Real Madrid Transfer News: 4 Signings That Could Help Them Compete with Barca
I would imagine that when a manager is appointed at Real Madrid, rather than being told "Go out and win the league and the Champions League", they are simply told "Go out and be better than Barcelona" because quite simply, if you are better than Barca, you are the best team in the world. And if you are the best team in the world, you will win league titles and Champions Leagues galore.
Real are in an unfortunate position at the moment. They are the second-best team in the world, at least in my view. For most teams that would be enough. If you told the owners, fans and manager of the vast majority of clubs that their club was the second-best team in the footballing world, they would likely be delighted by such news. But not Real.
Real must be No. 1. Real are the most-decorated club in world football. Real are the most famous club in world football. Real are the biggest club in world football. But that's not enough. In the mind of everyone connected to Real Madrid, they must be the best team in world football.
They have one of the greatest managers in the world, they have some of the greatest players in the world and they play some of the best football in the world. Unfortunately for them, their great rivals Barcelona play better football, have better players and their manager, Pep Guardiola, is arguably better than Real's man in charge, Jose Mourinho.
Don't tell Jose I said this, but The Special One may not be special enough right now. His team are not a huge distance behind Barcelona, but the gulf could widen as Barca have strengthened their ranks considerably by adding Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez and former La Mesia product Cesc Fabregas to their ranks.
Real themselves have made two notable signings this summer. The first was Nuri Sahin from Borussia Dortmund, although at the moment it's difficult to see where he might start in a team that already has Xabi Alonso firmly entrenched in Sahin's favoured role.
They also spent big on Portuguese left-back Fabio Coentrao who will compete with Marcelo for a starting role. As good as the former Benfica star is, left-backs do not win titles by themselves.
Real's squad was a great one last season, and with no major departures as well as their new recruits, it will be a great one this season. With that being said, I do see some positions within Real's starting 11 that I feel they could possibly upgrade.
Without question, Real will challenge on all fronts this season as Mourinho looks to add further titles to his glittering résumé. That résumé already includes two European Cups, a plethora of league titles won in three different countries prior to his arrival at Real last summer and a host of domestic cups including the Copa Del Rey he led his side to last spring.
It's an honour roll to be proud of, and Mourinho is a fiercely proud man. He will take personal exception to the fact that Guardiola has matched his personal haul of Champions League titles despite having been in management for a considerably shorter time and is rated by many as the best manager in Europe at present.
He will know Real need to do something if that are to compete with Barcelona and have a realistic shot at returning the La Liga trophy to what they believe is it's rightful home—the trophy room at Real's Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
In this article, I will suggest four possible signings that Real should make, in my opinion, if they are to wrestle the title back from Barca and also have a chance to become the first team into double figures in terms of European Cup triumphs.
Obviously, the will not make them all, but I think they need at least two of them, either in the remaining days of this transfer window or in January, if they are to catch Barca.
I hope you enjoy.
Central Defender Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund and Germany
A great team needs a great central defender. Look back through football history and that will be evident. Real do own a central defender who during his career has been considered a great one—Ricardo Carvalho.
Unfortunately for Real, and Carvalho, whilst he's still a very good player, he's no longer the world-class player he was when he galvanised the Porto and Chelsea defences during his first two spells under the management of Jose Mourinho.
While Carvalho had a good season for Madrid last season and made a key contribution to their good defensive record, I think Real need an upgrade in the centre of their defence if they are to keep out Messi and company.
Real's other options at centre-back are Sergio Ramos who I think is much better suited to his current right-back role where is among the world's best, Raul Albiol who I think makes an excellent reserve but isn't good enough to start for a club like Real on a regular basis and of course Pepe.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of Pepe, and think he's hugely overrated, but Mourinho seems to rate him very highly, and he recently signed a new five-year contract extension so I think his place in the team is safe.
Which brings me back to Carvalho. With Pepe likely to remain first choice, if Madrid are to upgrade in central defence then he is likely to be the one to lose his first team place to make way for the new arrival.
The new arrival must have many of the same characteristics and strengths as Carvalho to fit into the Real defence and for me, the perfect choice is Mats Hummels.
Personally, I think Hummels is the best central defender in the world today. He does not have a single weakness. Manchester United fans will tell you that Nemanja Vidic is the world's best, but Vidic is slow, struggles against anything resembling pace, and he's quite limited on the ball.
Barcelona fans will tell you it's Gerard Pique. Pique is actually my No. 2 central defender. He's a fantastic all-round defender.
But Hummels does everything Pique does, and he does it better. He's dominant in the air, strong, tackles well, has great anticipation, awareness and positional sense. He also has good pace, is very composed and he's a fantastic passer of the ball. He's also excellent capable of scoring goals. Oh, and he's only 22.
As I said that at the start of the slide, great teams need great central defenders, and for my money, Hummels is the greatest right now and will only get better. His potential is scary and while he would be expensive for a defender, he'd be worth every penny.
