Thursday, January 29, 2009

New Maradona v New Pele- A Tale of Two Talents

Posted by: Suresh, India.

Since the time these two greats graced the footballing arena, the footballing crowd has been spoiled for quality. Before and along with these two south American talents were many great footballers like Alfred De Stefano, Puskas, Johan Cruff, Franz Beckenbauer,Michel Platini, Eusebio, Gerd Muller, Bobby Carlton and etc; however no one were ever spoken about in the same vein as these two were. Even though the destiny of greatness united these two (in a way), they were distinctly separated by their temperament. Pele was always considered a perfect professional & a perfect role model because of his on field and off field behavior; however Diego was always the most mercurial player surrounded with controversy and bad press linked to his behavior and personal problems.

Over the years, impostors of many shapes and sizes from Argentina and Brazil have been compared to these two greats and none of them were able to fill up the vacuum left by these two in the hearts of football lovers. However off late, the emergence of Messi and Robinho has triggered the talk of the New Maradona and the New Pele again. In many ways Robinho and Messi share there masters’ class, vision and prodigious talent, but this is where the similarities end.

Since the time Messi started playing with Barca’s first team, he has lived up to all the comparisons to the Argentinean legend. In fact, Messi has gone from strength to strength and even drawn comparison from no other than Maradona himself, but having said, that Messi reminds us of Maradona in all aspects except his temperament, where surprisingly he reminds us of Pele and not Maradona. Messi's ascend to the top has been built on strong foundation with the right mix of commitment, maturity, hard work and professionalism. Many clubs have tried to lure him away from Barcelona, however Messi's commitment to the club, has made the club's decision easy and simple. It was not a surprise to most people, when Messi performed the same miracles as his predecessor, scoring goals that Maradona did in a similar fashion. Consequently, it won't be a surprise if Messi surpasses Maradona’s talents with some of his own and sets examples for future Messis to follow.

On the contrary Robinho with his mercurial talent has set the world stage on fire, and of late it is not because of football that he is in the news. He showed glimpses of his talent when he was playing in Santos and was tipped for bigger things when he signed for Real Madrid, however surprisingly he does not have the temperament of his master, but surprisingly that of Maradona. During his three years stint for Los Blancos he promised but failed to deliver when it came to talent on the pitch. He was so unprofessional that he drew comments from the sporting director of the club who had complained about Robinho smelling of booze in the dressing room. To add to his expanding list of unprofessional acts, his transfer saga drew a lot of criticism from even the unexpected quarters, with Pele condoning his move to Manchester (City). It's difficult not to be tempted with big money in the offing, however considering the fact that Robinho's desire was to be the best in the world, it would have been a easy choice to make. It would have been the right choice if he had chose to on at Real Madrid and continue in his quest to achieve greatness. And the Bernabeu faithful absolutely loved and adored Robinho. Instead Robinho chose not to confront the problems that he was facing and decided to be the big fish in the small pond by accepting a backdoor exit move to Manchester City. He allowed his lust for money to kill his footballing soul. From a very promising career and possible greatness, Robinho is now all set to confront his worst fear, with demons of relegation lurking in the shadows. His temperament, has time and time again, put his master to shame and has pushed Pele to the extent of recommending professional counseling for his off field behavior.

It is almost certain that Messi will perform just to the expectations, but it would be foolish to write Robinho off because he still has a long career ahead of him. But it would hardly be a surprise for most, if Robinho turns out to be a gaffer and does nothing to fulfill his potential. We will wait for the future to answer this question.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Debate: The Ball Winner or The Goal Scorer?

Posted by: Ashay K, India

Now that has confirmed that Real Madrid has withdrawn the appeal filed with CAS, it’s only logical to think over who we are to nominate for the UEFA Champions League. The two available contenders are Lassan Diarra and Jaan Klass Huntelaar. So let us analyze their performances so far, compare their skillsets to the team requirements and decide on whom we need to take to the UCL.

Lassana Diarra

This springy kid from Portsmouth has come a long way by making it into Real Madrid, competing with the likes of Guti, Gago and Sneijder to be top dog. While most sports critics wrote him off as a “would be bench warmer” when Real Madrid sought his services, citing his inability to make it in clubs of a “big stature” like Chelsea and Arsenal, the defensive midfielder quickly made sure that he won over Juande Ramos and a place in the starting XI by his performances on the training ground, and later won over the crowd by his performances on the pitch.
Lassana Diarra or Lass as his jersey reads (to avoid confusion with his senior namesake in the team) has fit in like a glove, so much so that he’s been drawing comparisons with the great Claude Makelele. His work rate is unquestionable. He lasts the entire 90 minutes with still enough strength left in him to still run that extra mile, he is all over the park winning the ball, making quality tackles and breaking up the opposition’s play. However, the defensive aspect aside, he’s also a good playmaker. His sense of positioning and vision is what adds another dimension to him as a player. He makes sure that he is always well positioned to receive a pass and distribute it around the park. He has good vision to start off counter attacks and build up attacks from open play. He showed the crowd yet another aspect to his game with an inch perfect loopy lob to Raul who glanced the header to far post, the only goal which determined the final result in the game against Numancia last weekend.
This is what Real Madrid has to say about Lass’ first 172 minutes on pitch:
In 172 minutes on the pitch, Lass has recovered 18 balls (nine in each match) for an average of one every 9.53 minutes. In that same amount of time, he has 31 clearances, one every 5.53 minutes, and has proven to be a bastion in defense. On the offensive side, Lass has successfully completed 77 of 87 passes and has opened the game up along the flanks 15 times in his 16 attempts.

