How Real Madrid have fared since the sale of the Spanish midfield maestro.
Amidst the celebrations of Real Madrid’s comprehensive Champions League semi-final victory against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich last season, one man was understandably distraught. Xabi Alonso, like Roy Keane before him, had been instrumental in his team’s journey to the final but picked up one booking too many and missed the showpiece event. Few would have predicted that following that victory over Bayern, Alonso would never again pull on the famous white shirt of Los Blancos.
Last season, Real Madrid struggled to maintain any sort of consistency in the league and deservedly lost out to city rivals Atletico in the race for the title. They reserved their best form for the Champions League as they tore team after team apart in the seemingly unstoppable march towards La Decima. At the heart, quite literally, of this triumph was Alonso. Granted, Ronaldo scored an astonishing 17 goals, but the experienced, diligent and hugely talented Basque born defensive midfielder was just as important to their progress. He was rightly rewarded for his performances with a place in the UEFA Squad of the Tournament.
Having just retired from International football following Spain’s disastorous World cup campaign in Brazil, it might have seemed logical to believe that Alonso would have more time and capacity to focus upon Real Madrid and help to provide balance to a team, and indeed a club, that seems irrevocably slanted towards attacking at all costs. The clichéd ‘Galacticos’ brand has indeed enjoyed a recent resurgence under Florentino Perez, and appearing as it does, that he decided to purchase two of the best players at the World Cup in the shape of James Rodriguez and Tony Kroos, despite having Alonso and Champions League man of the match Angel di-Maria in their positions, suggests that Perez has failed to learn the lessons from his first period in charge.
Perez’s first spell ran from 2000 to 2006 and during that period he signed a raft of superstars. One such signing was an unparalleled success in the shape of Zinedine Zidane, who famously volleyed home at Hampden Park to deliver Real their ninth European Cup. Another man on the park that night was a certain Claude Makelele. As part of Perez’s desire for superstar signings Makelele was to last only one more season at the Bernabeu, during which Real only lost four league games on their way to winning La Liga. Yet he was to be replaced that summer by David Backham with Perez dismissing the impact of Makelele’s exit, stating ‘He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makelele to be forgotten.’ Perez was to be proved spectacularly wrong, as it took another twelve years and the presence of someone playing the ‘Makelele role’ before Real Madrid again tasted success in the Champions League.
Will Real suffer from a comparably long period without success following the exit of Alonso? It is doubtful given the sheer quality of their squad and the fact that Tony Kroos should in time settle into Alonso’s role. However, with the loss of one of Europe’s best holding midfielders, who at the same time was one of the most experienced and well respected members of their dressing room, Real will undeniably take time to adjust. Just how long this process takes is debatable but the early signs have not been positive. In three league games so far, they have lost twice already, conceding six goals in the process. The loss at home against Atletico was particularly poignant, given that towards the end of the game Real looked leaderless and it was from a position that Alonso would normally have been patrolling, that Arda Turan stroked home the winner. In comparison to his former team mates travails, how has Alonso settled in at Bayern?
In his first game for Bayern away to Shalke (the day after he had signed and having trained with his new team mates only once) Alonso ran nine kilometres and had a pass completion rate of ninety per cent, during his sixty seven minutes on the field. He was even more impressive in Bayern’s two nil victory over Stuttgart where he provided the assist for Mario Goetze’s goal and also hit the post as part of an imperious display. Daily German newspaper Abendzeitung summed up the beauty of Alonso, after the Stuttgart game, ‘He’s like a magnet, attracting everything; he is the helmsman, the conductor, and the player of set pieces.’ On Wednesday night against Manchester City his excellent form continued as part of a midfield which comfortably dominated the champions of England, in a one nil victory.
It would not be fantastical to predict Bayern Munich beating Real Madrid to the Champions League this year. Bayern have a stronger squad than last season and better protection for an improved back four in the shape of Alonso. Real Madrid have committed the same mistake as they did with Makelele in 2003 and as George Santayana is speculated to have said, ‘Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.’
Done Deal: Swansea City sign Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich on season-long loan
In a summer transfer window full of crazy and unexpected moves, Swansea City may have just put the icing on top of the cake as the South Wales outfit have secured a deal for Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches.
Paul Clement has well and truly proved the old cliché ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and utilised his contacts from his time as the German side’s assistant coach to push a deal through.
Who is Renato Sanches?
The Portuguese midfielder originally made a name for himself coming through the Benfica youth system as child, being signed up in 2006, and since then he moved from Benfica ‘B’ to the first-team.
During his solitary season playing in Portugal he quickly became a key member of their starting eleven, featuring six times in the Champions League, and he alerted the attention of Europe’s elite.
But it was Bayern Munich who secured a lucrative deal for Sanches last summer, setting the Bundesliga side back £27.5 million, and it was thought that he would be the next big young midfielder.
It hasn’t quite worked out like that in the past 12 months though, starting just four league matches all season, and a spell in the Premier League may be what’s needed for him to rejuvenate his career.
What is the deal?
The two sides have come to an agreement – as reported on Swansea’s official website – that sees Sanches arriving on a season-long loan at the Liberty Stadium, completing the necessary paperwork yesterday.
Where will he fit in at the Liberty?
