Who Will Replace Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid?

by Taylor Smith
on July 11, 2018

Minute Read

On Tuesday, Real Madrid made the shocking announcement that star man Cristiano Ronaldo had been sold for €100 million to Italian powerhouse Juventus. Ronaldo leaves Madrid as the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, and the Portuguese international helped Real win 4 European titles during his 9-year reign.

So, the 3-time defending European champions have some work to do before the season begins in August. The club plans to use the funds gained from the Ronaldo deal to invest in the player’s replacements. It’s unlikely that one player will be able to come in and fill the massive shoes vacated by a player of such stature, so don’t be surprised to see Real linked with a number of Europe’s biggest names in the coming weeks.

You can place bets on just about anything these days, and that includes transfers. Oddsmakers all over the world put numbers on whether certain players will change teams, and it can certainly be profitable if done the right way. Let’s roll through a list of potential transfer targets that may be on Real Madrid’s wish list this summer.

Neymar +200

Neymar’s transfer saga from last summer played out pretty similarly to Ronaldo’s. The player reportedly grew frustrated with his situation at his old club (Barcelona) before eventually engineering a shock move to another European power. Few actually believed Barca would sell a player of Neymar’s caliber as he enters his prime years, but that’s exactly what happened. Paris St. Germain shelled out a record €222 million for the Brazilian.

Neymar was predictably great in his first season in France, though his campaign was cut short by an unfortunate foot injury. That injury may well have cost PSG a chance at making a deep run in Champions League yet against. Paris did cruise to the Ligue 1 title with little drama. While Neymar surely enjoyed toying with lackluster competition, Ligue 1 is pretty clearly below his skill level.

With PSG facing potential Financial Fair Play violations in light of last summer’s transfer spending spree that landed them both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, there’s a chance the club will be forced to sell at least one of their prized young assets after just one season. Mbappe’s performance for France at the World Cup has raised plenty of eyebrows, which makes you wonder whether PSG would rather part ways with Neymar at this point instead.

Neymar is clearly a player that wants the biggest spotlight imaginable, and there’s no bigger stage than playing for Real Madrid, the world’s most popular club. The world’s most expensive player has been linked with Madrid in the past, and there were links from the Real side even before Ronaldo was sold. Barcelona were never going to sell Neymar to their biggest rival, which would theoretically make negotiations easier for Real with PSG.

Despite his laughable antics with Brazil at the World Cup, we still saw flashes of why Neymar is considered to be one of the 3 best players on the planet. If PSG are needing to balance their books this summer, I’m sure Real Madrid would be happy to give them all the money they’d need if it meant prying Neymar away. As of now, the Brazilian looks like the most likely player to come in and succeed Ronaldo at the Santiago Bernabeu. At +200, I still like the odds.

Mohamed Salah +800

Last summer, Liverpool paid Roma just €42 million for the rights to the signature of Egyptian winger Mohamed Salah. Salah endured a rather forgettable 2-year stint in England with Chelsea before making the switch to Roma in 2016. The speedster went on to score 15 goals in 31 appearances for the Italian side, which captured the attention of Jurgen Klopp.

While Liverpool were understandably excited to sign Salah, nobody could’ve predicted what would follow. Salah went on to enjoy the most prolific goalscoring season in the history of the Premier League. He scored 36 goals in the league alone, and finished the year with 43 goals in all competitions.

Salah nearly led Liverpool to their first European title since 2005, but he was injured early in the Champions League Final against Ronaldo and Real Madrid. Los Blancos went on to win, 3-1.

As is the case with just about any young player that explodes on to the scene, Real Madrid are reportedly intrigued by the possibility of signing Salah. With Ronaldo now gone, they could use reinforcements in attack. Of course, convincing Liverpool to sell the player after just one season on Merseyside would be tricky. Klopp and the Liverpool board would have to be absolutely blown away by the amount of money in order to even consider selling Salah, especially now that he is easily the most popular figure at the club.

Salah may eventually make his way to the Spanish capital before his career ends, but it’s hard to imagine Liverpool selling right away. Klopp has built a side that nearly won Champions League last season, and they’d be hard-pressed to sell Salah to the team that beat them in the Final. Salah-to-Madrid is a long shot, and with good reason. This one ain’t happening, at least not in 2018.

Paul Pogba +1400

Paul Pogba was held Neymar’s crown as the world’s most expensive footballer. Back in the summer of 2016, Manchester United paid €105 million to get the Frenchman away from Juventus. Despite having come up through the Red Devils’ youth system, Pogba left Manchester in 2012 in order to sign for Juve, where he became one of the world’s most well-known players.

