Good news from Spain’s defending Champion, Real Madrid, as their star midfielder, Wesley Sneijder, will only be out for three months and not the previously feared six.
The injury, suffered on a vicious tackle by Arsenal’s Abou Diaby in a friendly on Sunday in the Emirates Cup, was originally diagnosed as a torn cruciate ligament according to El Marca newspaper.
But after an MRI Monday Real Madrid reported on their Web site that Sneijder will avoid surgery and will only be out three months.
While this is much improved over the original assessment, it will still leave Madrid with out an integral piece for at least the first two months of the season, which is scheduled to kick off August 31.
Los Blancos did not any waste time adding midfield help in the form of Sneijder’s compatriot, Rafael van der Vaart. A deal that had been in the works for a few weeks between the Spanish club and Hamburg of the Bundesliga finally went through on Monday.
The 25-year-old van der Vaart—a central midfielder—will not directly replace Sneijder, who spent most of his time on the wings, but will be able to take on some of the playmaking responsibilities lost with Sneijder.
It will be very interesting to see how Madrid lines up to begin the season because Van der Vaart is much in the same mold as a Madrid standby, Guti, and manager Bernd Schuster will have to decide if the two of them can play together.
Besides Van der Vaart, the injury to Sneijder directly effects two players seeking transfer: Madrid’s Robinho and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
I have read a few reports that say that the loss of a Sneijder will prompt Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon to step up his pursuit of Ronaldo, but I think this is completely the wrong move.
Real currently sports an imposing midfield and the last thing we need is another midfielder and especially one that is more focused on himself than the team—every player in this midfield is going to have to learn to share time.
A much better move would be to prevent Chelsea from signing Robinho. The Brazilian is incredibly skilled and is extremely dangerous streaking down the wing. Playing on one wing opposite Arjen Robben, Robinho can excel and help drive Madrid towards its title defense.
For a team that is weak at the back and thin up front after Raul and Ruud van Nistelrooy, who are both aging, there are much better places to spend money than on more midfielders.
The Midfield Log Jam
Sure there is always the issue of what to do once Sneijder comes back and increases the log jam in the midfield.
Currently Madrid has three defensive midfielders in Mahamadou Diarra, Fernando Gago, and Ruben De la Red who all deserve playing time. I could see at least one of them tested out more in the center of midfield.
The heart of the Madrid machine will be run by Guti and Van der Vaart. Guti is one of the most inconsistent players for the team, but when he is on, he can be the best distributors of the ball in the world. Hopefully the young Van der Vaart can learn from the veteran Gutti and slowly take his place with the starting eleven.
Los Blancos also have Royston Drethe, Julio Baptista, and Javi Garcia in the midfield mix, but none of them have proven that they deserve consistent playing time as of yet.
How Schuster decides to figure out the players in the midfield could well determine how Madrid does this season.
What do you think Madrid should do in the middle? How much will the loss of Sneijder effect Real’s drive for their third league title in a row?