How do you improve on perfection?
That has been the conundrum at Barcelona where finding anyone to improve on a front six of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets hasn’t proved easy.
Retirement, injury and Parisian Euros have all contributed to what is now a threadbare Barcelona squad, and one which is a Messi injury away from looking distinctly average.
On the face of it Real Madrid should have suffered a similar issue.
After all, there wasn’t much space for improvement on a front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.
But in the last three years Madrid have managed not only to maintain their quality, but improve it.
Here’s how Los Blancos have mastered the transfer window and built the best young squad in Europe.
Moving away from the Galacticos
Much was made of Florentino Perez’s return to Madrid as president and the rebirth of the Galactico model.
His second term saw Kaka, Ronaldo, Benzema, Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria and Gareth Bale, among others, move to Madrid.
But Madrid haven’t made a true Galactico signing since James Rodriguez arrived in 2014.
In the same period Di Maria, Xavi Alonso, Iker Casillas, Sami Khedira, Rodriguez, Pepe and Fabio Coentrao have all left the club.
So who’s been replacing them?
Buy young, buy Spanish
In the last three windows Madrid have made a point of buying the best young Spanish players around, often in the face of direct competition with Barcelona.
Marco Asensio was snared from Mallorca for around £3million, much to the disappointment of Barca.
Jesus Vallejo, Lucas Vazquez, Dani Ceballos and Theo Hernandez have all joined Asensio in the Madrid squad, while Isco- signed for a relatively low £27mil in 2013- continues to go from strength to strength.
Those players, in theory, should have an easier time settling in to life at the Bernabeu than players who have to adapt to a new country and learn the language.
No over 23s
In the last three windows Madrid have signed just one player over the age of 23.
That player, Kiki Casilla, was returning to the club to play backup to Keylor Navas, not really a position you want a youngster filling.
The bonus with buying relatively young is even if the player struggles- not unsurprising given the standards expected at Madrid- you can still fetch a decent price when selling on.
Alvaro Morata failed to displace Benzema after returning to the club in 2016 but Madrid still made around £30m profit on the striker.
The same can be said of Jese, Danilo, Mariano Diaz and Denis Cheryshev, although Madrid took a hit on Asier Illaramendi.
One player who bucked that trend is Rodriguez, once proving that you should never buy off the back of a major tournament.
Using the loan market and reserve side wisely
Take note Chelsea. Madrid’s management of youth players is first class.
Of the current squad Dani Carvajal, Nacho, Casilla, Vazquez and Marcos Llorente all graduated through Madrid’s academy but were given spells away from the club to earn first-team minutes.
The same can be said for Asensio, who was loaned back to Mallorca, and Casemiro, who benefited from a spell at Porto before becoming a key man under Zidane.
Throw Raphael Varane and Mateo Kovacic into the mix and the future is looking very bright for Zidane and Madrid.