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Friday October 26 2012
The importance of being Sami Khedira

With Spanish papers chronicling Jose Mourinho’s dilemma in replacing Sami Khedira due to injury, Mina Rzouki analyses the player’s importance.

Suffering an injury that forced him off the field against Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid relinquished control and eventually fell to the mighty Germans leaving critics questioning the existence of the Khediradependencia notion.

In a squad full of the world’s greatest creative and offensive talent, Sami Khedira has often slipped under the radar, underrated and forgotten despite providing the shine that makes the jewels of Madrid gleam. Putting his ego aside to abide by the laws set by Coach Jose Mourinho, the German is the ultimate team player who puts the collective ahead of his own personal glory, making him a vital cog in the Madrid engine.

Running over 10km a match, Khedira is by the far the most energetic player Los Blancos have but he is also one of, if not the most, tactically intelligent men playing under Mourinho in Madrid. A box-to-box player tasked with winning the ball and covering space, he is equally effective when surging ahead to take a shot on goal or provide the key pass as he is in occupying space to shield his defence.

No game showed off his duality as well as the one against Deportivo de La Coruna this season in which he provided more key passes than any other attacking player, whilst simultaneously acting as their best defender by tackling and intercepting passes better than any other defensive player within the squad. He does this all despite producing less fouls on average than almost every other player playing in his role.

“Mourinho told me to ‘step back a little, play smarter, more with your head!’ I used to think I had to slog my guts out to help the team even more. Thanks to Mourinho, I now know that this harmed the team more than it helped. He has made ​​me a strategist,” explained a grateful Khedira to Welt Online. A strategist he has become, when Madrid attacks, he is carefully thinking of the defence and how to cover space to stop the opponent from counter-attacking. When he is defending, he is sourcing the key pass that would unleash the squad’s lethal attackers. 

Consistently underrated, the loss of the player against Dortmund perfectly proved his indispensability. Without his dynamism, the Spaniards failed to press as a unit and without his tactical intelligence, Dortmund easily identified the holes within midfield to exploit.

However, no one suffers more than Xabi Alonso in the absence of his midfield partner. With the German alongside him, Alonso can adopt a higher position on the field and dedicate more of his time to creating play quickly. Without Khedira, the Spaniard is often forced to adopt a deeper role to receive the ball free from pressure, which subsequently allows the opponent a few seconds more to stifle Alonso’s passes to either the full-backs or wingers waiting patiently on the flanks.

A leader on the pitch, Khedira never stops playing, remains focused for the entirety of the match and always believes in the win. Off the pitch, he is a strong character who is both respected for his influence and loved for his sense of humour and friendly touch. The man responsible for choosing the songs on the German team bus, his hilarious one liners that include ‘Poldi [Lukas Podolski] is not a man of many words but a man of explicit words’ make him a delight off the pitch as well as on it.

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