Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane has admitted his squad is ‘missing a striker’ after the departure of Alvaro Morata to Chelsea.
“We saw what (Alvaro) Morata did last season; he gave a lot to this team,” Zidane told Spanish sports newspaper Diario AS.
The Spanish international scored 15 times from 26 La Liga appearances as Real Madrid claimed their first La Liga title since 2012.
“There are 28 with us at the moment, and they are what I am focused on. As always, until the 31st (end of transfer window), anything can happen.”
Karim Benzema is Real Madrid’s only recognised senior striker available and, while Cristiano Ronaldo is always a candidate for the position and 20-year-old academy product Borja Mayoral returns from a loan spell at Wolfsburg, the dual-defending champions will nonetheless need another option at centre-forward next season.
Who could Los Blancos sign in Alvaro Morata’s absence? Who is a viable option given the current climate of the transfer market? We explore three possibilities…
Timo Werner – RB Leipzig
Though the 21-year-old’s standout season with RB Leipzig won’t come as a surprise to many German football fans, having known of the youngster’s talents from his Stuttgart days, Timo Werner’s performances in 2016/17 have well and truly announced his presence as an up-and-coming striker with bags of potential on the European stage.
Timo Werner finished last season as Leipzig’s top-scorer (and the most prolific German forward in the league), netting 21 times in the Bundesliga from 31 appearances, helping propel the 2009-established club to a second-place finish.
Real Madrid would be far away from guaranteeing first-team football to Werner, which could prove a decisive road block. Would Werner be willing to trade a key role at Leipzig, who play in the Champions League this season, for a rotation role at Real Madrid ahead of a World Cup season?
The chance of a move this window is unlikely, but, given Real Madrid’s luring power as possibly the biggest club in world football, this transfer has every chance of coming to fruition down the road.
Kasper Dolberg – Ajax
A suggestion which appears to hold some weight, at least according to Spanish newspaper Marca. They are reporting that 19-year-old Danish striker Kasper Dolberg could be brought in to replace Alvaro Morata if Real Madrid are unsuccessful in their ambitious, and well documented, pursuit of Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe.
Dolberg, who finished last season as Ajax’s top-scorer with 16 goals in 29 Eredivisie appearances, was named Ajax Talent of the Year and Dutch Footballer of the Year in 2017. He scored a further seven goals in European competitions, six of which came in their march to the Europa League Final, and he has already broken into the Danish national team.
An exciting prospect, for sure, but perhaps rumours of a move to Real Madrid are premature. Dolberg made his first senior team appearance only two years ago, for Silkeborg IF in Denmark, and played his first game for Ajax just short of a year ago.
Kylian Mbappe – AS Monaco
What a difference a year makes. Prior to the 2016/17 campaign, Kylian Mbappe had just one goal and 14 senior team appearances to his name for AS Monaco. Now, the 18-year-old born in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris is the subject of discussion for a potential £120 million transfer to Real Madrid.
Sure, Mbappe has shown all the tools necessary to be a major force in football for years to come: finishing, creativity, pace, movement and, of course, displaying all of this not only in Ligue 1, but at the business end of the Champions League. However, the strength of Real Madrid’s current squad is a double-edged sword when considering young, new signings.
Kylian Mbappe would benefit from playing in a squad capable of winning back-to-back Champions League titles, but he would not be a regular starter ahead of Karim Benzema. That is an almost irrefutable statement; if Alvaro Morata, a proven player on the international stage with Spain, couldn’t replacement Benzema, then how will an 18-year-old who is yet to cope with all the pressure and expectation of playing for a club the size of Real Madrid (especially after a monster transfer fee)?That aside, this transfer appears to be more of a matter of when, not if.