Brahim Real MadridGetty

Real Madrid's ideal Jude Bellingham back-up - or midfield partner? Ex-Man City wonderkid Brahim Diaz finally earning his shot at the Bernabeu big time

It was like Jude Bellingham's celebration, only slightly awkward. Brahim Diaz had just made a mockery of the RB Leipzig defence, weaving past three defenders before curling an audacious attempt into the top corner. He careened off in joy, and mimicked Bellingham's signature post-goal pose, standing in front of the traveling Real Madrid support, arms spread, a showman accepting his adulation. Bellingham was missing that night, but Real had their ideal replacement.

When Bellingham doesn't play, Real Madrid should really collapse. After all, a knock to the English midfielder means Los Blancos have to make do without their top scorer, top provider of assists, and most apparent attacking threat. This team doesn't entirely revolve around Bellingham, but it comes pretty close.

It is a concern, then, that the former Borussia Dortmund star is set to miss at least two more weeks after spraining his ankle against Girona. But Madrid have a viable backup in a player who, less than six months ago, didn't seem to have a future at the club. Diaz, part promising loanee, part exile, has returned from a successful spell at AC Milan.

And after spending three years away, the attacking midfielder has finally announced himself to the Santiago Bernabeu - serving as an ideal backup to one of the world's best. Madrid have played six games without Bellingham and Diaz has started all six, scoring four goals and assisting another. Carlo Ancelotti's men have won all of them.

So, Madrid are left with a perfect second option, a match-winner too good to be a backup, yet not so vital that he can crack the starting XI every week. For Diaz, it's the culmination of a four-year journey, one that started with a lauded move to the Spanish capital, and has now reached its conclusion with a top prospect finally starting to realise his potential.

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