Monday, July 26, 2010

To Guti… To Good Times & Bad



This weekend marks the end of an era for Real Madrid. 2 of the first team’s most senior players have now left the ‘White House’. Raul is the current Captain of the team while Guti is the most senior among the Vice Captains (the other ones being Casillas and Sergio Ramos – who took Michel Salgado’s place). Both are to enter the history books and will surely in the future sit in the Pantheon of Real Madrid’s football Gods. Both were geniuses in their own right… flawed geniuses that is. But I guess that’s how we come to love our geniuses: by understanding accepting and embracing them as part of the fabric of Madridisimo.
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Let me start this series of tributes to our Cantera and Madridista Heroes with the ‘Mad Genius’ – Guti.
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Jose Maria Gutierrez announced his departure from the club formally yesterday. He has spent the majority of his life (24 of his 33 years in existence) and the entirety of his career (where he spent 15 seasons with the first team) in Real Madrid. For all the criticisms that have been leveled at him (myself included): one can only look at his true capabilities as a footballer to conclude that he truly was good enough to wear the White Short for so long. He was as we loved to call him, the team’s misunderstood genius.
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I still remember my first reactions to seeing him play as a ‘novice-Madridista’: where I often found myself yelling at the TV ‘what is wrong with you!?!?! Why are you passing the ball THERE??? There’s NO ONE there!’… only for my jaw to drop upon seeing a Real Madrid Player appear out of nowhere to meet his pass and find himself in scoring position. Over and over again he did this: sending passes through the narrowest of gaps into spaces for his teammates to meet the ball to be in a position to score or assist for a goal. And just like millions and millions of Madridistas, I finished the game with the thinking to myself: why doesn’t he play EVERY time? Then I found out that Guti is also capable of doing incredibly accurate impersonations of ‘The Invisible Man’ as well play as if he was a member of the opposing team: to play with sheer indifference or worse, a rebellious irreverence that bordered on treachery.
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I once read: ‘If only Guti had the heart of Raul, he would’ve been the greatest footballer of all time’. It is to me a fairly accurate assessment.
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To this day, my strongest memory of Guti (a memory that for me embodies Guti) was over a scuffle during one match: his Captain Raul had been fouled really hard and fallen to the ground. Guti instantly came out of nowhere and shoved the opposing player and basically gave him a piece of his mind as if to say ‘Don’t F%ck around with my Captain. You’re Lucky to be on the same field has him.’ By then, Raul had gotten back up and was walking to Guti to hold him back. By the time he got to him however, a shoving match had already ensued. Guti was about to lose it completely, ready to jam his fist into his Captain’s assailant. And just as he cocked his arm back, ready to throw his punch… his elbow slams right into Raul’s nose, knocking the captain on the ground, wincing in pain.
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Guti’s journey from Madrid will likely take him to Turkey to play for Besiktas to play for his old mentor Bernd Schuster (who is said to have asked specifically for him) – an equally flawed genius during his days as a player. There are many anecdotes about that told stories of a young Guti being called ‘Little Schuster’… the resemblance is startling after all: blonde locks, a genius footballing brain, an unparalleled ‘court vision’ and a sweet left foot whose command of the ball made us all hold our breaths. How fitting it would be if Little Schuster met Big Bernd at Besiktas to make magic together again.
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Florentino Perez pulled a class act of a move by preparing a Press-Conference for Guti ala Salgado: displaying all the trophies that the Canterano had won in the White Shirt… and then congratulating and thanking the player for his years of service to the club and echoing the sentiments of many Madridistas worldwide.
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Guti’s biggest statement echoed across the Madrid Press (Real Madrid.com, AS, Marca, Defensa Central, etc.): ‘I will always have Real Madrid in my heart’ he said.
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To that I say: Madridisimo will always remember you.

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