Real Madrid benching Andriy Lunin in the Copa del Rey would be a grave mistake

Real Madrid, Andriy Lunin (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images )
Real Madrid, Andriy Lunin (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images ) /

Young goalkeeper Andriy Lunin is in a tough spot at Real Madrid. Everyone knows he is a starting-caliber keeper and one of the best young talents in Europe – not just exclusively at the goalkeeper position either. Yet Lunin, through no fault of his own, cannot get on the pitch consistently. Only one goalkeeper plays, and Real happen to have the best in the world, Thibaut Courtois, at their disposal. A savior of sorts. Eminently undroppable.

Lunin has gotten two chances this season in the Copa del Rey. That is his competition. And after steadying the ship against Alcoyano after an early onslaught of shots against the team that upset Los Blancos in 2021, Lunin was solid again in a recent 2-1 Round of 16 win over LaLiga’s Elche.

Despite his positive performances, there are rumblings Carlo Ancelotti may turn to his all-important starter, Courtois, for a quarterfinals boost – and beyond. With a fourth fixture against Athletic Bilbao on the horizon – at San Mames, no less – you could forgive Don Carlo for considering Courtois.

Lunin should remain the keeper in the Copa del Rey. He already gets so few chances, and Madridistas should be worried that a great young keeper could be transferred away from Los Merengues for far less than his market value. And he would probably do just that, requesting a transfer earlier than expected, if he felt the rug was pulled out from under him.

Real Madrid must take Andriy Lunin’s confidence and emotions seriously

The Ukrainian keeper has done everything asked of him. He has been commanding in the air and made big stops. Neither of the goals conceded in the Copa del Rey thus far were his fault. So what message would it send from Ancelotti to Lunin – and all the other young guns at Real, many of whom are even more starved for minutes – if he were benched despite the positive showings?

For Lunin, the lack of playing time is a harsh reality, and he is so determined to make the most of the chances he does get. You can see it every time he plays. To take those opportunities away from him would be heartbreaking.

One possible solution would be to have him start the LaLiga fixtures while Courtois helps Real Madrid pursue a second Copa del Rey title for Carletto. But there are two issues here.

Firstly, pulling Lunin from the Copa has the same effect of basically hurting the player’s confidence. Real would be taking his job, which he did very well, and almost saying they don’t trust him to bring the cup home.

Secondly, Courtois is needed in these more competitive league matches, as we have seen this season. Even thirdly, not starting league matches hurts his ability to rack up statistics for his standing in the league leaders and career leaders of the league. That is trivial, but it does matter somewhat.

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Lunin is doing a great job. He has taken on the responsibility in the cup matches and is delivering, just as astute Madridistas and even the club itself expected. There is no reason to fix what is not broken. And trusting Lunin would send a great message to both him and the other young players at the club, at a time when it seems they don’t truly get their fair shake.