Are Bookies Grossly Underestimating Real Madrid’s Re-Build?
Real Madrid are not messing about. They know the way back to the top better than any other leading football club.
With the £89million arrival of Eden Hazard spearheading a summer transfer spree that has already passed £250m, it is the time-honoured route of spend, spend and spend again upon which they are relying once more.
Three-times Champions League winning coach Zinedine Zidane is back in command after returning towards the end of last season in which the more or less unthinkable happened at the Bernabeu.
Only one trophy was won and it was only FIFA's curio, the Club World Cup. Answer; phone the bank.
Zidane has signed five new players to signal a drastic re-building campaign, with £52m striker Luka Jovic, £43m defender Eder Militao, £48m full-back Ferland Mendy and £40m teenage striker Rodrygo joining superstar playmaker Hazard.
Yet still Real are not rated as favourites to win either the Champions League or Spain's La Liga.
It is a close run thing in the view of the bookies. But it is also a sign of the power and might at work at the elite level of European club football these days that the Spanish giants are only fourth in the running for the major European club prize.
They won it no fewer than four times between 2014 and 2018 – with Zidane victorious in the last three of those triumphs.
But neither his return nor the current spending spree are seen as enough to lift them above favourites Manchester City, second-rated Barcelona or this season's winners, Liverpool.
2019-20 Champions League Odds
In Champions League betting, Real are seen at 8/1 with both Bet365 and BetVictor. With both Ladbrokes and William Hill, it is 7/1.
But it is Pep Guardiola's City who lead the way at 4/1 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes, while William Hill and Betway also install them first in the early odds-making.
Barcelona – beaten semi-finalists in April – are 6/1 with Paddy Power and Coral. It is 5/1 with BetVictor behind City.
Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool defeated Spurs in the final in Madrid earlier this month and were also beaten finalists against Real Madrid in Kiev in 2018. That record makes them third favourites at Ladbrokes at 7/1.
Yet it is likely that the major focus will be upon ending Anfield's 29-year yearning for a league title rather than Europe, no matter the club's romantic affinity with the European Cup, which they have now won six times.
The liking for City's chances reflects the fact that this will be the season in which the pressure upon Guardiola to deliver the Champions League title will intensify further after three fruitless European campaigns at the Etihad under his guidance.
City completed England's first ever domestic treble by winning the title, the FA Cup and the League Cup last season.
They have won consecutive Premier League titles too.
Yet whatever may be said publicly, it is surely the Champions League which is the prize craved most by the club's immensely wealthy Abu Dhabi owners.
European Cup in Real’s DNA
At Real, winning the biggest trophy in club football is regarded as something of a birth-right. The recent spree of victories has taken their total number of European Cup wins to a remarkable 14.
Hence the wide-ranging re-vamp of the team embarked upon by French World Cup-winning captain Zidane, who resumed command in the dug-out in March only nine months after he quit following the 2018 Champions League success.
It was too late for him to save what is now regarded as one of the club's worst campaign in decades.
Although the Club World Cup was won last December, Real finished third in La Liga, were eliminated from the last 16 in the Champions League and were beaten by Barcelona in the semi-final of the Copa Del Rey, losing 0-3 at home in the second leg.
Cue the arrival of a new Galactico, with the brilliant Frenchman Hazard set to be the creative force around which the new-look team is built following his long-anticipated move from Chelsea.
This has hastened the moving aside of Gareth Bale as the major attraction in the Spanish capital following the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo for Juventus last summer.
Along with Hazard, Serbian striker Jovic's arrival is causing much excitement. He scored 28 times for Eintracht Frankfurt last season as they reached the Europa League semi-finals.
The Brazilian 21-year-old Eder Militao has been bought from Porto to strengthen a defence which conceded more goals than 13th-placed Leganes last season.
French international Mendy's signing from Lyon is aimed at bolstering the back line as well as utilising his power and pace to drive attacks.
The 18-year-old Rodrygo Goes – who has been captured from Santos – will provide another youthful attacking option following the success of his young Brazilian counterpart Vinicius Junior last season.
Favourites City Haven’t Strengthened
City's Guardiola has yet to complete a major signing this summer but the list of potential targets suggests he is preparing another major upgrade with which to combat Real's renewed vigour as well as the challenge of other elite clubs.
Leicester City's England defender Harry Maguire is an £80m target while Portuguese full-back Joao Cancelo is set to arrive from Juventus for £52m to further shore up the defence.
Another Portuguese, the young attacking midfielder Joao Felix is being tracked at Benfica and Atletico Madrid's Spanish international winger Rodrigo is another major target.
It is an arms race among all the leading outfits in the transfer market these days.
Although fifth-placed Champions League favourites Paris St Germain (9/1) look set to lose Neymar to Barcelona, they will splash the cash again.
Juventus, rated sixth favourites (10/1), have meanwhile turned to a new coach, Mauizio Sarri in the hope that he can achieve what Massimo Allegri failed to do and bring success in the major competition.
Surely, though, the scope of the re-building job at the Bernabeu should warrant shorter odds on Real to re-claim some silverware next season?
That said, they are only slight second favourites in La Liga – William Hill make current champions Barcelona 4/6 favourites to retain the Spanish title with Real at 11/8.
Zidane is ready for a renewed battle on all fronts against his club's great rivals from Catalonia. In Europe, he may have to take on one of Barcelona's favourite sons, too, in City's Guardiola.
Two hundred and fifty million pounds already says they will make more of a fight of it this time around.
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