Having almost but not quite sealed a deadline-day move for Fabio Coentrao back in September, it was widely reported that Manchester United would try again in January for a player who can operate both as a full-back and in defensive midfield.
It is this secondary position that the Portuguese is likely to have found himself in had he arrived at Old Trafford, but despite claims of an agreement in place, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti was quick to dismiss any such move last month, stressing that Coentrao still had a role to play.
And Spanish newspaper El Confidencial later reported that the player was seen as an important component at Madrid because he could play in either full-back position and cover for Marcelo with the first-choice left-back reportedly raising some doubts in his manager over his recent performances.
If Coentrao was going to be used, it made sense that Ancelotti would rule out any potential move away from the Bernabeu. Except a month later, he has barely featured.
The 25-year-old has played for just 29 minutes in La Liga since his return from injury, and has spent four of the last five matches watching – unused – from the bench.
It may have been something of a makeshift and temporary solution, but had he been given the chance to play in a holding midfield role at United he is likely to have featured whenever fit. But for now he remains the perennial substitute, despite previous suggestions that he was needed and would therefore be used by his current club.
image: © Addesolen