Real Madrid need to make sure they stay proactive in the summer transfer market. The 2021/22 season has been highly successful one thus far for the Merengues, with the team on the cusp of a LaLiga title and through to the Champions League semifinals after eliminating two of the best teams in the world.
However, in order to stay on top for years, Los Blancos, of all teams, know that a stable squad with every major weakness filled is a must. Kylian Mbappe will presumably fix a big issue in the attack, and Serge Gnabry could join him in emphatically answering every single attacking question. In midfield, Aurelien Tchouameni is a potential dream signing, and the Merengues are also tracking two of the world’s finest prodigies in the middle of the park, Jude Bellingham and Florian Wirtz of the Bundesliga.
But how about defense? Real Madrid desperately need another right back – Alvaro Odriozola is no solution. That is the main priority, but Madrid cannot ignore their depth question in central defense.
Yes, Real Madrid have done well to maintain having one of the world’s best center back partnerships, even after letting go of the world’s previous best duo in Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. Somehow, Eder Militao and David Alaba have been an upgrade!
Nacho has been Real Madrid’s biggest defensive liability this season
But behind them, there are questions. Nacho Fernandez is a serviceable, versatile veteran who understands the club and has a lot of passion. He was fantastic in 2020/21 when Ramos suffered multiple injuries.
This season, though, Nacho has been a clear liability. You could make the case that he has been Real’s worst defender of anyone with significant minutes. Chimy Avila, Ousmane Dembele, and many others have torched him at left back, where his offensive exploits make Ferland Mendy look like Marcelo. And speaking of Marcelo, even the out-of-contract fullback has been less of a liability defensively in tracking back.
Nacho is declining, and his lack of discipline is glaring in the center of defense. He will step out, leave space, make bad challenges, and destabilize the defensive structure. It is a blessing he has not played more often against top opposition, otherwise he would be even more exposed.
Real Madrid saw in 2020/21 – and even against Chelsea when Militao was suspended – how valuable it is to have depth at center back. You never know when your starters will be out, and the last thing you want is an overmatched player like Nacho going up against intelligent, quick forwards who can exploit his declining athleticism and lack of discipline.
Antonio Rudiger is back on Madrid’s radar as a veteran free agent option, but he is far from the only possibility in central defense. There are many excellent young players who may actually be preferable to the German, given they would cost less in wages and be able to progress with the team over the next several years. Just as Varane once did, for example.
If money is a concern, there is a way to “go young” and still find success depth-wise. That involves investing in the likes of Rafa Marin, Pablo Ramon, and Marvel. Marin seems like the one who is ready to contribute from Castilla. It is a big ask, but Real can find ways to integrate at least one of these players and set themselves up for the future.
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No matter which direction Real Madrid go, there is only one wrong decision. And that would be to simply do nothing. Anything is better than nothing when it comes to depth at center back, because complacency could cost Los Blancos a title. As they learned the hard way after 2017/18, a failure to keep thinking one, two, even three years ahead is what eventually leads to a “banter” season. (Or, worse, era.) Obviously, I do not want to be dramatic here, but the point remains that Real must be serious about their center back depth.