Real Madrid must start learning how to win without always relying on Jude Bellingham | Goal.com US

Real Madrid must start learning how to win without always relying on Jude Bellingham | Goal.com US

The England midfielder has led from the front since arriving at the Bernabeu, but when he doesn’t show up, Los Blancos look lost in attack

In American sports, it’s called ‘load management’. Once every few days, an NBA team will rest its star player. For the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antekokounmpo sometimes watches from the bench. For the Golden State Warriors, Steph Curry will take in a contest despite being entirely healthy. Kawai Leonard, Kevin Durant, Lebron James and, in his final days as an NBA player, Kobe Bryant all elected for similar treatment. And although it may draw the ire of fans and media alike, it’s not going to change any time soon.

It’s something that football is yet to truly embrace, but that’s not to say that players aren’t rested. Big names readily miss cup games, especially against lower-division sides. It is, in fact, common practice for Europe’s best to effectively have a reserve XI for when their star players aren’t needed.

But what about those league games against lesser opposition, when the inclusion of a superstar could tread the line between a win and a loss? How do, for example, Arsenal judge when to start or sit Buakyo Saka? When can Barcelona ask a fully fit Pedri to accept a night off?

And so we arrive at the case of Jude Bellingham. The Real Madrid star has played almost every minute for Los Blancos this season, and battled through over an hour despite suffering a partial dislocation of his shoulder against Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

The English midfielder has developed a reputation for being able to play through pain — it’s something that has earned him the love of club and national-team fans alike. But at what point does his personal drive become a medical detriment to him, and the long-term success of the team?

For Madrid, it’s a situation worth carefully considering. Their 0-0 draw with Rayo showed that, if nothing else, they need a fully fit Bellingham. But in the meantime, they will have to figure out how to get the goals without him — or risk their star player running out of legs before the fixtures become even more crucial.

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