Jude Bellingham and Brahim Diaz add defensive balance to Real Madrid

Starting the year with a column feels natural. Today highlights Brahim and Bellingham's lesser-known traits, Rodrygo's defender-blitzing, and Camavinga's return.

Rodrygo levitated. His dribbling armageddon follows a calm first quarter. He has launched vicious attacks for two months. Even when he doesn't score, defenders can't stop him:

How Rodrygo moves with the ball—ferociously as if running without it as the ball sticks to his feet—has a purpose.

Breaking lines, finding openings, and getting the ball to his teammates in the box while defenses block their end zone are his goals.

His shoulder drops and full-throttle step-overs help him top La Liga in penalty area carries. Three European players—Jeremy Doku, Dejan Kulusevski, 

and Kaoru Mitoma—have more carries into the opposition's box this season. No one stops barbecuing when Rodrygo begins to cook:

Rodrygo dribbles to perfection. Few would take over him if you need inventiveness to chisel away at a low block. With Vinicius returns, it will be exciting to see the Brazilian dyad gel and get into rhythm in late winter/spring.

Brahim impresses with more minutes. After injuries, suspension, and fantastic play, he has gained Carlo Ancelotti's trust and proven himself in two roles in his new scheme

as the 10, which he played well in during Jude Bellingham's shoulder injury, or as Rodyrgo's sidekick up top. 

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