In the middle of this enormous and historic four-game El Clasico special with Barcelona, I take it upon myself to ponder upon the Real Madrid players who might not be with the team in the summer.
"Well, Paul, why look that far ahead? Concentrate on the present! On the Copa del Rey and the Champions League!"
"Because I can't wait for these games to start and I have to pass the time!"
And so, it makes me a little teary-eyed to think about some of the players leaving since I've come to admire and accept every single member of this 2010-2011 Real Madrid club. Under the first year of Jose Mourinho, the players seem to have fallen in line with "The Special One," and the team seems to generally get along with each other on and off the field.
But football being an entertainment business, meaning lots and lots of dinero is riding on transfers, marketing, and product placement, it's definitely not a surprise for players to go and players to stay.
Here are the 10 likeliest players that might leave Real Madrid this summer, ranked, by how I feel, from least importance to most importance to the club, both on-the-field and off it. Additionally listed are potential destinations should the players leave.
Hanging with Hercules now, The Old Lady next?
He's kind of a sleeper on the list, but we can't forget that Royston Drenthe is still on the books for Real Madrid.
Currently on-loan to relegation dwellers Hercules, Drenthe seems to have had a turbulent season, with injuries, sit-outs (due to Hercules not paying wages) and momentous goals alike.
Drenthe sits last on my list for two important reasons:
1. No talk of Real Madrid clamoring for him to come back.
2. No need for Real Madrid to have him back.
With teams from England, the Netherlands, and Italy in rumors for his services, I see Drenthe jumping to a fresh new start in another country.
Future with Real Madrid: 1/10
2010-2011 Fernando Gago Ladies and Gentlemen!
I see no reason for Fernando Gago to come back to Real Madrid after this season.
Arriving in the Ramon Calderon era, similarly with Gonzalo Higuain and Marcelo, Gago has never fully reached a certain potential that Real Madrid demands.
Unlike his fellow Argentine and the bombastic Brazilian, Gago has seen injuries, inconsistencies, and lack of wow-talent see him fall in the pecking order and into the bowels of the Real Madrid training room.
Look for Real Madrid to unload Gago once the summer arrives, possibly to England with a strong link to Liverpool or back home in Argentina where he might be able to resurrect his career.
However, with the way I've seen Gago play at Real Madrid, I'm not quite sure that the rough-and-tumble Premiere League would suit his style.
Italy seems to be more his pace.
Future with Real Madrid: 1/10
Prediction: Argentina—back to Boca Juniors?
Hey! Where are my playing minutes?!
I wrote an article about Pedro Leon and his role with Real Madrid this year, hoping that he would start to see game time after a few of his teammates went down with injuries.
Whether it because he's a Jorge Valdano acquisition, a soured relationship with Jose Mourinho, injuries, or some other reason those on the outside can only fathom, it seems Peter Lion will not be used much at all this year under Mourinho.
Personally, I feel that Pedro Leon can offer Real Madrid danger along the wings and play with the same energy level with fellow attackers, di Maria, Ronaldo, and Ozil.
However, I'm not the coach of Real Madrid.
At 10 million Euros, Pedro Leon cost much more than a Real Madrid youth product would have. Probably not a necessary signing, but I would like to see Leon succeed for Real Madrid, if not for another club.
Chelsea and Hercules have both been linked with the man from Murcia, and though those are two very far apart clubs, there should be countless suitors available for a talented youngster like Pedro Leon.
Future with Real Madrid: 3/10
Prediction: La Liga—Valencia? Hercules?
Hi, I'm Ezequiel. I practice alot but never play.
In a club full of glamour-boys, Garay has to be the least-glamourous of them all.
I've liked Garay's presence whenever he's played—he's tall and good in the air defensively.
But in a tough central defense position occupied by Portuguese stalwarts Pepe and Carvalho, along with the adamant Raul Albiol, it seems Garay has not warranted a strong enough consideration for the starting XI.
