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REAL MADRID

How would Neymar fit into the team at Real Madrid? weighing up the pros and cons

The Brazilian would fit into several different systems but would leave the team vulnerable at the back. If he does join, Zidane's tactical set-up would be key.

El encaje de Neymar en el Madrid: oportunidad y conflicto.
FRANCK FIFE AFP

If Neymar does end up joining Real Madrid, Zidane would have to completely rethink his system to accomadate the Brazilian. Apart from finding a place for Neymar in the team's attack, tactically, there would be other problems to resolve. From what we have seen during the pre-season, Zidane appears to have settled on a midfield-heavy 3-5-2 set-up; the coach would need to find a way in which Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Neymar could all fit into his starting XI. The coach would find himself obliged to field his superstar trio which would mean other players, like Vinicius, Gareth Bale and Jovic would be relegated to the subs' bench. That's not the kind of message young, up and coming players like Vini and Jovic would want to hear and keeping a big money player like Bale on the bench makes no sense - although Zidane has done it before with the Welshman.

The pre-season also showed Madrid have not rectified their deficiencies in defence; 16 goals conceded and 105 shots against in six games suggests that not only is the team just as vulnerable at the back as it was last season, it is arguably worse. So Zidane would need to find a place for Neymar in the team without weakening the left channel.

Neymar in a classic 4-4-2 or rhombus formation

The simplest way of fitting Neymar into the team would be playing him as a winger or left-sided forward. How he is able to link up with Hazard will be key in how the rest of Madrid's attack would take shape. The left wing is Hazard's, but he can also play more centrally just behind the centre-forward or even swap roles with Neymar but that's more complicated than it sounds.

In a 4-1-2-1-2 rhombus system, Neymar would play just behind strike pair Hazard and Benzema. The midfield would be comprised of two players covering the wings (Modric and Kroos) and one holding midfielder (Casemiro). Another variation would be the classic 4-4-2 with Hazard out wide on the left and Kroos and Camerimo forming the midfield pivot. Hazard and Neymar could interchange roles as long as the left flank is covered when Madrid aren't in possession. Neymar performed this role many times at Barcelona. The only snag is who would occupy the right wing.

It's unlikely that Zidane will opt for a 4-4-2, a system which has gone out of fashion in recent years; it could also unbalance the team on and off the pitch as it would mean sacrificing Vinicius for a midfielder and all the risks and potential consequences that might go with that. Modric could move into a central position when the team is attacking and switch to the wing when they lose the ball. A 4-2-3-1 would involve organizing the attack in a similar way.

4-3-3 with Ney on the wing

While Zidane stated towards the end of  last season that he would be reviewing and changing his system, he hasn't strayed from his traditional 4-3-3 during the pre-season. Under the current system, Hazard plays out wide on the right but has liberty to drift inside. It would be a huge surprise to see Neymar playing out on the right, that would also leave Lucas Vázquez and Bale out in the cold.

One of Madrid's perennial problems is that there seems to be some confusion among the players as to what positions they must adopt when opposing teams are going forward. As a unit, they disintegrate if they don't win the ball back with the first pressing. If Madrid are caught with Hazard in the middle, opponents will be free to attack on either wing. That would leave Casemiro and Modric to deal with a rival team on the break always with the worry that Marcelo might not have got back to cover his wing. Casemiro would not have the time to keep both wings covered.

A 4-3-3 would allow Hazard, Benzema and Neymar to play together as a dynamic, three-pronged attack - with Neymar out on the left, and Hazard and Benzema interchanging positions when the team moves forward..

Pairing up with Benzema in a 3-4-1-2

There is an option for Zidane playing a 1-3-5-2 - with Neymar accompanying Hazard as the front two and Isco playing just behind them - effectively changing the 1-3-5-2 to a 1-3-4-1-2. Neymar could link up with Marcelo on the left channel with Hazard given freedom to look for spaces behind enemy lines. The only setback with that would once again be how the team copes defending. When in possession, Zidane plays with centre-backs and two attacking full-backs; Casemiro would occupy the sweeper position with two midfielder playing wider just in front of him. That would enable Hazard and Benzema to make the most of Madrid's powers on the break. But that system hasn't worked well for Madrid - when attacked, the team is frequently left out of position with Casemiro and three centre-back left to do all the clean-up work.

There are roles which Neymar could fill at Madrid but that would involve all of the front three dropping back to help out with defending duties or pressing in the final third. In the end it will be Zidane would decides whether he needs Neymar or not but the feeling is he would rather sort out a midfield which has been giving him all kinds of problems since last season.