If any Real Madrid fans had been asked at the beginning of the summer transfer window which player they would like to see leave the club, the unanimous answer would not have been Mesut Ozil, Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon or Gonzalo Higuain. Not even Antonio Adan, the goalkeeper rendered surplus to requirements following the signing of Diego Lopez. One name would dominate: Fabio Coentrao. But, with the summer transfer window now shut, Coentrao surprisingly remains a Real Madrid player. And the general opinion of the Portuguese full-back in the Spanish capital has hardly changed.
Touted as a reliable, solid left-back, the former Benfica man still has not managed to win over the Merengue fans, who have never been shy of jeering any player that failed to entertain them. And Coentrao, more often than not, has found himself on the receiving end of a chorus of boos from the Santiago Bernabeu crowd. So where did it go wrong for the man from Vila do Conde?
Everyone was baffled by his arrival at the club to begin with. His signing from Benfica, for a record €30m for a left-back, was a very perplexing move on the part of president Florentino Perez. Why bring in another player in a position where Brazilian Marcelo already excelled?
Labelled as a “todocampista” – jack-of-all-trades – Coentrao’s advocates claimed that the Rio Ave youth-teamer could be deployed in a multitude of positions: either as a right or left full-back or in central midfield.
Sadly, Coentrao never shone in any of those roles. Sami Khedira’s presence in central midfield ruled that possibility out – Coentrao never looked at ease next to Xabi Alonso – while brief forays at right-back turned sour, as he looked uncomfortable in the 3-1 home defeat to Barcelona on 10th December 2011.
His true value for Real Madrid turned out to be as a left-back – his original position. Slated as a more defensive option than Marcelo, Jose Mourinho would often field him in games where he wanted composure and discipline from his full-backs instead of asking them to bomb forward. Later in the same season, the Portuguese defender was blamed for the goal that ended Real Madrid’s hopes of reaching the Champions League final after failing to properly defend the ball in the dying minutes of the encounter against Bayern Munich. Unable to establish himself permanently as a starter, he finished his first season at Real Madrid with twenty appearances in the league – eight of which came as a substitute.
The next season, a broken metatarsal for Marcelo pushed him into the first team picture, but there were no displays to suggest that Real Madrid had hit the jackpot with this signing. Coentrao finished his second season at Los Blancos with 16 league appearances – albeit all having come as a starter.
This coupled with other off-the-pitch incidents such as being photographed smoking and arriving late to training saw the left-back more often than not on the bad side of the club hierarchy. As the dressing room was divided during last term between supporters and critics of Mourinho, Coentrao knew that his days in Spain were unlikely to continue past this season as his ex-boss and compatriot was sure to go as well.
And that was reaffirmed by new manager Carlo Ancelotti, who confirmed that Coentrao was seeking new pastures: “He has asked to leave”, was the Italian’s response to why his number 5 was not featuring.
A switch to London to either Chelsea or Tottenham seemed plausible, but did not materialise, while a last-minute attempt to join Manchester United ultimately proved to be futile as Los Blancos could not secure Guilherme Siqueira, his touted replacement.
The left-back himself does not appear sad over not changing teams, however, as he declared that he is more than happy to stay at Real Madrid: “There was the possibility of joining Manchester United, but I stayed at Real Madrid, and that’s what matters”, he declared.
A new page has opened for Coentrao at the White Castle. With Marcelo facing some time on the sidelines after being injured on international duty with Brazil, the Portuguese left-back has a chance to impress his superiors as he continues to try and make a name for himself at Real Madrid.