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Real Madrid’s loss to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup is a sign that Los Blancos may not be the outright favorites in every competition they seem to be. Indeed, on paper, only Barcelona, Real’s arch rivals, can compare with the wealth of talent the capital club possesses. A side with Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric is an extremely strong lineup. However, even that cast of players wasn’t enough to overcome a tenacious Atletico Madrid side at the Vincente Calderon.
What Real Madrid lacked was a player with exceptional technical ability that could run at defenses and cause havoc. As strong the Madrid lineup was, they sorely lacked this dynamic. The Argentine midfielder Angel Di Maria gave them this edge during the 1st leg of the Spanish Super Cup at the Santiago Bernabeau. With the sale of Angel Di Maria all but confirmed, this leaves the Madrid lineup potent, but predictable.
In Bale and Ronaldo, you have pace, directness, and some trickery, they aren’t players that usually go in between the channels to cause havoc with their ability to take on one-on-one. They provide potent goal threats that are devastating on the counterattack. Karim Benzema can sometimes give this edge, but not to the consistency or effect Di Maria has given, especially last season. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are good with the ball and control the tempo of the game effectively, but neither are mobile nor direct enough to give opposition defenses something else to think about. This leaves James Rodriguez, who, yet again, while very technically talented, isn’t someone who regularly runs as the opposition to beat his man, he, like the other Madrid midfielders just mentioned, runs with the ball and looks for the pass or for the occasional shot.
For counterattacking football, there simply is no other side that matches up to the devastation this Los Blancos side possesses, but against resolute defenses that are composed and very difficult to break down, the game becomes very reminiscent of what was seen in the second leg, a Madrid side with plenty of possession, but very limited looks at goal. Of course, there were times that Madrid were able to find space, but that more to the sheer amount of individual talent. Di Maria gave this balance, where he may occasionally lose the ball due to his exploits, but it allows others to find more space and amplify there effect on the game. Not to mention, he was plenty of stamina that allows him to continue his drives throughout the course of the 90 minutes.
In the purchase of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, Real Madrid has seen the last of the Argentine in the famous white jersey. With the added players, this makes the Madrid squad as strong in depth in quality as ever before, but at the cost of limiting their actual options. Whoever purchases Angel Di Maria, with Manchester United reportedly being favorites, can expect the Argentine to provide a very strong area of unpredictability that few around Europe can possess.
Image: Angel di Maria of Real Madrid. Fot. Maxisports / Bigstock