Real Madrid have a talent for identifying midfielders, it is more than fair to say. While Toni Kroos and Luka Modric continue to dominate midfields more than a decade on from their signings, they have a host of young talents looking to break into their midfield trio.
Following the departure of Casemiro to Manchester United, Aurelien Tchouameni has been the first able to break into midfield since the trio was formed. Although he was hardly a miracle of scouting, he has fitted in seamlessly to the side.
In addition, Eduardo Camavinga is waiting in the wings, while Fede Valverde might eventually move into the centre from his adapted role on the right. That is without mentioning Dani Ceballos.
However with the prospect of Ceballos potentially moving on – he is out of contract at the end of the season – Los Blancos may be on the lookout for their next midfield star.
One of the candidates mentioned is Stanislav Lobotka of Napoli. The Slovakian midfielder is a fixture for Luciano Spalletti’s Serie A-leading Napoli, and Mundo Deportivo have suggested that Carlo Ancelotti would be keen on bringing him to the Santiago Bernabeu.
The 27-year-old crossed paths with Ancelotti at Napoli when the Italian was there in 2018-19. He had joined the Partenopei in 2017 from Celta Vigo for €21m.
It is not yet clear how much Napoli would demand for his signature, although it seems likely it would extend beyond €30m. 90min say that Napoli are attempting to secure Lobotka to a new long-term deal beyond his current 2025 expiry date.
Lobotka is small in stature but tends to influence games heavily with his management of the ball. Often coming deep to become the first or second receiver from the defence or goalkeeper, he is supremely comfortable on the ball.
It is no surprise that he ranks top for pass completion rate in Serie A this season (94%), while he also makes the top ten for successful dribbles, touches and passes into the final third.
Shuttling across the midfield, Lobotka is an accomplished shield in front of defence, if perhaps not at tracking runners into the box. His area of play tends to be far deeper in the midfield and his purpose is often to control possession and progress the ball forward cleanly.
Bearing in mind Ceballos is often used as and has been marked out by Ancelotti as the closest thing to Modric, it would suggest that Lobotka is primed to occupy that role. However Lobotka perhaps better fits the mould of Kroos – the German may well retire at the end of the season.
While Lobotka is similarly small in stature and capable of using the ball under pressure to Modric, he does not possess the same instinct and incisiveness as the Croatian in the final third.
Should Real Madrid opt to move for Lobotka, his part of a trio would likely be alongside Tchouameni instead of (or as a back up to) Kroos, rather than Modric. Ancelotti tends to drop Modric deeper if Real Madrid are struggling to move the ball into the final third, but overall prefers to use him further forward.