The summer transfer window turned out to be another busy, headline-grabbing one for Real Madrid and team president Florentino Perez. It was only logical for Madrid to attempt to surpass Barcelona‘s acquisition of one of the hottest prospects in the world, Neymar, to complement an already stacked roster. Not only did Madrid surpass Barcelona in quality of acquisitions, but also broke their own world record for most expensive transfer with the purchase of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hostpur for a whopping $132 million. It should not come as a surprise to anyone, as Madrid is used to roster overhauls and big signings every year. The characteristic “Galácticos” transfer policy, buying the best players in the world at exorbitant costs, is synonymous with Perez’s presidency.
Among the players who left Madrid are world-renowned names like Gonzalo Higuain (sold to Napoli for $53 million), Mesut Ozil (sold to Arsenal for $66 million) and Kaka (free transfer to AC Milan), who were sold after being key pieces in the attack for the past three to four years. But just like the majority of big names that have come and gone, they were quickly replaced. These changes, along with that of former coach Jose Mourinho, who left for Chelsea and was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti, mark the beginning of a new era in which Madrid will look to regain control of La Liga and bring a tenth UEFA Champions League title to the Spanish capital. In order to do so, Perez brought in young players who are destined for stardom to fill in for those who left, like Asier Illarramendi (bought from Real Sociedad for $43 million), Isco (bought from Malaga for $36 million), Casemiro (bought from Sao Paulo for $8 million) and Bale. Keep in mind that they will join a locker room that already includes names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Ramos, Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso. Locker room management will be paramount to the success of the club, and Ancelotti is a coach with plenty of experience dealing with ego-filled rosters.
The end of the transfer window brings gigantic expectations, and it also raises some questions to consider for the current season. The most intriguing and important question is the starting lineup. Most positions are all but set in stone, but others seem to be up for grabs. Ancelotti must decide whether or not to stick to Diego Lopez over long-time starter and captain Iker Casillas in goal, to much of the chagrin of the Madrid faithful. At the left center back position, Raphael Varane and Pepe will split, as will Alvaro Arbeloa and Dani Carvajal at right back, and Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao at left back. Isco and Modric both started the first three games of the season, with Isco playing as attacking midfielder, his and Modric’s natural position, and Modric just ahead of the defensive line. Lastly, Bale and Di Maria will battle for one of the winger slots, opposite Ronaldo. There are other doubts that Ancelotti will look to clear up: How will he deal with the “issue” of having too many great players and not enough playing time for all of them? Does the arrival of Bale mean the beginning of the end for Di Maria in Madrid? Will Bale and Ronaldo complement each other, and turn Madrid into an even more powerful offensive juggernaut? Can Isco and Modric coexist on the pitch, despite having very similar playing styles? Does the sale of Higuain and Ozil open the door for young players like Alvaro Morata and Jese Rodriguez? Are these transfer enough to finally win a tenth European cup? Only time and results will answer the questions, but Ancelotti has plenty of resources at his disposal, and the roster depth to fulfill the expectations of winning it all this season.