Jaan Klass Huntelaar

Though Huntelaar hasn’t figured as a regular starter for Real Madrid (at least not yet), the prolific striker has come up through the youth ranks of that academy of thoroughbred goal scorers, PSV Eindhoven, which has gifted the footballing world with amazing talents like Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Luiz Nazario Ronaldo (R9). He has maintained an average of 20 goals per season in the Eredivisie, which is no small feat by any means. Huntelaar is a classic example of the old definition of a “number 9”. The proverbial “fox in the box”, Huntelaar is gifted with impeccable sense of positioning, a predator’s instinct in the box and the ability to play and shoot with both feet. He is also good aerially, which is generally what seperates good strikers from the great.
Real Madrid signed Huntelaar when he was recuperating from an injury, probably his first long term injury in his distinguished career. Consequently, he has shown some good touches since his debut at Real Madrid, but has largely failed to impress. The non-performance could be attributed to being rusty after injury, but if he has to match the standards set by his dutch counterparts viz. Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Arjen Robben, he still has a long way to go.

Crux of the Problem

So, on one hand we have a defensive midfielder who’s already settled at Real Madrid and on the other hand we have a prolific goal scorer, who needs that 1st goal to get his confidence back and settle down into the squad. And what better stage to showcase one’s talents than Europe? But, we can take only of these two to the Champions League. So who should that one player be?
Real Madrid, as a team right now, is a wounded lion. We have one goal scorer and one defensive midfielder who would miss the entire season and we’ve signed another goal scorer and a defensive midfielder to replace them, not aware that under UEFA rules, only one of them can be registered in the competition. To add to it, we are struggling to achieve a semblance of decency in the league, while we are taking European giants like Liverpool head-on in the UCL. A wrong decision right now could hurt us badly in future. If one takes a look at our squad, they’ll realize that though we have a host of midfielders as opposed to just three strikers, we actually have only one player capable of playing that crucial defensive midfielder player role; and that’s Gago. Apart from Gago, we do have J. Garcia, but he’s simply not cut for Europe, since he lacks the quality. In all other positions, we have a host of attack minded players, but then again, the strikers department is quite depleted with the absence of Ruud Van. Raul is a great striker and Higuain is the top scorer for us this season, but in a season fraught with injuries for us, we should ask ourselves the question; What if one of them gets injured? The only other option is Javier Saviola, who hasn’t started more than 2 matches for us this season and scored just 1 goal. Is that the guy we would like to come on for us against Liverpool?
Having said all this, it is quite clear that there is a trade-off required. We have to sacrifice some aspect of our game; either the defensive aspect by taking Huntelaar to UCL or the attacking aspect, by taking Lass to UCL.


Personally, I feel we would be better off by taking Lass to the UCL. Lass has already settled down at Real Madrid. He is at home with our playing style and Gago , the fine player that he is, cannot be expected to last the entire UCL without picking up a tiny niggle here and there. With Gago gone, we cannot afford to ignore the defensive midfielder role and we’ve learnt our lesson the hard way in the past. On the other hand, even if we lose one of our strikers to injury, we do have another bonafide striker (however out of form) to come on from the bench. With Gago gone, we don’t have any other player who can take up the mantle of a defensive midfielder.
Another aspect to my personal viewpoint is our playing style. Currently we rely more on counter attacks and playmaking from the midfield rather than on individual talents and footwork from the forwards. Our forwards rely heavily on the feed coming in from the midfield and finish off the chances that come their way. In a setup like this, generally there is a less chance of strikers picking up injuries. The midfield has to bear the entire brunt. So a trade-off where we see Huntelaar resting for UCL is what we should go for, in my opinion. This would mean that Huntelaar starts getting more starts in the league and builds up his confidence levels, while Raul / Higuain is rested on some occasions to be fresh for the UCL ties.

However, that is just my viewpoint. What really happens remains to be seen. Until then, I would like your viewpoint about this.

Official: Real Madrid withdraw appeal filed with CAS

Posted by: Ashay K, India
Credits: UEFA's official website.

You can also view the article here.

UEFA has issued the following statement on Tuesday concerning the withdrawal of an appeal by Real Madrid CF to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"UEFA President, Michel Platini, last Thursday met the new President of Real Madrid CF, Vicente Boluda, at the House of European Football in Nyon, in particular to discuss the appeal filed by Real Madrid CF with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against the decision of UEFA's Appeal Body of 13 January 2009, regarding the requested registration of the two players Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Lassana Diarra for the final (knockout) phase of the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League.

During the meeting, both UEFA and Real Madrid CF were able to explain their own positions regarding the matter, in a spirit of open and sincere communication and with reciprocal respect.
Following the meeting, and upon the invitation of the UEFA President to reconsider their position, Real Madrid CF have decided to withdraw the appeal filed with CAS and to accept the decision of UEFA of 13 January 2009. Thus, Real Madrid CF will inform the UEFA administration, within the prescribed deadline, which of the two players, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar or Lassana Diarra, they would like to register on the A list for the 2008/09 UEFA Champions League first knockout round matches onwards.

The UEFA President was very appreciative of the manner and the style in which Real Madrid CF developed the discussions of last Thursday and commented: 'This does not come as a surprise to me. Real Madrid CF are one of the most successful teams in European football, the all-time record-holder of titles in the UEFA Champions League and have a great tradition.'

The UEFA President concluded by stating that the issues raised by Real Madrid CF 'cannot have any influence on the current UEFA Champions League season, but they were raised in good faith and are a good opportunity to discuss within the competent UEFA bodies the question of whether article 17.18 of the current UEFA Champions League regulations may need to be amended for the future seasons.'

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Jonarda 20: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Deportivo Coruna (Match Review)

Posted by: Paulo Martin, Spain

Real Madrid's Raul Gonzalez, centre, dribbles the ball through the Deportivo la Coruna defence during their Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Sunday Jan. 25, 2009.

5 wins in a row !

So we have made it 5 wins in a row now since playing Barcelona we have won 15 points ! And again we have regained our defensive strength maintaining yet another clean sheet.

