What next for Real Madrid?

It has been a disastrous start to the season for ‘Los Blancos’ who currently sit sixth in La Liga after a string of woeful results, including an embarrassing 5-1 rout at the hands of Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

That defeat meant they had lost three consecutive La Liga games for the first time since 2009 and it proved to be the final nail in the coffin for boss Julen Lopetegui.

The failure to replace Cristiano Ronaldo has undoubtedly had a huge impact on their season. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner scored 44 goals in 44 games in all competitions last season, with 15 of those goals coming in their Champions League-winning campaign.

The club decided against spending the money from Ronaldo’s sale in the summer, and instead seemed happy with the deal for Vinícius Júnior which was agreed in principle before the summer, and re-signing Mariano Diaz who was brought back to the club after a successful season in Ligue 1 with Lyon. However, these attacking signings were more in view of the future.

After the departure of Ronaldo, a lot of pressure was put on the shoulders of Gareth Bale to step up and establish himself as a Real great, but he has only mustered three league goals thus far. The player who is bought to fill the void left by Ronaldo is certainly not going to be cheap.

There were plenty of rumours circling within the media over the summer that Real wanted to sign Eden Hazard, but he remained a Chelsea player. It is a possibility that the reason why the Real board opted against trying to sign the Belgian was that they were saving the money in an attempt to prise either Neymar or Kylian Mbappé away from PSG.

Santiago Solari, the RM Castilla (the club’s reserve team) manager has been promoted to first team manager on a caretaker basis, and he began his tenure with a 2-0 win against Real Valladolid at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday. If Real Madrid don’t appoint Solari permanently there are several potential appointees, but there are two stand-out favourites.

1) Mauricio Pochettino

Pochettino has been at Spurs for over four years, and has led the North London club to three consecutive top four finishes in the Premier League. The Argentine has constantly been linked with leaving Tottenham Hotspur for Real, but he has always dismissed the rumours. However, he seems to be frustrated with the prolonged construction process of their new stadium, and this combined with the lack of signings in the summer window could mean that he might be attracted by a larger salary in the Spanish capital.

Pochettino has used various formations during his time at Spurs which shows the versatility of his coaching methods, and his team are comfortable with adapting to a different formation if something needs to be tweaked in-game.

Moreover, the Argentine has worked on a relatively low budget for a club of the size of Spurs. The club’s net spend since Pochettino arrived is £50 million, which to put into perspective is £15 million less than relegated Stoke and £489 million less than Manchester City. Real Madrid fans could be intrigued and excited to see what Pochettino could do with a substantially larger war chest.

 

2) Antonio Conte

Despite the rumours going slightly cold, Conte is another man who has been mentioned to have caught the eye of Florentino Perez and the rest of the Real Madrid board.

The Italian manager was dismissed by Chelsea in the summer despite winning the league the previous season. Conte also had domestic success with Juventus with the Old Lady winning five Serie A titles under his management. Real Madrid have won one league title in six years, and under Conte’s guidance and domestic nous, Real could knock Barcelona off of their perch.

The trademark of Conte’s teams is the three-at-the-back system with wing-backs bombing forward. In order for this system to work at Real with adequate back-up, Conte would need to sign at least one centre back. Currently, Real’s choice is fairly limited, encompassing Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Nacho, and Jesus Vallejo, who at 21 is still quite raw.

Wing-backs who are defensively sound and offer an attacking outlet are imperative for Conte’s system to flourish. Marcelo came to Real Madrid as a left-midfielder and would thrive as a wing-back due to his numerous attacking qualities, and Dani Carvajal also offers a constant threat down the Real Madrid right. Conte is unlikely to move away from his three-at-the-back system, ergo the Real board will have to decide whether they think their squad would suit the Italian’s philosophy.

 

By Eliot Goodyer

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