With talisman Gyfli Sigurdsson leaving in a £45 million move to Everton, there’s a distinct lack of attacking prowess in the Swansea City midfield and this is where Sanches is worth his weight in gold.
He is a stereotypical box-to-box midfielder, having excellent technical ability and skills when in possession of the ball and always loking to use his power try drive forward and influence attacks.
And alongside that boss Clement knows that he’ll bring his endless work-rate to the Swans, adding much-needed defensive steel to a somewhat limp current side with his natural tough-tackling play.
How Twitter reacted to Swansea City signing Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches on loan
Swansea City have confirmed the arrival of Renato Sanches on a loan deal from Bayern Munich. Sky Sports report that the Swans will pay a loan fee in excess of £2 million to take the midfielder to the Liberty Stadium for a year. This is a remarkable deal by the club and underlines the contacts that manager Paul Clement has in the game.
The Swansea manager will have worked with the 20-year-old for a short period last season at the Allianz Arena before he took the job in the Premier League. He worked at Bayern Munich as the assistant to Carlo Ancelotti and the Italian has now done his close friend a favour by letting him have one of the most exciting young midfielders on loan for a season.
Bayern Munich want the midfielder to gain regular first-team football as he has now reached a key stage in his development. It was a frustrating first season in the Bundesliga for Sanches and he now gets the opportunity to test himself in another league. The Premier League will suit his physicality and energy in the middle of the park. It won’t have been in his plans to go on loan to a club like Swansea, but he will relish the opportunity to play regularly.
It is thought that Sanches was keen to move to Swansea over other clubs, due to his existing relationship with Clement. He joined Bayern Munich last summer for a fee of £28 million and that shows the standing he has in the European game. It is a huge coup for Swansea and one that will excite the supporters.
Last summer, Sanches was named the Young Player of the Tournament at Euro 2016 as he helped Portugal to win the competition. He showed a maturity beyond his years and established himself as one of the best young midfielders in the game. The last year hasn’t gone as well as he would have hoped, but he now has the opportunity to further his development in England.
Here is how Twitter reacted to the news:
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) August 31, 2017
Reports that Renato Sanches to Swansea on loan is a done deal.
It's not what you know, it's who you know. pic.twitter.com/GtXA7gBEUg
— Coral (@Coral) August 30, 2017
Renato Sanches is on the verge of completing a loan move to Swansea! pic.twitter.com/e0LHKJXPmf
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) August 30, 2017
When you hear Renato Sanches is close to joining Swansea on loan… pic.twitter.com/5R3bQrYyjI
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) August 30, 2017
Swansea fans were understandably excited by the signing:
Now it's official I can start to celebrate Sanches signing! What a coup! Insane signing, great work by the club! Can't wait to see him play.
— Guto Llewelyn (@GutoLlewelyn) August 31, 2017
Renato Sanches signing for Swansea. https://t.co/so76vFNB32
— Bobby (@BobbyGardiner) August 31, 2017
Paul Clement at the announcement if we do sign Renato Sanches pic.twitter.com/wn0Mf11syj
— Jack Evans (@Jevski7) August 30, 2017
Supporters of other clubs were jealous of the signing:
For once I'm jealous of other clubs transfers, Jese and Renato Sanches in particular #SaintsFC
— Nat Harvey (@Nat_sfc_harvey) August 31, 2017
Paying €8.5m for a one year loan is insane but I'm still very jealous of Swansea if they get Renato Sanches
— Reubdolph Pinder?? (@MarcoReubs) August 31, 2017
God I wish West Ham were going for Renato Sanches, especially if no Carvalho deal!
— Sam Hunt ? (@SHunt_92) August 30, 2017
— Moz (@Pardiola_) August 30, 2017
Chelsea look to Bayern Munich for latest wing-back target – Is a move likely?
As Chelsea prepare for a potentially busy deadline day, German newspaper Bild suggest that one potential arrival could be Bayern Munich full-back Rafinha.
What would Rafinha bring to Stamford Bridge?
One thing that the 31-year-old can offer in abundance is experience. As a winner of the Bundesliga and Champions League with Bayern Munich, he could help the more inexperienced members of Chelsea’s squad as they return to Europe’s elite competition this season.
He also offers versatility. It is most likely that Rafinha will take up a wing-back role if he does move to Stamford Bridge, but Antonio Conte will be keen on the fact that he can play on either flank. He can also play as a central defender if required, and that could encourage Chelsea to make a move for him.
The Brazilian also shares a number of attributes with both Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses. In particular, his impressive range of passing and crossing will appeal and he is a clear threat when bombing down the flank on the attack.
Is a move likely?
Bayern are hugely reluctant to sell their man as Carlo Ancelotti feels that he is a reliable second choice right-back. With Philip Lahm having retired, he has also picked up the reigns as the experienced veteran in the Bayern defence, which carries huge importance on and off the field.
However, it’s not yet clear if the Brazilian is content with such a role. Having played just 23 minutes so far this season, he may be keen to move abroad and have a go at the Premier League as, at his age, it could be his last opportunity to do so.
Chelsea could well pursue a move for him. It’s clear that wing-back is one of their top priorities this summer as they look to add cover and competition for Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses. With only 10 months left on his contract at the Allianz Arena, they could be in a strong negotiating position.
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