One of the greatest football players of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo put an end to his nine-year-long glorious Real Madrid stint on Tuesday when the Portuguese striker announced that he will be joining Italian champions Juventus for the next and possibly the final chapter of his great career. The speculation over Ronaldo’s transfer had started after Madrid’s Champions League final victory over Liverpool in May. Ronaldo’s departure from Santiago Bernabeu seemed evident after Italian media said that Juventus had put in a bid for the 33-year-old forward.
The transfer was confirmed by Real’s all-time record goalscorer (450) in a statement. “But I think the time has come to open a new stage in my life and that’s why I asked the club to accept to transfer me,” the statement read.
The five-time world player of the year was initially roped in by the Spanish Giants to take on Barcelona which was led by Argentine talisman Lionel Messi. The two modern-day legends enjoyed a fierce rivalry in La Liga, but with Ronaldo gone and Messi still going strong at 31, Madrid will have to explore options to continue and extend its dominance both in Spain and Europe.
Here are 5 players Real Madrid could sign to replace Cristiano Ronaldo:
1. Kylian Mbappe
One year ago, when PSG signed Kylian Mbappe on loan with an option to buy the 19-year-old for a whopping $180 million, a large section of football fans had not even heard his name. Twelve months on, the winger has lit up the World Cup with some extraordinary performances for France. He is an ideal long-term replacement for Ronaldo and given Florentino Pérez’s obsession with expensive names, is a perfect match for the club. However, PSG has recently agreed on a permanent deal for Mbappe for a fee of €180m and is under no pressure to sell the youngster.
The world’s most expensive player who was bought for €222 million by PSG last year is never far from the transfer buzz. He has repeatedly been linked to Spain but this time – Real Madrid. The Brazilian striker is key to PSG chances of winning at European level and it may be hard for Florentino Perez to broker the transfer.
3. Eden Hazard
The Belgium captain has been on Madrid’s watchlist for a long time now and if it wasn’t for Jose Mourinho’s stubbornness, a deal might have been agreed to three years ago. The 26-year-old, however, recently showed his interest to play in the La Liga by confirming that it was his ‘dream’ to wear that famous white shirt.
At 27, Hazard is probably about to hit his peak and if PSG decides not to sell Mbappe or Neymar, Hazard would be on top of Perez’s shopping list.
4. Harry Kane
Over the last couple of seasons, Harry Kane has turned into a prolific scorer for his club and country both. The Tottenham striker has been linked with Madrid in the past but the move never took place probably because of English players’ dismal record in La Liga in the past.
He could be the right man for the Spanish Giants but to Perez’s disappointment has no release clause in his contract, which he extended in early June to run to 2024. With Daniel Levy at the helm at the English club, it will take a mammoth bid from Madrid to sign Kane.
5. Mohamed Salah
The Egyptian king who was injured by Real’s Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final has spent just one year onfield and has signed a new long-term contract with his current club. However, the 26-year-old will surely be on Madrid’s list and will be an option for the Los Blancos in future.