No footballer in Spain churns the sort of reaction that Lucas Vazquez’s name in the starting team sheet does at Real Madrid. Arguably, in recent years, the only thing that Madridistas have hated more than losing is Lucas Vazquez starting. When both events occur, as it did against Cadiz on Sunday, the backlash is not savoury.
Lucas Vazquez is easily my favourite current Real Madrid player. I’m not sure I can fully explain why, his normalness among a team of galactic superstars has always appealed to me. Nonetheless, I’ve never advocated for him to play a bigger role at Real Madrid and, given the club’s financial position, I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with his presence in the team this season. In this sense, I can relate to the frustration around Vazquez, however, in a lot of ways, I can’t.
There seems to be a lot of irrational hatred around Vazquez. That he is undeserving of the trust he gets from Zidane, or that his minutes are not in portion to what he brings to the pitch. These issues are baseless. There are clear reasons why Vazquez has earned Zidane’s trust and, outside of 2018-2019, Vazquez has arguably contributed more on the pitch than the game time he has gotten.
Until recently, Lucas Vazquez was one of Real Madrid most productive players despite playing the minutes of a 12th man at the squad.
In 2016-17 and 2017-18, Vazquez had the second and third highest expected assist per 90 numbers in all LaLiga, only Lionel Messi registered a better per 90 average than Vazquez did in 2017.
He peaked in both performances and minutes around two or three seasons ago where he was practically a starter under Santiago Solari and later Zidane. Since then, Vazquez minutes have taken quite a brutal hit. He failed to break 1000 minutes in the league last season with just the likes of Luka Jovic playing less minutes in all competitions than the 30-year-old last year.
This might come as a surprise to some given he always seems to be Zidane’s preferred option off the bench, however, when one pits his minutes in all competitions compared to those he was competing with on the bench, its a much closer battle than one would think.
Where in previous years, the argument could be made that Vazquez was outperforming his more talented peers, it seems the opposite has been true as of late. In limited appearances last season, Marco Asensio equalled Vazquez goals and assist tally for the season despite playing 600 minutes less than Lucas. Rodrygo cannot boast any similar statistic, however given his talent and young age, justify him getting the nod over his much more senior teammate. Judging on the minutes share of last season, this is largely how Zidane sees it too.
From the start, many Madridistas have wanted Lucas Vazquez to be a black and white issue at the club. He is, to many, an average player who, despite his lack of skill, has stolen a living at Real Madrid and continues to do so because of managerial favouritism.
The truth, as bitter a pill as it may be, is that Lucas Vazquez has risen above his quintessential roots and earned Zinedine Zidane’s trust by being dependable and productive in limited minutes. Over the last 18 months, Lucas Vazquez’s involvement in the team suggests he is now a “break in case of emergency” option on the right wing and, when called upon, he will continue to play the game that has served he, Zidane and Real Madrid so well over the last five years.