Defensive Midfielder Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao and Spain
If you could combine the traits of Real's existing defensive midfielders, Semi Khedira, Lassana Diarra and Fernando Gago, you have arguably the greatest defensive midfielder in the world. You would have a player who could best the fantastic Sergio Busquets of Barcelona. You would have, well, you would have Javi Martinez.
In reality, to simply call Javi Martinez a defensive midfielder does not do justice to his magnificent talent. He's a wonderful all-around midfielder who reminds me of Roy Keane but without the nutcase tendencies.
There's very little that he's not capable of, but in the modern age, defensive midfield role, he can really excel. I foresee Martinez taking over the defensive midfield role for the Spanish National team within the next 12 months if he continues to progress—a move that may see Sergio Busquets stepping back into central defense alongside Barca teammate Gerard Pique.
It's possible we may see that defensive pairing at Barca sometime soon as there has been mention of a possible move by the Catalans for Martinez next summer.
Barca securing Martinez would be a disaster for Real, and that is why I believe they should make their move for him now. He would slide perfectly into their team alongside Alonso and give their four attacking players a platform from which to launch countless attacks.
Martinez is going to become a truly great player over the next few years, and Mourinho and his moneymen would be wise to ensure that happens in a Real Madrid shirt.
Winger/Attacking Midfielder Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich and France
Kaka is one of the greatest players on the planet. He's a wonderful playmaker capable of winning matches by himself. Unfortunately, he plays second fiddle at Real Madrid to Mesut Ozil, one of my personal favourite players, who is on the verge of becoming a world-class player in his own right.
With Ozil in Kaka's position, the only way for the Brazilian maestro to break into Real's starting 11 would be a move to the wing where his creativity and incisive passing would blend well with that of Ozil and give Madrid a fantastic creative duo who could lead them to the top of the La Liga mountain.
Kaka's not a winger though. He doesn't have the pace or the natural instinct for the role. It's not that he's slow, he's just not what you'd call pacey which is what Real need from the wide role. As well as creativity, Real need natural width and the ability to beat a full-back and get crosses in.
Angel Di Maria is one of the quickest players in world football. An excellent winger with bags of potential who's capable of destroying any fullback in the world when he's on top form. Unfortunately, he's frustratingly inconsistent.
He's also, in my opinion, not naturally creative enough to give Madrid what they really need from that role. He's at his best getting to the bye-line and whipping crosses across the face of goal.
He's not all that comfortable when asked to thread a through ball or change a game in the blink of an eye. As I mentioned, that is part of what Real need but doesn't meet the entire job description.
If Madrid could take Kaka and Di Maria and make one player out of both of their skill sets, they would have the answer to their problem. Here's where Ribery comes in.
Ribery is a creative genius, who's also capable of leaving defenders for dead and putting exquisite crosses into the penalty area. He's a perfect blend of attacking midfielder and winger and his ability to play both flanks would be a huge plus for Madrid.
With Ribery floating from wing to wing, and Ozil roaming freely to the whatever side Ribery isn't occupying, Madrid would have a dynamic, interchangeable playmaking duo capable of unlocking any defence.
Ribery has long been linked with a move to Real. Madrid legend Zinedine Zidane is a big fan of his fellow Frenchman and has long championed his case for a move to Los Blancos. I believe that now is the time for Madrid to make their move and add Ribery to their ranks. Bayern Munich won't sell easily, but Real Madrid are Real Madrid, and what they want, they generally get.
Centre Forward Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao and Spain
This may seem like an odd suggestion given that Real already have three fantastic frontmen in Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain, but I feel Fernando Llorente offers something that the others do not. Physical presence and aerial dominace.
Jose Mourinho likes to have a physical presence upfront, and he likes to be able to instruct his defenders to play it early and long to a frontman who can win the high ball and lay the ball off to his strike partner and onrushing midfielders.
That tactic was one of the keys to his success at both Porto, where Jardel played the role, and Chelsea, where Didier Drogba perfected it. Drogba's hold-up play and his ability to lay the ball off to Frank Lampard was a key reason behind Chelsea's back-to-back Premier League titles.
Llorente would give Real that avenue of attack. That's not to say that's all he would bring to the table, but that's the one aspect he would provide that the current group of strikers do not. Real have been linked with a move for the big Bilbao striker since Mourinho took charge at the club, and Mourinho said in July that the team could use a new striker.
For my money, Llorente makes the most sense.
Madrid crave more success.
Angel Martinez/Getty Images
In my view, Real need to add players in at least two of the four positions I have suggested these players in. It doesn't necessarily have to be these players, although I can't, at present, think of any better in their respective roles to fulfill Real's needs at the position.
Feel free to leave you comments, and of course, you're own suggestions of potential signings for Real Madrid.
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