Having flirted with leaving Real Madrid multiple times during his nine-year association with the Spanish giants, Cristiano Ronaldo finally followed through with his threat and joined Italian champions Juventus on Tuesday for a reported €100m. The sale is incredible for a number of reasons, not least in the fact that Los Blancos will now need to replace him and spend big themselves – something that they have failed to do in recent summers.
These are leading contenders to take over the No. 7 jersey at the Bernabéu:
The Belgian winger showed glimpses of his quality as his side were beaten by France in the World Cup semi-finals, and he has established himself as one of the finest attacking talents in Europe since joining Chelsea from Lille in 2012.
A direct dribbler with fantastic flair, Hazard would also fit the galáctico billing that Real Madrid are famed for. In addition, the 27-year-old’s contract expires in 2020 so now would be the ideal time for the Premier League club to cash in on their prized asset, particularly as they cannot offer him Champions League football in the upcoming season.
In recent seasons Cristiano Ronaldo has transformed from flying winger to lethal central striker with complete ease, and it is for that reason that his big-money replacement could well be Robert Lewandowski. The Pole is arguably the most complete centre forward in world football and, after eight seasons in Germany, the 29-year-old may be looking for one final move. Bayern Munich would command a huge fee to sell Lewandowski, but he is exactly the sort of consistent scorer that Madrid require to win the La Liga title back from Barcelona whilst defending their three-straight Champions League crowns.
Perhaps the most ambitious target on this list, Neymar is the world’s most expensive player after joining Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona in 2017. His first season in the French capital was productive with 28 goals in 30 appearances but was marred by the perception that the Brazilian was self-centred in his approach – he publicly argued with Edinson Cavani over a penalty – and after the disappointment of a World Cup exit with Brazil he may push for a move back to Spain; with Ronaldo gone he would be Real’s main man.
If Kylian Mbappe wasn’t a household name before the 2018 World Cup then he is now – the 19-year-old PSG striker has all the attributes to be the world’s best in a few years: pace, confidence, maturity and ruthlessness. The only reason that the Parisians would sell would be to comply with financial fair play regulations, and Real Madrid – who seemed at the front of the queue last summer – would surely be his first-choice destination.
The Frenchman can play anywhere across the frontline and would ideally complement Julen Lopetegui’s squad.
Given that he has just signed a fresh five-year contract at Liverpool, prising Mo Salah from Liverpool this summer is most unlikely, though he would bring a different dimension to the Spanish club. The Egyptian was not fully fit during the World Cup after having his elbow injured against Real in last season’s Champions League final but when in-form has proven one of the deadliest forwards on the continent.
It remains to be seen whether he can replicate such form into a second season, and his price tag would be prohibitive, so next summer is more likely.