Sunday, August 31, 2008

What's going on?

The Robinho Saga
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Robinho has finally opened his mouth on the saga with an official conference and from the sound of it, we're in trouble. I point my finger at Calderon for this: how they spent an entire summer to fruitlessly pursue Cristiano Ronaldo when we had Robinho already and Robben recovering from injury and finding his form. There is clearly no more point to hold on to Robinho now that he has made it very clear that he wishes to leave. I really think that Madrid should seriously work on the deal with Chelsea.
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Robinho has declared that he's ok with spending a year on the sidelines if he has to: that's not good for him and Madrid at the same time. Barcelona-based Sport floated the idea of Chelsea including wantaway Drogba in the deal and lessening the fee to 25m. Schuster is a supposed fan of the Drog who can also be the answer to RM's need for a 3rd striking option (though his age is a detriment). This would mean that Higuain would either move down the pecking order for playing time as a striker or playing him as a winger.
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Word from the Madrid press however (Marca) indicates that Schuster is still asking for David Villa, which is insane. Valencia would never be in stupid enough to sell a player who they've just signed to a contract extension.
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One idea which came to me however as I watch the Chelsea-Tottenham match on the TV as I write this entry is that if Chelsea are unwilling to include Drogba in the deal, then perhaps then can offer cash + Malouda... say 30m+ Malouda for Robinho? I don't think that's so bad. That would actually allow us to have perhaps the first summer where we actually made a good profit from the transfer market! After all, I do remember that Malouda was one of the old targets of Madrid back when he was still with Lyon.... and he's a winger who should be now used to be on the bench but has the quality to fill in should the Robben get hurt.
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There are still a few more hours before all this can be settled: or worse, left un-sorted.
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Champions League Draw - Juventus, Zenit-St. Petersburg, BATE Borisov
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We are in the group of Death! Italian giants Juventus, UEFA Cup and Supercup Champs Zenit St. Petersburg and little-known BATE Borisov of Bulgaria. We are in such deep trouble now because of this!
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We're lucky enough to have BATE Borisov AT HOME as our opening game. I would think that we can beat them handily at home. Beating these teams from the east in their stadiums though would be very, very tough. I imagine that they're a physically powerful team, capable of being defensive and have an extremely intimidating homeground. Ditto for Juventus. As for the Andre Arshavin-led Zenit, they have Bayern Munich and Manchester United among their scalps: I wouldn't be surprised if Real Madrid are included among them too.
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Perhaps the bright side of this situation however is that should we make it out alive from this group, we'd be battle-hardened enough to get past the first elimination round. I'd like us to target the semis as a minimum for the CL this year.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Looking at the Bright Side

We've embarrassed ourselves terribly in the transfer market: No more Villa, no more Cazorla, no more Capel. We have been so embarrassed that we've now gone to looking at Joaquin. Thank God this hasn't been played up so much yet, coz if they do and we don't get him for a GOOD PRICE, I think I will really vomit blood!
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Thankfully, we were treated last night to a wonderful opportunity to look at the situation from a 'glass half full' perspective: our 5-3 victory over Sporting Lisbon. Yes, yes, yes... Sporting fielded a team of second stringers and they laid off Guti which allowed him to control the reins of the offense really well. Gago brought his silky passing moves back from the Olympics too!
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Higuain put in a man of the match performance with his 2 fabulously finished goals: including a spectacular second goal curled with his left boot. Has he now finally found his shooting boots? I think he played the entire match last night because I remember him playing down the right wing too, trying some stepovers. His performance last night seems indicative that he will displace Raul from the starting XI soon enough. If Raul, who, except for his penalty last night, was poor, manages to replicate his form last season and RVN has an injury-free season, an in-form Higuain would be the third scorer off the bench that RM would need. He scored 9 goals last season, with his scoring boots on (let's not forget that he got himself in a goal-scoring streak late last season), I doubt it's too much to think that 15 goals a season would be possible. Robinho scored 14 last season by the way.
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What's more, there's Rafa Van Der Vaart who's showing clear signs that he's integrating with the team already. That guy can score goals too. He was good was also good last night by the way.
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The thing that gives me great optimism, as I'm sure is happening to all of Madridisimo, is Robben's stellar form. This offseason, he's been great: tearing up opposing defenses from the flanks. His pace and dribbling is awesome, he's been assisting a lot of goals and he's been able to get on the scoresheet too. On the left, he can penetrate defenses and cross (last night we found that he can drift to the middle to shoot and score too), while on the right he can run diagonally to shoot with his left or use his pace to get around his man for a neat cross. If he can manage to miraculously stay healthy this season and maintain this form, then we won't be missing Robinho. BUT... all of Madridisimo like myself however, look at him with huge doses of cautious optimism: after all he is the glass man.
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Other points of note as well was Dela Red's fine performance off the bench in the 2nd half which bring me to feel that he's not going to be a repeat of Roberto Soldado. Metzelder also played decently in the first half and Cannavaro's finally getting playing time after his injury prior to the Euros.
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Robinho might be leaving, and Villa, Cazorla and Capel might not be coming, but maybe, just maybe, God-willing, we'll be alright.

