Saturday, June 7, 2008

Reflecting on Player Movements in the Calderon-Mijatovic Era (Part 2)

Arrival – Pepe
When I found out that RM had blown 30 million Euros on a centerback I’d never even heard of, memories of Jonathan Woodgate (who turned out to be half-decent) and Walter Samuel (a pretty good CB who for some reason couldn’t fit in with RM) rushed through my head. Initial impressions of him revealed that he was: Tall, Wide-bodied, Agile, Good in the air and Ugly: he has the makings of a great center back (LOL!)
But seriously, I think the RM-world witnessed his coming out party in Real’s 1-0 win in this past seasosn’s first El Clasico at the Camp Nou. He’s quick and agile, very mobile and can cut up a potentially dangerous situation even before it can materialize. He’s also great in the air, able to head away potentially dangerous crosses coming in to threaten the Madrid box, I think that it won’t be long before we can see him get on the end of a free kcik or a corner kick to get us a few goals…. Something to look forward to for next season.
This past season, we’ve also seen him make some very impressively menacing runs up front to carry the ball to his midfield. He’s had a few low points of course: being injured for a large chunk of the season and getting himself sent off in the Roma match, which eventually cost the team dearly.
All in all, somehow, along with Diarra + Gago, I think that Real Madrid might have found these critical pieces to serve as the base of the spine for the team: the holding midfield role left by Redondo / Makelele and the center of the Defense that was never the same after Hierro left, which somehow Pepe is beginning to fill in.

Arrival – Wesley Sneijder
He took Beck’s #23 jersey as well as his role as the team’s free kick taker and started the season with a bang. Opening with the winning goal in the Madrid derby as well as a superb all around performance against Villarreal at the El Madrigal Sadium… he literally took us by storm. He’s as capable of firing from long distances as he is in providing the final ball, shoots with both legs, a dead-ball specialist, a great passer and basically just a big ball of energy to spark the midfield. He’s finished the season with 9 goals and 7 assists. He’s only 23 and has been called by former teammate and former RM youth system product as RM’s best signing since Zidane.

To top it all off, I think he also brings a great attitude to the team. He’s had a bit of a slump towards the middle of the season which saw him benched. No fuss, no complaints, no controversial statements to the press, just hard work which saw him back in the starting XI where we all saw hm regain the form which he started the season with. Unquestionably a great signing for the team.

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