Jonarda 20. Final score: Real Madrid 1 - 0 Deportivo la Coruña. A good win which now distances us from the likes of Sevilla & Valencia, both of whom failed to win this weekend making our second place spot a little safer. The first half had glimpses of vintage Real Madrid football with the team maintaining possession and attempting to score as quickly as possible. The team came out of the dressing room, firing on all cylinders and was a tad unlucky not to have scored early on in the game. The game perhaps didn't have as many chances as expected, especially from our point of view but still it was a much deserved win.

The New Makelele

The double pivot central midfield duo of Lass and Gago again dominated the play in the center of the park, though personally I feel it isn't needed during home games. Lass had an exceptional game; the lad does everything correctly, and makes things look easy which is what a quality defensive midfielder should do. I think at last we have found a player who could fill the legendary Makelele`s boots. Not only was he superb in destroying Depor`s attempts at creating football but he also isn't shy with the ball, making some quality passes and spreading the ball about nicely.

With around 40 minutes into the first half, game resumed from a corner kick awarded to Real Madrid. Lass latched on to a short corner pass from Sneijder on the left flank, and from the edge of the box, sent in a swirling, dipping cross which Raul glanced cleanly at the far post, past a stunned Munua. “1-0 to Real Madrid!” the commentators screamed, the Bernabeu erupted, but Raul didn’t kiss his wedding ring this time as expected. Instead he pointed at the Real Madrid crest, and then to Lassana and Sneijder; a gesture, which may well have been symbolic, for all we know.

We maintained possession and had numerous attacks in the first half and were very unlucky not to have scored a second with the referee and linesman denying Robben of his goal and being a little too benevolent with the yellow cards.
Higuain looked a little off today and wasn't his usual self but he always maintains his high level of commitment and excellent maneuverability. Robben was once again our best man; the Flying Dutchman looks simply unstoppable! He cleverly switched wings making it equally hard for Manuel Pablo and Filipe to stop him. He also had added help of an excellent S.Ramos who looks like his old self again bombing up and down the wing and sending in his trademark crosses.

Sleep, Sugar, Sleep

Everything that we did well in the first half, came undone in the second. Sneijder who was invisible all game (again!) was substituted for VDV who didn't offer anything to the game and yet again failed to prove himself. Drenthe came on for Raul, and was immediately booed by some sects of the fans, which is just shocking! It is appalling that the poor kid gets booed by the home crowd; this is going to do wonders for his confidence level. I know it was a small sector of the crowd who was booing (the same idiots who always do it viz. The Ultra Sur) but it was accentuated by the almost silent Bernabeu who seemed to have been hypnotized by the team’s poor display in the second half. Huntelaar hardly got a touch on the ball, but towards the dying seconds of the game, after yet another sublime run down the flank by Robben, he (Huntelaar) was unlucky not to have scored with a good save by Munua. Casillas again had to pull off one of his wonder saves to stop Lafita`s shot, but was almost surprised on another occasion, by a long range effort by Filipe which ricocheted of the crossbar into the stands. Apart from these two chances, Deportivo didn't really threaten us all game.

As i mentioned before a positive note to be derived from this match, is yet another clean sheet. Pepe, who didn't really have a great game, still maintained a dignified level of play all game, Cannavaro who looked much better tonight than in previous matches was commanding our defence and Heinze who failed to attack his wing and deliver a cross well enough most times, did maintain a high level of play at the back and looked very good to my surprise. All in all it certainly wasn't our best match but we maintained our winning streak which is really all that matters now, if we want to have a shot at a comeback further down the line.

We lost a more of possession and failed to capitalize on our chances towards the end, which gave Deportivo wings. Depor’s sole objective was to draw 0 - 0 and they came close to it, had it not been for Raul`s goal. I was thankful to Lotina for granting me the pleasure of watching the magnificent Juan Carlos Valeron in action for what may well be the last time. Valeron clearly maintains his elegance and breathtakingly precise passing ability but lacks the in the physical department.

Number 7, a Legend

Raul didn't really participate much in the game tonight, mainly due to not receiving many quality through balls (we may be missing Guti). But he scored his 305th goal in 501 matches in style and is now the leagues highest active goalscorer and is only 1 goal away from breaking the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano`s record.

Some sectors of the crowd were shocked when Juande Ramos brought in Drenthe to replace Raul. As Raul walked down to the bench, the crowd acknowledged his contribution and in that moment, it was quite evident that Real Madrid is Raul Madrid.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Debate: Ronaldo, Kaka or Ribery?

Posted by: Rahul, India.

We're exactly half-way through the season. And 19 games on, it is clear even to a blind man who's going to win the Liga this season, barring the Catalans push the infamous self-destruct button (fingers crossed!). While Barcelona have been demolishing everyone in sight, Real Madrid have been scrappy and peeled off results in recent weeks. And though the hard-fought recent results are heartening, the quality of our game continues to be poor. Don't get me wrong, I'm not demanding aesthetically pleasing football immediately from a manager roped in mid-season. But let's face it, since the departure of Zidane, Figo, Ronaldo and co, i.e., the wicked Galacticos, our play has never quite been eye-candy. Slick movements and passing are a rarity, one touch moves are non-existent and outrageous goals are scored not more than twice a season. The obvious question thus arises. Should we resort back to a few new Galacticos? The answer, I'm afraid, is yes.

The first three and a half years of the Galacticos era were not only successful but very pleasing to the eye as well and a revisit to those years can only bring contented smiles on the faces of most Madridistas. And even though in the latter years it went on to become hugely disastrous, the style of play never quite reached the nadir of our game today. I think the solution is a trade-off. The right mix of superstars and youth, of proven talent and potential kids, of stylish wizards and hard-workers. And I think we've learnt from past mistakes of not flooding the team with superstars and their egos at the risk of losing genuine talent and players with a sincere work ethic.

