Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti may be ready to let creative winger Angel Di Maria walk, but he is smart to keep central midfield powerhouse Sami Khedira. Ancelotti needs Khedira's rugged qualities to add balance to a midfield otherwise loaded with pass-and-move playmakers.
However, the Italian coach has also wisely ruled out an exit for Khedira, per BBC Sport: "The issue with Khedira has also been resolved. He's staying and we're happy that's the case."
Los Blancos certainly should be happy about retaining the services of a player possessing talents others at his position can't match. Ancelotti's midfield is currently loaded with schemers, players long on style but short on brawn.
Is Ancelotti right to keep Khedira?
That's certainly an apt description of Croatian pass master Luka Modric. It's also a phrase that applies to new signing (and Khedira's fellow international teammate) Toni Kroos.
Further forward, advanced players such as Kroos' fellow new boys James Rodriguez and Isco are glorified supporting forwards rather than midfield members.
Even veteran Xabi Alonso, Real's lone nominal holding midfield player, is better known for his passing radar than any overt physicality. While the 32-year-old remains a key figure for Los Merengues, Ancelotti also needs a natural powerhouse in the middle.
Enter Khedira. The German is noted for his tremendous box-to-box energy levels. Khedira is a runner who makes himself a force at both ends of the pitch.
He is at once a natural destroyer and possesses plenty of forward-thinking verve. His forward breaks to support attacks at the 2014 FIFA World Cup were a key part of Germany's triumph in that tournament.
That was never more obvious than during the awesome 7-1 thumping of host nation Brazil in the semi-final. Khedira netted a goal and earned praise from many, including Jack Piitt-Brooke of The Independent:
Joachim Löw’s side – unlike Brazil’s gaggle of strangers – were a coherent unit, 11 players with one plan but different roles. And while they were all excellent and indispensable, it was Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira, the twin pistons of their dominant midfield, who stood out the most.
Kroos and Khedira were brilliant throughout, winning the ball quickly, keeping it and surging forward into the Brazil area, meeting with remarkably little resistance. Their opponents, Fernandinho and Luis Gustavo, looked desperately and miserably lost, and were helplessly overrun throughout.
By keeping Khedira in the fold, Ancelotti can now reunite this dominant central pairing in the Spanish capital. He can also use Khedira to balance a midfield that struggled to impose itself in the Spanish Super Cup defeat against Atletico Madrid.
ESPN FC reporter Rob Train described how the Kroos, Alonso and Modric trio lacked any real fluidity: "Real's midfield three of Xabi Alonso, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric has yet to build an understanding, and the lack of linkup with the forward line reduced Real to probing with the long ball too often."
Of course, Khedira and Kroos have a natural on-pitch connection, something Piitt-Brooke detailed in his report. More important, though, Ancelotti needs a true scrapper in the middle, and that's just what Khedira is.
Retaining a player with only one year left on his deal may seem like a short-term fix. Certainly, Ancelotti's words have not stopped rumours circulating that Khedira will still leave during this window.
Spanish publication El Confidencial (h/t Metro) has reported that Khedira could head to Arsenal. Meanwhile, Italian outlet La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t ForzaItalianFootball.com writer Anders Peterson) has suggested Serie A side Napoli will make a move for the midfielder.
Ancelotti must resist any advances for the player. Keeping Khedira is a smart move that ensures strength at a key position.
It makes this year's Los Blancos squad a more credible threat to Atletico's title.