Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stale Sagas and Tired Tales

Another match, another 3 points - that's the good part. 
Another match, another sputtering performance - that's the bad part.
Another match, another round of Diego Lopez vs. Iker Casillas rhetoric - that's when it gets worse...
Another match, another round of Gareth Bale speculation - that's the worst. 
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My Saturday Night was about Heavy Metal, not Football. I managed to tick off one item from my bucket list by seeing Metallica live in Singapore. The football had to wait till Sunday and Last Night (today early morning actually)
My weekend was spaced out quite nicely I have to say. There was no football for me on Saturday night because I had the glorious opportunity to watch one of my musical heroes, Metallica, live here in Singapore (that's one item ticked off my bucket list!). On Sunday, I managed to enjoy the multi-view feature on my TV: allowing me to catch Cardiff-Man City and Spurs-Swansea simultaneously (great to see La Liga stars Negredo, Soldado, Navas, etc. dispel many English pundits' wrong impressions re: La Liga players). Granada-Real Madrid stretched my 'football weekend' all the way till today (Tuesday) early (3am) morning. As a result, I'm actually still hung over from what has been an astoundingly wonderful weekend (largely thanks to the music, and to a much lesser extent, the football).
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The Goalkeeping Saga
Casillas and Lopez: Both are Great Keepers. Why do we have to hate the other to love the other?
I've read on twitter that Ancelotti's statements to AS where he stated that "whoever he picked for this past vs. Granada would be he first choice keeper" was completely false. It is, in a way, reflective of the divisiveness of the matter. This was also reflected in the disgusting behavior of sections of the Bernabeu fans (that's right! I HAVE the cheek to criticize the fans in the stands!) to boo and whistle Diego Lopez after he was asked to warm up towards the end of the first half.
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Let us all please get things straight here: BOTH Diego Lopez and Iker Casillas are products of the cantera. Iker joined the club at age 9 while Lopez was already 19 when he joined - and let us not please have the childish mindset that Iker is more Madridisita than Diego due to this 10 year advantage. Let's all admit it: we all love Iker not just because he's a ridiculously great goalkeeper, but also because of all the sentimentality that comes with him. We are frightened at the thought that the team's (and Spanish National team's) captain, whose career trajectory seemed certain to allow him to be a rare, world-class one-club man, would be disrupted. He won us (and the national team) countless matches and competitions: how could we, (how dare we) let him go by dropping him just like that? 
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To view the situation in that manner alone however, would not only be wrong in principle but also in terms of fairness. Does the sentimentality that comes with Iker, together with his enormous achievements make him exempt from a coach's decision on in-form and tactically suitable players? Is it right for the merits of a great goalkeeper like Diego Lopez to fly in the face of Iker's past accomplishments and reputation? My answer to these questions is flatly 'No.' I remember a time when outrage was expressed over David Villa's choice to wear what-used-to-be Raul's #7 Jersey, where he tersely replied "the #7 jersey, belongs to Spain, not to Raul."
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In the same manner, just as Ancelotti said, that Real Madrid's #1 Goalkeeper Spot belongs to the club and not to Casillas or Lopez. If it is deemed by the coach that one is more suitable than the other to be the first choice 'keeper - then it is something we ought to accept without having to think / believe / insist that the other must leave the club (unless he wants to).
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Iker Casillas will go down was one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. He is, however not the sort of goalkeeper that certain coaches prefer when given a choice. Despite being probably the best shot stopper of all time, he does not dominate the penalty box (largely because he is a relatively undersized goalkeeper), prone to being questionable in dealing with crosses and doesn't have the ability to distribute as well from the back compared to the likes of Valdes and Reina. Lopez on the other hand is the sort of 'keeper that many coaches like: he has a domineering presence in the box and more confident in dealing with high balls and crosses sent to him (despite being a lesser shot stopper). It is not a coincidence that apart from Jose Mourinho and Fabio Capello, he is also fancied by Carlo Ancelotti.
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Personally, I feel that when fit and in form, I prefer Casillas: what he lacks in certain aspects as a goalkeeper is compensated by what american sports fans refer to as 'intangibles' which he has in spades. I've also NEVER seen Iker choke on the big occasion and is the spiritual leader of the team, which is very important. I presume that Diego Lopez joined us thinking of himself as a backup to Iker following his unsuccessful spell at Sevilla. We must all admit however that the man hasn't put a foot wrong just yet and deserves the opportunities he has been getting to play. If Ancelotti wants Lopez to play, let us all support the decision and the player while it is proving to have merit... and do so without necessarily wanting Iker out.
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The Midfield Saga
Average Positions (c/o whoscored.com): Ozil (10) played as a '10' with Isco (23) playing slightly ahead of Modric (19). It wasn't a 'Double Pivot' but more of a '1-1/2 Pivot'