As of now, one look at our squad is enough to know that not only is it a decent one, but also a big one. But the point is we desperately need quality here, and not quantity. We need just ONE player, and not a host of them. Our embattled Sporting Director, Pedja Mijatovic made a rare sensible statement during last summer's transfer window when he said, "At the moment, one great player is much better for us than three good ones". We need just that one magical player who can turn things around single-handedly when they aren't going well. As of now, I can't think of any single player in our squad who can do that, who has that magic. Admittedly, Robben does. He's started doing that the past few weeks. But who knows where the next injury is lurking? There's no doubt we need one of those "wizard" signings; someone who can actually scare defenders the night before the match itself. It's high time we got someone like that once again at the Bernabeu.

So who should that ONE great signing be? I can only think of two genuine current greats who Real actually have a chance and a possibility to sign and yes, they are Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka (Messi is out of question for obvious reasons). Now Ronaldo definitely makes more sense, seeing as our squad has only one proper winger, and that too an injury-prone one. Sure, Ronaldo is not all that blessed in the grey area and his ego seems to inflate with every goal he scores. But that can easily be overlooked and his talent definitely overshadows the tantrums. Not only does Ronaldo offer wing-play and good crosses but he also comes up with a chunkful of goals (though I still believe his last season's tally was a one-off). He'd offer that flair and the bag of tricks that's missing right now. He's still relatively young. I believe he can still improve further. And plus he's two-footed. Though it might seem a minor point, it's essential for every great winger to have two feet, and most whos-who of football have always maintained this. Cristiano Ronaldo would be a near perfect signing.

However I'm not that optimistic of seeing Ronaldo donning the famed white, at least not as long as Fergusson is around. Even if we have the man with the magic wand around (as far as getting big name players go), a certain Senor F.Perez, I'm not too sure of us landing Ronaldo. In spite of all the recent talk of him changing his brand to CR9 and all that, I remain doubtful. So, we're back to square one, with no one capable of turning on the style consistently.

So only then, should we go for Kaka. A lot of fans are apprehensive about signing him, and rightfully so. Our central midfiled, at the moment, is cluttered with too many hopefuls. The players in queue for the central midfield position are Diarra, Diarra, Gago, Sneijder, Van Der Vaart, Guti, Parejo and De La Red. Now let's look at this rationally. Both the Diarras and Gago are vying for the defensive midfield position and I agree three players for just one position is a lot, but none of them plays the role we can expect Kaka to perform. Van Der Vaart has simply failed to impress this season and many have expressed doubts that he can turn it around. Most Madridistas would be glad if he did, but I just don't see that happening. Guti is way too inconsistent and depending on him to do that prime role of playmaking, every week on a consistent basis is just impossible. It's an uncomfortable thought having him as our main source of moves for an important Champions League 2nd leg game, for example. He doesn't turn up the heat in most big games. But he'd be very effective coming fresh off the bench in say the 60th minute. As for De La Red, neither does he play in Kaka's position, nor does he possess Kaka's talents. We're not even sure he'll ever play again, sadly. Parejo is still young and he'll learn gradually. In fact, he'd tremendously benefit from having Kaka around.

The way I see it, Kaka could potentially fit in easily. Selling Van Der Vaart and pushing Guti to the bench should make way for him. The midfield could be (L/M)Diarra, Sneijder, Kaka, Robben. Add Guti, Gago and Parejo on the bench and that does look really good. Hell, it might even look like the stuff of dreams. People might argue that signing Ribery makes more sense, given that a winger is the need of the hour. But if I had to choose between Kaka and Ribery, I'd still go with the Brazilian. It's just very hard to turn down a player with the ridiculously abundant talent and complete passing range and consistency that Kaka possesses. Ribery, for all the talent that he has, is still no Kaka. I don't believe he's the "main star" that we're looking for here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kakaphony - A War of Tabloids

Posted by-Shibarjun Ghosh,India

Kaka almost had one foot in Manchester, Now he has two in Milan…with a head in Madrid", AS wrote in its article regarding Kaka's much lampooned and finally failed transfer speculations . Come to think of it, it makes quite a good line. Ever since the big money transfer of Kaka to Manchester City broke down the cacophony regarding his future has already started. The rumour mill has been working overtime and now there are speculations and predictions galore. Predictably, the Madrid based (or should I say Madrid biased) daily have seem to taken the upper hand on this one keeping well in mind that their cross town rivals took the cake, pie and cherry in the Ronaldo saga that enfolded in the summer of last year. AS chipped in with trivias here and there, but its a known fact that it was MARCA that was running the "Cristiano Ronaldo Show".

But who are these guys in AS??? Well they are very much like u and me; Madrid over-enthusiasts, but also a bit more imaginative. AS is so pumped up and so over excited about the fact that they have got the best seller plot of the month they don't care if the facts they are stating are true or not; like stating the fact that that Kaka's contract ends in 2011 instead of 2013, which in fact is the case.

So much so is their verve about the new scoop that they have not hesitated taking digs at the recently crowned FIFA player of the year Ronaldo (who of course was the main protagonist of the summer blockbuster scripted by Marca) and have also gone on the extent of saying that "Ronaldo needs a team to shine whereas Kaka makes a team shine", not exactly true by my diagnosis. Ronaldo has scored 42 goals last season and has won the Double with Man Utd, leading the charge from the front, enough for Real Madrid to go on a wild goose chase with the a possiblity of smashing transfer records left right and centre. As for Kaka, no doubt he is a great player, probably one of the greatest to have graced the footballing world of late, but playing in the uefa cup certainly is not my definition of "shining".

However AS is taking no chance; they are doing everything to juice it up, like putting words in people's mouth, citing "undisclosed inside sources" and also introducing Barcelona as the new "twist in the tale". People like Emerson with their few predictions and on-the-record antics have got more media coverage than they have managed in the whole of this season with their onfield activities. Suddenly everyone wants to be part of this blockbuster and have been contributing in with their share of lip service. And Emerson has apparently also gone to the extent that not only Kaka, but even Pato would be joining Madrid in the near future. And in this saga fraught with contradictions, Emerson has again gone on record denying that he made any such claims!

