Real Madrid remain quietly confident that Kylian Mbappe will join them this summer but Manchester City signing Erling Haaland removes their Galatico alternative and leaves them trying not to ponder the consequences of going for both and ending up with neither.
Their interest in Haaland was never all-in, as it has been for Mbappe. In part that was down to the incredible form of Karim Benzema.
The 34-year-old has established himself as a firm candidate for the Ballon d’Or and is very much Real Madrid’s No 9.
Real Madrid remain quietly confident that PSG star Kylian Mbappe will join them this summer
Manchester City signing Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland removes their alternative option
Mbappe’s arrival will not leave the manager having to change his system to accommodate both because he will play on one wing with Vinicius on the other and Benzema through the middle.
Fitting Haaland in would have been more problematic. And Madrid have brushed off suggestions they were beaten to his signing by City’s greater financial muscle by talking-up Benzema and the two young Brazilians who have starred alongside him – Vinicius all season, and Rodrygo of late.
But there was interest in Haaland, motivated in part by a desire to keep the price high for whoever did sign him, and as a safety net if they missed their No 1 target.
If Mbappe joins Madrid, he is expected to play on one wing, Vinicius (right) on the other, and Karim Benzema (left) through the middle in a front three next season
The interest had intensified in the last couple of months aware that for all that Mbappe was now in a position to sign with them he still had not.
There are now just over two months before his contract runs out with Paris Saint-Germain, the French forward and Real Madrid still have no pre-contract deal, no penalty clause that will mean he pays them if he stands them up at the alter this summer after they have put all other big business on hold for the last two or three seasons.
The club have briefed that they see the wait as normal – it’s the player’s way of not disrespecting PSG.
They also point out that just as he has not signed with them, neither has he signed a new deal with PSG.
But everything remains on hold while the player’s future is undecided.
When you are Mbappe, you can make people wait. And Madrid are waiting, something which is easier to do with a 15-point gap at the top of LaLiga with six games to go and a place in the Champions League semi-finals, easier to do.
The recent form of 21-year-old Rodrygo even means the signing of a forward is not a priority
What has also become apparent in recent weeks is the squad’s need for an overhaul will not end by signing a new forward.
The recent form of 21-year-old Rodrygo even means it’s not a priority.
Benzema is on course to win the Ballon d’Or aged 34 and with Vinicius and Rodrygo either side of him going into next season Madrid feel that if Mbappe does not arrive the signing of one more wide forward, possibly signalling the off-loading of Marcos Asensio, would do for them.
Bigger holes have appeared elsewhere. In defence there is no left-back to cover for Ferland Mendy once Marcelo leaves this July.
They are likely to re-sign Fran Garcia from Rayo Vallecano. They sent him there last summer but retained 50 per cent of his rights.
In the centre of defence Antonio Rudiger is an option because he is out of contract this summer.
In defence, Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger is an option because he is out of contract this summer
David Alaba’s ability to play at full-back or midfield means the club are prepared to sign someone who will want to be a regular starter but all the time Mbappe remains the priority free-transfers are the focus.
Rudiger fits that profile although he would demand a big signing on fee.
In midfield they will spend and Borussia Dortmund’s England midfielder Jude Bellingham has emerged as a serious contender.
Madrid have a good relationship with Dortmund who have taken Achraf Hakimi and Reinier Jesus on loan in the past. Monaco’s 22-year-old midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni is another target.
In midfield, Real Madrid are targeting Borussia Dortmund’s England midfielder Jude Bellingham (left) and Monaco star Aurelien Tchouameni (right)
Both players would cost north of €70m and the weight of a massive signing on fee for Mbappe conditions the level of interest in both cases.
There’s another reason why Bellingham will be difficult. After selling Haaland to City the German club will not need the money.
Not for nothing do Madrid see the nouveau riche their biggest enemy in football now. It’s why they got so cosy with Barcelona over the planned European Super League.
Their renovated Santiago Bernabeu should be completed at the start of 2023. They are hoping after a stellar World Cup Mbappe will be there to star in the first game to be played in the newly completed arena.
City have already taken their plan B. Now they are left hoping PSG don’t take plan A.