Real Madrid have picked up their form of late and recorded their biggest win in nearly 50 years at the weekend, but the club is unlikely to be resting on their laurels ahead of what is expected to be a typically eye-catching summer in the transfer window. A 9-1 win over Granada followed by a 2-0 triumph at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday has kept the gap to Barcelona at the top of La Liga to a manageable four points. But the Spanish giants have already moved to bolster their squad ahead of next season, landing Brazilian right-back Danilo for a fee of €31.5 million from Porto.
For a club that has regularly broken the transfer record over the past 15 years, that represents modest business, and it would be a surprise were more blockbuster deals not to follow. Here are the latest updates on the players thought to feature prominently on the European champions’ list of transfer targets:
Speculation over Sterling’s future is rife after he gave a recent interview in which he admitted he has rejected a contract offer from Liverpool and would wait to evaluate his future. The 20-year-old has become hugely influential for Liverpool and a regular for England, while he won Europe’s Golden Boy award last year for the most promising player under the age of 21 across the continent. Yet, although he has ample potential, he still lacks the end product to be considered among the world’s best. And certainly it would be a surprise were Madrid to see Sterling as a player who could currently fit into their already stacked lineup of attacking talent. Still, Zinedine Zidane, the current coach of Real Madrid’s B team, Castilla, has revealed that the club are monitoring his progress.
"We know about Sterling and we're obviously following his progress,” the former Real Madrid and France midfielder said, reports Marca. “There aren't many players in the world that could improve Real Madrid's first team, so it makes sense to closely monitor the progress of one of the best young players in the world.
“We followed [Gareth] Bale for over a year and the same can also be said for Isco and [Raphael] Varane. We keep an eye on the best young players in Europe, and if they have something to offer Real Madrid then we contact their club and try to take the next step.”
José Luis Gayà
Gayà has been one of the biggest breakthrough stories in Europe this season. Aged just 19, the left-back has been a near ever present for a Valencia team that lies in the top four in La Liga, and is unsurprisingly already thought to be attracting the attention of some top clubs from across Europe, including Real Madrid. With growing rumors that Fabio Coentrao will leave the Bernabeu this summer, Gayà could well be seen as a competitor and eventual successor for incumbent left-back Marcelo. With Gayà believed to have a buyout clause of €20 million, Valencia may find it difficult to hold onto their starlet, even though their executive president insists they remain confident that they can do just that,
“We continue with it,” Amaedo Salvo said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “It is an issue which is governed by the times of the negotiation and each player’s negotiation is different. Gayà has a contract until 2018 and at Valencia we want players who want to be here, and until now Gayà has demonstrated his commitment. With Gayà I am positive.”
Another of Europe’s rising stars this season has been a player that Real Madrid already know well. After growing frustrated at being unable to garner a regular first-team place at the Bernabeu, Morata left for Juventus last summer for a fee of €22 million. The 22-year-old has gone onto become an increasingly important presence for the Italian champions, scoring in each leg of their recent Champions League victory over Borussia Dortmund. His form has bred suggestions that Madrid could choose to exercise a clause in the deal made when he was sold, allowing them to buy Morata back for €30 million this summer. But Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has already played down that suggestion and now Morata has also dismissed the possibility of returning.
“The clause of Real Madrid? I don’t think about it,” he told Italian publication Tuttosport. “Juventus has given me life, I want to stay for a long time.”
Some of the strongest rumors concerning Real Madrid have concerned their intentions for their goalkeeping position. Iker Casillas has rediscovered some of poise this season, but he has continued to make arguably more errors than a club of Madrid’s ambitions can afford. David de Gea, yet to sign an extension to his Manchester United contract that has just over a year left to run, has been the player most keenly linked as his replacement. A less expensive target has also been mooted in recent days, however.
Leno, 23, has been in fine form for Bayer Leverkusen, and Marca has reported that Madrid are keeping a close eye on his progress. Asked about the reports, the Germany Under-21 stopper stated that he knew nothing of Madrid’s interest. However, were Los Blancos to come calling, it would be hard for either he or his club to resist. If Leno was to be signed he would likely vie with Costa Rican Keylor Navas for the No. 1 spot, with Casillas’ time at the Bernabeu surely coming to an end.