Real Madrid are "optimistic" of suspending their impending transfer ban, which would allow them to go on a spending spree in the summer that could include the likes of Manchester United's David De Gea and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.
That's according to Sky Sports' Guillem Balague, who reports: "Real Madrid are optimistic the transfer ban will be suspended—in which case, they will try to sign David De Gea in the summer—and also Robert Lewandowski and maybe Eden Hazard."
Will Real be able to suspend the ban?
The embargo is the same one fellow La Liga contenders Barcelona endured in 2015, and like the Blaugrana, Real are hoping to appeal the sanction in order to at least suspend it to 2017—thereby allowing them to plan accordingly in the summer by recruiting heavily.
Barca did so effectively in the summer of 2014, in which they recruited seven players, including the likes of Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Claudio Bravo.
Though Keylor Navas is an able stopper, a goalkeeper will surely be a priority, and Los Blancos are clearly pinning their hopes on landing De Gea as a long-term replacement for Iker Casillas after pursuing him so vociferously in the summer.
As for Lewandowski and Hazard, while Real have less need for another goalscorer or creative playmaker at present, the pair firmly fit their preferred galactico requirements of marquee signings and—despite the latter's high-profile struggles this season—both are capable of adding further quality to the team.
The Pole has scored a staggering 23 goals and four assists this season, while Hazard's 19 goals and 10 assists for Chelsea in the last campaign earned him the prestigious Player of the Year award.
Balague also gave the latest on the possible outgoings in the summer but reiterated it all depends on whether they are able push back the ban. He said:
[Zinedine] Zidane likes Isco, but I don't think he has enough to be a consistent Real Madrid player. It could well be that either he or James Rodriguez gets sold in the summer—but again, Real are waiting to see what happens with the transfer ban. I can 100 per cent say that he is not going to move in January.
Owing to injury and then falling out of favour under Zidane's predecessor Rafa Benitez, James has made just 13 appearances for Los Blancos this season. Despite featuring for just 770 minutes across those showings, the Colombian has scored three times and assisted six.
By contrast, Isco has made 22 appearances in which he has also been fairly solid with three goals and nine assists. After opting for the Spaniard ahead of James in Real's last match, Zidane admitted the two players could be used interchangeably this season, per football journalist Dermot Corrigan:
Zidane asked re James: “Do what he is doing. Working all week to arrive well at games & to be strong. Same with them all, not just James.”— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 17, 2016
Zidane: “We are all in the same boat here. At the moment Isco is playing ahead of James, next game could be different."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 17, 2016
Should that situation continue, that might not be good enough for James, so it's far from inconceivable that he could seek a move away. However, it all boils down to their transfer situation, and as Balague and football journalist Rik Sharma noted, delaying the ban could prove difficult:
I am sure Real and Atletico will try to get the ban upheld as Barcelona did. But FIFA might argue that they have time to react, appeal...— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) January 14, 2016
Madrid must try to get the ban put back beyond summer but will be hard. Barcelona ban set precedent & this is 3.5 months earlier in the year— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) January 14, 2016
Since Real's optimism is perhaps speculative, it could well be the case that none of these players arrive at or depart the Bernabeu in the summer.
Though Barca were able to recruit Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal while banned and have them wait half a season in order to register, the likes of De Gea, Lewandowski and Hazard aren't likely to willingly accept that.
Likewise, Real won't allow any players of James' or Isco's quality to leave unless they can make immediate replacements.