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Vázquez (left). AFP/EP
Water carriers who prove invaluable
A Look at LaLiga

Water carriers who prove invaluable

Real Madrid's Nacho Fernández and Lucas Vázquez are not superstars, but they have both been constants for over a decade

Friday, 3 May 2024, 11:12

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Florentino Pérez once talked about the concept of "Zidanes and Pavones"; Eric Cantona rabbited on about "water carriers"; at Real Madrid in 2024, they speak of the value of Nacho and Vázquez.

When he was president-elect of Real Madrid, Florentino Pérez promised Galácticos, but reasoned for every Zinedine Zidane there must be a home-grown player.

Cantona's description of Didier Deschamps as a water carrier was regarded as an insult. They were depicted as the players most likely to be left carrying the skip of drinks as the superstars strutted through autograph-hunters. Deep down, he was acknowledging the work put in by the less-gifted workaholics that every team possessed.

Every successful side needed that man who was willing to put in the hard-yards, to cover for those who used the field as a stage to express their creativity. England had Nobby Stiles, Liverpool had Jamie Carragher, Man United relied on the Neville brothers.

The Real Madrid equivalents are Nacho Fernández and Lucas Vázquez. Neither are first names on the teamsheet; they probably sell very few replica shirts in the club shop. They squeeze unnoticed onto the squad picture at the start of the season - yet they have both been constants for over a decade.

This season, the stalwarts have come into their own. Both struggled to find game time at the start of what threatened to be their final campaign as both are out-of-contract in the summer. Yet as the season has progressed, they've both proved invaluable.

Nacho is now club captain and is the rock on which Real's success has been built. He's played every defensive position and only missed matches through his two suspensions for red cards. He shadowed for David Alaba and Éder Militão; his form has been so impressive that Militão hasn't automatically walked back into the team now he's fit.

Nacho is unique - he's the only Madrid-born player in the team. In his 13 years, he's won 24 majors and is set to add his fourth Liga title to a possible sixth Champions League winner's medal.

Lucas Vázquez is another 'Pavonista'. While he may not hail from the capital, he emerged from La Fábrica - the Real Madrid talent factory. He's never been a first-choice - or even second-choice, but when needed he's been on-call.

This season's decisive Liga match will be remembered for Vázquez's contribution. He won the penalty for the first goal, scored the second, and provided the brilliant cross for Jude Bellingham's winner - and a few days later, he strode up to take a penalty in the shoot-out at Manchester City.

It should be noted that Nacho followed Vázquez to the spot when required. Superstars have come and gone during their decade in the team together - yet they were still the two men Real Madrid relied upon to kick them into the Champions League semi-finals. Finally, there was an appreciation which stretched beyond their own changing room.

The contracts of both players end in the summer and their short-term future is uncertain. Water carriers tend to do well in the long term. Deschamps led France to World Cup Finals as a coach - and the Carragher/Neville combo appears to be quite popular in the media circles.

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