Real Madrid: What is Brahim Diaz’s ceiling with the club?

Real Madrid, Brahim Diaz (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Brahim Diaz (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid loanee Brahim Diaz is having a strong start to the season at AC Milan, but what does his future with Los Blancos look like?

Last season, Real Madrid had three loanees who were among the best players at their positions in European football: Achraf Hakimi, Martin Odegaard, and Sergio Reguilon. Hakimi was sold to Inter Milan in order to be a starter, though Real own a right of first refusal to his future transfer. Reguilon was also sold, but Real included a buy-back clause in his deal with Tottenham. And finally, Odegaard is with the first team.

You can see how difficult it is for Real Madrid to hold onto players, and you can also see how difficult it is for a player to start for Los Blancos. Hakimi left, because he didn’t see a guaranteed path to starting with Dani Carvajal in his prime at right back. Reguilon was sold (for now) because Ferland Mendy is locked in as the starter. As for Odegaard, he may be on the first team, but he has 142 league minutes and has started as many games as he’s come off the bench.

So that brings us to Brahim Diaz. Sitting on the bench at Real Madrid is something Brahim is familiar with, because that’s pretty much what he did in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 after joining from Manchester City.

The promising, two-footed forward flashed his potential and scored a couple of good goals for Real, but it was obvious that he needed to go on loan for regular playing time. Like Mariano Diaz, Brahim Diaz didn’t want to do this at first, since he wanted to prove his place at Real. But after Marco Asensio’s return from injury on the right side, Brahim clearly needed to move.

He’s found a great temporary home in Milan. The Rossoneri are first in Serie A, and Brahim has been a valuable part of their attack. His close control, movement off the ball, pace, dribbling skills, and ability to finish with either foot from any angle has been a huge asset.

Brahim has one goal and one assist in Serie A this season with two goals in the Europa League. He has started every Europa League match, per, averaging two dribbles per game, 1.7 key passes per game, and 1.7 fouls drawn per game. Those are strong numbers in that competition, and they back up what Madridistas have always felt about Brahim: he is a wonderfully talented player.

Brahim Diaz
Brahim Diaz (Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have a lot of wide forward options to ponder

The problem is that starting in Real’s attack is difficult. Out of the current crop of Real players, only Eden Hazard is a guaranteed starter on the wing, but his injury concerns are worth noting. The real issue is that Real have a lot of young players who have “a chance” to be world-class starters. They are in the same boat as Brahim.

Those players are Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, Marco Asensio, and Takefusa Kubo. Let’s disregard Kubo for a second, because a lot of what we’re saying about Brahim applies to him, except for the fact that Kubo is recognized as the more skilled player with greater upside. (Keep that in mind, because it hurts Brahim’s case.)

Vinicius, Rodrygo, and Asensio haven’t been consistently great for Real Madrid in 2020, but they’ve had moments or stretches of games where they’ve looked like high-level starters. If we’re solely focusing on the right side, though, only Asensio looks like a long-term starter on the right, so he is the challenger to Brahim. And since Brahim is about three years younger, he actually has the advantage.

Brahim, Kubo, and Asensio are the three players currently on Real’s books who can be the future starter at the right wing position in 2021-2022 and beyond. But look at the specific phrasing: “on Real’s books”.

Yes, Real Madrid have eyes on top players who could be their right winger in 2021-2022 and add the kind of goal-scoring Los Blancos need in order to challenge for Champions League titles. Florentino Perez knows Real have to be the best of the best, and they can’t get there without a superstar goal-scorer.

That player is, of course, Kylian Mbappe, and there is increasing reason to believe Mbappe will be a Real Madrid player in 2021.

Brahim Diaz
Brahim Diaz (Photo by RUSSELL CHEYNE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Brahim’s path to being Real Madrid’s answer is extremely difficult

Let me make this abundantly clear. Absolutely nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Mbappe’s future. But you have to admit that he looks like a logical signing, the chances are getting higher with each month he resists a new deal from PSG, and that he would be the ideal starter opposite of Hazard.

So that’s what Brahim is up against. But Odegaard isn’t the starter for Real Madrid right now, and he got called back from loan, right?

There’s a path to the first team for Brahim that involves getting called up and being a part of the rotation on the right, with Mbappe’s long-term future maybe being at striker or on the left. We’ll see. Mbappe signing doesn’t count out Brahim.

The key for Brahim will be scoring more goals in Serie A. He needs to take this opportunity and prove that he can be a key starter in Milan. It won’t be easy to do that, but if you think that’s difficult, then think about how difficult it is for a player to establish themselves as a star attacker for Real Madrid.

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Brahim can be that guy. He’s only 21. But you know who else is 21? Mbappe. And Kubo is 19. So Brahim is fighting an uphill battle. It’s not an impossible battle, but it’s going to take a lot for Brahim to prove he can be the long-term answer for Real’s RW problem. If he falls short, he can either be a rotation player and fight while being a part of the squad, or he can take the Hakimi path and be a great player at a very good, but less competitive, club.