season but has found things tougher this year, while Reinier is struggling for minutes on loan at Borussia Dortmund.
Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola is now at Fulham, while Alberto Soro has spent time at Real Zaragoza and Granada. Forward Takefusa Kubo, described by some as the ‘Japanese Messi’ has been gaining experience at Getafe. He should be one for the future.
The only established first-teamer from the 2019 haul has been Ferland Mendy, who appears to have usurped Marcelo as the club’s first-choice left-back.
Combined total since 2018: €500million
READ: ‘Japanese Messi’ Takefusa Kubo only needed 30 mins to shine at Getafe
Real Madrid haven’t made a permanent transfer this season. Reports suggest the club are holding tight ahead of a big-money move for Kylian Mbappe, while David Alaba is said to have agreed to move to the Bernabeu upon the expiry of his Bayern Munich contract in the summer.
Combined total since 2018: €500million
More Real Madrid
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