Now AS certainly doesn't want to leave anything to chance this time. Once bitten, twice shy, they have learnt from their mistakes and have not forgotten the lesson they learnt the last summer when Marca stole all the limelight with the Ronaldo saga and AS was relegated to playing second fiddle in the war of the tabloids. However, what if all these reports are really true? I would be shouting “Vamos!” at the top of my voice but for the time being it’s not about Kaka, Milan, Madrid or City because the real action is in the tabloid columns and not anywhere else. It’s 2009 and the score is Marca 0-1 AS.

As of now, I am waiting for a fitting reply from Marca with the hope that they can come up with an equally engrossing and exciting plot where there is no shortage of drama, emotions, betrayal, loyalty and lots of money (like this one). There are a lot of protagonists up for the taking. Benzema, Villa, Walcott, Ibrahimovic or may be Ronaldo once more, to name a few. Until then guys, grab your popcorn and enjoy the bytes; this show is not over as yet, and another blockbuster’s already blooming!...hope its just AS good.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Jonarda 19: Real Madrid 3 - 1 Osasuna (Post Match Review)

Posted by: Ashay K, India.

Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos from Spain, center, reacts with fellow team members Pepe, right, and Arjen Robben from the Netherlands, left, after scoring a goal against Osasuna during their Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009.

A Tale of 2 Halves and a Referee

Jonarda 19. Final score: Real Madrid 3 – Osasuna 1. A comfortable win by a 2 goal margin. Yet another win under Juande Ramos. But these facts do not tell the full story. They do not tell of the saga that was written in those 90 minutes with two different contrasting plays and in which referee Perez Burull played a major role.

The Osasuna Story

Real Madrid began the 1st half very nervously with almost everyone looking quite rusty, especially the defence, which was quite reminiscent of the defence under Schuster. Predictably, Osasuna started pressing forward with intent and about a quarter of an hour later came the first real chance, when Juanfran drilled in a shot down the centre of the pitch which was parried away easily by Casillas. Osasuna kept up the attack and soon enough Plasil broke away from Gago on the right flank and sent in a dangerous cross. Cannavaro, stuck with two Osasuna players to fend off, got elbowed away and Neckounam glanced the header away to the far post, past a bewildered Casillas. While Osasuna celebrated their first goal away at the Bernabeu, the Real Madrid players were left to come to terms with the fact that we were indeed 1 goal down against a relegation threatened team.

As the first half wore on, the team began showing intent of scoring and slowly but steadily, started playing slick, possession football. Lass and Gago made some strong tackles in the midfield to win the ball. Gago had a scorcher at goal from almost 40 yards out but shot just wide into the stands. Meanwhile, Higuain went down just inside the box looking for a penalty but was booked for diving. On the other end, Juanfran was supposedly brought down by Gago in the box. But replays showed that though Gago had a foot on him, he (Juanfran) had kicked the ball far ahead and was never going to get there in time. Perez Burull whipped out the yellow and booked Juanfran for diving, which was quite rash under the circumstances.

Towards the end of the first half, Real Madrid were positively dominating possession and were more and more threatening by the second. Ramos skied a header from a Sneijder cross, whereas a Raul cross went begging insde the box. Ramos then headed another Sneijder cross into goal but was ruled offside and rightly so. The teams walked to their respective dressing rooms soon after as the scoreboard read 0-1 to Osasuna.

A Tactician’s script

Real Madrid came out of the tunnel with two changes to the starting XI. Van der Vaart had predictably come on for Sneijder who hadn’t done much in the first. The other change was a surprise with Huntelaar coming on for Cannavaro. Many madridistas balked at this sudden change, but then soon relaxed when they saw Sergio Ramos moving down the centre of the defence and Lassana Diarra playing on the right flank. Van der Vaart took up the slot freed up by Lass and Huntelaar moved up front.

The start of the second half was delicately positioned with nothing much happening. However 10 minutes into the half, the ball was passed on to Ramos from the left flank who drilled a low shot in from thirty yards out. The ball bounced some feet ahead of the Osasuna keeper, Roberto, who misjudged the bounce and made a right mess out of it by palming it into his own net. Suddenly the Bernabeu erupted with the fans cheering “Vamos” for Sergio Ramos who notched his 2nd goal in consecutive matches for the club. Real Madrid was suddenly back into the game. From there on, everything followed as per Juande Ramos’ script. Madrid took control of the match and pressed on trying to penetrate the Osasuna defence further. Robben, who was largely quiet the entire match so far, since all the play was down the centre, latched on to a haphazard pass from Heinze on the left flank. He waltzed over the ball with a couple of defenders watching him just outside the box, then skipped past them and squared a menacing low ball past Roberto. Higuain rammed the ball home from three yards out for the 2nd goal of the match. A dejected Osasuna saw their hopes shatter once more while the players and the Bernabeu celebrated a goal which would prove to be the turning point in the game.

As the match wore on Osasuna retreated further and started relying more on long balls and counter attacks. It was one of these counter attacks which saw Juanfran skip free past the Madrid defence. Pepe followed him right to the very end, halting only after bringing him down inside the box. While the onlookers, players and spectators braced themselves for the upcoming penalty decision, referee Perez Burull handed the Bernabeu faithful a late Christmas present by ruling the decision against Osasuna and booking Juanfran for protesting. Juanfran had to exit soon after, having got the second yellow that day for no fault of his. To say that the referee conditioned the match is an understatement. He had just handed the match on a platter to Real Madrid, but hey, who’s complaining?

Osasuna simply lost interest in the match after this and the last ten minutes were quite forgettable with Madrid not willing to take the game to Osasuna and the latter having simply lost interest in the encounter. The last nail in the coffin came in the 91st minute (in injury time), when Robben dribbled past two defenders on the right flank and scored the third goal from a tight angle past a hapless Roberto.

