It was the wee hours of yesterday when King Felipe VI had completed his journey from one coronation in London to another in Seville.
The Spanish monarch shook hands with footballing royalty as Real Madrid won the Copa del Rey for the 20th time – thanks to a brace from Rodrygo – but Carlo Ancelotti’s side had no time to make the party.
Real have returned straight to the capital to speed up their recovery and prepare for tomorrow’s Champions League semi-final with Manchester City, where they will seek a 15th European Cup crown.
Mail Sport delivers a dispatch of recognition from a long night in Seville…
Mail Sport travel to Sevilla to produce a scouting report on Manchester City’s next opponents
Vinicius is among the best
Osasuna had waited 18 years for a cup final – and nearly descended into financial collapse in the meantime – but there were just two minutes left on the clock when their hearts broke. Vinicius Junior faced his marker and danced past two defenders before producing a sublime assist for his compatriot Rodrygo. Is there a more complete winger in world football than Vinicius?
With 22 goals and 21 assists, few have better numbers this season. True fans even sang ‘Vinicius Ballon d’Or’ during the celebrations at Madrid’s Plaza de Cibeles.
He gave Jon Moncayola a torrid evening with his blistering runs and blistering pace – his stats place the 22-year-old as the best dribbler in world football. Manchester City defenders could be having nightmares.
Vinicius Junior is up there with the best wide players on the planet – he could hurt City
The eternal midfielder has plenty of perspective
Luka Modric spent 82 minutes of that game on the substitutes’ bench until the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner replaced a tired Toni Kroos to a huge ovation.
It seems the pair, Kroos now 33 and Modric 37, are forever in Real’s midfield, but their days are slowly becoming numbered.
No need for Real supporters to worry, however. Eduardo Camavinga, Aurélien Tchouameni and Fede Valverde are high-quality replacements, with the small business of Jude Bellingham set to follow this summer. Uruguayan gem Valverde is often extremely advanced just behind Karim Benzema, and causes trouble from behind as the Frenchman falls short.
With City keeping a notoriously high line, Valverde could be a thorn to watch.
That said, however, if he doesn’t do the dirty defensive work, City could tear Real apart.
Tchouameni, the 23-year-old Frenchman who scored against England at the World Cup, looked a bit on his legs towards the end of the final and Madridistas suggest he is yet to find his best levels after his fine tournament in Qatar.
Aurélien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga testify to a succession plan at Real Madrid
Camavinga is a joy to watch with his ballet-like movement and silky-smooth passing skills in tight spaces. But his talents are wasted at left-back. He bonds well with Vinicius but looks shaky defensively, and with Bernardo Silva likely to start on the right wing for City, he could be targeted by Pep Guardiola.
There are no worries on the other flank, however. Dani Carvajal put in a warrior performance as Real won their first Copa del Rey since 2014. Few full-backs have bagged Jack Grealish this season but Carvajal could break that trend.
In central areas, Erling Haaland will be licking his lips with brutal defender Eder Militao suspended. Osasuna exploited Antonio Rudiger when he came on here.
The German has started five of 10 Champions League appearances this season but will play in Militao’s absence.
Erling Haaland to lick his punches with Eder Militao suspended for first leg
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