Real Madrid squad for LaLiga 2022-23: player profiles - Benzema, Vinicius, Modric...
Real Madrid made only two additions to Carlo Ancelotti’s squad but the reigning Liga and European champions have been adding young talent for a few years.
Real Madrid may have missed out on their primary target, PSG striker Kylian Mbappé, this summer but Florentino Pérez has once again flexed the Bernabéu’s financial muscle in the market and made a couple of astute additions to further strengthen Carlo Ancelotti’s squad ahead of title defences on the domestic and continental fronts. In essence, what the Italian now has at his disposal is a version 2.0 of Zinedine Zidane’s “second unit” during the Frenchman’s first stint in the dugout - one that reaped three consecutive Champions Leagues. Ancelotti has said he will rotate more this season, having used a core of 14-15 players during 2021-22, and he certainly has the tools available to hand rest time to his long-serving midfield, in particular, with plenty of options up front as well after a few years of gradual squad rejuvenation. The Liga and European champions clearly needed little in the way of an overhaul but the arrivals of Antonio Rüdiger and Aurélien Tchouaméni have added some steel at the back and an all-action, ball-winning, box-to-box midfielder.
We take a look at the players who will be key to Madrid’s 2022-23 campaign in Spain and in Europe this season.
The Ballon d’Or elect is, on current form, the best number nine in the business, not just in terms of goals but in his ability to bring those around him into play as well. Benzema has always had an uncanny awareness of positioning and has now added prolific scoring to his repertoire. Since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018, the Frenchman has chalked up 30, 27, 30 and last season 44, his highest-ever return. A goal in the UEFA Super Cup took Benzema past Raúl in the Madrid all-time scoring stakes with 324. The newly minted captain and reigning Champions League top scorer will be key to everything at the Bernabéu this season. As ever, Madrid go into the season a little light on strikers with only Mariano in reserve and as the saying goes among Madrid fans, Benzema had better not get so much as a cold.
The Croatian playmaker is 36 years old but shows no signs of losing his touch and vision, even if Ancelotti will necessarily have to use his midfield maestro a little more sparingly this season. On his day – and it tends to be his day fairly regularly – Modric remains one of the most elegant midfielders in the game and his ability to pick a defence apart with a single flick of his boot remains as honed as ever. With younger bucks available to do the late-game running for him, Modric can expect to be afforded plenty of early substitutions this season once his work is done.
It seems a very, very long time ago now that Vinicius was being constantly mocked on social media for his apparent inability to place a shot on target. In fact, it was only the season before last, when the Brazilian was still an electric if largely unthreatening presence on the Madrid wing. Under Ancelotti – and the Italian deserves plaudits for his handling of his young charge – Vinicius has morphed into one of the most effective attacking players in Europe, scoring 22 goals last season, including the winner in the Champions League final, and added 20 assists. His partnership with Benzema reaped more direct goal associations last season than any other duo in Europe’s top divisions.
Real Madrid paid Porto €50m for the Brazilian central defender in 2018 and it has turned out to be a snip. After two seasons of playing back-up to Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane, Militão was thrown in at the deep end past season as the senior centre-back and responded by delivering a stellar campaign alongside David Alaba. His ability to cover the lines has been key to Madrid’s success and he was again imperious in the Super Cup. With Rüdiger brought in on a free to provide a third option, Madrid are well set in the heart of defence with the 24-year-old Militão now the undisputed back four boss.
The best keeper in the world debate is always a thorny one, given the very particular conditions of the role. If a number one has an iron defence in front of goal, he will have fewer saves to make. If his back four are a little leaky, he has more chances to bail his team out. Courtois’ situation is somewhere in between and nowhere better demonstrated than in last season’s Champions League, where he conceded four against Chelsea and five against Manchester City over two legs but then produced a masterclass, man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool in the final, making nine saves in total to keep the rampant Reds at bay. Overall last season, Courtois’s save percentage stood at 78.1% and he kept a clean sheet in 22 of his 46 appearances.
Another feather in Ancelotti’s cap is the progression of the Uruguay international, who has gone from being a midfield back-up to a starter on the right of the attack. The 24-year-old’s direct running, exceptional work rate and defensive abilities have relegated the likes of Lucas Vázquez, Rodrygo and Eden Hazard to the second XI and after a breakthrough season last year he looks set to be a key player for Ancelotti in 2022-23, having started both the Champions League final and the Super Cup.
A summer arrival a year ago, the France international increasingly appears to be Ancelotti’s 12th man and this will be an important campaign for the 19-year-old. Camavinga chalked up a total of 40 appearances for Madrid in 2021-22, including 16 starts, and will be the primary back-up for the habitual midfield three while Tchouaméni is gradually bedded in.
Real Madrid transfers 2022-23
Aurélien Tchouméni (Monaco): €80m initial, €20m in add-ons.
Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea): free
Borja Mayoral (Getafe): €10m
Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad): €6.5m
Miguel Gutiérrez (Girona): €4m
Víctor Chust (Cádiz): €1m
Luka Jovic (Fiorentina): free
Isco (Sevilla): free
Gareth Bale (LAFC): free
Marcelo: end of contract