Kolkata, October 29: Real Madrid should have signed Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe when star player Cristaino Ronaldo left for Juventus, according to club legend Steve McManaman.
McManaman thinks the club's failure to bring in a top-class replacement for Ronaldo has hurt them badly and wants the Spanish giants to reinforce their squad at least in January to turn things around.
Ronaldo, with 451 goals in 438 games in all competitions, was Real's all-time top scorer before he left to join Serie A's Juventus during the closto club's former e season.
While there were early signs that Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio would shoulder more of the scoring burden that proved short-lived with Real going more than eight hours without a goal at one point.
McManaman, who made 272 league appearances for Liverpool before moving to Real Madrid in 1999, said he had expected Real to bring in a top class replacement for the Portuguese and was stunned when they did not.
"Everybody was surprised, weren't they?" McManaman, who works as a La Liga ambassador, said on the sidelines of a special live screening of El Clasico in I League club East Bengal's home ground in Kolkata.
"They took a long, long time to bring in new signings. They didn't bring anyone to replace Cristiano.
"It was a big shock for everybody. Whether they could buy somebody of his quality I don't know. The fact that they didn't bring anybody in and they did slow business in the centre forward area, it surprised everybody."
Ronaldo helped the club to four of the last five UEFA Champions League titles, providing the class and the goals when they needed it most.
McManaman said 19-year-old Mbappe, who impressed during France's World Cup-winning run in Russia, would have been the ideal replacement.
"Of course, wanting somebody and trying to buy them are two completely different things," said the 46-year-old, who won two Champions League and Spanish league titles at Real.
"He's an exceptional player, he's very young, so he could have a long, successful career.
"It's impossible that PSG will sell somebody like Mbappe to a rival like Real Madrid."
Real suffered a humiliating 1-5 defeat in Sunday's El Clasico against Barcelona and have won just one of their last seven games. They are ninth in the league, trailing leaders Barcelona by seven points after 10 matches.
"They probably need to refresh the team a bit more, to be very honest. They have kept the majority of the same team for the last couple of years," said McManaman.
"If you look at the age group of the Real Madrid players now, four or five of them are in the 30s. It's probably the time to start refreshing it and bring in more players and try and replicate the success.
"They have got a hard job on their hands. They are not playing well, the manager is under pressure and the team as well. They need to do something and need to do it quickly."
McManaman was blown away by the passion shown by football fans in India.
"I've never seen such an overwhelming response towards football before and it was a thrilling experience to be a part of it. I can't wait to come back to India and to engage with our fans here," said McManaman, who was the guest of honour for the event as he entertained the crowd ahead of kick off.
Following Delhi and Mumbai in previous years, this was the third year La Liga has held a public viewing in India.
(With inputs from Agencies)