The pressure is now on the most expensive squad ever assembled in world football to deliver on the domestic front after a run of just one La Liga title in the past six years.
Real Madrid will learn if money can buy Primera Liga title
MADRID // Real Madrid’s disappointing end to last season’s Primera Liga campaign was washed away in a wave of celebration as they downed Spanish champions Atletico Madrid to win the prize the club most desired, a 10th European Cup.
However, the pressure is now on the most expensive squad ever assembled in world football to deliver on the domestic front after a run of just one La Liga title in the past six years.
Just like last season, though, the early signs haven’t been overly positive ahead of their season opener at home to newly promoted Cordoba on Monday.
Despite a more than 100 million euro splurge on World Cup stars James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Keylor Navas, Real were beaten over two legs by an Atletico side shorn of many of their stars from last season in the Spanish Super Cup.
Moreover, for all the money invested, should midfielder Angel di Maria complete his expected move away from the club before the end of the transfer window, coach Carlo Ancelotti will once again be searching for the balance it took him three months to find at the start of last season.
Di Maria was man-of-the-match in the Champions League final just three months ago, but the arrivals of Kroos and Rodriguez, allied to a contract dispute with the club, have led to him asking to leave the Spanish capital and being left out of Ancelotti’s squad for the 1-0 defeat to Atletico in the second leg of the Super Cup.
Ancelotti claimed his reason for dropping Di Maria was that he hadn’t needed the Argentine, but the evidence said otherwise as Atletico’s intensity overran Real’s ball plying midfield three of Kroos, Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso.
However, the Italian has insisted he has a better squad available to him this season and won’t be making any moves in the final week of the transfer market even if Di Maria and World Cup winner Sami Khedira leave the club.
“It is a very interesting season for us. We have a tem with a lot of quality, just like last season. We have a very competitive team for the league and the Champions League, but we know it will be difficult too with Atletico and Barca,” said Ancelotti.
As is often the case for a Real coach, his biggest task may be managing the egos of those who don’t get the opportunities they believe they deserve.
There is a new debate over who should start in goal as Navas has replaced the departed Diego Lopez and will be eyeing the number one jersey after Iker Casillas’ disastrous World Cup for Spain.
Meanwhile, the Spanish duo of Isco and Asier Illarramendi, signed for a combined 70 million euros last summer, are likely to see their first team opportunities ever more squeezed and could even look for an exit themselves on loan before the end of the window.
Of most concern of all, though, is likely to be the ongoing injuries suffered by World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Portuguese was bothered by patellar tendinosis in his left knee towards the end of last season and also played a limited role in the Super Cup due to a hamstring problem.
Should Ronaldo not be able to live up to his own remarkable standards due to fitness concerns, much will be expected of Gareth Bale to demonstrate his potential on a more consistent basis in his second year with Madrid despite some glorious moments as he scored in both the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals in his debut season.
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