Real Madrid

Real Madrid: Full Report Card for Every Position

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2014

Real Madrid: Full Report Card for Every Position

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    Jose Ignacio Unanue/Associated Press

    And now we can focus on the football.

    For those who despair of the transfer window and the rumours, hyperbole and lies that come with it, September signals the actual start of the football season.

    Although it kicks off in August, it seems to be the ninth month of the year when people begin to focus solely on football these days.

    Real Madrid will be glad to have all the attention firmly back on the pitch after an up-and-down summer.

    Good players arrived and good players left; money was spent and money was received. But how has Carlo Ancelotti's squad ended up?

    The following slides take a look at how well Madrid fare in each position. When grading every player, age, quality, consistency and fitness were all considered.

Goalkeepers

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Iker Casillas: B-

    In some ways, it would have been nice to see Iker Casillas find his old self and hit the ground running with Real Madrid this season.

    However, after being handed five consecutive starts by Ancelotti, he looks bereft of confidence.

    Once considered one of, if not the best goalkeeper in the world, it's difficult to put him anywhere near that bracket at the moment.

     

    Keylor Navas: A-

    Among the best goalkeepers in Spain last season and at the World Cup in the summer, Keylor Navas is breathing down Iker Casillas' neck.

    A fantastic shot stopper and better than Casillas at coming off his line, Ancelotti must be tempted to throw the Costa Rican in.

    The only doubt is that he's not yet proven himself at a top club, always playing for the plucky underdog, so it will be interesting to see how he copes with a hard-to-please Bernabeu crowd.

    On top of that, he is not as good as the likes of Manuel Neuer or Thibaut Courtois, so Navas can't be handed the very top grade.

Right-Backs

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Alvaro Arbeloa: C+

    Many expected he would leave Real Madrid this summer—some hoped he would.

    However, despite his critics, Alvaro Arbeloa still has something to offer Real Madrid over the next nine months.

    Now in his 30s, it is true that he doesn't have long left at the Bernabeu, but his versatility and experience still benefit Ancelotti's side—even if he is likely to be Dani Carvajal’s back-up.

     

    Dani Carvajal: A-

    Good defensively and going forward, this could be the year that Dani Carvajal goes from being a promising right-back into one of the best.

    At the moment, he's behind full-backs like Philipp Lahm, but one good season for Madrid could propel him into that company.

    He's almost guaranteed a place in Ancelotti's side, and Madrid fans are right to be excited about his potential.

Left-Backs

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    Lars Baron/Getty Images

    Marcelo: B

    Great going forward but questionable defensively, Marcelo has been a good servant to Real Madrid—and he will continue to be.

    However, his weaknesses are clear, and he has had bad luck with injuries lately.

    The Brazil international is still a good option for Ancelotti to have, but there are much better left-backs in football at the moment, such as David Alaba—when he plays there—Filipe Luis and Jordi Alba.

     

    Fabio Coentrao: B+

    Brilliant on his day, Fabio Coentrao has suffered at Real Madrid because of fitness problems.

    The Portuguese international can't seem to play more than 10 matches without picking up an injury, leaving the left-back slot—more often than notfree for Marcelo.

    When he is in the team, though, he can be fantastic.

    He can defend well, which is often overlooked in full-backs these days, and he also links up well with Cristiano Ronaldo.

Centre-Backs

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Raphael Varane: B+

    At the end of the Jose Mourinho era it appeared as if Raphael Varane had kicked Pepe out of Real Madrid's starting line-up.

    However, last season, due to an injury, he was forced to play back-up to Pepe and Sergio Ramos in Ancelotti's side.

    Now fully fit and on the back of a World Cup with France, it is time for Varane to start realising his potential.

    If he can kick on from that form he found in the first half of 2013, he could soon be considered among the best defenders in the world, rather than one of the best young defenders in the world.

     

    Sergio Ramos: A

    Sergio Ramos is loved by some and loathed by others, but it shouldn't be forgotten how important he has been to Real Madrid and the Spanish national team.

    One of the most decorated players in European football, the former Sevilla man is an all-action defender.

    Playing with his heart on his sleeve, Ramos can tackle, head and is a constant threat from set plays as well—both in terms of aerial prowess and the ability to take free-kicks.

    Unfortunately, he can be rash and does make the odd mistake, but he's only human and Madrid wouldn't swap him.

     

    Pepe: B+

    The mileage that Madrid have got out of Pepe and Ramos has been impressive.

    The duo have been the club's undisputed pairing at the back for several years now and helped Madrid to Champions League, Copa del Rey and La Liga success in that time.

    However, Pepe is growing older now and has Varane waiting to jump into his boots.

    The Portuguese centre-back is still important, but he's not as important as he was once—he's also got a bit of a nasty streak.

     

    Nacho Fernandez: C+

    As far as fourth-choice centre-backs go, Nacho Fernandez is a nice option for Carlo Ancelotti to have.

