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The burden of the fan

Real Madrid have a few attackers, but only one striker. Joselu (33) moves uncertainly between the starting eleven and the bench, between desire and reality

Sometimes teams are said to play for or against their coach. You can usually recognize that. Whether teams also play for or against club managers is unclear – but Real Madrid are saving their own backsides.

When regular player Eder Militao ruptured his cruciate ligament in the first league game of the season, only three regular central defenders – David Alaba, Antonio Rüdiger and “fireman” Nacho – were available, but rarely all of them at the same time due to various minor injuries. In captain Daniel Carvajal, there is still only one trained right-back in the squad, and – without wishing to offend Fran Garcia – there was once again no world-class left-back

Of course, it’s bad luck that both defensive-minded players in midfield, Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga, are currently out for weeks. But it is fortunate that strategist Toni Kroos is suddenly discovering respectable clearing qualities in his old age. Or that Carvajal is currently in the form of his life after turning 30 – recently only his susceptibility to injury has been constant. The combination of this squad planning and this bad luck with injuries does not really add up to 16 wins after 19 games this season.

Especially not when you consider that Real’s club bosses have been saving up for Kylian Mbappé for years, but he won’t be coming summer after summer. While no other striker is coming either. Not initially in order to have a capable back-up for Karim Benzema, nor last summer in order to have a striker of starting eleven caliber after Benzema’s departure. It doesn’t get much more negligent than that. Jude Bellingham suddenly breaking Alfredo di Stefano or Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring records couldn’t possibly have been planned for

Joselu was once a striker for Hannover 96

Because Real’s squad planning is remarkable, at least in midfield, and coach Carlo Ancelotti likes to send his best players out onto the pitch, the Whites have been playing with a four-man midfield and a front two since this season. They have a couple of attackers in the team, but only one striker: veteran Joselu, who actually came on as a back-up in the summer. After his years in Real’s second team, he played for TSG Hoffenheim or Hannover 96, Stoke City or most recently Espanyol Barcelona. Who is now the only representative of an essential type of player that the great Real Madrid have with them this season.

When all the attacking players are fit, Joselu is not a regular. However, Vinicius Junior has probably been out until February since the international break, meaning that in some games it won’t just be a case of substituting a tall target man for the last 15 minutes. Real are reliant on Joselu’s goals

Less in the league, where he scores every 149 minutes (five goals in 14 appearances). But in the Champions League, where it became clear on Wednesday evening against Napoli that Joselu does not actually have the quality for the role he is currently being asked to play. Which hurts him the most, because he is also an avowed fan of the club

Bellingham forces Joselu to cheer

When he managed to make it 4-2 in stoppage time after missing a number of great chances, the Stuttgart-born striker almost melted into gestures of apology towards the rest of the Real fans – Jude Bellingham, who had provided the assist, had to force him to celebrate half-heartedly after all.

Self-confidence is the greatest asset for a striker. Real Madrid don’t exactly put their only striker in a position to amass vast amounts of it. Especially as the 33-year-old is no longer expected to make a big leap in performance. So when the transfer window opens towards the end of the year, the royal club’s management will have to consider what their goals for the 2023/24 season are and whether a few more transfer targets are needed before the summer. Also in the interests of Joselu, who is neither Benzema nor Mbappé. As much as he would like to be for his favorite club

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