Friday, December 3, 2010

Knee-Jerk Reactions


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In the wake of last Monday’s humiliation (Yes Jose, it was a humiliation, if it wasn’t to you, it was to Madridisimo), I sought solace with fellow Madridistas to ponder the loss at my favorite Real Madrid Blog – The Offiside. It’s a great place for a level-headed, humble discussion about Real Madrid. It’s not a hotspot for hate-filled extremist bigots (though inevitably some of them do drop by to incite things)…
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Sometimes, things do happen that change you in a way that you’re never quite the same after they happen. Last Monday’s catastrophe may actually be one such event. And as we wake up to this new day, Madridisimo must fight on and ensure that we know how to take last Monday’s catastrophe the right way. We must learn to engage with what has happened in the proper way so that we may move forward in the right direction: reacting the wrong way by letting our kneejerk reactions take a hold of us from what has happened will only send us into the kind of downward spiral the club was in the Dark Days of Florentino’s last couple of years in charge during his first term. It is with this where I find myself pondering some of the thoughts of many a panicking Madridista that has come out in the blogosphere. Here are some of them:
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Let’s Fire Mourinho and let the Coaching Carousel start up again
This is the kind of idiocy and madness that got us here in the first place. After killing the first team’s only coaching link to Real Madrid’s rich heritage by firing Vicente Del Bosque, we ended up hiring pretender-type coaches who couldn’t manage to bring us titles. Soon enough we did manage to get ourselves a real title-winning coach whom we hired out of desperation for silverware, only to fire him for his unattractive football later on (Capello). And after putting some pretty good (Juande & Pellegrini) and pretty awful (Schuster) coaches into the pressure cooker that is the coach’s seat with the expectation to 1.) win & 2.) play beautifully and see them fail… we now finally have Jose Mourinho. At first he appeared to be a Capello-esque hiring with his reputation for 1-0 wins and extensive list of titles. After 12 La Liga, 5 Champions League & 2 Copa Del Rey matches, the self-dubbed Special One has indeed turned Real Madrid into quite a Special team: winning one game after another, while developing a machine-like ability to be a hell-on-a-pitch personified for their opponents… until Barca came along.
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Handed a 4 year contract, Mourinho has taken Real Madrid not by storm, but has shaken it down to its foundations even: affecting change not just in the usual way a coach controls the first team but also beyond: controlling relations with the media, the physical infrastructure, and even casting a close eye on the Cantera. He is bringing a kind of change into Real Madrid that not even Florentino imagined: the kind of change that we need so badly… the kind of changes and overall outlook and direction for this club that’s been missing for so long… the kind of changes we need to set the club back on track in setting the foundations for what can be an almost Barca-like direction to the club’s football identity.
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Firing Mourinho would cost a lot of money, finding a replacement of such caliber is impossible. And all in all, it would just be galactically stupid.
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The Foreigners of the team don’t understand what the badge means, Let’s get rid of them and replace them with Canteranos!
Football Fans Know Better
Valdebebas vs. La Masia: Would we have been better off this way?
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This second bit has been something that’s been echoed by many Madridistas for quite sometime now. It is a sentiment that lives within the heart and soul of every Madridista. The feeling is made that much more compelling of course when Madrid fans looks eastward and find that cross-country eternal rivals Barcelona have assembled a team almost completely comprised of their own Canteranos… the same players who comprised the core of Spain’s World Cup winning team and the same players who tore our team apart at the Camp Nou last Monday.
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Here’s the thing about Canteras and Canteranos though: A good Cantera can almost guarantee a stream of good graduates. A great Cantera however, cannot guarantee a stream of GREAT graduates. Barcelona and Real Madrid are both more than 100 years old. For Barca, it has taken them more than a century to produce this golden generation. It might take another century, for their next to come. If you're waiting for Real Madrid's next Goden Generation - maybe you'll need to wait 100 years too. Actually, we did have a Golden Generation sometime back: we called them Quinta Del Buitre (5 consecutive La Liga titles). Manchester United once had a Golden Generation too: their legacy stretches to this very day: with the likes of Scholes, Giggs and Gary Neville still the soul of their club, while the likes of Phil Neville remains a mainstay at Everton… and of course David Beckham, once a galactico, is now carrying the sport of ‘Soccer’ in the US.
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Golden Generations come and go. They come at the will of God, not as policy of a club. Laporta, fortunate enough to be president of Barca during this Golden Generation, of course sold it as Barca’s ‘club policy’. I urge both Cules and Madridistas to look back 100 years and find themselves another Barca team capable of the feats of this batch that’s comprised primarily of Canteranos..
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I once heard Frederic Hermel (the French Journalist who writes for AS) say: “Real Madrid are no longer just the club of Madrid… it is no longer just the club of Spain. Real Madrid are the club of the world.” It is true. Real Madrid are the first club to embrace the notion of being the club of the world. To boast a team that won the European Cup 5 times while led by a core of the best players from all over the world (Di Stefano – Argentina / Colombia / Spain, Puksas – Hungary, Kopa – France, etc.) is a legacy invented and propagated by Real Madrid: BEFORE any other club in the world.
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Every now and then though, we find jewels in our midst who we then groom and develop as the pillars of the team. Canteranos like Raul & Casillas have grown as emblems of the club and now take their place in the Pantheon of the Blancos’ Football Gods. Real Madrid is 108 years old – and is the biggest club in the world. It would be silly to ‘box it in’ to this almost self-made myth that its true backbone is its Cantera.
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Granted that it’s true that the team played like a deer caught in the headlights, I totally do not buy the angle that ‘we would’ve been better off fielding our Canteranos because they understand better what it means to wear the white shirt and play against Barcelona.’ Really? To test out this ‘theory’ out, I cobbled together in my mind my best all-Cantera Real Madrid XI we can cobble together at the moment to pit against an all-Barcelona Squad. Would this lineup (see diagram above) have really made us better off last monday? I doubt it (you'd have to consider an Etoo bereft of his Barca and Inter years and TODAY's Raul).
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Despite the fact that the outcome of last Monday’s El Clasico is one that has clearly shaken Madridisimo right down to its core… it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should just light up a stick of dynamite and chuck it at this current team and at the ones who are running it. The second coming of Florentino Perez so far suggests that we are establishing a far clearer direction for the club beyond signing big name players. As much a cliché as it does sound, Mourinho is right: the team is indeed still under construction. It is clear enough that we pretty much have the right people in the right places at the club right now. They haven’t been there long enough yet but so far looks to me like they are steering us towards the right direction as a club. Our duty as supporters during this difficult time is be calm and allow them to carry out their work.
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Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. Now is the time to do the simplest yet seemingly most difficult thing to do of all: to keep our heads down and allow those in charge the necessary space and time to carry out their work and affect the needed change. The players need to do the same: to channel the reactions from the events of last Monday against Valencia this Saturday.

