This post originally featured on our comprehensive Real Madrid analysis sister site, realmadridanalysis.com.
Upon the January transfer window of 2019 opening, Florentino Perez has already added to the Real Madrid team. What is, perhaps, not the ‘Galactico’ signing that the Bernabeu faithful have come to expect. In this tactical analysis, we look at the statistics that make Brahim Diaz such an attractive signing from Manchester City.
19-year-old, Diaz has already thrilled the Spanish people with his impressive performances in the red and yellow of Spain’s youth teams. However, he had only made four senior appearances for the Citizens of the Etihad.
Is the attacking midfielder ready to pull on the pearly white shirt and dazzle the Bernabeu? Or is his next destination la Castilla? Where his name will remain filed under ‘for the future’… for now.
The Malaga-born Diaz began his footballing life at Malaga Youth, where he was identified by Manchester City scouts and joined their academy in 2014. He has progressed through their age groups, where he has played alongside Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho. Whose move to Borussia Dortmund could have been the spark for Diaz’s desire to move to Madrid.
Although his appearances in Pep Guardiola’s team have been limited, he has still managed to score two goals in the English Football League’s Carabao Cup. Diaz’s abilities on the pitch have left Guardiola stating that the club “will do absolutely everything” to keep him in a sky blue shirt. But it appears the lure of Real Madrid may be more appealing for the Spain U21 international who has been dubbed the Spanish Messi by certain sections of the media.
How he plays
The diminutive midfielder’s low centre of gravity allows him to twist and turn his way past the opposition defenders. Although he may not be the fastest player on the pitch, he possesses great close control and uses this weapon to break lines and advance the attack. His dribbling skills change the tempo of the attack and this turns midfield possession into a real goal scoring opportunity.
In the picture above, you can see Diaz’s starting position is high and wide, this attracts the left-sided defender to him, exposing a 1 vs. 1 opportunity.
He changes speed with his first touch to fool the pressuring defender and break the opposing midfield line, as he moves towards the middle of the pitch. This allows him to advance the attack as he moves towards the opposition’s final defensive line.
This triggers his teammates to move into the attacking third and make runs to create space for Diaz to move into, which enables him to drive at the defending player.
Diaz is not a player who exclusively operates in wide areas. He demonstrates his desire to be in possession, regardless of being under pressure in busy areas. His bravery in possession stretches beyond his fantastic dribbling ability. As he is comfortable shooting from distance and making those killer passes for assists; another way he breaks the opponent’s defensive lines.
The youngster does not only demonstrate unlimited technical skill, but also an ability to observe and anticipate attacking openings. These capabilities can be likened to that of Eden Hazard. Traditionally, it is the role of the striker that moves players out of lines in order to create space for teammates to move into. But Diaz’s movement and timing offloading the ball means he acts as a magnet. He attracts players towards him and exploits the space they have left. The perfect recipe for a false nine. Look at the images below and Diaz’s movement to create space for himself, which he eventually moves into and shoots at goal.
He moves towards the ball which draws the opposition’s defensive midfielder to him, this creates a space in front of the opposition’s centre-backs.
He quickly returns the ball and moves away, opening his body to a side on position, anticipating that he will receive the ball again. From the picture, you can see Diaz’s body position shows his intent to change direction upon receiving the ball again and attack the space left.
Not only an attacking player
It is clear that Diaz’s main qualities lie in attack and having possession of the ball. However, he also exhibits capabilities when his team is out of possession. His agility means that when within close proximity to the opposing player, he is able to press and hound them into moving the ball or be caught in possession. This can be the perfect trigger for teammates to join in the press in order to win the ball high up the pitch.
See the above image for an example where Diaz pressures the player with the ball. He uses his body to stop them from playing forward, as he shows the player into a smaller space. This allows Diaz’s teammates to join in the press and support Diaz regaining possession. To a manager who employs a high, fast press, Diaz could be a valuable asset.
In the honeymoon period this could be a match made in heaven, but further down the line, the realisation of competition for places may set in. The manager may have a big problem managing the morale and playing time of each Madridista.
This poses the question, why leave the battle for starting places at Manchester City? To join a war at Real Madrid? With Perez also investing in another four under 23 signings; Andriy Lunin, Alvaro Ordiozola, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo. There has not been a big ‘Galactico’ signing to replace the departed Cristiano Ronaldo, so could this be a sign of the times changing in the Spanish capital?
Although Manchester City may be unhappy about losing the player, whose contract expires in the summer of 2019. They will be happy about receiving a transfer fee for the player, who they would have possibly lost for nothing in the summer. One thing is for sure, Brahim Diaz is going to be a top player, and his progress will be monitored by all of the big clubs in Europe.
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