Real's "B squad" players like Theo Hernandez might not make the cut
"Batacazo!" screamed the pro-Madrid media on Thursday morning after Real Madrid's B team failed to carve out a result against Sevilla in the Sanchez Pizjuan, losing 3-2. That can be translated in several ways, but "wallop!" is perhaps the most appropriate after another damning piece of evidence that the Bernabeu's transfer policy last summer was fatally flawed.
Madrid pocketed €87.5 million in transfer business but that is a drop in the ocean considering it arguably cost the reigning champions their title defence. The average age of arrivals was 20.6, while those departing levelled out at 25.7. Among them were seasoned internationals Pepe, James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata; coming in were a crop of young, mostly Spanish prospects who have failed utterly to live up to expectations.
This summer will bear witness to a massive overhaul at Real Madrid as Florentino Perez blows the dust off his cheque book. Will any of last year's arrivals make the cut?
Theo Hernandez, DF
Arguably the most disappointing of Real's summer signings, Hernandez cost €24m and in hindsight there was a clue in how little resistance Real met in negotiations with Atletico. While his brother Lucas has matured (on the pitch, at least) across town Theo has taken several backwards steps in his development. It was probably no coincidence that Marcelo reminded everybody Fabio Coentrao is still on Madrid's books last week.
It won't be a sexy addition to Zinedine Zidane's squad but an experienced, reliable and recently injury-free one, without the questionable attitude occasionally displayed by his replacement, would be welcome. A case of too much, too soon -- also known as "Sergio Canales Syndrome" -- has afflicted Theo's impact. Atletico saw it coming. Madrid now have to pick up the pieces and if they can get half of what they paid, they'll consider that a job well done.
Chance of staying: Very unlikely
Might suit: A midtable Premier League club with his Alaves highlights reel to hand but who haven't seen him play recently. Think Jese's move to Stoke City.
Dani Ceballos, MF
Crowned Player of the Tournament as Spain's U-21s reached the 2017 European Championship final, Real parted with €16.5m to sign Ceballos from Betis. Things started promisingly enough, with a brace at Alaves suggesting he could push Luka Modric and Toni Kroos for a semi-regular place in midfield. Since that day in Mendizorrotza, Ceballos has made three starts in La Liga and has not added to his goals or assists tally while playing just 321 Liga minutes, 160 of them in dead rubbers over the past two weeks.
A loan back to Betis was mooted in January but came to nothing. This summer, it seems as though the logical option for both parties. The only question is whether it will be a loan or permanent.
Chance of staying: Zero
Might suit: Real Betis
Jesus Vallejo, DF
After Dani Carvajal had a breakthrough season on loan at Leverkusen, Real might have assumed the Bundesliga had done them another favour following Vallejo's productive year at Eintracht Frankfurt. Zidane is probably now kicking himself for letting Diego Llorente leave for €6m last summer. The 24-year-old defender has made 33 appearances for Real Sociedad this season, scoring seven times and picking up some valuable European experience. Apparently Madrid inserted the standard buy-back clause for a player now valued at €15m by Transfermarkt and may decide to admit their mistake this summer.
Vallejo, meanwhile, was completely out of his depth against Bayern Munich and not much better in the Sanchez Pizjuan. It isn't beyond the realms of possibility that Llorente will fill the fourth-choice central defensive role next season in place of Vallejo, who has failed to build on his loan spell during a forgettable campaign back in La Liga.
Chance of staying: Fair-to-middling
Might suit: Any Liga club playing in the Europa League next season or at a push, Valencia.
Achraf Hakimi, DF
Promoted from Castilla as a relative unknown, Achraf will be at the World Cup this summer after adding almost as many Morocco caps as Liga appearances to his name this season. The teenager remains raw and has occasionally looked suspect defensively but will be given another shot, even if it is via a loan move. Zidane vetoed an Alaves bid last summer but he may be more inclined to send Achraf out this time. The promise is there and Real will keep the faith.
Chance of staying: Good
Might suit: Clubs like Alaves, Rayo Vallecano, Getafe
Marcos Llorente, MF
Amazingly, Lucas Silva remains on the books. Llorente may be of a royal Madrid bloodline, but he has done little to further his cause this season, although it seems as though confidence is his only issue. The all-action midfielder of last season has been reduced to safety-first sideways passes, trying not to stand out for mistakes rather than taking any chances. The likelihood of Silva returning is about as high as Llorente remaining; as a result, Madrid may decide to cash in if there any takers.
Chance of staying: Low
Might suit: Newcastle, Watford or any other Premier League midtable outfit with a Spanish manager
Borja Mayoral, FW
The canterano may have expected more from his return from the Bundesliga, where the Wolves' unique needs essentially closed the door on youth, but he has taken the opportunities provided. Seven goals at a rate of one every 129 minutes compares favourably to Karim Benzema's return of 11 at 278, but the France international provides a valuable service to the team, not least to Cristiano Ronaldo.
As an out-and-out striker, Mayoral may benefit if Gareth Bale leaves this summer and Zidane leans toward a 4-4-2 next season, leaving the 21-year-old as an understudy to both. But Perez is unlikely not to wave his cash in the direction of more celebrated names and Mayoral, despite his Madridista heart, does not occupy a place in that of the Real president.
The talent is undoubtedly there, but as Mayoral said after coming off the bench to score in Seville: "We'll see."
Chance of staying: High
Might suit: The usual Real feeder clubs, or any midtable European "big five" bargain-hunters looking for a potential Mariano Diaz
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.