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Three answers and three questions from Real Madrid’s Super Cup win over Athletic

The main talking points as Real Madrid win the first trophy of the season. 

FBL-KSA-ESP-SUPER CUP-ATHLETIC BILBAO-REAL MADRID Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid have lifted the 2021/22 Spanish Super Cup, defeating Athletic Club 2-0 in the final courtesy of a Luka Modrić wonder strike, a Karim Benzema penalty and a Thibaut Courtois penalty save. There’s a lot to discuss after this final and here comes a look at the main talking points.

Three answers

1. How much would the Real Madrid players care?

This may have been only the Super Cup, but you got a sense before this game that this was an important one for the Real Madrid players. Not only did they fail to win any trophies last year, but they didn’t even reach any finals and hadn’t played a final since the Super Cup win over Atlético two years ago. Once the ball got rolling, it was clear to see that the Real Madrid players were up for this one. The way they rejoiced at the goals and Thibaut Courtois’ penalty save proved that too, while their joy afterwards emanated through the TV screens. For Carlo Ancelotti, this was his first medal since winning the 2017 German Super Cup with Bayern Munich. The Spanish Super Cup not a hugely important competition, but winning it meant more to Real Madrid, and their players and coach, than many might think.

2. Would this be different to the previous two Athletic games?

Real Madrid knew Athletic very well, having played and defeated them on December 1st and 22nd. Considering how tight those two games were, as Real Madrid won 1-0 at home and 2-1 away, would this one follow a similar pattern? Well, not necessarily. This was actually Real Madrid’s most comfortable meeting with Athletic of the three. A major factor in this, though, might be how early into the second half Real Madrid got and scored their penalty to go 2-0 up. In the previous meetings, Athletic were behind by just one goal for most of those games. Here, though, the two-goal deficit seemed to demoralise them and it was only in the final 20 minutes that the Basque side started to look at all dangerous.

3. Could Rodrygo make the most of his opportunity?

Marco Asensio’s injury saw Rodrygo back in the starting line-up for this one. So, could he make the most of this opportunity? Oh yes, he could! The Brazilian was brilliant from the start, twice running into the box and causing defenders problems in the opening 10 minutes. Mikel Balenziaga, the Athletic left-back, was weirdly positioned at times and Rodrygo exploited this, while it was the winger’s line-breaking that caused sufficient havoc in the Athletic defence for the opening goal, when he teed up Luka Modrić for the first-time finish. It was strange that Rodrygo was taken off after only an hour, but he can be proud of his night’s work.

Three questions

1. Is Modrić playing at Ballon d’Or level?

Luka Modrić was the man of the match and not only because of the way he beautifully took his goal. Even before that, he was standing out and, playing in a very advanced position, the Croatian was a large reason why Rodrygo was finding so much space down the right. After the game, Florentino Pérez claimed that Modrić’s current form is Ballon d’Or level. Is that true? Is the midfielder performing like the best in the world? It’s hard to argue against that.

2. When does Militão have to serve his suspension?

Éder Militão’s late red card ultimately didn’t matter, especially because Thibaut Courtois produced his weekly world-class save by kicking away Raúl García’s penalty. But, the Brazilian will still have to serve a suspension because of it. The one-game ban will have to be served in Real Madrid’s next cup game, which is in the Copa del Rey away at Elche on Thursday. It may be a different competition, but the centre-back will have to sit that one out and that’s not great news since David Alaba isn’t 100 percent.

3. Should Marcelo have joint-lifted the trophy with Benzema?

After Sergio Ramos’ departure in the summer, Marcelo became Real Madrid’s main captain and Karim Benzema became the vice-captain. But, with the veteran left-back hardly playing, Benzema has been the de facto captain for Real Madrid this season and he was for all but the seven minutes Marcelo was on the pitch at the end of this final. So, should Marcelo have joint-lifted the Super Cup trophy along with Benzema? It would have been a nice gesture and moment, but the Brazilian ended up lifting it on his own. Perhaps Benzema told him to do that, but it would be nice if they share that moment together if there is another trophy lift this season.