The five forwards Real Madrid signed to replace Ronaldo & how they fared

Vinicius Jr of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Sevilla. Credit: Alamy
Vinicius Jr of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Sevilla. Credit: Alamy

Since Cristiano Ronaldo departed in the summer of 2018, it’s been an interesting few years for Real Madrid.

Having just completed a historic Champions League three-peat, which no other team has done in the modern era, curtains were called upon Ronaldo’s nine-year spell at Real Madrid, where he surpassed Raul as their all-time top scorer and established himself as one of the greatest players of all time.

Ronaldo won two league titles during his three years at Juventus, but they suffered a sharp and sudden decline during his last year in Turin, whilst Manchester United have been a disaster since his return to Old Trafford last summer.

Los Blancos suffered a rocky transition period in the immediate aftermath of his departure, with a shock Round of 16 Champions League exit to Ajax in 2018-19, but they’ve won two league titles in the last three years and once again reclaimed Europe’s most prestigious cup in 2022.

Karim Benzema has stepped up and superbly filled the void vacated by Ronaldo. But what about the new signings who have attempted to step into Ronaldo’s shoes? Here’s who they signed to replace him since he left the Santiago Bernabeu.

Mariano Diaz

The striker, who came up through Real Madrid’s C and B teams, left the club for Lyon in 2017. After scoring 18 Ligue 1 goals, Real brought him back to the Spanish capital for around £20million, and even gave him Ronaldo’s iconic No.7 shirt.

Mariano has spent most of his time on the bench since his return and gave up the No.7 shirt when Eden Hazard arrived a year after him, but he remains at the club.

A bizarre deal all around, you’d imagine Madrid would’ve been more than happy to wave goodbye to a forward who scored one goal and made just 11 appearances in all competitions in 2021-22, but there were no takers in the summer and he remains at the Bernabeu.

There are suggestions in the Spanish press that he’s happy enough to sit on the bench and collect his wages. But he looks set to depart in 2023 and is now approaching the final six months of his contract.

Vinicius Junior

Arriving for £40million as a teenager from Flamengo in Brazil, the young winger had a lot of pressure to step up when Ronaldo departed, and struggled initially.

But the 22-year-old has found his confidence and was one of the best players in Europe last season. He’s finally added a lethal end product to his game – as Liverpool found out with his match-winner in the Champions League final.

Cristiano who?

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

READ: 12 outrageous stats from Vinicius Jr’s stunning 21-22 season at Real Madrid

Luka Jovic

A powerful centre forward, Jovic arrived as a big-money signing in the summer of 2019 as a 21-year-old, aiming to bring more goals to the side in rotation with Benzema.

He was impressive in his previous season with Eintracht Frankfurt, reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League and scoring 27 goals in all competitions, and Madrid were happy to part with £57million for his services.

However, the deal so far looks to be a disaster. Often on the bench, no thanks to the incredible form of Benzema, the Serbia international has managed just three goals for Real Madrid in 51 appearances and barely got a sniff under Carlo Ancelotti last term.

Unlike Mariano, Jovic took the hint and left the club in the summer. He’s now leading the line for Fiorentina, and made Serbia’s World Cup squad, but very much played deputy to Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic.

Eden Hazard

The first Galactico signing since James Rodriguez in 2014, Hazard was one of the best players in the world at Chelsea and secured 2019 Europa League victory with two goals in the final before making a £100million move to Madrid.

Hazard was the obvious name to replace Ronaldo, given his goal threat from the left wing, superstar status and dribbling ability, but this has arguably been the worst transfer of all these.

Poor fitness, injuries and dreadful form have plagued the Belgian since his arrival, and with just seven goals in 72 appearances, he has since lost his starting place to Vinicius Junior.

The winger can at least boast that he’s a Champions League winner, but he barely featured in their 2021-22 triumph and made next to no impact.

He remains very much on the fringes at Madrid, while Roberto Martinez continued faith was not repaid at the World Cup. Belgium crashed out in the group stage and the 31-year-old continues to look a shadow of his former self.

Luka Jovic for Real Madrid Credit: Alamy
Luka Jovic for Real Madrid Credit: Alamy

READ: The six players Real Madrid signed alongside Hazard & how they fared

Rodrygo

Another young Brazillian winger signed for £40million, Rodrygo is doing well to follow in the footsteps of Vinicius Junior.

Signed from Santos in the summer of 2019, he has shown glimpses of his potential, with 25 goals and 26 assists for the club in 127 matches.

However his career goes from here, Rodrygo has already written his name into Real Madrid folklore with those two goals in their Champions League semi-final comeback against Manchester City.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Real Madrid’s XI from the infamous ‘pig’s head’ Clasico?

 

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