Mourinho has also mentioned he'd like to bring back David Mateos, who started the year with the club and who's currently on loan with AEK Athens.
With a recent link to Sporting Lisbon, it looks like Garay's Real Madrid days are numbered.
I wonder if his best friend, Gonzalo Higuain, will cry when he leaves?
Don't cry for me Argentina!
Future with Real Madrid: 4/10
Prediction: Sporting Lisbon
No playing time, but one of the better teammates for Real Madrid
Jerzy Dudek hasn't really done very much for Real Madrid on the field, but within the clubhouse, he is known to be one of the better teammates the club has had.
Mentor to the younger folks and provider of veteran leadership, Dudek is known to be a great person and humble individual—you'd think one would have to be to sit behind Iker Casillas all this time.
Signing a one-year contract before the 2010-2011 season and not getting any younger, Jerzy Dudek may see this as his last year at Real Madrid, as the hierarchy might think youth cadets Antonio Adan or Tomas Mejias might be ready to spell Casillas more adequately.
Adan especially proved his mettle during the February 13, 2011 match against Espanyol, when Casillas was handed a red card.
If Dudek leaves, it'll be one of the more sentimental goodbyes, but Mourinho does have a tendency to stick with veterans in key positions.
Future with Real Madrid: 4/10
Prediction: Retirement or smaller club in Spain, Poland.
Should I stay or should I go?
Manolito, Oe! Manolito, Oe!
Affectionately called Manolito by the Madridista faithful, Adebayor cemented his fan-favorite status with a brace at the Bernabeu in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League against Tottenham.
Providing aerial reconnaissance offensively and defensively and crucial cover up front for Los Merengues, Adebayor has proven that he can hang with the big boys at Real Madrid.
However, though Real Madrid has big pockets, are they willing to cough up the exorbitant sum that Adebayor's contract entails for the long haul? And does he fit the mold of a true Real Madrid striker in the shape of di Stefano or Raul?
As long as he continues to provide goals, I can see Adebayor staying, however, Real Madrid might prove to go cheaper and Spanish (Fernando Llorente), or a different striker altogether (Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan).
Time will tell, but if he goes, I would appreciate Adebayor's time spent with us. He's proven to be a good player and a good teammate.
Future with Real Madrid: 5/10
Prediction: Back to Manchester City
I AM KAKA
Temporarily the most expensive footballer ever, Kaka has never found his mark with Real Madrid.
It seems AC Milan knew what they were doing when they sold Real an injury-prone Kaka, and the glimpses of what Kaka used to be are few and far between.
However, there’s still something to be said about the former Ballon d'Or winner—that just his presence provides a glimpse of his potential.
Just knowing that he can be utilized on the bench as a super-sub is one of the more intriguing aspects of his role in Real Madrid, but one thing is for sure: That is not what Florentino Perez expected when he secured his transfer.
It may come to a head where Kaka and Real Madrid part ways amicably, but seeing as how Kaka still cuts that “name brand” figure for Madrid and wondering how much patience both Perez and Jose Mourinho have with the classy Brazilian remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure—if Kaka wants to succeed at Real Madrid, or any other major club for that matter, he somehow has to regain his health and fitness. I admit, a pretty obvious statement, but it doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Future with Real Madrid: 6/10
Prediction: AC Milan or back to Brazil.
Just a kid in thought...should I leave to play?
Why have I ranked the former Santander starlet ahead of Kaka? Easy.
Canales' super-stardom has yet to rise.
"What?" you ask.
But Real Madrid only wants stars!
True. But in this instance, I can very well see Real Madrid jettison the overpriced and dwindling star of Kaka for the up-and-comer Canales who, unfortunately or not, has yet to strike gold at Real Madrid.
This year, Canales has hardly played a game and his role as “the future of Real Madrid” seems to be a bit murky. But the fact remains that, though he has not applied his “phenomenon” label to this star-studded team, it doesn’t mean he can never shine for Los Blancos.
