Real Madrid has gone from a team that thrived on one-goal victories against mid-table opponents last season to a team that has annihilated them 5-2 and 6-1 this season. Real Madrid's new manager, Carlo Ancelotti, has quickly and effectively restored the club's reputation for counter-attacking and entertaining football. Another major reason Carlo Ancelotti was appointed was that several players did not find regular roles under Zinedine Zidane or were injured frequently, which led to a loss of confidence.
Don Carlo is an exceptional man-manager, which explains why several out-of-favor stars from last season have looked sure-footed and confident so far this season.
Before I begin with the best five, I'd like to give an honorable mention to the Welsh Dragon, Gareth Bale, who was one of those players who had a promising start to the season. However, his injury occurred at the worst possible time, and his recovery will be closely monitored.
5. Dani Carvajal
To begin this list at number five, we have Gareth Bale, a player whose situation is very similar to that of our honorable mention. After four appearances for Real Madrid, including a Champions League match against Inter, star right-back Dani Carvajal was forced to leave the game against Valencia due to an injury problem, the details of which have not been made public by the club.
Carvajal walked off the field as a precautionary measure, but he is still expected to miss a few weeks of action.
We'll see how that plays out, but for now, Real Madrid's most versatile defender Nacho fills in. Dani Carvajal has started five of Real Madrid's seven games this season. He didn't play in the opener against Alaves and left the game against Valencia in the first half.
During his time on the field, he appeared to be a different Carvajal, who has reclaimed the top spot on the list of active right-backs in the world right now. He came on as a late substitute in the 3-3 draw with Levante, and his presence changed the game. He scored the game-winning goal against Betis the following week, giving him a full bag of points.
From his previous season, which was plagued by injuries, he has vastly improved and appears to have regained his confidence. His attacking runs on the flanks and the times he cuts into the box show that he is in a good mood and is at ease on the field. Madridistas hope he can maintain his current pace when he recovers from this untimely and unfortunate injury.
4. Marco Asensio
The only reason Marco Asensio has been placed ahead of Dani Carvajal is that he is not injured, and after a brilliant hat-trick in the last Matchday, he should be given minutes in the upcoming games, which will boost the Spaniard's confidence even more. Marco Asensio is also going above and beyond.
He is settling into a new role, and based on one start and a few cameos, he appears to be at ease in this number 10 midfield role. Don Carlo deserves all of the credit.
Marco Asensio was one of the players who came under constant scrutiny for his below-par performances under Zidane last season. However, in his first season, he has made his critics eat their words. He put on a magical performance against his boyhood club, Mallorca.
We've seen Asensio in brief cameo roles in the games leading up to his debut, and to be fair, we owe him some credit.
Despite the fact that these were only half-hour appearances to see the game out, he has shown that he is ready for a bigger role when it comes his way. The game against Betis, for example, was memorable. Asensio appeared for 24 minutes and had two shots, two completed dribbles, and three interceptions. According to WhoScored, he also contributed defensively in the game against Levante, with a tackle and an interception.
Although there isn't much to go on, he was a player who struggled last season, and based on the progress I've seen from him in this new role, he deserves a spot on this list.
He was the most in need of regaining confidence in this squad, and we all know what an in-form Marco Asensio can do on his best day.
Don Carlo and attacking midfielders have a love affair for the ages, and he is demonstrating how much he enjoys working with such players once again. Isco could be the most recent addition to the list. Isco, another out-of-favor player from last season, has had a few very positive appearances under the new manager so far this season. His season has mirrored that of Marco Asensio, minus the hat-trick.
Isco has made two starts and three substitute appearances this season. He did an excellent job filling in for the injured Luka Modric prior to the international break. In fact, his performance against Levante in a tense 3-3 draw demonstrated that he is still a member of this squad. He had another great cameo in the last game against Mallorca, where he also scored after some good work from Vinicius Junior, which would be a confidence boost.
This season, Isco's defensive contribution has been another standout feature of his game. According to WhoScored, the Spaniard has already made seven tackles and two clearances in five appearances this season.
He also causes problems for opponents with his movement and consistently wins freekicks for his team. In his limited time, he has won seven freekicks. He's also been fairly consistent in making key passes.
The best thing about Isco stepping up is that he solves Carlo Ancelotti's midfield depth problem. Real Madrid desperately needed a rotational option with Toni Kroos out with a groin injury, and Isco has emerged as much more than that. If players like him and Asensio continue in this form, Real's midfield may not be as troubled as we thought.
That being said, Isco deserves all appreciation so far for his hard work and he surely has recovered a lot of his confidence in the new season.
2. Eden Hazard
Many Madrid fans will breathe a sigh of relief with the inclusion of the top two players. Eden Hazard has looked more determined than ever in his Real Madrid career under Carlo Ancelotti, the club's new manager. Don Carlo discussed Hazard at the very first press conference he attended following his appointment. And so far, the work done with the Belgian appears to have yielded results.
Hazard did not play in either the game against Inter or the most recent game against Mallorca. While rotation appears to be the solution for the latter, it appears that a blow to his thigh in the previous game convinced Ancelotti not to take any risks, and Madrid fans would agree, it's best not to risk anything with Hazard's fitness right now. He's finally looking like the player he once was, and he needs to keep it up.
Eden Hazard doesn't have a lot of direct goal involvements to his name. On Matchday 1, he provided a brilliant flicked assist to Karim Benzema, kicking off Real Madrid's goal scoring run. However, there are several things that simple statistics will not reveal.
Hazard is playing very well despite the fact that he is not scoring or assisting. He's going to provide so much in the future, and his linkups with Benzema have been a joy to watch.
According to WhoScored, he completes 2.4 key passes and 1.6 dribbles per game while winning 1.8 freekicks on average for his team. With this new free role that Don Carlo has given him, he is also putting in a defensive shift. He previously stated that he did not want to leave Madrid as a failure, and it appears that the Belgian is sticking to his words. Going forward, he appears to be more agile and fit, as well as much more confident.
1. Vinicius Junior
There was no doubt in my mind about who would be at the top of this list. Yes, Real Madrid's electric 21-year-old Brazilian boy has lit up the Spanish stage with his incredible pace and dribbling. Vinicius Junior has been playing in a different league.
There isn't much that needs to be done; simply pass the ball to him, and he'll make something out of nothing with the way he eases past defenders and finds space within tight gaps. Vini is the only player who has the right to be at the top of this list. He has, as I predicted earlier, been the most improved player thus far.
Vini had the most difficult season last season, with the Spanish media constantly criticizing his finishing. This season appears to be the one where he finally breaks through. It was already known that Don Carlo would have a huge impact on the Brazilian, but no one expected it to be this big. In six league games, he has five goals and two assists.
His game, however, has been much more than his goal involvements. He's put in an all-around performance in LaLiga, averaging 1.7 key passes, 3.3 dribbles, one long ball, and 1.3 tackles per game. In the game against Inter too, he created all sorts of problems with nothing to show for. Yet, he managed to complete three dribbles and place two key passes. Vinicius, I believe, has reached the age of maturity.
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