Sunday, 16 January 2022 13:38

Real Madrid: 5 players competing in AFCON 2022 to monitor as transfer targets

Africa, a great continent, full of footballing talent. Yet, Africa continues to be overlooked in the footballing world. Hopefully, at least some of that will change after AFCON 2022, which has been a thrilling tournament thus far. One Real Madrid fans should be watching.

However, some of the top talents the world has seen in recent years are playing in AFCON 2022. Africa arguably has given football one of the three best players of this season in Mohamed Salah. And, judging from the overall quality and development of football in the region. It is certainly one to keep an eye on. Here are my picks for five potential transfer targets for Real Madrid to monitor who is playing in the ongoing AFCON.

Nigeria RW Samuel Chukwueze

Real Madrid’s situation on the right-wing isn’t ideal, to say the least. Carlo Ancelotti’s search for the perfect partner to Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior has been head-scratching. Marco Asensio’s flashes of form and then out again coupled with Rodrygo Goes’s hard work but the inability to excel at a level a club like Real Madrid would demand has been a major issue to think about for the Italian Coach.

Real Madrid has also tried playing Eden Hazard on the right but the Belgian’s ill fate at the Spanish Capital continues. Gareth Bale on the other hand has been very injury-prone this season and he may look to retire at the end of the season. Hazard too, is expected to be on his way out next summer.

Real Madrid’s prime target to fill up the void is Kylian Mbappe. Real Madrid is the Frenchman’s dream club but the move couldn’t be completed in two consecutive seasons of trials. Therefore, keeping options open wouldn’t hurt. And since the rightwing is a problem area, Villarreal’s Nigerian right-winger Samuel Chukwueze is a decent shout as one from the AFCON to keep an eye on.

A speedy dribbler, Chukwueze is a graduate of the academy at Villarreal. Tried and tested to the Spanish conditions he could step up as a backup right-winger for Real Madrid if Rodrygo Goes is sent out on a loan to improve his skills, get more minutes and come back improved. Chukwueze has managed to stand out in the limited minutes he is getting with the yellow submarine having scored in LaLiga, Champions League as well as the AFCON, per WhoScored. He has age on his side and you could never predict who breaks out. He has the skillset, let’s see if can be a key campaigner for Nigeria.

Nigeria CDM Wilfred Ndidi

Replacing Carlos Casemiro in Real Madrid’s starting XI isn’t for the faint-hearted. When Eduardo Camavinga joined it seemed like Casemiro will finally have his heir. But, the way the youngster plays it is sort of evident that he’d be a better fit at being Real’s future No.  8 rather than a 6. His distribution, chance creation, etc. are the main highlights of his game including his fantastic tackling ability. Yet, I see him as more of a central midfielder which means Los Blancos should be on the hunt for an appropriate CDM fit.

Antonio Blanco is surely a possible pick for the future but if Real were to monitor someone in the position from AFCON, Leicester City’s Nigerian defensive midfielder Wilfred Ndidi in my opinion is a great one. He has been a very consistent performer across all competition for the foxes this season.

And, his stats are simply brilliant. He is averaging five tackles in every League Cup game, 3.6 in the Premier League, and 2.8 in the Europa League. He is in the 99th percentile for tackles, 95th for interceptions, and 97th for clearances, per FBref.

He has also scored a goal in the Europa League this season and his offensive play has truly taken off in the first two games of the AFCON having placed 1.5 key passes on an average and created scoring chances. His long balls are yet another highlight and he thus strikes me as a complete package to replace someone like Carlos Casemiro as a quick fix. He is only four years younger than the Brazilian and hence that could be one aspect that hampers his case for a future at Real Madrid.

Burkina Faso CB Edmond Tapsoba

Center-back has been a priority position to solve for Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid. They only have Nacho Fernandez as the only capable backup and that is not at all ideal. Jesus Vallejo’s future isn’t in the Spanish Capital that is something every Madridista must have realized by now. Hence, my pick from the AFCON is a very logical one. He is Bayer Leverkusen’s Burkinabe CB Edmond Tapsoba.

Tapsoba is only 22 years old and yet, he is showing what he is capable of in the Bundesliga as well as the Europa League. He definitely strikes me as a player who could be a good investment. I talked extensively about how signing another star center-back isn’t the right move for Los Blancos at the moment and rather a backup player is more reasonable. Tapsoba actually is someone who could agree to that backup role in the World’s greatest club, nonetheless.