2008-08-27: Real Madrid 5 - Sporting Lisbon 3

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Triple Whammy Bitchslap

Real Madrid need to hire a new propaganda agent.... and fire the current one.
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Robinho will be a Chelsea player in a matter of hours. Word out is that Real Madrid will be able to collect a cool 37m Euros from that deal: a good sum for a player who at 24 has yet to show any ability to be consistent despite the flashes of absolute brilliance. I'd like to say to him: good luck in the Premiership: it's faster there and more physical. If he adopts to it, maybe he can be like Fernando Torres... if he's a flop, then thanks for the 37m. I say it half with sadness and half with bitterness. Real have been really stupid in how they've gone about in pursuing CRon. In the Florentino days, the coming of Zidane didn't mean the going of Figo: back then, it created a whirl of excitement to see the 2 together in one team. I know that there's hardly anyone that plays with 2 real wingers these days, but the propaganda artists could have at least gotten the world excited by the prospect of a Robinho-on-the-left and CRon-on-the-right prospect. They could've endlessly talked about how we'd trash teams coz we'd rip them open at the wings to allow Sneijder, Van Der Vaart or Guti to come in through the middle to rape and plunder opposing defenses.... but noooooo.... they just had to be stupid enough to say: Robinho goes when CRon comes in. We had the galacticos back then, we have the galactically stupid now.
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So what was Madrid going to do with 37m and then some? They wanted to get a replacement winger, perhaps someone who's back Robben up in the likely even that he gets injured. They also need to get another striker at Schuster's request.

AS said yesterday that we were gonna go get Huntelaar for 25m and Capel for 15m. Marca on the other hand said we had already offered 47m for Villa and were after Cazorla too. Last night, Sevilla's Del Nido had announced that there was a 'gentleman's agreement' between Sevilla and both Barca and RM that neither can just go in and pay Capel's 15m buy-out clause.


