Sami Khedira’s replacement conundrum

Sami Khedira’s replacement conundrum

Real Madrid blog

When Real Madrid presented their squad at Santiago Bernabeu at the end of the summer transfer market with five central midfielders in the squad –Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Asier Illarramendi– very few would have imagine that missing only one of them would bring so much uncertainty.

At first it was Xabi Alonso, whose absence saw the team struggling to find their best game at the start of the season. And now that Real seemed to have found a perfect harmony with the Basque’s recovery, Khedira, the man in charge of providing balance in the team, will miss the rest of the season due to a ligament injury.

The question now is how Carlo Ancelotti will replace the German, who has been a crucial piece so far in Los Blancos game. Three options have come up among Madrid fans, all of them with their supporters and their detractors. Let’s analyse the three of them:

1. Signing a player of similar characteristics in the winter transfer market. The names of Benfica’s Nemanja Matic and Paris Saint Germain’s Blaise Matuidi have been brought to the table, but Ancelotti has already denied that Real Madrid will bring any player. Opting for a transfer would be absurd, since it would upset the players who are fighting to get playing minutes and it would force Madrid to sell someone in June, when Khedira is supposed to be back.

2. Keeping the current formation and replace Khedira with a player of similar characteristics, such as Casemiro or Illarramendi. The Basque has had the confidence of Ancelotti since he arrived to the Santiago Bernabeu. However, his profile is more similar to Xabi Alonso’s, as he prefers to keep his position and close gaps rather than joining the attack. Casemiro is more the kind of box-to-box midfielder Real needs with Khedira’s absence. He already played that role in the pre-season and showed he can perform at a very high level.

3. Changing the formation to a 4-2-3-1 with Alonso and Modric as central midfielders, and including either Isco or Angel di Maria in the line-up in the playmaking zone. The Andalusian started the season brilliantly, but Alonso’s return and Modric’s great state of shape sent him to the bench. Di Maria was also a guaranteed starter until Gareth Bale recovered from his physical problems. Both could help the team improve offensively, but Ancelotti risks losing the defensive balance if he goes for this alternative.

Having watched all Real Madrid games in which Casemiro has participated, I can presume that opting to include the young Brazilian in the squad would be the better choice. Of course the 21-year-old would need some time to adapt, and Ancelotti could also try different formations lining-up other players that might work. But,since he arrived to Madrid, Casemiro has shown that he has the potential to become one of the world’s best box-to-box midfielders.

He has a physical strength, he is as clever as the German from a tactical and defensive point of view, and moreover he’s far better when reaching the rival’s area, as he demonstrated in last summer’s USA tour scoring two goals for Los Blancos.

Nobody has more desire for success than this young midfielder, who attends Real Madrid’s training ground even on the team’s days off. He surely deserves at least a chance to show what he’s capable of. Khedira’s injury, as sad as it is for him and for all madridistas, could give football and Real Madrid a diamond for the future.

* Follow Alejandro Gonzalez on Twitter @alejandrognieto