A lot was made of the post-Cristiano Ronaldo era before the beginning of the new season. No team loses such an outstanding player and does not feel the impact. Not even Real Madrid with all the array of stars on the club’s roster.
The club was, therefore, linked with several high profile names that could fill the void left by the reigning Ballon d’Or winner. Neymar and Eden Hazard seemed the front-runners to secure a transfer this summer. Surprisingly, the Champions League holders made no move for either of these players. That is despite the fact that Hazard was open to a move to the Spanish capital.
The club did bring in a replacement for Zinedine Zidane in the dugout. Another significant signing was the addition of former Chelsea first choice goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois to the squad.
Whatever the record Champions League winners did, however, they could not run away from addressing the elephant in the room. They needed to beef up the attack. A lack of goals severely affected the team in the home front the last term.
Barcelona ran away with the league title and the Copa del Rey. Bitter city rivals Atletico Madrid even beat Los Blancos to the second position on the table. Success in the Champions League came to the rescue saving even the manager from the sack. Zidane was smart enough not to push his luck. The Frenchman quit just days after winning the unlikely treble of UCL trophies.
Starman Cristiano Ronaldo followed his manager in leaving the club, although he had made his decision known even while celebrating in Kiev. He chose Italy as his next destination. He has had a slow start to life in Turin, but that is a topic for another day. However, the search for his replacement in Madrid ended up in a rather curious manner.
Former youth team and first team player Mariano Diaz was the chosen one. He was sold to French side Lyon only last season for just €8 million. Interestingly, the young man found his scoring boots in France. 18 goals in the 2017/18 campaign turned heads back in Madrid. Like the case with Alvaro Morata last summer, the club returned to take back a player they had previously let go. They spent €30 million.
But do they need Diaz? Or will the 25-year-old turn out into another Morata?
Diaz has been handed Ronaldo’s number seven jersey. Just like the case with Manchester United, the iconic number seven shirt has been worn by several world class superstars and legends that have plied their trade with the club. Before Ronaldo took over the shirt at the Santiago Bernabéu, it belonged to the legendary Raul.
One will have, therefore, expected a high profile player in the class of Neymar, his wonderkid teammate, Kylian Mbappe or Chelsea’s starman Eden Hazard to fill the role. The club made a different choice.
Early season events though have shown the Merengues have had no need for their new signing. Karim Benzema appears to have emerged from Ronaldo’s shadow with a vengeance. The Frenchman is having a new lease of life in Spain. For a player who scored only five goals in La Liga last season, he has hit the ground running this time around with four goals in just three matches.
However, with the Champions League and other competitions about to begin, squad depth and quality will soon be put to the task. That’s where Diaz’s value will be seen. Obviously, the club’s new number seven will not be able to replace the Portuguese adequately. But perhaps no other player in world football can, except, of course, the other guy.
But whether he turns out to be a hit for Madrid or they come up short in the final third when the likes of Benzema and Marco Asensio fail to turn up, the club will have to live with their choice.