Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Braga last night saw great individual performances all across the field. Yet, the game could not mean more to any individual than it did to Andriy Lunin.
The Ukrainian goalkeeper has not enjoyed much prominence under Carlo Ancelotti since Kepa Arrizabalaga arrived in the summer and for no fault of his. After all, the shot-stopper has maintained high standards whenever called upon.
Kepa’s warm-up injury, however, gave Lunin his latest chance last night. Starting on the night, he delivered a special display including four saves, two from inside the box, and a saved penalty.
Speaking to the media after the full-time whistle, Lunin first commented on what the win meant to the team.
“The most important thing was to win the three points. We have qualified, but we are two games away from being first in the group. This victory will help us for the league matches.”
It was only then that he arrived on the topic of his individual performance which was sensational.
“Victory is important for the team and with zero goals conceded. The last play of the game has been very important to me. I’m happy to have played a good game.”
“It is important for my confidence, for the experience and to pick up the pace of matches,” he added on the importance of regular game time.
The backup goalkeeper was then asked how he dealt with the lack of minutes and whether it affected his confidence, to which he said,
“I’m fine and in the best club in the world. The whole team helps me every day and I work with the best. It’s not easy to get in at the last minute, but you have to be prepared.”
“When it’s your turn, you have to do what you know. Good thing it turned out the way it turned out,” he added.
Finally, the 24-year-old was asked about the penalty he saved early in the game which brought the momentum to Real Madrid’s side.
“There’s not much to tell on the penalty. I want to thank the goalkeeper’s coach for his help. It’s a stop for both of us. We work it between the goalkeepers and the coach. It’s a daily thing,” he modestly concluded.
Nico Paz elated after debut
Nico Paz was another young player who had a night to remember, for it brought with it his debut for the senior side.
“It was crazy. Making my first-team debut has been my dream ever since I was a young boy and it’s come true at the greatest stadium in the world, and in the Champions League,” he said when asked about his feelings.
Making one’s debut for a team like Real Madrid can be a real nerve-racking experience, especially considering the expectations on their shoulders. Paz revealed that he too was nervous before coming on.
“You’re always nervous before the game. I tried to stay calm and enjoy it as much as I could. As soon as I got up off the bench and looked around at the stadium, my stomach was all over the place. Seeing all the people really hypes you up. It’s incredible to be alongside all of my heroes.”
It has been increasingly difficult for academy players to break into the first team in recent years, and Paz is the latest on the short list of players to have made it. Giving his advice to youngsters, he said,
“Madrid always want to win and that’s the aura there is in the dressing room. We’re all playing with the same goal in mind, which is to make it into the first team. That’s what we work for every day.”
“We know how hard it is because it’s the greatest team in the world but we have to keep working hard because it can be done. It is possible and that’s the message to the rest of the academy boys,” he added.
The Castilla star then revealed Carlo Ancelotti’s advise to him before coming on, saying: “He told me to go out and enjoy it, to defend well and give it my all.”
Finally, the debutant was asked about who the lucky recipient of his debut shirt would be.
“I’m going to give my shirt to my parents because they deserve it. They’re the ones who have been there with me since I was little.”
Source: Real Madrid website
Real Madrid summer signing set to return to training soon – report
Real Madrid’s main goal heading into the summer transfer window was to wrap up the signing of Jude Bellingham amid massive interest from Premier League giants such as Liverpool, Manchester City, and Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola’s City, especially, were ready to match and increase any salary Madrid offered, and were going strongly into the bidding war.
Eventually, Bellingham decided to join Madrid after they reached an agreement with Borussia Dortmund for €3 million.
However, following this, los blancos had to improvise a fair bit as Karim Benzema decided to leave the club to join Al-Ittihad on a free transfer. They were expecting him to continue for another season, at least, and it stumped their plans in the market.
In the next few weeks, Madrid chased forwards, and ended up signing Joselu, Brahim Diaz, and a certain Arda Guler, who was close to Barcelona before eventually ending up at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Unfortunately for Madrid, he is yet to play a single minute for the club after picking up a serious injury in pre-season. Despite being on the bench for a couple of games, Guler suffered a relapse in training, and was sidelined again.
Now, reports from Yagiz Sabuncuoglu say that the Turkish international is close to returning to team training.
Guler has slowly, but surely, been recovering from his injury, and could take to the pitch for his first minutes with the club in the next few weeks as Madrid look for solutions after a month full of injuries.
With Vinicius Jr, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni, Eder Militao, and Thibaut Courtois all out until early 2024, Madrid have relied on Castilla for reinforcements, but could do with Guler’s services in their forward line.
That said, Carlo Ancelotti and co. are expected to be extremely cautious when it comes to the Turkish international. The slightest spell of poor man-management here could make or break the youngster’s career.