Unfortunately, Pogba’s second stint in England hasn’t gone all that well. The midfielder has bagged 11 goals in 57 appearances thus far while being hampered by a number of injuries. Despite having an expensive squad full of world-class talent, United have struggled to keep up with the likes of Manchester City since Jose Mourinho arrived.

United are reportedly willing to listen to offers on Pogba, so he may well be on his way out once France’s run in the World Cup comes to a close. Still only 24, it’s fair to suggest that Pogba’s finest years may still be in front of him. Unable to gain much traction under Mourinho’s defense-first style, perhaps a change of scenery may be necessary to truly unlock Pogba’s talents on the pitch.

He has faced a ton of scrutiny since returning to England, but the lights will only get brighter if he does make the switch to Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane was reportedly happy enough with his midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro, but the French coach is now a free agent. Madrid have a new coach in Julen Lopetegui, and there’s a chance the Spaniard may want to inject some fresh blood. Modric is also set to turn 33 and will have spent most of his summer trying to lead Croatia to World Cup glory.

We obviously don’t know whether Madrid have real interest in Pogba at this point, but the value is there at +1400. It feels as though his time at Old Trafford is winding down, so I do think Pogba suits up in a new kit next season. Whether it’s in the famous whites of Real Madrid is another story. He’s worth a punt at +1400, I would say.

Raheem Sterling +400

Raheem Sterling forced a move from Liverpool to Manchester City a few summers back because he was reportedly frustrated at the Reds’ lack of progress. Sterling said his goal was to win trophies. Since joining City, he’s done just that. The young Englishman helped City win the Premier League by a huge margin last season, and the Citizens also won the League Cup back in 2015-16.

Sterling is one of the fastest wingers on the planet, He’s very much like Salah in terms of pace and physical stature. However, one area in which Sterling is clearly lagging behind the Egyptian is his finishing. Sterling has scored 31 times in 97 games with City, but he still has a long way to go in terms of being truly clinical in front of goal.

Sterling has reportedly not yet discussed a potential new contract with City, which leaves his future looking murky. He still has 2 years left on his current deal, but you know Madrid will be waiting in the wings if Sterling’s relationship with his current club hits the skids.

Sterling currently earns £180,000 a week with City, though the 23-year-old will surely be in the market for a raise before long. His teammate, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, reportedly makes £280,000 on a weekly basis.

Whether Sterling wants to leave the Premier League power immediately is up in the air. He is still a first-team player playing in his home country, and City have the look of a side that will be doing a lot of winning over the coming years. Even so, the allure of potentially joining a side like Real Madrid will always be there. I don’t think Sterling is likely to leave this summer, which has me off of him even at +400. It may happen eventually, but not yet.

Robert Lewandowski +400

While Cristiano Ronaldo began his career as a dynamic hybrid winger/attacker, he has inched closer and closer to goal as he has aged. At this point, Ronaldo is more of a traditional striker than an attacking midfielder. He has enjoyed success over the last few years just peppering the goal with shots and always seemingly creating chances out of nothing.

Replacing that won’t be easy, which is why Madrid may seek more than one player in order to do so. A traditional striker in addition to another attacker looks like the preferred route. If a striker is what Los Blancos are looking for, it’s hard to believe they can do better than luring Robert Lewandowski away from Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski reportedly grew frustrated with his situation with Bayern as last season progressed. Back in May, the player’s agent said, “Robert feels as if he needs a change and a new challenge in his career. Bayern’s bosses have been informed.”

Lewandowski has been on Madrid’s radar for years, so news of his reported unhappiness in Germany must have been music to their ears. However, new reports indicate that the Polish striker has had a change of heart. While on vacation following Poland’s ouster from the World Cup, Bild are reporting that Lewandowski has changed his mind and is now willing to commit his future to staying with Bayern Munich.

Whether that comes to pass remains to be seen. Real Madrid are a club that typically gets what they want. If they come calling for Lewandowski, will he be able to resist? The 28-year-old scored 28 goals in the Bundesliga last season, and that kind of production is exactly what Los Blancos will need from any Ronaldo replacement.

Lewandowski’s waffling ways could ultimately thwart Real’s plans. At +400, he is something of a risk. I would still take Lewandowski at +400 than Sterling at the same price, however. He’s exactly the kind of player Madrid are looking for, so I expect them to be aggressive in their pursuits.

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