Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has ruled out signing another forward when the January transfer window opens next month, despite lacking options up front.
Madrid decided not to dip into the market for a new striker when Karim Benzema opted against a contract extension and took the twilight of his career to the Saudi Pro League. Journeyman veteran Joselu had already returned to the club on loan by that point, but the summer also included departures for back-up striker Mariano Diaz and wingers Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio.
So far this season, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo have been utilised as a central striker partnership, which hasn’t always sat well with the latter as both are naturally wide players. But the Madrid hierarchy isn’t likely to make any changes to personnel until the end of the campaign.
“A new forward in January? No. The club planned the squad in summer and that’s it. Everything is good,” Ancelotti stressed when asked about the issue ahead of Madrid’s next game.
Lacking ‘number nine’ options isn’t exactly a new problem for Madrid. Benzema missed a lot of games with muscles problems and fatigue last season and, with Mariano almost completely out of favour, it often fell to Rodrygo to fill in centrally even then.
Realistically, Madrid haven’t had any genuine competition in the striker position since 2017/18 when Cristiano Ronaldo was still at the Bernabeu. In the intervening years, the club’s only investments in a typical centre forward have been the re-signing Mariano from Lyon in 2018 and landing Luka Jovic. The latter cost €60m from Eintracht Frankfurt in 2019 but scored only three goals in 51 appearances and was released on a free transfer in 2022 just halfway through his six-year contract.
When it comes to goals, Madrid have been relying on midfield star Jude Bellingham in the wake of Benzema’s departure. The Englishman hasn’t been known as a prolific scorer in his career to date but has been deployed as a ‘number 10’ by Ancelotti to find the net 15 times in 16 games as a result.
Bellingham’s previous career best tally was the 14 goals he scored for Borussia Dortmund across 42 appearances last season. But he could feasibly exceed 30 with Madrid in 2023/24 at this rate.
Madrid were close to signing Kylian Mbappe in 2022 before he agreed a new contract with Paris Saint-Germain but are widely expected to be in the mix for the Frenchman again when that deal comes to an end in just over six months’ time.