PETE JENSON: Real Madrid want a new No.9 to rival Benzema, who turns 36 next year…signing Mbappe or Haaland is out of the question as their bet on hoping Hazard escalates backfired spectacularly
- Real Madrid cursed for missing Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe
- They will now seek a new No.9 this summer to compete with Karim Benzema
- Betting on Mariano Diaz and playing Eden Hazard as a false nine backfired
Real Madrid are cursing they missed out on Erling Haaland last summer after Karim Benzema failed to show up in their semi-final humiliation at the hands of Manchester City.
Haaland failed to find the net in both legs but only Thibaut Courtois’ performance prevented him from scoring a hat-trick in the second game, while Benzema was anonymous for 180 minutes.
Madrid will sign a centre-forward this summer to rival the Frenchman, but reverse their decision last year not to fight for Haaland’s signature, instead focusing on Kylian Mbappe.
Haaland’s father and agent Alfie has included Madrid on his whirlwind tour of Europe’s top clubs in preparation for the player’s transfer from Borussia Dortmund, but they ruled out trying to compete with Manchester City for his signature as they were convinced that Mbappe had directed his contract at PSG to join them for free at the start of this season.
What followed still haunts the club – the 24-year-old stunned them with a last-minute decision to renew with PSG and left them with neither of Europe’s two best young strikers.
Karim Benzema barely scored in Real Madrid’s semi-final surrender to Man City
Madrid are ruining their decision last year not to fight for Erling Haaland (left), instead focusing on Kylian Mbappe (right)
The club bet on three fronts to cover the absence of a big signing. Firstly, they believed Benzema could repeat his incredible numbers last season. He has scored 29 goals in 57 games this season, a far cry from the 44 in 56 games he managed last season when he won the Ballon d’Or.
Bet number two was that, having missed out on Mbappe and Halaand, Eden Hazard – functioning as a false nine – would finally have a successful fourth season at the club.
But Madrid’s best player has only started four games all season and never offered a serious alternative to Benzema. Madrid are struggling with the Belgian’s massive £400,000 weekly wage for one more season.
Plan number three was that reserve centre-forward Mariano Diaz could weigh in with a goal, but he hasn’t scored since last May and will eventually leave the club at the end of his contract this summer.
Neither Haaland (left) nor Mbappe are realistic short-term goals for Carlo Ancelotti (right)
Neither Haaland (contracted by City until 2027) nor Mbappe are realistic short-term targets this summer.
Madrid would only try to sign Mbappe if he was out of contract like he was last summer. They know that PSG have no intention of releasing him this year and therefore won’t pursue him.
That could change in 2024 when there are suggestions the player has a release clause, but even with that possibility on the table Madrid are adamant he has to come to them – they won’t pursue him.
The alternatives do not convince. Harry Kane is considered to be at the wrong end of his career and youngster Dusan Vlahovic is overpriced.
One signing the club are sure to complete is Jude Bellingham and much of the investigation into Madrid’s surrender to the Etihad centered on the 19-year-old England midfielder’s arrival.
Bellingham is seen as key to rejuvenating a midfielder who was left chasing shadows by Rodri and company on Wednesday night.
Bets on centre-forward Mariano Diaz (left) and Eden Hazard (right) failed to pay off
This will not be the last of the novelties of this summer. Fran Garcia has already agreed to the terms of his return to the club he represented at youth level.
The Rayo Vallecano left-back will be joined by a new right-back as 31-year-old Dani Carvajal is more in competition for his place than converted winger Lucas Vazquez.
But it is in attack that Madrid must find a solution. Benzema will be 36 this time next season and they can’t afford another scenario where if the opposition shut down Vinicius, they’ll shut down Madrid.