Many Madridistas are cautiously optimistic about potentially aquiring the next greatest right back on the planet, but as exciting as Danilo's arrival may be, it's met with an opposing force of concern. Why do we need him? Are we losing our identity again? What happens to Carvajal who is one of the best players in his position?
There are no answers - not immediately anyway. The point of this article is dissect all those questions and concerns as best as possible, as only time can disprove or confirm any assumptions we have.
Just who is Danilo?
This is in truth, the most important question to answer. I've seen many Madridistas speculating on what kind of player he is. Of course, the first instinct for most fans is to hit YouTube and start digging out compilations - from there they make a judgement. A judgement of course, which is far from accurate.
The fact is, in Spain - nay, almost anywhere outside of Brazil/Portugal - Danilo's capabilities are relatively unknown.
There are a few myths we can immediately debunk about Danilo:
He is not the next Dani Alves
He is not a right-sided Coentrao
He has never played left back in his life
All those points are important to remember, paritcularly the third one. If you are looking for someone versatile who can serve as a left-back when needed, Danilo probably wasn't signed for that reason. Real Madrid have their eyes on other left backs on the market to fill the void as Marcelo's back-up after Coentrao's inevitable departure.
Although he just may do a fine job as left back if called upon (his left foot is crazy good), the only other position Danilo has ever played is the CM position, and that was long before he was even a Porto player.
That he is not the next Dani Alves is not a knock on Danilo at all. It does not mean he will not be as good or better than Alves, it just means that they are different players. Don't let the parralel in position lead to you to believe he is like Dani Alves or Coentrao. Like there are different types of strikers, there are different types of full-backs too. Some are known for their offense, others specialize in defense. Some full-backs are physical specimens with an extra lung who tirelessly bomb up-and-down the flank for 90 minutes.
Some full-backs are absolutely mortified to cross the half-way line even with a pass. See: Miguel Torres, Gabriel Heinze.
Danilo lies in the tier of physical beasts. He stands just over six feet and is very good in the air - an extra asset on defensive set pieces. In reality, although a right-back, he spends a good chunk of his time cutting inside and taking shots with his left foot. In this sense, he's actually comparable to a Bale or Ronaldo moreso than a Carvajal.
It's hard to find a comparable wing-back in terms of style, even if you attempt to go down history to find one. Have you ever seen a full-back cut in that way and score screamers with the opposite foot? Maybe Roberto Carlos and Marcelo, on the odd occassion.
Not on this scale though.
One Portista friend of mine had to think long-and-hard about who to compare him to. After some time, he came back and said "Sergio Ramos". Towering stature, good in the air, can play in the middle, good at free-kicks and penalties. Of course, Ramos' best position turned out to be CB, and as it turns out, Danilo is a better defender than Ramos was at right-back.
And here is the part Madridistas might not want to hear - Danilo is both a better defender and attacker than Carvajal. He's the real deal, a starter for Brazil for the next decade.
It's at this point you have to decide for yourself - is all of that worth replacing Dani for? Just because Danilo is marginally better, is it worth benching a canterano who bleeds white?
It's like replacing Roberto Carlos with Maldini - is it worth the hassle?
Maybe, just maybe, there is room for both, the same way there is room for both Marcelo / Coentrao, Isco / James, Varane / Pepe / Ramos, Navas/ Casillas.
Carlo Ancelotti is big on how much of a load wing-backs carry in his system, so he prefers to have athletic players in this position, he loves the depth too.
And for good reason.
When you build around BBC, every single player behind them is absolutely vital. It's a system which has no room for players like Khedira, Illaramendi, Arbeloa, and Nacho. Not even Lucas Silva, yet. You need the perfect blend of World-class players to balance the attacking freedom that the front three exert. If you give them defensive responsibilities, it defeats their purpose. Bale is the player who has the most defensive responsibilites of the three, but it still doesn't make life much easier on the wing-backs, who are expected to provide both support in attack and cover defensively.
At what point does depth become 'too much depth'? That's for the players to decide. They have to accept the roles given to them. It's always a balancing act to fill your bench with the right players. If you want great players, you're going to be overpaying, as most of these guys could easily chose a smaller club in order to acquire more playing time. You could dish out less money on 'smaller' players, but then you wouldn't have the depth necessary to get you through a championship season.
Luckily Isco, Varane, and Coentrao have all accepted the roles given to them. There are always exceptions to this rule - the latest example is Morata who left for playing time and is now thriving for Juve.
The reality is though that most players figure they will play even if they are furthur down the depth chart, and it's at that point when they realize they are just as important as the first team players. Could you imagine not having Isco during this stretch of injuries to Modric and James? Or not having Varane in Lisbon during Pepe's injury? How about not having Coentrao against Bayern last season? He was immense.
There may come a time where we will be thanking the heavens that Carvajal is ready to slot in for an injured or suspended Danilo.
*Note: Just so you are aware, Danilo is not injury prone, he should be much more available than Coentrao currently is.
It would be silly to assume Danilo will come to Madrid and walk into the starting line-up, forever dooming Carvajal to a bench role. There is still a possibility Caravajal can outplay Danilo - who knows? It was a similar situation for Marcelo when Coentrao arrived. Coentrao for quite some time assumed the starting role for his ability to defend. Mourinho absolutely loved this about Fabio. Oddly enough, Coentrao is very good at attacking as well (see his displays with Benfica and Portugal), but he was never given that kind of freedom under Mourinho. Carlo was a bit more flexible with Coentrao's role in that sense - but that's a separate discussion.
Under Mourinho; Marcelo - while deadly on the offensive end - was still so incapable defensively that his defensive liabilities far outweighed his offensive prowess. Marcelo now - although he's still no Maldini - has improved his one-on-one defending, and has eventually won his starting role back, to the point where even if Coentrao gets healthy, he won't bench Marcelo.
Carlo now claims that Marcelo is the best left back in the World. Who would've guessed the Brazilian would alleviate his game to such an elite level?
Here is a quick breakdown of Marcelo and Coentrao's appearances over the years.
The transition for both is quite interesting. Marcelo started most games in Coentrao's first year with Coentrao starting the important games. The Portuguese left-back eventually won Mourinho over, and under Carlo, Marcelo emerged again. This time his emergence seems to be permanent.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding Danilo's price tag. He is after all the most expensive defender in the Club's history, and the fourth most expensive full-back ever. Indeed, he is in the last year of his contract and perhaps could've come for free in the off-season, but that's a risk Florentino wasn't willing to make with Barca and Bayern on the prowl (and perhaps a potential transfer ban that probably won't come). Besides, what is 31.5 million to Real Madrid, and what is it compared to Luke Shaw's 37 million?
The other two full-backs in that price range were Lilian Thuram (36m) and Dani Alves (35.5). One legend, and one World-class right back. Factor in inflation, and it probably evens out. In the end, only time will tell just how much any of this makes sense. If I were to make one final note, it wouldn't have anything to do with Real Madrid's purchase, but with FC Porto's sale.
Can we for a second, step back and commend the business that is FC Porto? I'm a huge admirer of the Club for more than sporting reasons. These guys know how to run a business and have some of the best scouts on the entire planet. They buy players for dirt cheap, and sell them for millions.
Millions, many millions. With Danilo's sale, that's a whopping 440 million Euros they've earned in revenue via transfers in the last decade or so. More on that here.
This is an exciting purchase which Real Madrid fans should embrace whole-heartedly. Danilo is a crack and long-term investment Madridistas should look forward to and reap the benefits for years to come.