'You salute me'. It's not the first time Carlo Ancelotti has used that phrase with a young Real Madrid player. As well as young, European champions and World Cup winners, not to mention their economic capacity.
Rodrygo lost that point of humility when he was substituted at the Estadio de la Cerámica with a 2-0 lead that complicated Real Madrid's progress to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. Ancelotti then went to put his feet on the ground just as he did for Tchouameni months ago when the Frenchman barely brushed the Italian coach's hand in a substitution. Ancelotti asked for intensity in the greeting. Respect.
Tchouameni was in Paris as Real Madrid sweated blood to come from behind against Villarreal. An NBA game and some indiscreet photos left the player in a bad place who, on the other hand, had the club's permission and, who knows, even that of the coach himself, who always uses his left hand well.
The match against Villarreal was Real Madrid's salvation after losing the Super Cup against Barça with a rather poor performance. But the game did not start well and the defence showed signs of disarray. A throw-in inside the white area that Gerard Moreno touched to Capoue and a shot from the Frenchman into the back of Courtois' goal after five minutes.
Real Madrid did not give a single one in the first half. Major lapses in defence and Camavinga back in midfield to cover gaps alongside Kroos and Valverde who are not at their best. The Uruguayan had the chance to equalise after a gallop from Mendy, but sent the ball over Jorgensen's goal.
Chukwueze scored the second goal with a great finish just before half-time and brought out the worst in Ancelotti, who admitted after the game that he had been very angry with his players in the dressing room, but told them that "there is still time to come back".
Ceballos and Asensio changed the face of Real Madrid. Villarreal tried to get Vinicius out of his box, first a seemingly normal conversation with Quique Setién and then a slightly more tense one with a veteran like Pepe Reina. It was a key moment for the Brazilian, who does not know how to control himself in these cases and tends to leave the game.
In the 57th minute Vinicius himself found the perfect pass from Ceballos to make it 2-1. That brought him mentally back into the game and in the 69th Real Madrid equalised with a goal from Militao although the previous header was from Benzema.
Real Madrid were rediscovering their best football, creating dangerous moves. Asensio was useful and Ceballos had the ball for many minutes which allowed the team to attack better. Between the two Spanish players they produced the goal in the 86th minute for Ceballos to strike with the inside of his boot and send Real Madrid into the quarter-finals.
The team was resuscitated and Ancelotti asked the press after the game something along the lines of how they had to change the reports because of the comeback and the 2-3 in 86th minute, a bill for the criticism of the team after the last few bad games.
Now comes Athletic, the Cup, Real Sociedad, the Club World Cup and not much further away Liverpool. If the physique returns and luck is on their side, Real Madrid have another exciting end to the season ahead of them, which Ancelotti must face by giving minutes to more than 11 players.