Real Madrid: Is Borja Mayoral better than we thought?

Roma, Borja Mayoral (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Roma, Borja Mayoral (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images) /

Borja Mayoral scored a brace for AS Roma, and the Real Madrid loanee’s second goal was particularly delightful.

There’s a case to be made that Borja Mayoral has been the best Real Madrid loanee in the 2020-2021 season, which is quite a shock to many Madridistas. Out of Dani Ceballos, Takefusa Kubo, Brahim Diaz, Reinier Jesus, and Mayoral, the former Wolfsburg man was probably deemed the least likely to succeed.

Mayoral has only played 287 minutes for AS Roma in Serie A, but he’s made those minutes count. The 23-year-old has three goals and an assist, meaning he has as many goals as starts. And we can credit two of those goals to his start on Matchday 16 against Crotone.

Yes, Crotone are a lower-level side in Serie A, but Mayoral’s brace was impressive nonetheless. It’s not easy for him to get in the lineup with fixture Edin Dzeko at striker, but Mayoral really shined on Wednesday. His first goal was a straightforward tap-in from a beautiful Henrik Mkhitaryan cross, while the second was an absolute banger into the top corner from beyond the box.

If that wasn’t enough, he was the one who won the penalty Mkhitaryan dispatched for the third goal of the match.

Mayoral hasn’t just been great in one game, though. Like Brahim and Kubo, Mayoral has been very productive in the Europa League with three goals and an assist in six starts. In total, Mayoral is averaging 0.98 goals and assists per 90 minutes in all competitions, which would be first on the team if he played for Real Madrid. Now, it’s not fair to compare those two situations one-to-one, since Mayoral is in an easier position as the backup striker at Roma. But I want to highlight his efficiency, especially in comparison to the current strikers in Madrid.

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The funny thing is Mayoral actually spilled the beans in a press conference at Roma that Zinedine Zidane wanted to sell Luka Jovic and keep him instead. This remark came weeks after gentle rumors suggesting Zidane was higher on Mayoral than expected and may have even preferred him.

I’ll skip analyzing Jovic vs. Mayoral for now, but I will say that Zidane’s apparent affinity for Mayoral doesn’t seem so far-fetched now.

Mayoral had loan opportunities at Wolfsburg and Levante before going to Serie A. He was poor in all of those seasons except for 2019-2020.

That was the best campaign of his career, as he scored eight goals with two assists for an average of 0.42 goals and assists per 90 minutes.

That’s not a stellar return, but it was decent and a marked improvement. Moreover, Mayoral was showing the kind of all-around game that could make him a fit for what Zidane likes in a striker.

And we can see all that clicking into place in his appearances at Roma. The sample size is small, but, again, the efficiency is impressive. Maybe more importantly, the way he’s playing is impressive. Mayoral is playing smarter, getting into dangerous positions and making much better decisions when it comes to picking his spots and taking his chances.

Mayoral is no joke. It’s so easy to get too antsy when it comes to writing prospects off, and a lot of us are guilty as observers of Real Madrid. But you cannot forget that Mayoral is only 23. How many strikers are at their best at this age? Kylian Mbappe, Erling Haaland, and names of the past like Karim Benzema and Sergio Aguero have spoiled us, but it takes time for many strikers to find their best quality. And that’s doubly so for a guy like Mayoral, who was never actually a regular player for a team until his loan to Levante.

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All I’m saying is this: Don’t be surprised if Mayoral ends up being the “one who got away” from Real Madrid, given Roma have the option to buy him for a mere 15 million euros. Maybe Mayoral is another example of how the fanbase and the club itself would have been better off listening to Zidane. It’s too early to say, but Mayoral is becoming a player for Madridistas to pay closer attention to on the loan radar.