August 16, 2022

Matt’s Monday Musings: A new series that I (Matt) get into every Monday. Some weeks can be long, others are just short anecdotal thoughts. Either way, I’ll be posting reflective content on the club’s current activities:

Aurélien Tchouameni – 100 million euros?

Allow me to preface my predominant thought for this piece with the following: I am a big fan of Tchouameni. There’s a reason every big boy in Europe is desperate for his signature. The 22-year-old is the complete package: technically competent, resistant to the press, ball carrier, progressive passer, ball winner, and he reads the game like a monster: 99th percentile for debut compared to his positional peers at across the 5 major leagues. What’s not to like? He can apparently do anything.

After being linked with almost every major club, Tchouameni’s choice narrowed down to three final suitors: Real Madrid, Liverpool and PSG. The 14-time European champions are leading the race after agreeing terms with the player, but are now negotiating with Monaco over a fee. PSG are doing everything in their power to try to beat Real Madrid again and drive the price tag out of reach. The question therefore arises, at 100 million euros announced, is Tchouameni still worth the investment? I’m not so sure…

Many will point out that Madrid are strapped for cash after rescuing the ‘Mbappe fund’, but I’d say €100m should only be spent on a guaranteed starter. Will Tchouameni start? Many see him as Casemiro’s long-term replacement, but if the French midfielder arrives for the 2022/2023 season, then the Brazilian will still be a fundamental piece for Ancelotti and one of the vocal leaders in the dressing room. The position will probably not be awarded to Tchouameni, he will have to earn it. But as Jonathon Johnson wrote in his recent article on the midfielder for CBS Sports, he’s in more than one place:

“Based on age alone, it would make sense for Casemiro to outlive Modric and Kroos in Real’s starting XI unless he’s sold and that means Tchouameni and Camavinga could potentially fill the other two spots in Real Madrid’s starting XI. starting ahead of the Brazilian in a tough 4-3-3 form.The Monegasque starlet has excelled lately with her all-action approach and proved equally adept at scoring, creating and using her strength with two goals and a assisted in the last three matches of the Ligue 1 season to ensure the principality team reached the UCL qualifiers.

So does Ancelotti see the Frenchman as a replacement for Modric or Kroos? Time will tell, but with a midfield already containing Fede Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Ceballos as replacements, €100m seems excessive for a player who doesn’t have a clear starting role.

My intuition: the player’s desire is to go to Madrid, the lowest offer will eventually be accepted (probably around 65-70 million euros with variables), Dani Ceballos will leave and Fede will play mainly on the wing right, trading with Rodrygo. Tchouameni will have the opportunity to compete in 3 midfield positions. Personally, I think you can only sell Tchouameni on this “rotation role” for one season. If he comes and Madrid spend the money, he becomes a starter within 12 to 18 months.

What to do with the current Loanees crop?

Long-time followers of Managing Madrid will know that Kiyan Sobhani and I have been in charge of following Real Madrid players for the past four seasons. At times it has been a ‘labor of love’, especially this season when most players on loan have underperformed. Many like to point out the talent of Brahim and Kubo, but the reality is that they both had bad seasons. On Loan Tracker’s final episode of the season, Kiyan and I ranked loans. Our ranking was based on performance this season (not overall talent) and the choices were tough. Below is my list:

  1. Alvaro Odriozola
  2. Borja Mayoral
  3. Sergio Reguilon* (we included although technically we are not a lender)
  4. Victor Chust
  5. Brahim Diaz
  6. Takefusa Kubo
  7. Reinier Jesus

*Honourable mention to Fran Garcia, who Kiyan and I both agreed would be top of the list, but we’ve struggled to catch all of Rayo’s games this season.

The placement of Kubo and Brahim may surprise those who haven’t watched them this season. Harvest 4-7 is less than 22 years old and it’s still too early to write them off. Reinier Jesus or Take Kubo could very well have a development curve closer to a Dani Parejo or a Sergio Canales than a Vinicius or a Rodrygo. But the harsh reality is that none of these players have consistently played at ‘Real Madrid level’ this year.

What should the club do with these seven players? I would sell each – at a discount – to include a buyout clause. The only player I would be willing to exempt is Reinier Jesus. The Brazilian was signed for 35 million euros at the age of 18 and didn’t get the chance to get regular minutes at Borussia Dortmund. With the right club and consistent playing time, a fair assessment can then be made of the Brazilian. If the decision is to sell, at the very least a good loan would help increase its value.

Take Kubo and Brahim Diaz are the most talented on this list, but both are at the point in their careers where they need a clear role within a team and a stable environment to develop. Brahim found it in Milan, but let it be a consequence of long COVID or some other issue, he failed to replicate his scintillating form from the start of the season. Awarded the coveted #10 jersey by AC Milan, the little Spaniard has scored 4 goals in his first 9 matches. Brahim has scored against players like liverpool in the Champions League and was the key figure in Serie A wins over Lazio and Sampdoria. His impressive play even earned him a call-up to Luis Enrique’s Spanish side. Unfortunately, this form did not last. Brahim contracted the coronavirus at the end of October and was out for three weeks. Although he eventually recovered from COVID, he never regained his early season form. In fact, Brahim hasn’t scored a goal in 31 appearances (and nearly 2,000 minutes) since his last goal against Venezia on September 22.

Unlike Brahim, Take Kubo didn’t find the right environment. I’ve long argued that Villarreal and Emery would have been the right club, had Kubo held on (and agreed to a longer-term deal with the Yellow Submarine). His impatience led to some bad career moves. His next move this summer could make or break his dream of succeeding at Real Madrid.

Back to the pit – Juni Calafat and the Real Madrid scouts focus on what worked:

Something struck me while doing the “ranking” series for Managing Madrid in March-May 2020: of the ~182 foreigners who joined the club, almost 50% come from four countries: Brazil, France, Argentina and Germany. Real Madrid found success – both through player quality and successful adaptation – which they continued to use as a recruiting base.

Real Madrid head scout Juni Calafat has long been hailed for his pivotal role in identifying and securing the chants of young prospects such as: Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, Eder Militao, Casemiro, Reinier Jesus, Martin Odegaard , Fede Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga. . It looks like reports of the next big Brazilian being contacted by Juni Caliphate never stop with Endrick Felipe and Matheus Nascimento the latest names. In fact, Real Madrid had almost as many Brazilians (5) as Spaniards (6) in the first team this season.

While Argentine player development has stalled in recent years – only Ezequiel Palacios is set to join the club – France and Brazil have produced a plethora of talent. These two countries will continue to be the well that Juni Calafat and his team will return to time and time again in their recruitment of Real Madrid’s next big superstar. Do not be surprised if the links with French or Brazilian players persist throughout the summer and with future transfer windows.