Dani Carvajal central for Real Madrid
The dramatic turn in Real Madrid’s season can be traced back to one substitution. With 30 minutes of their Champions League last 16 ties against Paris Saint-Germain left, Zinedine Zidane introduced Marco Asensio off the bench. At the time of his entry, the game was tied at 1-1. By full time, Asensio has inspired his side to a comprehensive 3-1 victory.
Indeed, the return of Asensio to the first team fold has proved to be a real catalyst for the defending Spanish and European champions. Others have also played their part, with Lucas Vazquez and Cristiano Ronaldo also finding a vein of form in recent weeks, but Asensio has received much of the credit for turning Real’s season around.
But another player has been just as crucial for Real Madrid of late. Dani Carvajal returned to action following injury just before Christmas but took his time to find full fitness again. It was only around the time of the Champions League last 16 first leg against PSG, though, that the 26-year-old hit top form again, and he hasn’t looked back since.
It’s not so long ago that Real Madrid was struggling for goals in the final third. Karim Benzema and Ronaldo were both well off the pace, with Gareth Bale injured and Asensio exiled from the first team due to a lack of confidence. The return of Dani Carvajal is central to raising the game of so many around him, and yet that contribution has largely been overlooked.
Dani Carvajal is an irrepressible hub of attacking and defensive energy. He is undoubtedly most eye-catching when breaking into the final third, providing Real Madrid with yet another attacking outlet, but the former Bayer Leverkusen player is also adept at protecting his own goal. He doesn’t get caught out defensively in the same way Marcelo frequently does on the left side of Real’s backline.
There can be an ungainliness to his play, at times. The effort Dani Carvajal puts into his game is one of his most endearing things about him. Nobody could ever describe him as “effortless” or “languid,” and he should take that as a compliment. It’s the primary reason he has become a favourite of the Santiago Bernabeu crowd over the past five years.
Players often talk about teammates who are only truly appreciated by their fellow professionals in the dressing room. Dani Carvajal is surely one of those players. His contribution is key in bringing the best out of Real Madrid’s countless Galacticos. It’s certainly no coincidence that the capital club found it difficult to replace the right back in his absence through injury. Achraf Hakimi just couldn’t fill the void.
Dani Carvajal is a big part of the reason why so many believe Spain to be among the frontrunners for this summer’s World Cup. Together with Jordi Alba on the opposite flank, Julen Lopetegui will have arguably the two best fullbacks on the planet to call upon in Russia. Just as they do at club level for Barcelona and Real Madrid, the pair will bring the best out of their teammates. That is their greatest asset.
Recently, rumours have surfaced linking Dani Carvajal with a move to Liverpool. However, it seems highly unlikely that the right-back will want to leave Real Madrid this summer, or anytime soon in the future. Real Madrid’s transfer activity can be unpredictable, but if Zidane has the final say he surely won’t want to sell Carvajal either. World class fullbacks are hard to come by currently and in Dani Carvajal, Real Madrid has one of the very best.
If Real Madrid goes on to win a third successive Champions League title their team will be heralded as bona fide legends of the game. Ronaldo’s claim to being the best player of all time will get a little stronger. Bale will be that bit more justified in sticking it out in Spain for so long. But should that come to pass, Dani Carvajal will have played his role as well, even if few recognise that as they should.
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