Real Madrid: Yes, you owe Lucas Vazquez another apology

Real Madrid, Lucas Vazquez (Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Lucas Vazquez (Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid would not have won El Clasico without Lucas Vazquez. I want you to really let that sentence sink in for a second, because this isn’t the first time this has been the case. As a matter of fact, this is the third straight time in which Vazquez has been a decisive factor against Barcelona, yet, coming into this game, there were people who did not want him to start.

Vazquez should have stopped being a punching bag after the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season, as his performances convinced Real Madrid to sign him to a new contract after they initially balked at giving him a raise. But Vazquez earned the raise, even receiving interest from clubs like Bayern Munich and PSG. So Los Blancos obliged, as Vazquez had asserted himself as THE top backup option for the frequently-injured Dani Carvajal.

Real understandably did not want to risk Carvajal in El Clasico, as he is just recovering from yet another injury. So Vazquez got the nod over Nacho. Though some Madridistas wanted Nacho to start, Vazquez had proven, including in a 5-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk, that he is the better option at right back. He had already proven that in the first Clasico of 2020-2021 as Nacho’s sub, and then he solidified that with an assist and stellar performance vs. Barcelona at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano.

On LaLiga’s Matchday 10 in front of a packed house at the Camp Nou, Vazquez played an even bigger hero in El Clasico. He ran all the way up the pitch with Marco Asensio on a counterattack he helped start, and he outhustled a Barcelona defender to Marc Andre ter Stegen’s deflected save. Vazquez pounced on the chance like a poacher, making the match 2-0 in Madrid’s favor.

Lucas Vazquez was not a defensive liability at Barcelona

And without that goal, Real Madrid would not have picked up all the three points against a Barcelona side they were honestly expected to beat. Because minutes later, substitute Sergio Aguero scored after another Clasico hero, fellow goal-scorer David Alaba, slipped in the six-yard box.

So Vazquez, in a sense, had the matchwinning goal for Real Madrid. His goal was entirely a product of his hard work and was a microcosm about everything we love about Vazquez. The goal was a result of heart, effort, and that little bit of luck that Vazquez seems to carry with him into these big matches.

Above all else, Vazquez defended well. Barcelona did not get much going from the left flank, whether it was Ansu Fati or, more usually, Memphis Depay. Vazquez did not make rash judgments, nor did he lose track of his marker. It was a decidedly tidy performance from the player, who had plenty of help from Rodrygo Goes.

Vazquez is frequently maligned by fans for his defensive errors. He is criticized for his sloppiness. But Madridistas should already know Vazquez’s weaknesses. He is not a right back. And he is also not the most elegant player, even when he is at right wing.

However, why harp on the weaknesses when we already know his limitations? Why not appreciate the fact that for a second straight season under a new manager, Vazquez has earned a role. Carlo Ancelotti needed some convincing, and if there were any doubts, these quality displays against Shakhtar and now Barcelona have sealed the fact that Vazquez is the go-to guy when Carvajal is out. Moreover, Vazquez really should stop receiving blatant disrespect from his own fanbase, when he does nothing but bring A+ effort and, yes, results when they are needed.

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So if you came into El Clasico blasting Vazquez and scapegoating him, you 100 percent owe the man an apology. Say it with your chest and say it just as loudly as you criticized him. Again, it is fair to be honest about his limitations, particularly as a defender, but understand his situation and what he is trying to do in a tough spot. You have to show him respect.

There is a fine line between constructive criticism and exaggerating a player’s weaknesses to the point where you neglect his strengths. If you did overlook Vazquez’s qualities, though, he reminded you of a few of them on Sunday in front of the Camp Nou.