The pins that held Madrid in the league (and those that didn’t)

Benzema scores from the heel to Barcelona in the Di Stéfano classic.

Zinedine Zidane’s team had a single scorer (Benzema, only he has scored more than six goals in the League), a punctual goalkeeper (Courtois), the usual three in the middle (Casemiro-Kroos-Modric) and a darned defense to carry the resolution of the tournament until the final day despite injuries and cracks in a squad that has several of its members in the air for the next year, starting with its coach.

Essential from start to finish to understand why Madrid made it to the last episode alive. The Belgian goalkeeper played every minute. For the substitute Lunin, there was only the blow in the Cup in Alcoy. His percentage of stops in the League (76%) was the second best of his career in regularity tournaments after 79.2% in the last (87.8% in post-confinement).

His year resembled a part of the war: five injuries and 35 lost games. He returned in February from a casualty and only lasted 25 minutes, and returned in April from another and barely endured three games.

A clear example of the solutions that Madrid has been finding in defense in the face of the accumulation of physical misfortunes. The attacker became the right-back due to Carvajal’s sequence of falls. He never had a more leading role, until in the April classic he too was seriously injured until the end of the season.

After almost two unprecedented years, Zizou had to pull him after the falls of Lucas Vázquez and Carvajal. The Frenchman dodged it in Europe, but in the League he participated in the last nine games and the San Sebastian was noted with two goals, the only two of his career in the domestic tournament.

A year ago it was one of the bastions of the coronaliga with 11 goals, but this season he only added two penalties in the championship. In all of 2021 he barely appeared in two league matches. Absent from the field due to physical problems (he has never played less: 1,790 minutes on aggregate), the news of the captain came from the offices. He is 35 years old, has a month left on his contract and his renewal has been stalled for a long time. The relapse he suffered with Spain in April to which he enlisted after having come out of an injury to approach a record damaged his image.

His only two goals of the year, in Huesca, served for the team to leverage in a moment of general depression and vindication of Zidane. “Let us fight,” said the coach in the preview. The center-back was once again non-negotiable for the coach, although much of the outcome was lost due to the virus and injuries. He ends his contract in 2022 and his future is also a pending issue.

In early October, when he was contemplating his departure frustrated by his supporting role, injuries opened the door and he sneaked inside. The youth squad completed his best season, key to defensive improvement in 2021. He was the one who replaced Ramos as of January and nobody noticed. Their relationship expires in 2022, but now their negotiating force is different.

When he had no other choice due to injuries, ZZ threw the bow to the most expensive defender in the club’s history (50 million) and, suddenly, he found a solvent center-back. Until the beginning of April, he barely had four appearances in the League (seven in total). Since then, 14 titles in a row in a very crude section with optimal performance. He even resolved the duel against Osasuna.

Full owner of the left back. He also came to act as a center-back and even as a right-back. However, his physique was broken in this very abrasive final stretch and he missed the last eight league games. Your Eurocup is in danger.

There was not a corner of the field where the Brazilian was not relevant. To his usual role of support in the middle, he added activity in attack (six targets, second highest scorer, and four assists) and occasional appearances in defense as third center-back. His air alliance with Kroos as a kicker fed Madrid in days of great offensive precariousness.

The Croat got tired of asking not to look at his age to judge his football. At 35, he played 1,100 more minutes than last season and had none left. In the League he only missed three games because his tireless deployment was essential to keep the team on its feet. It had already been written off, but it has been months since the renewal has been approved.

As Casemiro warned, Madrid play to the rhythm of the German. Slow? Slow. Faster? Faster. And when it came to making goals, he was the second of the team, after Benzema, with his three goals and ten assists. “The bastard of Toni always puts it with his hand,” praised the Brazilian in Zorrilla. Overexposed throughout the course, the physicist stopped him after the crossing with Liverpool and then the covid gave him the last straw.

The physical problems and the non-negotiable bet by Casemiro-Modric-Kroos detracted from him. Even so, it was key in the two classics. At the Camp Nou, starting even ahead of the Croatian, he scored the 0-1, and a ride from him in Valdebebas opened the way to 1-0.

The last day, off the list due to an overload, portrayed his season. Second year for the Belgian, second fiasco: three league goals (the most important, rebounding Sevilla), one assist and 33 games lost throughout the season due to his six injuries. Zidane’s faith in him was inversely proportional to his performance and the more than 100 million he cost in 2019. Waiting for the Eurocup to reactivate him.

The Brazilian fell short again for what is expected of a Madrid attacker: just three goals and five assists in the league. He went through a wheel of emotions: from melancholy to see how ZZ prioritized Hazard to the April high for his double against Liverpool and a good classic. Florentino Pérez declared it non-transferable.

Recovered from the serious injury, the Spaniard was one of Madrid’s hopes to alleviate the goal problem and incorporate our records into the attack. However, his production was also insufficient despite being a determined bet by Zidane in a central stretch of the season: five goals and two assists in the championship. Like Vinicius, he was substituted on the last day against Villarreal at a time of greatest need.

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