Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Return of the Galacticos

Well, the presidency of Florentino Perez has officially begun (again), and Madridistas are looking forward to seeing what is in store for Los Blancos. Already, the team has announced Manuel Pellegrini, who coached Villareal, as the team’s new coach. Jorge Valdano is the new sporting director and Zinedine Zidane was hired as an advisor to the president.

Perez has been very aggressive in the past in landing the best players in the world and selling millions of Real kits. Players like Ronaldo, Figo, Zidane and Beckham came in with lots of flair, but also each won at least a La Liga title for Real. Who is Perez thinking of bringing in this time? The list is long and dynamic: Cristiano Ronaldo, Ribery, Kaká, David Villa, David Silva, Ibrahimovic, Iniesta, possibly Cazorla, Xabi Alonso, Mata, Tevez, Negredo, Albiol and Maicón. This is a ton of players, but if he gets even half of them this team could really take flight. Ronaldo, Kaká and Ribery are clearly Perez’s top 3 targets, and chances are he can land at least 2 of them. Already there are reports that Kaká will be introduced on Thursday, that Xabi Alonso has already agreed personal terms, and that Ronaldo will eventually come towards the end of the summer. Also, with Valencia’s financial problems and AC Milan’s players reportedly being very upset at the departure of former coach Carlo Ancelotti, maybe some of their players will be ripe for the picking. Beckham in a return, perhaps? Alexandre Pato, the 19-year-old Brazilian striker, who I think is one of the great young strikers in the world? Zambrotta or Nesta on defense? It’s not outside the realm of possibility.

But, to get these players, a lot of the current players will be transferred out. Rumor has it that Perez is willing to let all of the Dutch players save Huntelaar leave (Robben, van Nistelrooy, Sneijder, Drenthe, Van der Vaart). Huntelaar may also leave, as he has been rumored (as told on GolTV) to be headed to Man U in exchange for Carlos Tevez. Perez is also targeting many Spanish players to come in. With La Furia Roja at the top of the world rankings, many of the starters of the #1 team in the world could soon put on the Real Madrid white shirt. Raul, the golden boy of Madrid and the captain, may be relegated to the bench. It is been made clear that the only players guaranteed of staying in the starting 11 next season are Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Lass Diarra, Gonzalo Higuain and Pepe. This would mean that the mentioned Dutch players as well as Javi García, Heinze, Saviola, Mahamadou Diarra, Marcelo, De La Red, Guti, Salgado, Metzelder and even Gago.

In spite of the glitz and glamor that Perez brings to the table, it is clear what the team needs. They need tons of defense. The defense this year let Real down big time, forcing Iker Casillas to make numerous saves. Casillas is, in my mind, the best keeper in the world, but with such a lagging defense, he gets hung out to dry many times. Defense should be key, and I think players like Philip Lahm, Vidic, Clichy, Fabio Grosso, and Maicón should be brought in to shore up the defense. In the midfield, with Lass or Xabi Alonso in the fold, we should definitely find a center attack mid that can direct the offense like Zidane used to do. That player is most likely Kaká. Ronaldo would be brought in as the replacement for Beckham on the right wing, which has been sorely missed since his departure two years ago.

Up front, I love Ruud and Raul and Higuain. But it’s clear that with David Villa or Ibrahimovic possibly coming in, and Huntelaar and Saviola already in the fold, some of them will have to go. Ruud, Saviola and Huntelaar would probably get clipped, with the captain being sent to the bench. Needless to say, Raul and Higuain scored a ton this year, Ruud won the Pichichi in 2007-08, and Huntelaar was hot, scoring 9 goals in his first 8 games.

As for who to keep and get rid of on the current squad, here’s what I think will happen:

Keep – Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Raul, Higuain, Pepe, Lass

50/50 – Metzelder, Marcelo, de la Red, Huntelaar, Miguel Torres, Guti

Loan Out – Gago, Drenthe

Sell/Leave – Salgado, Cannavaro, Saviola, van Nistelrooy, Heinze, Parejo, Faubert (back to West Ham), Van der Vaart, Javi Garcia, Sneijder

Also, here’s my list of who I think should be on Perez’s list to bring in: Kaká, Maicón, Lahm, Ronaldo or Ribery, David Villa, Alexandre Pato, Albiol, Vidic, Fabio Grosso or Mertesacker, Xabi Alonso, David Silva. Again, defense is the key. We shore up our defense, everything else will fall into place.

Almost assuredly, this will be a summer full of transfers for Real Madrid. Lots of players in, lots of players out. Will Perez rebuild Los Galacticos to try and conquer Europe next season? Will he get every player on his list? Will he build a capable defense, something that has been missing the past few seasons? Will he bring in the players necessary to win La Liga, the Copa del Rey and Champions League? Only time will tell.

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