Real Madrid have been in need of a generational change ever since they won three Champions League titles in a row. The hammering at the hands of Ajax last season probably reiterated this fact. The loss to Paris Saint-Germain and draw against Brugge confirmed that.
The manner in which transfer business was conducted in the summer showed that the club knows what it needs. It needs young, hungry and motivated individuals like Luka Jovic, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy. It seems they have learned some lessons from the past year.
One thing the club shouldn’t worry about is their back-line. The midfield imbalance has often left the defense exposed in the Champions League but Real have conceded the second-lowest number of goals in the La Liga.
Sergio Ramos has been a massive figure for that over the years and even though he’s approaching his twilight, the Los Blancos should not be too worried. The business they have done has shown enough promise to not worry about the backline. There’s enough potential in that area of the pitch to thrive till the next ten years or so.
Perhaps, the process of replacing the more experienced players began exactly when Real had signed Alvaro Odriozola from Real Sociedad in the summer of 2018. They spent €30m to bring him in from San Sebastian., that is a reflection of how Florentino Perez is feeling the need for generational change.
With Raphael Varane already one of the best defenders in Europe, Real have given him a credible partner in Eder. The 21-year-old Brazilian was signed from Porto earlier this summer. He has only made two appearances this season but he has been promising.
He was Porto’s best player last season. Playing alongside former Madrid star Pepe, Eder won as many as four aerial duels per game for the Portuguese side. He won the highest number of tackles per game- 2.1. He also made the highest number of interceptions too- 2.2 (via Whoscored).
These qualities of his were really admired by Jose Mourinho during his time at Manchester United- a clear sign that he is in the Ramos mould. He may not be as good on the ball as Ramos, but he is 21 and still developing.
Ferland Mendy’s performances for Lyon last season raised many eyebrows. His attacking intent was incredible at times. He completed more dribbles than any other defender in the top five European leagues. He did that with an accuracy of 75 percent- the highest in France.
Real Madrid fans have grown used to seeing Marcelo own the left side of the pitch and they have to get used to Mendy doing that. As compared to Marcelo, Mendy completed more dribbles per game last season than the Brazilian. The €48m summer signing completed 1.8 dribbles per game, while Marcelo completed 1.4.
They aren’t too far apart in the key passes department too. Mendy played 1.3 key passes per game, while Marcelo played 1.4- another sign of clear similarity in styles.
Mendy can also be no-nonsense at the back when the need arises. He made 1.4 clearances per game last season, completing 1.5 tackles per game (per Whoscored). As a matter of coincidence, even Marcelo made 1.5 tackles per game last season.
Going back to Odriozola, former manager Santiago Solari was fearless in playing the former La Real man in place of Dani Carvajal. Odriozola ended up playing 14 times last season, assisting twice. Much like his compatriot, Odriozola has the blessing of pace that allows him to make overlaps past the winger.
At 23, he already looked like a good back-up to Carvajal. He did a sound job in playing second-fiddle to the former Bayer Leverkusen man. A passing accuracy of 90 percent last season shows how confident a player he is and the recent performance against Granada could very well be a sign of things to come.
New midfield recruitments will go a long way in providing the current and upcoming Real defense the security of not being breached multiple times in a game. Casemiro has been key this season and at 27 years of age, he can still do a job of helping the backline for the next five years.
No matter what problems arise at the Bernabeu in the next few years, the defense should be their least of worries. That area of the pitch has a very bright future indeed.