4 Stars Real Madrid Should Pick from as Their Next Galactico Signing
Real Madrid have moved away from the Galactico era of yesteryear in recent seasons, signing only Alvaro Morata this season and spreading their investment across the squad previously—but they are still always linked with huge names for huge sums.
Inevitably, they will invest in a new Galactico soon enough, if only because there is a limited pool of players who can make Zinedine Zidane's team better rather than as part of a structured transfer strategy of signing big names, irrespective of need.
There are a handful who might take the team forward in the next year or so and be worthwhile additions over the longer term—a Galactico signing who has potential to improve in the next few years—and here we run the rule over the four players club president Florentino Perez et al. should be considering picking from when making the next big purchase for Los Blancos.
The first two names on our list depend on one thing: how Cristiano Ronaldo is used in the coming seasons. The Portuguese forward has been increasingly deployed in central roles, for club and country, notably netting a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid from a lone centre-forward role and recently playing in a two-man attack in Zidane's altered 3-5-2 against Sevilla.
Assuming Ronaldo moves centrally on a (perhaps semi-) permanent basis, the next question is whether he is used as the deeper, roving option who can take possession, play in the midfielders and wide men and then run into the box from the second line or as the leading target—the runner off the defence, the true No. 9.
If it's the latter, the biggest and best target Real Madrid could go for is Paulo Dybala of Juventus.
An Argentinian forward with an incredible perception of how to use space and attack defences in a variety of ways, Dybala does look the complete package as a second striker—a more than competent dribbler and a playmaker who's capable of strikes from range and getting into the box as a late runner.
Real Madrid already missed out on the Galactico signing of Paul Pogba from Juventus, while their former striker Gonzalo Higuain has become Juve's own Galactico striker. Real dare not miss out on Dybala when he moves next.
If Ronaldo becomes the deeper, second striker, and if Real feel his acceleration has deteriorated and they want another threat in behind, then Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the man to sign.
Borussia Dortmund's lethal striker is in the running for the European Golden Shoe this season—top of the rankings ahead of Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi, per EuroTopfoot—even though he'll miss a chunk of action as he features at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations for Gabon. To sum up just what an achievement that would be, only Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Ronaldo have won that award in the last eight seasons.
Aubameyang is quick, plays on the shoulder and in the channels and has a 27 per cent conversion rate from his 56 shots in the Bundesliga this season, per WhoScored.com. By contrast, Real Madrid's frontmen offer up the following league conversion rates: Morata on 18 per cent, Karim Benzema on 17 per cent, Gareth Bale on 11 per cent and Ronaldo on 15 per cent.
There's a chance he'd be even more expensive than Dybala given he's 27 and perhaps at his peak, so it's more or less a case of sign him in the next year or so or not at all for Real Madrid. There's likely to be three or four seasons of peak Aubameyang to enjoy yet, which could translate into 150 goals in this side.
David De Gea
It's not often that a Galactico signing comes in the form of a player who isn't a forward or attacking threat, but it can happen—and David De Gea would be exactly that.
The Spain No. 1, acclaimed by many as one of the finest in the game, would guarantee Madrid a decade or more between the sticks and would no doubt be heralded by the fans as a hero for being the stopper of choice for both club and country.
The long-running chase of De Gea has been farcical at times, but it seems inevitable that the two will come together, even though he's a former Atletico Madrid man. He might not cost quite as much as the likes of Aubameyang or Dybala, but that shouldn't lessen the regard he is held in by management, fans or the football world in general.
Supremely agile and athletic, a monster in one-on-one situations and with lightning reflexes, De Gea has plenty of traits reminiscent of a young Iker Casillas, but perhaps his time in England has helped shape aspects of his game that Casillas didn't always show, especially in his latter years: a command of his box, aggression on collecting crosses and good distribution.
De Gea in goal would send a statement that Madrid are no longer all about big names in attack and leaving the back line to fend for itself.
Finally, we run an alternative option. Sign him now and pay a lot or wait a year or two for him to emerge as a Galactico and pay even more.
Either way, it seems a matter of time until Thomas Lemar is seen by the wider world as one of the top talents around. Whichever club comes up with the deal to tempt AS Monaco into selling him is going to snare one of the most effective final-third players there'll be in the coming years.
At 21, he's naturally not yet 100 per cent with his decision-making, but he has a remarkably full skill set: a wonderful appreciation of space, acceleration to get away from defenders, composure in the penalty box and impressive set-piece delivery. As an aside, he's a bit of a rarity: a left-footed attacker who plays on the left.
Without wishing to make a lazy and obvious comparison because of his position, there are aspects of his game that are reminiscent of the Ronaldo of a few seasons back. He has that instinct to sprint into the box and attack the far post, often leading to a close-range shooting chance, as well as skill in one-on-one situations. Additionally, he works hard to chase back, close out spaces down the flank and then lead counters himself.
Taking the Anthony Martial sale into account and the fact Lemar already looks streets ahead of his former team-mate, it's going to take in excess of €50 million to prise Lemar away from Ligue 1. He looks like he'd be worth it, though, and making a move sooner rather than later might prevent a further rise in price and additional interest from elsewhere.