Mercato: The victim Ferland Mendy, the principles of Carlo Ancelotti: Antonio Rüdiger, what changes at Real Madrid?

Mercato: The victim Ferland Mendy, the principles of Carlo Ancelotti: Antonio Rüdiger, what changes at Real Madrid?


This is his first hit on the market, and it’s a nice shot. Real Madrid offered a strong reinforcement in defense by recruiting Antonio Rüdiger, whose arrival in the Spanish capital was made official on Thursday. He did not have to pay a single euro in transfer fees for the German international, at the end of his contract with Chelsea. At a lower cost, he enriched his defensive sector. With all the consequences that entails: increased competition that will inevitably disappoint, and new tactical prospects for Carlo Ancelotti.

The competition: Mendy, collateral victim?

Recruiting a central defender like Rüdiger could potentially pose a threat to Real’s two hinges in Ancelotti’s 4-3-3: Eder Militão and David Alaba. This is not really the trend. The most likely option is to see the German associated with Militão in the axis of Madrid’s defense without Álava losing the status of incumbent. The versatile Austrian is set to switch to the left-back position, currently occupied by Ferland Mendy.

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The former Lyonnais man is said to be the collateral victim of Rüdiger’s arrival. But he did not leave in advance. The Frenchman proved his importance in Ancelotti’s system. An undisputed starter on the left side of the Madrid defense, he offered guarantees of reliability to a Madrid defense that was lacking when Marcelo was in charge. This is the main reason why Ancelotti aligns him almost systematically in his starting eleven. Thus, Mendy made a solid contribution to the brilliant season of Real, champions of Spain and Europe.

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But Marcelo’s competition is not the same as the one that awaits him with Alaba. The very offensive profile and defensive shortcomings of the Brazilian, whose departure was made after 16 years of good and loyal service, played in Mendy’s favor. Alaba is more complete. His ability to play both on the axis and on one side of the defense says it all about his mastery of the art of defending. And the quality of his offensive contribution, through the quality of his passes, centers and strikes, partly explains why Alaba also knows how to perform well in midfield. And why competing with the Austrian seems like the worst case scenario for Mendy.

The system: three-way defense, yes, but

If necessary, a system change could possibly do Mendy’s business. The prospect of Real moving to a three-man center-back would make Carlo Ancelotti’s first choice as a piston on the left side. In this configuration, Alaba would probably occupy the left side of the Madrid defensive trio, Rüdiger the right side and Militão the axis. An option credible in particular by the quality of boost of the Austrian and the German on the ball outings.

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But not only that. If Real have taken on the services of Rüdiger, it is because the German is certainly coming out of the two most successful seasons of his career with Chelsea. His level of performance soared with the arrival of Thomas Tuchel on the London bench a year and a half ago. And the former PSG coach’s choice to line up a three-man defense is no stranger to it. Rüdiger seems quite a bit more comfortable in this system than in a four-element defensive line. That would justify a change of system from Carlo Ancelotti.

But the Real coach does not necessarily see it with that eye. He has every reason to keep a 4-3-3 pattern that has allowed the Madrid club to dominate Spain and Europe this season. The Italian is also not a fan of a system with three central defenders. Throughout his (long) coaching career, he almost never used it. It only happened occasionally when he officiated at Everton. But at Real, whether in his first or second term, at Bayern, Naples, PSG, Chelsea or Milan, “Carletto” has consistently lined up four-point defenses.

This is one of the principles of the Italian game. They have made him so successful that the prospect of seeing him upset his system seems highly unlikely. Even with the arrival of Rüdiger. It is more designed to allow it to have a greater depth of defense and to expand its tactical range with more varied profiles. The arrival of the German international is sure to change things a bit for Real. But above all, she reminds us that seats are very expensive at the White House.

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