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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Real Madrid’s veterans will soon be out of contract. What’s the situation?

Real Madrid are at an intriguing stage in their squad development.

After winning four Champions League titles in five years from 2014-2018, their recent transfer strategy has focused on young stars such as Vinicius Junior, Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde — all of whom played key roles in their last European triumph in 2022.

That talented core has only got stronger with the arrival of players including Jude Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni in the past two summer transfer windows. Head coach Carlo Ancelotti, meanwhile, has been entrusted with getting the best from them after renewing his deal until 2026.

Even so, four veterans of the squad — including legendary midfielders Toni Kroos and Luka Modric — are set to be out of contract in the summer. Their departures would leave a big hole in terms of experience.

So where do things stand right now and what do their futures look like?


Toni Kroos (34 years old, 446 Real Madrid appearances, 20 trophies)

Kroos is one of Madrid’s most decorated players and the ball is in his court with his deal running out.

This week, The Athletic reported that the club were open to an extension for the German. There has been no formal offer, but president Florentino Perez and general manager Jose Angel Sanchez have both told Kroos he can renew if he so wishes.

Kroos has yet to make his mind up. He has some doubts and, unlike in 2023, has not set a date for a decision. That same report detailed how Kroos is considering coming out of international retirement to make himself available for Germany at this summer’s home European Championship.

Kroos is the second top appearance maker in Madrid’s squad after his long-time midfield partner Modric and has been ever-present since signing from Bayern Munich in 2014. He started this season playing a reduced role but has made 29 appearances in all competitions — the fifth-most of any Madrid player — scoring once and providing seven assists.


Luka Modric (38 years old, 513 appearances, 24 trophies)

Before Madrid’s match against Getafe this week, Ancelotti was asked if he wanted Modric to renew. The Italian sighed, took some time to think about the question, then made sure not to overcommit himself.

“As I have already said (on other occasions), Luka is a legend of football, of Real Madrid,” he said. “The decisions for next season have to be taken by him.”

But sources close to Modric — who, like all those cited in this article asked to remain anonymous as they did not have permission to comment — suggest that is not wholly the case.

“He can’t answer because it’s not a question for the coach, it’s a question for the club,” those sources say.


Kroos and Modric have been mainstays for Madrid (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Modric has only made 15 starts this season and has been benched entirely for four La Liga games. In December, the midfielder proved himself indispensable with Ancelotti missing up to eight players through injury, but the situation seems to have reverted to type since the return to fitness of Camavinga, Tchouameni and others.

“Now it’s like at the start of the season, everyone is recovered and Luka knows that the club’s strategy is to bet on young players,” sources close to the Croatia international add.

Nobody at the club wants to imagine a traumatic departure for Modric, a Madrid legend who they consider to be an exemplary person. The midfielder made his 500th appearance for the club in November and is only the 15th player to do so.

That is why the club say they want to wait until later in the season to make “the best possible” decision on Modric. Sources close to the player say they do not think he is in a rush to make a decision at the start of February.

Last season, The Athletic reported that Modric had signed a one-year extension after a meeting with Perez in which the Madrid president personally requested the Croatian stay. That followed strong interest from Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr.

Modric’s entourage say he is not thinking about the possibility of moving to the Saudi Pro League for now — it does not appeal to him despite his compatriots Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Rakitic both playing there. His priority is to finish the season as well as possible with Madrid and then enjoy a successful Euros with Croatia.

Time will tell what he does after that, but he will never be short of suitors. His entourage say he has received interest from clubs in Qatar, Major League Soccer and elsewhere in Europe, but he has not ruled out renewing with Madrid.


Nacho (34 years old, 344 appearances, 24 trophies)

Despite having been shown two red cards this season, Nacho has enjoyed consistent playing time as Madrid captain after starting centre-backs Eder Militao and David Alaba both suffered anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.

Madrid did not pursue a deal for another central defender in January despite Alaba’s injury in December, which Nacho’s entourage have taken as a sign the club is committed to him. He has made 25 appearances in all competitions this term and, despite some criticism, Ancelotti recently said he was having “an outstanding season”. Los Blancos are also waiting for academy graduate and centre-back Rafa Marin to return from his loan at Alaves this summer — the idea when he left was that he would at least take part in pre-season training with the first team.

“It shows that Nacho is at the level of the best,” Nacho’s entourage say of the 34-year-old. “Madrid are sending a clear message.”

While the Spaniard’s deal runs out in July, in recent years his renewal has been up to him and that will again be the case this year. It has become something of a tradition for Sanchez to meet Nacho at the end of the season to tell him he has “earned the right to decide”.

“The relationship with the club is magnificent,” Nacho said in January. “If tomorrow I want to sign for Madrid, I could sign. I don’t have any problem.”

But Nacho came closer than ever to leaving the club where he has spent his entire career last summer. He received offers from Inter Milan and Benfica but opted to stay as neither was attractive enough from a financial or sporting perspective.


Nacho and Antonio Rudiger have had to step up in the absence of Militao and Alaba (Antonio Villalba/Real Madrid via Getty Images)

That is why, for now, he remains the only one-club man at Madrid. While last season he might have been tempted by offers from elsewhere, this season he is very happy in the Spanish capital.


Lucas Vazquez (32 years old, 332 appearances, 16 trophies)

Vazquez has never been more than a rotational player for Madrid, but he is one of the most loved figures in the dressing room, where he provides a crucial link between the veterans and the youngsters.

He is almost always available, never complains about his secondary role and has proven himself to be one of the most physically capable members of the squad. The coaching staff rated him above natural right-back Alvaro Odriozola in that position before his return to Real Sociedad last summer.

Vazquez did not start as a full-back but was successfully converted to that position three years ago, which led to him earning an unexpected three-year renewal until this summer. But, when fit, Dani Carvajal has always been ahead of him in the pecking order and Vazquez’s future is uncertain as his deal nears its end.


Vazquez is a key squad player despite his limited playing time (Diego Souto/Getty Images)

Madrid have not made an offer and Vazquez will wait until then to make a decision on his future. He has previously emphasised that staying at the Bernabeu will always be his first option.

“Would I renew? Time goes by fast,” Vazquez said before Madrid’s match against Union Berlin in December. “I’ve always said that Real Madrid is the dream I’ve had since I was a kid, it’s my home and of course I would.”

While those in his entourage describe him as a staunch Madrid fan, last summer he was offered to clubs in Serie A. After nine years at the Bernabeu and three Champions League titles, Vazquez may want to try a new adventure that guarantees him more playing time.

(Top photos: Getty Images)



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