Real Madrid, Atletico and Barca are clear­ing out the Old Guard in bid to de­throne the Euro kings of Eng­land

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Sport - BY AN­DREW GAFFNEY Span­ish Foot­ball Ex­pert in Va­len­cia

SPAN­ISH gi­ants Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have launched an un­prece­dented clearout — in a bid to be­come rulers of Europe again.

Count­ing the Cham­pi­ons League, Europa League, UEFA Su­per Cup and Club World Cup La Liga sides have won 17 of the last 20 ma­jor in­ter­na­tional club tro­phies.

But last sea­son the English Premier League dom­i­nated, with Liver­pool beat­ing Tot­ten­ham in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal and Chelsea see­ing off Arse­nal in the Europa League’s fi­nale.

Now La Liga’s top dogs are emp­ty­ing the bank of Spain to fund a Euro­pean fightback.

Real Madrid are the big­gest movers in the trans­fer mar­ket so far, with Zine­dine Zi­dane hav­ing al­ready shelled out get­ting on for £300mil­lion.

Win­ning four of the last six Cham­pi­ons Leagues is a feat un­likely to be re­peated for a long time, but the cracks in Zi­dane’s age­ing Real squad have been show­ing in re­cent sea­sons.

They spent around £40m on Brazil­ian young­ster Rodrygo, 18, back in Jan­uary even be­fore this sum­mer’s re­build­ing process went into over­drive.

Eder Mil­i­tao, 21, is join­ing from Porto for £45m to bol­ster their defence.

And Luka Jovic, 21, ar­rives from Ger­man Bun­desliga side Ein­tra­cht Frank­furt for around £54m to help re­place the goals lost af­ter Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s de­par­ture in 2018.

Fer­land Mendy, 24, is seen as a long-term suc­ces­sor to the in­jury-prone Marcelo, 31, at left-back and cost Los Blan­cos £43m. And Madrid have se­cured their first ‘Galac­tico’ sign­ing in six years, agree­ing an ini­tial £89m deal with Chelsea for Eden Haz­ard, 28.

The spend­ing won’t stop there as Zi­dane wants at least one of Paul Pogba, 26, or Chris­tian Erik­sen, 27, to add depth to his mid­field op­tions now that Toni Kroos, 29, and Luka Mo­dric, 33, are no longer ca­pa­ble of play­ing two matches a week.

Pogba is the pre­ferred choice, but he’d cost more than Haz­ard.

There’s even talk of a po­ten­tial bid for Kylian Mbappe, 20, should PSG open the door to sell­ing their un­happy French star. He is be­ing val­ued at closer to £200m.

Real stars will be al­lowed to go in or­der to gen­er­ate ex­tra funds and free up the wage bill. Gareth Bale, 29, Isco, 27, Mo­dric and keeper Key­lor Navas, 32, are all avail­able at the right price.

Barcelona will also look at ma­jor changes af­ter fail­ing in Europe.

Philippe Coutinho, 27,

Ivan Rakitic, 31, Samuel Umtiti, 25, Jasper Cil­lessen, 30, Nel­son Semedo, 25, and Mal­com,

22, will all be put up for sale as they look to boost a mod­est ini­tial trans­fer kitty of £88m.

Barcelona need to raise £300m to fund moves for An­toine Griez­mann, 28, of

Atletico, Matthijs de Ligt, 19, of Ajax and Ro­drigo, 28, from Va­len­cia.

But should PSG’s Brazil­ian su­per­star Ney­mar, 27, be­come avail­able he would be their first choice.

Griez­mann is ex­pected to sign for Barca in a £110m deal on July 1, and there’s now talk that Jan Oblak, 26, Atletico Madrid’s star keeper who only re­cently signed a new con­tract, wants out if top play­ers don’t ar­rive.

Atletico boss Diego Sime­one wants Ben­fica striker Joao

Felix, 19, who has a

£110m buy­out clause but could go for less.

La Liga’s top dogs are out to roar back and are emp­ty­ing the bank

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