Commentary on Real Madrid and Spanish fútbol.
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Sorry, folks - having problems with youtube, and I am completely at their mercy.
Hiatus to end soon!
Hmm, hardly anyone comments (!), so I'm not sure if anyone's been waiting, but I'm sure at least a few of you are out there - rest assured I'll be putting more videos up, starting today! Planning on putting up the derby goals, plus all the goals in the Spain-Ivory Coast friendly from a few days ago. Thanks for your patience, and please hang on just a little longer.
My Requests to Martín (or whoever is in charge!)
Out with the old, in with the new! We embark upon a new era in Madridismo and some major changes appear to be in the works. It is unclear whether or not Martín will ultimately be the man to make these changes or if he will also be swept away by the wave that the bombshell of Pérez' resignation has raised. In any case, I have my share of roster requests - don't we all! - that I would like to see happen in the offseason:
1) Ronie must go
It's as simple as that, I'm afraid. The pot has boiled over entirely and the locker room is split. It is clear he does not bleed white, and so, seeing as he is at the center of the storm, Ronaldo must leave.
2) One young midfielder paired with a veteran
And when I say young midfielder, I have exactly three in mind: Cesc, Raúl García, and Oubiña. Cesc is ready and is a fabulous talent, as is Raúl García (though I prefer Cesc), while Oubiña may be the least prepared of the three, but is still an attractive option. The veteran? Ballack may be an option. I like Xavi Alonso more, though, because he has more years left.
3) The Beckham situation
This is not what you think! I am not going to call for this man's ouster, err, not exactly, anyway. Getting back to Ronaldo's departure...he will need a replacement. If you want to keep Becks as a main starter on the right side, then we will need a striker who is adept at latching on to crosses, particularly with his head. Perhaps Van Nistelrooy? The thing is, though, are we prepared to alter the team's strategy to suit one man? We tried this with Ronaldo, actually... I'm not in favor of it, but you have the amazing marketing power that is David Beckham to consider as well. The other, more balanced option, perhaps, is to have Beckham play a bit of a lesser role on the team. Heck, with his back problems and the World Cup already done by that time, he may be ready to accept a less prominent role in the squad, particularly if the team is more balanced, finally. A final thing to wonder about is whether or not Beckham will be one of the players who leaves in the summer... Not a bad option, either.
4) Two central defenders
This one is clear as water. Somebody like John Terry would be wonderful, but that seems difficult to pull off. Any suggestions?
5) Replacements for RC and Salgado
We can't go into the season with only Raúl Bravo and Cicinho patrolling the flanks. The right side has a bit more cover with Ramos able to play there very well. I think Cicinho is more suited to play winger. Everyone is talking about Ashley Cole for the left.
What are your requests?
Citing the lack of sporting direction the club has taken, as well as a bit of complacency among the players, Florentino Pérez has resigned as President of Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. Mr. Pérez will be most remembered by casual fans for his much-publicized "Galácticos" strategy, but his most enduring legacy will no doubt be the remarkable financial wizardry he showed in bringing the club out of heavy debt and transforming back into the most marketable club in the world, extending its influence beyond its historical sphere and into the previously untapped markets of Asia and North America. Fernando Martín Alvarez will take over as the new President.
Personally, I feel this is a bitterweet moment for the die-hard fans. Thrilled as we are by the astounding turnaround in finances, the past couple of years have led many of us to become disenchanted by the lack balance in the squad, the managerial instability, and the [perceived] attitude of some of the stars. It will certainly be interesting over the next half year, as answers to the following questions come to light:
- Does the manager have control over the squad?
It has been speculated that Pérez has wielded a heavy hand in determining that certain players must always start when healthy. Another side to this question is whether or not Caro will be able to keep hold of the reins in the locker room to the end of the year, or whether [part of] the team will revolt in apathy. Perhaps this being a WC year will help mitigate the latter question.
- Who is staying?
Pérez was personally responsible for bringing in most of the big-name stars currently on the squad. With Ronaldo dropping bricks, Zidane and RC nearing retirement, and Beckham pondering a contract extension, at the very, very least, this summer will provide a fascinating study in the restructuring of the squad, perhaps from the manager on down. By stepping down this early, Pérez has given the incoming President the time to lay down a strategy for doing this properly, I believe.
- How will the team perform?
This is tied to the first question, of course, but it bears restating the difficulties Caro will be facing as he tries to keep the team pointed in the right direction. Titles are a longshot (let us be honest!) this season, so it is of UTMOST importance that the team maintain or improve upon its league position to ensure Champions League participation next season.
(And here I was thinking that I would get up and have only the Mallorca game to write about!)
Champions League Real Madrid 0 - Arsenal 1
Well, that was a bugger of a match, was it not? Poor play all around from the boys in white, I would have to say. Fortunately, it seemed they were simply out of sorts (or sync) as opposed to being disinterested in putting forth a proper effort. I thought the effort and desire were there, but the touch and creativity were not.
Arsenal must be credited with sticking with their game plan of counter-attacking and doing enough to disrupt the Madrid attack. Henry, Reyes and Ljunberg were thorns all night, with the Frenchman scoring a nice goal after having muscled his way through the Madrid defense (but if you expect me to put up that
video clip, you can stick it up your arse...nal!).
And speaking of the defense, it should be noted that Woodgate managed to injure himself once more and is expected to miss about a month. This is certainly a blow to Madrid, as he had been playing exceptionally well the past month.
