Cristiano Ronaldo completed his move to Juventus this week to mark the end of a very successful nine years at Real Madrid. It will not be an easy task to replace his goals, influence and leadership at the club. Here are five players who could come into consideration.
Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard is rumoured to be top of the wanted list at the Bernabeu this summer. Hazard had a very impressive campaign with Belgium in the just concluded World Cup, which essentially makes him a perfect target for Real, who tend to go for galacticos – the best and most fashionable players in the world.
It is not going to be easy to prise the 27-year old from Stamford Bridge however, as his club holds the aces and will make the final decision on whether to sell him or not.
Rumours linking Neymar with a move to Real Madrid have existed for almost as long as he has been at Paris St. Germain. The mercurial Brazilian joined PSG from Barcelona last year but has been said to be restless in the French capital and yearning for a return to Spain. Real have made the extraordinary step of releasing two statements this summer, stating that were they interested in Neymar, they would start by informing his club.
This is not to say they would not love to see him don the famous white jersey, but that possibility is likely to wait for at least another year.
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski would not necessarily reprise Ronaldo’s wide-forward role if he joined Los Blancos, but he is a much more realistic target than either Hazard or Neymar. The Polish attacker has expressed his desire to leave the German champions, while it is said that his club would be willing to sell at the right price.
Karim Benzema also appears to be at the end of his time as the main number nine at the Bernabeu, which means that a move for Lewandowski from Real president Florentino Perez is very likely this summer.
Even more realistically, Madrid might not have to look far beyond their ranks for the man to take the mantle from Ronaldo. In a way, Gareth Bale was bought to eventually take over from Ronaldo, only that the Portuguese superstar has been incessant in his performance levels year-after-year.
While Bale has struggled with injuries during his time in Spain, he is still every inch the player Perez paid a then-world record fee for. He demonstrated this when he came off the bench to score twice in the Champions League final against Liverpool last season. No longer in the shadow of the more illustrious Ronaldo, Bale’s time to take centre stage has likely arrived.
Another player who could benefit greatly from the departure of Ronaldo is Marco Asensio, Real’s multipurpose forward who has been hailed as the next big thing at the Bernabeu. Spanish midfielder Isco has also matured greatly in the last two years and while he may not replicate Ronaldo’s numbers, he could become more influential in the squad.
Martin Ødegaard is another one who could get the opportunity to make his mark, although he is still quite far away from living up to the hype that surrounded his arrival as a well sought-out 16-year old in 2015.