Madrid's French head coach Zinedine Zidane attends the Audi Cup football match for third place between Real Madrid and Fenerbahce in Munich, on July 31, 2019. (CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)
MADRID - It's been a busy summer in the offices of the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium as Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez looks to build a side capable of challenging for the Liga Santander title after two disastrous domestic campaigns.
Although Real Madrid won the 2018 Champions League title, in many ways that papered over the cracks of a domestic campaign that saw them finish in third place, 17 points behind FC Barcelona and with their title ambitions over by Christmas.
Real Madrid's transfer activity isn't over yet with the club looking to move on striker Marcelo Diaz, midfielder James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale before the transfer window closes
Last season was even worse with Real Madrid finishing 19 points off the top of the table, after a campaign that saw both Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari sacked with Zinedine Zidane convinced to return to the job he left less than a year earlier.
Zidane's return did little to change things, but Perez has no option other than to keep faith in the man who led them to three European titles and no club in Europe has spent more money this summer than Real Madrid.
Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic, Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy, Rodrygo and Takefusa Kubo have all been signed, although restrictions on players without an EU passport mean that Rodrygo and Kubo will either have to play in the Madrid B-team or go out on loan.
Meanwhile midfielder Marcos Llorente has been sold to Atletico Madrid, while Dani Ceballos has been loaned to Arsenal, Jesus Vallejo to Wolves and Sergio Reguilon to Sevilla.
Real Madrid's transfer activity isn't over yet with the club looking to move on striker Marcelo Diaz, midfielder James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale before the transfer window closes.
Bale was effectively ostracized by Zidane for most of the summer, but with the Chinese and Premier League transfer windows now closed Madrid may have to option other than to give the Welshman some kind of a role.
Madrid are also thought to be battling it out with Barcelona to sign Neymar Jr, which would give them a truly fearsome looking attack, but given their embarrassment of attacking riches with only Casemiro able to play a holding role, some money also needs to be spent elsewhere.
This season the club needs more from Tony Kroos, who last season looked jaded, and Luka Modric, who will be 34 in early September - and whether they can respond will be vital to Real Madrid's season.
Real Madrid's Welsh forward Gareth Bale reacts during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid on April 21, 2019. (GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)
Defense was also an issue last season, with players such as Marcelo and Nacho Fernandez well below their best. The arrival of Ferland Mendy should offer more options at left back, while Militao has performed well in Portugal, but the club also needs to see an improvement from Sergio Ramos, who last season committed too many errors and has lost half a yard of pace.
Ramos may be a club legend, but he's 33 now and that could be a problem a player who has based his game around his physical prowess.
Real Madrid will go into the new season after a dreadful pre-season, which saw them lose twice to Bayern Munich, suffer a 7-3 thrashing from Atletico Madrid and lose Marco Asensio with a long-term knee injury.
Real Madrid's Spanish defender Sergio Ramos reacts as he misses a goal opportunity during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid CF and SD Huesca at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 31, 2019. (JAVIER SORIANO / AFP)
The poor results even saw Zidane flirt with using a five-man defense and that may be the solution and the sensation is that with the season just around the corner, he is nowhere near building a convincing starting 11.
Fortunately for Zidane and Real Madrid the fixture calendar has again been kind with Valladolid, Levante, Osasuna and Granada the first visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu. Wins in those games should calm nerves and despite questions over their midfield and defense Madrid have the firepower to beat most rivals. However, unless Zidane can form his players into a coherent unit then they could struggle again more powerful and better organized teams.
HONG KONG NEWS