European Football

La Décision: Los Blancos Left At the Altar

How Real Madrid should deal with rejection…

Well, Real Madrid, are we ok? Are we dealing with this well? Because I have seen some of the reactions to the Mbappé decision in the Spanish media, and it appears we clearly are not dealing with this in a responsible and reasonable manner.

It is ok, Madridistas. Your club will still be here next season, and the season after, and the season after that as well.

As we covered in the first part of this sort of impromptu series, Kylian Mbappé has bucked all popular beliefs and chosen to stay in Paris for three more years rather than join Real Madrid as a free agent. This shocked many, including myself, and apparently including many within Spanish football and in the Spanish sporting media, who seemingly assumed the deal was done and Mbappé was joining Real Madrid. It is a landmark moment in football history regardless of what perspective you hold in this deal, but the Madrid perspective is certainly one that needs exploring. After such a long, drawn-out affair, we are all left with one overarching question:

What happens now?

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Real Madrid have reworked and tightened their budget over the last several years in order to afford signing Mbappé. While the economic effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic can also be attributed to the club’s desire to cut spending and go several windows without significant player acquisitions, it was also largely done with an eye on this transfer window, knowing that both Kylian Mbappé and Erling Håland will be on the market. Everything that Real Madrid have done for several years has built up to this. It is the end of June, and Real Madrid now know that they will not be signing either of their top two targets. The disappointment, I imagine, is crushing.

The “what do we do now” question is an incredibly daunting one to even begin addressing, which is wild to consider when we are talking about the European champions here. This is already a very good team, one that ran away with a league title and added a European Cup to the haul. Yet it is very hard to escape this feeling of hurt. This is high school level “my crush stood me up” hurt. Real Madrid thought they were marrying the love of their life only to turn up to the church on wedding day and see no one there. And despite the hurt feelings and sense of betrayal, I desperately want you to listen to me, Madridistas. If you somehow come across this blog on a random corner of the internet, Florentino Pérez, I want you to heed this advice:

Do not do anything stupid. You are still Real Madrid.

This sense of disappointment is going to lead to great motivation to make another big name signing, one that is likely very poorly thought out, ill advised, and likely does not fit within the team. These are signings that Real Madrid cannot afford to do, especially as they still rue the mistake of spending all of that money on Eden Hazard. Now if you can make a signing that fits the superstar mold that Mbappé was while having it make sense within the team and be a direct benefit, then by all means go for it. The unfortunate reality, however, is the list of players that meet all of those requirements that is within the realm of realism for Real Madrid at the moment is a list of one person: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah. And I imagine Salah will stay at Liverpool.

Madrid find themselves in a very similar situation to the one in which Barcelona found themselves when Neymar left for PSG. There was a strong emotional feeling after that move for the club to make a big signing that would immediately fill the void left by Neymar. They made two massive signings in the aftermath of that move, spending the entirety of the Neymar fee within a year. Obviously those two signings, Coutinho and Dembélé, did not work out, and the club’s pattern of irresponsible and frenetic spending since that moment has led to consequences that they are still dealing with. Real Madrid cannot do the same here. There is no need to sign Neymar, for instance. That would simply be wildly illogical and a move that the club would likely regret. Even should the club make a big signing to fill that need, the player would simply be the player they signed because Mbappé turned them down. And where is the satisfaction in that? That would simply frustrate me even more if I was a Madridista.

Despite the disappointment, however, this is still Real Madrid. This is still a massive club with significant resources, a top level coach and team already there, and one that can attract most talent in the world. Knowing this, do not feel the urge to make a home run signing, but simply use the money that was earmarked for Mbappé to sign several very good players who directly fill needs within this team. It looks like midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni will be one of those players, and he is exactly the type of signing that Los Blancos should look into making. While not a world-class player right now, Tchouaméni is incredibly talented and has the potential to be one of the best players in his position on the planet, likely lining up to be the perfect heir to Casemiro.

There are other moves that can be made along this line of thinking as well. Real Madrid likely need a right winger now that Mbappé is not joining. Why not someone from within Spain? Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal or Villarreal’s Yeremi Pino would both be options. Outside of Spain, it is widely believed that Serge Gnabry will not continue at Bayern, so why not make a move for him? Need another midfielder? Throw your weight into a move for Renato Sanches, Carlos Soler, or Ismaël Bennacer. The options in many positions are certainly there. Real Madrid could sign two or three other very good players with the money they saved for Mbappé on top of the likely signing of Tchouaméni.

This is not the end of the world. Hell, for all we know, they could still end up signing Mbappé three years from now.

I get that this is disappointing for Real Madrid. The club had planned for this moment for years and it blew up in their faces in spectacular fashion. I imagine the anger and embarrassment was off the charts for Real Madrid’s hierarchy, and while some of it was probably smoothed over by their Champions League triumph, there could still be some emotional reaction to this decision. This cannot cloud their judgment. Real Madrid are still Real Madrid, and they need to realize that they currently have a very good project building at this club. They cannot ruin it out of ego-driven desire to make up for Mbappé snubbing them.

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