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Real Madrid Keep or Dump: Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Eden Hazard to go? Gareth Bale to stay?

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Laurens: Zidane took this Real Madrid as far as he could (0:53)

Julien Laurens thinks Zinedine Zidane didn't want to lead a revamp of Real Madrid's squad. (0:53)

Keep or Dump series: Arsenal | Bayern | Barcelona | Man United

Manager Zinedine Zidane won't be there next season, but Real Madrid have other things to worry about on the playing side, notably that their president Florentino Perez has been too busy trying to bring about the European Super League to manage to extend the contract of captain and legend Sergio Ramos.

Much like that of rivals Barcelona, Madrid's financial situation isn't looking great. They would love to sign PSG striker Kylian Mbappe, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga and possibly even Manchester United's Paul Pogba, but we're talking around €400m for that quartet, and the club just don't have that cash anymore. They are still Real Madrid, though, so Bayern Munich's David Alaba looks likely to arrive on a free transfer, which would help ease the pain of losing Ramos and maybe Raphael Varane.

Madrid have made some expensive transfer mistakes (€100m on Eden Hazard to name but one) in recent years and their squad is getting older, with Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric the wrong side of 30 yet still shouldering the burden of the team. Changes, in some form, have to be made if they are to compete again, but they will need to lower the wage bill and raise some funds to do it.

With that in mind, here's a player-by-player analysis of the existing Real Madrid squad. Where a player is simply marked "Keep," the decision was beyond any reasonable doubt.

Various factors are taken into consideration including age, wages, character and contract length (we went with Transfermarkt for contract expiry dates for consistency). And there will be moving parts, too: departures or arrivals that cause chain reactions, sometimes unexpected.

Jump to: Defenders | Midfielders | Forwards | Overall assessment

GOALKEEPERS

Thibaut Courtois (29 years old, contract expires in 2024)

HUNTER: Most certainly considers himself a team leader and has been easily one of Madrid's best players this season. A miracle man and a personality: vital to keep.

Verdict: Keep

Andriy Lunin (22, 2024)

HUNTER: Major dilemma. No real evidence that he's Madrid-calibre, but he's already been out on loan. Does he simply need more experience? Maybe keep him for one more season and see but let him go and find another backup if there's a good offer.

LOWE: Alternated the very good with the less good when on loan at Real Oviedo in 2020. The doubt here would be: he's a back-up goalkeeper, and potentially a very good one, while also young. Where do you get another at that level, and a reasonable price when there is not a lot of money to spare, who is prepared to "only" be a back-up? Keep, if only because what else are you going to do?

Verdict: Keep and assess

DEFENDERS

Raphael Varane (28, 2022)

HUNTER: I would keep and extend him if possible but, with his contract up in 2022, I suspect his ambitions lie elsewhere. Madrid would be sad to lose him, but if he's determined to leave, then they can do a lot with €60m.

LOWE: This decision probably isn't Madrid's to make so, yeah, they have to dump him while they can get a decent fee.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €60m)

Sergio Ramos (35, 2021)

HUNTER: A Lionel Messi-style situation with his contract up this summer. He is still more than good enough, if fully fit, to lead and inspire for seasons to come. If he and Perez can stop playing "it's MY club" and agree a good contract, they should keep him. If not, he will thrive elsewhere.

LOWE: Probably too late now, alas.

Verdict: Keep and extend if they can, but it may be too late

Eder Militao (23, 2025)

HUNTER: Overly criticised to begin with when he joined for €50m from Porto in 2019; overly praised now. Decent in the air, has good pace but can improve his decision-making. However, he has shown enough to suggest he may progress if paired with experience to his left.

Verdict: Keep

Nacho (31, 2022)

Verdict: Keep and extend

Jesus Vallejo (24, 2025)

LOWE: Might eventually be useful. A steady-enough central defender but not a really significant upgrade, so let him go if there's the chance to, but make sure there's a clause in there to bring him back.

Verdict: Dump with a clause to re-sign (Estimated fee: €5m)

Ferland Mendy (25, 2025)

HUNTER: Strangely enough, Perez still needs convincing about the French left-back, but nobody else should. He's a fine athlete, deft footballer and competitor. Plus he'll be needed if Marcelo goes.

LOWE: Keep, but find a way to give Miguel Gutierrez minutes.

Verdict: Keep

Marcelo (33, 2022)

HUNTER: A supreme footballer in his day, Mr. Entertainment in boots, but he's not the future and Juventus may offer him an exit.

LOWE: Once a great player; not anymore. Dump, but with gratitude for his service.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €10m)

Dani Carvajal (29, 2022)

HUNTER: Get him fit and reap the benefits. He is worth extending if he stays injury free.

