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Player Focus: Why Real Madrid Spent Big on Illarramendi

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Player Focus: Why Real Madrid Spent Big on Illarramendi

 

It’s been one of the most shocking transfers of the summer so far, and certainly one of the most expensive, but for €38m Real Madrid believe they have their present and future in mind with the signing of Asier Illarramendi. The purchases of Dani Carvajal and Isco suggested Madrid were moving onto a new path being laid by young Spanish talent, but still few expected the club to spend such a generous fee on someone who has only played 57 games in La Liga.

Illarramendi is a special player though, and one whom Madrid felt they needed now primarily to facilitate the rapidly decreasing influence of Xabi Alonso. The former Liverpool man has had spells of poor form due to a piling up of injuries and fatigue on his own body, while in general there has been no one to replace him. Simple things such as Alonso collecting five yellow cards struck fear into Madrid hearts – there was simply no other player who read the game quite like him. Even with their vast array of midfield talent.

So what exactly will Illarramendi offer, and is he purely a diet version of Alonso? A lot and no are the answers here. Last season Illarra was the heartbeat of a Real Sociedad side that galloped up the table and into contention for Champions League qualification. Much of the spotlight was on the likes of Carlos Vela, Antoine Griezmann and Imanol Agirretxe, but it was Illarra that made them tick. Without him they were flat, uninspiring and lacked direction in the midfield zone. Much can be read into the fact that la Real only won one of the six matches without Illarra during the last season in La Liga.

Illarra’s different to many Spanish midfielders. And even Alonso. He’s more purposeful and direct in possession while more aggressive in defensive phases. His influence at la Real last season is evident, with his average of 50.2 passes per game considerably more than the next highest player in this area, on 43.7. Illarra showed his intelligence on the ball with an 80.7% pass success rating too, while his range was shown with 4.1 accurate long balls per game. His ability to switch it up at any given moment based on his own judgement of the game is perhaps what appeals most. He can bomb a pass into the channel over a considerable distance to stretch the field but also keep it short, simple and blend the team together.

 

Player Focus: Why Real Madrid Spent Big on Illarramendi

 

As mentioned, he showed a tenacious attitude towards his defensive work too. With Madrid looking towards more attacking prongs than ever next season, his presence in front of the defence drifting in deep zones will be vital. He doesn’t play as the deepest of the midfield pack, but he can drop in there and build play very effectively. His 3.8 tackles per game were the most at la Real last season, while his 2.3 interceptions were the 3rd most.

The criticism that he doesn’t have enough goals in his game is a void one really, given his influence in midfield and his role not exactly about rampaging forward. He’s about discipline and tactical awareness. Alonso himself has been no terror in front of goal, instead preserving his energy to help in the first signs of attack forming.

Illarramendi’s form at the European Under-21 Championships probably tipped the scales in terms of Madrid weighing up whether to make a move, with the 23-year-old surpassing his more glamorous colleagues such as Thiago and Isco in terms of grabbing the spotlight. He was his usual purposeful, industrious self and brought a different dimension to a team based on patience and precision. Illarra could even be seen dropping into the back three, Sergio Busquets-like, remaining positive at all times even in deeper areas. He made 2.6 tackles per game, while also averaging 1.8 interceptions at the tournament, and the midfielder also had the highest pass accuracy (95.1%) of every player with 2+ appearances at the U21 Euros.

Something that was lost in the final season in José Mourinho’s reign was the freshness, determination and aggression in midfield to combat teams. Illarra’s presence is one not only of a character with a huge work ethic and desire for success, but as a player too he’s someone capable of implementing his own mental attributes. During the Euro U-21’s he won possession 26 times in the midfield third, more times than anyone else. This will be vital alongside Alonso, or replacing him, as now at 31-years-old he can’t charge around the pitch like he used to.

€38m may be a huge amount of money, but what Madrid are buying into is a mature individual and the future. This is huge foresight on the part of Madrid, and clearly they’re envisaging their midfield for years to come with the signings of Illarra and Isco. It’s a different look for the club, but one that looks extremely exciting.

Comments (5)

 
  • the price is way out of control and there is no other way to say it, he is not worth it, i think he has more tools then Xabi and i compare his last year w javi martinez last 2 years @ bilbao and Illara had a far better year, granted javi had years of experience. when u dealing w team like real sociedad or bilbao there is no bargaining other then paying full buy out clause, madrid had their chance at getting him the last 2 summer and they didnt finished it for half of his price. madrid media pressure florentino over getting more spanish players and he had to over pay for him.

  • Why not bring Veratti from PSG for that money? He is much more accomplished and proven.

