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Real Deal Roundup: Inacio, Endrick, Bellingham, Carvajal, Romeo

Miscellaneous tidbits and statistical reviews from the past week. Inacio, Endrick, Bellingham, Carvajal, Romeo, Kroos, Rodrygo et al

The Official Instagram of Endrick Felipe Moreira de Sousa

Gonçalo Inácio: Emergency Center Back Reinforcement?

Real Madrid have been linked with a winter move for Gonçalo Inácio (22) of Sporting CP.

Here is an early scouting report:

Upon evaluating the pass receptions, passing range & defensive occupancy, it appears that the 22-year-old center-back from Portugal possesses a similar profile to David Alaba.

Inácio plays in the Portuguese League, which historically translates pretty well to Europe’s top 5 leagues. Real Madrid successfully brought Eder Militao in from Porto. Inácio would theoretically offer more than David Alaba aerially, and could allow Madrid to play more center backs like Manchester City and Arsenal for defensive solidity, considering neither Mendy nor Fran seem to offer enough in buildup or in defense. Saudi Arabia will gladly take Alaba if he and the club are ready to move on. Also, Inácio has been linked with other top clubs including Liverpool, suggesting that he may be the real deal. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time Florentino beat Liverpool to a top signing.

(The last time Real Madrid signed a defender in the winter was some rando named Marcelo.)

For context:

Goncalo Inácio: 2.09 aerials won p90 last 365 days

Eder Militao 2018-19 for Porto: 4.12 aerials won p90

Militao is at 2.02 aerials won p90 for the last 365 days

Alaba is at 0.64 aerials won p90 over the last 365 days

Endrick is Back

For every rising phenom, there are growing pains on the path to greatness.

When Endrick first signed, his generational talent looked undeniable - a creative, athletic wonderkid. Real Madrid had beaten the rest of Europe to a gem.

But a 14-match scoring drought at Palmeiras earlier this year prompted doubts - was he overhyped and overpaid?

After all, while Endrick had shown glimpses of cognitive genius in his finishing and overall play, he could also be a poor decision maker and limited in his positioning.

Others suggested the pressure had overwhelmed Endrick.

Coach Abel Ferreira gave him limited minutes. Endrick has only averaged 40 minutes per game in 29 senior appearances for Palmeiras. But no 17-year-old is the finished product, especially given limited minutes.

Real Madrid had full faith: they supported Endrick with phone calls from Carlo Ancelotti and Vinicius Jr, as well as a personal visit from Juni Calafat himself to make sure he knew he had a vote of confidence from the club.

A recent dominant performance in a comeback against Botafogo has made it clear that Endrick is immensely talented, and more importantly, intuitively creative.

On the pitch, Endrick’s physicality and technical ability are already at an elite level. Despite being only 17, he possesses the power and balance to make grown-up defenders bounce off him when driving forward with the ball. Already comfortable playing across the front line, he glides to the left, slices through the middle, and creates havoc on the right with his dominant left foot. Endrick is built like a tank, with the nimble feet to match.

The consensus among Palmeiras fans is that Ferreira’s rigid tactics fail to fully unlock Endrick’s unique gifts.

In fact, reports indicate Real Madrid believes Ferreira has stunted the phenom’s development, and let Palmeiras know as such earlier this season. It seems inevitable that Endrick would thrive with more playing time and world-class coaching at Real Madrid.

The coach’s rigidity is what made his recent performance so special: even the most restrictive, egoistic managers cannot hold back the best players.

All in all, there is a strong chance Endrick is Real Madrid’s left footed right winger of the future. The youngster possess the skills to drift to other parts of the field, but also the speed, technique and strength to bully grown men on the right.

Gluten-Free Carvajal Looks Renewed Defensively

Gluten-free Dani Carvajal has exploded back onto the scene this season.

The feisty right-back had lost his edge last season, a step slow in both attack and defense. But no more! Carvajal is a man revived, wreaking havoc up and down the flank.

Curiously, despite having a renewed physical burst that seems to make him more dangerous offensively, Carvajal has seen his passing stats remain steady.

It’s Carvajal’s renewed physical burst that has been notable, and defensively is where the difference is clear: Carvajal has become a tenacious ball-winner again, averaging 2.8 tackles per 90 compared to just 1.7 last season.

Vintage Carvajal was on display in El Clasico, neutralizing Joao Felix with an incredible goal-line clearance.

This is the Carvajal who locked down Luis Diaz in the 2022 Champions League final.