6 comments:

  1. Yours is probably the best Real Madrid blog around - at least in English. Your views are level headed, intelligent and not led by some iirational dogma I've seen elsewhere. I would only say that I think if you have a great cantera, you WILL have great canteranos - though maybe not a steady stream of them. Arsenal and Ajax are examples of what can be done with great canteras over a long period of time. At the moment, as you say, we are leaving it to divine providence.

    Anyway, keep up the great work.

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  2. It's impossible to disagree with this. All I want for this team is stability. We don't need to sell and buy our whole team every time there's a problem like the one we saw on monday. No keep these players for at least one year. their bad experiences together are only going to make them bigger, stronger and more mature men in one big family. Pellegrini once said that he did not want to play the canterans out of sympathy, rather, when they were ready enough and deserved a place. It made a lot of sense to me.
    I would never judge a player's commitment to this club based solely on which youth academy he came from. i think ronaldo is the most hard working player on our team, but he's not from the canterano, so what?
    I like this
    Oh and that team of canteranos would have stunk to high heavens.

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  3. Thanks caracoleo!
    @ Muna - I wouldn't say they would have stunk to heavens but I'd say they were likely to have suffered the same fate. If anything, that lineup sounds like a pretty decent second unit. You are right however that there are plenty of non-canteranos out there who work their socks off

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  4. Yeah, probably exaggerated there, but they wouldn't have done any better than the team that played on monday. I'd love to see our canteranos make the first team, but they'd have to be ready first.

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  5. Great post but I will add a point you may or may not have considered in the analysis of the general call for canteranos: yes, I believe firmly that we need more canteranos in the squad and a player who has played for the club for half a season, or one season generally does not come built in with the love of the shirt as one who has gone through the rigors of the cantera. "Madridismo" that you call out to is one that comes with time in the club. But the other reason I ask for more canteranos is that we need to comply with new regulations. We need 4 canteranos in the squad going forward, no? Right now that's met with Arbeloa, Iker, Granero and Mateos. When they see next to no playing time (except Iker), what we're saying is we cannot groom our own products to world class quality. That, imo, is a very bad spiral to go down because it means we're investing all this money to feed other clubs. I suspect we're doing that already, anyways.

    -- 22fan on the-offside :)

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  6. I do agree that having an innate love for the club makes the players fight harder. To what extent that makes a difference in terms of perforamnce on the pitch is something I think we tend to overrate. What's more is that there are non-Canteranos who are known to fight hard for the team like CR7 and Pipita.

    The massacre at the hands of Barcelona is partly due to our players choking on the occassion (that can happen if they're all 22-23 year olds - even to Canteranos). The other part of it is that Barca's Canteranos play intuitively with their familiarity with each other: something that a current all-Canterano side of Madrid would not be able to do because unlike Barca, we do not have a singular philosophy / style / approach to the game from top to bottom the way Barca has for the last 20+ years. We can't do anyhting about that right now except lay down our own club's foundations in terms of approach to the game: something I think we're starting to do now.

    As for the 'Canterano Quota': I think that the likes of Granero & Arbeloa are great canteranos to have in our squad. Mateos has some way to develop though. I think the quota is 'healthy'... it also tells us we need to get more of our own boys to get into the squad.

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