Football Features

Keep, sell or loan? Real Madrid transfer decisions for Carlo Ancelotti

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:25, 17 July 2021

Real Madrid have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons of late.

First their president embarrasses himself with the Super League debacle, then their captain and club legend leaves on a free transfer, then finally their president gets embarrassed again with leaked audio recordings of him disparaging various club legends sometime in the past.

All that has unintentionally served as nice distractions from the fact that Los Blancos didn’t win anything last season and head into 2021/22 with a squad mired in uncertainty and looking frankly a little short on quality.

With Carlo Ancelotti taking over for Zinedine Zidane, however, everyone will be said to have a clean slate and a chance to impress. And there are a lot of players that will want to impress, with some 29 first-teamers for Ancelotti to sort through and decide who to get rid of (something Madrid need to do given their financial state) and who to make part of his 25-man squad for Los Blancos’ upcoming campaign.

We thought we’d help Don Carlo out by looking at the squad and deciding whether Madrid should keep, sell or loan them.

First, the guaranteed keepers that aren’t worth analysing because they are obviously not going anywhere: Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao, Nacho, Eden Hazard, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Marcelo, Andriy Lunin, Casemiro, Fede Valverde, Lucas Vazquez, Alvaro Odriozola, Vinicius Junior, Ferland Mendy, Rodrygo and new signing David Alaba.

Now for the rest of them:

Dani Carvajal

Age: 29
Position: Right-back
Contract expires: 2022

Dani Carvajal has such a reputation as a warrior that Luis Enrique said he would have taken him to Euro 2020 were he fit. The right-back spent basically all of 2020/21 out injured and looked a shadow of his former self when he did play. With his contract up in a year now it would be a sensible time to cut loose but Real Madrid are a club of comebacks so don’t go writing Madrid’s no. 2 off just yet. Moreover, with Sergio Ramos gone the leadership provided by Carvajal will be essential.

VERDICT: KEEP

Raphael Varane

Age: 28
Position: Centre-back
Contract expires: 2022

Raphael Varane has played 10 years at Real Madrid, won two La Ligas and four Champions Leagues. He’s been Madrid’s most reliable and consistent defender for the latter half of that decade as well. Now he wants a big pay rise and, frankly, Madrid need to give it to him. He’s still one of the best defenders in the world and without Ramos will become the leader of the defence alongside the prodigious Eder Militao.

Pay him his money, Florentino. He’s worth it and you need him.

VERDICT: KEEP

Marco Asensio

Age: 25
Position: Winger
Contract expires: 2023

When Real Madrid signed Marco Asensio for just €3.9m it seemed like they had secured a future jewel of Spanish football. But the stunted career development that has destroyed 95% of young players at the Santiago Bernabeu was already dragging Asensio down (e.g. his ability to perform in and impact huge games was on full display in the 2016/17 Champions League run, but he never got a real shot in the starting XI that he thusly deserved) while a brutal cruciate ligament injury in 2019 did the rest. He’s still got talent but will never reach the level Madrid need and expect of their forwards, so let him find a new home.

VERDICT: SELL

Isco

Age: 29
Position: Attacking midfield
Contract expires: 2022

Isco was Spain’s ‘Next Big Thing’ when he signed for Real Madrid in 2013, and he looked like being the star of Carlo Ancelotti’s Madrid team. But then Gareth Bale showed up and Isco was suddenly on the bench which is where he’s spent most of the subsequent eight years, only occasionally emerging to go on great runs of form that end the way they began; with Isco on the bench.

Consequently, Isco hasn’t developed as a player, made less impact for Spain in seven years than Pedri managed in seven games this summer, and isn’t likely to suddenly find himself just because Ancelotti is back. Get rid of him.

VERDICT: SELL

Mariano

Age: 27
Position: Striker
Contract expires: 2023

Mariano is good, but not great. He shone for Real Madrid B, and on loan at Lyon, but he’s never shown much to be a starter for Los Blancos. However Madrid will need a back-up striker in case Karim Benzema gets injured, and that’s a role Mariano fills fairly well. So he can stay.

