Real Madrid have moved away from their Galacticos policy in recent years – but how has their change of approach in the transfer market worked out for them?
Having signed the best player from the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups (Fabio Cannavaro, Mesut Ozil, James Rodriguez) as well as making record-breaking moves for Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, Florentino Perez hasn’t sanctioned a real marquee signing since James in 2014.
Here’s how their 15 signings since then have fared.
Vallejo showed promise at Real Zaragoza and won the U19 Euros with Spain in 2015, leading to a €5million move to Madrid that year.
He’s since spent a couple of loan moves away but is back at the club and hasn’t got a look-in this season, while last year his most memorable contribution was coming in for the suspended Sergio Ramos as Madrid nearly got knocked out of the Champions League in a 3-1 loss to Juventus.
Constant injuries haven’t helped.
Mariano progressed through the ranks at Real but was sold to Lyon in 2017 before returning to the Bernabeu a year later after impressing in Ligue 1 in the 2017-18 campaign.
Taking Ronaldo’s famous No.7 shirt looked a questionable decision at the time and he’s started just once since, made 12 late substitute cameo appearances, and scored once.
It’s fair to say he’s not exactly filling Ronaldo’s shoes.
The Brazilian full-back was expected to challenge for a starting spot when he moved from Porto for €31million in 2015, but in two years at the club he was never more than a squad player.
He was also something of a bad luck charm: in his first season at the club, he played every minute of every Real Madrid defeat.
Still, Real recouped what they spent on him and now he’s fulfilling a similar squad role at Manchester City.
The Ukrainian had forged a reputation as one of the best young goalkeepers in Europe with a series of exceptional performances as a teenager for Dnipro and Zorya Luhansk, joining Real in 2018.
Still only 20, he could well be one for the future, but at present he’s not even getting minutes on loan at Leganes.
One that makes you question who benefits from the biggest clubs harvesting young talent.
Los Blancos spent €17million so that Brahim could sit on their bench instead of Man City’s.
Still just 19, there’s plenty of time for the teenager to come good and live up to his big reputation. And being out of all three competitions in early March means that they might as well give him minutes now.
After tearing it up on loan Alaves in the 2015-16 season, it looked like Real had pulled off a real coup when they paid his release clause of €24million to take him from their city rivals Atletico in 2017.
The controversial move put an end to the gentleman’s pact between the clubs, Hernandez becoming the first player to cross the divide since now-manager Santiago Solari’s move from Atletico in 2000.
He struggled the justify all the trouble in the end, but now on loan at Real Sociedad is starting to look the player he promised to be once again.
Still only 21, he’ll still dream of being Marcelo’s long-term successor at left-back. But academy product Sergio Reguilón gives him stiff competition and has been a lot more impressive in the white shirt of Madrid thus far.
9. Kiko Casilla
A solid goalkeeper with Espanyol, Casilla became a dependable back-up for Keylor Navas for three seasons after joining Real in 2015.
After Thibaut Courtois joined, he fell to third in the pecking order and pushed for a move away in the January window, leading to a move to the Championship with Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds.
Paying €35million in 2018’s market looked a bargain for a player that’s a serial title winner, and Courtois has already proven himself in Spain as he excelled in Atletico Madrid’s miraculous title win of 2014.
His time at Real has been mixed, though. With as many questionable moments as great ones, the Belgian currently looks a long way behind Atletico’s Jan Oblak and Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen and definitely hasn’t been the clear upgrade on Navas expected.
There’s still plenty of time to come good, though.
The young right-back had established himself as proven La Liga quality after breaking through with Real Sociedad.
The €30million that Madrid paid for him in 2018 may prove a bargain given that he could well be Spain’s first-choice right-back for years to come, while former Spain U21 coach Julen Lopetegui was a natural fit to bring him and others along.
But now Lopetegui’s gone and Odriozola is struggling for minutes behind Dani Carvajal. What’s next is unclear.
The Croatian, signed from Inter for €38million by Rafael Benitez in 2015, has rarely been a regular starter but has shown promise and is widely regarded as the one positive legacy from the current Newcastle manager’s short time there.
Having joined Chelsea on loan to get more minutes, he’s not dazzled in the Premier League and has largely been rotated with Ross Barkley.
Toni Kroos and Luka Modric have been far from their best this season, and a spot could reopen for him in midfield. If not, they should at least make the money spent on him back.
Having shone for Spain at the U21 Euros in 2017, being named Player of the Tournament, and also enjoying two extremely strong seasons for Real Betis, Ceballos is one of the brightest young players in Europe.
As Real have often done often lately, it was a victory in itself to get his signature ahead of Barcelona or Atletico.
After barely getting a look-in during his debut campaign, things have begun to look up for the youngster as Lopetegui and Solari have afforded him more opportunities.
He’s often stepped up and won three points for Madrid as he whipped in a free-kick against his former club Betis.
Eyebrows were raised when the European champions paid €45 million for a talent as raw as Vinícius, but such is Perez’s desperation not to miss out on the next Neymar.
It looks like the gamble has paid off as Vinícius’ ability with the ball is absolutely electric. He’s already drawn comparisons with both Ronaldos, and it would be no surprise to see him go on to be one of the best players in the world.
It says a lot for Madrid’s lack of strategy that they’ve been depending on a Brazilian teenager, adapting to a new continent, to bail them out this season.
Often he’s not quite able to do that, but if he can improve his decision-making and shooting, the sky’s the limit.
Lucas Vázquez cost just €1million when he joined from Espanyol in 2015. He’s not the most dynamic or flash player, but few at Madrid work as hard, and due to that he’s often been favoured by Solari and Zidane before him.
One of the best bargain signings, anywhere, ever.
It’s fair to say that Madrid got the best out of Alvaro Morata. They re-signed him in 2016 from Juventus, and he only spent a season back at the Bernabeu before Real made a €46m profit in selling him to Chelsea.
In between he was a dependable squad player for Zidane, scoring 15 goals in 26 league games.
He’s now on loan at Atletico, having failed to really establish himself in 18 months at Chelsea.
A €3.5million buy from Mallorca in 2015, this could go on to be one of the best value transfers in history. This is one investment in youth that can unequivocally be described as a success.
Marco Asensio has had an astonishing start to his Madrid career since making his debut in 2016. The 23-year-old already has a solid highlights reel of special goals, and he scored on his La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League debuts.
He’s not quite made the step-up to consistent superstardom that many expected this season, but with the club in dire straits around him it’s a lot to expect of a player still so young.