Karim Benzema was as good as his word in the second half of Real Madrid’s draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach on Tuesday night.
After delivering the ‘don’t give it to him’ line to Ferland Mendy, he duly refrained from passing to the Brazilian for the rest of the game. Mendy gave Vinicius the ball just three times.
The Real Madrid dressing can be a tough place and Vinicius found that out in the tunnel, or more to the point, didn’t find that out in the tunnel because Mendy and Benzema were speaking French. Multilingual Thibaut Courtois was also in earshot and would have understood, Vinicius will probably have learned via social media.
Karim Benzema was caught telling team-mates he thought Vinicius was ‘playing against us’
Vinicius (top centre) was stood within earshot when Benzema was speaking to Ferland Mendy
The clip did not just show a division among team-mates. It also showed a discrepancy between senior player and coach.
Benzema is clearly not behind Zinedine Zidane picking the sometimes erratic winger ahead of other players. Vinicius had a very below par Clasico.
He was guilty of wasting three or four second half breakaways picking the wrong pass, making the wrong decision and on one occasion even taking the ball off of Benzema when the Frenchman was better placed. It had been a similar story in the first half in Germany.
Mendy listened to Benzema and gave Vinicius (pictured) the ball just three times on Tuesday
Benzema is clearly not happy with Zinedine Zidane selecting Vinicius over other players
‘While the dogs bark, the No.9 passes,’ said Benzema on Instagram on Wednesday morning. To his credit he had not posted a picture of himself celebrating a goal with Vinicius. His take on the incident will be that it was frustration from a first half in which Vinicius had been out of sorts. If Madrid were going to win they would probably have to do it without him.
This is not the first time Benzema has taken Vinicius to taks: ‘Lift your head,’ he could be heard saying last December in a game against Espanyol. What happens now? Probably nothing. Zidane will dismiss it as something that happens in football in his next press conference. Does it shine a light on the cliques and cracks in the Madrid dressing room? Yes and no.
Luka Modric and Vinicius’ Brazilian team-mate Rodrygo shared a joke during the Clasico when the Croatian gave Rodrygo a pass while he was still waiting to be brought on. ‘Relax, I’m not even on the pitch yet dad!’ joked the Brazilian forward on twitter. Modric joked back: ‘Why don’t you play a one-two with me?’
Luka Modric attempted a pass to Rodrygo despite the Brazilian being off the pitch at the time
Modric replied to his comical tweet, asking why Rodrygo didn’t play the ball back to him
The 19-year-old South American and the 35-year-old Croatian have a good relationship and when the team is beating Barcelona at the Camp Nou everyone is happy.
What Benzema’s spat with Vinicius does underline is the authority that the Frenchman carries and how the 20-year-old probably needs to improve quickly to survive long term at Madrid. His speed, stamina, dribbling ability and bravery get him into so many good situations in games but rushed shots and passes and bad decisions mean the end product tends to leave a lot to be desired.
Players such as Benzema and Ramos have won everything there is to win in football and they don’t suffer fools gladly.
Sergio Ramos and Benzema have won it all with Real and they command plenty of respect
Barcelona paper Sport reported how Ramos clashed with Isco over his poor form and lack of application recently. From the outside that may be seen as division in the camp, as far as Ramos is concerned it simply falls into his remit as skipper.
Madrid’s dressing room does not divide itself into groups based on nationality or age. Players such as Toni Kroos and Gareth Bale who have in the past been cast as outsiders because of a lack of implication towards squad dinners and, in Bale’s case, supporting the team for 90 minutes when not on the pitch, don’t influence relationships.
Both Kroos and Bale then have good relationships with the leaders because they delivered, especially in big games.
Gareth Bale was often cast as an outsider but he would still be invited to team dinners
Bale and Toni Kroos did have a good relationship with the leaders because they performed
The requisite for getting on at the club is that you become indispensable on the pitch. When Thibaut Courtois turned up there was a frosty response from Ramos who was very pro-Keylor Navas.
Did that mean he preferred the Costa Rican’s dressing wit to the Belgian’s training ground chat? No, but he had won three Champions Leagues with Navas and that meant he defended him against all-comers.
Courtois has since become one of Real Madrid’s most important players and saved the team again last Saturday in the Clasico when he kept out Lionel Messi’s goalbound shot after Messi had turned Ramos inside out in the penalty area.
Ramos and Courtois’ relationship is in a good place now and the former Chelsea keeper’s form is a big part of that.
Vinicius is still very much a talented kid, who Benzema probably feels – after playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo for nine years – probably shouldn’t be a first team regular next to him on the pitch.
Ramos reportedly had tough words with Isco (right) recently over his below par performances