Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fairytale Friendlies

Now THAT’s what a friendly’s supposed to be like!
Instead of a lone insane fan willing to charge a moving golf-cart, you get hoardes of fans putting a stop to the operations of a shopping mall as they trail not pretty boy Cristiano Ronaldo… but Jose Mourinho (who supposedly insisted that George Clooney would be the best man to play him in a biopic)
Instead of solitary pictures with one Will Ferrell, you get 101 kids to run around the pitch with Benzema, Xabi Alonso and Co.
And of course, the best part: instead of waiting for a 3-goal blitz from Ronaldo within 15 minutes to get a 3-1 victory, we get ourselves an orgasmic 7-1 win.
Mourinho has had his pre-season: UCLA, serious training, tactical experiments, MLS, Mexican and European sparring partners with solid (*cough* boring *cough*), convincing wins.
Now Florentino is having his: a few billion asian fans going nuts for Real Madrid and letting Barca know how they feel about the Cules, setting up international relations with foreign football academies, sponsored events and of course… 7-1 goalscoring orgies.
All in one summer!
Whoever said that Mourinho the Paragmatist and Perez the Social-Marketing Butterfly would never live comfortably together are probably changing their minds now.
Seriously, though I do acknowledge the importance of serious ‘Mourinho Road Trips’ to develop team chemistry away from European paparazzi or Asian fans that come in Hoardes, I welcome Real Madrid’s return to this continent. It is after all high time for the merengues to show Asian Fans what quality football really is: beyond the we-are-so-awesome-because-we’re-from-England nonsense that we get from EPL teams or the stench of patronizing, self-congratulatory and self-righteous mumbo jumbo that come from teams that get professional diving classes from mammals of other species.
The message is nice and simple:
“Hello. We are Real Madrid. Thanks for paying us millions to show up. And to express our thanks, here are our star players to score 7 goals of pure eye-candy for you to enjoy. Enjoy the show. You are all Welcome.”
But beyond the entertainment on offer in last night’s matches, here are some thoughts on some key individuals from last night’s game:
Benz in Boots? The Frenchman seems to have become much more ferocious that that
I disagree with this whole notion that dogs are better hunter than cats. I also disagree that Benzema has transitioned into another species (dog). His aloof, quiet demeanor still makes him very much ‘cat-like’ – except this time, he’s no Garfield or Puss-in-Boots – he’s evolved instead into those cats you see on Nat Geo who take down wilder beasts for fun (The Lyon King?). Now capable of combining his exquisite technical ability with constant awareness, alertness and constant involvement: he is fast becoming the player we were all expecting to see when he joined us. It was all on show last night: always available to receive passes, aware of goalscoring chances for his teammates (e.g. Khedira’s goal), fully linked up and ready to finish his teammates’ attacking plays (see his first goal off CRon’s backheel pass), and with full confidence in his superb technical abilities (e.g. his second goal is a display both of audacity and impeccable finishing skill).
Benze-Cat has always been the more talented player. But Pipita till now has been the better player on the back of his workrate and the intangibles he brings to the team. One season after playing under Mourinho for Bezema while poor Pipita is on the sidelines with an injury and here we are: with Pipita looking like he will face an uphill battle to be the first choice striker. Over the last few games, Higua-DOG, with his string of missed sitters has looked more like Snoopy rather than the ravenous wolf that he used to be when healthy and in form. It’s been a disappointing few games for Pipita and his performance last night was summed up in his clumsy and lazy lunging tackle on a Guangzhou player that would have earned him an automatic red had they not been playing a friendly. It was sad to see him this way on a game where he wore the captain’s armband.
I get it now: the 2 dots on top of the letter ‘O’ on his name symbolize his eyes. What vision – is it really because of those googly eyes (maybe he has better peripheral vision because of them)?. People compare him to Guti because of this (not the eyes, the vision). But Guti doesn’t have his pace and mobility. He doesn’t have Guti’s petulance either. And at age 23, he’s already way better than Guti. I am so going to get me an Ozil jersey this season.
When I start wearing my Ozil shirt around, I’ll stop wearing my Kaka one. What’s happened to him? Did I jinx him when I praised his performance after the Galaxy game? He will have a preseason this time around and will have no ‘lack of fitness’ excuses to hide behind. If he ‘fails’ yet again, then I will hope to see a battle-tested Sergio Canales and/or Pablo Sarabia wearing Real Madrid’s ‘8’ next season as our second-choice fantasista.
Vanilla Joe
For those who are too young to understand the Vanilla Ice reference, check out his one hit in the you tube video above and discover the inspiration behind his hairdo . When news broke that Callejon would be joining us this season, everyone thought he was coming back as transfer fodder… or as a replacement to our 10m Euro Ball Boy Pedro Leon. His role during these preseason games suggests that he will be more than a mannequin wearing Real Madrid’s #21 on the squad list. His performances also seem to hint that he won’t be the subject of another tirade from Mourinho that will include references to Zidane. Quick, direct and refreshingly effective: he seems like a legitimate substitute for Di Maria.
Di Maria
I thought I had read a Mourinho interview revealing that he’s just gotten married but is spending his honeymoon in China with his teammates. I guess we all saw for ourselves how much pent up energy he had inside of him when he came in at 60’: we were supposed to see the game die down gradually until he put on his please-don’t-bench-me-Mou performance. El Fideo (The Noodle) as he’s called, showed his full array of attacking capability in the land of Rice and Noodles: leaving his defenders as a heap of twisted limbs as he scored a goal by pulling off the footbaling-equivalent of a basketball pump fake. This was of course after assisting Jesse with a cross that would have qualified him for ‘So You Think You Can Dance’. Jesse of course, just had to respond in kind by scoring with his shoulder.
Oh what fun it was! Last night was the stuff of child-like football fairytales. There will be another one on Saturday to look forward to as well. After that, we’re off to war in the SuperCopa: no more fairytales, just epics.

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