Dani Carvajal is one of the best right-backs in the world. For some, that fact exists only on paper. While the Spaniard was a key part of the Los Blancos side that won the Champions League thrice, many feel he isn’t as good a player anymore.
Since rejoining the club in the summer of 2013, Carvajal has been world-class. His fee (buy-back clause) was 6.5 million euros and for what Real got out of him, it is one of the biggest bargains of the decade.
Statistically, the 2015-16 and the 2016-17 campaign was Carvajal’s best so far. He constantly bombed forward down the right flank. He got four assists each in both of those campaigns. In the 2016-17 Champions League campaign, he got five more assists- helping Real win the second title of the three.
But last season was probably Carvajal’s worst season at the Santiago Bernabeu. Having players around him not play at their best never helped him- it never helps anyone else too. But Carvajal was one of those players who underperformed.
In comparison to the others, Carvajal wasn’t as bad as it looks. But if compared to his own performances from before, it wasn’t an ideal situation for the former Bayer Leverkusen man.
Under Santiago Solari last season, there was an emphasis on tactical rigidity. Players could not roam from their positions as much as they did under Zinedine Zidane. That is why a player like Isco was never seen as a regular player under Solari. That static approach didn’t always help Carvajal. It restricted him and bound him to chains.
In the Champions League last season, Carvajal made only 0.8 dribbles per game- only 0.2 higher than how many he completed in his first season. On top of that, Carvajal could only make 1.3 key passes per game last season. That again was higher than only his first season (via Whoscored).
It is also worth noting was not Carvajal’s best season, in terms of defending. He won only 1.7 tackles per game and made only 1.1 interceptions per game. That is the fewest number of interceptions that he has ever made in his career in one season. Even this season, he has made 1.5 interceptions per game- the fourth highest for the Los Blancos so far. He is behind Casemiro, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy, in this regard.
When it comes to tackling, last season was his second-worst in a single league season. In the 2015-16 season, he made 1.5 tackles per game. But he was more involved in attack going forward. He also made the lowest number of blocks of his whole career last season- 0.3. This season, he has already made that many blocks.
This season, the right-back has already shown big signs of improvement. Back under Zidane, he seems to be getting back to his very best again.
He has made 2.5 tackles per game- the third-highest of his career in any season. In just six appearances, he has already assisted as much as three times. He has played more key passes per game than ever before- 1.7 (via Whoscored). That is the fourth-highest in the La Liga for the club, behind only Kroos, James Rodriguez and Marcelo.
He looks a lot like his real self. He tears down the right flank, constantly troubling the opposition left side with his pace and dribbling. While his crossing accuracy has been at a lowly 0.5 in the league, it is at 1.5 per game in the Champions League. That is a reason for being optimistic.
The 27-year-old presents a case of a player thriving under the right manager in the right situation. He indeed did seem like a shadow of himself last season, but all things point to a very bright campaign this time around. And Real Madrid fans should be overjoyed about it.