- Rudiger, Alaba, and Nacho act as aces up the sleeve, providing versatility at the back: they can be both central and lateral. Ancelotti unveiled a plan with the first two.
Madrid has seven defenses and ten alternatives. Because three of her guardians can defend both the stern and the sides of the ship. They are examples of the ‘modern soccer player’, the one that is expanding with greater speed; players with a preferred position, but able to perform in a secondary and, at best, even a tertiary. In Madrid’s defense, up to three ‘central defenders’ have shown they can play without problems on the wings. It is the ‘club of wild cards’, which Rudiger entered last Sunday, with a presentation in Las Vegas -almost nothing-. Nacho had been sitting at the table for years, ‘eternal versatile’ and Alaba, who in 2017, despite being one of the most sought-after left-backs on the market, opted for a new adventure as a central defender. Ancelotti has three aces -and a half-up his sleeve.
The latest discovery. When the dogma circulated among the vox pópuli that this season the central duo would be Militao-Rudiger, moving Alaba to the left back, Ancelotti presented his latest thaumaturgy. In the Classic the three jumped onto the pitch, greeted their rivals, and suddenly, ‘the new Pepe’ sprinted towards the band. He played as a left-back; he will play a lot this course there. “I’m not crazy, and he’s very smart. In that position, he can play, as well as trade during the match with Alaba. This time they haven’t because he was playing well,” Ancelotti said. And he discovered his new plan.
The coach’s idea for this season is that Militao-Alaba continue to be the starting central defenders; an indisputable duo with the endorsement of the Decimocuarta. Rudiger will therefore be moved to the left back, where he has only played three games in his entire career (one with Stuttgart in 2012, one with Roma in 2016, and one with Germany in 2018). He has qualities to fulfill and Carletto knows it, among them, his devilish speed ( he was the fastest player in the Premier last season: 36.7 km / h ). 18 successful passes (85.7% accuracy), one long, one center, one shot (out) and three recoveries, were his numbers in the 45 minutes he played at the Allegiant.
He is a doctor in polyvalence. 49% of the official matches he has played in his career have been as a left-back; 30%, as central; 14%, as a midfielder (pure, left midfielder or right midfielder), 6% as a pivot; and 1%, as a midfielder. After many years as a left-back with Bayern and a central midfielder with Austria, it was the summer of 2019 when he had a conversation with Flick in which he suggested he try out as a center-back. And very suddenly: in 2018 he played 43 games, all as a winger and in 2019, of the 42, 34 were already as ‘kaiser’. From there, to Madrid, where the question in his presentation was forced: “And here, of what?”. “I’m a flexible player and I’ll give it my all, no matter where,” he said.
Well, central, Ancelotti decided. And no one moves him from there. Last season he played 42 games as a central defender and only 4 as a winger (the first two league games, the eighth, and the night of the Cup elimination against Athletic). He has become a fixture, developing a spectacular synergy with Militao that reaches even off the field, where they are close friends. The arrival of Rudiger seemed to be going to separate them, but far from it. This course will continue directing the ball out and stopping the rival attacks from the center, although in that ‘Ancelotti plan’ is that he can exchange with the German, in the middle of a game, sometimes. The night of the comeback against PSG, for example, he did it with Nacho: the epic began when the Spaniard became central and he, to run the east side.
In his case, 71% of his games have been central and 29%, lateral. But he has been both left and right. He has spent a decade being the perfect staging of what a wild card is; a player trained to perform both in his preferred position and in another secondary position when he touches. He is willing to play wherever, whenever, without making a bad face. This will be his 21st season as a Real Madrid player. A lifetime: he arrived at the age of 11 for the alevín A… and until today, when he is the second captain, ahead of Modric and Carvajal, but behind Benzema. In total, 385 official matches between the first team and Castilla. and 20 titles, of which the five Champions stand out.
Last season he had minutes in 42 of the 56 games that were played, being key on peak nights, such as the second leg against Manchester City (Alaba did not play due to injury) and scoring three goals. In fact, anecdotally, he was the team’s fifth top scorer last season, just behind the four gunmen (Benzema, Vinicius, Asensio, and Rodrygo, in that order). He scored the same goals as Alaba, Modric, and Kroos, but played fewer minutes. His role this season will be the same as the previous ones: with the door of ownership, a priori, closed, he will act as the ‘perfect plan B’ for when necessary. He is willing to play central and lateral .
It took him a while to ask for the letter of admission to the ‘club’, thinking that he was going to be something temporary, transitory. But his new role came as a surprise and to stay: right back. It all started on May 1, 2018: Madrid was playing to be in the final in Kyiv and had no right-backs available against Bayern. Zidane, faced with this situation, chose to stop Ribéry and he delivered ( 2-2 ). In fact, he left such sensations that five days later he repeated in the Camp Nou Clásico ( 2-2 ). Temporary, nothing. Since then he has played 61 more games in that position, being for Ancelotti almost more winger than a winger. The experiment reached its peak on May 15, when in the Nuevo Mirandilla it was lateral… left!
Carletto ‘s confidence in his seventh captain is such that in the Las Vegas Classic he decided to align him before pure lanes -and who also need minutes to try to convince- such as Odriozola or Vinicius Tobias. At the Allegiant Stadium, he wore the bracelet, accrediting a leading role that today he collects by status. This season, a priori, one of the two full-backs will remain on trial and he will be able to return to the attack, where the competition is fierce. But if necessary, he will play right back without problems. He already has a master’s degree in that position.