It has already been a summer of change at Real Madrid, with the man who delivered the club a long-sought 10th European Cup, Carlo Ancelotti, being replaced by Rafa Benitez. The club has yet to make a big splash in the transfer market since then, but one of their legendary players now looks poised to complete his exit from the Bernabeu.
Iker Casillas broke into the Real Madrid side and won the Champions League as a teenager before going onto become club captain, while also leading Spain to its first World Cup title. But the last two-and-a-half years have been far more difficult, having been dropped first by Jose Mourinho and then Ancelotti. Although he regained the No. 1 role last season, he has still failed to recapture the reliability of his former years. And Real Madrid’s pursuit of Manchester United’s David de Gea has made it obvious that they are already planning for a future without the 34-year-old.
Casillas now looks set to move aside, with Marca among the outlets reporting that an agreement to take him to Porto is imminent. The transfer had appeared in jeopardy over a dispute between how much of Casillas’ hefty €12.5 million salary would be Madrid, but that would now seem to have been resolved.
Casillas may not be the only goalkeeper leaving the Bernabeu, with the future of Keylor Navas, who had to settle for the role of understudy in his first season with the club last term, also rumored to be on the way out. And, while the transfer of De Gea remains in limbo, Madrid appear to be pushing ahead with getting a goalkeeper in.
According to Madrid-based sports daily AS, Los Blancos have reached an agreement to bring their former youth team graduate Kiki Casilla back to the club from Espanyol. A €6 million fee is expected to change hands for the 28-year-old, who left Madrid in 2007. Casilla recorded 13 clean sheets in 37 La Liga appearances last season, and also made his debut for Spain in a friendly against Germany.
Whether De Gea follows him to the Bernabeu could well depend on the future of Sergio Ramos. Manchester United have been pursuing the center-back, with reports suggesting that they will now refuse to sell De Gea unless Ramos is allowed to move in the opposite direction. While Madrid have been resistant to the idea of losing Ramos thus far, they appear to be making contingency plans for his departure. AS reports that Real Madrid could be bringing another player back to the club, having shown a strong interest in current Zenit St Petersburg defender Ezequiel Garay.
The 28-year-old struggled to establish himself in three years at the Bernabeu, but has impressed since, first at Benfica, and then after leaving last summer for Russian side Zenit. While lacking outstanding pace, Garay has plenty of quality on the ball, and he was a regular in the Argentina side that reached the finals of the World Cup and Copa America.
A more surprising target for Real Madrid has also been floated in recent days. Barcelona-based publication Sport has reported that Madrid president Florentino Perez inquired about the availability of Zlatan Ibrahimovic during a meeting with the owners of Paris Saint-Germain. Ibrahimovic’s future is in doubt with PSG reluctant to extend the Swedish striker’s mammoth contract beyond next summer. It has been rumored that the French champions are even considering moving Ibrahimovic on this summer as they seek to raise funds for some big signings, potentially including Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real Madrid have been linked with several strikers, too, following the decision not to sign last season’s loanee Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez on a permanent basis. Yet if a player with the status of Ibrahimovic were to arrive, which remains an unlikely proposition, it is highly improbable that he and Karim Benzema would be able to co-exist. Thus Sport suggests that Benzema could be allowed to leave for Manchester United, who have shown a keen interest. Despite playing a key role for Madrid in recent seasons, the France international has often been underappreciated by the Madrid fans, even becoming the target of Bernabeu boos in the past.