In the derby at the weekend, Real Madrid needed a win, but were without Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema had limped off during the game. Gareth Bale scored twice, but the biggest winner might have been Lucas Vazquez, the baby-faced winger who scored Madrid’s equalizer.
Lucas Vazquez doesn’t have the star quality of Ronaldo or Bale, but his is slowly building a name for himself.
Vazquez made his Real Madrid debut in September against former club Espanyol but his first major impact would be against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. With Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Pepe, Dani Carvajal, James Rodriguez and Luka Modric all injured, Benitez’s Madrid were a patched-up XI of fringe players and half-fit stars.
Vazquez played on the right of midfield as the Spanish giants came away from Paris with a respectable 0-0 draw and the upper hand in their group, winning the reverse fixture a fortnight later to seal first place.
Benitez’s exit in early January had the potential to derail Vazquez’s promising Madrid career, but instead he has continued to flourish under Zinedine Zidane. While the Bernabeu club’s much-vaunted ‘BBC’ frontline are politically impossible to displace, the key is to perform in the opportunities afforded to you by injury, rest and suspension.
Whether brief cameos or occasional starts, Vazquez has done so and never more so than in his last four games – where he boasts three goals and an assist.
Adding those goals to his armory is something that could help take this winger to the next level. What he had shown earlier in the season and with Espanyol was that he is a direct, speedy wideman who loves to whip crosses in but also loves to defend, and whose defensive contribution far outstrips any other attacker in the Madrid squad.
By adding goals to his production he has made himself a genuine option and appears to have leapfrogged the highly-rated Jese and €80m James Rodriguez in the pecking order.
While the Colombian’s situation merits its own, far deeper analysis, Vazquez has now put himself in a position where he is arguably ‘the fourth forward’ at Real Madrid and many are asking if he could be a surprise inclusion in Spain’s Euro 2016 squad.
A fresh, in-form and relatively unknown danger man for Zidane to throw into the fray, should Karim Benzema’s questionable fitness fail – be that in the warm-up or during the game – then Vazquez is likely to be the first to have his name called.
And while Vazquez – thanks to his errant ‘Z’ – is used to having his name misspelt, in not so long it could be up in lights for all to see.