Real Madrid failure to sign Erling Haaland last summer has come back to haunt them after their semi-final defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League. Despite not scoring, Haaland’s performance was impressive, and it was only the heroics of Thibaut Courtois that prevented him from scoring a hat-trick in the second leg. In contrast, Karim Benzema was anonymous over both legs, leaving Madrid regretting their decision to not fight for Haaland’s signature and instead focus on Kylian Mbappe.
Haaland’s agent visited Madrid during the build-up to his move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City. Still, Madrid ruled out competing with City for his signature, believing that Mbappe would join them on a free at the start of this season after running down his contract with PSG. Mbappe, however, shocked Madrid by renewing his contract with PSG, leaving them without either of the two best young strikers in Europe.
Madrid gambled on several fronts to cover the absence of a big signing. They believed Benzema could repeat his incredible numbers from last season, but he has fallen short this season, scoring 29 goals in 57 games compared to 44 in 56 matches last season. They also hoped that Eden Hazard, playing as a false nine, would finally come good in his fourth season at the club, but he has started only four games all season and never offered a serious alternative to Benzema. The plan to rely on reserve centre-forwardMariano Diaz was also unsuccessful, as he has not scored since May 2020 and is set to leave the club at the end of his contract this summer.
Madrid will sign a centre-forward this summer to compete with Benzema, but neither Haaland nor Mbappe are realistic short-term targets. Madrid would only try to sign Mbappe if he was out of contract, as he was last summer, but PSG has no intention of releasing him this year. Harry Kane is considered to be at the wrong end of his career, and the younger Dusan Vlahovic is too expensive. Madrid is confident of completing the signing of Jude Bellingham to rejuvenate their midfield, which was left chasing shadows by Manchester City’s midfielders in the Champions League semi-final.
Madrid is also looking to strengthen their defence, with the signing of Fran Garcia from Rayo Vallecano and a new right-back to provide stronger competition for Dani Carvajal. However, it is in attack that Madrid must find a solution, as Benzema will be 36 next season, and they cannot afford another scenario in which the opposition can shut them down by closing down Vinicius. Madrid will need to act fast and smart in the transfer market to ensure they have the firepower to compete at the highest level next season.