Football Features

Luka Jovic’s Real Madrid transfer could be Zidane’s first step toward the ‘diamond 2.0’

By Muhammad Butt

Jovic in Real Madrid line-up

Published: 14:30, 5 June 2019

Real Madrid have signed Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Serbian striker scored 27 goals in 2017/18, including an impressive 10 in the Europa League as the German side made it all the way to the semi-finals before losing to eventual winners Chelsea. Jovic is a supreme hitman who was tracked for a long time by Barcelona, but Los Blancos have beaten their great rivals to secure the services of the youngster.

But what could his arrival mean for Madrid’s tactical shape? In particular, if they, as expected, also complete a move for Chelsea’s creative genius, Eden Hazard? We’ve had a look and come up with three possibilities.

1. Diamond 2.0

When Zinedine Zidane was at his most successful as Real Madrid manager, he relied on a 4-3-1-2 formation which was born out of squad circumstance but ended up benefiting most of his star men. Of course, one of those men was Cristiano Ronaldo and without a striker of such potency, Madrid drifted away from the system (even under Zidane) last season.

But with Jovic signed up, the potential for Zizou to go back to his diamond is right there. Liverpool’s full-backs have played enormous roles in the Reds’ European success this season but Zidane has been using his full-backs as key offensive weapons for a long time. Marcelo (or Ferland Mendy, should they sign him amid Lyon’s denials) and Dani Carvajal would again provide the width for the side, rampaging forward.

That would allow the midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro to reunite. Zidane loves Casemiro and Kroos just signed a new deal, so they will surely feature.

Modric could be phased out but that does explain why Madrid are looking at Paul Pogba and Christian Eriksen. Either way, they will look to monopolise the ball and feed the forwards and full-backs.

Speaking of forwards, Eden Hazard could easily take up the Isco role of floating creative force, should he sign. The role suits the Belgian so well, in part because he won’t have to do any sort of defensive work. And if by some miracle Hazard doesn’t join Madrid, then Vinicius Jr. could easily take this role. The young Brazilian is a true prodigy and has lethal pace that troubles any defence.

Then, in attack, Benzema is the target man, the link man, the hype man; and Luka Jovic takes centre stage as the goalscoring supremo. His shooting ability (especially first time) off either foot or his head makes him an ideal fit for Madrid’s supply chain of two full-backs and a maverick, dribbling no. 10. This system would see Los Blancos score a tonne of goals.

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2. Cuatro-Cuatro-Dos

Given Zidane doesn’t like to complicate systems for his players, his 4-3-1-2 diamond shape was very, very rough. Players essentially had offensive freedom and the shape was born out of the three attackers taking up the positions they felt most comfortable in.

But Zidane is a smart man and, sometimes, you have to change. To that end: 4-4-2. This system allows Zidane to retain his use of the flanks and crossing as the main offensive weapon, with Marcelo and Alvaro Odriozola (a better attacker than Carvajal) bombing forward, overlapping and interplaying with wingers Lucas Vázquez and Eden Hazard.

With Hazard in a more orthodox “natural” position coming off the left, Madrid would be able to have a truly fearsome ability to attack right-backs all over the world. And if Paul Pogba joined to play midfield then in transition, this side would be a freight train. Moreover, Lucas Vázquez’s defensive work rate would help cover for Odriozola’s weaknesses.

Then, up front, Jovic’s dynamism would be essential to making this work. Much as he does for Frankfurt running beyond Sebastien Haller, Jovic would play ahead of Benzema in a more pronounced way, hanging off the shoulder of the defence ready to make gouging runs in behind to create goalscoring opportunities.

3. 4-3-3

Of course, one possible outcome is that Jovic hasn’t been signed to play alongside Karim Benzema, but to replace the magnificent Frenchman. Benzema is a legend at Madrid and also a favourite of Zidane and Florentino Perez; he’s about to complete his 10th season at the Bernabeu but the signing of Jovic could push him to the bench.

So, Jovic leads the line, with Eden Hazard and Vinicius Jr. stationed as wingers either side of him. The rest of the team is bog standard Real Madrid (although the potential Pogba/Eriksen signings could add a touch of unpredictable brilliance to the midfield).

Jovic playing as a lone striker isn’t something he’s excelled at thus far, but given Eden Hazard and Vinicius are excellent dribblers who excel at the 1v1, Jovic could play up-front in more of a goal-poaching way rather than as someone who has to have their back to goal in order to bring his wingers into play.

Sure, someone has to do that but Madrid’s midfielders and full-backs will advance forward so readily that Hazard and Vinicius will never run out of people to associate with. Jovic, meanwhile, remains a deadly presence ready at all times to blow the top off the defence and hammer in goal, after goal, after goal.