It’s another summer in the Spanish capital with Los Merengues failing to have won a trophy last season. Florentino Pérez is the Club President. It can only mean one thing, last season’s coach has been sacked and money has been lavished on new players. It doesn’t have the same ring as “it’s Friday, it’s 5 to 5, it’s Crackerjack”, but it’s no less inevitable than the aforementioned TV show used to be. It’s time, therefore, to run the rule over the latest arrivals at the Santiago Bernabeu and see how they fit in to José Mourinho’s squad.
The first addition to the first team over the summer was announced during the middle of last season. Sergio Canales, the latest wunderkind to emerge in Spain, and the only bright spark for Racing Santander in what was otherwise a dire season for the Cantabrian team, signed for Real in February, following Ezequiel Garay in making the move from Santander to Madrid.
There is no doubting that Canales has a lot of potential at the age of 19. He played in Spain’s European Under-19 Championship squad, scoring against England in the semi-final, but whether he will play enough minutes to continue his development is another matter.
Angel Di María, who arrived from Benfica for a fee that could rise to 36 million Euros, was the next addition to the squad. Di María comes to the Bernabeu holding an Italian passport, and therefore does not count against quotas on non-EU players. He is a pacey left winger, and fills the gap from Arjen Robben’s departure a year ago.
Kaka had often been asked to deputize on the left wing to allow two holding/deep-lying players in the middle to support the defense. Whether Di María is already good enough to play for the first team on a weekly basis is open to debate, even at Benfica he was used in rotation, and has had injury problems in the past, which leave question marks over his overall fitness levels.
Pedro León is the third summer signing, arriving from nearby Getafe, having been one of the standout players of last season for Los Azulones. It was rumored that Real Madrid were interested in signing the young right winger as early as three years ago, along with Chelsea when he was making waves at Murcía, but the youngster moved to Levante instead.
After a season of turmoil at the Valencian club, where he often trained alone due to arguments with other players, he moved to Getafe, where his pace and dead-ball skills meant he shone, and Real picked up their interest again.
Pedro León will almost certainly be a second choice player this season, and I wonder whether he, like Sergio Canales, was signed as much for his nationality as for his abilities. With Raúl and Guti leaving the club, two “homegrown” players have departed the club.
Without these two, Iker Casillas, Álvaro Arbeloa, Esteban Granero and Antonio Adán count as home grown by the club, with Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso and Raúl Albiol counting as home grown in the nation. The Champions’ League requires 8 players in a squad of 25 to be home grown within the nation, of which 4 must be “produced” by the club.
Finally, Sami Khedira is the latest to put pen to paper on a contract at the Santiago Bernabeu. Signing for a reported 15 million Euros after good performances at the World Cup for Germany and solid, consistent play for VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga and Champions’ League, Khedira appears to represent good value for money, something unusual and almost anathema to the Galactico era.
However the center of midfield also appears to already be well-stocked, with Xabi Alonso, Lassana Diarra, Fernando Gago and Mahamadou Diarra at Real Madrid. Khedira’s signing will probably mean the departure of either Gago or the latter Diarra, rumor has it that Mahamadou has been offered to Newcastle ahead of the new season.
How times have changed since he was rated as one of the best central midfielders in Europe at Lyon and sold to Real for a sum in the region of 25 million Euros.
Other rumored targets number among them the usual troupe of football’s great, good and overly hyped. Ashley Cole is said to be a target to fill the problem left-back area, Mezut Özil is reputed to be another target, because you can never have enough clever, attacking schemers, probably.
Maicon is also thought to be close to rejoining Mourinho from Inter Milan, while Ricardo Carvalho, a Mourinho favorite from his times at Chelsea and Porto, is close to joining from Chelsea. The wisdom of signing Maicon seems to depend heavily on your view of Sergio Ramos, who has long been mooted for a switch to center-back.
If you see him as a right back who lacks the positional sense and discipline to play in the center, then signing Maicon would appear pointless. However, if you think he is ideal for the move infield, then it seems an inspired move. This does fall into the trap of thinking that there is much logic behind many of Florentino Pérez’s moves in the transfer market though. He signs players because he can.
Overall, it seems that the squad has been well supplemented in terms of numbers, and potential ability. Young legs have been brought in, and older, more cumbersome legs have been ushered through the exit door. I cannot help but wonder though, if the club will begin to miss the experience and cool heads of Raúl and Guti come March or April, if not their actual footballing or athletic ability.
Mourinho’s three most famous teams, Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan all had more players with greater experience, with a smattering of youth, rather than the opposite.
Carvalho would appear to be vital in adding needed experience and a winning mentality to a squad with Casillas and Xabi Alonso as players who have seen and done it all being the exceptions, rather than the rule. It is also worth remembering that both of Mourinho’s successes in the Champions’ League came in the years after smaller wins, such as the domestic league and cups at Chelsea and Inter, and the UEFA Cup at Porto.
He needs time to develop and instill the winning mentality in his players, the question mark is over whether Florentino Pérez will give him that time and patience.