Less than a day removed from the sacking of manager Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has reportedly set his sights on former Liverpool and Chelsea boss Rafa Benitez. Los Blancos wrapped up a disappointing campaign with zero trophies, and could watch as archrival Barcelona complete the ever rare treble.
That no doubt has team officials and supporters seething and eyeing major changes to the roster, however the one player Spanish media have wished to go figures to continue his stay at Santiago Bernabeu.
According to The Telegraph, Benitez told Perez he plans to build Madrid around 25-year-old winger Gareth Bale, which could open the door for superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure.
Keeping Bale, who made his way to Spain following an £86 million transfer from Tottenham two years ago, will go a long way in Perez remaining atop Madrid and avoids him calling the record-setting deal a failure.
Benitez evidently wishes to play Bale on the left side of the field, where he’s far more comfortable and can better utilize his special skill set, while instituting a “team ethic," Telegraph reported. The Welshman followed up a 22-goal inaugural season at the Bernabeu with a significant drop-off in production in his second year.
Thus, a sale of Ronaldo could be in the works. Last week Marca reported the 30-year-old Portuguese, whose only 13 goals away from Madrid’s all-time scoring lead, desired full details in Madrid and Perez’s plans for the future before he made a decision on whether to stay or leave the squad he’s called home since 2009.
Ligue 1’s Paris Saint-Germain were linked to Ronaldo for a deal that could reach as high as £89 million, a new record-setting amount that would immediately make the French titans Champions League contenders. It’s a move that seems unlikely for Ronaldo, who still has several years of top form left in his legs and his best chances for more trophies are in Spain.
As for who Madrid and the assumed Benitez could buy with such a transfer treasure chest, highly-lauded Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba might be first on the wish list.
French outlet L’Equipe reports Pogba actually prefers a move to either Madrid or Barcelona than a return to Manchester United. The 22-year-old French international rocketed to fame with 12 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this term while helping the Italian side reach the UCL finals for the first time since 2003.
Earlier this month Juventus reportedly told clubs inquiring about Pogba’s availability that his value is set at £71 million. The Serie A champs have also already held meetings with Manchester City, Barcelona and PSG regarding Pogba, which means Madrid will have to act fast or outspend three of the richest clubs in the sport.
There’s also the ceaseless speculation regarding Manchester United keeper David de Gea, who at times seemed to singlehandedly keep the Red Devils in Premier League contention this term.
De Gea’s been linked to a stay with Madrid throughout the season, and current starting keeper Iker Casillas added fuel to the transfer fire but telling Spanish TV he’s anticipating an intense position battle with the 24-year-old compatriot.
"I'm delighted with the competition. My contract does not say you have to start," Casillas said. "I would like to finish my career here. De Gea is a really nice boy and a goalkeeper for the present and future. If he comes here he'll be well received and helped. We'll compete. He can handle the pressure and will be served from his experience at United."
United manager Louis van Gaal credited De Gea’s development to his side’s fourth-place finish in Premier League, and said at the start of the year he was unsure if he could rise to the occasion. Van Gaal has even conceded he’s unsure if he can keep De Gea at Old Trafford.