The heir-to-Alonso saga has been going on for quite some time now. Sahin, Modric, Illaramendi and Casemiro have all been brought in as part of the search for Alonso's heir. It's a fitting subject of conversation considering the fact that Alonso got injured again recently (fractured Metatarsal) and will be out for 3 months. Having played all his matches without Alonso and gearing towards a more possession-based style of play, Ancelotti is showing the way that 'replacing Alonso' isn't just about finding another player to be a like-for-like replacement, but altering the system a bit too. During preseason, we all saw that the more possession-based style of play, which relied more on constant short-range passing exchanges, suited Modric very well (let's all remember that when he was Chelsea manager, Ancelotti made Modric a primary transfer target).
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Last night, with no Alonso, Illaramendi and Khedira due to injury, Ancelotti surprised us all with his selection of Isco to partner Modric in the pivot. This allowed Ozil to play in his favored '10' position and brought on Di Maria to play his familiar right-sided role. The outcome during the first half was great. Di Maria, despite playing as an inverted winger gave a nice wide presence that opened the pitch up more than when Ozil plays in that spot. Playing like that consistently, there is no reason to itch for upgrading Di Maria. Modric kept possession nicely enough and did very well in his ball distribution. Isco on the other hand, played a similar role in motoring back and forth between the middle of the pitch and the final third. With width and possession, Real Madrid played beautifully in the first half - instigating plenty of 1-2 exchanges to create chances but unfortunately only scoring one goal.
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Another Tired Tale of Two Halves
Yup. This looked like a Penalty to Me.
What the hell happened during the second half? I probably need to watch the game again a few times to fully grasp how a match that started with so much promise for us, turned stale so quickly. 
Was it fatigue? 
Was it Granada realizing how porous our midfield was with no real midfield ball winners on the pitch? 
Was it Ronaldo trying too hard to score a goal?
Was it Granada attacking with urgency and Madrid unable to coherently hit back on the counter without an accurate long range passer like Alonso? 
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It's another tired tale of 2 halves when Madrid play with promise in one half and completely fall apart in another (almost dropping points over a legitimate penalty claim by Buonanotte on Casemiro). We can only be thankful that Pepe and Ramos both player relatively well last night along with lighting rod talking-point Diego Lopez. 
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Thinking about it with a bit more perspective, it's important to note that it is at least positive to come out with a win over Granada last night. It was in this stadium after all, where we suffered our first away loss that allowed the team to gather momentum in its downward spiral for the La Liga campaign. Last week, we won despite playing bad for an entire match at home. Last night, we won playing bad for only half a match. Will next week's match against Athletic Bilbao be the match when our team can finally put together 2 decent halves of football to play an impressive match together as a team?
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Ancelotti will need to sort Ozil out to make that happen. 
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Yet Another Gareth Bale Fairytale
The Cover Story of the Sports Page Singapore's 'Today' Newspaper. I'm not buying it. Not one bit.

The weekend witnessed 'explosive' news that Tottenham, supposedly upset to see Real Madrid erect a temporary stage at the Bernabeu for Gareth Bale's presentation, were now entertaining bids from another club for Gareth Bale.
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Ha.
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Tell you what: Name me one club who can spend 100m on one player, can pay him 10m Euros after taxes annually, whom Gareth Bale wants to join. If you can do that, and convince me, I'll send you a Real Madrid jersey. If Bale actually opts to leave Tottenham this summer and joins that club instead of Madrid, I'll but you an expensive steak dinner (you can order fish if you don't eat beef or order a salad if you're vegetarian).
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That 'another club' wants to join the race for Bale is one big pile of utter horse shit. I have a few theories about this:
1.) Spurs / Daniel Levy are upset at seeing Madrid 'presume' that the signing is done after seeing Bale shirts being sold in the RM online store and the construction work in the Bernabeu for the Welshman's presentation.
2.) Levy is getting greedy and is looking to milk more money out of the deal.
3.) After missing out on Willian, Spurs want to lock in another player (rumors of Roma's Lamela or even Chelsea's Mata), before making the deal official and having to deal with a club who knows they have 100m in the pocket.
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If it's any of the first 2 reasons, then I pretty, pretty please Florentino: call their bluff, walk away and only come back with a lowball bid. This is a move that is not in good faith. Calling Levy's bluff and walking away would mean that Spurs will need to swallow their current net transfer spend of 60+m GBP, something that'll hurt their pockets considerably and give us leverage to bring the price down on this deal that reeks of madness.
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I'd like to end this subject matter with one suggestion to the people who set the schedules for the European football calendar: set the transfer deadline day BEFORE the official league matches begin for the clubs. When the season starts, we all just want to see football action on the pitch and have had enough of all these Stale Sagas and Tired Tales. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Just Shut Up Tata

