It was about a year ago when it happened. I don’t know what began it but all I knew is that I’d found a football club other than Liverpool that I could follow. A club who’s structure and philosophy and even history matched my very own SuperReds. A club whose past players had become modern day heroes.
I was mesmerized by their rich blue and red shirts. Their one-touch attacking football – epitomized by my favourite ever player and Barçe legend; Johan Cruyff – capturing not only my imagination but my heart. Barçe were alike Liverpool in so many ways not least that they prided themselves on being ‘Més que un club‘ (More than a club). Barçelona were a club born from the heart of Catalonia and a club *eventually* run by Catalan people. They were a club the common people could be proud of.
But if all this is true for me, why is it I find myself hoping for Real Madrid to succeed this season?
I have often treated ‘Los Merengues‘ with the same pity and light-hearted animosity normally reserved for ‘that lad‘ that turns up week after week to training but you know is never gonna start. Real have all the money in the world, yet have had so little success in recent years. This is normally attributed to an arrogance born from their belief that it is their God-given right to be champions, not only of Spain but of Europe as well. The galactico policy brought in by three term, and current, president Florentino Perez has served to propel Real to the top of the world in terms of merchandise and sponsorship but has seen an on-the-pitch collapse as decent as any English Batsman could produce. Yet… I want to see Madrid as Champions of Europe. I want to see Casillas’ trophy cabinet grow and most worryingly of all I want to see Cristiano Ronaldo happy (all said through gritted teeth).
So I’ve got to ask myself: What has changed? The answer to the question is simple – José Mourinho. Rarely has a manager been so self assured, so comfortable in his media portrayal or as charismatic as the self proclaimed “Special One”. A man who in 8 years of management has won 17 trophies inc. 2 trebles across 3 different countries. Surely at this moment in time there is no better manager in the world (dare I say he is even greater than the messiah himself, Sir Alex?)
When you give the best manager in the world a blank cheque book expect big things and whilst it is very early on the light is burning bright for the future of Real. With a team sheet that is almost embarrassing in its riches and depth not only has Perez got the marquee names he desires but Mourinho has a squad full of balance and substance in place of his predecessors more stylish teams. Add to the list the fact that not only are the results falling into place but the manner in which they are achieved is, at times, more attractive to the eye than that Geordie lass that brightens up our screens every Saturday and Sunday night.
Real are currently top of La Liga with the most crucial ‘El Classico‘ in recent years due to take place in 2 days time. Not only is this a match to make the average football fan foam at the mouth but it is also an event that allows us to witness the two greatest attacking footballers of our generation. You of course know I am talking about Arbeloa and Busquets… *Tumbleweed*
With MESSI and RONALDO about to step onto the same turf and draw their proverbial swords most are wanting an answer to the question: Who is the greatest? Whilst I think it is an unrealistic, not to mention unfair question, I am as curious as any to see which is the most integral to their teams chance of success. Messi recently scored his 15oth goal for Barcelona whilst Ronaldo has now scored 40 goals in 41 games whilst wearing the white of Real.
Many critics will point out that whilst Real have started impressively there is still a long way to go and the cheque book cannot create the same kind of camaraderie and spirit as a team built up through hours upon hours of playing time on the pitch. They will point out that Real Madrid have yet to play any team of real worth whilst Barçe have beaten Villarreal, Valencia and Sevilla. However, as any loyal fan will tell you – the form book goes well and truly out the window in a derby match.
Just this year however, there seems to be…just…something… about Real Madrid. Maybe it’s Ronaldo, Mourinho or just timing but I believe this is there time. And whilst my heart and and loyalty says Barçe for the ‘El Classico‘ and La Liga put me down for Real Madrid league and CL double (with Liverpool crowned as the REAL European Champions.) This could be a special time for the Special One.
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