Real Madrid’s glorious European domination, five Champions Leagues in eight years, has been the envy of many and undoubtedly one of the most successful in the club’s history. It also comes with an extra degree of difficulty, the greater their achievements become – how to replace the golden generation?
A quick look at rivals Barcelona explains the potentially disastrous effects of poor squad planning after a successful era. So far Los Blancos have carried out the transitions from several legends remarkably well. Sergio Ramos left without a blip, Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence has led to the blossoming of Karim Benzema, with a year’s delay. Most recently, Casemiro left after the arrival of Aurelien Tchouameni, which has gone smoother than expected.
There have been hiccups too though. Eden Hazard is fast running out of time to justify even a small part of the sum spent on him. Gareth Bale’s leap into the spotlight following Ronaldo’s exit had the opposite effect too.
Quickly approaching is the succession plan for Benzema. The French forward, now 35, has been exceptional for the last three seasons and is playing the best football of his career. After a Ballon d’Or-winning campaign though, he has failed to remain fit this season.
Rumours surrounding 16-year-old Brazilian Endrick Felipe starlet have been near constant this season, while there is always the possibility that they return for Erling Haaland in two years time. After two seasons in England with Manchester City, the suggestion is he would be ready to move on, with his father having confirmed they made an offer for Haaland.
Which would be the better investment though? Marca say that both look unlikely, as Endrick would not be willing to share the limelight with Haaland. The Brazilian will only be able to arrive in 2024 at the earliest too, when he turns 18 and is legally allowed to sign for a European team.
It leaves Los Blancos in something of dilemma. With Endrick’s deal likely to be tied up long before 2024, they will have to come to a decision next year. It seems Benzema will remain the key striker for another season beyond this one.
In Haaland’s favour is proof. The Norwegian has already shown that he is highly capable at the highest level. Despite playing for three different teams, Haaland has an incredible record of over a goal a game in the Champions League, scoring 32 in 30 matches.
Equally his adaptation to the Premier League shows that he can cut it on a regular basis against the world’s best. The 22-year-old seems almost unstoppable at times and a brave person would back against him continuing to be just as lethal as he matures.
He would however be far more expensive than Endrick in all likelihood. Although there are rumours of a release clause, City will not relinquish him without a fight.
Endrick will be allowed to leave by Palmeiras in 2024. It will be up to Real Madrid to persuade him that they are the best place for him to further his career.
The question will be whether he can arrive into the Real Madrid team and immediately produce starting level play. If not, Real Madrid will be forced to continue with Benzema or pursue another forward until he is.
Whether he can make the jump smoothly is another matter. Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo Goes arrived at similar ages and are now playing at the top level, yet it took two to three seasons for their development to earn them regular minutes.
Another comparison would be Neymar Junior, who thrived after his first season. He also arrived at 21 though, older and with Lionel Messi to take the pressure off him.
On the flipside, Haaland was already showing his incredible talents at 18 in the Champions League for RB Salzburg. Many will argue the intermediate stage at Borussia Dortmund was vital for his development, but Real Madrid will fear missing out on Endrick entirely if he does not join from Brazil.
Haaland is undoubtedly a safer option which, as much as a football player can, guarantees return on investment. What it may come down to is the evaluation of the Real Madrid scouts.
If they believe that Endrick has an even higher ceiling than Haaland, then pursuing him would make sense. Real Madrid’s work with Vinicius and Rodrygo will give them confidence that if the talent is there, they can extract it. Ultimately, Endrick comes with more risk but will be cheaper – Florentino Perez will have to work out the potential reward.