Real Madrid are late starters to the summer transfer games, due to the delay in appointing Carlo Ancelotti as the new boss. However, it is still possible to draw some early indications of who will be the Italian’s favored starting 11 at the start of the next campaign, should it be a Galactico-free close season in the Spanish capital.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
The restoration of the brooding club captain between the sticks will indicate that normal life has returned to the Santiago Bernabeu, after Jose Mourinho’s avant-garde choices of the past.
Iker Casillas was the victim of the Ancelotti’s predecessor looking to make a few waves in Madrid, although the Portuguese coach always claimed that the Spanish international goalkeeper was benched for sporting reasons only.
This is all bad news for Diego Lopez, though, a fine goalkeeper in his own right.
Right-back: Dani Carvajal
A wish rather than a reality at the beginning of the season. Dani Carvajal is a returning youth talent but still raw and inexperienced despite being full of attacking oomph.
Alvaro Arbeloa is not going through the best moment of his career having become erratic and inconsistent in his final season under Mourinho. The fullback was far from the steady, dependable defender of old who rarely put a foot wrong.
However, if Carvajal has a strong preseason whilst Arbeloa is still resting from Confederations Cup duty, the former Bayer Leverkusen player can make the starting spot his own.
Centre-back: Sergio Ramos
It is hard to know if a manager writes a team-sheet starting with the goalkeeper, or his favourite player. Or even in alphabetical order if there is a certain mental complex going on.
Either way, the words “Sergio Ramos” are a dead cert to be scribbled first on the piece of paper concerning Real Madrid’s back four. Last season, the Andalusian felt like the last remaining bit of glue holding the squad’s spirit and sanity together.
Ramos is becoming more important to the club by the day.
Centre-back: Raphael Varane
A beautiful, gift-wrapped leaving present from Mourinho for Real Madrid’s new coach. Some truly outstanding performances from the young Frenchman in clashes against Barcelona and Manchester United, in particular, sees Raphael Varane as the most promising defending talent on the planet.
Cool, calm, sophisticated and elegant. Four attributes that Pepe does not possess—the defender Varane took over from in the Real Madrid pecking order.
An injury and very slow recovery for Marcelo halfway through the past season helped the Brazilian in the long run, last year, in terms of progress at Real Madrid. The player who had been at the club since 2006 was being taken a little for granted, rather than being appreciated as a key part of the starting lineup.
Marcelo’s return was a huge relief for Real Madrid and a considerable improvement on the overpriced Fabio Coentrao.
Midfielder: Xabi Alonso
The brilliant Basque midfielder is still going to be the main man to pull Real Madrid’s strings. The question, though, is to what extent the footballer’s body can keep on going. Xabi Alonso underwent back surgery over the summer, missing the Confederations Cup in the process.
That rest may help the former Liverpool man through what is set to be another long campaign. If not, Luka Modric is ready to step in.
Midfielder: Sami Khedira
The German is a little wasted sitting in front of the back four and covering the space left by Alonso, but it is a job that Sami Khedira does without any fuss or complaint. The powerful player is best when being given a little more license to support the attack and make late runs into the box.
But in a team with more than enough footballers willing to get forward, the professional Khedira knows his place.
Midfielder: Cristiano Ronaldo
May get a gig if there are a few injuries.
Midfielder: Angel di Maria
Tricky. Much chin stroking is required. If the Argentinean is both still at the club and in the mood to rediscover more consistent form, then Angel di Maria will have the starting berth on the right-hand side. Oh. And if no one better is signed in his place instead.
Di Maria adds the width and dynamism that functions well as a counter balance to Cristiano Ronaldo out on the other flank.
Forward: Mesut Ozil
Despite the arrival of Isco—and you can find some thoughts on the usefulness of that particular purchase here—the German is still going to be the No. 1 pick to play behind the striker. Last season, Mesut Ozil added even more assists to his repertoire as well as goals.
Now if only the German could find some eyebrows.
Forward: Karim Benzema
Should Gonzalo Higuain make good on his desire communicated to journalists in the mixed zone at the end of the past season to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, then Karim Benzema will be leading the line in the campaign to come.
And this means no more excuses about form and not playing week in, week out from the Frenchman, who is good enough to be seen as one of the modern game’s top strikers—if he really wants it enough.