One of the more surprising inclusions in Carlo Ancelotti's side for Real Madrid's 2-0 win in their La Liga opener against Cordoba was Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back. Following a season which saw the former Liverpool player rotate with Dani Carvajal, it at last seemed the younger option had won favour with Ancelotti. And while that is likely to be true, there was still an element of surprise to Arbeloa's involvement.
The first game of the season is often seen as a chance to flex your muscles and show your competitors what you've got; for Madrid that would mean Carvajal starting on the right of the back four. However, on other levels it did make sense: Carvajal featured in Friday night's 1-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa second leg, so Ancelotti may have felt a fresher Arbeloa served as a better option against a newly-promoted Cordoba side.
It didn't quite work out that way for the 31-year-old, though, who was whistled by the Bernabeu crowd when he was taken off in the second half, as reported by El Econominsta (in Spanish).
Madrid fans weren't the only ones out to get at Arbeloa, either, with AS journalist P.P San Martin listing him among the players that "confirmed the feeling something was out of order" in his match report.
By Tuesday morning, ESPN journalist Nicholas Rigg was suggesting Arbeloa wants to leave the club, as originally revealed by Jose Luis Sancez on El Chiringuito TV. Was Ancelotti putting Arbeloa in the shop window?
It seems his time is running out in the Spanish capital, but with it being so late in the day it may prove difficult to move him out and bring in a replacement.
Off the pitch problems have also raised question marks over the player's Madrid career. In the tunnel before last week's Supercopa first leg, Arbeloa was seen wishing everyone luck...everyone except Iker Casillas, who he snubbed. Arbeloa was one of the few who backed Jose Mourinho when he was in charge of the club until the very last day of his tenure; he has seemingly found it hard to adjust without the Portuguese coach around.
Tallying up all the factors, Arbeloa’s performance against Cordoba could serve as the final nail in his Madrid coffin. Whistled by his own fans, he’s already fallen behind the younger, more convincing Carvajal and his relationship with Casillas, who has been Ancelotti’s preferred goalkeeper in all four competitive matches, could be detrimental to the feeling in the dressing room.
He may not have been the only one culpable in Madrid’s laboured win over Cordoba—goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo eventually clinched the three points—but he could be the only one from that side to suffer.
Arbeloa has played nearly 200 matches in Madrid white, winning each of the five trophies which have been available to him but he may not be around to add the sixth, the World Club Cup, this winter. But with La Liga now back and underway, and whistles greeting his return to action, he is the Real Madrid player under the most pressure as the transfer window draws to a close.