Real Madrid: 7 Hottest Summer Transfer Window Targets
It's that time of year folks.
The football season is fast approaching the business end and sports editors across the globe need stories to fill the column inches.
From the vaguely believable to the far-fetched, transfer rumours abound.
Football clubs are already jostling for position to make sure they are first in the queue to snap up their major targets, and this transfer window promises to be as explosive as any other with a number of big names potentially on the move.
Real Madrid will be no different. Despite always dining at football's top table and having an array of stars throughout their current squad, the failure of that crop of players in this season's Champions League will have hit the club hard.
President Florentino Perez will surely back his first-team manager, Jose Mourinho or otherwise, with the necessary funds to ensure that his club not only plunder the best talent available but are challenging once again for all of the top honours next season.
Let's take a look at some of the targets that are on Real Madrid's radar.
Geoffrey Kondogbia is a 20-year-old Frenchman who has slotted beautifully into La Liga in this, his debut season.
The player joined Sevilla last summer from French side Lens and has been a consistent performer whenever he has been called upon this year.
A powerful holding midfielder, one might deign to describe him in the mould of Yaya Toure or fellow countryman Patrick Vieira, and he has the potential to be the rightful heir to Xabi Alonso's crown.
His 691 successful passes compare favourably with 104 that didn't reach their intended target—an 87 percent completion rate (via Squawka.com).
Kondogbia is rated at between €15 and 20 million but could be available for as little as five million, such is the financial crisis that has beset Sevilla at the present time.
Furthermore, the player himself himself has made it abundantly clear that he favours a move to the Santiago Bernabeu (h/t Lucas Brown of Sky Sports).
Another youngster at just 20, Marco Verrati is a different type of defensive midfielder than Geoffrey Kondogbia.
He has certainly grabbed the headlines on more than one occasion this season with his aggressive performances in the heart of the PSG midfield.
His 10 yellow cards during the season will testify to the nature with which he plays the game.
At only five 5'5", Verratti more than makes up for his lack of height with his tenacity, work ethic and will to win. In a Real Madrid side noted for its poor discipline, it's debatable whether the club would be willing to invest in a player with such a disciplinary record.
However, there is no doubting the player's quality. During the recent match against Barcelona, his pass-completion record was 80 percent.
If you consider that he was sandwiched between the twin terrors of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta all game, that's quite some stat.
An 89 percent pass accuracy across the entire season coupled with every shot on target and his willingness to give absolutely everything for the cause, is a winner's mentality.
PSG have hinted that the player is not for sale at present, but be assured that Real Madrid will monitor Verratti's situation very closely indeed.
The signing of Robert Lewandowski for Los Blancos is one that interests me greatly.
For me the Polish international represents an "old school" centre-forward, but with a major difference. Tall, intelligent and strong in the air, you can be assured that the powerful striker will put himself about and win the majority of balls into the box.
But—as his performance against his suitors Madrid showed—he is also nimble of foot and has a deft touch that belies his physical attributes.
Lewandowski could slot into either of the forward roles, currently the domain of Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema, with ease.
His overall performance score of 984 for the season (via Squawka.com) is noticeably better than both the Argentine (681) and the Frenchman (741).
To have a big target man to cross to would be manna from heaven for the likes of Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lewandowski himself would thrive on such service.
There have been appreciative glances cast toward Signal Iduna Park from Dortmund's rivals Bayern Munich and also from both Manchester clubs.
With just a year left on his current contract and therefore perhaps available at a knockdown price, Real Madrid will have their work cut out if they wish to land one of European football's hottest properties.
With no European football in prospect at Malaga for the next four years, owing to a judgement at court, Isco—the jewel in the Los Boquerones crown—may be forced to leave the club he has served with great aplomb since 2011.
If the Malaga success story starts to unravel as expected, Real Madrid should be at the front of the queue to sign a player that has been described as the "new Andrea Iniesta."
High praise indeed.
Potentially available for around the £25 million mark (perhaps rising to £40 million), here is a youngster that has it all. Vision, pace when required, a tremendous capacity for work and no little skill.
He can play the killer pass, is strong in the tackle and gets forward at every opportunity, scoring some great goals.
Isco has represented his country at all levels from U-16 upward, and the 2012 "Golden Boy" award was a recognition of his talent.
He's a talent whom I believe could run the Madrid midfield for years to come, provided they can secure the player's signature.
As Manchester City look to offload one or two players in order for the club to fall within the boundaries of the Financial Fair Play rules, it is very interesting to revisit Sergio Aguero's comments from last September.
Although he enjoyed a wonderful campaign last season—culminating in a never-to-be-forgotten title winning goal right at the death—the young Argentine appears far from happy at the Etihad.
His son and ex-wife have now moved back to the house they once shared with the player in Madrid, and the emotional pull of being able to see his son on a regular basis is obvious.
Coupled with a desire to play for the "all whites," I'd suggest that this is a transfer that would benefit all parties.
Ageuro's playing credentials are not in question, and the natural movement he would provide is something that Madrid have been missing.
Furthermore, his goals record in Manchester of 34 goals in 62 games compares favourably with both Gonzalo Higuain (104 goals in 185 games) and especially Karim Benzema (53 goals in 120 games).
Rumour and counter-rumour have followed the Brazilian around all year.
What seems almost certain now is that Neymar will likely move to Europe during the upcoming transfer window rather than leave it for another season (h/t James Daly of the Mirror).
A year at the top level of European football prior to the World Cup will benefit the young starlet immeasurably, and those of us with more than a passing interest in his progress will then know if he is the real deal or just a pretender.
Catalan paper Sport are quoting that Real Madrid will pay a world-record fee of €100 million for the player, to include the penalty for the pre-contract Barcelona already has in place with Neymar's current employers Santos.
The Brazilian is clearly a player who Florentino Perez believes can bring the glory days back to the Spanish capital, and the reported fee and stature of the player in South America suggest a new era of the Galactico should he put pen to paper.
Whether Neymar's style will be suited to the attacking forays of Real Madrid remains a question unanswered at this juncture.
Much of Madrid's potency flows directly through Cristiano Ronaldo. Neymar's individualistic nature would need to be curtailed and a team ethic acknowledged for the Brazilian to be a success at the Santiago Bernabeu.
England's 2013 PFA Footballer and Young Footballer of The Year, Gareth Bale is a wanted man.
Whilst there may be a suggestion that Real Madrid would not wish to pay such a huge sum, Bale is a player they have coveted for some time, and I would suggest it's nothing more than posturing from the Madrid hierarchy at this stage.
For this transfer to conclude successfully, much rests on whether Spurs qualify for next season's Champions League, and at present they are teetering perilously close to the promised land in fifth place in the Premier League.
Make no mistake—Bale enjoys the comforts of North London. However, the lure of following the well-trodden path that Messrs. Beckham, Owen and Woodgate once walked is likely to prove too good to refuse if Champions League football does not present itself at White Hart Lane.
It is a tantalising prospect—Cristiano Ronaldo on one wing with Bale tearing down the other—much like he did against Inter Milan not so long ago.
With 24 goals this season, a regular Welsh international and aged just 23, Bale would represent good business for Florentino Perez even at the price quoted.
It's a fair bet that there will be more to this story over the coming weeks.