One look at Tapsoba’s stats is enough to suggest that he is more of a ball-playing center-back. He attempts a lot of passes (97th percentile) and also is quietly making a mark on the progressive stage of moves. Tapsoba fits the profile that Carlo Ancelotti would love to work with. He is one of the up-and-coming ball-playing center-backs and a younger one at that.

He is definitely the most logical player in the position to keep an eye on. Transfermarkt values him at 40 million euros with his contract set to expire in 2026. Real Madrid has a lot of options to look at before they make a move in this priority position in the summer of 2022

Ivory Coast DM Franck Kessie

I had already made my picks for Casemiro’s long-term replacements. But, this report from MARCA changes things. It seems Real Madrid is more interested in working with a quick fix replacement or a sporadic rotational piece to Carlos Casemiro as of now. And, because Real Madrid is linked to AC Milan’s Ivorian tank in the middle of the park he beats Wilfred Ndidi in the same position to a higher rank on this list.

Franck Kessie is an amazing player, there are no second thoughts about that. A proper number 6, he has been a pillar to this AC Milan team. Being a defensive midfielder, his scoring exploits stand out. He has already scored five times in Serie A this season and has assisted a goal in the Champions League.

He is also a brilliant distributor and a very accurate one at that. He has a clear attacking edge and never shies away from making runs into the box. He is in the 91st percentile for touches inside the opponent’s box. And is also receiving a lot of progressive passes. Being a defensive midfielder he is also sharpening his skills in playmaking, quite Casemiro-esque if you ask me.

His links with Real Madrid are already a good sign but there still are problems standing between him and Real Madrid. Firstly, Real Madrid isn’t the only club in the race for the Ivorian’s signature. And, secondly, seeing how Camavinga has done a decent job in Casemiro’s role for Real Madrid and the presence of Antonio Blanco already in the squad might tempt Real Madrid towards acquiring a younger long-term solution if Blanco doesn’t fit the bill in the longer run. There, after all, are only four years separating Casemiro and Kessie.

Morocco RB Achraf Hakimi

The center-back and the right-back are the two priority positions that Real Madrid should look to improve in the next transfer window in my opinion. Real Madrid’s first-choice right-back Dani Carvajal hasn’t been consistent with his services without any fault of his own. He is very injury-prone and while he made his return in the Supercopa semifinal against Barcelona, he is again out for the final. This time being infected by COVID. The Spaniard has been very unlucky, to say the least.

Zinedine Zidane’s greatest deception in the make-shift right-back Lucas Vazquez has been covering for Carvajal. However, we cannot overlook that he is shaky and has made every watching fan nervous this season at the position. While Vazquez gets the job done he isn’t an ideal solution.
 

Real also has one right-back away at loan. Alvaro Odriozola, who is playing his football in Italy with Fiorentina. He has done an impressive job so far with the Serie A outfit but if he’d rise to the levels Real Madrid would want him to is a constant question without an instant answer. Therefore, my pick from the AFCON is an obvious winner of this list, Real Madrid’s Academy product, Achraf Hakimi. I had another brilliant option to pick in Ajax’s Noussair Mazraoui. But, he isnt playing in AFCON and hence, misses out on a spot on this list. He did appear on our list of overlooked defensive targets.

Yes, Hakimi still dreams of a return to the Spanish Capital, his former coach, Antonio Conte made it quite obvious which is why he landed up in our list of players who dream of a move to Madrid. Hakimi’s signing would make perfect sense given the situation Real Madrid is undergoing at right-back.

It’s unbelievable how useful of a player Hakimi is. He can play as a full-back or in the midfield as well as score goals like a perfect forward. All of that with some unreal pace on the ball, his explosive attacking runs are a delight to watch and at just 23 years of age, Hakimi would be a brilliant player to bring back to the Bernabeu.

 

He’d solve the problem at right-back and would be the perfect heir to Dani Carvajal who is nearing his thirties and would be feeling the need of a rotational partner. Even without taking the fatigue or injury issues into account, having a quality backup option is always the smarter way out.

[therealchamps]

 
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