Thanks to a simple diet tweak, Madrid’s raging bull is back to dominate Europe’s biggest stages.

Real Madrid’s offense itself has become more symmetric over the past two seasons. Fede initially revived the right hand side last season after a Vini-dependent 21/22, and now Carvajal’s renewed fitness has also played a role in further restoring balance.

Bellingham and Benzema: Swapping One Unconventional Goalscorer For Another

Let’s preface this section with the obious: Jude Victor William Bellingham is not the same profile as Karim Benzema. He dribbles more, defends deeper and is a midfielder out of possession. However, it’s notable how Real Madrid have swapped one forward who enjoyed receiving the ball in unconventional areas with another who does the same:

Bellingham’s touch map reinforces the similarities in unconventional positioning between him and Benzema. Both roam wide and deep when Madrid have possession, facilitating buildup from unexpected spaces, albeit in different ways.

The best way to compare them: similar passing zones, different styles and speeds. Whereas Benzema loved to slow play down, often disguising his forward progression, Bellingham so far has stood out more when accelerating play.

They operate at different tempos.

Bellingham’s shot chart before el clasico, when he added in 2 more goals from less than1 xG

Bellingham is running hot with 13 goals from 6.5 xG so far this season. For context: Lionel Messi never ran close to 2 goals per 1 xG for an entire season, and he is the best finisher of all time in the data-era. I wouldn’t rule out Jude being an above average finisher who constantly gets on the end of tap-ins as well, but this rate from the exact same chance quality is likely not to sustain itself even if he ends the season with 30 goals.

However, as Jose, Kiyan and I discussed last week on the post-clasico show, this season’s healthy Bellingham - even without an absurd hot streak - is better than last season’s Benzema. And he is still easily good for a goal every other game.

Keep going Jude.

Kroos Control

While examining the data with Mehedi’s gorgeous visuals, Toni Kroos’ inelasticity stood out.

Casemiro, Tchouameni, Camavinga, Fede, Modric - doesn’t matter who Sir Toni Kroos is partnered with. He’s the midfield general, orchestrating Real Madrid’s tempo no matter who surrounds him. Maybe receives the ball slightly deeper without Casemiro, but his role is unchanged.

Maybe he drifted a touch more into central areas and right sided attacking zones last season:

Rival Watch: Replacing a legend is never easy, as Barcelona is learning with Sergio Busquets’ departure.

Sergio Busquets - arguably the best ‘6’ in buildup in the history of football - left Barcelona at the end of the 2023 season after a legendary career.

Coming into the season, Oriol Romeu seemed like a reasonable replacement on paper. An experienced defensive midfielder joining from Girona, he understood the #6 role and Barcelona’s demands.

Though they occupy similar zones on the pitch, Romeu has not matched Busquets’ passing range or vision. Despite completing 10 more passes per game at a higher completion rate, Romeu averages fewer progressive passes and struggles to move the ball vertically compared to Busquets. He struggles to switch play as well.

While Romeu provides a small boost defensively with more tackles won, Busquets won more aerial duels and blocked more shots. Most notably, Busquets created 2.85 shot creating actions per game compared to just 1.65 for Romeu.

Romeu’s difficulties were exposed in El Clasico. Though the sample size is still small, it’s clear there has been a downgrade from the genius of Busquets to the more limited Romeu.

Barcelona as a whole though have quite a strong squad, and have a more symmetric offense than in seasons past thanks to Joao Cancelo:

Take away the Gundogan goal at the beginning and the Bellingham goal at the end, and Madrid were fortunate to escape the clasico with a win. All the other chances outside those two which required random bounces tallied up to 1.2 xG for Barcelona and only 0.4 xG for Real Madrid. As Matt Wiltse said, take the result and run.

Rodrygo Renewal Review

Extending Rodrygo during this run of bad finishing is a huge vote of confidence from Real Madrid and Florentino Perez.

At just 22, Rodrygo’s already played all the frontline roles for Real Madrid. Roaming right wing in 21/22, more central striker in 22/23, and a spell on the left wing this season.

Look at the variety in his receptions:

Passing tells a similar story:

Touches also tell a similar story:

Fascinating career path, and the club likely feel his experience across positions should reap huge dividends.

That’s it for this week’s Real Deal Roundup. Check out our episodes on Spotify on the Managing Madrid feed. Find us on X, Instagram, YouTube and Tik Tok @realdealpods

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