Following an embarrassing defeat to Manchester City in the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League final, it is clear that Spanish giants, Real Madrid, need some new firepower. After drawing in the first leg, 1-1 at home in the Santiago Bernabeu, all was to play in the second leg in Manchester at the Etihad Arena.
Madrid came out flat-footed and found themselves chasing City throughout the entire game. Manchester had 59 percent possession for the 90 minutes of play, but it felt like 100 percent. City managed to have 16 shots, with eight on target, while Madrid only managed seven shots, with two on target. To add to Manchester’s dominating performance, they completed 618 passes to Madrid’s 421, with 337 of those shots in Madrid’s half. City continuously applied pressure to the Spanish side and overall played much cleaner. Madrid’s goalkeeper, Courtois, kept his side in the game for the first 20 minutes after making two world-class saves against wonder-kid Erling Halaand.
The first goal came in the 23rd minute from Portuguese international Bernarda Silva after De Bruyne slotted in a pass through the defensive line. Silva took a touch to gather and finished at the near post, leaving Courtois with no chance. About 15 minutes later, Silva netted his second after a deflected effort from Gundogan managed to block the path of the Portuguese winger. Silva’s headed attempt found the back of the net, putting City up 2-0. Halftime relieved Madrid since the side was finding it difficult to play for the first 45 minutes. Head coach, Ancelloti, needed to calm his side down and switch up the tactics if he wanted his team to progress to the final. This did not happen. City picked up right where they left off in the second half and scored two more goals. The third goal in the 76th minute was from a set piece by De Bruyne, who found Akanji’s head and deflected it off of Madrid center-back Eder Militao. To pain, the wounds even further, Phil Foden played a beautiful pass and left an opening on a platter for substitute Julian Alvarez, who finished his chance comfortably.
The aggregate score over both legs finished 5-1, meaning Manchester is headed to Istanbul to face off against Inter Milan in the final.
In with the New, Out with the Old
Real Madrid’s performance proved it is time to let some veteran players go. Former Ballon D’or winner Karim Benzema, who helped his team win last year’s Champions League final, looks like his age is catching up to him. Benzema, now 35, managed the only two on-target shots for Madrid. Both of them, however, were not threatening. Last year, Benzema netted 15 goals in the tournament compared to this year’s four. His pace of play has dropped tremendously, and his ratings have declined ever since. The problem for Madrid is no backup striker for the Frenchman. Madrid must prioritize a striker to take over for Benzema by next year.
All eyes await Kylian Mbappe. The current PSG striker is 24 and has had plenty of success goal-wise, including being the joint top goal scorer in the World Cup alongside Messi, with a hat trick in the final of the World Cup, and the title of ultimate goal scorer in the French League at 26 and still counting. Project Mbappe has been discussed for over three years now, and the President of the club, Florentino Perez, was very close to signing Mbappe last summer before he declined. Mbappe has stated it is his dream to play for the Spanish club, and if so, he will lead the line with Vinicius Jr. on his left and Rodrygo on the right for a deadly front line.
There is more room to work in the midfield, but fresh legs must come. Tchouameni was signed last year and has not cemented himself as a starter. This is because Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are still around. They are both older and don’t have the same flare they once used to. Jude Bellingham will provide that again. The English international who currently plays for Borussia Dortmund in Germany is one of the most sought-after talents in Europe. Liverpool, Manchester City, and Arsenal have all been linked to the 19-year-old. He’s managed eight goals and four assists for the club and performed well in the World Cup for England. Bellingham playing in the number ten role alongside Tchoameni and Valverde, could secure the midfield.
Madrid also has the likes of Camavinga, a diverse player who can play in the midfield and left-back position, where he currently sits. Camavinga could be important in the key, but Madrid needs another left-back to fill that role. There’s no one better to do that than Alphonso Davies. Unfortunately, Davies missed out on the end of the season due to an injury, but before then, he was playing lights out. His blistering pace is his most significant attribute, along with his precise crossing. He can move forward, attack, and makeup ground with his pace and defense. Davies can replicate former Madrid legend Marcelo with his attacking qualities from a left-back role.
Finally, the right-back position is occupied by Dani Carvajal. Carvajal’s form plummeted this season from his once-widely-known crossing ability to his powerful tackles. The Spaniard is easily beaten by wingers worldwide, and replacing him would secure a back line. It is suggested Hakimi needs to come back to Madrid. Once a Madrid player, who moved to Dortmund, Hakimi, like Davies, has incredible pace and has repeatedly proven himself for big clubs. He signed with PSG for 80 million dollars three years ago but has not been favored by managers. Hakimi, 24, could offer that ball delivery needed from wingback roles.
These four players should be top signings for Madrid in the summer. The players that should be sold include Hazard, Mendy, Diaz, Odriozola, and Asensio. Kroos, Benzema, and Modric all have one year left to perform at a decent level before their age gets to them.
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