Arrival – Fabio Cannavaro
I for one am not quite convinced with Canna given the performances which he has tuned in while playing for Madrid. He struggled a lot in his first year, period. All the explanations are there: fatigue from playing a full season, then the World Cup, adaptation to the Spanish Game, adaptation to Real’s ‘offensive-minded’ system (under Capello!), etc. Bottom line is that we conceded a pile of goals and he almost now has a full deck of red and yellow cards to show for at the end of the season. He’s played better this season, though I won’t say that he’s been that rock in the defense.
Cannavaro brought a few things to the table however: leadership, maturity, poise under pressure and a willingness to contribute to the cultivation of team spirit in a team filled with egos and distractions. I would say that he’s been instrumental in the development of the tightly-knit team that we now have today.
He’ll be heading off to Napoli (his pre-retirement destination) by the end of next season… hopefully he rides off into the sunset with Madrid’s 10th. Either way, it’s still nice to have one of Italy’s finest be part of our team.
Arrival – Julio Baptista (Back from loan from Arsenal)
I’ve always been baffled by Baptista. He’s scored a ton of goals for Sevilla… which eventually took him to Madrid, where he found himself battling for an attacking midfielder / second striker’s position that was adequately filled up by Zidane and Raul already. So what’s the deal? Perez’s screwed up transfer policy is what it is!
Thus far, Baptista’s struck me as a kind of ‘poor man’s Frank Lampard.’ He won’t stun you with technical displays in ball handling or defense-splitting passes or even great fundamental link play. Ditto for his ability to boss the midfield, despite his ‘beastly’ size. What Baptista can do however, is score goals from midfield. He’s clearly not had the chance to do that of course.... since he alternates as a starter who gets substituded, a sub or a benchwarmer. He’s been one of those players whose role you can’t really figure out.
I get the feeling however, that talent-wise, he’s one of those in-betweeners. He can either be A.) a fundamental player in a mediocre / slightly-above mediocre team or…. B.) Be a squad player in a ‘World Power’ club. His talks with the media last season told us that he’s happy and keen to play in a ‘B’ situation. I think that this is the quandary that he will be facing for the rest of his career.
Offers have come in for him already… and he seems to be one of those players who can fetch a good price in the transfer market. Schuster has resisted from selling him thus far…. But something tells me that further down the line…. That question of that kind of player he wants to be will pop up… and when the answer becomes different, that’s another good commodity that can fetch a good price in the transfer market.