Resilience in its prime

We at Real Madrid have seen more than a fair share of controversies this season. With Ramon Calderon doing the run only a couple of days prior to the match and a new interim president appointed, things couldn’t get worse at the club. But in these times of turmoil, the spirit of the players, the “never say die” attitude and the brilliant tactics of Juande Ramos saw Madrid win yet another game. And that’s what is important for us right now. We can wait for the aesthetically pleasing game. Right now there is a job to be done and all I can say is, we are doing a pretty good job.

Click here to view the match highlights

Disclaimer: The match highlights are not hosted by us though we have tried to verify the authenticity of the same before posting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Calderon-Gate & What Lies Thereafter

Posted by: Midhun Mohandas, India.

The inevitable finally happened. Ramón Calderón resigned as the club president on July 16th after reports that he had rigged the recent general assembly came out. Calderon and controversies go hand-in-hand, so it was not a surprise that the most unpopular president the club had in recent times, for both supporters and rivals alike, had to go in such a manner. Most of the Madridistas didn’t consider him as their president mainly because he never had the support of the majority.

Calderón laid the foundation of his imperium with a series of lies. He promised the socios that he had contracts signed with Kaka, Robben and Cesc Fabregas and has spoken to their respective clubs, and even had the audacity to claim that he would pass on the contracts to the new president even if he fails in the elections. This was later proved to be the first of the several bold faced lies that Madridismos would hear from their big-mouthed president. In January 2007, he was caught on tape making several unflattering comments about his players, and later had to apologize to the entire squad. He sacked Fabio Capello with in days after Madrid won its first major title in four years. Calderón always said that he wouldn’t interfere in Sporting matters, but he went ahead with his plan to sack the Italian tactician against Sporting Director, Pedja Mijatovic’s will. In March 2008, Calderon was accused of nepotism in selling season tickets by a reputed Spanish journalist. He was found using the club’s credit card for personal reasons which only added insult to the injury. Ronaldo-gate was another embarrassing incident during his tenure. He promised the fans that the club will be able to lure the Portuguese winger in the summer, but failed to get him despite the player expressing his wish to play for the Spanish giants on various occasions.

The club's image was tarnished further when Marca reported that the management was unaware of the UEFA rules which allow them to register either Huntelaar or Diarra. Calderon tried to wash his hands off this latest controversy by blaming the club’s legal adviser for this goof up.

The General Assembly held in early December exposed the dark side of Calderon furthermore which eventually led to his downfall. He turned off the microphones when some socios started to question him. Ultras Sur were present at the assembly (normally only members are allowed) and they began to jeer the socios who tried to speak against Calderon. Ultras are said to be hardcore supporters of Calderon since he's 'too soft' on them. But his fate was decided when Marca came up with irrefutable evidence which showed many of those who voted in favor of Calderon were non-members which included a Atletico fan and his own sibling. Calderon tried to save his face by sacking Mariano Rodríguez and Luis Barcena, who was supposedly in charge of organizing the event. But the ploy backfired when Mariano revealed that he worked under the instructions of Calderon and the president was forced to resign after the board meeting on Friday.

Calderon has proven so many times that he’s a misfit for such a responsible post. He never took criticisms positively and acted weirdly many times. He ordered banners at the Bernabeu to be taken down in the middle of a game, simply because they criticized his administration. He didn’t allow fans to watch (Lassana) Diarra’s presentation because they voiced anti-Calderon chants during Huntelaar’s presentation. The way he reacted when Florentino posed with Zizou and Ronaldo after a charity match shows that he had no self-confidence in himself.

And if this was not enough, Calderon always harped about bringing back some of the 'values' that the club lost during Perez's era. I’ve always wondered what positive values has he brought back to Madrid? The cantera has been over-looked like never before which was not the case under the previous regime. In fact, Perez was mocked by critics for trying to build a team comprising of super stars and 'kids'. Calderon had the luxury of having some of the better players our cantera has produced in recent years which was not the case with Perez, and yet he signed players like Drenthe, Marcelo, Saviola ignoring players like Negredo, Arbeloa, Granero and Mata in the youth set up. So was making RM a laughing stock around the world the so called “value” he brought back?

Juan Villalonga , Eugenio Martinez Bravo from Plataforma Blanca and possibly Florentino Perez are mooted as the candidates for the next elections and I am sure some more will join the list soon. Lets hope whoever wins the elections does a better job than Calderon did in the last two and half years, and I bet that isn’t a tough benchmark to cross upon.

What do you think of the possible contenders for the job come July? Let us know.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Entre, Vicente!

Posted by: Ashay K, India.

The deputy President of Real Madrid Vicente Boluda, who now takes charge of the club, listens to the President of Real Madrid Ramon Calderon during a press conference at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Friday Jan. 16, 2009. Ramon Calderon quit as Real Madrid president on Friday following a vote-rigging scandal. Calderon's turbulent tenure as head of the world's biggest football club appears to have come to an end after a Spanish newspaper reported that the 57-year-old lawyer had manipulated a general assembly vote, effectively a vote of confidence, in December.

Construction, Law and now Shipping. This defines the various backgrounds of the last three presidents on Real Madrid. While Florentino Perez was a construction magnate and Ramon Calderon made his name as a lawyer, Vicente Boluda has made his name in the shipping industry.
Balouda has a masters in Legal Advice for Business and a Masters in Maritime Law. He is also the president of the 'National Association of Shipowners and Tow-Trucks', a delegate in the 'Upper Counsel of the Chambers of Commerce', the first vice-president of the 'Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Navigation of Valencia', and vice-president of the 'Spanish Shipping Association.'

In 1998 he received the 'Enterpriser of the Year' award for his work in the Boluda Group, against rivals such as La Caixa and IBM. Along with his own personal success, Boluda has a very successful family, with his grandfather, Boluda Marí, giving rise to a naval empire that has since expanded massively to cover various ports around the world. Now, they operate not just on the shore but also at sea, where they participate in off-shore rescue, and fight against contamination.
Coming to you from Real Madrid's official website, Boluda's opening words to the press and to the masses of Real Madrid....
"I would like to begin by expressing, in the name of Real Madrid, my thanks to Ramón Calderón for the job he has done these past two and a half years. On a personal level, I would like to add that I feel proud for having been part of
his Board and for being his friend."

