Jose Mourinho has been praising the virtues of the British box-to-box midfielder leaving Madrid press to speculate that despite his prediction of a quiet summer at the Bernabeu, a move for Liverpool's Steven Gerrard could yet come to pass.
"The truth is that the club is happy with the players from last season. We do not need big changes in this squad," said Mourinho on Monday, adding that it would be the World Cup in South Africa and not new signings making the headlines.
But when asked about possible new additions on Spanish radio yesterday he did everything but mention the England midfielder by name when he said: "Central midfield is a very important position. And at this moment in time there are very few players about who you can say this player is a complete midfielder.
"In football we have attacking midfielders and we have defensive midfielders but there are very few what they call in England box-to-box midfielders. It is very difficult to find the complete midfielder who is defensively strong and who can also attack and arrive in the box and score goals."
Madrid daily Marca wasted no time in dedicating a full page to a mock photo of how the Liverpool captain would look in Madrid's colours. Real will not repeat last year's record-breaking spending spree but the difficulty in finding the central midfielder that Mourinho has identified they need may bring them to Liverpool's door, and they will hope to take advantage of the Anfield club's instability off the field and its non-participation in the Champions League on it.
Real are understood to prefer Roma midfielder Danielle de Rossi but know the player will not leave the club he joined as a boy. Asked who he thought the best midfielder in the world was, Mourinho also praised Chelsea's Frank Lampard. He said: "It is difficult to say who is the best in the world because there are players who are playing in a certain football culture and it is difficult to say how they would do away from that football culture.
"You cannot say for example that Lampard in Serie A or La Liga would score 30 goals. In England he scores 25, 26, 27 goals every season. He is a midfielder who has an incredible performance level. Just as you cannot say that a Xavi or an Andres Iniesta or a David Silva would have the same quality of their play in England or Italy."