  • This in no way justifies the price tag. Absolutely no experience at the European stage nor experience in the full national team. It is a complete gamble by Real Madrid. Why buy him when you have Sahin? He is very unlikely to even feature much this season given it is a WC year and Alonso will be vying to feature a lot for what may be his last WC. 38M for a guy who won't even play until 2015 who will then have to compete with Sahin if he is still there? No.

  • great player, i like him very much, he reminds me vidal, just less effective in finishing and more comfortable in playmaking, but 38M€ are too much even for him.

  • Great analysis on Illarramendi! Also a great read! :)

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Yann M’Vila Baptiste Reynet Angelo Palombo Eric Tie Bi Faouzi Ghoulam Chris Mavinga Anderson Aaron Hughes Chris Baird Raul Aly Cissokho Alessandro Del Piero Samir Handanovic France National Football Team Marc Tierney Bundelsiga Raul Bobadilla Loric Remy Jean Pascal Mignot Mainz 05 Schalke 04 Marcel Risse Steven Reid Danny Gabbidon Michal Kadlec Paulo Machado Ben Watson Spain National Football Team German National Football Team Bundeslgia Ricardo Carvalho Ivan Ramis Diego Colotto Sergio Fernandez Sere A Cesare Bovo Miguel Britos Bostjan Cesar Jose Angel Gabriel Heinze Chris Samba Charles N'Zogbia Yohan Demont Rod Fanni Rudy Mater Georgios Tzavellas Javier Pinola Dennis Aogo Daniel Schwaab Attacking Full-Backs Defensive Wingers 2010/11 Attacking Wingers Nicolas Douchez Jeremy Menez Under-21 Team of Season 2010-11 Maxi Rodriguez Scott Dann Crossing Wingers Under-21 Team of Season All-Round Midfielders Benoit Pedretti Rising Stars Kyle Walker Gaetano D'Agostino Centre Backs Paulo Da Silva Ivan Hernandez Eric Abidal Weligton Borja Ekiza Alassane Toure Stephane Grichting Jordan Loties Kader Mangane Adama Coulibaly Martin Stranzl Pedro Geromel Neven Subotic Christian Zapata James Tomkins Roger Johnson Stephan Lichsteiner Reto Ziegler David Vaughan Seb Larsson Asamoah Gyan Benoit Pedretti Anthony Mounier Mehmet Ekici Simao Duda Alvaro Cejudo Xabi Prieto Alexsandar Kolarov Guiseppe Mascara Simone Bentivoglio Fernando Marques Gian Piero Gasperin Thomas Hitzlsperger Rafael Van der Vaart Theofanis Gekas Gerard Asamoah Youssef Al Arabi Lisandro Loric Remy Victor Hugo Montano Edison Cavani Sergio Pellissier David Di Michele Steward Downing Spain Under 21 Felipe Caicedo Pierre Webo Youssef El-Arabi Brown Ideye Mobido Maiga Chu-Young Robin Van Persie Kevin Gamerio England U21 Udinese. Alexis Sanchez Pedro Sami Allagui Frédéric Kanouté Renato Augusto Jonathan Pitropia Eljero Elia Ivo Llicevic Fernando Muslera Diego Perez Alvaro González Abel Hernandez David VIlla Marcel Schmelzer Danijel Pranjic Holger Badstuber Sven Bender Johan Djourou Darren Fletcher Carlos Kameni Thiago Silve Antonia Di Natale Cristiano Zapata Domenico Criscito Luis Jimenez Josep Ilicic Samuel Eto’o Alexis Thébaux Ludovic Sané Mamouda Sakho Boukary Dramé Daniel Alves Nikolay Mihaylov Charles Puyol Ji-Sung Park Edwin van der Sar Dani Alves John O’Shea Park Ji-Jung Gabi Fernandez Jonathan de Guzman Michael Owen Gary Taylor-Fletcher Ian Evatt DJ Campbell Charles N’Zogbia Wolverhampton Robinho Rudi Garcia Avram Grant Conor Sammon Wayne Bridge Rob Green Victor Obinna Mike Hanke Borussia Munchengladbach VfL Bochum Tomasz Kuszczak Martin Olsson Brett Emerton Steven N’Zonzi Muset Ozil Gianpaolo Pazzini Leonardo Seydou Keita Miguel Pallardo Ibrahim Afellay Valdo Pallardo Damien Perquis Luka Modrid David SIlva Roberto Mancini Benoit Assou-Ekotto Vedran Corluka Carlo Ancelotti Saloman Kalou Clarence Seedorf Matteo Brighi Fabio Simplicio Rodrigo Taddei Mark Van Bommel Gennaro Gattuso Kevin Prince-Boateng Nicolas Burdisso Elkin Soto Pep Gaurdiola Lassana Diarra Antonio da Silva Robert Mak Heurelho Gomes Andre Marriner Pinto Alavro Arbeloa Alexander Hleb

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