Real Madrid have a growing crisis at the central defensive position as we move towards 2021, with Sergio Ramos' future not yet decided whilst Raphael Varane and Eder Militao are desperately struggling for form.
Nacho Fernandez has long played a secondary role, and isn't considered to being an answer to the team's defensive issues, but the real concern is the lack of progress that has been made with regards to Ramos' contract extension.
The Spanish defender is set to leave on a free transfer in June, unless he signs an extension, and a decision needs to be made by the club hierarchy if he will be a part of the new project at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Ramos without a contract
There is a degree of urgency to secure Ramos' future, especially after recent results showed just how dependent Los Blancos are on him defensively. The club need to sign him to an extension as soon as possible to avoid any further doubts growing.
Florentino Perez and Ramos will handle this matter personally, between the two of them, but the longer it goes undecided there is further uncertainty.
Their relationship has been full of ups and downs, and whilst his performance against Valencia was below his usual standard, the leadership he brings is something that can't be questioned.
Rather like Cristiano Ronaldo, it might seem easier to replace such a presence on paper than in reality, and there is a suspicion that will prove to be the case with Ramos. What is clear is that the ongoing situation isn't helping Zinedine Zidane's defence.
Varane far from his best
A certain point arrives when a poor run of form becomes something more serious, and that is the concern at Real Madrid with regards to Raphael Varane at this moment.
Doubts have grown since his two mistakes against Manchester City last season, but he has yet to bring his game back up to previous levels.
At his best he has been the perfect foil for Ramos, and the pair formed a brilliant partnership, especially in the Champions League.
Having overcome knee problems, he has played so many matches in the last two years, but he is struggling to play well, even when Ramos is next to him.
This is partly why the defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk was such a defensive horror show, with Varane failing to lead by example and guide Militao through the match.
His own goal against Valencia has put the Frenchman under fresh doubt, and it's Zidane's priority to get him back to his best as soon as possible, because he simply doesn't have other options.
Militao still yet to settle
Real Madrid have historically looked to put faith in young players when their individual talent is obvious. At Porto, Eder Militao looked every bit the high-quality defender, be it at centre-back or right-back, that Los Blancos needed to secure their future at the highest level.
Everyone knows the Varane-Ramos axis can't go on indefinitely, but at the moment the performances of Militao are leading people to doubt whether he was the right choice to take over.
His debut season was average, but you can't judge a player on his first season in a new country, but he hasn't shown any marked improvement this term.
Nacho doesn't play much
The Spanish international is seen as an option in the case of emergency, although nobody can devalue his contribution to Real Madrid over the years. However, Los Merengues know they can't rebuild their defence around the Spaniard, even though his attitude has been beyond reproach.
He was injured in the Clasico, where he was deployed as a right-back, and he will return after the international break with Zidane hoping he can alleviate some of the pressure on his defensive teammates.
Attention turns to possible signings
Reinforcements could arrive in 2021, although given the current situation regarding COVID-19, there isn't likely to be much money available.
David Alaba's contractual situation at Bayern Munich is interesting and the Austrian is a player that the technical department in Madrid aren't ruling out. However, the good relations between the two clubs mean that Los Blancos don't want to push the issue. The salary of the Austrian international would also be sizeable.
An alternate, more affordable option, may well be Dayot Upamecano who is continuing to impress with RB Leipzig.
Source: Marca / Juan Ignacio García-Ochoa - Chris Winterburn