Alvaro Morata setback means Real Madrid's summer just got more complicated
News that Manchester United seem have to ended their interest in Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata is the latest complication in a summer that Los Blancos president Florentino Perez had expected to be nice and calm.
Just a few weeks ago, Madrid had looked set for a relatively placid transfer window, following their historic claiming of the Champions League and La Liga double -- with Zinedine Zidane's side generally acknowledged as being the best around and not in need of any major overhaul.
The general plan involved moving on some squad members unhappy with limited playing time last summer in Morata, James Rodriguez, Pepe and Fabio Coentrao. Then freshening up the squad some emerging youngsters in Theo Hernandez, Marcos Llorente, Borja Mayoral and Jesus Vallejo.
Evolution, not revolution, was the name of the game. If a deal could be done to finally bring United goalkeeper David De Gea to the Bernabeu than great... if not then Keylor Navas had done well last season and there was no rush.
The same for Monaco's teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe, who was being encouraged to bide his time with the Ligue 1 outfit and then come to the Bernabeu when ready to take over as a starter.
Cristiano Ronaldo's bombshell revelation that he wanted to quit Spain, due to upset and anger at being accused of a €14.7 million tax fraud, was the first spanner in those works. Ronaldo has yet to clarify his thoughts, and seems unlikely to do so ahead of his court date on July 31.
Even still, things appeared under control. Perez calmed the waters with a series of media interviews on returning unopposed for another term as club president. The exits of Pepe and Coentrao were neatly handled, and the signing of impressive 19-year-old left-back Theo Hernandez from Atletico was pushed through without annoying the neighbours too much.
No suitors have yet come forward for James -- mainly because of Real's desire to recoup the majority of the €80m paid to Monaco in 2014 and his considerable wages, which complicate matters.
But a deal with United for Morata appeared very close, with Perez himself all but confirming that he was aware that the Spain international's advisors had been talking to the Old Trafford outfit.
Now it seems that Morata is set to stay. By coincidence or not, Mbappe appeared on Marca's front cover on Thursday morning under the headline "Wait for us Mbappe," with a story saying the club had responded to reports that Paris Saint-Germain had moved ahead of them in the chase by getting back in touch with the youngster to assure him that their interest remained strong.
Mbappe would not come cheap though -- with a world record fee of €140m reportedly required -- meaning funds would still need to be raised.
So unless Chelsea now come in with an £80m bid for Morata -- with AS reporting they would now "reactivate" their interest in a long time target, recalling Morata has said before that he wanted to work with Blues coach Antonio Conte -- then there is still work to be done.
That leaves James to get sorted -- especially as Real Betis young playmaker Dani Ceballos looks lined up as his replacement -- and United could still come in for the Colombia international. There also remain hopes at the Bernabeu that Milan's new Chinese owners can be persuaded to part with around €60m or so for a player who is talented but just does not fit at Madrid.
And Ronaldo's future still remains up in the air. Since returning from the Confederations Cup to be with his newborn twins, the 32-year-old has been busy and apparently not found time to speak with anyone at the club.
The high-stakes poker game going on between his agent Jorge Mendes and Perez, with the loser having to pay the €50m or so to settle the tax problem, continues. It will now be August at the very earliest before this is resolved amicably, if it can be.
All of which means Perez's hope for placid summer looks dead in the water.
Madrid have looked to get last minute business done late in the window before -- successfully in the case of the capture of Gareth Bale from Tottenham in 2013; less so when they first went for De Gea a year later. "Until Aug. 31 everything could change," Perez told El Transistor last month.
The setback over Morata's exit just makes it more likely that Real's summer will continue to be disruptive for some time to come.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan