Real Madrid: The understated importance of Antonio Blanco next season

Real Madrid, Antonio Blanco (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Antonio Blanco (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

As Real Madrid suffered injuries one after the other in the 2020/21 season, squad rotation became a necessity. Subsequently, some Castilla players were given chances with the first team, and among them was midfielder Antonio Blanco. The youngster from Córdoba raised eyebrows with his performances in the UEFA Youth League and Spanish Youth teams, where he won multiple trophies.

Real Madrid have been overly reliant on Casemiro over the past 4-5 years and haven’t had a proper backup ever since Marcos Llorente left to Atlético in 2019. They have been very fortunate that Casemiro hasn’t had many injury problems.

But even in the few matches in which he wasn’t available, Real Madrid were visibly vulnerable in defence. The team cannot afford to go another season without a backup in the DM position, and Antonio Blanco‘s inclusion immediately fills this void.

Blanco’s most prominent traits include good positioning, sharp technique on the ball, and a wide passing range. For his age, the composure he shows on the ball is quite impressive. His confidence and calmness under pressure make him a very reliable backup option in midfield.

According to reports, Carlo Ancelotti will most likely include Antonio Blanco in his plans for next season. Here are some setups and formations in which Blanco can be utilised.

Blanco can play particularly well in a double-pivot of a 4-4-2 under Ancelotti

In his first stint as Real Madrid manager, Ancelotti used the 4-4-2 formation extensively. This makes it easier for Blanco to accommodate. He can become a regular substitute and an occasional starter for Los Blancos.

We saw him operate in a similar position for the first team at the tail end of the last campaign. He played for 4 consecutive games for first-team last season, playing for the full ninety minutes in 2 of those, against Cádiz and Espanol.

In the game against Cádiz, he operated in a double pivot in a 3-4-3 with Casemiro as his partner. He ended up with a 91.5% passing accuracy, three interceptions, two shots blocked, two clearances, and a match rating of 7 according to WhoScored.

Against Osasuna, he was used in a 4-2-3-1, and he impressed even more. He completed the game with joint-highest 97 touches, a splendid 93.9% passing accuracy, made 10 ball recoveries, and 2 key passes (WhoScored).

Blanco can also act as a DM/deep-lying playmaker in a 4-3-3 for Real Madrid

Although starting matches with Blanco in this position can be a bit too much to ask from him, he can still make an impact in Cup matches, easier La Liga games, and as a substitute.

His passing accuracy makes him a decent fit in this position. He is also capable of producing brilliant progressive passes, and cross-field passes just like Kroos.

Being a sole defensive midfielder requires a good amount of positional awareness and physicality. Blanco needs to develop these attributes to truly adapt to this position.

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Along with being a quick solution as a backup, Blanco has a huge upside. He is talented enough to be a star for the first team. With a more aggressive partner like Odegaard or Valverde, Blanco can make these positions his own in the future.

With exquisite long-range passes, accurate cross-field balls, positional intelligence, Blanco has every tool to become a future star for Madrid.