The Karim Benzema era is over! Harry Kane, Roberto Firmino & the nine players Real Madrid could sign to replace star striker

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The Frenchman is leaving Santiago Bernabeu after 14 trophy-laden years, and there are are a whole host of top forwards being tipped to fill his boots

Change is afoot at Real Madrid. The 2022-23 campaign was a disappointing one by Los Blancos' lofty standards, and there will be plenty of ins and outs over the summer as a result.

Karim Benzema's departure has already been confirmed, as Real were ultimately unable to tie him down to a fresh one-year extension. He's following in the footsteps of his former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo by heading to Saudi Arabia, where he will reportedly pocket €400 million in earnings over the next two years.

It's a shame to see another world-class player turn their back on European football, but no one can begrudge Benzema's decision to chase a huge payday. After signing from Lyon way back in 2009, the French striker contributed 353 goals to Real's cause, winning five Champions Leagues and four La Liga titles along the way. He was also finally able to get his hands on the Ballon d'Or in 2022, and has nothing left to achieve at club level. Benzema has earned the right to sail off into the sunset.

It's the end of an era in Madrid, though, and Carlo Ancelotti must now bring in someone to plug the gap left by a club icon. Espanyol frontman Joselu, who took in a spell at Real at the start of his career, is reportedly close to rejoining Los Blancos on loan, but he will only be a squad player. The Liga giants will need another forward to cover the loss of Benzema's goals. They cannot afford to stand still and fall even further behind arch-rivals Barcelona, who are set to strengthen again themselves.

Madrid are being linked with several big names already, but who would be the best fit? GOAL takes a look below...

  1. Victor Osimhen

    Victor Osimhen

    Napoli are currently celebrating their first Scudetto in 33 years, and that's in no small part because of Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen. The 24-year-old scored 26 goals in 32 Serie A appearances to help the Partenopei run away with the title, and looks destined to move onto an even bigger challenge this summer.

    Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are among those to have been credited with an interest in Osimhen, who is expected to fetch a fee in excess of €120m. Real are also reportedly keen on the Napoli star, who became the first African player to ever win the Golden Boot in Serie A after converting a final-day penalty against Sampdoria.

    Osimhen is quick, skillful and deceptively strong, with an eye for goal that makes him one of the most deadly forwards on the continent. He has all the necessary qualities to thrive at the Bernabeu and perhaps be even more prolific than Benzema, but it remains to be seen whether Los Blancos will meet Napoli's huge asking price.

  2. Harry Kane

    Harry Kane

    It's now or never for Harry Kane. The 29-year-old only has one year left on his Tottenham contract, and there has been no sign of an extension being agreed as of yet.

    In truth, Kane would be mad to commit his future to Spurs after another trophyless season that saw them drop to eighth in the Premier League. The England international still managed to net 30 goals in the top flight despite the team's mediocrity, and there is no doubt he could deliver for any top club in world football.

    Kane must make a leap this summer in order to fulfil his long-held silverware ambitions, and he has plenty of options to consider. Real are among those reportedly considering a swoop for Kane, with Ancelotti thought to be a huge admirer of his.

    The Spurs talisman is the ideal profile for Real to replace Benzema, but Manchester United appear to have the edge in the battle for his services. Kane has been vocal about his desire to go on and break the Premier League scoring record, and Old Trafford would be a far easier transition for him than the Bernabeu.

  3. Romelu Lukaku
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    Romelu Lukaku

    Real Madrid are also said to be keen on Romelu Lukaku, who has enjoyed a strong finish to his loan spell at Inter. The Belgian missed a large portion of the season due to injury after re-joining the Italian giants from Chelsea, but scored five goals across his final five Serie A appearances and helped them reach the Champions League final.

    Lukaku has made no secret of his desire to remain at Inter, but they may not have the financial resources to bring him onto their books permanently. New Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino could offer Lukaku a fresh start at Stamford Bridge, but he might be better off heading to Spain.

    Lukaku would frighten the life out of La Liga defences with his physical presence and direct style of play, which could help Real close the gap on Barca. He'd also likely have more chances to add to his medal haul at the Bernabeu, with Chelsea facing a rebuilding year following a disastrous 2022-23 campaign.

  4. Kylian Mbappe

    Kylian Mbappe

    Kylian Mbappe really should already be at Real Madrid. For so long it seemed inevitable that he would move to the Bernabeu last summer, but he ended up shocking the world by signing a new deal at Paris Saint-Germain.

    The 24-year-old has since added another Ligue 1 title to his collection while winning the competition's top scorer award for the fifth year in a row, but PSG have arguably regressed. They suffered a humiliating last-16 Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich and look further away than ever from ending their long wait for a maiden European crown.

    Mbappe is reportedly still on Real's radar for 2024, when his contract is due to expire at PSG. The World Cup winner has insisted he will see out that agreement, but he has a history of performing U-turns, and his comments after the club's final-day loss to Clermont Foot might give Real hope of an earlier deal.

    "What do I expect from PSG next season? Nothing, I'm just here to play," he said. "The rest is none of my business."

