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Five potential replacements for Cristiano Ronaldo

After Ronaldo's shock departure, Real Madrid need a new star to take the reins

As the news broke that Cristiano Ronaldo had sealed a move to Italian champions Juventus, a new chapter was forced on Real Madrid. The five-time Ballon D’Or winner leaves the Spanish capital having won it all, as well as becoming the clubs all-time top scorer with an incredible record of 451 goals in 438 games. He’s left a rather large void.

The transfer story seemed to have slipped under the radar as World Cup fever continues to sweep the globe, and there’s every chance it has not sunk in yet with many fans – including those of the Old Lady. One of football’s greatest ever players has just left arguably the world’s most powerful club, in a move that nobody expected this summer. After a fourth Champions League title with Real, Ronaldo has decided to seek a fresh challenge after his relationship with club president Florentino Perez continued to break down. The Portugal captain is reported to feel a ‘lack of love’ from the board of Real Madrid, after suggesting he should be rewarded with improved terms to make him the world’s best paid player. This was clearly asking too much of the board, and with Ronaldo at 33 years of age, his demands were too much for Perez and his colleagues to consider. Remarkably, the club have made a £20m profit on a player who has aged nine years – but what he has achieved in that time is even more remarkable. And as one chapter closes, another one opens for the European champions; who can they get to fill the boots of their greatest ever player?

It is not an easy task, but we have compiled the five targets that the club is likely to pursue in the coming weeks.

Kylian Mbappe

There is no doubt about it, Mbappe is world class. At only 19 years of age, he has consistently performed on every stage possible. The PSG striker came to the forefront with rivals AS Monaco just a short 18 months ago, and his meteoric rise to the top comes as no surprise to those that have witnessed him within that time. The record breaking teenager was sold to PSG last summer for a fee that could rise to around £180m, so why would they sell now?

That’s the million-dollar question (literally), as the French champions are in no rush to sell a player that is widely recognised as a future Ballon D’Or winner. However, with Financial Fair Play rules hanging over the club and potential penalties to follow, Real Madrid may manage to force PSG’s hand at the right price. If PSG are pushed in to a position where they need to sell, the board face a decision whether Parisian local Mbappe or world superstar Neymar is more important for their brand, and also for their quest for a Champions League trophy.

The France forward has been one of the stars of the tournament at this summer’s World Cup, and while that is likely to add to his valuation – it will only attract Real Madrid further. Mbappe would ideally be the perfect replacement for Ronaldo, a forward who can offer goals from both wide and central positions, as well as electrifying pace and an eye for a pass. While there is no doubt whether he is good enough for Real Madrid, there is uncertainty whether the transfer is possible for Los Blancos. Only last week the club had to publicly deny their interest in a deal for Mbappe after claims where made from a local radio station that a deal was done. Will that end their pursuit? I think we all know the answer to that.

Probability: 5/10

Neymar

Like his PSG team-mate, Neymar has been consistently linked with a move to the Spanish capital since his move to France. Whilst most of this has largely been paper-talk, there are feelings within the Brazilian’s camp that the forward is not tested enough in Ligue 1 and would seek a return to La Liga if possible. After his world-record transfer, Neymar got off the ground running in stylish fashion, netting 19 goals in his first 17 league games before injury interrupted his season in February. Neymar’s move to PSG was manufactured from the desire to star in his own team whilst building a legacy of his own. That may well be possible in France if his club manage to taste European glory, but in all honesty makes more sense in the white of Real Madrid.

In the Brazilians quest to become the world’s best and a Ballon D’Or winner, he has so far been barricaded by both Ronaldo and Messi. So, with Ronaldo now out of the equation in Spain and Neymar no longer part of a team built around Messi, there is every chance that he sees his long term future on the other side of the El Clasico.

The only issue is for the two parties mentioned is how PSG see this. The French champions will not want the embarrassment of their record breaking star cutting ties after only one season, especially with their objectives in place to fight for all four titles. With his move from Barca coming at a whopping £220m, there is every chance that his current employers could demand nearly double that from Real Madrid. Are Madrid willing to pay that amount of money?

