Thursday, February 22

Ancelotti’s outcasts | Today

Eden Hazard, during a game this season. / Paul Morano (Reuters)


Real Madrid faces the final stretch of the season with just a few troops due to the lack of presence of figures such as Bale, Hazard or Jovic in the coach’s plans

Oscar Bellot

The Real Madrid dressing room presents two clear sides. On one side, Carlo Ancelotti’s Praetorians, who accumulate efforts to the limit of what is advisable; to the other, a squad of marginalized who correspond to crumbs in the best of cases. The Italian, in line with what Zinedine Zidane already did last season, has formed an almost immovable block with five relatively frequently used alternatives, while relegating a bunch of footballers unmotivated by the lack of opportunities. The result is that the Chamartín team faces the last stretch of the course with a low wardrobe, which may end up taking its toll on them in the League and the Champions League.

Seven and a half months after the whites kicked off the 2021-2022 season with the duel against Alavés, nine members of the squad have not reached the thousand-minute barrier, which denotes the Italian’s lack of confidence in that group of off the hook to whom, in most cases, he does not even resort to in emergency situations, as happened in Sunday’s classic. The injury to Benzema’s left calf opened a favorable window, a priori, for Jovic or Mariano to break into the eleven. But the coach opted for a variant as transgressive as it was failed: to place Modric as a false nine.

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Vallejo heads the ranking of the players least used by Ancelotti. He has only played fourteen minutes spread over three games. The departures of Sergio Ramos and Varane last summer gave a hole to the hand, but he was destined to play a testimonial role as a fourth central defender, as well as Lunin, Courtois’s bodyguard under sticks who only counts the clashes against Alcoyano and Elche in the King’s Cup. From there, seven players appear for whom the coach has not found a fit: Hazard, Marcelo, Jovic, Isco, Bale, Mariano and Ceballos.

The most striking cases are those of Hazard and Bale. The two most expensive signings in the history of Real Madrid are today residual assets of the squad. The Brit recorded his last appearance more than a month ago at the Parc des Princes. Just 180 seconds that raised his account to 271 minutes distributed in five games since he returned to Chamartín. None of them added him to the Santiago Bernabéu, where he hasn’t worn a short for more than two years. Ancelotti used him as an offensive reference against Villarreal at La Cerámica, but he missed the classic due to back discomfort that will not prevent him from facing the playoffs for the Qatar World Cup with Wales this Thursday. The Belgian competed for the last time against Alavés on the twenty-fifth day of the League. 450 seconds that place his total baggage at 880 minutes.

Both began the season as starters, but quickly fell out of the equation. Hazard is a shadow of his former self because he has never outgrown the aftermath of his right ankle injury. Bale spends his last months as a madridista playing golf and preparing for his coach’s summons. It is evident that neither the physical condition of one nor the attitude of the other are the best for Ancelotti to jump on the bandwagon, but the lack of use he makes of two footballers who could continue to contribute in specific situations is striking.

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structural deficit

Nor do Isco and Marcelo regularly enter Ancelotti’s plans. The contribution of the midfielder is reduced to 341 minutes and that of the left-back rises to 568, penalized both the Malaga and the Brazilian for the lack of bellows in a football in which, increasingly, the physical prevails. Jovic stands between the two, who has played 474 minutes spread over 17 games and has only scored one goal. Real Madrid paid 60 million euros for his services, but now Transfermarkt puts his market value at 18. Further down are Mariano, with 229 minutes, and Caballos, who has only accumulated 75 since overcoming the ankle injury he suffered in the Tokyo Olympics.

The panorama invites reflection in the offices, because the sector of the squad that Ancelotti has forgotten fits almost like a glove with the group that Zidane ousted. Real Madrid has hardly made any signings in the last few windows, which has led to a deficit situation in several demarcations, with players in the twilight of their careers, wealthy stars and youngsters who do not find the necessary space to show if they are big enough to military in the thirteen times king of Europe.

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