Now the World Cup has drawn to a close and round up articles have been filed away, transfer gossip columns have again taken centre stage. There have already been a number of big-money moves made - Luis Suarez signing for Barcelona, Alexis Sanchez joining Arsenal and Adam Lallana moving to Liverpool - and supporters can be sure more deals will be completed before the transfer window closes.
On the back of an impressive showing in Brazil however, James Rodríguez is without question the marquee transfer of the summer. The attacker played a starring role for Colombia, with only Lionel Messi (8.52) pipping him to WhoScored's player of the tournament with a marginally higher rating than Rodríguez (8.40). The Monaco ace netted the most goals (6), while his rating in the win over Japan (9.37) was the best of all individual substitute appearances at the competition.
Unsurprisingly, his performances in South America caught the eye of Real Madrid and on Tuesday, the Spanish side spent big to bring the Colombian ace to Spain, having also recently secured the signature of midfielder Toni Kroos. Despite their Champions League and Copa Del Rey double, Los Blancos are keen to maintain their dominance in Europe. Factor in that Barcelona have acquired the services of Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Marc-André ter Stegen, and the need to strengthen becomes much more apparent.
While midfield may not be the position in which they most require strengthening if they wish to wrestle La Liga away from rivals Atlético and stave off Barcelona, it is still crucial they acquire reinforcements in this area. In Luka Modric, Asier Illarramendi, Xabi Alonso, Isco, Ángel Di María and Sami Khedira, Madrid are well-stocked in the position that Kroos plays, though it's likely Isco, Di María and Khedira could all depart in some capacity over the summer.
The question, though, is how is Ancelotti going to accommodate Kroos and Rodríguez without compromising Madrid's defensive solidity. Only Atlético (26) and Barcelona (33) conceded fewer goals than Los Blancos (38) in La Liga last term, so the Italian head coach will want to at least match that return this season. Madrid's stature in Spain means teams do not go toe-to-toe with them, but rather stand off and look to hit them on the counter. Unsurprisingly, this saw Ancelotti's side enjoy their fair share of possession in La Liga last term, with only Barcelona (67.7%) and Rayo Vallecano (59.5%) spending more time on the ball than them (58.8%).
Therefore, it's of vital importance a player who can retain and recycle possession in midfield starts and while Alonso performed this duty admirably last term, Kroos is without question a step-up in quality, especially given Alonso's advancing years. The 24-year-old German attempted (605) and completed (544) the most passes at the 2014 World Cup, so he has the capability to keep the ball moving in the middle of the park, a facet that has seen him gain a WhoScored strength of 'passing'.
With Modric alongside him, the pairing are likely to set the tempo in games, while utilising Madrid's explosive attacking options to hurt the opposition. Kroos had the best pass success (91.9%) in the Bundesliga last season, and has experience playing for a team who dominates in their domestic league, meaning the transition from Germany to Spain should be made with relative ease.
In Germany's top tier, he made fewer tackles (1.8) and interceptions (0.5) than Modric (2.1 and 1.4) and Alonso (2.4 and 1.5) did in La Liga, which could be cause for concern. That, though, will have been due to Bayern's superiority in the Bundesliga, with Pep Guardiola's side averaging the most possession (71.2%) in Europe's top 5 leagues. However, the argument is that this could have been down to Kroos' ability in midfield. Had Guardiola not been able to call on the Germany international, Bayern may have spent less time on the ball, while it's possible Madrid's average possession will increase with Kroos at the club.
Furthermore, with fewer turnovers in possession in games involving Germany's best club team, now will be a true test of Kroos' midfield ability. His time at Bayern was perhaps not a true reflection of his defensive work rate, such was their supremacy in the Bundesliga, but with Madrid averaging less time on the ball, he must exhibit the dogged side of his game to succeed in Spain.
However, Rodríguez is expected to be the headine-hogging signing for Madrid this summer. His form in Ligue 1 and at the World Cup saw elite teams take an interest in the attacker, but it's the European champions who have snared the talented creator. The 23-year-old registered the most assists (12) in France's top tier last term and his displays for Monaco helped Les Rouges et Blancs to a second-place finish following their return to Ligue 1.
While Falcao was the biggest acquisition at Monaco last summer, Rodríguez outshone his compatriot, especially once the striker succumbed to injury. In the Madrid attack, though, he should be able to better his Monaco performances, especially when taking into account the players around him. Playing the number 10 role, the Colombian has the creative talents to thrive at the Bernabeu. Rodríguez attempted (35) and played (10) the most through balls in Ligue 1 last term and with Ronaldo, Bale and Karim Benzema making darting runs in behind the defence, his vision means he should improve on his already impressive assist return.
Furthermore, with sides often backing off and allowing Madrid the ball, his awareness of those around him creating space with clever runs would aid in breaking down the staunchest of defences. With only Mathieu Valbeuna (90) playing more key passes than Rodríguez (85) in Ligue 1 last season, the expected offensive trident he is likely to be plying his trade with should reap the benefits of his inventiveness.
Factor in the expected arrival of Keylor Navas and it's been an impressive summer for Madrid so far. While Khedira and Di María leaving is not ideal, it's fair to say their midfield is even stronger with the signings of Kroos and Rodríguez. With a trio of Atlético's best players from last season either returning to, or signing for, Chelsea, there is the chance for either Madrid or Barcelona to return to the summit of La Liga and Los Blancos are going all guns blazing to ensure they become Spain's best team once again.
Do the signings of Kroos and Rodríguez make Real Madrid title favourites? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below
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