How Real Madrid could line up in 2021/22

By: Enzo Karema

Pre-season began well over two weeks ago for Real Madrid, and ever since there has been buzz regarding transfers, sales and what to expect in the next season. It’s fair to say that there’s been little activity from the club in the market — despite the numerous rumours — hinting that there could be no acquisition other than David Alaba unless, of course, Paris Saint-Germain do not come to an agreement with Kylian Mbappé over his continuity.

As such, it’s safe to begin discussions regarding what could, or should be the lineup for the biggest of games in 2021/22, with less than a month remaining for the season to kickoff. I have worked out an eleven that would work in a 4-3-3, as I assume that is the formation Carlo Ancelotti will opt for. Bearing in mind that the rumours of Raphaël Varane leaving to Manchester United are only intensifying, he has not been included, but should he stay, he takes Éder Militão’s spot.

Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois

While quite a number of his teammates can scratch their heads wondering whether they will be starters under the new manager, Courtois, like Karim Benzema, can rest assured that he is untouchable. Andriy Lunin could feature a lot more than he did last season (once), but the Belgian, so reliable and capable, will continue to be the first choice.

Right-back: Dani Carvajal

Carvajal had a 2020/21 season to forget, ruined by injuries that kept him out for long periods. Lucas Vázquez and Álvaro Odriozola featured more than him. Nonetheless, for what he offers when he’s fully fit, all we wish for in offence and defence, to my mind, he remains a starter. He is still our most gifted right-back and one that is yet to prove that he cannot be trusted anymore.

Right centre-back: Éder Militão

As aforementioned, should Varane stay, a possibility looking increasingly unlikely by the minute, he makes it to this lineup. Should he not, however, Militão does. It wasn’t until the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals against Liverpool that the Brazilian proved he can be a starter, in April. But he is a centre-back that has greatly improved and can finally be trusted to assume a bigger role in the team.

Left centre-back: David Alaba

Alaba showed some weaknesses whilst playing centre-back for FC Bayern in 2020/21, such as poor positioning and poor conduct in one-v-one situations. Even so, his passing is fabulous, and his positioning could improve if he doesn’t have to operate in a high defensive line. With Ferland Mendy at left-back and Casemiro in defensive midfield, he would be protected. And after all, he was brought in to act as a Sergio Ramos replacement.

Left-back: Ferland Mendy

While Marcelo continues to be a left-back Ancelotti greatly admires, Mendy has to remain a starter. Last season, he showed improvement offensively, albeit his crossing could do with a little more. Not an entirely balanced full-back like Carvajal, slightly more defensive, but excellent in duels and triggering defences with his underlapping runs. Though he now has competition, he should continue being a starter. 

Right midfielder: Fede Valverde

It feels unjust to not think Luka Modrić should start over Valverde in what could be his last season, especially after his 2020/21, but as was the case in 2019/20, the Uruguayan should be preferred over him. The manager said “We have to play a high-energy, high-intensity game, both with and without the ball, which is what the modern game requires of you: high intensity both on and off the ball”, and Valverde is perfect for that. So is Modrić, however, it’s his successor’s turn.

Defensive midfielder: Casemiro

A player that continues to boss his role, and one that’ll continue to be a must in the starting eleven for his excellence doing the dirty work. Casemiro, like Courtois and Benzema, is untouchable. 

Left midfielder: Toni Kroos

Perhaps another player that should be seen as untouchable, but could have his place challenged by Martin Ødegaard or even Antonio Blanco. For his ability to set the tempo the team plays at, though, and create chances, send long balls, take set-pieces…he will be preferred for the big games. And the majority of the games. Yet to show signs of decline and has retired from international football; he will be key.

Right-winger: Martin Ødegaard 

Ødegaard is not an Ángel Di María type of winger, heck his best position could be as a midfielder if not a number ten. Nonetheless, he could play as a winger on paper and occupy more central zones on the pitch, turning a 4-3-3 into 4-3-1-2. If that simply doesn’twork, Gareth Bale or Rodrygo could start on the right, and he could play as a left midfielder. This too with the freedom to roam, not the duty to set the tempo.

Striker: Karim Benzema

The best goalscorer in the team. Beyond that, a player whose desire to drop and make things work whilst an attack is being started will hugely benefit us for another season. Regardless of the formation, strategies, form of wingers…Benzema has to be a starter. An absolute gem.

Left-winger: Eden Hazard

Hazard suffered another injury-plagued season, but the team did better with him than without him in the starting eleven. In what could be his last chance to live up to expectations here, working under fitness coach Antonio Pintus and Ancelotti, surely eager to get the best out of him again, we can expect him to be considered a starter. Vinícius’ work rate could help him be preferred over the Belgian at times, but a player of his quality will help the attack.


Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy

Valverde — Casemiro — Kroos

Ødegaard — Benzema — Hazard


Ancelotti has a huge squad on his hand, boasting players with experience, others with bags of potential and the unquestionable quality to compete. It’ll be his duty to make the most out of it, and discover the best formula for it. That he has the ability to as a manager cannot be doubted either. All in all, it’ll be interesting to observe how the team functions under him.

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