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Real Madrid Postseason Grades: Midfielders

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Despite the departures of key players like Xabi Alonso and Ángel Di María, the midfield line may have been Real Madrid’s strongest argument this season. Had it not been for long injuries suffered by Luka Modric and James Rodríguez, and for the big gap that separated starters from bench players, Los Blancos could have been able to complete one of their brightest seasons in their history instead of miserably failing to win any of the important trophies at stake.

Toni Kroos: At the age of 24, the recent World Champion arrived in Madrid as a #10 that had learned to dictate the tempo of games as a central midfielder, but always accompanied by a deeper companion that would watch his back. A poor configuration of Real Madrid’s roster was made clearer when Xabi Alonso left the team, but, just like Pirlo did some years ago under Ancelotti’s command, Kroos has learned to play as a defensive midfielder and has become essential for Real Madrid.

Nobody can doubt about Kroos’ creativity and wise reading of games but, throughout this season, he has been able to support Real Madrid’s positional defence, to start the pressure and has even stolen a big number of balls. A player with his precision can mark an era for Los Blancos.

Grade: 8/10.

Luka Modric: In his third season at Real Madrid, Luka Modric has probably shown the greatest football in his career. Many people have claimed that Real Madrid’s bad results have been a direct consequence of Modric’s absence. I would not go that far, but it is undeniable that it has been, at least, a fundamental reason, as it can be checked just by looking at the great performance Los Blancos showed at the Camp Nou with a diminished, yet present, Luka Modric, after a long streak of poor games.

Talking about Luka’s striking features right now would be pointless, as he is a player widely known by our community, but there are a couple things we must bear in mind: the first one is that Luka Modric is the puppeteer that pulls the strings for Los Blancos to play their best football, and the second one is that he will still be able to do it for, at least, three seasons. An alternative will need to be found before that if we don’t want to have to go through a long journey through the desert.

Grade: 8/10.

James Rodríguez: Not many players have made such a significant impact as James has in their first season with Real Madrid. Seventeen goals and fifteen assists is an extraordinarily remarkable output for a man that plays in a top-class league for the first time and who has never seemed to feel the pressure of being one of the most expensive signings in history.

And once again, his merits must be stressed by his versatility. James stunned everyone in the World Cup playing as a #10, and he had some experience as a wing striker, but he has reached an extraordinary level in Real Madrid as a central midfielder. It is yet unknown what coach Rafa Benítez has planned for the coming season, but James will be a Joker in his hand for whatever tactics he may design.

Grade: 9/10.

Isco Alarcón: After a convincing first season with Los Blancos in which Isco was the player with the biggest number of games played despite being a bench option, it seemed that the arrivals of James Rodríguez and Toni Kroos could have cut the progression of the Spanish wonderkid. However, the recurrent injuries by James himself, Modric and Bale have given him, once again, a lot of chances to prove his value and feed the debate of his probably undeserved stay out of the lineups.

It is fair to say that Isco’s first games of the season, coming off the bench, were not good enough to earn him a starting spot, but he soon got a chance as a left winger because of Bale’s injury, and many people argue those were Real Madrid’s brightest moments of the season. After Modric got injured as well, he retreated a little and gained importance in building possessions, but his productivity was reduced. Still, I believe his season has been really positive for Real Madrid and he should be able to keep growing to be crucial for the team in the future.

Grade: 8/10.

Asier Illarramendi: Illarramendi arrived in Madrid last season to grow and become Xabi Alonso’s heir, but he has not ever been able to fill the boots of the Red Beard. He had some brilliant games with Real Madrid last season, but it seems something in his mind got broken in Dortmund last April and he has not been able to fix it yet, and it is not clear whether he will ever be able to do it or not.

When playing as a defensive midfielder, Illarramendi has been decent, but he has not been able to keep up to the standards of a team that fights for everything as Real Madrid. When trying to occupy Modric’s spot, however, he was nearly horrible, being totally horizontal, intrascendental in the offense and almost a defensive liability. Unless Rafa Benítez is able to wake the genius there is in him (which I believe is hidden somewhere inside his brain), he will need to pack and go away.

Grade: 3/10.

Lucas Silva: Arriving in Europe from a South American league is always difficult, particularly for a midfielder, but it is even harder to do so in the winter transfer period. Lucas Silva got to Madrid in a very difficult time for Los Blancos, and was never able to show what made him the best central midfielder in the Brazilian league last season. A good pre-season under the commands of a strong tactical coach should help him to reach his authentic level and, perhaps, we will be able to see the player in him next season.

Grade: 3/10.

Sami Khedira: For someone who has loved Khedira since he got to Madrid as I am, it is particularly hard to say he does not deserve to be graded in the same scale as the rest of the men I have mentioned so far. His lack of professionalism throughout the season has been manifest, and that is all I will say about him, apart from wishing him good luck in Juventus next season, where I would like him to win the Serie A and be thrashed by Real Madrid in the Champions League.

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