Canales is still very young, and perhaps the best thing for an up-and-coming star to do besides not play is to sit and watch the best players on the planet and learn from them.
Every day at training, Canales is surely improving, with the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka, Xabi Alonso, and Mesut Ozil to learn from. If you’re going to sit and watch behind some players, it might as well be behind Ballon d’Or and World Cup winning players.
In the recent winter transfer period, Canales did ask Mourinho if he should leave on loan, to which Mourinho told him to stay.
Perhaps another year on the bench would not suit a player as gifted as Canales, but at least for this year, it might prove beneficial for both Canales and Madrid to nourish that burgeoning talent.
If he, very well, does leave on loan for next season, I would heavily bet on him returning to Madrid at some point and excelling at a very high level.
Future with Real Madrid: 7/10
Prediction: Out on loan but will return. Perhaps to another Spanish team or maybe England.
Lassana Diarra: Likes Music and Soda
When he first arrived in the winter of 2009 with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Lass proved to be perhaps THE player of Real Madrid. When the rest of the players seemed winded or lackadaisical, Lass, with his dogged pursuit of the ball and his relentless hustle, seemed to exemplify a pace and tenacity that Real Madrid sorely lacked at that time.
His bite and ferocious relentlessness earned him a "fan-favorite” label right away. As two years have slipped by, Lass’ role seems to have been diminished by the presence of Sami Khedira and Esteban Granero. His rabid attacks in the midfield earn him plenty of foul trouble and yellow cards, and it remains to be seen if he is a favorite of Jose Mourinho.
However, in the grand scheme of things, I see Lass as a vital cog in this current Madrid system. His style of play may or may not be in the mold of what Real Madrid entails, but there are times when his style of play is needed and the fact remains that the holding midfield position is a position that a club must have plenty of resources.
Lass provides a sense of solidity in the midfield, and his ability to escape with the ball in tight situations exemplifies his willingness to attack with the football. He may not be the most gifted attacker, but his ability to charge up the field earns him flexibility points that I think is key for a club to have.
I, for one, would keep Lass in a heartbeat. I flat out like his style of play. But with constant rumors about his departure attached to him at every conceivable transfer window, it may be that Lass leaves the club if they, or, perhaps more specifically, Jose Mourinho doesn’t see him at the club any longer.
Future with Real Madrid: 7/10
Prediction: Back to England. Hope he stays.
He won’t go anywhere.
Rumors are rumors. They aren’t concrete until they are official. Ramos’ contract negotiations and talk of Mourinho/Ramos not getting along, in addition to swap rumors with Chelsea and AC Milan, have stymied Ramos’ place at Madrid, but I’ll take all of that hogwash with a grain of salt.
Though he was brought up from the Sevilla youth system, Sergio Ramos is embodying each day the exemplification of what it means to be Madridista in spirit. More and more, Ramos is becoming the lifeblood of the team along with Casillas, and once something is entrenched that deep, it’s hard for it to say goodbye.
Though his role as Madrid’s right-back may still need improvement at times, Ramos comes as No. 1 on this list because his flair and love that he expresses on the field and off it for Real Madrid almost comes second-to-none.
An institute like Real Madrid needs its handful of players that are core to the system. The last era’s were Raul, Guti, Salgado, and to an extent, Roberto Carlos.
Casillas and Ramos are embodying the new wave, and it’ll be interesting to see who takes up the Real Madrid flag with them.
I'M THE BOSS!
And so, let the speculation begin!
Of course, nothing is set in stone, but one thing Real Madrid is known for is letting go and signing players on a whim—Jose Mourinho already expects to sign two to three new players.
I do not expect all of these 10 players to leave the team, but it's interesting, exciting, and frustrating to ponder the future of this unique squad.
What new players will Jose Mourinho attain in his attempt to build a champion in Real Madrid?
We'll find out soon enough, and the more he wins, the more this team will mold itself into's Mourinho's image—which, as long as championship titles arrive, will be a very beautiful image indeed.