TOPSHOT - France's forward Kylian Mbappe celebrates after scoring their third goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between France and Argentina at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 30, 2018. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

7 Players Real Madrid Could Look to in a (Possibly Doomed?) Attempt to Replace Cristiano Ronaldo

The association of Cristiano Ronaldo and Real Madrid will be considered one of the all-time great footballing match-ups. He went to the Santiago Bernabeu as a superstar and left as a legend, widely regarded as one of the greatest players ever to don the famous white shirt.

The task of replacing him begins. It is impossible, of course, to completely replace a player of such ability and importance, but Real Madrid is too big a club to be defined by one man alone. However, their next steps are hugely important if they want to maintain their current stranglehold on European football.

Here are seven players who could lead Los Blancos into the post-Ronaldo era.

7. Mauro Icardi

Ronaldo's strike rate of 450 goals in 438 Real Madrid appearances is insane, and frankly there is no realistic signing on the planet who could emulate that. Mauro Icardi's 107 goals in 182 Inter appearances may seem modest by comparison, but that is a damn good ratio in itself, particularly for Serie A.

Icardi has scored over 25 goals in three of his last four seasons for Inter, peaking in 2017/18 when his 29 goals (all in Serie A) helped Inter back into the Champions League for the first time since 2011/12.

At the age of 25, Icardi may not even be at his peak yet, which is a terrifying prospect for defenders across Europe. However, he's more of an out-and-out striker than Ronaldo and while he could replace the goals of CR7, he may be unable to match his dynamism in other areas. Icardi would be an excellent signing, but he alone cannot replace Ronaldo.

6. Harry Kane

Barring an unlikely set of circumstances, Harry Kane will soon be adding the World Cup Golden Boot to the two Premier League Golden Boots he already has. The last Englishman to finish as top scorer at the World Cup, Gary Lineker, moved to La Liga after the tournament - what chances of a repeat this summer?

Even before we knew Ronaldo was leaving Madrid, Kane had been hotly tipped to become a Galactico either this summer or in the years ahead, particularly if Tottenham can't break their trophy drought. 135 goals over the last four seasons is an incredible record, but Kane needs to start adding silverware to his vast collection of match balls.

Daniel Levy wisely tied Kane to a new contract last month, and although contracts seem to mean very little in football any more, it would require a huge transfer fee for Madrid to prise him away from Spurs' clutches. Also, like Icardi, he might be too much of a centre forward to replace Ronaldo's all-round play.

5. Mo Salah

The man who finally ended Kane's dominance of the Premier League Golden Boot last season did so by becoming the first player to score 32 goals in a 38-game season. One of the players he surpassed to break that record? Cristiano Ronaldo.

Mo Salah looks like the perfect player to replace Ronaldo: a prolific goalscorer but also a player with much more to his game. He has thrived in both Serie A and the Premier League, so there's no reason why he wouldn't excel in La Liga too.

His new contract is likely to be a strong deterrent though, and Liverpool are in a strong bargaining position after earning £105m from the sale of Philippe Coutinho in January. There's also the question of whether Salah would want to play for Real Madrid so soon after the infamous Sergio Ramos incident in the Champions League final.

4. Neymar

Another man who was being linked with Real Madrid long before Ronaldo's departure, the path is now open for Neymar to become Los Blancos' star man. He would no longer have to live in the shadow of a better player, as he did under Lionel Messi at Barcelona.

However, the fee that PSG would demand for Neymar would surely be astronomical. It is only one year since they splashed out an eye-watering €222m to bring the Brazilian to the Parc des Princes, and even Real Madrid are unlikely to spend that sort of money on one player.

There's also the question of whether Neymar has the ability to lead from the front like Ronaldo did. Entrusted with being Brazil's talisman at the World Cup, every moment of brilliance was overshadowed by several minutes of embarrassing play-acting. Real Madrid are no strangers to the dark arts, but even they might balk at this sort of behaviour.

3. Eden Hazard

It would be a crime if Eden Hazard was playing Europa League football next season. After starring in Belgium's run to the World Cup semi finals, Hazard would surely jump at the chance to join a club that can match his ambitions and take him from being one of the Premier League's best to one of the world's best. 

His pace and footwork is often reminiscent of a younger Ronaldo, and at 27 he is ideally aged to utilise his skills in any league in the world. Real Madrid would provide a much more consistent foundation on which Hazard could become one of the best players on the planet.

However, of all the players on this list Hazard is the one whose strike rate may be a sticking point. In six seasons at Chelsea he has never scored more than 16 in a league season. For comparison, Ronaldo never scored fewer than 25 La Liga goals in a season. Hazard may have the ability to replace Ronaldo, but the numbers just don't add up.

2. Kylian Mbappe

At the age of 19, Kylian Mbappe is on the brink of doing something that Ronaldo has never managed: win the World Cup. France are into the final and most observers agree that the star of their run - in an attacking sense - has been Mbappe, whose performance against Argentina may be the best individual display of the tournament.

Mbappe became the world's most expensive teenager when he joined PSG from Monaco in a  €145m deal agreed last summer. He spent the 2017/18 season on loan at the Parc des Princes, scoring 21 goals, before completing a permanent move in this transfer window.

The recency with which that transfer was completed means that PSG will be absolutely unwilling to sell Mbappe for any price. However, Mbappe cannot realise his full potential in Ligue 1, and it will only be a few years before he starts to look abroad for new challenges. If Madrid are prepared to wait that long, they may have the next global superstar on their hands.

1. Gareth Bale

For various reasons, none of the players on this list are ideally suited to replacing Ronaldo. Icardi and Kane are not the right sort of player; Salah, Neymar and Mbappe would be too expensive; Hazard doesn't score enough goals. Several of those players will become enticing options in the years ahead, but for now they might want to stick rather than twist.

So what about Gareth Bale, a player who looked set to leave the club in May but could now find himself presented with the regular starts that he craved so dearly. His outstanding overhead kick in the Champions League final was very Ronaldo-esque, and he's had five years of up-close learning to try and emulate him.

It's true that Bale doesn't score as many goals as Ronaldo, but that's because he isn't the focal point. To score 19 goals in 23 games, as he did in 2015/16, is a brilliant strike rate for a player who has had to live in the shadows of his more illustrious colleague. He could improve even further if the team was built around him.

It might be that Real Madrid don't actually need a Ronaldo replacement, because they already have one. Much more appropriate would be a Karim Benzema replacement - someone like Icardi - who could replace the goals of Ronaldo by thriving on Bale's service. Hopefully Julen Lopetegui will trust in the Welshman to make the step up.