"I take over the Presidency as an act of responsibility and an obligation I cannot refuse. An institution like Real Madrid can't be devoid of power until the next election, which will take place this summer. I ask Madridismo to stand united and to act responsibly, and I wish to ask all of you to allow us to do our jobs in a calm and confident atmosphere."

"Our football and basketball squads have important goals to achieve this season and they deserve our support more than ever. I offer our fans and Club Members my full dedication to this organisation. I will defend the interests of the Club with all my heart. Thank you."

This is "Called-a-Run"

Posted by: Ashay K, India.

Well, there has always been immense pressure in a managerial position of any capacity at Real Madrid. So much pressure that one has difficulty surviving even if all he is doing is in the best interests of the club. But the audacity of Ramon Calderon, the scandals and the fact that the image of the club is tarnished has kept many wondering as to how Calderon survived for so long.
Marca explained that as well, in great detail. As a result, we finally get to hear Calderon address the Real Madrid faithful, and we hope, for the last time.

We would like to directly quote Calderon since this is such a momentous occassion for most madridistas...

"As I said in my previous press conference, I am not a coward and I have nothing to hide. I wish to swear again that the things that have been said in some media about my direct or indirect responsibility with what happened in the last General Assembly are false."

"Against the wishes of all the Members of the Board, I have decided to yield the Presidency. I hope that by handing in my head -highly sought after since the day my office began- I help to pacify a social strata that is permanently agitated by the information that appears in the media on a daily basis and that is divulged and elaborated with absolute disregard to moral ethics."

"I have given my soul and all my strength to Real Madrid these last two and a half years and my hands are clean. I have a clear conscience and I feel proud for having served the most important club in the world. I honestly believe that the success of those who have repeatedly sought my exit of the Club is also the triumph of injustice and evil doing. I have made mistakes as a consecuence to my limitations, but I have never taken part in any irregularities. The mistakes I made never sought personal benefit."

"I wish now to express my gratitude to the Board and to those whose loyalty is hard to emulate. Thanks to them, this Club has won 5 titles in two years: 3 in football and 2 in basketball. The Club's accounts regarding both income and expenditure are the best in its history. I also wish to thank the employees and collaborators I've had these years. They make this entity and myself proud with their efficient work, support and affection."

"I love and feel for this Club with all my heart and I wish to ask our Club Members and fans to stand united in support of the new President. I also wish to ask the fans to support our football and basketball players, who are great professionals that are deeply involved with the Club and their work. I can say the same of two exceptional coaches that make the Club proud. United, the teams and the fans can win all the competitions they are playing in."

"I wish to publicly manifest my unconditional support for all my successors and I renounce any act of obstruction or opposition. Finally, and most importantly, I wish to thank my family, my mother, my brothers and, especially, Teresa, an expectional woman without whom I would have never achieved anything in my life and who has suffered and accepted in silence and with affection all the absences, problems and unpleasantness derived from this position."

"Naturally, I can't forget my children, Leticia, Jaime and Mariana. Not only have they suffered for what's happening to their father, but they have also been permanently harassed and slandered. Their photos and personal details have been used with unscrupulousness. I ask you as a final favour to respect them. They are the most important thing in my life, as for every husband and father, and the decision I've made today has been heavily influenced by the relentless hounding they are subjected to and the suffering it has caused them."

"I leave with my head held high and stressing once again that I have a clear conscience because I have always been true and sought to make good."

"Thank you very much. God bless you."

...That emotional and touchy conference has left us quite subdued. So with a heavy heart, we wish Calderon the very best for whatever he takes up in the future and we hope tht he and our club never cross paths ever again.

Disclaimer: Though the thoughts in the post are our own, Calderon's comments have been picked verbatim from the Real Madrid official website.

Et Tu, Marca?

Posted by: Ashay K.

Julius Caesar's words echo strong in this case. The only change being this time its Calderon and there's no Brutus, only Marca. After carrying out a long campaign against Ramon Calderon, Marca seems to have finally succeeded.

Marca reports that Ramon Calderon has sensationally resigned from the post of Club President. Calderon is due to hold a press conference explaining his decision to stand down at 18:00 CET.
Keep watchin this space, we'll post more once the news is official followed by a detailed analysis of Calderon's tenure here at Real Madrid.

Jonarda 18: Real Madrid vs Mallorca (Match Review)

Posted by: Paulo Martin, Spain.

Real Madrid's Arjen Robben (R) shoots to score against Real Mallorca's goalkeeper Dudu Aouate during their Spanish First Division soccer match at Ono stadium in Palma de Mallorca January 11, 2009.

Manual for the perfect counter attack.

Real Madrid`s recuperation process is following the strict script written by Juande Ramos. A better defensive system and taking advantage of counter attacking football. For now, our play isn't a priority, it doesn't have to aesthetically pleasing. With this rescue plan in motion, the team beat Mallorca with outstanding authority, Mallorca was a sad team which went from bad to worse with difficulties which reach all aspects of the club. For Real Madrid, Mallorca was a perfect rival to face. Robben & Higuain perfectly interpreted the counter attack and gave Mallorca no option.

The plan came together from the very start. Two light chances from Mallorca served as a prologue for Real Madrid`s first goal. Casillas intercepted a cross, he observed Raul was free and passed him the ball. The build-up to the attack following this was by the book. Raul to Higuain, who crossed the ball aerially to the right flank, were nobody had picked up Robben. The flying Dutchman accelerated and scored through Aoute's legs in a one-on-one situation . The goal accentuated the signs of things to come for both the teams. Real Madrid waited and counter attacked. Mallorca just fell apart.

