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    Thursday, July 28, 2016

    The European champions have had a quiet summer so far with little movement while their two main rivals have been busy. So what exactly is happening at the Santiago Bernabeu?

    The European champions have had a quiet summer so far with little movement while their two main rivals have been busy. So what exactly is happening at the Santiago Bernabeu?
    With just over a month to go, it has been a slow window for Real Madrid. So far, only one signing has been made in what seemed certain to be a busy period due to the transfer ban hanging over the club. So while Barcelona and Atletico are busy buying players, why is it all so quiet at the Santiago Bernabeu?
    Before their own two-window ban became effective, Barca took advantage to reshape their squad in 2014. The Catalan club spent €166 million that summer after the arrival of Luis Enrique as coach, bringing in key players like Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic, Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jeremy Mathieu. And it was a spending spree which worked wonderfully as they went on to win the treble in 2014-15.
    Something similar was expected at Madrid this time around. Up until now, however, it has been entirely the opposite, with only striker Alvaro Morata brought in as Real exercised their buy-back option on the homegrown forward who was re-signed from Juventus.
    During the turbulent times under Rafa Benitez, it looked like Madrid required significant changes to their squad. But with Zinedine Zidane in the second half of the season, Real ran Barca close in the title race that was won by a single point and ended the season by lifting the Champions League trophy in Milan.
    The European champions have had a quiet summer so far with little movement while their two main rivals have been busy. So what exactly is happening at the Santiago Bernabeu?

    So major changes are seemingly not needed after all and the French coach is happy with his squad. Unlike last summer, there will be no move for David De Gea this time, because Zidane is satisfied with both Keylor Navas and Kiko Casilla. He has also said repeatedly that James Rodriguez is not for sale and the Colombian's decision to stay was what ultimately ended Madrid's pursuit of Andre Gomes (with the Portuguese favouring a move to Barcelona in any case).
    And it is much the same with Raphael Varane and Nacho. The club - and in particular Zidane - has convinced the pair to stay and strengthen a defence also boosted by the return of Fabio Coentrao who is set to deputise for Marcelo at left-back because there are few other reasonable options in the market. The Portuguese is already with the squad and is a reliable performer, even if he has never lived up to his original €30m price tag.
    Madrid have looked at several top names this summer, with Marco Verratti, David Alaba and Robert Lewandowski among them, but all three have signed new deals with their clubs (or are about to) and a transfer for any of those would be almost impossible at this point.
    The European champions have had a quiet summer so far with little movement while their two main rivals have been busy. So what exactly is happening at the Santiago Bernabeu?

    Then there is Paul Pogba. The France midfielder will be on the move this summer, with Juventus set on selling the 23-year-old - especially after closing the signing of Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli this week. Madrid are keen on the Frenchman, but there are already a lot of midfielders at the club and, with Manchester United prepared to pay in excess of €100m for their former player, the Premier League club remain favourites for his signature.
    Pogba could yet be the Galactico at Madrid this summer, but at the moment the outlay for a player who is not necessarily needed and a wage packet that would upset the structure at the Bernabeu means the midfielder will probably end up at Old Trafford instead.
    Asked about the possibility of signing his fellow Frenchman, Zidane said on Tuesday. "At the moment we're working, I can't say anything. Paul Pogba today is a Juventus player, we can't speak about what will happen."
    In the meantime, Madrid would like to bring in a midfielder as cover for Casemiro, but there appear to be few players on the market who could fill this role. N'Golo Kante has left Leicester to join Chelsea, while Grzegorz Krychowiak followed Unai Emery from Sevilla to Paris Saint-Germain, where Blaise Matuidi is set to stay despite rumours of a possible departure. And another France international, Newcastle's Moussa Sissoko, is not a purely defensive midfielder.
    And while Los Blancos have brought back Morata and Coentrao, plus Marco Asensio who returns from a loan spell at Espanyol, the club's two main rivals have been busy in the transfer market in July. So have Barcelona and Atletico stolen a march on Madrid this summer?
    Barca have spent around €100m already, bringing in France defenders Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne, attacking midfielder Denis Suarez (on a buy-back agreement) and Andre Gomes from Valencia, with a striker set to be added as well. Luis Enrique had a short squad at Camp Nou last season, but that will not be the case in 2016-17.
    Atletico, meanwhile, are facing a transfer ban after this window - just like Real. To compensate, Diego Simeone's side has handed new contracts to Saul Niguez, Tiago, Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann, with Gabi also set to sign soon. The Rojiblancos have also invested around €50m on Nico Gaitan, Sime Vrsaljko, Diogo Jota and Axel Werner, with a forward (possibly Sevilla's Kevin Gameiro) to be brought in over the next few days.
    For their part, Madrid appear confident after their successful second half of last season, but both Barca and Atletico are stregthening and with a two-window transfer ban hanging over them, would they not be better off bringing in a few more quality players this summer? As always, only time will tell, but don't be surprised if there's more movement yet from Florentino Perez and Zidane in the days and weeks ahead.

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