Where Will Hamit Altintop Fit In At Real Madrid?

After the Turkish international bid farewell to a decade in German football to move to the Santiago Bernabeu, Goal.com assesses the options now available to Jose Mourinho
ANALYSIS
By Paul Macdonald

After the confirmation of the signing of Nuri Sahin from Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid have once again raided the Bundesliga to capture Hamit Altintop under the Bosman ruling.

The 28-year-old midfielder, Madrid's second signing for next season, spent the last four campaigns with Bayern Munich, but after his opportunites at the Allianz Arenz continued to prove limited he opted to leave Bavaria and pen a four-year deal with the Spanish giants.

From the player's perspective, it must firstly be noted that he is unlikely to make more appearances under Jose Mourinho than he was afforded during 2010-11: 24 outings across all competitions was his haul, and given the size and depth of Madrid's squad, it is clear that the Turk is seen as simply another addition to a burgeoning collection of central players.

Altintop will provide stability in his simplicity; he is very skilled when it comes to keeping the ball, and is just the type of player Madrid could use when trying to preserve a narrow lead.

- Clark Whitney, Goal.com's German football editor

Midfield is not an area that Mourinho has been caught short in during 2010-11: in addition to the reliable Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira, and regular starters Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria, the internationally renowned reserves include Kaka, who returned from knee surgery, Esteban Granero, Lassana Diarra, Sergio Canales and Pedro Leon. Furthermore, central defender Pepe was employed further forward towards the end of the season, stretching the options available to the Portuguese further still.

Add 22-year-old Sahin into the mix, a player very much brought in for the long-term, and for many it becomes difficult to pinpoint exactly what role Altintop will play.

However, the Turkish international is a reliable performer and, due to his versatility, can perform a number of tasks for his new coach. Mourinho has been notoriously reticent in making changes to his preferred starting XI this season, despite the wealth of options available to him.

The former Chelsea and Inter tactician wants players he feels he can trust, and can be relied upon to carry out the tactics that are asked of them. Pedro Leon is a case in point of a player who defied Mourinho in the away match at Levante earlier in the season - he has barely featured since.

In a positional sense and also in terms of his place in a rotation policy, Altintop knows his role; he realises that he will not be a regular starter but can slot in, whether to provide a conservative option or to protect a lead wherever necessary. His competence on both feet means he can be used in any position across the middle and - crucially - comes with Champions League experience in tow. The same cannot be said, before this season, of Leon, Canales, Granero, or indeed Sahin.

The above, coupled with the fact that Altintop arrives with no fee, represents a change in approach from the capital giants. After the previous reckless spending comes a transfer policy that focuses on a shift towards exciting young talent coupled with experienced heads. It so happens that, post-Ozil, Khedira and Sahin, the Bundesliga is currently being plundered by Real Madrid, to supplement the talent that is already available at Santiago Bernabeu.

With the above in mind, we assess four options available to Madrid in order to incorporate their new signing into their starting line-up. Will his inclusion facilitate a formation change, or will he be seen as an impact player across a wide range of positions?

Providing extra support in the midfield, this set-up would allow Milan to give Robben more freedom if anything given the extra numbers in behind him.
REAL MADRID WITH HAMIT ALTINTOP - the possiblities
WIDE REPLACEMENT
    CENTRAL REPLACEMENT    
Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

Khedira - Alonso 

ALTINTOP - Ozil/Kaka - Ronaldo

Higuain

    Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

ALTINTOP - Alonso  
 

Di Maria - Higuain - Ronaldo


Higuain
Altintop's ability to retain possession with composure means that he was best utilised at Bayern when introduced as a replacement to the flamboyant skills of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery on the flanks. By bringing him into the action in this position at Madrid, Mourinho can look to consolidate leads with ball retention, and have a player that is more attentive to defensive responsbilities than perhaps Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo offer.

    Fellow Bundesliga star Nuri Sahin's arrival has led to speculation as to where he might feature in the side, but there is no denying that, in the lesser matches, a player with the class of Altintop would have no issues in slotting into a central position. As competent and dynamic as Sami Khedira has proved to be, question marks remain over his ability in possession. With Alonso and Altintop in the central positions, creating play would serve no such problem.    


CONSERVATIVE 4-2-3-1

   
PERIPHERY FIGURE

Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

Sahin - Alonso  

Di Maria - ALTINTOP - Ronaldo

Higuain
    Casillas

Ramos - Carvalho - Pepe - Marcelo

Khedira/Sahin -
Alonso 

Di Maria - Ozil/Kaka - Ronaldo

Higuain
Mourinho has employed both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 this season, but it has felt like one formation, or the other: in the three-man midfield, it has been a trio that have been solid in their role, but have lacked forward drive. Altintop could be a unique hybrid in that respect - his flair on the ball coupled with a more defensive mentality could work in difficult away games, such as against top-half La Liga sides, or in the Champions League.
    It can be argued that better players than Altintop have arrived at Santiago Bernabeu only to be completely overrawed by the arena and the intense scrutiny that the White House brings. As discussed above, the midfield options available to Jose Mourinho are plentiful in number, and it could be a case that, like Pedro Leon and Sergio Canales last summer, the marrying of player and club simply does not fit. This could ultimately happen with the Turk.

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Providing extra support in the midfield, this set-up would allow Milan to give Robben more freedom if anything given the extra numbers in behind him.