Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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What comes next for Real Madrid? Kylian Mbappe, returning stars to follow Champions League glory

Real Madrid have a 15th UEFA Champions League title to their name thanks to Dani Carvajal’s headed effort which set up a 2-0 success over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley on Saturday. The Spanish giants were made to sweat at times by their German opponents — especially when Niclas Fullkrug hit the post in the first half and was offside in the second — but Carlo Ancelotti’s men dug out the win.

Vinicius Junior doubled Real’s lead inside the final 10 minutes in the English capital with Jude Bellingham salvaging a fairly anonymous showing with an assist for the Brazilian. Toni Kroos was a little more noticeable than the England international in his final game in club soccer and provided the service for Carvajal’s opener although it took until the final 16 minutes for both goals to arrive.

Now that Real’s latest continental triumph has been confirmed, attention will turn to what comes next and the answer to that is an obvious one: Kylian Mbappe. The French superstar is expected to be confirmed as the La Liga giants’ latest big-name signing as early as next week ahead of his free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain this summer but he will not be the only change to this side.

Dortmund exposed vulnerabilities that Real have had all season long and came closer than most to exposing them and even threatened an upset after a dominant first-half showing. However, by full-time, natural order was restored and European soccer’s dominant force emerged victorious to add another title to their trophy cabinet without even truly working up as much as a sweat.

With Mbappe and Endrick set to arrive at Santiago Bernabeu and other potential new faces such as Leny Yoro also linked with Real, the curtain has come down on Kroos and could do the same with captain Nacho Fernandez. Kepa Arrizabalaga’s loan will run its course and he will return to Chelsea having made minimal impact aside from confirming Andriy Lunin’s backup status.

The Ukraine international is expected to extend his contract to stay on with Los Merengues along with Luka Modric and Lucas Vazquez who could potentially pen short-term extensions as Ancelotti rebuilds certain areas of this current group. Rodrygo will logically drop to a squad role after a subdued outing against Dortmund while semifinal hero Joselu was only on loan from Espanyol.

Most impressive perhaps is the number of regular starters who should be back to full fitness next season with Thibaut Courtois a UCL winner again after his latest clean sheet in a final and Eder Militao as well as David Alaba also to consider. Factor in precocious young talent Arda Guler and that is effectively four as good as new signings on top of Mbappe and Endrick for Ancelotti to consider.

Kroos will leave a substantial hole in the middle but Modric staying on could ease the immediate impact of that loss from both a technical and a leadership perspective. Elsewhere, Nacho would not have featured so heavily had Militao and Alaba not been seriously injured and Lunin might have been packing his bags had he not impressed in Courtois’ absence ahead of Kepa.

Rodrygo is perhaps the one to keep an eye on with a view to Mbappe’s arrival but there is no guarantee how Ancelotti will elect to move forward with the France captain until next season now. There are different variations of how Real can fit Vini Jr. and Bellingham on the field with Mbappe and Rodrygo but the chances are that someone will not be entirely happy.

That promises to be next campaign’s problem though, with now a moment for collective and personal celebration as Real and Ancelotti write further history into the books for the Spanish and European kings despite it seeming like just another day at the office. Perhaps that is the most scary prospect of all: Mbappe joining a team that is already effortlessly dominant without him.

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