Real Madrid: The 5 Least Expendable Players on Jose Mourinho's Roster

Michael CernaCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2012

Real Madrid: The 5 Least Expendable Players on Jose Mourinho's Roster

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    Real Madrid have just won their first trophy of the season by beating their rivals Barcelona in the Spanish Supercopa.

    With Los Merengues making it clear that a 10th Champions League trophy is the goal this year, they could be in for a historic campaign.

    In order to reach that goal, Jose Mourinho will need his most important players to perform when the team needs them most.

    I explained in a recent column why Cristiano Ronaldo, while hugely important last season, is not the only key to victory for Los Blancos. I now want to look at the other players more closely.

    After listing my five most important players under Mourinho, I hope you'll respond with a list of your own.

    Who do you see as the most important cogs in the machine?

    Read on to see five irreplaceable players for Real Madrid.

Iker Casillas

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    There is really no measure to how important Real's No. 1 is to the team.

    Whether it is in a Champions League final as a youngster, in a World Cup final or in a match against a lesser opponent when his defense fails him, Los Merengues can always rely on San Iker.

    Many consider him to be the best keeper in football. Furthermore, along with Gianluigi Buffon, he is considered one of the two best goalkeepers of his generation.

    He has won every major trophy possible and is nowhere near done yet.

    Casillas means so much to the team. Having a keeper ready to make world class saves and directing his back line gives the team so much confidence on the pitch.

    It allows not just his teammates but his managers to take some risks with the knowledge that they can always count on Casillas to make up for most mistakes made in the run of play.

    Real Madrid may have broken countless scoring records last season, but it was Casillas limiting goals that gave his teammates the chance to win games.

Angel Di Maria

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    If not for an injury last winter, Angel di Maria could right now be La Liga's record-holder for assists in a single season.

    He was on pace to shatter Xavi's feat of 20 from four years ago and may have hit 25 if he had stayed healthy.

    What the Argentinian does is open up the entire pitch for Madrid. His pace, technique on the ball and ability to challenge defenders makes Real's attack so hard to control.

    He draws full-backs and central defenders to him when he enters the final third because defenses know how accurate his crossing and in-box passing can be.

    His ability to create space and spread the back line makes it so much easier for his strikers and Ronaldo to get into position to score.

    The winger also does well to move the ball from midfield and hold it long enough for Ozil to find space to create opportunities for his attackers.

    Jose Mourinho allegedly never thought Angel di Maria was worth the money spent on him, but I doubt he is complaining now that he has one of the world's best wide men at his disposal.


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    Love him or hate him, there is no denying what Pepe brings to the reigning La Liga champions.

    Pepe is the anchor that keeps Real Madrid settled at the back. He is prone to having lapses on set pieces and his temper is known to get the best of him, but when he is in form, he is a class defender.

    In the first Clasico of this season, we saw how different Los Blancos are without their defensive enforcer. The defense is not only more vulnerable, it is less disciplined.

    The line loses form, Sergio Ramos gets caught out of position and the passing lanes become much more open and for far longer when Pepe is not on the pitch.

    Pepe is the most versatile defender on the team and he is capable of showing his entire arsenal in one match.

    In one half, he may play as the last man, allowing Ramos to venture forward and aid in attack. At another point in the game, he may push Ramos back and move forward to mark the opposition's central attacker.

    He also adds value in attack.

    A lot has been made of the success Ramos has had since moving back into a central role, but it is really Pepe who makes Real's center-back pairing one of the best in the world.

Mesut Ozil

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    Each time Cristiano Ronaldo fails to perform, he is instantly blamed for the poor play of the entire team.

    Many people fail to realize that it is Mezut Ozil who directs Real's attack, not Ronaldo. CR7 actually benefits from having such a capable general in midfield.

    When the German does not play well, the team does not play well. Look at the first three matches of this season as proof.

    What Ozil does is read the entire defense, starting at midfield and then begins to open it up.

    He is always finding and creating lanes for his wingers while pushing far enough forward to draw defenders off his strikers.

    He is the central pivot of Madrid's switch. As soon as the team gets the ball, it is Ozil who the central defense targets, not Ronaldo.

    The midfielder then has to be aware of his surroundings at all times. He has to know which direction to turn on the ball, where his forwards are, where the passing lanes are and how far up the defenders are playing.

    Without Ozil transferring play toward the opposing defense, no one (including Ronaldo) would have enough support or time on the ball to do anything against a strong defense.

Xabi Alonso

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    He did not cost €50 million, he does not get the praise for any of Ronaldo's goals or Ozil's assists, he will never win the Ballon d'Or or be called the best player on his team.

    Make no mistake, though. Xabi Alonso is the driver behind Real Madrid.

    Without him, there would be no record-breaking seasons. Without him as Madrid's defensive midfielder, the counter attack that has been perfected would not work.

    Alonso has the most important role on the team. He is the pivot switch. He is the last line of defense in midfield before his defenders are left with opposing forwards.

    The Basque star is the man who starts every attack for Madrid, especially counters. As soon as he earns the ball back, he has very little time to find his playmaker or get the ball out of danger.

    He is always the hardest-working man on the pitch. He has to be aware of so many things going on around him that it is a wonder how he even finds time to look back.

    When he is off the ball, he is the one pressing the attacking midfielders when they reach the final third. Before that, he is reading and then closing passing lanes to seal off any runs when they happen farther from goal.

    Ronaldo scores because his teammates give him the ball with room to do so. Those players get the ball in position to create goals because of their defensive midfielders and the superb passing of Xabi Alonso.

    He will never get enough glory or due credit, but Xabi Alonso is as indispensable as anyone in white.