Real Madrid have one of the best examples of squad-building we’ve ever seen

Real Madrid, Florentino Perez (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Florentino Perez (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images) /

Although Real Madrid fans were critical of the club’s transfer strategy in the last few years, with Eden Hazard’s failed 100 million euro signing hanging in a way few could have predicted, Florentino Perez and the club’s hierarchy have one of the premier examples of squad-building success we’ve ever seen.

And that success lies in the middle of the park.

The core of the three-peat Champions League side was built by Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro. Kroos has been dubbed the “transfer of the century” by his agent, and while there is certainly an element of self-aggrandizement there, Real must be applauded for signing one of the best midfielders of all time for 30 million euros. A controller of the midfield who can pick out any sort of pass, Kroos has been worth at least triple that to Madrid. And to think, he was available at such a price because Bayern Munich would not give him a reasonable raise.

Modric, when he first joined Real, was dubbed the worst signing in LaLiga. My oh my, how wrong that turned out to be. Modric is also an all-time great, on an echelon even higher than Kroos. In his era, Modric’s all-around gameplay is unmatched, and because he has managed to keep this level up for so many years – an extension is set to keep him in Madrid through his age-37 season – he has now surpassed Xavi and Andres Iniesta. You cannot write the history of this club without mentioning any of these players, but you especially cannot ignore the one-man engine and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner.

Real Madrid did not even pay 80 million euros for their legendary midfield

Like Kroos, Modric was a star at an established club – albeit a less prestigious one – in Tottenham. And pray, do I ask, how much did Real Madrid pay to sign this living legend of the midfield? About the same. 30 million euros. Calling that a bargain would flatter just about every other signing dubbed a bargain.

Finally, Casemiro. Last but do not dare call him “least”. Because the defensive midfielder was the missing piece who filled out the balance of the greatest midfield ever. He was the man who provided the steel that enabled Real’s attack to truly flourish with balance, thus, he is an unsung hero in Real’s unprecedented feat of three straight Champions Leagues. Case was also even cheaper to Real than the other two superstar midfielders, even considering they had to buy him back from Porto for about 7.5 million euros. (And it’s a damn good thing they did.)

So for under 80 million euros, Real Madrid signed a midfield that could very well be the greatest in the history of club football and has brought the organization glory after glory. Think about all the clubs, such as PSG and Manchester City…even struggling Barcelona, who paid so much more for their midfield. Real’s trio have won Champions Leagues and league titles together, and they will continue to win, given all three remain among the world’s best even as they near or surpass their 30’s. Can anyone else’s midfield boast the same?

In terms of building a position of dominance, I’m not sure you will find a finer example of squad-building than this one. Real, in an era where transfer fees started to become exceedingly bloated, signed three world-class players before their peaks and signed them at rates a third of what their values would later become. Not only that, but they managed to sign three players who fit each other perfectly, grew together, and stayed through their peaks.

As if that weren’t enough, Real have done very well with their stars of the future behind them. Fede Valverde was a very shrewd signing from Penarol on the cheap. Eduardo Camavinga will cost the team around 40 million euros, after factoring add-ons, and he is a generational talent in midfield who is already paying dividends for Madrid. He scored on his debut in LaLiga and won the match with an assist in his first Champions League match with Los Blancos. Of course, we cannot forget Antonio Blanco from Castilla. Can we count him as completely free?

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Perez and Real get things wrong, yes. But the midfield is a reminder of how good this club is at signing ascending talents, whether they are little-known prospects like Casemiro and Valverde, or stars whom their own clubs didn’t realize were actually legends – Kroos and Modric. Hopefully, Los Blancos can make some more signings like these in the near future to supplement the next Galactic attacking era led by Vinicius Jr. – and potentially both Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland with him.