No footballer dreams of a place on the substitutes’ bench.
This is especially the case for stellar names, who’ve endured either a dramatic decline in standing or stalled development during the early months. of 2018/19.
Here, Sport360 highlights the players who’ve experienced campaigns to forget.
Club: Real Madrid
La Liga minutes: 29
A mythical figure was introduced to the Madrid set-up this summer.
Vinicus was the boy wonder from Brazil, always one of football’s most-alluring prospects. He, supposedly, boasted magical technique, boundless enthusiasm and a daring eye for the spectacular.
With Cristiano Ronaldo out the exit door, the stage was set for a spectacular rise. Instead, a disappearing act under the doomed Julen Loetegui sparked whispers and rumours.
The lesser-spotted Vinicius was utilised for just 12 minutes in the top flight by the ex-Spain boss, before his doomed tenure ended in the wake of October 28’s El Clasico humiliation at Barcelona.
Time spent with Santiago Solari at the Castilla during this trying period has allowed for a change of fate.
The 18-year-old got two assists upon the Argentine’s debut against minnows Melilla in the Copa del Rey, fortuitously forced the breakthrough in the trying 2-0 La Liga triumph against Real Valladolid and got an assist in the Champions League at Viktoria Plzen.
Serie A minutes: 180
Breaking apart the fabled Juventus defence is one of football’s toughest orders.
That can be both for the opposition attack, or any understudy to Giorgio Chiellini and – the rehired – Leonardo Bonucci.
The staccato progression of Rugani is case in point.
Comparisons – not always justified, admittedly – have been banded around for years about the Old Lady having the ‘next Alessandro Nesta’ on their hands.
Blessed with a rare precision on the ball and a composure beyond his 24 years, he would be a regular starter at most other clubs in Europe.
Instead, the ex-Empoli starlet’s 2018/19 in Serie A reads: two starts and nine times as an unused substitute.
For comparison, Bonucci has made 10 starts and Chiellini seven. Minus the former being ignored for his instant return to AC Milan, they are locked in as first choice.
Rugani even significantly trails Mehdi Benatia’s 450 minutes across five starts. A lack of desire last summer to join countryman Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea could cause regret.
Club: Manchester United
Premier League minutes: 201
The prospect of Bailly turning into an error-prone, irrelevant centre-back at Old Trafford seemed impossible two years ago.
A bombastic figure appeared to have been introduced to the United squad in the early months of 2016/17. Bailly oozed belief and raw ability – now, he just collects splinters on the sidelines after a, frankly abysmal, start to this trying season.
Bailly disintegrated in August 19’s 3-2 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion, didn’t start again until September 25’s penalty-shootout reversal against the Championship’s Derby County and hasn’t been seen since 19 egregious minutes against Newcastle United saw him hauled off in disorder.
The Ivory Coast international appears to be getting rawer with age, rather than more refined. This could be because his maverick ways jar with the dogmatic Jose Mourinho, or this rapid decline could be the work of a ruinous set of injuries ever since he was snapped up from Villarreal.
Either way, he’s currently way behind Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling in the Old Trafford pecking order.
La Liga minutes: 238
Barcelona supporters never grew enamoured with power house Paulinho and his prosaic skill set.
This is why the, effective, swap that saw the Brazil midfielder sent back to Guangzhou Evergrande and Bayern Munich’s Arturo Vidal drafted in was hailed at Camp Nou. The Chile superstar’s reputation far outstretches his predecessor.
But Paulinho contributed nine goals across 34 La Liga appearances in his one season at Barca, becoming a familiar face in the champions’ XI (21 top-flight starts, compared to 13 substitute appearances and two times as an unused replacement).
These already look like figures the disenchanted Vidal will struggle to match. His current tally with the Catalans in La Liga reads two starts, seven walk-ons and three times as an unused replacement.
Angry social media posts have not helped the Chile superstar’s integration as frustration has boiled over for the €20 million purchase.
The rapid acclimitisation of Brazil prospect Arthur has been the – far – older player’s undoing. A route to more regular minutes appears unlikely.
Club: Bayern Munich
Bundesliga minutes: 472
Unfamiliar disorder and disappointment at Bayern Munich has swept aside one of South America’s grandest players.
Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez has been named on the substitutes’ bench (six) more times than he has started (five) in the 2018/19 Bundesliga. For someone who boasts such divine vision and supreme manipulation of the ball, this state of play appears utterly incongruous.
Despite these gifts, new head coach Niko Kovac is not a fan.
Calf problems dogged Rodriguez’s World Cup 2018 and were carried over into pre-season. It took until September 22’s 2-0 win at Schalke – in which he headed in the opener and won a penalty for the second – for the 27-year-old to make his first top-flight start.
This state of play has seen rumours grow about Bayern cooling interest in turning a two-season loan into a permanent deal, at the end of 2018/19.
Damage to knee ligaments last week now mean Rodriguez should not kick a ball again until the new year.
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