Aside from the unrelenting pursuit of Gareth Bale — in the club’s classic, destabilising, public style — this has actually been a summer of refreshing transfer activity for Real Madrid. In Isco (€30 million), Asier Illarramendi (€38 million) and Daniel Carvajal (€6.5 million), Madrid has acquired three young Spanish players — all members of the victorious Euro Under-21 squad, and to some degree proven names.
Isco enjoyed two fruitful seasons with Malaga, where he made his name as a versatile attacking midfielder — quick yet able to spot a pass — not unlike another from the Valencia youth setup, David Silva.
Illarramendi has been spoken of as a long-term replacement for the peerless 31-year-old Xabi Alonso. Although deployed more defensively at Real Sociedad, he — from the Basque country like Alonso — has the passing range that perhaps someone like Sami Khedira doesn’t. At any rate, Madrid saw enough in Illarramendi to trigger his buy-out clause and make him the club’s most expensive Spanish name.
Carvajal, for his part, was sold to Bayer Leverkusen last season — where he excelled as an attacking right-back — before being purchased again through a buy-back option. He may be expected to replace the unconvincing Alvaro Arbeloa at once.
But Madrid being Madrid, no summer can be deemed satisfactory without a major signing for the club president — now Florentino Perez — to parade before supporters. Hence the raging desire to sign Bale, although how he will be accommodated is uncertain.
However, it will not unsettle Carlo Ancelotti. He has put up with the whims of owners like Roman Abramovich and Silvio Berlusconi, and delivered trophies at both clubs.
Last season, the league was as good as over by Christmas, Madrid eventually finishing 15 points behind Barcelona. Ancelotti will be expected to right that, to say nothing of the Champions League, where a wonderful Borussia Dortmund side chastened it in the semifinals.
Barcelona will also embark on its season under an untested manager, but has undeniably strengthened over the summer; Neymar’s signature, it can be safely assumed, rattled the Bernabeu. Ancelotti, for all of Madrid’s cash, has his task cut out.