CARDIFF Real Madrid 12th European Cup and third Champions League triumph in four years on Saturday, becoming the first team to retain the trophy in the competition’s expanded format, demonstrated their power over the rest of Europe.
Zinedine Zidane led his team to the club’s first La Liga and Champions League double since 1958 after they saw off the threat of Barcelona to earn the Spanish title too, but they will not rest on their laurels.
Here are five moves the European champions could make to ensure their domination continues next season:
CHANGE OF GOALKEEPER
Costa Rican Keylor Navas has been criticised for inconsistency. Against Real Betis in March, he was lucky to avoid a red card before fumbling Antonio Sanabria’s strike over the line, but Madrid ran out 2-1 winners.
In the latter stages of the campaign he improved and made some fine stops on the final day against Malaga to ensure his team lifted the title for the first time since 2012.
Against Juventus he denied Miralem Pjanic well early on but might have done better to keep out Mario Mandzukic’s spectacular bicycle kick equaliser. A move for Manchester United’s David de Gea has long been rumoured and it would be no surprise to see Madrid sign a new goalkeeper.
BOLSTER STRIKE FORCE
Real Madrid are the team that always score. They found the net in every single one of the 60 matches they played this season. However, the goals have come from all over the team and only Cristiano Ronaldo has been consistently reliable, scoring 10 goals in the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and final showing how dependent Madrid are on his finishing touch.
The BBC strike force has disintegrated, with Karim Benzema working hard but not particularly dangerous alongside Ronaldo, while persistent injuries have spoiled Gareth Bale’s season.
Madrid have been linked to a move for Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe and the evergreen Ronaldo may have a new partner next season.
PROMOTE YOUNG TALENT
Zidane has already started giving chances to Marco Asensio, the 21-year-old attacking midfielder who netted Madrid’s fourth against Juventus and he may choose to add midfielder Marcos Llorente to his squad after his fine season on loan at Alaves.
They are both the type of players hungry for success and to hold down a place in the team, while bigger names like James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata are likely to leave in search of first team football elsewhere.
Madrid have already agreed to sign young Flamengo forward Vinicius Junior, although he is set to arrive in July 2018.
If Madrid had one major weakness this season it was their fragile defence that kept few clean sheets. Their attacking verve meant this rarely ended up causing problems but Zidane’s next job is to work out how to be more solid at the back.
By introducing Casemiro in midfield last year the coach took a step in the right direction and Raphael Varane getting regular football in place of Pepe, who seems set to leave at the end of his contract, will also help.
There are some players who have probably played their last game for the club like Fabio Coentrao, who has barely featured this season and is likely to leave as they seek a deal for Atletico Madrid defender Theo Hernandez, with reports in Spain suggesting he has already passed his Madrid medical.
Rodriguez was not even included in the squad to face Juventus so his days in the Spanish capital seem numbered.
With rivals Barcelona set to strengthen in the summer market, Madrid would do well to ensure they don’t tread water. Given their sensational recent record in Europe they will be confident of convincing almost any player they want to join.
(Editing by Rex Gowar)