"He’s a very good player, but the numbers seem to me almost a lack of respect for the world in general" 
-Tata Martino on Real Madrid's reportedly nearing world-record transfer deal for Gareth Bale.
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Before opening his mouth about the other dealings of Real Madrid Football Club, Tata Martino should observe his surroundings first. He is coach of Barcelona, not the financially-struggling Rayo Vallecano or the recently-rescued-from-bankruptcy Real Oviedo.
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-Tata Martino works for a club who shelled out 57m Euros for Neymar: of which only less than 20m went to the club that turned him into a star (the rest went to his agent a.k.a. his dad).
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-Tata Martino works for the club that made Zlatan Ibrahimovic the second most-expensive player in the world, only for the player to be made to feel "like he is a Ferrari being driven like a Fiat" (in the words of Ibra himself) and be sold as a cheap bargain item the next season.

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Yes, yes, yes: Real Madrid are home to the world's most expensive players. But we all could at least say, that when we set a world transfer record for a player, the club makes a concerted effort to get bang for their buck on that player. Figo, Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo, were all made into the centerpiece of the club's sporting and marketing projects. We can debate whether those players are anywhere close to the paper the money they cost is printed in: But there is no credible case that can be put out to say that Real Madrid did not try to maximize the return on investment for such players. The club's sporting project was in fact, compromised considerably from their over zealousness in ensuring that the money spent for such players was not wasted. Real Madrid's record-breaking transfers were NEVER  used as 'tactical guinea pigs' (Zlatan) only to be cast off like a virus-infected lab rat if things didn't work out.
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Yes indeed Florentino Perez's Real Madrid pay top dollar for top talent - but no one can criticize it for wasting their investment on such players. 
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I will chalk up Tata's mis-informed rant to naivete. He is after all, a newbie in the big-money world of European Football. The man better watch out though, as he is beginning to sound like a horn-tooter for those who are a part of the hypocrisy within FC Barcelona. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

3 Points on a Stuttering Start

Rather than your Jolly Uncle, Ancelotti looked more like a James Bond Villain last night. It didn't help that the football wasn't as pretty as we all hoped / expected either.  Let's Give it time. More work needs to be done.

La Liga begins at last. Even better, La Liga begins at last without any dark clouds looming over Real Madrid. No opportunity to win silverware (Supercup) to start the season - and I'm totally ok with that. At least, the team will have the opportunity to play itself into form under Ancelotti's new system, which supposedly promises a more attractive, possession-based brand of football and one that's supposedly more handy against La Liga's 18 other teams (except against Barca who will likely force us to play on the counter again). Real Madrid had a pretty good preseason performance-wise. Carlo Ancelotti's dealing with the media, the club hierarchy and fans has also been admirable: even with how he has dealt with the ongoing Gareth Bale saga (refusing to talk about it by publicly declaring his desire to avoid upsetting AVB). He was decked out in a dapper suit last night for his Bernabeu debut - only for what looked like a blood clot or an eye infection of some sort to ruin his image for the night which made him appear like a James Bond Villain. 
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1.0 TRYING to Understand the New 'System' (key word: 'Trying')
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Pretty much every credible website called Ancelotti's new system a 4-3-3 to start the match. The matches I saw in preseason seemed to show how the Ancelotti's more possession-based system, which relied more on patient, short-range passes to build up play, which suited Modric nicely (he looked very comfortable). It was a contrast to Mourinho's system that relied more on long range passes into space from Alonso for the wingers and fullbacks to run into.
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1.1 The Midfield: An 'Inverted' Triangle
What I'd like to do before discussing my thought's on last night's performance is to TRY to interpret what I THINK Ancelotti's intent is for the team's playing system. The last 'great' 4-3-3 of Ancelotti would have to be his Milan team which featured the Seedorf-Pirlo-Gattuso midfield trio. Its composition featured 3 'specific' roles at midfield:
-An attacking midfielder capable of handling some defensive responsibilities (Seedorf)
-A primary play-making ball distributor from deep with great vision and passing range (Pirlo)
-A do-all 'utility' midfielder who dribbles in short spurts, tackles and runs (Gattuso)
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I were to INTERPRET this 'midfield system' into a 4-3-3 based on Real Madrid's current roster, the depth chart would look something like this:
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A Theoretical RM Depth Chart Based on a 4-3-3 while making use of Ancelotti's "Milan Midfield System". It's a system that has won 2 Champions League Titles.
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The team's central passing 'pivot' (the Pirlo role) would be manned by our ex-Sociedad passing maestros Alonso and Illaramendi. The 'Seedorf role' would be perfect for Modric and is one that Isco has demonstrated that he can play perfectly (1 goal, 1 assist last night + a superb preseason in this role). The midfield terriers in the 'Gattuso Role' would be Khedira and Casemiro (though neither of them are as ugly as Gattuso).
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Up front, Ancelotti's Milan forward lines have never been known for their ability to provide width. His 2 Champions League winning sides have featured attacking midfielders (Rui Costa / Seedorf / Kaka) playing behind the striker. In the case of Real Madrid, it's slightly asymmetrical with Ronaldo on playing as an inverted winger on the left and Ozil, tucking in from the right side.
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1.2 Mutating the system for Ronaldo (from 4-3-3 to 4-2-2-2 and back)
"It has to be Cristiano who chooses the position he plays in" -Carlo Ancelotti
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The 4-3-3 'mutates' into a 4-2-2-2 when in full attack mode.