Verdict: Keep and extend

Victor Chust (21, 2021)

HUNTER: Looks like he has the calibre to succeed in the future. But with Alaba en route, he might not get enough football at the right level, so loan to a club like Valencia or Real Betis.

Verdict: Keep and loan

Miguel Gutierrez (19, 2024)

HUNTER: Very strong vibes that he might be the best of the breakthrough kids at Madrid. A future star at left-back who can train and grow under Mendy.

LOWE: Keep and (and here there is a slight difference between our positions on Mendy) play more. If you can't do that, then get him somewhere where he can play on loan for a bit.

Verdict: Keep / Keep and loan

Alvaro Odriozola (25, 2024)

LOWE: Let him go if there is anyone out there who wants to sign him, although his form in recent weeks has suggested that there might be a good player in there somewhere.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €10m)

- La Liga on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

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0:44

Why Real Madrid need to prioritise keeping Raphael Varane

Steve Nicol says Raphael Varane is still an asset for Real Madrid despite his inconsistent form this season.

MIDFIELDERS

Casemiro (29, 2023)

HUNTER: What would this guy be like if he were using his judgement more and having to run less because he wasn't doing Toni Kroos and Luka Modric's work for them in midfielder? Vital.

LOWE: Keep, extend his contract and make him captain.

Verdict: Keep and extend

Toni Kroos (31, 2023)

HUNTER: Tough call. He has unquestionable quality, but the modern game will not allow players to wander around like he does. Keep because Madrid will be wanting to populate midfield with better athletes.

LOWE: He is one of the few players in the Madrid team for whom there might be a big offer. But keep and consider an extension. Protect him, put energy around him, and he's as good as it gets.

Verdict: Keep

Luka Modric (35, 2022)

HUNTER: Modric has played at an immense level most of this season but is clearly tiring. It's horrible when great things come to an end. He signed a new contract and has more to give but it's time for him to have fun elsewhere for a year or two.

LOWE: He is 35, yet he is still the best midfielder Madrid have when he's right. The question is: can you make him useful without making him play every week?

Verdict: Dump / Keep (Estimated fee: €10m)

Lucas Vazquez (29, 2021)

HUNTER: Like Nacho he's ultra-reliable and able to play in many positions. In this year of financial restraints he should be a no-brainer to retain, but he's out of contract this summer and clearly has lots of offers. They should keep him, but he may decide otherwise.

LOWE: Might not be Madrid's decision to make.

Verdict: Keep and extend if they can, but it may be too late

Federico Valverde (22, 2025)

HUNTER: He has good stamina, tackling and leadership, is a goal threat and punches holes through the opposition midfield. But he has so much more to give to the team and can be the linchpin for the future.

LOWE: In 15 years or so, he'll be a legend.

Verdict: Keep

Isco (29, 2022)

HUNTER: It's time he went to a club where he plays 90% of the games, staying trim and sharp as a result, and where he's adored (which he needs). Real Betis springs to mind.

LOWE: Let him go ... which Madrid should have done ages ago.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €20m)

Antonio Blanco (20, 2021)

HUNTER: Another of the youth team who looks comfortable with the pressure-cooker environment and is ready for more game time and responsibility. He's got what the Spaniards call "Jeta" (attitude) and has been likened in style to Casemiro. But he needs to play regularly.

LOWE: And if you can't play him regularly, find somewhere he can on loan.

Verdict: Keep, extend and loan

Marvin (20, 2021)

HUNTER: The attacking midfielder has an odd gait, more languid than usual for a Madrid player, but looks like someone who could do special things. Promote to first team or loan for experience.

Verdict: Keep, extend and loan

Sergio Arribas (19, 2021)

LOWE: Another young creative midfielder, of which there are so many. But while all are talented, few get the position, continuity or confidence that they need. Even less get the minutes. A new manager might make that possible; new signings probably will not. Send him on loan and bring back if he still looks as good.

Verdict: Keep, extend and loan

Dani Ceballos (24, 2023)

HUNTER: His technique is excellent but he lacks maturity. He won't want to spend another season on loan at Arsenal, where he has struggled at times, so it's time to make a real decision on him and let him move on.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €30m)

Martin Odegaard (22, 2023)

HUNTER: He is a nice player, no question. But he thrives on being told so and given responsibility, which doesn't look like it will happen at Madrid.

LOWE: Now Zidane has gone, keep Odegaard and challenge him to prove his point. Unless there is a genuinely worthwhile bid for him this summer from somewhere, and there may be, then he could be useful.

Verdict: Dump / Keep (Estimated fee: €40m)

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1:28

'No coming back' for Eden Hazard at Real Madrid

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno is in disbelief over Eden Hazard celebrating with Chelsea players after the match.

FORWARDS

Eden Hazard (30, 2024)

HUNTER: Not all dreams are "happily ever after." There is no time for finger pointing; it's time for both parties to cut their losses on the €100m winger. If there's a Premier League team (maybe his former side Chelsea?) ready to spend to sign him, Madrid should take it.

