cursed to the end

Real Madrid won the match against Rayo Vallecano at the Santiago Bernabéu not without difficulties: 2-1, with a late goal by Rodrygo to give the whites all three points and bring some peace of mind to the team after the hurricane that the visit to Mestalla entailed. Madrid already has very little at stake between now and the end of the course: trying to be second ahead of Atlético (at times, it leads the rojiblancos by one point) and that Benzema hunts down Lewandowski in the Pichichi (another complicated task: the Pole leads him by five goals with two games to play). An ideal scenario, it seems, to distribute minutes among those who have counted for little (or very little) during the cool months of the season. And yet, this is not the case in Madrid: Ancelotti only made three changes against Rayo, bringing on Ceballos, Tchouameni and Asensio.

There are four footballers in the Real Madrid squad who do not get rid of their status as ‘cursed’ even in these circumstances: Hazard, Odriozola, Vallejo and Mariano. They are not having minutes in this stretch of the season, an unequivocal sign that Ancelotti prioritizes keeping those he wants in the squad for next season happy, such as Nacho, Ceballos or Asensio. Lunin could also be included in that group, although the situation of the Ukrainian is different: the position of goalkeeper has specific conditions and the club is happy with him. They want him to continue, but they smell that he will ask to leave to have minutes away from Courtois’s shadow.

The most striking case, without a doubt, is that of Hazard. He knew that he was going to count for little, he has known it since Vinicius took his place last year in the first days of the League. But Carletto thought for him of a possible role as a center forward with which to get the last drops of talent he has left, a plan that soon fell apart: the result is just 392 minutes in the entire course (one goal and two assists) for the highest paid player in the squad, with a salary of 30 million gross per season. He has a contract until 2024 and has already dropped that he does not want to leave, despite the fact that he knows that he is expected to play little or nothing. Madrid hopes to find a club in which they feel comfortable to at least release their file and occupy it with a player, perhaps a youth player, who can enter into Ancelotti’s plans if necessary.

Ancelotti praises Vallejo

Vallejo already experienced a similar situation last year, although Ancelotti ended the season praising him for his appearance in the Champions League semifinals against City (“He doesn’t play much, he has gone out for five minutes and has won all the balls from above… He deserves to play more, his professionalism is one of the highest in football”). And the Italian accompanied those praises with minutes in the final stretch of the League, with Madrid already proclaimed champion. All this led Vallejo, with a contract until 2025, to stay with the team hoping to convince Carletto to have more opportunities. But Madrid signed Rüdiger and the minutes have been even more expensive: he has barely played 88 ′ throughout the course.

Javier LizónEFE

The same is true of Odriozola: he returned from his loan at Fiorentina and knew that he would play very little, with Carvajal and Lucas Vázquez monopolizing the minutes on the right side. But he preferred to stay and run out of his contract (he has another year, until 2024) and Ancelotti has barely pulled him: 92 minutes throughout the season. And then there is Mariano, who has missed the last two league games due to physical problems, but who already knows that he would not have played too much. Benzema’s absences have given him a chance more than the rest (155 minutes in total), but Ancelotti has already shown that he prefers Álvaro Rodríguez, from Castilla, who will have a place in next season’s squad at this point. He will precisely occupy the position of Mariano, who ends his contract and is already analyzing offers in search of his next destination.

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