I can only imagine the scenes as the Real Madrid president and coach sit down to plan for next season - it must be like a game of poker.
“I see your De Gea and raise you an Mbappé.”
Florentino Pérez will be pushing for a new “Galáctico” as Zinedine Zidane wants to bring in the next “bright young thing”.
It’s a battle of the economical, shirt-selling signing versus the need for footballing recruitments.
When I started writing this, the news broke that interest had been dropped in David De Gea.
It takes me back to the summer of 2003 when I was dispatched to cover the David Beckham saga. As I landed in Madrid the clubpresident went on record saying: “Six times I tell you, Beckham will not be joining us”. A couple of days later he was unveiled in Hollywood fashion.
The De Gea story has been strung out for months and I still anticipate he will be a Real Madrid goalkeeper before the season starts. I’m not sure the champions actually need a new goalkeeper but I’m sure the president will get his way.
De Gea fits the bill, he’ll look magnificent alongside Señor Pérez at a glitzy unveiling on some extravagant Bernabéu plinth.
It would fulfil the money-man’s desire to sign a marquee player every season. Some: Figo, Ronaldo, Zidane have worked; others: Beckham, Kaká and James didn’t really add to the potency.
To quote Pérez: “In our model it is fundamental to understand that in every signing of every player, we have to consider the income generated.”
Meanwhile Zidane is more pragmatic and considers the football rewards rather than the fiscal dividends.
He appears to have set his sights on Kylian Mbappé. There have been reports of world-record bids for the Monaco wonderkid. This smacks of Zidane’s influence. Mbappé is only 18 with one full, yet sensational season behind him. He’s been likened to Thierry Henry, a team-mate of the Real Madrid coach when France were dominating the world.
Mbappé may not be an instant shirt-seller, in fact he may not be an instant part of the team and could be loaned back to Monaco as part of his development, but it’s an investment.
There’s French influence on the other signing who could also be loaned out immediately after signing.
Marseille-born Theo Hernández will join for around 24 million euros from Atlético to eventually replace Marcelo but in the meantime he will probably be parked at Alavés where he excelled last season.
Manchester United fans have been desperate to find out whether Álvaro Morata will be leaving Madrid for Manchester. I suspect that he is still vital to Zidane’s plans and the Real coach will be trying to persuade him that he is the long-term centre-forward at the club. I think the media storm is a way of Morata’s “people” letting the club know of his value.
So United fans, it looks like the best bet is James Rodríguez one way as De Gea goes the other. James is still a world-class talent but like Ángel Di María and Mesut Özil before him, he hasn’t quite fulfilled himself in the Spanish capital.
This is all speculation, of course, but informed speculation.