Real Madrid kicked off their pre-season today in Australia against Roma. A game that gave us the first glance at what fans can expect under Benitez, in terms of playing style and tactics. One should avoid drawing conclusions early on, as this was merely a test match, in which the players’ main goal was to try and implement their new manager’s new strategies as well as regaining match fitness. The game, in addition to the other six up-coming friendly matches, served as a test for some of the fringe players at the club.
A few players just haven’t lived up to the billing and these friendlies will be a platform for them to make a case for their future at the club. However, there are a handful of players, who I believe have no place in this current squad and will neither augment nor diminish the quality of the squad and could either do with a season long loan or a permanent move away from the Bernabéu.
In this article, I want to look at the players I consider surplus to requirements and why I believe they need to abdicate their position as a Real Madrid player.
1. Asier Illarramendi
Here is a player I had extremely high hopes for when he was signed from Real Sociedad as the natural heir to Xabi Alonso. Illarra was so impressive at Sociedad that almost everyone was excited about his signing, as they like myself expected that form to spill over into his new team and even possibly improve upon it.
His first season, however, was understandably a difficult one as he struggled to hold down regular playing time and was in essence stifled by the strength of the midfield at the Bernabéu; the likes of Modric, Alonso, Khedira, Isco and Di María were ahead of him in the pecking order. He did, nevertheless, pick up some playing time but failed to really make an impression and had some poor performances in big games- Dortmund in the Champions League comes to mind. He evidently lost the confidence of Ancelotti with his sub-par performances.
However, I defended him that season and chalked it up to an adjustment phase, new player jitters and a lack of playing time. After all, players the likes of Zidane also had a tough first season at Madrid. Illarra, though, disappointed again the following year and even had worse performances than in the season before. For me, that was the end of defending him. He had way more mistakes on the defensive side and too many negative passes- failing to contribute to the attack. Last season, Illarramendi played in 37 games and had a 92% pass success rate- the vast majority of which were short passes to players on his left, right or just behind him. He had no assists, no goals and a meagre 0.2 shots on goal per game. In defence, he averaged less than a clearance and block per game (0.8 and 0.2 respectively); he barely won his aerial duels, completing on average 0.5 of his aerial challenges. On the bright side, however, he made an average of 1.2 tackles a game- not highly impressive but satisfactory.
Illara’s time at the Bernabéu, I think, has come to an end for the simple fact that he has failed to have any sort of impact on the team and plays with a lack of confidence that is unacceptable at a club of Real Madrid’s stature. Being a player in this team requires having assurance in one’s game, fearlessness and tenacity- all qualities Illarra has failed to exhibit and for that I believe he needs to make a permanent move away from the club.
2. Lucas Silva
The verdict is still out on Lucas Silva. He failed to earn proper playing time in his first half season at the club, which is comprehensible; he came in the winter transfer window and was an impulse buy because of the accumulating injuries in the midfield, as well as Ancelotti’s paucity of confidence in Illarra. His arrival, unfortunately, coincided with the recovery of the important midfield players. Thus, leaving him with little opportunity of playing regularly.
In the little games Silva’s been given a chance, he’s showed glimpses of his ability. Sadly for him, the return of Modric to full fitness, Isco’s, James’ and Kroos’ class, and the return of Casemiro- who had an impressive season on loan at Porto)- his chances of even earning a minute of playing time this season seems like wishful thinking at this point. Added to this, the league limits the amount of registered Non-EU players to three per team and being one of four Non-EU players in the squad- the others being James, Danilo and Casemiro- it is unlikely he’ll be kept on, as he won’t be registered to play.
The only plausible scenario for Silva is to seek a loan move to a good club to earn some game time and experience playing in Europe. A club playing in the Champions League or the Europa League would be a great choice.
3. Martin Ødegaard
The 16-year-old Ødegaard was a well sought after player last season and eventually decided to make the move to Real Madrid in the winter transfer window. He’s had a bit of a nasty attitude since his arrival in Madrid, if the reports in the media are to be believed. Ødegaard has been accused of refusing to train with Castilla. However, I find that his position is understandable because part of his deal upon moving to Madrid was for him to train with the first team but to play for Castilla. As a result of his “refusal” to train with Castilla, Zidane dropped him. In my opinion, the problem may have arisen because the coach finds it illogical for the player to be training with the first team but playing with Castilla, as he’d be unable to develop some form of chemistry with his actual teammates.
The truth is, Ødegaard is a talented player and has demonstrated that with his national team and former club. His ego coupled with his talent and experience indicates that he is also bigger than Castilla- currently playing in Spain’s third tier- and probably does deserve a go at a team playing in the first league.
Real Madrid is a different ball game and with the strength and depth at the club it is improbable that he’ll get a chance in the first team something he’ll be afforded at another club- a smaller club than Los Blancos, maybe even in a different league. The move would certainly help him improve his game and gain [much needed] experience playing in a top European league.
4. Alvaro Arbeloa
I’ve long yearned to see the back of Arbeloa, more so the day he caused Casillas’ injury which led to Diego López’s purchase, in addition to the many ills that befell Iker thereafter. My disdain aside, Arbeloa has long appeared as a forced piece in the jigsaw puzzle that is Real Madrid. He’s never really been convincing; usually making a slew of clumsy, reckless challenges that normally leads to unnecessary free kicks in dangerous areas or penalties.
The arrival of Carvajal was triumphant for Real Madrid as Arbeloa’s playing time considerably dwindled. The right side of the defence looks more capable, Dani’s contributions offensively are immense and his work rate is astronomically better when compared to that of Arbeloa’s.
Landing Danilo also means Arbeloa’s playing time will significantly dip this season and since his presence on the field hinders the team’s success, he needs to be shipped out promptly. Both Danilo and Carvajal are younger, stronger, quicker, concentrates better and are less clumsy, thus, Arbeloa getting minutes this season looks inconceivable.
What about you? Let us know if you agree or disagree. Tell us which players, if any, should leave Real Madrid this season.