It has been a tough first season for Danilo at the Santiago Bernabeu following his summer switch from Porto. He was a player that clearly divided opinion when he signed for the club and over half-way into his first season that is still very much the case.
Danilo was always likely to face a battle to win the hearts of the infamously demanding Bernabeu faithful. For starters an almost inexplicably high transfer fee of €31.5millon didn’t do him any favours and only added to the pressure he would be under, especially given by Real Madrid standards it was a quiet summer of arrivals.
He was by some distance the most expensive addition besides Mateo Kovačić, who at 21 was always likely to be more of a development player.
The Carvajal factor
That put Danilo under much greater spotlight than he would have been if he’d arrived in another year alongside a genuine ‘galactico’. His task was also made tougher given that he’d be competing for the right-back berth with Dani Carvajal, who had cemented himself as the first-choice right-back over the previous two seasons and had the distinct advantage of being a local boy and product of the Real Madrid youth system.
That may seem a small factor, but it shouldn’t understated given the lack of local talent in this Real Madrid squad and the time that has passed since a youth team player really stepped up and made the grade at senior level.
Certainly, Carvajal was popular with the fans who have grown a little frustrated with the amount of foreign imports and the lack of game time that some of their brighter home-grown prospects have been given in recent years.
In some respects, it has gone well for Danilo. Despite an ankle injury that kept him out for over a month early in the campaign, he has been Real Madrid’s most regular right-back making 14 league starts to Carvajal’s 8. However the Spaniard has also suffered a few injury problems and it has been rare that the pair have both been available at the same time.
Stats not too shabby, but weaknesses still exposed
On the face of it Danilo’s overall statistics match up with other Real Madrid defenders including compatriot Marcelo who remains the club’s first-choice left-back. However there have been occasions, particularly against the stronger sides where Danilo has been targeted and exposed defensively.
The likes of Nolito at Celta Vigo, Yevhen Konoplyanka at Sevilla and most notably Neymar and Barcelona exposed his defensive weaknesses and gave ammunition to his critics. In truth few players connected with Real Madrid have covered themselves in glory over the past 6 months but Danilo has certainly been made something of a scapegoat in some quarters.
Even going forward he hasn’t quite been at his best. Against Real Betis last week when new manager Zinedine Zidane selected him ahead over Dani Carvajal, Danilo’s passing and crossing was wayward and there was noticeable improvement when he was replaced by his rival after just over an hour.
The non-stop Carvajal dilemma
The Danilo – Dani Carvajal dilemma is one that is likely to run and run for the remainder of the season.
Of all the positions in the Real Madrid starting eleven, the right-back slot is the one that is really up for grabs and Zidane is likely to rotate the pair over the next few months so it is up to Danilo to really step up his game and prove to his manager and fans that he should get the nod when it comes to the big European and domestic fixtures later in the season.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
Check out his brilliant blog on all things La Liga, Tiki-Taka-Gol!
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