PETE JENSON: Raphael Varane will be first out the door at Real Madrid as Man United move nears, with Takefusa Kubo and Brahim Diaz to follow... and they WON'T be replaced with wage cap slashing forcing Carlo Ancelotti to trim his bloated 35-man squad
Raphael Varane to Manchester United, Takefusa Kubo to Real Sociedad, and Brahim Diaz to Milan... these are the sort of deals on the horizon for Real Madrid this summer with no players in-coming to replace them.
Carlo Ancelotti knows he will have to make good with what he has next season as the club come out of the pandemic-induced economic dip.
In his first media appearance since pre-season training started, Ancelotti praised Isco and Marcelo and promised an 'energetic football' and plenty of 'intensity with and without the ball' on Thursday.
Spoken to Real Madrid TV at Valdebebas, they were the words of a man who knows he has to make the best of what he has and talking up players is the first step on the road to making sure everyone feels part of things when the first competitive ball is kicked.
'I've been impressed with the implication of Carvajal, Nacho, Marcelo, Lucas and Isco,' said Ancelotti. 'They are players who have won everything but they still have the hunger.'
Madrid's financial situation is far better than Barcelona's and there are no desperate player swaps being lined up to ease the wage bill. But anyone believing everything in the garden is rosy need only recall the desperation with which the club's president Perez tried to launch a new 'Super League' last April, declaring that football 'would be dead by 2024 without it'.
Barca's problem is that they can't pay their players, or even register them all under current LaLiga financial fair play rules. Madrid's problem is that they can't build the sort of super squad they have become accustomed to.
The club that historically has broken the world transfer record more than any other can no longer compete with clubs bankrolled by wealthy nation states.
Kylian Mbappe would, once upon a time, already have been the subject of a record-breaking offer, but in the current situation - with the coronavirus having wiped around €300m (£256m) off of Madrid's revenue since it first provoked football shutting down - they are resigned to waiting for him to see out his contract at the end of next season or hoping that Paris Saint-Germain will sell him relatively cheaply now so as not to lose him for nothing.
Madrid know the reality is that PSG don't need to sell him cheaply so as not to lose him on a free. They can take the financial hit. How different it is for them with Varane.
The France defender is also a year from running out of contract. Madrid cannot afford to let him leave for free and will try to sell him to Manchester United this summer.
Having seen Manchester United pay out £73m for Jadon Sancho, they are hopeful there will be a willingness to pay a sizeable fee for Varane too.
Post-Varane the plan is that David Alaba, who has arrived on a free from Bayern Munich, partners Brazil international Eder Militao who has impressed in the second half of last season and at the Copa America.
Of Alaba, Ancelotti said Thursday: 'He is a very complete player who is very astute tactically in several defensive positions.'
Nacho, meanwhile, has renewed at Real Madrid, extending his deal by 12 months to 2023. He will be third centre back behind the new Alaba-Militao partnership.
Real Sociedad want Kubo, Milan want to keep Diaz and although both deals will only be loans, it keeps Madrid's squad numbers down.
The emphasis will be on Ancelotti making the best of what he has. Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio are all resources that he needs to make the most of. The club are expectant that he can also improve Brazilian youngster Vinicius and Rodrygo Goes.
In midfield Martin Odegaard will feel like a new signing and a decision needs to be made on Dani Ceballos. If those two are added to last year's quartet of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Fede Valverde then the coach will have options.
Defensively there is strength in depth at full-back with Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez at right back and Ferland Mendy and Marcelo at left back.
If the club succeed in selling Varane to United then, with Sergio Ramos gone, they will be left needing last season's B-team captain Victor Chust to offer back-up for Militao, Alaba and Nacho, but Ancelotti will accept that.
He believes he has a squad to compete, and even if he doesn't believe it, he has little choice but to make the best of the options before him. It could be worse. He could be in Ronald Koeman's shoes waiting to see if the club can register all their players or not.