Friday, April 24, 2009

Clutch Boy Wonder

Gonzalo 'Pipita' Higuain... What a Player. The Bernabeu's new Hero.
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I am at a loss for words to describe how I feel about this guy. He is just fucking amazing. I still remember him as the buck-toothed, baby-faced ‘nobody’ whom AS once interviewed wearing a Real Madrid shirt they have gifted him (which subsequently got him in hot water with then club River Plate). I was skeptical about him: he wasn’t even a prolific scorer yet… having just scored 2 goals in the Boca-River derby which shot him to fame… but I suppose that was the telling thing about him: a Boy Wonder who had a knack for turning up at the right moment to score the big goals in the big matches… a boy- wonder Mr. Clutch.
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Phil Ball once compared him to Ruud Van Nistelrooy alias ‘Van Gol’ that where he needs 10 chances to score 1 goal, Ruud needs 1 chance to score 10. But even in his rookie year: we all remember him scoring the 2nd-half equalizer against Atletico in the Bernabeu-edition of the Madrid Derby as his first ever Real Madrid goal. Then in the game I will tell my grand children about, he scored the last gasp-winner against Espanyol that year too where I will never forget the sight of Van Nistelrooy celebrating that goal by holding his Jersey up to the stands as if telling the Bernabeu ‘his name is Higuain, remember it!’ Last season, as a sort of ‘12th man’ in the squad, he also scored the goal that clinched the title for us against Osasuna in a game that looked bleak for us to win.
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Take Your Pick: I am officially saying that Higuain deserves one of those Jerseys. Some might call it blasphemy, but I truly believe that he has earned Raul's '7' once the great captain retires. .
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And now, 2-1/2 seasons into his Real Madrid career: he’s on the brink of a 20-goal season while also being the club’s top assist man. At 21, Boy Wonder Higuain is telling us he is the club’s future. Florentino might be coming with Kaka and CR7 (or CR 9 rather)… and God knows who else… and let me say it would be criminal to send this man away. Let me say this too: Real Madrid’s new management next year ought to decide to do one 2 things for ‘Pipita’ (aside from giving him a damn good raise): Give him either the ‘9’ or ‘10’ shirt: or give him Raul’s ‘7’ once El Kapitan makes his said retirement at the end of next season.


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Moment of Madness

Pepe just absolutely lost it: He went Berserk.

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I’d like to say a few things re: Pepe:
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Firstly, there is nothing that can be said to justify what he has done. It must not be condoned and justified in any way. Kicking another player (when he’s down with his back facing you or not), punching an opponent, verbally abusing referees or even showing up on the pitch to celebratea goal even after you’ve been sent off is absolutely unacceptable. Not in Real Madrid, Not in a Top-class European League like La Liga, Not in Football.
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Secondly, his teammates such as Casillas and Gago are right to speak out in public against what he has done to express disagreement with what he did.
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Thirdly, he must be punished through a massive fine and a lengthy suspension (perhaps even an anger management course). Angel Torres’ suggestion of 10 matches is not outrageous in my opinion.
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Fourth, Pepe knows this. And he must be commended by his immediate reaction to acknowledge that he has made a big mistake and that he is regretful of his actions. He must also be credited for his immediate reaction to apologize to the player and his family in public as well as his supposed efforts to apologize more personally and his very open expression that he is willing to accept any punishment that he would be subjected to.

