Ronaldo Nazario, Mesut Ozil, James Rodriguez, Thibaut Courtois… The list of players who wowed Real Madrid with their one-man performances world Cup grows every four years. Like every other big club, the Spanish and European champions always keep a watchful eye on the biggest showcase in the world.
And on this occasion, Madrid will have more time to consider their options. Although the mid-season window is fast approaching, Los Blancos’ squad for 2022/23 is already set – and they aren’t used to much incoming business in January anyway. Also, in the European elite, brand deals tend to only happen at the end of the campaign.
As Madrid plan for next summer, one player in particular is in the frame of a transfer to the Bernabéu: the Englishman Jude Bellingham. However, other names also appear to have been circled in red. Cody Gakpo, Enzo Fernández, Josko Gvardiol and Gonçalo Ramos are all players who caught the eye in Qatar…
Bellingham (19, Borussia Dortmund and England)
Madrid’s major 2023 target showed just how good they are at the World Cup. The 19-year-old has scored one goal and scored another, and has always been an influential figure for an England team in which he is now quite a choice. At Borussia Dortmund, his performances and personality led to his elevation to third-choice captaincy, despite his young age.
AS reported in March that Bellingham were Madrid’s preferred option as Los Merengues looked to add fresh blood to their midfield. It won’t come cheap, though – reports in Germany say Dortmund want 150 million euros – and Madrid will face tough competition for his signature of Liverpool.
Enzo Fernandez (21, Benfica and Argentina)
The alternative to Bellingham. Fernández started the World Cup as an impact substitute for Argentina, but will finish him as one of the revelations of the tournament. So far, he has one goal and one assist for the Albiceleste.
In his first season in Europe, he showed the same kind of character that landed him in the Argentina team in Qatar. A talented passer with an eye for goal, he’s not afraid to get stuck; he is a complete midfielder. Indeed, he can play in an attacking midfield role or in a deeper position, as part of a double pivot.
Benfica spent €12m to sign him from River Plate and won’t have to wait long to turn a profit on this investment. According to Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, Madrid have already made contact with their agent to sound out a deal. As Águias has set his release clause at €120m and, says O Jogo, won’t let him go for less than 80-90 million euros…
Josko Gvardiol (20, RB Leipzig and Croatia)
Widely regarded as the outstanding central defender of the World Cup, Gvardiol is a player who has long attracted admiring glances from top European clubs. Chelsea were close to signing him for €90m this summer, just a year after RB Leipzig paid Dinamo Zagreb €18.8m to bring him to Germany.
Amid the transfer speculation the Gvardiol displays have sparked, the player’s agent, Marjan Sisic, told Sky Sports Germany: “Regarding a move in the summer of 2023, we are in no rush and there is no agreement in place with any club.” The Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport named Madrid among the list of clubs that want to sign him. Gvardiol’s performances in Qatar will serve to intensify the race for his services – and it will take a big sum of money to get him.
Cody Gakpo (23, PSV and Netherlands)
A left-winger for PSV, Gakpo plays a more central role for the Netherlands. He passed out in the round of 16, but the 23-year-old started the world cup in incandescent formscoring three goals in three group matches.
In the Eredivisie, it’s a very big fish in a small pond. And don’t be fooled by his size: the 6ft 2in Gakpo is a fast striker capable of doing a lot of damage even in tight spaces, especially when it comes to finding the net. Supreme goalscorer too (he has scored 13 and set up 17 for PSV this season), he won’t play in the Netherlands for much longer. In the UK, reports suggest he could end up at Manchester United, although The Telegraph also claim Madrid are in the running. His asking price? Around 55 million euros.
Gonçalo Ramos (21, Benfica and Portugal)
“I would like to see Gonçalo Ramos as Karim Benzema’s replacement at Real Madrid. I think he would be the perfect understudy and could take over in the future. Speaking to journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, that was the verdict of João Nuno Fonseca, Ramos’ youth coach at Benfica, after reports emerged of the player being linked with Madrid. “He’s a modern number 9, a player who gives the coach a lot of tactical options because he grew up as an attacking midfielder,” Fonseca added.
The 21-year-old stormed the World Cup with his sensational hat-trick in Portugal’s round of 16 tie against Switzerland – a display that follows a strong start to the club season (14 goals and six assists ). His transfer value is estimated at €24m by Transfermarkt, but Benfica will already be rubbing their hands in the bidding war that is to take place.