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Lucas Vazquez won El Clasico for Real Madrid – he really was ‘f***ing brilliant’



Lucas Vazquez won El Clasico for Real Madrid – he really was ‘f***ing brilliant’

Lucas Vazquez may very well be forgiven for pondering that his time at Actual Madrid was coming to an finish. His contract ends on June 30, the day earlier than his thirty third birthday.

Within the first half of this season, regardless of being match sufficient to make the matchday squad for each sport, Vazquez barely featured. In Madrid’s first 15 La Liga matches he began simply as soon as — in a 3-1 defeat at Atletico Madrid. All three of Atleti’s targets have been headers, and all three crosses got here from Vazquez’s right-back zone. He was substituted earlier than the hour mark. It stays his aspect’s solely league defeat this season.

However quick ahead six months and Vazquez was the excellent participant in El Clasico as Madrid beat Barcelona 3-2, all however confirming their title victory. It places them 11 factors away from Barca with six video games remaining, and sealing the league double over their closest challengers additionally acts as an additional half-point, ought to Barcelona one way or the other come again to complete stage. Realistically, the title is Madrid’s.

Through the first presidential reign of Florentino Perez, he famously declared that his coverage for squad composition was “Zidanes y Pavones”. This meant superstars like Zinedine Zidane and youth merchandise like Francisco Pavon — though contemplating the way in which Madrid performed all through that interval, it felt extra like he meant good attackers and sub-standard defenders. The staff was all the time top-heavy, and the ‘galacticos’ interval was one thing of a failure.


Actual Madrid and Florentino Perez: A portrait of 1 man’s final energy

Carlo Ancelotti’s aspect feels nearer to what Perez meant. The distinction is that the superstars, basically, are attackers who have been signed at a comparatively younger age, and Madrid have moulded them into the gamers they need. The aspect’s common entrance three — Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Jude Bellingham — have been signed aged 20 or youthful. One thing related applies to midfielders Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni.

Others, akin to Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, have been older and extra established, however have now been round for a decade. Issues are slightly completely different in defence, however David Alaba and Antonio Rudiger have been picked up on free transfers. Madrid have grow to be extra astute within the switch market, they usually’ve additionally constructed a squad that embodies the membership. However the gamers who really feel most sometimes Actual Madrid are two thirtysomethings who got here by means of the academy and have caught round ever since. They’ve additionally been the excellent performers of their final two matches.

Nacho makes a key intervention at Metropolis on Wednesday (Paul Ellis/AFP through Getty Pictures)

Within the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final in opposition to Manchester Metropolis on Wednesday, which Madrid received on penalties, left-sided centre-back Nacho was glorious, serving to to shackle Erling Haaland and successful every part within the air. Now 34, the membership captain has solely not often been a daily, and by no means one of many aspect’s most glamorous gamers. However it’s footballers like these, who’re constant, dependable, versatile and embody the worth of the membership, that assist win trophies and get you over the road in tight video games on the enterprise finish of the season.

Final evening was Vazquez’s flip. By now, we consider him as a full-back — though for a lot of his profession, Vazquez was a right-winger able to doing a job in defence. In opposition to Barca, partly due to accidents, Ancelotti fielded a defence that boasted three midfielders by commerce: alongside centre-back Rudiger have been Camavinga, Tchouameni and Vazquez.

Vazquez isn’t the world’s most stable right-back, however together with his expertise, he largely makes good selections. An fascinating function of his efficiency final evening was that when Barcelona attacked down the other flank — and with Lamine Yamal on that aspect, that was their important tactic — Vazquez didn’t concentrate on defending the far publish however as a substitute narrowed his place and tried to close down opponents attempting to succeed in a cutback.

It is a barely dangerous tactic: if Yamal had pushed the ball throughout to Robert Lewandowski on this scenario beneath, Vazquez may have been caught out…

It did repay later. When Yamal’s lofted cutback was about to search out Lewandowski in his favorite place, lingering on the sting of the field, Vazquez intercepted.

However Vazquez’s show was actually about his attacking skill, as he was concerned in all three targets.

For the opener, he referred to as for a swap of play from Bellingham, then outwitted Joao Cancelo, driving on the skin and exhibiting sheer perseverance to get the ball when Cancelo stepped throughout his path — however successfully stepped throughout too far.

Pau Cubarsi, Barcelona’s proficient younger centre-back, did what you count on of a 17-year-old: he went to floor too early.

Vazquez performed the scenario completely — Cubarsi’s problem was really fairly far-off from him, and different gamers might need exaggerated the dive. However Vazquez left his proper foot in lengthy sufficient to legitimately win the penalty.

Vazquez scored Madrid’s second equaliser himself, changing easily from Vinicius Jr’s pushed cross.

It’s value highlighting the extent to which Vazquez is tasked with stretching the play within the build-up — few right-backs would then have the presence of thoughts to assault the far publish and apply such stable contact on a bouncing ball.

And for the winner, few would have the need to make this run in stoppage time — significantly contemplating that 2-2 would have represented a great outcome for Madrid.

However Vazquez pushed ahead to offer Brahim Diaz an possibility down the best after which drove a easy however good ball throughout the six-yard line. It was in all probability meant primarily for substitute striker Joselu, however he made no contact together with his tried backheel.

Bellingham, simply as he did within the reverse fixture, fired dwelling the stoppage-time winner.

“With 5 minutes left, we have been speaking to one another, saying we’re going to win,” Vazquez stated afterwards. “That’s what this membership and this badge signify: we all the time need to win and struggle till the top. We by no means surrender.”

It was virtually corporate-speak from certainly one of Madrid’s most dependable foot troopers. Bellingham was much less reserved. “Lucas Vazquez, you f***ing legend,” was his instant response on X.

Bellingham, on a unique planet to everybody else within the first half of the season, hasn’t fairly been at his greatest this week. The identical is true of Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr, with the attackers in all probability fatigued from a draining 120 minutes in Manchester.

However golf equipment like Madrid, relentless successful machines, all the time have a dependable supporting solid. Sometimes, certainly one of them steals the present. Vazquez has earned himself one other medal — and possibly a brand new contract too.

(Prime picture: Burak Akbulut/Anadolu through Getty Pictures)

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