We may only be five official games into the season but Real Madrid fans are yet to see the potential impact of three quarters of the reinforcements to the squad brought in during the summer transfer window. Álvaro Odriozola, Vinicius and Mariano Díaz are yet to play even a single minute of first team football, players that had a combined cost to the club of 97 million euros. Only Thibault Courtois has made his mark after recently returning to the Spanish capital.
The most surprising of the three player situations is Mariano’s. New manager Julen Lopetegui had asked for a number nine after he joined in the summer, and that request was met with the arrival, just ahead of the transfer window closing, of the returning striker from Lyon. The coach desired a replacement of sorts for Karim Benzema and someone whose characteristics differed from the Frenchman, conscious of needing attacking options for when Plan A was not working. In San Mamés at the weekend, as the three points looked to be slipping away, it seemed to many that this was one of those such occasions. But Lopetegui chose against the Mariano solution.
“Mariano could have been an option,” Lopetegui said at a post-match news conference to explain his decision. “But we thought that Bale needed a replacement on that wing and Lucas has done well. When there is an international break you have to analyse each player.”
Mariano, in principle, returned to the European Champions with the promise that he would have a more important role than the one he had in 2016-17. Back then he played only 302 minutes. As yet, he awaits his first of the new regime.
Youngsters in waiting
Regarding the cases of the younger Odriozola (22) and Vinicius (18) there is a clear difference. Both were seen from the very beginning as stars of the future and the idea is that their importance to the first team will increase over time. The full-back did make his debut in pre-season, although an untimely muscle injury coupled with the fine form of Dani Carvajal, has prevented him from being sent out in the games to date. It’s worth noting, however, that he did impress in the minutes he was given in the friendlies against Manchester United and Juventus, so could be asked to relieve the first-choice right-back on Saturday against Espanyol in front of a home crowd.
Vinicius, meanwhile, has been given the chance to develop into European football with Castilla, and has not been slow to get on the scoresheet. Three goals in three games is a decent return from the talented Brazilian and there is an objective to get him involed with the first team in the coming weeks.
Lopetegui’s demanding schedule
A deep squad is almost certainly going to be required if Madrid want to challenge on all fronts this season and the first schedule squeeze is upon us. Following the international break Lopetegui began with the disappointing draw in San Mamés and now faces six games in 18 days as the Champions League gets underway. There are seven players in total who have not yet premiered this season: Casilla, Vallejo, Odriozola, Fede Valverde, Marcos Llorente, Vinicius and Mariano. Time will tell how and when the manager chooses to involve them.