The 3 players Real Madrid should have kept this season
Real Madrid was relatively quiet during the summer transfer window and did not make any significant signings. On the other hand, they let more players leave than they arguably should have. A number of these players were ones that were instrumental in their league and Champions League triumph during the 2016/17 season. Zinedine Zidane has not been able to fill those vacancies and now Real Madrid look like they severely miss them.
Morata in attack, James in midfield, Pepe in defence and a number of others were important players and their absence is hurting Madrid this season. These players played an essential role in the team and now Real Madrid's campaign is hanging on by a thread. Here are the three players that Real Madrid appear to be missing the most this season.
#1 Álvaro Morata
Born and raised in Madrid, Morata always had eyes for the big prize. He started playing for Real's youth team and subsequently rose through the ranks. He was the second-choice striker behind Benzema and spent most of his time in the first team on the bench while the famous 'BBC' ran rampant on the field. Madrid, at the time didn't utilise him well and now must be cursing themselves for letting him go.
After enduring a lack of apearances and opportunities he departed for Juventus, only to find himself back at Madrid after two promising seasons with the 'Bianconeri'.
Madrid will surely miss Morata's menacing pace and pin-point accuracy. The timing of his runs is perfect and he has the physical strength to hold on to the ball and press defences. He was far more mature on his return in 2016-17 and scored 15 goals in La Liga while playing as the central man in Zidane's B-team along with James Rodriguez.
As the season ended with Real Madrid victorius in both Champions league and La Liga, Morata was handed a transfer to Chelsea for £60 million.
Morata's departure has created problems in the carefully devised B-team strategy used by Zidane so often last season to rest experienced players. The situation has been aggravated this season with injuries to both Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale. Morata's tendency to take the baton and score when others are misfiring was instrumental last season and Real currently have no one capable of replacing him.
Morata's arrival at Chelsea was a club record and he did not disappoint. He showed his value from the start and scored on his debut against Burnley. He has, by far, been the most lethal striker in the Premier League and Antonio Conte has capitalised his pace and heading abilities while Real Madrid lie in shambles; haplessly searching for options in attack.
#2 MARIANO DIAZ
Starting his career in Real Madrid's Youth academy, Mariano was eventually promoted and played for RM Castilla in the third division. Real were monitoring his performances and saw huge potential. He made his debut for the first team after Benzema suffered a back injury in 2016.
He has the complete mind-set of a classic striker; making quick runs and holding up possession in the opponents' half. He has fair bit of pace and his ability to change flanks quickly makes him a unique player. Madrid effectively used him as a replacement for injured forwards and he developed as a complete player alongside Morata.
But in June 2017, Diaz left for Lyon, where he scored two goals on his debut and is tearing it up in Ligue 1 having scored 13 goals already this season.
Madrid will miss him as they chase the La Liga title without true attacking options and a faltering style of play. Mariano could have come in to fill the role of an attacking forward and helped Madrid build some momentum while they battle injury problems and inconsistent bench performances.
Pepe has been with Real Madrid since he signed for the club in 2007 and has been one of the most reliable defenders in the squad ever since. After a few rough seasons, hampered by controversies and injuries, Pepe showed his mettle in and took back his place in the squad.
Real Madrid will sorely miss the experience and maturity he displayed on the pitch as well as his chemistry with Sergio Ramos. Precise interceptions and chasing down forwards during counter attacks also made him a name to reckon with. After feuds with manager Mourinho and Carlo Ancelloti after him, he lost his palce in the defence to Raphael Varane. Even when sidelined, however, Pepe was a brilliant option in case of injuries.
Real Madrid is struggling in defence this season, with fitness problems to Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane. Pepe could have provided a supporting role in these times of difficulty as too heavy a reliance on youngsters has led to mistakes at the back.
The squad now lacks experience. Marcelo looks exhausted and seems to have lost his magical touch. Ashraf Hakimi is immature and has yet to develop as a complete player. Theo has pace but lacks composure. Zidane has some tough decisions to make and an important transfer window to capitalise on if he is to plug the numerous leaks that appear to have sprung up at the Santiago Bernabéu.