    It doesn't feel like he will ever establish himself as starter at the Bernabeu, though.

    His versatility helps—he can play anywhere across the back four—while it's appreciated by the fans that he came through the youth system, but he's lacking the ability to make it at a top club.

Central Midfielders

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Luka Modric: A

    You'd imagine every club in the world would take Luka Modric if he became available.

    Of course, depending on styles of play, he's a better fit for some teams than others, but the Croatian midfielder was one of the shining lights at Real Madrid last season.

    Brilliant on the ball and vital to Ancelotti's system, Modric's role with the club will only increase in importance now that Xabi Alonso and Angel Di Maria have left.

     

    Toni Kroos: A

    Already a World Cup and Champions League winner, Toni Kroos, at 24, is entering the best years of his career.

    Like Modric, it's hard to believe any club wouldn't want the German international in their side, even if Bayern Munich did seem to let him go without putting up too much of a fight.

    In his early games with Real Madrid it has been clear that he can control a match, while his range of passing has been impressive.

    Alonso leaves a big gap, but there's no reason why Kroos won't be able to fill it.

     

    Asier Illarramendi: B-

    In his final season with Real Sociedad, Asier Illarramendi played with a freedom which led to him being considered among the best midfielders in Spain.

    Picking the ball up in deep areas, his range of passing often initiated Real's swift counterattacks as they qualified for the Champions League.

    Unfortunately, that hasn't quite been evident at Real Madrid, and it feels like he has slightly regressed.

    A lack of game time is the contributing factor here, and to get himself back on track he needs more minutes and more confidence.

     

    Sami Khedira: B

    Sami Khedira had one foot out of the door this summer, which seems strange now considering his injury has left Real Madrid short on central midfielders.

    The German midfielder could be more important to Ancelotti's side that expected this season.

    For several years he has done the dirty work at the Bernabeu without ever receiving any credit for it.

    There are better midfielders in the world, but every side needs a player like Khedira.

Wingers/Forwards

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    Gareth Bale: A+

    Pace, power and goals: Gareth Bale hasn't started the season as he ended the last, but there are plenty of signs that he is set for great things at Real Madrid.

    A scorer in the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals last season, the Welshman ranks among the world's elite footballers.

     

    Cristiano Ronaldo: A+

    Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have ruled over the football world for the last five years, and while the gap has decreased, it's still difficult to put anyone on their level.

    Ronaldo started the new season with a bang, scoring twice in the UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla.

    There may be doubts over his fitness—he missed the recent defeat to Real Sociedad and has struggled with injuries over the last six months—but on form, he is still unplayable.

     

    Jese Rodriguez: B

    It's such a shame that just as Jese Rodriguez was beginning to make a name for himself at Real Madrid he was struck down by injury.

    The young Spanish forward is nearing a return though, and Madrid will hope he can pick up where he left off.

    With the ability to play across the front three, Jese represents a much better option than Alvaro Morata, who has moved to Juventus, and he is a good alternative to Bale and Ronaldo.

    If he kicks on like he could, Los Blancos could find the homegrown star they've been craving for years.

No.10s

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    Isco: B

    Like Illarramendi, Isco was one of La Liga's biggest stars the season before he joined Real Madrid.

    He was the hero of a Malaga side that captured hearts in the Champions League and managed a top-10 finish in the Primera Division despite being stripped of some of their best players.

    Life started quite well in the Spanish capital, too, although his importance has since decreased.

    The arrival of James Rodriguez places question marks over his role at the club, though, and he is going to have to fight hard to prove he can be considered among the world's best No. 10s this season.

     

    James Rodriguez: A-

    Brilliant at the World Cup for Colombia—winning the Golden Boot—and good for Monaco and Porto in recent seasons, James Rodriguez is beginning to look like one of the world's best players.

    However, to move to that next level, he now needs to produce at a club like Real Madrid.

    It's highly likely that he will, but until he does, his grade will have to lag just behind the very best.

Strikers

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Karim Benzema A-

    There are more potent strikers in world football—Luis Suarez, Diego Costa, Radamel Falcao and Zlatan Ibrahimovic—but there are few who could do the job Karim Benzema does at Real Madrid.

    The Frenchman is in a difficult position; in Bale and Ronaldo, he has two wingers beside him who hog the limelight and score lots of goals.

    Despite this, he works well for the team and is good fit in Ancelotti's side.

     

    Javier Hernandez B-

    He's not among the best strikers in the world, which is demonstrated by Manchester United's willingness to let him leave, but Javier Hernandez does have something to offer Madrid.

    Dangerous off the bench and in the area, the Mexican forward developed a reputation in England for being a super-sub.

    If he can contribute a handful of goals this season, especially if the odd one is important, his time in the Spanish capital will have been a success—it may even tempt Madrid into bringing him in permanently.

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