VERDICT: KEEP

Jesus Vallejo

Age: 24
Position: Centre-back
Contract expires: 2025

Real Madrid signed Vallejo as an 18 year-old for just €6m and again it looked like they had snagged the future of the Spanish defence and the ideal heir to Sergio Ramos. Tall, imposing, skilled, Vallejo had it all and was sent on loan to gain experience. He did well in Frankfurt, but persistent muscle injuries have dogged him since he returned to Madrid and he completely lost his way. Was recently on loan at Granada where he was arguably the weakest centre-back. Ideally he’d be loaned out again to build his confidence but the departure of Ramos (and perhaps Raphael Varane too) may thrust Vallejo into the role he was signed for anyway: the heir to Sergio Ramos. You have to keep him.

VERDICT: KEEP

Dani Ceballos

Age: 24
Position: Central midfield
Contract expires: 2023

Dani Ceballos had the world at his feet in 2016/17 at Real Betis. He was destined for greater things and chose Real Madrid over Barcelona and that has, shall we say, not worked out. For all his genius talent, he constantly clashed with coach Zinedine Zidane to the point where he looked out of sorts even after Zidane left. Upon the Frenchman’s return to the Bernabeu, Ceballos was shunted out on loan for two years at Arsenal, which worked out about as well as you’d expect a loan to Arsenal to work.

So what do Madrid do with him? One more loan, for a single season, to a sensible club, to find his form once again (he’s only 24!) Then bring him back to the Bernabeu in his contract year to play and prove his quality; if he’s back to his best then renew him, if not then let him drift quietly off.

VERDICT: LOAN

Take Kubo

Age: 20
Position: Attacking midfield
Contract expires: 2024

Take Kubo was one of the brightest lights at La Masia before the player registration fiasco that led to Barcelona’s transfer ban saw him return to Japan. Madrid signed him two years ago and immediately loaned him to Mallorca for a season; he thrived there even as the side were relegated, and was expected to impress for Villarreal last year – except he didn’t, and the loan was cut short in January. But then he was poor for Getafe as well, and now he’s at a crossroads.

Madrid should loan him out, of course, but maybe canvas the club better this time and ensure the coach actually wants to work with a young maverick like Kubo. And through that loan hopefully see the diminutive Kubo raise up to his full height to the point where he can take his place in the starting XI for Real Madrid.

VERDICT: LOAN

Martin Odegaard

Age: 22
Position: Attacking midfield
Contract expires: 2023

Martin Odegaard’s saga with Real Madrid goes back to when he signed for Los Blancos as a 17 year-old with Carlo Ancelotti as coach. The Italian disparagingly called the move a “PR exercise” in his book, but Odegaard is a much changed player at 22. He’s really matured and his spell at Real Sociedad showed his capacity to be a world-class player.

Okay he struggled at Madrid and then on loan to Arsenal but Los Blancos were a mess last season, and as has already been established; sending anyone to Arsenal is never a good idea. Odegaard is a brilliant talent and deserves the chance to establish himself as Real Madrid’s new no. 10, either in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. Keep him and make him a focal point.

VERDICT: KEEP 

Gareth Bale

Age: 31
Position: Forward
Contract expires: 2022

Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order.

Okay, cool. Sell him then. To anyone, really. Bale is a ghost of the player who helped Ancelotti win La Decima back in 2014. So send him on his merry way and let him enjoy Wales and golf on someone else’s dime.

VERDICT: SELL

Brahim Diaz

Age: 21
Position: Attacking midfield
Contract expires: 2025

Brahim is a promising young talent who did well for Milan last season. He’s not quite up to Real Madrid’s level yet, however, so another loan would be best to help him gain more experience and build his level up.

VERDICT: LOAN

Luka Jovic

Age: 23
Position: Striker
Contract expires: 2025

Luka Jovic was a promising young striker when Real Madrid signed him and, well, you know the story by now. A loan back to old club Frankfurt helped him recapture some of his form but not enough. It’s highly likely that he will never make the grade at the Santiago Bernabeu, not least because it’ll be almost impossible to play him alongside Madrid’s main forwards; Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard. Let him go find himself somewhere else.

VERDICT: SELL

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