Real Madrid, as Spain and Europe’s most successful club, aim for more silverware each and every season, regardless of the adversity they face.
Yet this season they have faced more adversity than expected as a number of players have suffered significant injuries, giving Carlo Ancelotti selection headaches as he picks his starting lineups each match.
A raft of ACL injuries have put pressure on the squad, with key players Thibaut Courtois, Eder Militao and David Alaba all succumbing to injury of late. Meanwhile, star forward Vinicius Jr has spent weeks on the sideline with a complicated hamstring issue, and Eduardo Camavinga suffered a knee injury while on international duty with France.
The Sporting News details all the known details about each player’s injury, as well as the latest on a possible return date for each individual as much as is known, given long-term injuries are difficult to predict early in the process.
Vinicius Jr injury, possible return date
International duty can be the bane of a club manager’s existence, and that was the case for Ancelotti as he watched Vinicius Jr go down with a hamstring tear on November 16 during Brazil’s defeat to Colombia.
Initially thought to be just a six-week layoff, Vinicius saw his return pushed back thanks to “distal tendon involvement” which compounded his recovery. The Athletic reported that Vinicius believed he would be forced to miss up to two months, but now he is expected to return in mid-January – potentially as soon as the Spanish Super Cup, which begins on January 10. La Liga matches against Almeria and Las Palmas in late January could be more realistic landing spots if that date proves a little too soon.
The news is positive as Vinicius should have plenty of time to get back into form before Real Madrid’s meeting with RB Leipzig in the Champions League Round of 16, with the first leg set for February 13.
🚨𝐁𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐊𝐈𝐍𝐆: Vinicius Jr will return way ahead of schedule after injury. ⚪️📰
The Real Madrid doctors are heavily impressed by his recovery. The plan now is for him to play in the Spanish Super Cup.
— Daily Football (@goatedfootballl) December 16, 2023
David Alaba injury, possible return date
The latest injury blow for Real Madrid came in the 4-1 victory over Villarreal on December 17, as David Alaba became the third player for the club to suffer an ACL tear in the past four months.
Alaba went down in the 35th minute of the match after a challenge in midfield. The 31-year-old had to be helped off the pitch, indicating straight away that the injury was likely serious.
The injury was soon confirmed, as Ancelotti seemed to already know in his post-match press conference that Alaba had done his knee. “We’re very sad to lose another player,” Ancelotti said in his media availability after the game. “I’ve never seen three cruciate ligament injuries in four months. It’s incredible. But there’s nothing we can do.”
Given that the season is nearly halfway complete, Alaba’s campaign is almost surely over, and his absence could stretch into next season as well. It’s impossible to know when players with ACL tears will return until a few months into their recovery to see how their body is responding.
With Eder Militao also injured, that leaves just Antonio Rudiger and Nacho as the natural centre-backs in the squad, with Ancelotti confirming that Aurelien Tchouameni able to step back in an “emergency”.
Thibaut Courtois injury, possible return date
Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was the first to go down with a serious injury last summer, suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in training just prior to Madrid’s first league match of the season in mid-August.
Given that injury was suffered before the season even began, it’s possible that Courtois could return before the end of the campaign. However, he also had meniscus damage to his knee as well, so that could elongate his recovery process.
When Courtois does eventually step back on the field, he would have to earn his way back in at both club and country. Kepa Arrizabalaga has performed exceptionally well in his place at Real Madrid, acquired on loan from Chelsea in the aftermath of Courtois’ injury. He also has to answer for his falling out at the national team level, having walked out on the Belgian squad just before his injury.
David Alaba has torn his ACL, joining Thibaut Courtois and Éder Militão as the third Real Madrid player to do so this season. pic.twitter.com/ZLckaWLAoc
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 17, 2023
Eder Militao injury, possible return date
Brazilian defender Eder Militao, who has blossomed into a key figure at Real Madrid, suffered a torn ACL in the very first match of the campaign, withdrawn just after halftime of the 2-0 win over Athletic Club in the La Liga season opener.
However, unlike Thibaut Courtois, there was no additional damage to Militao’s left knee, and therefore he is expected to return this season. In fact, there are multiple signs that Militao is progressing well.
As early as October, Militao was spotted at Real Madrid training, although he was only doing very light work and nothing with a ball. When Alaba went down, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti mentioned that Militao is recovering well and could be an option down the road. Given the indications of a possible return this season, it’s realistic to think that Militao could be back on the field sometime in March, a layoff of around seven months.
Eduardo Camavinga injury, possible return date
Given the context of Real Madrid’s injury issues, there was relief when it was confirmed Eduardo Camavinga had only suffered a torn LCL in his right knee in mid-November training with the French national team, avoiding further damage to the ligament structure.
The injury was a blow, however, leaving him sidelined for weeks as the Real Madrid midfield suffered further squad strain. It was thought an eight-week recovery time was a reasonable expectation, so he’s expected to return in mid-January.
Like Vinicius Jr, it will be a race against time to get Camavinga fit for the Spanish Super Cup semifinal against Atletico Madrid on January 10.