Pre-season matches are the practice matches that are held between various renowned football clubs, before the inauguration of the new season, for a better start.
Although La Liga doesn’t end until the weekend of June 3, Real Madrid’s season is to all intents and purposes over following their 4-0 defeat to Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League semifinal.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side are 14 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, with Barca crowned champions last weekend with four games left to play. Although Real Madrid are locked in a race with Atletico Madrid to finish second, their place in next season’s Spanish Super Cup is already assured after beating Osasuna in last month’s Copa del Rey final.
At the start of the year, the pro-Madrid press were talking about the club winning six titles this season, but in the end, they lifted just the Copa del Rey, the UEFA Super Cup and the World Club Cup, in which they defeated Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s Al Ahly, reports Xinhua.
The Champions League will always be the most important title for Real Madrid and club president Florentino Perez, but this season they have fallen painfully short, as Manchester City dominated them from start to finish at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night, and without the efforts of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who played with an injured arm, it could have been an even more painful defeat.
Asked about his future on Wednesday, Ancelotti insisted that he was confident he would continue, and his future should be secure given that he has the support of the players and has been able to balance the Madrid dressing room.
However, at a club where second place is seen as a failure, there will be doubts until Perez officially confirms Ancelotti for another year.
Whether Ancelotti stays or not may be in doubt, but some changes are certain. The way City totally dominated in midfield, while reducing Karim Benzema to a shadow of his former self in attack, means some big signings are likely this summer.
The midfield duo of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are 37 and 33 years old respectively, and couldn’t keep pace with City’s pressing and movement, while substitute Dani Ceballos failed to make an impact when he came on in the second half.
All three are out of contract at the end of June, and Ceballos’ recent form implies he will be on his way. Meanwhile, although the press insists Kroos and Modric have reached an agreement for a further year at the Santiago Bernabeu, nothing has been made official, and Wednesday night could lead to a change for one or both of the pair.
Real Madrid have signed young players in recent seasons with Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni arriving in the past two summers. It looks as if the club will now spend big to bring in England international Jude Bellingham to add more energy to the middle of the park.
Benzema’s recent form must also be a big cause for concern, as the 35-year-old is finally starting to show his age. The striker is another who is out of contract in June, and although it’s hard to imagine the club allowing him to leave, they clearly need to sign backup players.
Benzema’s direct replacement Mariano Diaz has never entered into Ancelotti’s plans and will be on his way, and Marco Asensio, who is more of a second striker than a player to lead the line, also has a contract that expires in June and has offers to move to clubs where he would get more game time.
Meanwhile, Eden Hazard is still at the club, taking up a big chunk of wages, while totally failing to get anywhere near the form that earned him a move from Chelsea.
So, as well as needing to spend in midfield, Real Madrid will have to bring in one or perhaps two top-class strikers. B-teamer Alvaro Rodriguez looks very promising but is still very young.
Can we expect another summer with rumours about Kylian Mbappe? It could be on the cards, but whatever happens, it will be a very busy summer in Madrid, with new contracts, departures and some big-money signings.