Ranked! The 10 players most likely to replace Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid
How on Earth do you go about trying to replace a player like Cristiano Ronaldo? (Thore Haugstad had a go at trying to explain for us here.) Real Madrid's all-time top goalscorer with an astonishing 450 goals in 438 games; the jewel in their crown for nine seasons, four of which cultimated in Champions League triumphs.
So what now? Not only does new manager Julen Lopetegui have the unenviable task of following Zinedine Zidane into the Madrid dugout, he'll also have to do it without CR7. The former Spain boss will surely be boosting the power of his collective after a near-decade of domination from one player, but ultimately nobody in his squad packs the same firepower. Florentinto Perez, you'd think, will be inclined to act this summer.
But there are problems. Neymar, one of two long-term targets, looks set to stay put at PSG this summer; as does Kylian Mbappe, the other. Harry Kane has inked a hefty new deal with Tottenham, Mo Salah has done the same at Liverpool, while Robert Lewandowski turns 30 at the end of August. Does that even matter to Madrid this summer? We've had a crack at rating the chances of the below signing this summer...
10. Leon Bailey
The 20-year-old Jamaican would be a huge gamble, but he's definitely worth looking at. His potential is incredible, and his style is quite similar to the young version of Cristiano.
Bailey managed 12 goals and six assists for Bayer Leverkusen last season, and his lightning speed and trickery made him virtually unplayable when on-song. Naturally, he's extremely inexperienced and it’s impossible to expect he could replace the Portuguese immediately, but touches like his backheel goal against Hoffenheim show that he can become a world-class player.
9. Harry Kane
In an ideal world, Kane is the best target imaginable for Real Madrid. They desperately need a striker who scores goals like Ronaldo, and the Tottenham star is exactly that. Those who considered him a one-season wonder were very wrong indeed: Kane has struck 105 goals in 139 Premier League goals since the start of 2014/15, and won the World Cup's Golden Boot with six goals in Russia.
Spurs' all-time Premier League record scorer has found the net at Champions League as well. He is extremely confident, loves to shoot from distance and involves his team-mates with good hold-up play too.
Kane turns 25 this weekend and should be in his prime – exactly the man to build a team around. Unfortunately for Madrid, that won't be in Spain's capital for a while: at the beginning of June he penned a new six-year deal with his beloved Spurs.
Obviously, given the quality of the Brazilian, this is a very tempting move. To bring the former Barcelona idol back to La Liga, to play for their biggest enemy, would be a phenomenal PR move by Real Madrid. They could hardly think of a deal that would bring more coverage. Neymar knows the league well and is certain to perform, making El Clasico hotter than ever.
The downside is that the Brazilian would be an extremely expensive purchase. Even if PSG are persuaded to sell their star – an embarrassing exercise for them after only a year – they would want to make a profit on their €222m investment. In addition, Neymar might not make life easy in the dressing room. As his difficult relationship with Edinson Cavani shows, the idyllic MSN relationship at the Camp Nou was perhaps one of a kind.
7. Kylian Mbappe
The 19-year-old has already hit superstardom, culminating in his award for the best young player at this summer's World Cup. Helping Monaco to the 2016/17 Ligue 1 title earned him his big move to boyhood club PSG; initially on loan with a contract clause which would make the deal permanent this summer.
Technically, Mbappe is terrific, and he's also smart and lightning quick. His mental strength and confidence were both evident in Russia, and he could arguably become an instant success at any club in the world. Madrid don't really have much hope of landing him this summer – Mbappe has already declared that he'll stay in Paris next season – but strangely, the permanent deal hasn't yet been announced. A window of opportunity, perhaps?
6. Paulo Dybala
The Argentine has a lot appeal – not only is he an outrageously talented and versatile striker, but the Juventus attacker is also extremely charismatic. His smile and looks can sell shirts by themselves, even without his mighty dribbling skills and shooting ability.
There are significant doubts, though, whether Dybala can really be a true big-game player. Granted, he put in a brilliant performance against Barcelona in the 2016/17 Champions League quarter-finals, but he tends to disappear when it matters most – as in the 2017 final against Real. The 24-year-old has scored six Champions League goals in 26 matches, and is yet to prove himself for Argentina. Really, he's only so high on this list because of the lack of availability elsewhere.