Real Madrid: The ideal center back pairing going into 2021-2022

Real Madrid have lost the second half of their world-class, four-time Champions League-winning center back duo of Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane. After Ramos signed with PSG as a free agent, the rumors surrounding Varane’s future did not quell. They only heated up amidst understandable interest from the ambitious Manchester United. And now the deal is just about done, for roughly 50 million euros.

It’s a cut price for United, who took advantage of the economic situation to sign Varane for a modest fee with one year left on his contract. Real Madrid had no choice but to sell, and now they are down to only three proven center backs.

Perhaps Los Blancos will reignite their interest in Jules Kounde, but that is dependent on Real’s pursuit of Kylian Mbappe. They will go all-in for Mbappe, even if the chances are slim due to PSG’s unsurprising stubbornness in pursuit of short-term Champions League glory. And if they can sign Mbappe, they probably won’t have money left over for Kounde, as they would like to navigate the pandemic-created economic crisis conservatively.

But even if leave a spot open on the center back list for a new player like Kounde, Real Madrid still have three starting-caliber central defenders. Kounde would not be an immediate starter, either, because, to me, the ideal center back partnership for Carlo Ancelotti is clear.

Real Madrid need to roll with David Alaba and Eder Militao together

Nacho was great last season but should stay as a utility backup. When Matchday 1 rolls around, Ancelotti needs to put his trust in David Alaba and Eder Militao and let this pairing of young and experienced grow together.

Alaba was a superstar in central defense in 2019-2020, leading Bayern Munich to a treble despite it being his first season as a full-time starting center back. His covering, reading of the game, and, especially, distribution skills were excellent. He starred in the demanding build-up play required by Hansi Flick’s new system, and he was the man holding the defense together due to some underwhelming players surrounding him like Jerome Boateng, Niklas Sule, and Benjamin Pavard.

Those three players were dreadful in 2020-2021, and, thus, Alaba’s defense did not look good. He was hung out to dry, and Bayern weren’t quite as tight systemically, which exposed the defenses. Alaba was as good as ever on the ball, and he was fantastic in midfield.

Alaba is a very intelligent player who retains experience and ball-playing excellence in the middle of the pitch. Real Madrid need someone who can start plays with composure on the ball, as Ramos is now gone. Nacho is fine on the ball, but Alaba brings that little bit extra Real needs. As a left-footer, he is tailor-made for the left center back spot.

Militao’s status as a starter should be undisputed. Since joining Real Madrid, he has been great, but he truly elevated his play during the must-win matches this spring. He was stellar against Liverpool and Barcelona during the week in which Real were without both Ramos and Varane.

Thus, Militao has already shown he can shine in a setting without Varane and Ramos. At 23, he is seen as the future of Real Madrid. But after what we saw in the biggest games last season, Militao is the present of Real Madrid. In those weeks in which he started, Militao outplayed even the other great center backs at the club, which speaks volumes to the levels he can reach next season.

Alaba and Militao complement each other very well on paper. This pairing has an immense amount of upside and can even become the best in the world, just as Ramos and Varane once were for so many years. It is too much to place those expectations on a tandem that has never taken the field together yet, but Madridistas should very much give them their support and understand that there is serious quality between them.