At a club as historically and willingly defined by its star names as Real Madrid, Lucas Vazquez and his dogged displays down the right offer little of that coveted glamour.
Yet, the nippy Galician winger is never far from Zinedine Zidane’s plans and rewarded his manager’s unwavering faith once more on Wednesday night with a display typically lacking in flash, but brimming with selfless endeavour.
Real Madrid travelled to Italy for arguably their biggest game of the season so far against Inter on Wednesday. Both giants of the European game had stumbled in their opening Champions League fixtures and defeat for Madrid would have left them in a precarious position.
Los Blancos went into the match without two pillars of the team at either end of the pitch, Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema. Defensive linchpin Casemiro also started on the bench but Madrid’s options on the flanks had been mercifully spared.
Eden Hazard made a rare start – scoring an even rarer goal – on the left wing, leaving plenty of competition on the opposite side. Yet, it was Vazquez who was picked ahead of Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo for this delicately poised tie.
Throughout his tenure, Zidane has rarely shown any hesitancy when presented with the option of turning to Vazquez. Only four players have featured more often for the legendary Frenchman across his two spells at the club than Vazquez.
Barely five minutes after Hazard opened the scoring against Inter, Vazquez clattered an effort off the base of the post which left goalkeeper Samir Handanovic rooted to the spot. Uncharacteristically, Vazquez racked up a game-high four shots. In a move more in keeping with his terrier-like displays, the 29-year-old also committed the most fouls on the night.
Vazquez was one of many decked in white who excelled against last season’s runners-up in Serie A. Madrid dominated Inter long before the Nerazzurri’s Arturo Vidal lived up to his hot-headed reputation, picking up two bookings in a matter of seconds half an hour into the game.
With 30 minutes left to play, Madrid only led by that single first half goal. That was until Vazquez carved out their second. Having made a dart into the box more incisive than the subsequent pass, Vazquez took his time on the touchline before picking out substitute Rodrygo at the back post, whose volley was deflected in by former Real Madrid man Achraf Hakimi.
Even without being credited for that assist, only two players have created more goals for Madrid than Vazquez with Zidane as manager.
As he revelled in this crucial victory, Zidane singled out Vazquez for praise post-game to Spanish broadcasters Movistar (via Goal), gushing: “He always gives everything for us. I have always valued him and what he gives to us on the pitch. Now he is having the opportunity to show us what he is all about.
“He was a youth player for us and has Madrid in his heart. I’m happy for him and the team. He is an important player and the club knows it.”
Vazquez’s versatility has been a crucial factor in his prolific acquisition of Real Madrid appearances. Some of the former youth team player’s first outings after eventually breaking into the senior side, under the short-lived reign of Rafael Benitez in 2015, came as a full back.
Over the years Vazquez has ably filled in for Dani Carvajal and reprised the role at the start of this season on no bigger stage. Stripped of Carvajal and back-up Alvaro Odriozola for the first Clasico of the season, Vazquez came on for the injured Nacho Fernandez on the cusp of half-time.
In a little over 45 minutes, Vazquez racked up more tackles and interceptions than any other player on the pitch – notably robbing Lionel Messi of the ball having seemingly been bamboozled by the Argentine. When the game became stretched in the final minutes, it was Vazquez down the right who instigated a flurry of Madrid attacks in the chasms of space opening up across the pitch.
Despite starting high and wide on the right in his favoured role against Inter, Vazquez is never one to shirk his defensive responsibilities, even when completing a nominally flair-driven action. All three of the dribbles Vazquez completed against Inter (second only to Hazard in the game) came inside his own half after a turnover of possession, using a shuffle of feet to beat a man and relieve the little pressure the Nerazzurri were threatening to mount.
Much like his entire Real Madrid career, it wasn’t the flashiest of outings but it got the job done and Zidane absolutely loved it.