Denis Cheryshev has had an interesting career with parent club Real Madrid over the last few years. As a member of the club's youth system, he put up solid performances but was often overshadowed by peers Alvaro Morata and Jese and, unfortunately for him, understandably so. Morata and Jese were Spanish and wowing crowds with their output and attacking flair while Cheryshev often lingered in the shadows of his two peers despite some quality showings. Cheryshev was used as a versatile option both as an attacking wide player and as a wingback, even appearing for the senior side under Jose Mourinho, but the club felt a loan spell was in his best interests and shipped him to Sevilla in 2013 before he finally settled at Villarreal in the 2014-2015 season. Cheryshev has thrived with the Yellow Submarine as he finished fourth highest scorer and the top assist man for the club all while serving as a key player in their aggressive attacking system.
Now that Cheryshev's one year loan with Villarreal has come to an end, and with Madrid lacking offensive depth according to some, perhaps he should be considered as a squad option for Real Madrid.
If Jese were to be sent out on loan or sold with a buyback option as some are suggesting, though nothing regarding any kind of loan has been confirmed, Cheryshev would be a tailor-made, and cost-effective, replacement option waiting to take his place. With Villarreal's recent acquisitions of Samu Castillejo and Samuel Garcia to bolster their attack, coupled with Real Madrid still owning the rights to Cheryshev's services, it stands to reason that he'll either be returning to his parent club this season or will be sold to the highest bidder (Liverpool have been rumored to be interested in a 20-25m deal). He's not a flashy name but he is someone who is familiar with the league and someone with a decent enough skillset where he could start the off-game or come in with 30 minutes to spare and provide a spark off the bench. It should also not be forgotten that he has played as a wingback before and could provide a rest for Marcelo versus more defensive-minded lower sides should Fabio Coentrao be sold and a replacement be hard to come by.
So what kind of player has Cheryshev developed into and is he good enough to be a bench option for Real Madrid?
Cheryshev is your typical wide attacker. Both capable of providing service into the box via cross or taking on his man while cutting in on goal, Cheryshev is a dynamic and pacy bundle of energy. Of players at Villarreal who completed more than 900 minutes, Cheryshev finished third in accurate crosses per game and second in key passes per game. With Cristiano Ronaldo being rumored of taking a more central striker role this season, adding a second quality crosser on the left wing ahead of Marcelo would, in theory, be a boost to the talisman's receptions in the box. Often seen as an out-and-out goal attacker, it's Cheryshev's distribution which has truly blossomed this season. He averaged .48 assists per 90 minutes which was only bettered in the league by Gerard Deulofeu (.57) and James Rodriguez (.51).
In terms of his own scoring, he's developed a keen eye for shots within the penalty areas as 60 percents of his shots have come in this area of the pitch. He's fairly adept with both feet and actually won more aerial duels per game than Ronaldo did last season, but all of his goals came via his left foot and he likely won't be contributing much on set pieces.
Cheryshev's heatmap versus Barcelona
Unfortunately for him, his numbers stalled as he missed nine games from March until the end of the season due to a recurring hamstring injury. His presence was missed as Villarreal went 2-3-3 without him and their high-flying offense hit a screeching halt
Where his weaknesses lie are in his defensive effort and raw output. While his work rate is quite admirable, he is prone to letting more skilled attackers and fullbacks dribble past him more than a manager would like. He's a decent tackler (2.2 per game which is quite high for a winger) but a number of his tackles came after the fact that his marker had already beaten him. This is nothing new to Real Madrid as wide players such as Gareth Bale and Marcelo experience this more regularly than we'd like, but it is something to take note of.
As far as his statistical output, perhaps the public can cut him some slack as Luciano Vietto and Gerard Moreno were the primary focal points of Villarreal's attack. That being said, Cheryshev did lead the club in shots per game so one would like to see him up his conversion rate, a poor eight percent, by taking better quality shots as opposed to a high quantity. Additionally, his pass completion percentage was a somewhat disappointing 69 percent. However, if he were on a better team, such as Real Madrid, it would stand to reason that defenses wouldn't key in on him as much and he would therefore be afforded more freedom off the ball and more time on the ball, thus increasing his output and seeing an improvement in some of these raw numbers. He'd likely be playing against sides outside the top-4 so perhaps he wouldn't be too troubled by elite fullbacks and wingers who would expose some of his on-ball skills when pressed hard.
Should Jese remain with the club for the coming season, and that can be a relatively big ‘if' depending on your point of view, Cheryshev might not even be necessary. Jese has shown his capabilities and what he can do in this side, not to mention that he was one of the highest-regarded Spanish prospects prior to his injury. It is widely accepted that Florentino Perez covets talented Spaniards and with this club's recent poor reputation of not developing canteranos, one can see how the club would be hesitant to let Jese go anywhere, even if for a loan spell. However, there have been rumblings, even if minor, that a loan spell at a top-table side would do him some good in order to get as much playing time as possible and this would open the door for Cheryshev to be a temporary fill-in but only if he's content with being a bench player.
Realistically-speaking though, Denis Cheryshev likely won't be calling Real Madrid his home for the next season and the club will likely use his sale to fund their next high-priced purchase. Jese is above him in the pecking order and this is a club which has a propensity for signing absurdly pricey attackers with little thought to cohesion and depth. The last Cheryshev-type of player, an attacker whose clear role was to be a bench player, signed was José Callejón and his stay was short-lived despite being a quality depth player. However, on the off-chance that an opportunity presents itself the board could do much worse than a cost-effective homegrown player that developed under their own noses and was one of the most dynamic and hard-working attackers in the league when Villarreal was rolling.