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Real Madrid Season Preview 2018/19: Midfielders

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Will Kovacic’s departure hurt the team?

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Super Cup Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Real Madrid lost a huge asset when midfielder Mateo Kovacic decided he needed to play minutes as a starter elsewhere. Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric all remain in the roster but as soon as one of them can’t play, coach Julen Lopetegui might be in trouble. Isco, Ceballos and even Fede Valverde might be needed, although reports suggest that Los Blancos might try to add another player to their midfield line.


All statistics are for the 2017-18 Real Madrid season for all official competitions.

Casemiro

Games Played: 48

Minutes Played: 3,945

Goals + Assists: 10

Most frequent midfield line-up: Casemiro, Kroos-Modric

Age: 26

The Brazilian player has been an undisputed starter ever since coach Zinedine Zidane took over. He’s won three straight Champions League titles as key player and his presence as a defensive midfielder is crucial to the team’s system. His ability to prevent counterattacks and help the center-backs is excellent. He will surely be a starter for Lopetegui, the coach who made him the player he is today when both of them were in Porto. Casemiro lacks skills to distribute the ball and that ends up hurting Real Madrid against smaller teams, but his presence is extremely valuable otherwise. Perhaps Julen Lopetegui should build a Plan B in case Casemiro’s defensive work isn’t needed, but the Brazilian pivot is set for another season with plenty of minutes.

Toni Kroos

Games Played: 43

Minutes Played: 3,570

Goals + Assists: 15

Most frequent midfield line-up: Casemiro, Kroos-Modric

Age: 28

Kroos brings a steady presence to Real Madrid’s midfield line. He’s extremely consistent and that’s his main virtue. The German player will undoubtedly start every match he is ready unless Lopetegui decides to make rotations. His style of play favors what Lopetegui wants from this team whenever they have the ball but he will have to learn how to press effectively now that the Spanish coach wants Los Blancos to recover the ball much closer to the opposition’s box. That’s the only question mark surrounding Kroos this season. Other than that, he’s Mr. Reliable.

Luka Modric

Games Played: 43

Minutes Played: 3,339

Goals + Assists: 10

Most frequent midfield line-up: Casemiro, Kroos-Modric

Age: 32

Real Madrid have finally kept Luka Modric around, even though the Croatian reportedly wanted to leave and join Inter Milan on a more lucrative deal that the one he has with Los Blancos. Modric is aging and this might be his last good season before entering his decline, but he’s obviously an undisputed starter for every single coach in the world of football right now. Modric just won the award for Best Player of the FIFA World Cup. He’s not only a wizard when he has the ball, he also has the ability to press and recover the ball thanks to his work rate. It’s just great to have him, no matter his age and the salary raise he will get soon enough.

Isco Alarcon

Games Played: 49

Minutes Played: 2,957

Goals + Assists: 19

Most frequent midfield line-up: Casemiro, Isco-Modric

Age: 26

Isco will have two different roles this season. He will be expected to start on the left wing as soon as all Casemiro, Modric, Kroos are available. However, he will be the first one playing as a central midfielder —maybe also as an attacking midfielder behind the striker— when Modric or Kroos are missing. Cristiano Ronaldo has left the club and Isco will be one of the players required to be more productive. He has always had Lopetegui’s confidence in the Spanish national team and that shows that he will be a very relevant player this season.

Dani Ceballos

Games Played: 22

Minutes Played: 899

Goals + Assists: 2

Most frequent midfield line-up: Casemiro, Ceballos-Modric

Age: 22

Real Madrid spent €20 million to sign Ceballos last summer and he ended up playing only meaningless minutes all season long. Zidane didn’t like what he saw from him for whatever reason but it seems that Lopetegui thinks differently. The truth is that Ceballos showed plenty of promise when he got minutes last year and the club has faith in his potential as they let Kovacic go without signing a replacement —at least for the moment—. It will be interesting to see if he can respond. He has the quality to do it.

Marcos Llorente

Games Played: 20

Minutes Played: 1,063

Goals + Assists: 0

Most frequent midfield line-up: Llorente, Kroos-Modric

Age: 23

Llorente must play with confidence if he wants to be relevant this season. He played very well for Alaves but was irrelevant for Zinedine Zidane. He reminds me a bit of Asier Illarramendi, who never risked a pass and subsequently ended up being dispensable. This may very well be Llorente’s last season in Real Madrid if he can’t find consistent minutes even as Casemiro’s backup.

Fede Valverde

(Stats from last season display his performances for Deportivo, where he was on loan)

Games Played: 25

Minutes Played: 1,316

Goals + Assists: 0

Most frequent midfield line-up: Casemiro, Valverde-Modric

Age: 20

Valverde is still very young and raw and could benefit from another loan deal, although it would be better for Real Madrid to find a club willing to play him as a midfielder and not as a winger like Deportivo did last year. If he stays, he will most likely be the last man off the bench as a midfielder, but he can definitely be an interesting player in the future if he learns how to play possession-oriented football.