Almost as soon as the final whistle blew at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night to end Real Madrid’s hopes of a dramatic comeback in their Champions League semifinal against Borussia Dortmund, the attention turned to what next season would bring for the gloried Spanish club where failure is not an option.
There may be a Copa del Rey final against city rivals Atletico Madrid to come but this season has all been about La Decima -- the attempt to claim an historic 10th European Cup that has now eluded the club for 11 years.
Manager Jose Mourinho certainly caught wind of the mood and in post-match interviews was only to keen to all-but confirm what has long been known -- that he will be leaving in the summer.
The switch on the bench is unlikely to be the only change in personnel at Madrid this close season.
A new manager will desire to make changes to the squad and there is also a small matter of a presidential election this summer, which traditionally involves promises of a major signing or two.
Tottenham’s Gareth Bale has been linked to Madrid for some time and there appears increasing momentum behind a huge transfer this summer.
There is a belief that the Wales international would be willing to remain at the London club if they were to secure a Champions League place for next season. Currently a place outside a qualifying position, Tottenham face a real battle to get into the competition.
Even if Bale does decide to leave, he is unlikely to be allowed to go easily by Tottenham’s notoriously tough-negotiating chairman Daniel Levy.
But Madrid’s former midfielder and now club adviser Zinedine Zidane has said that, even at a potential cost of £60 million, Bale would be value for money.
"After the season he has just had and still being so young, Gareth Bale is going to be one of the most expensive players in the world if he decides to move," Zidane said, according to the Daily Mirror.
"Tottenham could command £40 million, £50 million maybe even £60 million for him. It is a lot of money, but there are maybe three or four teams in the world that can pay that sort of transfer fee and it won't put them off.
"A player like Bale can be the difference between a big club winning the league or Champions League. They would be getting the best player in Europe this season and he is at an age where he can still play at the top for another ten years.
Madrid also appear to be looking to bring in a world-class striker. Against Borussia Dortmund Gonzalo Higuain’s finishing deserted him and fellow front man Karim Benzema has also too often failed to produce at the very highest level.
The leading target may well be Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. The Argentina international has been the subject of interest from Madrid both prior and subsequent to his big-money move from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
Esteemed Spanish journalist for AS and the Daily Telegraph Guillem Balague recently stated that Aguero was again set to be the subject of serious interest from Madrid this summer.
While the 24-year-old has never said that he wants to leave City, after the club’s match against Madrid in the Champions League last September he revealed that he would welcome the chance to play for Los Blancos and would have signed for them if given the chance when he left Atletico.
Also likely to feature prominently in Madrid’s thoughts, according to various rumors, is current Atletico star striker Radamel Falcao. A move is sure to be complicated, though, by the reluctance of Atletico to sell their prized asset to the leading rivals.
Fierce competition for the prolific Colombian is also believed to exist in the form of Chelsea and Manchester United.
Madrid will also surely have one eye on the future of Brazil star Neymar. Top clubs from across Europe have been eagerly awaiting the time when the Santos forward decides to leave Santos and it now appears his exit could be imminent.
Santos’ vice-president, Odilio Rodrigues, recently claimed that Neymar believes his time in Brazil “is at an end.”
While a move to Spain looks likelier than Neymar joining a club in England, Barcelona have long been considered the front-runners for the 21-year-old’s signature.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.