Danilo Luis Da Silva signed for Real Madrid, rejecting his good friend Neymar and the starting right back slot at Barcelona, in 2015. A big fish in a small pond, the Brazilian had been scintillating in the Portuguese league and looked like a player capable of not only challenging, but overtaking Dani Carvajal for the right back slot at Madrid. Two years later, and the truth hurts: Danilo simply did not meet expectations.
Let's start with the positives. Danilo’s athleticism and engine allowed him to sprint up and down the flanks with ease. His versatility and ability to slot in either right or left back only raised his stock given the lack of a true replacement for Marcelo. Many would argue his left footed crosses were equally as dangerous as his right and his performances at left back may have surpassed his performances on the right. What really set him apart, above all else, was the Brazilian’s team-first attitude. While on the bench, Danilo never moped, and he celebrated every important goal as if it were his own. He understood his role and put his ego aside for the good of the team. Will a potential replacement do the same?
Despite Danilo's strengths, his weaknesses were far too glaring. Supporters of the Brazilian can pick out a handful of games where he performed well, but over the course of two years and against top quality opposition, Danilo was a liability. When left isolated on the flank, the Brazilians one-on-one defending was found wanting. Danilo's body position was consistently too square and rigid when lined up against his man defensively. Time and time again he was turned inside and out. Nightmare performances against Sevilla in La Liga this year, in the semifinal second-leg against Atletico Madrid, and away to Vigo in the Copa Del Rey are all prime examples. As a defender, he switches off all too often, and finds himself behind the play having to commit a foul. Madrid would be pressing-high against the opposition and Danilo, just a second behind, wouldn’t have pushed out quick enough. This has a domino effect. It then leads to him over-exerting himself to reach the opponent and thus over-committing. One quick turn or deft-touch and Danilo would be chasing heels or picking up a yellow card. In terms of pure defending, Danilo is far below the top tier club’s standard. He became many Madrid fan's scapegoat, wrongly or rightly, and his confidence was impacted. Low confidence and subpar defending led to his demise at Madrid.
In the right system, Danilo could thrive. Manchester City would be a perfect club to get the best out of Danilo. In a 3-5-2 formation or even a 4-2-3-1 formation, Danilo's weakness can be masked and his strengths illuminated. Rarely will he be left in isolated one-on-one situations, and as a wing-back, he’ll have more license do to what he does best — get forward with power and speed and whip in crosses.
Let's be clear, reports suggest Zidane was more than happy to keep Danilo, but two factors played a major role. Real Madrid will make a profit on a player who is nowhere near the market value he was bought for two years ago. And for Danilo, he will have the chance to shine before a World Cup. It's a win for both parties. Who will replace Danilo? There are a number of options on the table-- the ever-reliable Nacho, the young and promising Spanish talent Odriozola, the shifty and proven Thomas Meunier, the Moroccan raw academy product Achraf Hakimi, or even the "new Nacho" Alvaro Tejero. Each option comes with their supporters and with opinions. The right-back position can be upgraded with Danilo's departure. Time will tell what player Zidane and co. ultimately select, but fans should not fear the loss of a decent player in the wrong system.
Who Should Replace Danilo?
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