LOWE: Without Zidane, even more so. The thing is, which club would spend anything near the €100m that Madrid did? Still, they have to get rid of him if they can.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €40m)

Marco Asensio (23, 2023)

Verdict: Keep and extend

Vinicius Junior (20, 2025)

HUNTER: Develop him but make sure he plays down the right so that he's giving assists off his stronger foot.

LOWE: Keep. And build up his confidence. Right place, right manager, right opportunities and there is a very good player here.

Verdict: Keep

Rodrygo (20, 2025)

HUNTER: Work out his best position and build up his sprinting pace so he can gain a half-metre on defenders. This kid can play.

Verdict: Keep

Gareth Bale (31, 2022)

HUNTER: Hugely dependent on who next coach is. Whisper it, but he could actually be a decent stop-gap if neither Erling Haaland nor Kylian Mbappe can be signed this summer!

LOWE: That guy. He wouldn't have continued under Zidane and can't really do so now he's gone either. But who wants him with his astronomical wage demands? Not even sure Tottenham would now.

Verdict: Keep and assess / Dump (Estimated fee: €20m)

Mariano Diaz (27, 2023)

HUNTER: Can crash around the pitch with a lack of focus, while he knows he's not trusted. Should have left a long time ago.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €10m)

Karim Benzema (33, 2022)

HUNTER: He only has one more year on his contract after this summer and is playing at a sublime level. Renew his deal, make him feel loved and get him a superb strike partner to ease the burden of goal scoring.

LOWE: On a different level to the rest. Find some players who can share it with him.

Verdict: Keep and extend

Luka Jovic (23, 2025)

HUNTER: Struggled after his €60m move from Frankfurt in 2019 and has not shone brightly since going back there on loan. He is low on confidence and has no pace to play as a counterattack striker. He's not trim enough either.

LOWE: They said he was good. Truth be told, in Madrid he simply hasn't been.

Verdict: Dump (Estimated fee: €20m)

Borja Mayoral (24, 2023)

LOWE: Better than Jovic and Mariano. He may not want to play as a backup but, with those two dumped, he may be needed if no other striker arrives.

Verdict: Keep

Takefusa Kubo (19, 2024)

HUNTER: Wee diamond, find him the right place to sparkle. My Aberdeen, for example ...

LOWE: Here, we will disagree a bit. Graham likes him a lot; I am less convinced so far. Loan, develop, keep in the future. But, please, loan him to somewhere he'll actually play and let's find out properly.

Verdict: Keep and loan

Brahim Diaz (21, 2025)

HUNTER: Hmm. Worth retaining as he has impressed on loan at AC Milan this season, but only if Isco leaves.

LOWE: Another creative midfielder for a team that has no real room for them. Very talented, but let him go if a bid comes in.

Verdict: Keep / Dump (Estimated fee: €14m)

OVERALL ASSESSMENT

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1:17

Del Piero: Zidane deserves all the credit for Real Madrid's success

Alessandro Del Piero assesses the achievements of Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.

Unlike many of Europe's elite clubs, Madrid don't have that ONE player who might raise them €100m -- even in the middle of the pandemic. They spent that much to sign Hazard in 2019 but they'll be lucky to get half that if they want to move the Belgian on now, while their other top players (Courtois, Benzema, Kroos) are either pushing 30 or nearing the end of their careers.

If Ramos leaves, then Madrid will have a leadership issue at the back -- though it may be immediately solved by the signing of Alaba from Bayern. If Varane and Marcelo go as well, then the defence will need some more experience to pair with the young blood who have been waiting for their chance next season.

In midfield, our assessment shows that Madrid might be able to raise some decent funds from letting Isco, Ceballos and Odegaard go, and yet more if they somehow manage to offload Bale and his colossal wages. Valverde will step up, but could they manage to get enough to land Rennes' 18-year-old Camavinga for around €60m? It still doesn't feel like enough in central midfield and, while there are a host of creative forwards around the place, there could still be an overreliance on Casemiro, Kroos and Modric if that isn't solved.

PSG's Mbappe is the dream signing up front, which may happen eventually but probably not this summer given the financial constraints around. But getting a quality backup for Benzema is paramount. Jovic, Mariano Diaz and Mayoral all can't occupy the same planet as the 33-year-old Frenchman, and (as has been the case this season) one injury to him would spark an issue.

If there was no pandemic, no financial issues, it would feel like the kind of summer that previous Madrid iterations might have used to refresh and rebuild. A few players will force their hand and Madrid will have to plug some gaps without much of a budget to do so, but they will also have to wait for a new manager to decide what he wants. Whatever happens, it's unlikely to be the kind of big signing that Madrid fans would want.