In terms of branding and on-field performance it makes sense. Neymar can replace CR7 as the clubs global star, and cover some of the commercial losses from the Portuguese’s departure. He brings the full package to the Bernabeu too; goals, flair, ego and leadership all attributes Neymar carries likened to Ronaldo’s impact during his nine year spell. Whilst this transfer makes sense on the park, you struggle to see it add up off the park. As we have seen, PSG are no push-overs, and they certainly won’t take any interest lightly. This one is likely to rumble on.

Probability: 5/10

Eden Hazard

After a superb World Cup campaign came to an end for the Belgian last night, Hazard will be keen to sort out his future this summer. The tricky winger has made no secret of his boyhood dreams to play in the white of Madrid, but has consistently made clear he is in no rush to leave Chelsea.

A player that can play both off the wing and in behind the forward, Hazard is a player that is not short of admirers. At 27, it is not long before he seeks a new challenge away from Stamford Bridge, and the current chaotic situation in West London means that this summer could be the perfect opportunity. With Chelsea fans no clearer on who will lead the team next season, they fear for the worst as their talismanic winger flirts with the idea of playing for the European champions.

The lack of communication from Chelsea since the end of the season has been poor, despite winning the FA Cup at Wembley. Antonio Conte arrived for his first day of pre-season this week, but has no idea whether he will be at their Cobham training ground much longer. The club have yet to make a signing, and will be rushed to do so with the Premier League transfer window shutting in just three weeks. There is a good chance, more than others, that it will be Hazard to replace Ronaldo in Madrid – but is it a like for like?

Despite his eye for goal and nous around the box, Hazard has never broken the twenty mark for Chelsea in terms of goals. This would be a potential concern for Madrid, as Ronaldo had managed to double that feat in every season but his maiden in Madrid. Whilst there is an argument that Hazard could improve his return in the less competitive La Liga, there is the feeling in the wider public that if Real were to pursue the Belgian, they would also turn their attentions to an additional high profile signing.

Probability: 7/10

Mauro Icardi

As time has grown on at Madrid, their star man Ronaldo had adapted himself in to a more central role, and if they want a seamless replacement then it may well be a striker that they will be in the market for. In terms of strikers around the globe, there are only a select few who may be seen as good enough to play for Real Madird; Mauro Icardi is one of them.

The Argentine, who was snubbed by disgraced boss Jorge Sampaoili to appear at the World Cup, finished last season as Serie A’s top goal scorer and has caught the eye of Real’s chiefs. The enigmatic striker captained Inter Milan to a fourth place finish and a return to Champions League football and the opportunity to lead Inter in to a return to Europe’s elite may be enough for Icardi to stay. However, at 25 years old the enigmatic striker may never get a better opportunity to become a star man at one of the world’s biggest clubs. The Argentine recently signed a new deal with the Nerazzurri but a big talking point within Milan has been his £100m release clause – which expires in just five days’ time.

Will Real react quick enough to make Icardi their man? Or will they look elsewhere? It seems to be a race against time for Madrid after being left stunned by Cristiano’s exit. Inter’s striker is certainly a man in demand, but a striker with little European or international experience at over £100m is not likely to be an easy decision for the Real Madrid board.

Probability: 6/10

Harry Kane

The final target on our list will certainly be a World Cup golden boot winner by the time any potential negotiations start, but he could be a World Cup winning captain too.

Harry Kane has shown he is clearly world class with his performances in Russia, leading England all the way to a semi-final showdown later tonight. The skipper is everything you want in a striker; intelligent, physical, quick and clinical. Kane has consistently silenced his critics, with consistently impressive performance for club and country.

Kane is certainly a player with potential to match Ronaldo’s goal return in Madrid. However, Spurs are in no hurry to lose their star man and their chairman Daniel Levy is renowned for his hard negotiations in transfers. Levy has brokered lucrative offers from Real previously, with Modric and Bale both making the journey from north London to central Spain. Yet, this could be the most difficult deal yet for Real Madrid to secure.

Spurs are well within their rights to demand over £100m for their top goal scorer, and with Levy in the boardroom then it would be no surprise to see the fee rise closer to £200m. With a new stadium opening in September, Tottenham would be in no position to turn down that sort of money. Yet, finding a second striker has long been a problem for the club and if Spurs do choose to sell Kane, they would leave themselves with just three weeks to find an adequate replacement. For that reason, a deal for Harry Kane may be out of Madrid’s reach.

Probability: 6/10