Under the radar: Alternatives to Eder Militao

Real Madrid defender Eder Militao looks set to miss most of the 2023-24 season with an ACL injury.

Los Blancos had already lost first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to the same issue and are now without their star centre-back as well after he hyperextended his knee early in the second half of their LaLiga opener – a 2-0 win over Athletic Club.

In his absence, Carlo Ancelotti is left with only three fit senior centre-backs – Antonio Rudiger, David Alaba and Nacho Fernandez.

We used Twenty3’s Discover tool to identify three alternatives to Militao that Madrid could pursue.

Profiling Militao

Militao was Madrid’s most-used centre-back in LaLiga last term and played the third-most league minutes of any player at the club (2,935), behind only compatriot Vinicius Junior and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

As a result, his loss will be keenly felt – particularly as the youngest member – at 25 – of an ageing centre-back stable which does not feature another player under the age of 30.

Defensively, he is a superb reader of the game, making the sixth-most interceptions per 90 of any player in the Spanish top flight in 2022-23 (6.19), whilst also possessing plenty of old-school grit – his 1.96 loose ball duels won per 90 ranked inside the division’s top 20.

Any potential replacement will also need to be comfortable on the ball, given Madrid’s regular dominance of possession – Militao featured in 13.02 sequences featuring 10 or more passes per 90 in LaLiga last term, which also ranks among the competition’s top 20.

We asked the Discover tool to identify central defenders from Europe’s top five leagues who score well for the three aforementioned statistics and it picked out Militao himself as the outstanding candidate, with an 87% rating.

The three suggested players on this list also score well in those areas and, as a result, should be capable of providing cover and competition – alongside Nacho – for the new first-choice pairing of Alaba and Rudiger, whilst also bringing their own qualities to the table.

Joe Gomez

Just behind Militao on the Discover tool’s list with a rating of 86% is Liverpool’s Joe Gomez.

That is not to say that the Englishman has come close to matching Militao’s quality in recent seasons – but he profiles remarkably similarly.

Gomez recovered the ball more frequently per 90 than any player in the Premier League last term (14.84) and even exceeded Militao in loose ball duels won (2.88), although his limited minutes in the competition (1,625) must be taken into account.

The 26-year-old would also be able to mirror Militao’s ability to provide cover at right-back, having featured there for Liverpool on numerous occasions.

Gomez’s contract does run until 2027 – but he is clearly not a crucial member of Jurgen Klopp’s side and the Reds could perhaps be convinced to part with the versatile defender.

Nico Elvedi

Next on the list is Borussia Monchengladbach defender Nico Elvedi, whose rating was 85%.

The Switzerland international performed admirably despite his side mustering just a 10th-placed finish, seven points off the European pace, and he would surely be tempted by a switch to the illustrious Santiago Bernabeu.

The 26-year-old’s defensive numbers from the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign come close to matching Militao’s, while his passing accuracy of 93.11% was the third-best in the German top flight – suggesting he boasts the technical quality to thrive at a side that enjoys more of the ball than his current employers.

Crucially, Elvedi has just one year remaining on his contract and has reportedly refused to sign an extension, making him an affordable option for Madrid.

Samuel Gigot

An option perhaps less well-known outside of fans of French football is Marseille’s Samuel Gigot.

His rating of 84%, though, suggests he is certainly a player worthy of consideration.

The Frenchman is a rugged battler off the ball and won more loose ball duels (2.75) than any other player in Ligue 1 per 90 last season.

However, his exuberance and desire to win the ball can occasionally land him in trouble – he was sent off twice in 26 league outings in 2022-23.

Even in spite of that, the 29-year-old – whose contract expires in the summer of 2025 – represents an experienced and attainable short-term alternative to their stricken star.

All visualisations in this article were produced with the Twenty3 Toolbox. For more information, please get in touch below.