Matchday 5

Get ready for a few upsets

The weekend after a set of fixtures in the European competitions is always ripe for upsets. And if you throw in the fact that the traditional top three (Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico) haven’t looked themselves since the season started, this could be the first matchday in which all three fail to win their games. That is indeed a rare combination, however one which this column believes will happen several times this campaign.

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Matchday 4

Bye, European Glory

One used to think that the balance of power in LaLiga was not good for the tournament itself, but great for European competitions. Let me explain: three top teams (Barcelona, Real Madrid and yes, Atletico as long as Simeone is their coach), five or six middle class who can compete with anyone on a given day (Sevilla, Villarreal, Athletic, Real Sociedad, Valencia and perhaps even Betis) and then the remaining teams who struggle to survive and get a famous win every once in a while. Three clear tiers with obvious consequences for the competition in Spain and the chances to challenge for a European title.

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Matchday 3

When cachet still matters

And we’re back! Yes, a certain transfer market move by Real Madrid you’ve probably heard of may have a lot to do with my recent awakening from hibernation, but the fact is that the whole sequence of signings, farewells and the drama they’ve brought in the last few weeks makes it almost impossible for me to keep watching and not to write about it.

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The goalie who could win matches

Iker has retired. It’s hard to think there’ll be another one like him

For at least 10 years, I kept joking that Iker Casillas was challenging Julio Iglesias’ status as the greatest Spaniard ever.

Iglesias’ credentials are well-known, at least if you were born before 1980. Otherwise, let me explain: Julio is a billionaire singer who can’t actually sing – and yes, that deserves huge recognition—, which coupled with his global success and the fact that he managed to remain an irresistible sex-symbol for almost all of his adult life made him top the list. Ah! He also played on goal for Real Madrid until he broke his knee and changed careers… Nothing could go wrong for Julio. What else could you ask for in a Spaniard? Success, money, international recognition… Continue reading “The goalie who could win matches”

The Long Read: The Rise and Fall of La Quinta del Buitre in Five Matches

It would not be stretching a point to say that the ‘Quinta del Buitre’ of the late eighties changed the face of Spanish football, planting the seeds of what was to come in the following decades. After a long spell in which hard work, courage and fighting spirit had become the arguably limited values of Spain’s approach to the beautiful game, four kids from Madrid and one from Huelva brought flair to the table, played as though no goal difference was big enough, won European competitions after years of drought and made many believe that the “Furia Española” tag had indeed become obsolete. Heck, even Pep Guardiola states that the Quinta was Real Madrid’s best version ever. Continue reading “The Long Read: The Rise and Fall of La Quinta del Buitre in Five Matches”

Decline and Fall

When I was writing ‘White Storm’ for Real Madrid’s centenary, a book commissioned by a British publisher and endorsed by the club as kosher, I got to meet various interesting people at planet Bernabéu. Some were more interesting than others – but that’s the nature of a multi-national enterprise, although it felt less like an impersonal leviathan back then in the early naughties. One of the most interesting (and remarkably open) folks I spoke to was Jorge Valdano.  Valdano wasn’t everyone’s cup of coffee back then, but as Director of Football he acted as a public buffer between the club’s supporters, the press and Florentino Pérez, then a relative newcomer to the presidential post but already beginning to put his ‘galácticos’ policy into action. José Angel Sánchez had been in his post as head of marketing for about two years, and was already Pérez’s most trusted lieutenant. Continue reading “Decline and Fall”

More than numbers

On Ronaldo’s Real Madrid tenure

Note: This is a highly personal account of Cristiano Ronaldo’s tenure as a Real Madrid player. To throw in some relevant background, I have to say that I don’t attach much importance to individual accolades in a sport that uses eleven players plus subs, and that I also believe that it’s almost impossible to decide who the GOAT is in most sports, especially football.

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A long summer

Real Madrid watches its squad weaken while the summer goes by

neymar rm
No, not happening

This summer feels long and awkward, at least from the perspective of most Real Madrid fans. The days of the prohibitive, but exciting signings are gone. Instead, the club has kept a very low profile, and only speaks to the press in the form of public statements denying negotiations with Neymar or Mbappe, when it was quite obvious that the rumours associating those players with Real Madrid were completely implausible. Reminds one of an ageing playboy denying having had anything to do with up-and- coming stars just to make himself relevant again, but failing in the process. Continue reading “A long summer”

What now, Real Madrid?

Another Real Madrid win. What’s next?

Phil has said it best: “Well, that was pretty bonkers”. It was a weird final indeed, one in which Liverpool’s showed the resilience that most winning sides need, but lacked the depth required to deal with Real Madrid. Continue reading “What now, Real Madrid?”