Cristiano Ronaldo has, according to multiple sources, told Real Madrid that he wants to leave the club this summer.
The Portuguese international is said to be furious regarding allegations of tax fraud made by Spanish authorities, leading to his decision to leave the country permanently after eight years at the Bernabeu.
While Real Madrid would likely be able to command a world record fee for his services, his loss would still leave a huge gap in Zinedine Zidane’s forward line. Although Zidane has a soft spot for academy graduates Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio, neither would bring the sort of attention and star quality that Florentino Perez would be demanding.
As such, if Ronaldo does end up leaving Real, expect them to spend and spend big, with a number of targets already surely being drawn up.
So who could the 12-time European champions possibly recruit to fill the boots of one of the greatest players of all time?
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Hazard looked on course to leave Chelsea after a nightmare 15/16 season, but stayed on and helped Antonio Conte’s side win the Premier League title for the second time in three years. However, the Belgian international has never seemed completely settled at Stamford Bridge and has been regularly linked with a move to La Liga,
He has been deliberately vague about his future all along, but if Real firm up their reported interest then expect that to change.
Kylian Mbappe (Monaco)
The hottest young property in world football, Mbappe has a long line of suitors that don’t seem to have been put off by a potential £100m asking price. Although it would have been hard to envisage giving the 18-year-old the starting spot that such a transfer fee would demand, the loss of Ronaldo would solve that problem nicely.
Convincing Monaco to sell would be a massive challenge, but Real have historically been good at getting deals done if they want a player badly enough.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
The speculation that had arisen when Gabriel Jesus arrived and took Aguero’s place in the Man City starting lineup appears to have died down, but that doesn’t mean it has gone away completely. Gabriel seems to be seen by Pep Guardiola as the wave of the future, which could potentially leave the 29-year-old Aguero in limbo.
It’s not quite clear how much Real would be willing to spend on a player nearing 30, however, and that could be a major stumbling block should the reining European champions come in with an offer.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund)
While rumours of a €70m move to PSG appear to have subsided, the murmurings out of Dortmund suggest that Aubameyang wants to leave the club in search of more trophies.
The 27-year-old arrived at the tail end of the club’s success under Jurgen Klopp, so his desire for league titles and the possibility of winning the Champions League would make a transfer to Real relatively straightforward provided a fee can be agreed with Dortmund.
Paulo Dybala (Juventus)
Dybala’s stock has grown massively over the past couple of years of Juve, and his performances in this year’s Champions League (particularly against Barcelona) have not gone unnoticed.
Having to watch Real breeze past his side on the way to winning the Champions League earlier this month will have stirred something in the Argentine striker. The Bianconeri have conquered Italy many times over, and if Real come calling then Dybala will have to decide if he feels he can hit the European heights with Juventus or if a move is in order.
Former Cork City defender Neal Horgan joined us in studio this week on the Mixer Irish Football Podcast to dissect Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Austria last weekend.