In the summer 2019 transfer window, Juventus signed Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax after the young center back captained the Dutch powerhouse to a cinderella run in the Champions League. De Ligt was a slam-dunk, world-class talent and one of the best young central defenders we had all seen. Quietly, though, Real Madrid ended up signing an even better young center back – and for cheaper than the 75 million euros the Bianconeri paid for the Dutchman.
Eder Militao has been a revelation for the Royal Whites in the 2021-2022 season, which is his first as a full-time starter. In his first season, transfer rumors swirled around Militao, but they were presumptuous. Los Blancos had never actually given up on Militao, whom they paid 50 million euros for after his own excellent – albeit very underrated- 2018-2019 Champions League campaign for FC Porto.
“Underrated” was the operative word with Militao. He was underrated at Porto, despite shutting down the eventual winners of that season’s Champions League. Militao was then underrated in his first season in Madrid, even though he was stellar at times, especially in a must-win clean sheet at San Mames.
Astute Madridistas knew to expect big things from him, and they were vindicated at the end of the 2020-2021 season when injuries to both Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane forced the Brazilian into action. Militao was somehow even better than both of them – and also his more experienced partner Nacho Fernandez.
One man at Real Madrid correctly predicted Eder Militao’s greatness
And with Ramos and Varane gone, Militao has picked up where he left off in 2021-2022. Actually, he has upgraded his performances further, as evidenced by a perfect ’10’ performance at La Real, followed by a 9.5 vs. Inter Milan.
Between Militao and De Ligt, the former had far less hype when he made his 2019 summer move. And as of last season, De Ligt was the more highly-rated of the two center backs. Real Madrid fans were even dreaming of him as a possible Ramos replacement in 2022 or beyond, if he were to somehow become available. (Mino Raiola fanned the flames of the De Ligt rumors a bit, for what it is worth.)
De Ligt is still a world-class center back. Juve’s struggles should not sour his reputation. However, Militao is indeed the better player overall – not just the better value. His performances at the end of 2020-2021 and to start 2021-2022 are simply at a class above what we have seen from even De Ligt in Turin.
According to MARCA, Militao proving to be the superior defender to De Ligt would not surprise the man responsible for bringing him in from Porto. Yes, fabled scout Juni Calafat was responsible for the Militao signing, even reportedly insisting to the other decision-makers at the Santiago Bernabeu, who preferred the bigger name in De Ligt, that Militao would be the better defender.
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Calafat was sold on Militao’s traits. Real Madrid wisely listened to the man with the best track record in the room, and, once again, he was proven right. So that is Vinicius Junior and Eder Militao, the two Brazilian superstars of 2021-2022, whom Calafat correctly picked out for greatness. Vinicius was on the mainstream radar for longer, but Militao, to those who have love for the underappreciated art of true defending, is just as much of a gem for Los Merengues.