Unlike many other players at Real Madrid, Lucas Vazquez has never been a superstar. He is hardly part of advertisements or promotions. He doesn’t have the technical ability that James Rodriguez or Gareth Bale might have. But the Spaniard is probably the most underrated member of the side.
The Spaniard has climbed up the ladder at the club like no other. He was never really a star in the Castilla side and never played for the junior Spain sides. But he has paid his dues after a successful loan spell at Espanyol in the 2014-15 campaign. He now won three Champions League titles and won La Liga title.
But for a club like Real Madrid, a player like him is often the odd one out for the aforementioned reasons. But his work-rate and intelligence is higher than many other players, even though he doesn’t have an exceptional goalscoring record by any means.
The highest number of goals he has scored in a single season is eight. It came during his last season with the Castilla side. Since then, he has only scored 15 goals for Real in as many as five seasons (via Transfermarkt). Despite that, Zinedine Zidane sees a grafter in him. He works for others and for the team.
It is that unselfish attitude that is required out of some players in a club full of lofty egos. But Vazquez has continued to divide opinion among Real Madrid fans, despite him being one of Zidane’s trusted guards.
It isn’t just Zidane. Even under Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, Vazquez was seen as a reliable player. All three of them have seen something in him that fans may not.
This season, he has made 1 tackle per game in the league. Last season, that tally stood at 1.4. In the 2017-18 campaign, he made 1.5 tackles per game (via Whoscored). Last season, this stat of his was more than any other attacking player in the side. The same is true for the 2017-18 season too.
The recent game against Osasuna would say a lot about Vazquez’s abilities. He lost the ball three times- not a pretty sight for anyone. But he also won three tackles and wasn’t dribbled past even once (via Whoscored)
His work-rate is almost like a wing-back down the right. He takes up positions that are deep and when going forward, he provided immense width down the flank. Sticking to that touchline like an old-school winger has allowed him to make the fourth-highest number of crosses this season- 0.5.
He has the qualities that can change games for any club in Europe. Zidane knows that and Vazquez is one of Zidane’s first substitutions in just about every game. He has made as many appearances from the bench as he has made starts this season. Last season, he came off the bench 16 times and in the 2017-18 season, this happened 17 times.
Against packed defences that make it tough for Real to score, Vazquez plays a key role in bringing them wide and dislodged their backline. That is a rare trait for players. Especially in a Real side that doesn’t have a player like him.
While James brings technical ability to the plate, Bale brings pace and power. Karim Benzema has the completeness that no other player in that side has. Summer signing Eden Hazard adds pace to the flank too. In that sense, Vazquez brings in another approach to the game that no one else can.
Looking around Europe can help. Players like Vazquez are countable on fingers. The fact that he can play on either side helps too. He plays like a proper winger on either side in an era of inside-forwards and wide playmakers.
Replacing a player like him would be very tough for any club. Donny van de Beek has been linked. He is a hard worker. But he’s more of a central player than an old school wide player. Ivan Perisic’s name springs to mind but the Croatian is ageing.
Arsenal have been linked with Vazquez. But the way Zidane likes him and plays him, it seems close to impossible that the Frenchman allows him to leave.