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Militao could be Real Madrid’s next great central defender

Real Madrid lost their first-choice centre back pairing in the space of just a few weeks in the summer of 2021. First, Sergio Ramos departed the Santiago Bernabeu after a 16-year stint that saw him become the club’s heartbeat. Then Raphael Varane was sold to Manchester United in a shock transfer.

It took some time for Los Blancos to recover as a defensive unit, but Eder Militao is now flourishing as their next great player at the back with the Brazilian improving dramatically over the last two seasons. Carlo Ancelotti believes Militao is currently the best centre back in the world and there is evidence to support his claim.

Militao is averaging the most clearances per 90 minutes (three) of any Real Madrid player this season with only Aurelien Tchouameni above him for interceptions per 90 minutes (1.2). Now 25, he has added maturity to his game in recent times, highlighted by the trust Ancelotti has placed in him.

Many believed Antonio Rudiger had been signed as Real Madrid’s next dominant defender in the post-Ramos and Varane age. The German international impressed in the Premier League for Chelsea and was seen as something of a coup when he signed for the Spanish giants as a free agent last summer.

Rudiger, however, has struggled for form and fitness as a Real Madrid player while Militao has grown with almost every match he has played this season. With Rudiger currently available, Militao is being favoured in central defence with David Alaba and Nacho Fernandez seen as better partners for the Brazilian.

Liverpool visit the Santiago Bernabeu this week trailing 5-2 from the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie. Jurgen Klopp’s team will need to impose their own game on Real Madrid and take the game to the Spanish champions if they are to stand any chance of overturning the three-goal deficit and making the quarter-finals.

With Militao in his current form, though, Liverpool might find it difficult to break through the Real Madrid backline. The Brazilian is physically imposing, capable with the ball at his feet and quick across the ground. He also has a knack for scoring goals with his head. There aren’t many obvious weaknesses to his game now that he has ironed out the mistakes of earlier in his career.

It wasn’t so long ago that Militao’s Real Madrid career looked to be in trouble. His potential was clear, but the Brazilian made a number of high profile mistakes that had many questioning whether he would ever be good enough for the elite level. A transfer away from the Santiago Bernabeu was mooted.

Now, Militao is a key member of Real Madrid’s next generation along with the likes of Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga. Ancelotti has been good for the 25-year-old’s development with the Italian coach one of Militao’s biggest advocates, and the admiration appears to be mutual.

“Ancelotti has been very important for me, he has given me the confidence every player needs,” Militao explained when asked how important a figure Ancelotti has been in his development as a Real Madrid player. “I try to follow, learning each day. I have great moments ahead for Real Madrid and Brazil.”

This season’s La Liga title race might be a foregone conclusion with Barcelona nine points clear at the top of the table, but the Champions League and Copa del Rey still present Real Madrid with an opportunity to make this season one to remember. Militao is key to everything being done by Los Blancos at the moment.

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