It was a first half to forget for Real Madrid. One season after winning the La Liga title with a run of dominance that stretched nearly the entire campaign, the Blancos have struggled to find that form. Now the question is whether January moves can save them.
Madrid have remained quiet during the early part of the window. They allowed midfielder Nuri Sahin to go out on loan to Borussia Dortmund after his deal with Liverpool was cut short. Otherwise, the Spanish giants remained above the fray.
There are two weeks left to change that, though. Given the situation, they find themselves in—18 points behind rival Barcelona in the league, a difficult road in the Copa del Rey and staring down a Champions League matchup with Manchester United—they would seemingly need a boost.
The biggest problem facing Madrid is the burden carried by Cristiano Ronaldo, who's been the center of more transfer talk than the Blancos probably feel comfortable with since the calendar flipped to 2013.
Manager Jose Mourinho can rest easy, because the 27-year-old striker stated in an interview with FIFA.com that he plans on staying at Santiago Bernabeu at least until his current contract runs out in a little over two years.
I want to see out my contract at Real Madrid: I’m very clear about that. After that, well, I don’t know what’ll happen in the future.
Given that reassurance, Mourinho must focus on getting Ronaldo some support. The club, which illustrated terrific depth last season, has suddenly become a one-man show. And when Ronaldo isn't producing, they are in serious trouble.
Madrid found that out the hard way in a scoreless weekend draw with cellar dweller Osasuna. In two matches against them last season, the Blancos racked up 12 goals. The chemistry they showed in those games has been missing this season.
One name that continues to pop up is Radamel Falcao, who ranks second in La Liga scoring behind Lionel Messi with 18 goals. That's two more than Ronaldo. But Ben Hayward of Goal.com previously reported a summer move would be more likely.
Another player on Madrid's radar who would provide an instant boost to the attack is dynamic Tottenham midfielder Gareth Bale. The 23-year-old Wales international is enjoying his best season to date and could be on the move.
Lee Bryan of the Daily Mail reports the Spurs are asking an astronomical £55 million in return for Bale, while Madrid are thinking more in the range of £35 million. It's a significant gap but not one that's impossible to bridge.
What should Madrid do in the rest of January?
One other area that's being monitored by Madrid is between the posts. Veteran goalkeeper Iker Casillas has been one of the most reliable options in the world in recent years, but the club may begin looking toward the future of the position.
In turn, the Blancos are monitoring Manchester United keeper David de Gea, according to Charles Perrin of the Daily Express. He reports Barcelona are also interested, which could make for an interesting battle if the Red Devils make him available.
De Gea has often struggled with his form, as many young players do, at times during his stay with United. But the 22-year-old Spaniard is a star in the making, so it's no surprise to see the La Liga powerhouse involved.
All told, Madrid are running out of time if they want to make January upgrades. While they have enough talent to bounce back without any moves, it seems like at least one is necessary to jump-start a strong second-half run across the various competitions.
If Mourinho and Co. decide to stand pat and things don't turn around, however, the winter window will be viewed as a missed opportunity.