Real Madrid wouldn't be Real Madrid if there wasn't plenty of activity going on over the course of the summer. Here's what you need to know, says Jamie Pacheco.
Ronaldo exit shook the footballing world
It tells you everything you need to know about Cristiano Ronaldo's standing in the game that his exit was bigger news than that of manager Zinedine Zidane.
The Portuguese skipper will know better than anyone why it was that he was open to a move after his remarkable success at the Bernabeu. That's not worth speculating about anymore but there's good news and bad news. Good: Real have banked £99.2m from the sale of a 33-year old. It goes without saying that's never happened before. That money will be available to recruit a younger replacement.
Bad news: the Ronaldo-shaped gap is virtually impossible to fill. No-one else in the game guarantees goals like he does or the tendency to step up to the plate in the key moments of the biggest games.
Ronaldo is 11/10 to score more goals than 'nemesis' Lionel Messi in 2018/19.
Another exit that wasn't really explained properly. If the Frenchman felt there wasn't much left for him to do at Real after three successive Champions League wins, fair enough. But there seemed to be more to it than that when he spoke about the 'need for change'.
Then again, critics of Zidane argued that the manager's job at Real is an easy one: keep the superstars happy and they'll play on automatic pilot. It's possible that without Ronaldo around, he'd need to change tactics which may or may not have worked and that he therefore left on a high. Betfair Sportsbook make him 4/7 to be the next Qatar manager. You can see the reasoning behind it but whether he'd be up for coaching players whose ability pales in comparison to what he had at Real, remains to be seen.
The appointment of his successor Julen Lopetegui was disastrous in terms of its knock-on effect to Spain's chances at the World Cup: he was sacked by his country on the eve of the tournament for failing to communicate his decision to the Spanish FA. But it was a curious decision to start with. His only experience in club management was an ill-fated spell at FC Porto. Yes, he was good for the Spanish youth sides but a flawless qualification for the World Cup was no more than was expected with the squad he had and the group they were in. We'll never know how Spain would have fared if he'd been in charge.
It's a risky appointment and alongside Ronaldo's exit, a reason why Real are 6/5 for La Liga glory to Barcelona's 5/6 on Betfair Sportsbook.
Who's Ronaldo's replacement?
The media continue to be obsessed with the possibility that one of Neymar or Kilian Mbappe may join Real. Maybe that's because Real president Florentino Perez continues obsessed with that himself. But it's unlikely. The sums involved would be astronomical and PSG didn't spend so much time and money recruiting those two last Summer to not give them a proper crack at the Champions League, which they're9.40 to win this season.
A far more likely alternative is Eden Hazard. He's said he feels he needs a new challenge and despite being a very different sort of player to Ronaldo, occupies a very similar position on the pitch, drifting in from the left. Chelsea won't want to lose him but may feel now is the time to cash in bigtime on a player who's been unsettled for a couple of seasons. It's 1/2 he moves to Madrid and 7/4 he stays put.
Don't forget about...
Hazard or otherwise, there will be a huge signing at the Bernabeu before the transfer window closes. You can count on that.
But it's worth remembering who's already in that dressing room. In Isco and Marcos Ascensio Real have two players on which Spain will base their team around for the next few years.
In Gareth Bale they have the former most expensive player in the world. And their two-goal hero from this year's Champions League final. Had Ronaldo stayed, Bale may have decided his time at Real was up. With CR7 gone there will be more game time, more set-pieces available to him, more attention from the fans and more responsibility. He'll like all of that and could be a big player or them this season.
Luka Modric isn't going anywhere, either. Good news for Los Merengues when he's just been crowned Player of the Tournament at the World Cup.
Finally, there's the forgotten man of Real Madrid. Karim Benzema is about to start his ninth season at the club. Others come and go but he sticks around. His 127 goals in 276 have come at almost a goal every other game. He's been around forever but is still only 30. Another player who may not be too sad to see Ronaldo move on.