The futures of winger Angel Di Maria and central midfielder Sami Khedira are the main loose ends facing the Real Madrid squad ahead of the new season. Both seemed destined for new clubs but each day seems to welcome fresh reports that complicate matters.
Here's the latest on Di Maria and Khedira, beginning with the thoughts of manager Carlo Ancelotti:
Ancelotti Insists Madrid's Transfer Business is "Closed"
If Los Blancos chief Ancelotti has his way then both Di Maria and Khedira could remain in the Spanish capital. The Italian coach recently appeared to suggest that his club's transfer dealings are finished during this window, per the English edition of Marca:
The time for transfers is over and the case is closed.
They are Real Madrid players, I chose other players for the Super Cup because they arrived on the 5th August and only Kroos played that match. Today's game will be good for them to play some minutes and improve their fitness.
Of course, working to get players fit doesn't necessarily rule out selling those same players. Any game action Khedira and Di Maria receive at this stage of preseason will also be seen as an audition to interested parties.
But perhaps Ancelotti is right to count on at least one of the pair remaining with the team. Khedira makes the most sense to retain, at least for a season.
He offers the robust qualities Real otherwise lack in the middle. Only veteran Xabi Alonso is able to combine brawn with guile among a plethora of schemers led by mercurial pass-master Luka Modric.
But Alonso's best work is restricted to deeper areas of the pitch, usually just in front of the back four. Khedira offers greater energy and more forward-thinking verve, as well as being a powerful physical presence. It may be that Real can't afford to let the Germany international, who has one year remaining on his contract, go just yet.
Things are different with Di Maria. There is no shortage of creative talents in both central and wide areas. Playmakers such as Isco and new arrivals Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez can replace the attacking influence Di Maria exerted last term.
However, the state of Madrid's squad is not going to stop the rumours surrounding both players.
Madrid Allow Manchester United Talks with Di Maria
If Madrid do have room to let Di Maria walk, they can count on Premier League side Manchester United as a likely bidder. In fact, Los Blancos have reportedly let the Red Devils begin talks with Di Maria, per Catalan publication Sport (h/t Sport Witness):
Spanish newspaper Sport report on Saturday that Real Madrid have authorised Manchester United to start transfer talks with Di Maria and it's claimed that Louis van Gaal has spoken to the player to convince him a move to Old Trafford would be good for him.
The report cited the arrival of Rodriguez as a chief motivating factor in encouraging interest for Di Maria. It also stated the difficulties Paris Saint-Germain, another probable bidder, is having negotiating Financial Fair Play Rules.
That could leave the door ajar for United to make a decisive move. They have been quiet for some time in this transfer window, since welcoming full-back Luke Shaw and midfielder Ander Herrera:
As for United...time to go shopping perhaps...not bought a player for 50 days...window shuts in 15.— Jake Humphrey (@mrjakehumphrey) August 16, 2014
Given how United began a new era under manager Louis van Gaal with a 2-1 home defeat to Swansea City, the club will be keen to restore some pride with a marquee signing.
United still have the resources to pay Madrid appropriate compensation for a player who produced 22 assists in La Liga and UEFA Champions league action last season, per WhoScored.com.
Khedira's Agent Will Hold London Talks
A decision on Khedira could be imminent, with recent reports claiming his agent will be in London for talks concerning his client's future. That's according to Mirror reporter Tom Hopkinson, who named Premier League rivals Arsenal and Chelsea as the primary suitors:
Sami Khedira’s agents are due in London this week to talk over a move to either Stamford Bridge or The Emirates.
The World Cup-winning Germany international has decided to quit Real Madrid after showdown talks with boss Carlo Ancelotti.
Arsenal and Chelsea have been monitoring the situation with Khedira for a while, with Gunners boss Arsene Wenger and his Blues counterpart Jose Mourinho – who worked with the player when he was in charge at Real – long-term admirers.
Hopkinson has credited Mourinho as the most likely candidate to complete a deal. However, that could irk the Madrid hierarchy.
Mourinho didn't win many friends during this three-season spell in charge of Los Blancos. He wants to wait to sign Khedira for nothing when his contract ends next summer, according to Daily Express writer Ben Jefferson.
That's not a scenario Madrid are likely to want to entertain. Khedira can still be a key player for Ancelotti's squad this season. Only a decent bid should be enough to alter that thinking.
Madrid have most of what they need already in place. The deals for Kroos and Rodriguez were smart moves to refresh a squad that dominated the Champions League but still finished third domestically.
Which of these Stars Should Madrid Keep?
The latter's arrival means the club can risk selling Di Maria, despite his obvious talent. However, even with their ample resources, Los Blancos could be making a mistake parting with a player as useful as Khedira.