Real Madrid Transfers: Why signing David Alaba would be a financial misstep

David Alaba (Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images)
David Alaba (Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid need to save every cent possible in 2021, so why are they so interested in giving David Alaba a hefty payday?

After “silly season” made it seem like Real Madrid were on the cusp of agreeing to a pre-contract deal with Bayern Munich defender David Alaba, the rumor mill has calmed down a bit. We’ve heard just about every scenario imaginable thrown at us with regards to Alaba, including the idea that Florentino Perez is “bluffing” with his interest in Alaba so that he can get Sergio Ramos to agree to a deal sooner.

I have no reason to believe that Real’s interest in Alaba is a ruse. It seems reasonable for Los Blancos to want to sign an experienced, versatile defender. However, is it really reasonable for a cash-strapped club with major needs in the attack to either downgrade on Sergio Ramos or make a backup player their highest-paid player above their legendary captain?

I do not think it is reasonable at all. With all due respect to Alaba, who is one of the best left backs of his era and was one of the Bundesliga’s top center backs for the treble-winners in 2019-2020, he is not a player Los Merengues should be pursuing.

Spare me with the “free transfer” talk. Nothing is free. Ask Juventus if Aaron Ramsey was free. Whenever you sign a player on a “free transfer”, you have to make up the difference in wages. Even if the player REALLY wants to go somewhere, the agent’s cut matters. Pini Zahavi is one of football’s best agents, and, as Madridistas saw with Jonathan Barnett and Gareth Bale, the most highly-regarded agents are ruthless in negotiations.

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Alaba will cost Real Madrid a premium price. Now, that price is worth it for a club like Chelsea, PSG, or Manchester City where money is no object and they are funded by either a State or a man with a net worth of over 10 billion US dollars.

But for Los Blancos, a multi-year deal worth more than 10 million euros per year for a defender who is not guaranteed to start is quite the foolhardy investment.

Let me put it to you this way. If Bayern Munich don’t want to pay Alaba 12 million euros per year despite him being a club legend and a crucial starter on an even more error-prone defense, why would Real Madrid, a similar club in terms of their financial situation, do the same? It doesn’t make sense.

Real Madrid wasted hundreds of millions of euros on haphazard transfers in the 2019 summer window. Paying Alaba this much money and making him one of the top earners at the club would be a similarly reactionary, ill-advised move.

I see fans saying Alaba could start over Raphael Varane. That is such a laughable statement it is barely worth entertaining. If you think Varane has struggled this season, then you should see what Alaba, a man with fewer Champions League and World Cup trophies, is doing at center back this season for Bayern. He is one of the team’s worst-rated players in WhoScored for a reason. Alaba’s versatility hasn’t paid any dividends for Bayern this season either, as he’s been routinely panned for his performances in midfield; go watch the Bayer Leverkusen game, for example. Replacing Ramos or Varane in the lineup with Alaba would be both disloyal and self-sabotage.

While I could see Alaba bouncing back to his 2019-2020 form at center back on a team where he is more motivated, how can anyone say Alaba would be a better option than Varane? And who could trust him to play in midfield at Real Madrid?

Alaba’s best position would definitely be at left back, where his career accomplishments speak for themselves, but Real have Ferland Mendy, Miguel Gutierrez, and could call back Sergio Reguilon at a similar or lower price than Alaba’s total wages over three to four years. Why spend more than 10 million euros per year on a left back nearing the age of 30?

I understand that Alaba is world-class at left back and is more well-rounded than Mendy at the position. Hopefully, my respect for Alaba is clear; I don’t mean to diminish his talent or experience. But Real can probably only sign one or two top players in 2021. Shouldn’t they focus on a sure-fire starter at their biggest positions of need? Shouldn’t they pay premium for a goal-scorer like Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland instead of eating into their finances and undermining their chances of signing said scorer?

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Alaba is a great player. The “free” nature of the deal sounds appealing, too. But when you scratch below the surface, you begin to see that Real Madrid are better off making a different move and holding onto Ramos as tightly as possible. If there were no economic crisis or such gaping needs in the attack, I would be singing a different tune. Alaba for “free”? Hell yeah! But the current realities make Alaba nothing more than a wistful signing which could lead to buyer’s remorse if actually undertaken.