Madrid’s biggest knock, at least comparatively to arch-rival Barcelona, is the lack of youth. Historically, they tend to spend their money on superstar players instead of investing in youth. During the recent transfer window Madrid did buy a superstar, but they also invested in youth. Albeit someone else’s. They paid Leverkusen 6.5 million euros to get Dany Carvajal back. They also spent an astounding 69.2 million euros on the young midfield pairing of Isco and Asier Illarramendi. That’s even more astounding considering that, at the time, Real had Kaka, Luka Modric, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso and six- million-euro-signing Casimero in the center of the park. That’s two full midfields of players who could probably start almost anywhere.
Then Madrid signed Gareth Bale, who also plays midfield, and happens to be one of the best players in the world.
Real have/had way too many big name contracts, and players in general on the books (see midfield, above.) So they sold off hit man Gonzalo Higuain, winger Jose Callejon and central defender Raul Albiol, all to Napoli for 62 million euros. They also sold two of their many midfielders; Kaka is heading back to AC Milan for free. Free. Further justifying Madrid’s 65 million euro investment in him. Sound business there. Plus, Mesut Ozil is heading to Arsenal for 50 million euros.
I don’t think this mass offloading of players will hurt Madrid in terms of production on the field. They did, after all, spend a lot of money for players similar and younger to those they let go, but it will hurt them if they play against their former players. Kaka, Ozil and the new Napoli contingent are all in the Champions League this year. Questions can be posed that Kaka is past his prime, Ozil’s team is stuck in a terribly difficult group and Napoli hasn’t gelled yet. But who knows? Maybe Madrid runs into a rejuvenated Kaka-led Milan squad and bows out in the early knockout rounds? Maybe Ozil assists on a few goals for Arsenal that the Gunners wouldn’t have scored without him, maybe those goals knock out Real? (Fun fact, check out this.) Maybe Gonzalo Higuain goes off on his former club in a two-leg knockout round. After all, Madrid is susceptible to forwards scoring on them in bunches. Lewandoski anyone?
While a front four of Benzema with Ronaldo, Ozil and Bale behind would have been terrifying in a 4-2-3-1 formation, it’s not going to happen. Putting Luka Modric or Isco in Ozil’s place certainly isn’t the end of the world, but the loss of Ozil and others will come back to haunt the Bernebau’s residents.