Real Madrid: Why Dani Carvajal is no longer a top-level right-back

Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images) /

When Barcelona signed an 8.11 million years old Dani Alves, it would have been hard to imagine that he would be the far superior right-back between Real Madrid and the Blaugranas. On Sunday, however, Carvajal showed that an ancient, pre-historic Dani Alves might have done better than him should he have played from right-back for the Catalans in place of Ronald Araujo.

In fact, it is not just from the match against Barcelona on Sunday that one could have made this inference. Indeed, the Spanish right-back has been a liability for Madrid for quite some time now.

We can go as far as claiming that had Federico Valverde not existed, Madrid might have had one less trophy in their cabinet, thanks to Dani Carvajal’s lack of footballing sense.

Where did it all go wrong, though? How did the best right-back in Europe become the worst starting full-back for a top club?

Dani Carvajal, Real Madrid
Dani Carvajal, Real Madrid (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

Dani Carvajal is not the same player

Let’s go back to September 2017. Real Madrid had just completed the two-peat, back-to-back Champions League wins, and Carvajal was among the most important players for Los Blancos. But then, tragedy struck: a viral condition-induced heart problem forced him to undergo treatment.

Reports assured that Carvajal’s problem was completely cured. But the mental scar from it may have persisted. This is not an inference made out of thin air, but by reading between the lines of what the Spaniard said following his recovery.

“I was scared and I thought that, if it was serious, I would have to retire,” he had explained back then.

While it turned out to not be serious, the fact that he contemplated retirement due to this issue speaks of how much dread he was in. Does that dread still remain?

Carvajal seems to play with fear nowadays, whether stemming from the fear of his ongoing injury woes or even something from further back. This becomes more apparent with the way he plays when he has the ball deep in his own half. He always seems rushed, hurried, almost as though the football was carved out from the surface of the sun.

Otherwise, there is no other explanation for why he decided to backheel the ball to the opponent when he was the last man defending against Atletico in the match linked above. Indeed, you won’t need more than one hand to count the number of matches in which he didn’t make at least one blunder since 2018.

When one takes a look at Dani Carvajal’s injury history on Transfermarkt, the first, and most glaring thing that attracts the attention is that the list exceeds more than a page. Since his heart issues alone, he has had 12 injuries, one-third of which have been muscle issues.

Indeed, the Spanish right-back has missed 21 games since November 2020 just due to muscle issues. So even if he was putting in 9/10 performances in every game, his injury record alone should have put Madrid on alert about a backup.

But the Merengues, unfathomably, loaned out the only backup he had (and sold a world-class one to Inter, who later sold him to PSG).

For someone pursuing a degree in the field of statistics, we are grilled into treating facts as God. Feelings are always secondary to facts but when the feelings are derived from facts, it holds much more weight.

With Carvajal, the fact is, he hasn’t been the same after his health scare. And the feeling that he gives is one of mental dread of seeing his career fade to black before time; of someone who is always bothered by the dark-winged angel at the back of his mind. The irony in all of this, however, is that Carvajal’s fear of the devil has actually taken him to his lair.

Right now, Carvajal is the worst right-back to start for a top club. It is actually inscrutable how a club like Real Madrid didn’t even think it was necessary to have a backup for him, let alone replace him altogether.

Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal
Real Madrid, Dani Carvajal (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

In the current scope of football, it is imperative to have world-class attacking full-backs in order to win major trophies. If one looks at the winners of the Champions League in the modern era, every single one of them had at least one great attacking full-back, which also included Dani Carvajal, ironically.

Right now, however, Madrid has none. As great as Ferland Mendy is defensively, his attacking game leaves a lot to be desired. Miguel has the potential but Carlo Ancelotti seems to be Castilla-phobic and there is no chance that the youngster will have a career at Madrid with the Italian at the helm.

Next. Why Kylian Mbappe will make sure Florentino Perez is active this summer. dark

All in all, Madrid needs a new right-back. It is not a want, it is a need. Otherwise, there is almost no chance for them to win the Champions League, even with the potential arrival of Mbappe.