13. Dani Carvajal
Daniel Carvajal, the Spanish Marcelo? Not quite, yet. And there’s also the tiny little fact that they play in different flanks. In total numbers for the past season, you could say he is awfully close to his Brazilian teammate. Both have registered 11 assists in all competitions, Marcelo scored 3 goals, Carvajal bagged 1 vs Sevilla in the first game of the season. But not only stats can define how good he has been. The defensive duo proved themselves as a rampant attacking force throughout the year, offering Real Madrid new variants in their style of play. While this is nothing new about Marcelo, Carvajal stepped up. Looking back at his role under Rafa Benítez the right-winger had potential to be one of the world’s finest, but the manager’s inability to fix the defensive transition exposed the flaws of the player. With Zidane, both wingers have the liberty to step forward and help the team to maintain a high pressure line. This tactics was essential to create a balance between both sides of attacking play, once too dependent on the left, making Carvajal a crucial part of the scheme.
European Super Cup, extra time. The defender intercepted a ball in the middle of the pitch, ran past six defenders and scored the winning goal. It was a glimpse of what was going to happen for the rest of the 2016/17 season. La Liga started to Real Madrid in Anoeta, a tough ground where archenemies Barcelona can’t grab a win since 2017 in this competition. Carvajal provided the first assist in the 3-0 win. Matchday 35 was his last game in the Spanish championship. And another assist, the first, in a 2-1 win vs. Valencia. According to WhoScored, the defender had an average of 2.5 tackles, 1.8 interceptions, 0.8 dribbles and just 1.2 fouls per game.
Despite being pivotal in Real Madrid’s first La Liga title in 5 years, the Champions League was his central stage. The flying winger gave 5 passes to goal, one in the final vs Juventus. Also the first. Although the player initially struggled to contain a taller and stronger opponent like Mandizukic, Carvajal used his pace to run across the pitch, combined with Cristiano Ronaldo and delivered a perfect pass. In the third Real Madrid goal, Carvajal again combined with a teammate, this time Luka Modric, after a bursting run. In a commanding performance, the skilled Spaniard showed the world why this was his season.
Daniel Carvajal is a product of La Fábrica, the famed Real Madrid’s academy where hundreds of young players dream to become part of the first team. The same academy inaugurated by then 13 years old Carvajal and Alfredo Di Stéfano. In his fourth season in this Madrid’s historic side, all doubts about his importance and role are now remembered as unfunny jokes. At 25, the player is set to be a reference in his position for years to come.
By: Vinícius Ferrenberg/@Ferrenberg