The tie is not over, but the climb is surely a bit steeper now that Madrid must pull off a win at Highbury. Perhaps it is in that very return leg that Arsenal's youth will begin to feel the pressure.
Ronaldo on his way out?
Brazilian astro Ronaldo has indicated
he may choose to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, citing the fans' lack of appreciation as the main motive of his unhappiness. This is big news, of course, as Ronaldo has been one of President Perez's sacred cows since signing on in the summer of 2002.
He is dead-on when he states that the home fans have a tendency to boo and whistle him when they are unsatisfied by his performance, lately a common occurrence, it must be said. He is sadly misguided when he [essentially] says that it is due to their lack of appreciation and patience with his mistakes. It is not your mistakes they are jeering, it is the lack of effort and sacrifice for the team which rankles the feathers, Ronie.
He has always had and will always keep his defenders who cite his goal record and his otherwordly talent, which are undeniable; however, his lack of movement, [apparent] laziness in getting back, and inexistent pressure on the opponent have worn much to thin for the fans to be appeased. The team no longer plays as though he were the only viable scoring option, and the good results are there to justify this shift in strategy. The fans can sense this and grow frustrated with a player who 1)does not appear to put the team first, 2)often lacks fitness, and 3)is injured more often than not. They get upset because it has become apparent that the team can aspire to the highest level of play if everyone gives their maximum effort. One only has to compare the whistles for Ronaldo with the applause given lately to Bapista, a strikingly less-skilled player, to see that effort combined with team results is the determining factor in winning over the public in Madrid.
The top four remained unchanged over the weekend, but you still get the sense that things are really heating up in Spain as we head into spring. Let's take a look at the main action:Real Madrid 3 - Alavés 0
-- Two early goals put the game essentially out of reach for struggling Alavés, as Madrid continued their good form. The main points of attraction for the match were the re-appearance of Raúl (back from a three month injury layoff) and the mighty circus over which Alavés club owner (read: Master of Ceremonies) Piterman presides. Alavés, now on their fourth manager (read: Piterman lackey) this season, was the subject of ridicule for most of the week and did little tactically to remove the smirks from the onlookers, having started the match with three abandoned strikers up top. Result: two goals in ten minutes for Madrid. There was some improvement for the visitors in the second half, but the result was never much in doubt. Cicinho continued his bright start in white with the third, nail-in-the-coffin, goal. (Videos below)
There were quite a few positives to take from this match, if you are a Madrid fan (which I am!), although it is always a bit tricky to draw conclusions about how your team has played when the competition was rather lacking in key areas such as midfield pressure and attacking skills. Still, these are the things I liked:Guti
was very classy in the middle and set the tone right away with his strike at the five minute mark. It was good to have him back on form, as this week marks a return to Champions League action with a game against Arsenal.Baptista
played his best game for Madrid, despite not scoring. He looked more comfortable and confident on the ball, having only the post to blame for not having scored on his incredible overhead shot. It really was a great effort which he followed up later with some very good strikes. It is telling that his efforts are being applauded by the home crowd, whilst those (lack thereof) of another, more prominent Brazilian are being jeered.Diogo
played in the DM role for the first time (to my recollection) and looked surprisingly comfortable. He tackled well, did a decent job anticipating the flow, and moved especially well off-the-ball to make himself available as a passing outlet. This is a very important, yet sometimes overlooked, aspect to playing DM. I know not whether he will get a chance against Arsenal, but I sure wouldn't mind seeing him in that position again.Ramos
was again quite solid in the back and even had a couple of well-timed runs forward. He is really beginning to look in his element.Raúl
played again! He even had some nice touches, a legal-looking goal called off, and a hand in Cicinho's goal. It will be interesting to see where López Caro plays him once he is back to full fitness.
And now a look at some of the other action around the league:Barcelona 5 - Betis 1
-- Catalán supporters will point to the scoreline as evidence their team's form is "back," but I am not yet convinced. This was a strange game with nearly all of the good fortune falling to Barça's side. Own goals, strange deflections, and an inspired Valdés minding the net all conspired to gloss the result. Still, it must be said that good teams create their own luck, and perhaps that is what we saw here. Everyone is waiting to see their match against Chelsea this week, though! Meanwhile, Betis find themselves back in the relegation zone (on goal difference) and will likely have as much trouble finding comfort as they do finding the back of the opponents' net.Real Sociedad 1 - Valencia 2
-- Very good win for Valencia coming off their victory against Barcelona last week. La Real always seems to make things difficult when the top teams come visiting, but Valencia, thanks to two Regueiro goals, dealt with the challenge.Cádiz 1 - Osasuna 3
-- Things seem to be back on track for the side from Pamplona, who are still hanging on to the last CL spot. The Andalusians worked hard but came up against a side that matched their workrate and finished with more class, punctuated by a nice goal from substitute Raul García, Osasuna's teen sensation.Villarreal 4 - Espanyol 0
-- Is the yellow submarine back from the depths? Probably not. It was, by all accounts an inflated scoreline that bore little resemblance to what actually happened on the pitch. Still, it should raise their morale a bit before their CL match against Rangers.Other resultsGetafe 0 - Atlético de Madrid 3
Sevilla 1 - Celta 0
Málaga 0 - Mallorca 2
Racing 0 - Athletic Bilbao 1
Deportivo 1 - Zaragoza 1