Think of the stalwarts of this current Real Madrid team and your mind will likely flash to the likes of Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos, maybe even Luka Modric. These players provide the spine of Zinedine Zidane’s side and have done for the best part of the last decade, even more in the case of the former pair.
Dani Carvajal deserves to be mentioned among such company, though. The right back has been at the Santiago Bernabeu for the last seven years, nailing down a starting place in the Real Madrid defence. The Spanish international has been an integral figure for some of the most successful years of the club’s entire history and there’s no sign of any real decline despite some injury troubles in recent seasons.
And yet Carvajal’s contribution is often overlooked. His energy and drive gives Real Madrid a real attacking outlet down the right side, something which is particularly useful at the moment given Los Blancos’ lack of a true right winger. Gareth Bale, of course, could play that role, but the Welshman is currently out of the picture under Zidane. Carvajal brings many of the qualities that an out-and-out winger would.
Zidane recognises just how important a player Carvajal is even if others overlook him. Many expected Achraf Hakimi to challenge the 28-year-old for a starting place next season having enjoyed two extremely successful seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund. Indeed, the Moroccan is widely seen as one of the brightest youngest full backs in the game at this moment in time.
But Hakimi didn’t even make it back to the Spanish capital at the end of the 2019/20 season before being sold to Inter. This was a show of faith from Zidane in Carvajal. Alvaro Odriozola is another who was bought to provide competition to Carvajal, but was farmed out on loan when it became clear he wasn’t up to the task.
On the left side of the defence, Ferland Mendy has replaced Marcelo as Zidane’s first choice. The Frenchman has become Real Madrid’s primary left back, but on the other side of the pitch Carvajal can be as assured of his place as ever. Even if others don’t readily recognise the contribution of the 28-year-old, it is there and Zidane sees it. That’s all that really matters in the end.
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