Every year, Real Madrid fans have grown accustomed to seeing the transfer news updates about how Mariano Diaz does not want to leave.
There are a multitude of factors here. No team is willing to pay Mariano’s wages. The teams that could are too good for him. The teams that could use him – and for whom he could be a legitimate star striker – simply cannot pay him. And he will not take less wages to facilitate a move.
Mariano is headstrong. He is determined. We have seen that in how he plays, both in his work rate during matches and in his zeal to make tackles during training. Mariano really has always believed he could make it at Real, even when all basic logic stated that he would get few minutes.
But his self-belief is not totally misguided. To be fair, he surpassed Luka Jovic as the No. 2 striker behind Karim Benzema this season, as Carlo Ancelotti could at least count on Mariano to chase after people.
The issue with Mariano is not self-belief. It is quality. He isn’t good enough for Real Madrid – not in his technique, in his movement, in his finishing, or in any of the key traits valued at the position.
It is understandable for Madridistas to be frustrated with Mariano. Had Real offloaded him, they could have accommodated a better player in their squad in his place, such as the more efficient loanee Borja Mayoral.
Real Madrid is to blame for the Mariano situation
However, Mariano is only doing what a lot of people would do in his situation. If nobody is going to pay him the contract Real gave him, why should he go? He has every right to honor that contract. Sure, the noble thing would be to leave for the greater good of the team and for a young player, but Mariano does not owe the club or anyone that. From his perspective, he really does think he is the best man for the job.
The big problem is that Real Madrid were the ones who decided to sign Mariano for 30 million euros in a buy-back deal with Lyon. They were the ones who handed Mariano the contract. And thus, they are the ones who must answer for a subpar player taking a spot in the squad.
Mariano’s struggles have made Real Madrid more selective on the transfer market. Previously, they would buy players like Alvaro Odriozola and Mariano for around 30 million euros. Good players at decent clubs, but nothing about them was special. Nothing about them said they were investments who could be among the best players in the world.
Real now have a different strategy. They look beyond transfer fees. Instead of wasting 30 million euros here and there on decent players with little potential to be stars, they are focusing on buying only the best of the young talent, such as Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni in recent windows. They are going after players who have the upside to be superstars and won’t burn them.
Then, they are supplementing those players with homegrown talents as depth, existing veterans, and sure-fire free agents like David Alaba who have proven through years of excellence that they can make good on high wages.
Spending on low-upside players who will be difficult to move later if they do not pan out is not in Real’s interest. Instead of signing a high volume of players and rolling the dice on available options, Real are being a lot more selective and focusing on a few special talents they are sold on.
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So in that way, Mariano’s flop taught Real a lesson. His signing is the kind of mistake they are clearly making an effort to avoid making, because with just 25 spots in the squad, every position is valuable.