Real Madrid's sensible side shines through in loan return of Jesus Vallejo
Summer is the season with the least competitive football available, so the average fan has to make do with related, but indeed less exciting, pieces of entertainment. Signings are obviously one of them, and while some supporters salivate expecting the arrival of a big name, even if the player in question isn't really what the squad needs, others are happy simply with a loanee coming back to his club after a good formative period.
Examples of those extremes can be easily be found in Real Madrid's silly season. AS Monaco's Kylian Mbappe would generate thousands of headlines if he ended up joining Zinedine Zidane's team, even if the youngster's arrival would mean an extremely complex situation for the French manager in terms of choosing a starting XI in the attacking third. But while that happens -- or not -- the return of Jesus Vallejo after two years in Zaragoza and Frankfurt brought great joy to the die-hard Madridistas.
Vallejo's presentation as Real Madrid's new No. 3 (he'll be taking Pepe's shirt) was one of the top moments of this offseason. The 20-year-old, visibly moved by the fact that he was finally a member of the squad he's supported since he was a child, shed tears of emotion and spoke from the heart. He showed such confidence, team spirit and the will to be successful than many of us couldn't help but think that this kid has what it takes -- at least off the pitch -- to become the captain of the team in a few years.
The replacement of the 34-year-old Pepe had been in the making for the past three seasons, but somehow the Portuguese centre-back managed to keep his starting position longer than expected due to his impressive physical condition and his excellent relationship with Sergio Ramos. However, that could not last forever, and Vallejo's comeback to compensate for Pepe's exit is an extremely sensible move by Real Madrid.
Another sensible squad management decision was the loan of Fabio Coentrao, the unpredictable Portuguese left-back, to Sporting of Portugal. Theo Hernandez now becomes Marcelo's backup, which is also fantastic news for the club's supporters.
The inimitable but injury-prone Marcelo hadn't had a proper substitute in a while, even though Nacho Fernandez did well in the few occasions in which he had to step up and occupy the left-back position. With Theo, Real Madrid adds a pure player for that position. He is yet another impressive physical specimen, one who moves forward well but can also deal with the toughest wingers defensively.
Theo does need to be careful with his disciplinary record, however, as he gets cautioned a bit too often -- 12 yellows and one red in 30 matches last season in La Liga -- but at age 19, he has plenty of time to learn how to deal with the refs, hopefully more from Raphael Varane than from Sergio Ramos.
All in all, the decisions that Real Madrid have taken so far are impeccable. Even if Alvaro Morata's exit has become much more difficult, if the homegrown striker stays, it would not be bad news for the squad. Morata has proven that he can deliver when it's required and in a new season at the Santiago Bernabeu, he'd have plenty of chances to show his scoring ability and compete with Karim Benzema for the centre-forward position.
There's still time to solve the two most complex situations, those of Morata and James Rodriguez. Selling the duo would bring serious cash to the Bernabeu, and those financial resources could be used in that big-name signing many of us expect. However, even if those summer dreams are nice to entertain, Real Madrid fans should not lose sight of the calculated, surgical squad management the club is performing.
Even if the big name does not arrive and Morata and James stay, the squad only needs a solid right full-back to cover for Daniel Carvajal to be much deeper, intimidating and complete than the impressively successful team that dominated Spain, Europe and the world last season.
Eduardo Alvarez covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @alvarez.