Heading to the Final Stretch

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I’m not really sure exactly why I haven’t gone beyond posting beyond youtube highlights of Real Madrid’s matches as of late… no ‘thoughts and commentaries’ as of late.
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Perhaps it’s because I’ve been really busy at work
Perhaps it’s because my family was been here to visit a couple of weeks ago (my nieces are still around actually)
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Perhaps it’s because Madrid have been so dull. I remember watching the Recre game struggling to keep myself awake. It’s especially difficult for us who live in this part of the world: not only is this country exclusively interested only in the EPL, it also doesn’t help that LFP has no interest to make viewing time more convenient for its Asian viewers.
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But every now and then, a game comes up that just jolts the life in and out of you. And last Tuesday against Getafe, one of our bogey teams was one such game. I can still remember how I struggled so much not to wake the entire house up at 5am in the morning after Higuain’s winning goal. I can still remember how I talked endlessly (half awake) to my 6 year old niece who is now having a passing interest in the game of football (my fiancee’s influence has gotten to her though – she’s becoming a Liverpool Fan) about how great the match was. Nevermind that she was more interested to find out who was the freak of nature who scored 4 goals against her Liverpool.
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As for the match: it was very un-Juande like: conceding a goal early and being very porous on defense and at midfield. Somehow, I have to admit though that the game became more interesting because of it: because Real Madrid found themselves REALLY trying to find the equalizer. With regards to our porosity however, I’ll just say that we really missed Lass. I’m still trying to figure out how Gago is supposed to be a defensive midfielder, if he doesn’t seem to have the ability to cover ground or be the hyper-active midfield pitbull that all great defensive midfielders are. I’m beginning to believe that Gago is perhaps best in a 5-man double pivot configuration as opposed to a flat Juande-style 4-4-2: because he can neither be a playmaker or be the midfield toughie who can boss and muscle people around. He’s all we have at the moment aside form Lass (which is why I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that a recovered Diarra V1.0 will not be sold over the summer).
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Other Thoughts on the Match:
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I’m losing faith with Huntelaar (again)…. I think he’s going to be one of those types of players whom people will raise their eyebrows over once he stops scoring goals: because that’s all he seems to be capable of doing. When long balls are pumped from midfield or defense, he doesn’t seem to win them in the air. He can’t dribble worth shit and can’t pass either. He doesn’t seem to even be able to hold the ball up if Real are building up on an attacking play.
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People were castigating Guti for a lackluster display again: saying that he offered nothing unitl his fabulous free kick to equalize the match at 2-2. I disagree. Guti indeed makes risky passes through enemy lines on the possibility that they can be latched onto by one of the forwards. These types of passes needs absolute accuracy and opponents not being able to read the pass or be in a position to intercept… which was the case most of the time. I didn’t find him to be indifferent though. Petulant, yes… Indifferent, no. So I do give him props for his performance (my conclusion however that me must be part of our summer clearout stands).
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Juande has also come it for a bit of lambasting for his decision to pull Cannavaro out for Javi Garcia in what was perhaps a bid to further make the team more attack-minded. The move did backfire (especially after Pepe’s moment of madness – more on that later.) But I won’t be one to criticize the manager over a risk he took in a clear bid to win the game. Sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t, that’s just the reality of things, what matters is that he had the boldness to try it out. He did win a Carling Cup with Spurs thorugh some odd-ball substitutions which turned out to be storkes of genius…
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Time to See What Juande is Really Made Of
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For Juande however, he is now heading into that part of the season which ‘ended’ Schuster. This stretch of games against La Liga’s best teams: only this time, they will involve matches mostly on the road: Mestalla against Valencia, El Madrigal against Villareal and this weekend at the Sanchez Pizjuan against Sevilla… we only have 1 match at the Bernabeu against these big teams: and that’s against the best team in the galaxy AT THE MOMENT: Barca. Juande is also facing a similar situation to what Schuster faced in the sense that he will be with few choices in terms of his lineup as he is looking at the final stretch of La Liga without Pepe, Sneijder, Robben (for 2-3 weeks), Heinze (which might be a blessing), or even Higuain (possibly unavailable this weekend against Sevilla due to yellow card accumulation, or if not, 1 yellow card away from suspension). When Schuster had his best cards and Barca were on a tailspin last season, he won La Liga handily… but when he had to dig deep and produce results while fighting in the trenches, he made a complete ass of himself. Now it’s Juande’s turn… the best teams in La Liga, most of them on the road, and with many of his players unavailable: now for us to find out what he’s really made of. I’m optimistic.