Nevermind! This morning, both Marca and AS had already quoted Cazorla telling the world he was having a hard-on at the idea of joining RM. He was even supposedly caught on TV talking to Iker Casillas saying something like "I'm coming man! I heard Guaje's coming too! I called him already!' By the afternoon, Cazorla had just signed a new contract. What the hell..
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This morning's news also declared that Valencia had named their price: 45m + Higuain or Dela Red. That, plus the Valencia VP supposedly saying that 48m is a 'good price'.... to which I almost wet my pants in excitement. I hopped onto goal.com and even suggested that Madrid should bargain it down to 40m + Saviola and/or Javi Garcia. After all, Valencia would be needing a striker to replace Villa and since they were looking for a midfielder, we can hand them our 'lesser' of the 2 returning canteranos: Javi Garcia. By the time I was about to leave work today, Villa had signed a new contract for 3m a year (Sergio Ramos has supposedly signed a new contract double that amount). What the hell are you thinking Villa!??!?!?!? I have to give kudos to him though: that's loyalty right there: an act of pure class.
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So here we are: publicly slapped with a rejection from 3 players in a day.
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Bloody hell: tomorrow, we'll be bidding for the 3rd choice striker of a 3rd division club and we'll still get rejected.
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This smells like we obsessed over CRon for 3 months and got nothing... and we did nothing else! Which is why, here we are with 5 days to go, about to lose our 3rd best goal scorer and the closest thing we have to a 'crack' player and no one wants to join us. Is it because everyone knows that they were all just the '2nd choice' / Plan B? Is it because we never did our homework properly, we just chased after these players, not really sure how interested they are in joining us, not really understanding how what we need to offer to get them? Aside from that, clearly no one has considered what kind of info should reach the press, coz when you're publicly handed 3 rejections in one day, you get a world laughing at you, saying 'serves them right!' something's wrong with your PR.
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PR aside, no one will say it at this point, but this smells like the difference between winning titles this year or not. After reviewing our player movement in the Calderon-Mijatovic era and giving it a positive opinion, here I am now, scratching my head, thinking otherwise.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

6-5, 4-2, 11-0 (0-1), 10-1 (1-1), 9-3 (4-2)

6-5 on Aggregate, a 4-2 scoreline for the second leg.
With 11 men on the pitch, we went down 1-0. With 10 men on the pitch, we score 1 goal to equalize... then with only 9 men left, we manage to score 3 goals. What a match, what a way to win the 8th Supercup!
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Yes indeed we were so atrocious after the first half that I just HAD to write about it during halftime: blogging in bed at 5am in the morning Singapore time. I even had these (now they seem that way) 'drunken' suggestions on what the tactical options could be. Where in fact, all it took as one simple move: Allowing Guti to prowl foward.
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As I pointed out, I couldn't manage to understand the idea of Guti so cautiously choosing to align himself with Diarra in a double-pivot formation. Guti's limited passing range was there to see: as he hardly was able to connect on a long-range pass towards either of the fowards, to Robben or Van Der Vaart (when he was in the game). What's more is that when he did in fact have the chance to advance, once the Valencia defense applied the presure to us, there was no 'attacking fulcrum' whom sould recieve the ball and re-direct it towards another channel of attack: a role Guti plays well (on his day at least).
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Was it Schuster's decision to instruct Guti to position himself so deep in the pitch? Or was it some half-insane notion that Guti himself had of his role on the pitch? Things changed though in the second half with Guti able to advance foward and deliver passes to Robben and futher foward. Eventually, the cross that led to RVN's winning of the penalty was created by Guti's passing from his favored position ahead of Diarra. His posiitoning there allowed us to be far more vertical and allowed us to be more precise and dangerous when we had the ball.
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The second goal would eventually come off a Dead Ball situation and I think it was pretty obvious that it was then where Valencia's morale was utterly destroyed: a 9-man Madrid taking the lead from them. De La Red's wonder strike and Higuain's Raul-esque goal were just cherries on Sundae....but what a Sundae!
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Yes indeed it was a victory created by Madrid's unwaering desire to win and inability to surrender. But it was also largely a result of just going for it, and allowing some of the players to play the role that they are really supposed to play within the scheme of things for the team. I worry for the Deportivo Match though as we are going to have to play that game without VDV. Can't wait for the season to start!