A lethal problem for Real Madrid had been its fragile defence. In the last two months of the Schuster era the team received an average of two goals per game, a sum that is simply unacceptable for a team with Real Madrid`s aspirations. Closing that hemorrhage was a priority. The numbers under Juande Ramos are inspiring: Real Madrid hasn't conceded a goal in its last three games, against Valencia, Villarreal and Mallorca. Yesterday the team didn't need to rely on Iker Casillas, except to confirm that the keeper is a fundamental piece of the teams counterattack. His vision, which is very rarely mentioned about goal keepers, resulted decisive in the first goal and, later on, in an electrical play that Robben was unlucky not to have scored his second with a shot off the post. The virtue for consolidating the defence took another big step with Lassana Diarra`s presence, another specialist for the team that against Mallorca fielded its best defence (S.Ramos-Pepe-Cannavaro-Heinze) and another specialist in closing down players, Gago.

This all resulted too much for Mallorca who`s poor play and lack of ideas led to the teams defeat. You could see how frustrated they were by looking at their best players face, Arango. He expressed the teams lack of spirit and lack of vitality. Without play, without players, without vitality, Mallorca got caught up in Real Madrid`s defensive web. The second goal killed what little hope Mallorca had of attempting to fight back. Corrales failed to control a long ball which landed at Hgiuain`s feet, who once again manifested into the quality player that he is, appearing from further back where defenders didn't detect his presence. He split through Mallorca`s defensive line like a missile and sent in a dangerous low ball across the face of the goal. Raul was lurking inside the box for this eventuality. He quickly latched on to the ball and with his first touch, elegantly back-heeled the ball in past a stupefied Aoute before the crowd could even come to terms with what happened. A magnificent goal to celebrate his 500th league appearance.

Other than Real Madrid`s constant danger through its brilliant counterattacks the match had nothing more to tell. Mallorca`s monotony became dispairing. It was also clear that Real Madrid had no interest in managing the play, or taking it to Mallorca`s half. Pepe raised to the occasion and the rest of the defence responded with efficiency. Lassana Diarra confirmed his dynamic style of play, yet he didn't show much flair with the ball. That was reserved for Higuain who`s place in the starting XI isn't argued anymore, and Robben, who gave Corrales one of the worst nights of his life.

The evident win invited Jaunde Ramos to make some changes. Van Der Vaart and Huntelaar both came on. Sergio Ramos`s goal, a good volley which saw Aoute let a goal in through his legs for the second time that night and also marked his first goal of the season didn't really modify the game. Huntelaar currently is no match for Higuain though. He doesn't seem comfortable yet. Aoute made two routine saves from him after two typical center forward strikes. The young Dutchman needs to do a lot more than what he has shown to earn a starting spot in this Real Madrid team. Juande Ramos knows what he wants, the team is responding to that and we don't for see any major changes in the team in the near future.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jonarda 19: Real Madrid vs Osasuna (Match Preview)

Posted by: Paulo Martin, Spain.

Picture Title: Real Madrid players react after winning the 07-08 season title by beating Osasuna 2-1

Match Details:

Date:18/01/2009 Time: 17:00 Venue: Santiago Bernabéu

Here comes Osasuna, Basically, this year, they’re the worst team in the league. They've earned 13 points from 17 matches, putting them in 20th place. They’re somehow neither completely horribly bad on offense or defense, they’re merely mediocre at both. We are currently the 2nd best team in the league at home with 22 points (1 less than the mighty FC Barcelona), we have also scored 26 goals at home so far this season (5 less than the mighty FC Barcelona). If we talk about Osasuna then they are the 2nd worst team in the Liga away from home only being able to win 3 points out of 27 and only maneging to score 5 goals in 9 matches.

Having said all that i think we all saw the problems they caused FC Barcelona last weekend at the Camp Nou so we must not taken them lightly. Osasuna have always been a tough team to beat and a tough team in general, they have never been afraid of getting stuck in and a perfect example of this is what their manager Jose Antonio Camacho said this week in the press " I prefer my team to be booked 13 times than just be booked once". Clearly they are trying to intimidate us but i don't think that will work especially not at the Bernabeu. We have to keep a very close eye on Plasil & Nekounam who pull the strings in their midfield and on Pandiani who is always a danger especially in dead-ball plays. But the thing that will clearly work against them is the fact that they have played a cup tie this week and Real Madrid, already eliminated from the competition, have a squad that is fully rested.

I'm sure many of you know that Real Madrid legend Jose Antonio Camacho will be back at the Bernabeu so im sure he`ll have mixed emotions about the game, and it will be interesting to see how the Bernabeu receives him. Camacho a Madrid left back for 16 years (414 league appearances according to Wikipedia). Has guided lower league teams into Primera, Camacho knows his business, as his appointment to the Spanish helm and that of Real Madrid suggest. He’ll know how to approach the game, but his team is still destined for relegation, so it’ll be hard for them to get a point against us. He`ll want to make a good impression especially in the Bernabeu. Speaking of how the Bernabeu receives people, it will be extremely interesting to see the fans reaction to Ramon Calderon after this weeks scandals.

As for Real Madrid i don't for see any major changes in the team. I cannot see Juande Ramos changing a winning team, why would he ? Although he has been talking closely with Marcelo all week so perhaps he`ll be given yet another opportunity to prove himself ? Obviously we want to take advantage of Robben`s excellent form and see if Higuain will once again grace us with an excellent game. Guti who is back from his injury will probably be shortlisted for the game and he may receive some playing time depending on the how the game is going. The Bernabeu gets to see Lass and Huntelaar once again in action and im sure Huntelaar will be dying to score his first goal for the club at home in front of the fans.

Expected lineup: Casillas, S.Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro, Heinze, Robben, Lass, Gago, Sneijder, Raul, Higuain.

So there you have it people, Siempre Madrid's official prediction would be a 3-0 with Higuain, Sneijder and Huntelaar scoring.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Watch this space...We'll be back soon!

Yes, keep an eye out for this space! Our team is working on building a blog for all the crazy Madridistas out there and we'll be up and running soon enough. Keep coming back and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Hala Madrid!


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