  5. Roberto Firmino
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    Roberto Firmino

    If Real want to try a different approach upfront next season, they could certainly do a lot worse than Roberto Firmino. Liverpool said goodbye to the Brazilian after eight glorious years in May, and he will be available as a free agent this summer.

    Alongside Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, Firmino was part of one of the most effective attacking trios of the modern era at Anfield. He didn't always receive the same level of credit as his team-mates, but his superb hold-up play and work rate was crucial to the Reds' success under Jurgen Klopp.

    The Bernabeu has been mooted as a potential next destination for Firmino, and the transfer would make a lot of sense. The 31-year-old could slot in between Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo to form one-third of another all-star triumvirate capable of elevating Real back to contention in the Champions League and La Liga.

    Barcelona have also been strongly linked with Firmino, but they already have Robert Lewandowski leading the line. Firmino and Real could be a match made in heaven, not least because his arrival would leave plenty of funds left over for signings in other key positions.

  6. Dusan Vlahovic

    Dusan Vlahovic

    Dusan Vlahovic hasn't been the goal machine Juventus were hoping for since his €70m (£61m/$75m) switch from Fiorentina in January 2022. Seventeen goals in 43 Serie A appearances so far represents an underwhelming haul for the Serbian, but his stock remains high.

    Vlahovic's struggles for consistency have been largely pinned on Massimiliano Allegri. The Juve manager's pragmatic approach has stifled his first-choice frontman, and nothing will change next season if Allegri is still in charge.

    Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich are all reportedly in for Vlahovic, but Real might be the best place for him to unlock his full potential. With Vinicius on hand as a chief provider, Vlahovic would certainly get the chances he craves.

    The 23-year-old is a monster in the air and boasts an aggressive streak that makes him a nightmare to play against. Vlahovic is also surprisingly nimble with the ball at his feet despite his 6'3 frame, which potentially makes him the ideal target man for Ancelotti's system.

  7. Kai Havertz
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    Kai Havertz

    No Chelsea player can head into the summer with their head held high after the club's stunning descent into the bottom half of the Premier League table. A major squad overhaul will be on the cards once Pochettino's tenure officially starts, and Havertz could be among those to depart.

    The German forward has only delivered in short bursts for Chelsea since his £72m move from Bayer Leverkusen in September 2020. He will always hold a special place in the hearts of supporters after scoring the winner in the Blues' Champions League final triumph over Manchester City in his debut season, but few would be sad to see him leave.

    There is a sense, though, that the 23-year-old still has so much more to give. Real Madrid boss Ancelotti has reportedly identified Havertz as his "dream" signing this summer, and the Spanish giants are eager to wrap up a quick deal with Chelsea.

    Havertz's best performances in a Chelsea shirt have generally come in the biggest matches, which shows he would be able to handle the pressure of playing for Real. The 14-time European champions were reportedly eager to bring in the former Leverkusen star before his move to Chelsea, but they could end up signing him on a cut-price deal after playing the long game.

  8. Goncalo Ramos
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    Goncalo Ramos

    Next up is the man who upstaged Cristiano Ronaldo at the 2022 World Cup: Benfica marksman Goncalo Ramos. After Ronaldo's poor performances in the group stage for Portugal, Ramos was drafted into the team for their last-16 tie against Switzerland, and he proved to be more than just a competent replacement, scoring a stunning hat-trick to inspire the Seleccao to a thumping 6-0 victory. Portugal would exit at the hands of surprise package Morocco in the quarter-finals, but Ramos' impact on the tournament put him on the map.

    Reports surfaced suggesting that Manchester United had lined up Ramos as a potential replacement for Ronaldo in January, and Bruno Fernandes has talked up a possible reunion with his countryman at club level. But Real are also said to be plotting a swoop for the 21-year-old.

    Ramos netted 19 goals for Benfica as they clinched the Primeira Liga title and also recorded six goal contributions during their run to the Champions League quarter-finals. The Portugal international has earned the right to test himself at a bigger club, and the allure of Real could prove too great to ignore if a transfer battle with United takes place in the coming weeks.

  9. Erling Haaland

    Erling Haaland

    Real Madrid first began scouting Erling Haaland when he was playing for Red Bull Salzburg. They ultimately decided against a move over concerns it was still too early to assess his potential, according to The Athletic, and Borussia Dortmund swooped to secure his signature in January 2020.

    Any doubts over whether Haaland could cut it at the highest level were erased in Germany as he scored 86 goals in 89 games for the club, and Real reignited their interest in him last summer. It was even said that the Bernabeu was Haaland's first-choice destination for a time, but Manchester City won the race for his signature.

    The Norwegian has reached unprecedented levels of superstardom in his first year at the Etihad Stadium, and City are now on the cusp of a historic treble thanks to his 52-goal haul. But the shadow of Real lingers in the background.

    Haaland won't be going to Madrid this year, that much is certain. But it has been reported that his contract includes two separate clauses that could see him depart for £174m ($217m) in 2024 or £151m ($187m) in 2025.

    Both buy-out options are reserved for clubs outside the Premier League, and Real are said to be eyeing Haaland as their long-term replacement for Benzema. A deal could be done as early as next year, especially if the 22-year-old continues to smash records left-right and centre at City.