When a midseason signing from Brazil manages to make the jump to Madrid, fans should probably temper their expectations as to what impact they'll have and how much game time they'll see. After all, La Liga is a different beast than the leagues in Brazil, time will be needed to understand the nuances of a new manager's tactical system and learning to know one's teammates on and off the pitch isn't an overnight process. Lucas Silva was one of these new signings and after a few early trials by fire, earlier than many thought was ready, he has become the forgotten man in Carlo Ancelotti's oft-criticized rotation scheme.
Brought in under the guise of a "defensive midfielder signing," Silva has hardly featured in that role. Now, Silva isn't a defensive midfielder in the traditional sense. If you want one of those, head to Seville and ask for Grzegorz Krychowiak. While it's true that Silva is labeled as such and can fill in at the role, he's a DM the way Toni Kroos is a DM: a more forward player being played out of position. Silva's best role is as a more technically refined Sami Khedira, someone capable of making an impact across the pitch but with better deep ball capabilities when in possession. He won't be a defensive juggernaut, but he's received praise for his positioning and his ball recovery skills, something which should, in theory, prove to be valuable to Ancelotti when paired with his passing.
So what happened?
Silva arrived to Madrid on January 22 for a reported price of €14 million, a pretty nice chunk of change for a midseason player. Three weeks later, he made his club debut versus Deportivo de La Coruña in a 19 minute cameo. Four days later he played all 90 minutes versus Schalke 04, completing 86 percent of his passes, chipping in a little bit on defense and generally holding his own. He would go on to play 260 minutes over the next four games while the only game he didn't feature in was the disastrous second leg versus Schalke 04. Though his performances never yielded any goals or assists, nor were they going to feature on any team of the week, he seemed to at least be performing as a league average midfielder. However, since the Levante game on March 15 he has played two minutes versus Barcelona and 29 versus Eibar. He didn't make the bench versus Rayo Vallecano nor did he make the bench versus Atletico Madrid two days ago.
Plenty of Derby positives to build on
Both Atleti and Madrid were left to take positives from Tuesday night's Champions League stalemate at the Vicente Calderon but Carlo Ancelotti's men have plenty to build on for next week's second leg.
Perhaps it's not his fault that he's not seeing much of the pitch. His playing time coincided with Luka Modric and James Rodriguez's injuries so minutes opened up for other midfielders on the roster. Once those two started to make their returns, it was up to Ancelotti to provide them with as much game time in order to boost their fitness. Naturally, others such as Silva suffered because of this. However, one does have to ask if Silva was a necessary purchase, at least in the short term, and one does have to wonder if he's really what Carlo wanted. While he's projected to be an excellent midfielder given his resume and natural talent, he's not exactly what Madrid needed at the moment as he was making a trans-Atlantic jump and wasn't the steely defensive presence some wanted. He can provide some elegant long balls and has shown to have a strong shot from distance, but that's what Toni Kroos is there for and if Kroos were to be substituted it would make more sense to take him off for Asier Illarramendi, the only actual DM on the team.
So what does the future hold for Silva? Looking up and down the remaining schedule, it's hard to see where he'll get any solid minutes. Every league game from here on out is a must win so the strongest starting 11 is to be expected, but as far as substitute minutes maybe only Almeria, Espanyol and Getafe provide any opportunities. The Champions League is in the same boat. As far as next season, rumors have already started to swirl that a loan spell at Porto is in the works such as the one in which Casemiro is currently finding success in. Silva has said that his priority is Madrid but if we assume that Madrid will bring in a midfielder this summer, and they likely will with Khedira and possibly Illarramendi heading out, then perhaps a year in Portugal with regular minutes will serve him, and Real Madrid, best.