The Blancos have done brilliantly to push themselves back in the fight for honours after a chaotic start, and three players in particular stand out as the pick of the crop
Consistency has been a four-letter word at the Santiago Bernabeu this year, as various players have come to the fore at certain points only to then fade away and cede the spotlight to others, or indeed nobody at all. But even taking into consideration the rollercoaster ride that has been 2015/16, three players stand out as the best of the bunch: Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric.
While the likes of Karim Benzema, Keylor Navas, Casemiro or Dani Carvajal also make a strong case for inclusion, the above trio have proved time and time again that they can be counted on to produce the goods. The MRB axis will be key in these final decisive weeks, with two trophies still up for grabs a in a year when the team appeared destined to fail, with a coach sacked midway through the campaign.
Faith moves mountains, and the faith of players like Modric, Ronaldo and Bale – coupled with their excellence on the field – has helped Madrid to keep winning and competing at the top level.
Everything changed with Zinedine Zidane’s arrival, however. Now Ronaldo has not just scored against the Liga’s weakest outfits, but also in key clashes with Barcelona, Athletic, Sevilla, Roma and Wolfsburg. A month before the competition’s end he has reached 30 Liga goals for the sixth straight year, is just one away from the Champions League record and is set to notch more than 50 strikes in total in 2015/16.
This has, without doubt, been a breakout year for the former Tottenham man. Bale scored key goals in his first season, but in the current campaign he has also imposed himself as a crucial part of the Madrid machine. Rafa Benitez was wrong: it is not through the middle but down the flanks that he has found his home. Power, speed, overlapping ability, crossing; the Wales international looks a different, better player.
When Bale has been missing, he has been sorely missed. The 15 goals and 13 assists provided in La Liga do not fully reflect his importance to Real Madrid this year. He has given more to the club based on his excellent performances – and if not for injuries, he would surely have far better numbers.
The Croatian’s game rarely catches the eye. Players like Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema are there to hog the spotlight and take fans’ adulation, but Modric is just as important to the Madrid effort as those superstars. He is the club’s metronome in the centre of the pitch, the psychic that sees gaps in the defence where nobody else can.
Having enjoyed a rare injury-free campaign, Modric has appeared 37 times for Madrid – only two other outfield players have featured for more minutes. That consistency underlines his crucial role in the side. The Blancos are one team with Modric on the pitch and quite another when he is on the sidelines.