James Rodriguez out and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard in – that’s the equation that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has in front of him as the clock ticks down to the last day of the season.
Two No 10s who could end the season as league winners – one bound for the Premier League, the other bound for La Liga.
Rodriguez’s very pointed wave goodbye to supporters when he was substituted on Sunday in Real Madrid’s last home game of the season confirmed what Colombian station Radio Cadena Nacional (RCN) had broadcast 24 hours earlier.
The 25-year-old Madrid signed for £60million in 2014, and who is represented by Jose Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, had agreed terms with Manchester United.
It wasn’t just a brief wave to the stands as he walked off the pitch; Rodriguez stopped and did the full 360 and the supporters responded — he has not always been their favourite player but they knew a thank you and goodnight when they saw one.
Just because Rodriguez has agreed terms with United does not mean United have agreed with Real Madrid and the Spanish club are still keen to drag Chelsea into a bidding war.
Real know signing Hazard remains a possibility because there are few better options to replace Hazard than the Colombian international — president Perez decided he wanted Hazard to be the club’s big summer signing mid-campaign.
He has his manager Zinedine Zidane’s full backing and as ever Real Madrid have the funds even when Chelsea demand a record-breaking fee. They made a net profit in last year’s summer window so they will be out to make up for lost time.
As so often happens at Madrid, events alter the whims and fancies of the decision-makers and the emergence of Kylian Mbappe, combined with the form of Isco and Marco Asensio, have sown the seeds of doubt among some at the club.
Rodriguez is leaving because he can’t get in the team. He is behind both Isco and Asensio so would Hazard not turn up and find himself in the same situation?
But Sportsmail understands Perez is not wavering. Despite Isco’s recent form he could still be sold and while Asensio has been superb during the run-in, he is only 21 years old and would take another season of being an important reserve.
Isco has been offered a deal worth around £6m a season to stay. But it remains unsigned and if he does not renew then Madrid will cash-in and put the money into a deal bringing in Mbappe from Monaco – the Frenchman could even stay in Ligue 1 for another season on loan.
Regardless, Perez seems determined to mark what will be an unopposed election victory this summer with a big signing and he still has his heart set on Hazard.
Rodriguez’s departure is likely to come first — as soon as the season ends on Sunday.
Rodriguez has it written into his adidas contract that he has to wear the No 10 so if he goes to United he will
take Wayne Rooney’s number when the England captain leaves Manchester United this summer.
Real Madrid then want to offer that No 10 jersey to the man whose performances have just helped land the league title at Stamford Bridge.
JAMES RODRIGUEZ 2016-17 STATISTICS