While names such as Paul Pogba, Eden Hazard and even David De Gea have been mentioned in supposed negotiations with Real Madrid this summer, the club have only closed one transaction so far: the signing of 18-year-old Paraguayan forward Sergio Diaz for a reported fee of €5 million, plus an additional €1m in performance-related add-ons.
Diaz, who plied his trade for Cerro Porteno in Asuncion, Paraguay, has broken a few precocious records in his native country. He made his debut in the top flight as a 15-year-old, scored in the Paraguayan derby -- Cerro vs. Olimpia -- when he was just over 17, and played in his first Copa Libertadores match against Corinthians a few days before turning 18, scoring and providing an assist in a 3-2 win. Additionally, he has been the main talent on the Paraguay under-20 national team since he was only 16.
As is usually the case with young talents like Diaz, he has already earned an over-the-top nickname: "the new Kun." Exaggerations aside, he does remind of his namesake Sergio Aguero on occasion. Short in stature but skilled on the ball -- he's able to protect it more than most would expect given his size -- Diaz's darting runs have become staples at Cerro Porteno matches, much to the delight of the club's fans.
Similarities aside, there is still a huge gap in technique and especially in lower body strength between Aguero and the young Diaz, which is most likely the reasoning behind Real Madrid's decision to send him to Real Madrid Castilla, the club's second team. It's a comparable situation to that of Carlos Casemiro, who spent half a season with Castilla in 2013. Seventeen-year-old Martin Odegaard, who signed in January 2015, is still with the Segunda Division B side.
It's probably safe to say that in order to avoid the burden of expectations that could come with a nickname like "the new Kun," Diaz would most likely prefer his original nickname, El Chico (The Kid).
The decision to sign El Chico seems like a calculated gamble by Real Madrid. On paper, his signing does not make much sense. Diaz shines most when playing in a free role behind the striker, a position that does not exist in the first team under Zinedine Zidane, who favours a 4-3-3 formation with Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo as starters. Even if it did exist, it would have an excess of suitors; James Rodriguez, Isco Alarcon and Marco Asensio are still members of the first team.
The fact is that Real Madrid do not need Diaz right now, and it looks unlikely that they will in the next couple of seasons. With this in mind, the most reasonable way to see this move is as a low-cost effort by club management to secure an asset that could be used in future transactions. He could be loaned out and given an opportunity to grow with another team, or -- in the unlikely case that he suddenly becomes unstoppable -- he could be promoted to the first team.
The intriguing question is: Why Diaz? Why pick up a young forward when it's apparent that the squad is more than well-covered in the final third? If Alvaro Morata leaves, the only thing missing in that respect will be a replacement for Karim Benzema. Placing this kind of bet on a young and promising player would make more sense in midfield or defence.
With Sergio Ramos and Pepe needing more time to get in shape as the seasons pass by and Raphael Varane looking hesitant a bit too often, Real Madrid would do well to find a young centre-back to invest in for the next couple of seasons. A similar move to find a replacement for Casemiro in the defensive midfielder role would also make sense.
But one can only take the deals that are on the table, and Diaz's was there for the taking. Now, it's up to Diaz to make this bet pay off for the club and for his own career, and to Real Madrid to nurture his talent so that the "new Kun" nickname does not sound so over the top in a couple of years' time.