Some months ago, Brahim Diaz was the news. It wasn’t just the case in England, it was the case in European football too. The youngster, who was grabbing a lot of attention at Manchester City, was off to Real Madrid.

Players from Spain obviously have a fascination for Spanish clubs. Perhaps, quite the same was the case with Diaz, who has been at Malaga before he was at City. And in January of 2019, Diaz came to the Santiago Bernabeu for a £15 million fee. The Los Blancos’ deal had a further £6.5 million in add-ons. It also featured a 15% sell-on fee but that figure would rise to 40% should Madrid sell him to Manchester United in the future.

Before heading back to Spain, Diaz had 15 first-team appearances to his name at City. He made only five Premier League appearances, playing 33 times for the City Under-23s side in the Premier League 2. He had very good numbers during the time with the Under-23s, scoring 11 times and assisting ten times.

In the 2017-18 campaign, he played only 49 minutes of first-team football in the Premier League. At the age of 18, it wasn’t a complete necessity. Not for a team like Manchester City.

Just before Diaz was leaving, Pep Guardiola was keen on keeping the player at the Etihad. He told reporters after Diaz had got a brace in a League Cup game against Fulham:

“Playing in the top teams is not easy for young players, but he (Brahim) showed his qualities again. His training is always incredible and he’s really appreciated by all of us. He knows we want him, but after that it’s down to his agent and himself. We will do absolutely everything to keep him with us – afterwards he decides. We want him, but at the end it doesn’t depend on us.”

These comments show that Guardiola did always trust Diaz. If he was still at City, he could well have been playing more – more than he is at Real.

Because since joining, Diaz has played 13 times in all competitions. At the age of 20, that isn’t a huge number. But players who are younger than him – Vinicius and Rodrygo, are getting more football than he is.

It isn’t Diaz’s fault though. Real have options in just about every position he can play in. Gareth Bale and Rodrygo are options for the right-wing, while Vinicius and Eden Hazard are on the left. In the 4-3-3 shape, Real have midfield options in Federico Valverde, James Rodriguez and Luka Modric. They play slightly further forward.

Clearly, there is a big stack of players who play much more than him. They are much higher in the pecking order than him. If not them, Isco is a very good option in attacking midfield too.

It clearly isn’t the most promising of situations for Diaz. When he has been playing this season, he is used either on the left or on the right. Last season, he did make five starts towards the end of the campaign. He usually played on the left, but he did play on the right on one occasion.

Fresh reports from Cadena Ser (via ManagingMadrid) claim that Real have pegged back offers from the likes of Alaves, Espanyol, Sevilla and Rayo to keep Diaz at the Bernabeu. The report also states that Diaz himself has decided not to leave as he realises that the season is long and he will get the chance to make an impact.

He got some game time last season and he did impress in what was a gloomy season. It shows that the player is mature enough to realise a general football fact. He isn’t the one to make reactionary decisions in his career. It speaks of mental resolve.

Having said that, there hardly seems a place where can play. Unless there’s an injury crisis, it seems far-fetched currently. This is a 20-year-old who needs regular football to develop. He can’t afford to stagnate and not develop as much as he can with regular football. Once January comes, Diaz should look at a club where he can play regularly and make an impact. He can come back as a better player and be higher up in the pecking order.

Kaustubh Pandey