Real Madrid remain atop the Spanish Primera Division standings after nine rounds of fixtures, having beaten Celta Vigo 3-1 on Saturday. Yet it was a victory that, not for the first time this season, owed much to a superb performance from goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Meanwhile, the functioning of Real Madrid’s attack under Rafael Benitez has come under regular scrutiny since he took charge in the summer.
The last transfer window was rare in not featuring a major attacking signing for the 10-time European champions. But recent reports suggest that they may have lined up their next star target, with speculation continuing that Madrid want to prize Eden Hazard away from English champions Chelsea.
The Belgium international excelled last season, and was voted player of the year by both his fellow professionals and journalists for his efforts in helping Chelsea to the Premier League title. But he, like many of his teammates, has struggled in what has been a disastrous start to the London club’s title defense. Unlike many of Chelsea’s underperformers, though, Hazard has been singled out for criticism by his manager, and former Real Madrid boss, Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho’s decision to drop Hazard for a Premier League fixture against Aston Villa earlier this month and subsequent comments that the player needed to improve his defensive effort has sparked rumors that his future might lie elsewhere. Real Madrid are unlikely to be the only suitors, however. Recent reports in Britain and Spain have suggested that Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City could all be interested in the 24-year-old, who has been valued at around 100 million euros.
An investment of that scale could well have knock-on effects. And, chiefly, given that they occupy similar positions, would call the future of Cristiano Ronaldo into further question. Indeed, Spanish sports daily Mundo Deportivo claims that Hazard is potentially being sought as a replacement for the Portuguese star.
Ronaldo will have two years remaining on his contract come next summer, and has been strongly linked with a transfer to Paris Saint-Germain, while former club Manchester United are also thought to be interested. Given he will be aged 31 by the end of this season, it would be the last real chance for Real Madrid to cash in on their prized asset. Still, given that he has scored 12 goals already this season, there is little sign of him slowing down. And Ronaldo recently stated once again that he was intent on retiring at Real Madrid.
But Los Blancos could seek to refresh their attacking options before the end of this season. In recent weeks reports in both Spain and England have suggested that Real Madrid are keen on Atlético Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann. After netting 22 La Liga goals in his first season with Atlético last term, the France international is again catching the eye this campaign.
It appears only a matter of time before the 24-year-old joins one of Europe’s true super clubs, although Real Madrid will be at a disadvantage if and when that happens. The rivalry between the two big clubs in the Spanish capital means Atlético will doubtless prefer Griezmann to go anywhere else but to Real Madrid. In the past Real Madrid have been keen on Atlético Madrid strikers Sergio Aguero and Radamel Falcao but have had to watch as their rivals sold the players elsewhere.
The most improbable transfer rumor of the season, though, surely goes to the reports linking Real Madrid with a move for Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy. The source of the rumor appears to be Spanish website Fichajes.net, although it has since been picked up in publications in Spain and England. While Vardy currently leads the Premier League scoring charts with 10 goals, it is a story that appears fantastical in the extreme.
Vardy’s rise to prominence and a place in the England squad from playing in the non-league just three years ago has been remarkable. But he turns 29 next January and had only scored five goals in the Premier League before this season.