2008-08-24: Real Madrid 4 - Valencia 2

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008-08-24 Real Madrid vs. Valencia, 2nd Leg Spanish Super Cup - Thoughts after an awful first Half

Real Madrid have been atrocious. 1 goal down and 1 man down… and the man down, Rafael Van Der Vaart, making his debut, was the only player in the entire first half who has really made the Valencia goalkeeper work. What the hell is going on? Guti has been awful. His passing has been sloppy, rarely able to reach the desired targets. Half the time we have the ball, we’ve been making back passes to the defense. This was how badly we played against Arsenal in the Emirates Cup and likewise during the first leg of the supercup. Do we miss Gago? Should we integrate Dela Red into the starting XI ASAP? Is Schuster making a mistake my insisting that Guti should align himself in such a deep position as Diarra? There is a clear missing link between the defense / defensive midfield and the attack. Raul and Van Nistelrooy have been standing around waiting for service. Without that roving attacking midfielder, both of them are useless.
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What are Schuster’s options now? A few ideas I have in mind:
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1.) Pull out either Raul or RVN (my preference would be to send Raul to the bench) and replace him with Robinho (if we dare play him against in an upset Bernabeu) or Higuain, both players able to play deeper into midfield and can generate some form of passing and coherent passing sequences in the Valencia half.
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2.) Pull out either Raul or RVN (my preference would be to send Raul to the bench) and replace him with Dela Red. This would allow Dela Red to slot into that Central Midfield role with Diarra and allow Guti to roam forward to try to slip in his forward passes to the forward (RVN).
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3.) Or do we pull Diarra out and just go with a more offensively-capable midfield with Dela Red replacing him? I don’t like this idea.
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My preference is still the first option since we are in need of a goal and without Van Der Vaart or with the plan to withdraw a striker, we’ll need a goal scorer so Robinho or Higuain on the pitch gives us a better chance of scoring the 2 needed goals to win this thing.
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Something is wrong with Schuster’s system here: he’s insisted on deplying this system for the past few games and it’s yielded the same result: a lack of aggressiveness or offensive-mindedness, no creativity and 2 isolated strikers. He needs to have a look at this and do something: this doesn’t smell good or bode well for the upcoming season. If I hear him blaming Van Der Vaart’s sending off as the reason why we lost this one, then I say he’s clearly missing the plot.
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Here I am: still hoping for the turnaround.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Real Madrid Pre-Season Highlights / Goals



a neat video compilation of RM's pre-season highlights...

Disaster! So Now What...!?!?!?

Fucking Hell. What a bloody mess. Is this mess Calderon’s fault? After the whole offseason period was dedicated to getting Cristiano Ronaldo, we are left with a couple of massive problems:
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1.) Not only are we left with a situation wherein Schuster’s request for another striker remains unanswered..
2.) We now have in our hands as a result of the strategy used to pursue CRon, an unhappy Robinho looking to trade the Bernabeu for Stamford Bridge.
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We had an injured 30+ year old RVN last year and we were lucky the Raul found great form last season, compensating with a 23-Goal season. But Raul too is in the wrong-side of 30. Robinho was the third-highest goal scorer for RM last year with 15 goals in all competitions. Without his injury, he might’ve given us a few more. Now here we are without the needed relaiable back-up striker and we are staring a situation in the eye with our 3rd best goal scorer wanting to leave.
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Yes it’s true. Robinho’s agent is probably a greasy, greedy bastard looking to pocket a pile of cash from the huge transfer fee. Robinho himself is probably being an ass, having the cheek to demand to be paid the same wages as Raul on a season tainted by his decision to not return to the club on time (instead turning up in a party where he reportedly asked for 40 condoms) and talk of him not taking his recovery regime seriously to recover from his abdominal injury. But the truth of the matter is that, if all that talk of him being used as a bargaining chip didn’t come out, he probably wouldn’t have had enough reason to bitch and moan and ask for a transfer.
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I suspect that Calderon’s statements where he made sure to mention Robinho’s 150m-Euro buyout clause is just a ploy to get Chelsea to meet the 40m-Euro valuation of Robinho – a smart move. But what happens to the roster now? Granted that we will have Rafael Ven Der Vaart to fill in for the injured Wesley Sneijder (who scored 9 goals last season) this season. Robinho's dearture leaves us with 2 major problems: The first would be a third source of goal scoring. an optimistic prediction would be that Van Der Vaart can provde us no more than 10 goals perhaps (I know he scored 18 last season for SV Hamburg, but this is RM and La Liga we're talking aobut here), Sneijder at best might be able to replicate his 9-goal tally last season. I'm hopeful that Higuain can better his 9-goal haul, but is it too early for us to assume that Higuain will finally mature into the 'Raul's heir' player that we all hope he could be (Titles aside, my great ambition for Madrid this year is to see Higuain explode and become the world class player all Madridistas know he will eventually become)? Schuster continues to howl for a striker: so here we are now looking at alternatives signings:


-Is this the year we add yet another dutchman, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar among our ranks? Would that be a sound decision? To add a young upstart who wouldn't seem happy to time on the bench to sit behind Raul and RVN?


-Or do we bring in Diego Milito, an experienced (read: aging) and sureball goalscorer who is facing a season in the second division. He costs something like 20m Euros though, would this be money well spent given that he's 29? I do suppose he'd be more willing to sit on the bench to play La Liga and Champions League football rather than in the Segunda division. If this does happen it'f be very interesting to see Diego face brother Gabby during the Superclasicos.

-If there is a move for a striker at this point, this would likely mean the end of Javier Saviola's time with Real Madrid. This would also likely mean that my dream of RM being able to capture Lyon's Karim Benzema would be over: something that would make me really really sad.
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And what of Robinho's role on the wings? What of our wing options? Are we all seriously expecting Arjen ‘Glass Man’ Robben to take over for Robinho? That would be an incredibly risky expectation especially with the young, inexperienced and seemingly unready Drenthe as the only viable sub for Robben. There's talk of brining in Santi Cazorla from Villareal or Diego Capel from Sevilla. Both are good options: Spanish (good for the fans), young and have the class. But neither are in the level of Robinho who on his day be counted as among the best players on the planet: a 'Crack' who can win a game by himself. If we get either of the 2, will we still need CRon next season (or just make the prick pay the 17m penalty his pre-contract agreement supposedly stipulates which can well be the price of Cazorla or Capel)?
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The story ain’t over yet… but all of this is really smelling like a disaster that could have been averted, yet in classic Madrid-style, here we are again.
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Shit, Shit, Shit.




Sunday, August 3, 2008

So Here We Are...

2 pre-season games.
2 wins.
5 goals scored,
3 conceded,
0 signings,
50,000 rumors on who we are supposed to be signing

That we have scored 5 goals can be explained by the simple fact that we have been playing these pre-season matches with pretty much our first choice attacking lineup: a fit-again Ruud Van Nistelrooy, a fully-rested Raul (complete with a burning fire to avenge his wounded pride form being excluded from Euro 2008) and Guti, and a no-longer-injured Arjen Robben. We can add Wesley Sneijder to that pile too, he’s found his form late last season and played well during the Euros too.

Defensively, we are missing Cannavaro who got injured training for the Euro 2008, Pepe’s injured too and Metzelder isn’t being played to rest him and get him conditioned to play (not that it makes much of a difference because he was awful in Euro 2008 so part of me thinks that him playing might’ve made things worse). Then there’s Sergio Ramos and Super Iker both, not yet fully integrated to the team in the same way that Metzelder is.
We’ve had a starting defensive lineup of Dudek, Salgado, Javi Garcia, Heinze and Miguel Torres. They’ve been awful. Salgado works hard but is slow, lumbering and cumbersome. Javi Garcia is not a centerback; and though he’s played in that role for Osasuna last year, in these 2 matches, he’s clearly shown that he’s not up to scratch in that role. Heinze’s been so-so and Torres is really just a defensive utilityman… thus the 3 conceded goals.

So who’s joining Real Madrid this year?

