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In the quarter finals of the Champions League and still very much in the race for the La Liga title after they thumped Granada 9-1 on Sunday, Real Madrid’s season is far from over. Form has fluctuated nervously to leave the future of manager Carlo Ancelotti in doubt, but the prospect of becoming the first side in two decades to defend the European Cup and a first league title in four years looms large on the horizon.
Real could be looking at life after Ancelotti in the summer with Zinedine Zidane a possible candidate to takeover, but this uncertainty hasn’t prevented president Florentino Perez, never one to pass up on an opportunity to open the chequebook, heading into the market for a new player. Los Blancos have added 21 year old Lucas Silva and the 16 year old Martin Odegaard to the squad this term for a combined fee in excess of £11 million, but while those deals were geared towards the task of building a bright future, the £23 million signing of Danilo from Porto is for the here and now.
The deal makes the 23 year old Brazilian the fourth most expensive right-back ever, only bettered by Luke Shaw’s €37.5 million move to Manchester United, Lilian Thuram’s €36 million move to Juventus and Dani Alves’s €35.5 million switch to Barcelona. He becomes Real Madrid’s most expensive ever defender, if indication is needed to how determined Madrid were to take the right-back to the Bernabeu.
A marauding, full of energy Brazilian right-back, Danilo can be compared to the latter and Madrid will be hoping he can have the same effect in the Bernabeu as Alves, a 4-time La Liga winner and 2-time Champions League winner as an integral part of Pep Guardiola’s era of dominance, had in Catalonia after moving from Sevilla in 2008.
Danilo was seen by the hierarchy at the Nou Camp as the 31 year old Alves’s long-term replacement but hindered by the transfer ban that runs into 2016, Madrid seized the opportunity to land their man early. It can arguably be billed as another Galactico acquisition by Perez who has timed the deal to perfection, diverting attention away from a series of poor results on the pitch and reaffirming his own power in a period of disruption and media revolt.
It is undoubtedly a good signing but also an unnecessary one. If Danilo can be placed in the Galactico bracket if not for his talent then it certainly can be for a deal that is perhaps more about Madrid indulgently flexing their financial muscle to land a coveted player ahead of their rivals. A signing more about status than actual requirement. Dani Carvajal has been impressive since resigning from Bayer Leverkusen for a bargain €5 million in 2013, making the right-back slot his own as Madrid won last season’s La Decima, but Danilo’s arrival will harshly see him replaced.
The Spaniard undisputedly required better cover and competition for his place than the error-prone Alvaro Arbeloa but the money it has taken to land Danilo, partnered with the profile he arrives with from Porto, suggests he isn’t going to be a bench option. While Danilo doesn’t particularly represent an upgrade on Carvajal, both are strong defensively as well as dangerous going forward, the Brazilian possesses physical strength and a strong, vocal personality, similarly to Alves, which will be attractive to Ancelotti or any possible successor.
Playing with a robust physique and a dynamism that sees him charge down the right-flank, he is more in the mould of Maicon than Alves when it comes to comparing him to Brazilian right-backs. He is comfortable on the ball enough to use the ball wisely in all situations and it is why his pass-completion percentage for Porto this season stands in excess of 92%.
Both-footed and often one to cut-in and shoot on his left even though he is predominantly right-footed, he can slot into right-wing and central-midfield roles with ease like he did in Brazil with Santos, such is his understanding of the game. Madrid are getting a superb player for their money.
With Arbeloa due to exit the club and Carvajal finding himself second choice, the main point of contention with the Danilo signing will be a suspicion that Madrid’s Spanish element is beginning to be marginalised. Xabi Alonso departed for Bayern Munich last summer while Asier Illaramendi is out of favour and is likely to follow him out this coming transfer window.
Club captain Iker Casillas faces questions over his future as a series of high-profile errors have crept into his game at the age of 33, while Jese has struggled for opportunities since returning from injury.
Isco has performed impressively in midfield but faces stiff competition for his place from James Rodriguez and now Carvajal faces losing his place, it could be possible that Real will boast just one Spaniard, Sergio Ramos, in their first-choice starting XI next season. That will undermine Perez’s philosophy of creating a team that merges natives and international stalwarts.
“Real Madrid should have several of the best players in the world and several of the best from Spain, many of whom are in the national team, and players from the youth team”, said the president when he returned to the club in 2009.
With Carvajal, a product of the youth academy, about to be dropped not for form but for a more luxurious name, another failure to integrate home-grown talent will not go down well with the club’s most avid support who are already disillusioned with Perez’s running of the club. Aside from the politics however, Madrid have got themselves a supremely gifted footballer and they’ve stole a march on their rivals to land him.
In the short-term world of luxury that Perez lives in, where deals are done more for status than the balance of the team, that’s all that matters.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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