Cristiano Ronaldo?
Perhaps I should throw my sentiments into the huge pot of opinions on Cristiano Ronaldo. Let me first say that at this point in time, Cristiano Ronaldo is the world’s best player. And this comes form 2 main factors: 1.) he’s really that good. And 2.) Messi’s been injured for the larger part of this past season and Kaka had a mediocre season which was made worse by a new injury. It is logical for Madrid to be looking for that ‘supercrack’, that one galactico-calibre player to not only give them that class to take over and win games which should ultimately lead to winning the ‘tenth’ (European Cup). The other reason for that ‘galactico’ signing is the simple fact that Real need a talisman: not a symbolical one like Raul or Guti or Casillas. But one who stood above all very clearly as that world-beating player: the same way Figo, Zidane and the pre-weight-problems Ronaldo… and perhaps also that marketing magnet the way that Becks was.

But what’s the deal? Does Cristiano Ronaldo really wanna come to Madrid? Is his so-called ‘dream’ to play for RM for real? Or is it lip service? Is he merely trying to get a contract upgrade that would see him get paid like Chelsea’s Michael Ballack & John Terry (and possibly Frank Lampard)? If anything, his vague stance has been very odd and suspicious to me at least. Players bring down their transfer price when they very clearly state their intent to leave… something which he hasn’t don’t to this point: which is why we’re all still talking about an 85m Euro transfer fee. I look on with my eyebrows raised. As for my thoughts on the player himself, I will state that it will probably be the same with him as it was to another former Manchester United player who joined Madrid: RVN. I hated RVN when he played for Man U…absolutely hate him… I used to call him just a lucky prick who scored ugly and cheap goals. But in RM’s white, I love the guy! Cristiano Ronaldo to me is an undeniably talented player, but he’s an irritatingly arrogant prick to me too. In my view, Real Madrid have already spent too much time chasing after him and I’m starting to feel that if he’s not going to do his part by initiating a move, then I think we’re better off just keeping that 85m in the bank to use it to pay out part of the club’s debt. Somehow, I’m still thinking / asking myself…. Should we not have just gone after Ricardo Quaresma instead?

What is REALLY, REALLY pissing me off about this whole Cristiano Ronaldo matter is its clear effect on another member of the RM squad whom I really like: Robinho. Robinho is going to be one of the world’s best players. I have no doubt about that. And we’ve ‘bred’ him at RM: through the galactico-era where he would do a few stopovers to try to beat his many and then fall lazily on the gorund to try to get a foul to the player he was early on last season: scoring goals, running rings through defenders and winning games for us. It seems clear that this whole business with Cristiano Ronaldo and him being used as trade bait has either upset him or has taught him that this is the perfect motive to feign discontent to eke out a massive pay rise. This whole business is REALLY awful, and though my assumptions may be wrong: I’d really hate to see Robinho leave Real Madrid, and if it was this Cristiano Ronaldo bit that made it happen, then that’d really, really piss me off.

Rafael Van Der Vaart?

I’ll admit it: while the rumors swirled endlessly last season on who would join Real Madrid, I was more keen on Rafael Van Der Vaart over Wesley Sneijder. I of course, later changed my mind having seen what Sneijder can do. But now, here we are again: on the brink. I will confess now that upon hearing of RM’s plans to get VDV, I began to raise an eyebrow thinking: Why do we need another attacking midfielder? He have Sneijder and Guti already…. Baptista as well. But that’s the answer! Baptista is physically strong and has a great shot, but he’s also got a poor first touch and is a lousy passer (see my assessment of him previously). And Guti… yes he is a club talisman, having been through RM’s youth system. But he’s 1.) inconsistent, 2.) can’t play when crowded 3.) got a bad temper 4.) moody. It would be good indeed to have a replacement who’s 1.) got great class 2.) 5 years younger, 3.) got great goal scoring ability and 4.) will cost supposedly only 11m euros (to put things in context, Sneijder cost 27m)

Can’t wait for all this mind-numbing transfer speculation to end…. And the season to begin!