Carlo Ancelotti has NEVER had a player like Cristiano Ronaldo. Come to think of it, there has NEVER been a player like Cristiano Ronaldo: a winger's pace + dribbling ability with a #9's strength, power and goalscoring ability. Players of Ronaldo's caliber are an exception to the rule of 'fitting players into a system': he is instead, a player 'systems are built around'. Ancelotti knows this and has openly declared his intention to allow Ronaldo to play where and how he chooses. Thus, the use of Carletto's 'Milan system' is only a guide: the system itself would have to be tweaked to get the maximum out of Ronaldo's once-in-a-generation abilities. The task however is a tall order considering the following criteria:
1.) To to relieve him of any defensive responsibilities
2.) To have him in his preferred position (ideally the left flank, sometimes the right) when the team gets ready to attack
3.) To provide him with a 'running mate' to prevent the opposition from double/triple-teaming him (Full Back Support when needed)
4.) To be provided with excellent service when in 'attack mode' (Support from a playmaker)
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Of the 4 matches I've seen Ancelotti's Madrid play (vs. LA Galaxy, Chelsea, Inter and Betis last night), I've noticed one peculiar thing: that the team's 4-3-3 'mutates' back and forth to/from a 4-2-2-2. Ronaldo would be surge forward to join Benzema as a striker while Ozil tucks inward behind the 2 strikers, joined by Isco: providing Madrid with 2 forwards with twin playmakers behind them. Width is provided by attacking fullbacks with the team now finally also equipped with an attacking right back (Carvajal).
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It is a fluid system that usually sees Ronaldo in the '9' position when Madrid are playing in full defensive mode (where he has the least defensive responsibility). The main weakness of the system is when Madrid are 'caught in transition' between the 2 systems, especially when in full attack mode, where acres of space will be available behind the fullbacks for opposing teams to counter.
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My 'theory' re: Ancelotti's system seems to be valid given last night's average positions as taken from ESPN's Gamecast. Ronaldo (7) plays as a left forward with Isco and Ozil playing inside behind the strikers, in front of Modric (19) and Khedira (6) / Casemiro (16)
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2.0 Interpreting the System Without the First-Choice 'Pivot'
The problem that Ancelotti had going into last night's match however was that neither Basque player  (Alonso and Illaramendi) envisioned for the 'Pirlo Role' was available. An important aspect to this role is not just the ability to distribute the ball, but also to 'sit' in front of the back 4:
1.) To be available to receive passes for attacks that don't materialize
2.) To positionally be a line of defense to protect the back 4
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Playing in this role, Khedira, in my opinion, still carried forward many of his tendencies in the Mourinho system, which allowed him to make bursting runs into the opposition third of the pitch. He tried this more than a few times and left his back 4 bare naked and vulnerable to Betis' forwards. By the end of the first half, I was still wondering who Madrid's defensive midfielder was. Real Betis played with a high defensive line, which included their front 4 enjoying the huge gap left between our midfield and defense. It was a gap that was big enough to allow the super-fast Cedric to knife through our defense and create their opening goal.
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Marca's Lineup for Last Night's match: a 4-3-3 for Madrid with Khedira sitting as a lone 'pivot' at the base of a midfield triangle.
In the friendly against Inter, Casemiro started in the central 'pivot' role with Modric and Khedira either side of him and together, bossed the entire match. Casemiro showcased his full repertoire of long range passing, tidy possession, aggressive tackling and even playmaking (assisting Ronaldo's goal). Perhaps he might have been the better choice to start instead of Khedira. It's notable that Ancelotti's first substitution was to send the Brazilian in for Khedira to shore up the middle (perhaps also due to a knock suffered by the German). Many negative things have been said about Casemiro due to his supposed poor performances for Castilla last season. I didn't manage to catch any Castilla matches last season - but basing on what I saw during preseason and last night, he looks deserving of a spot in the roster.
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Whoscored.com's Real Madrid Player Positions. Ronaldo (7), Ozil (10), Isco (23) and Benzema (9), forming a 'Magic Square' (4-2-2-2)

Overall, my theory about the 'switching' from 4-3-3 to 4-2-2-2 appeared to be valid with Ronaldo surging forward to join Benzema to form a striking tandem when in full attack mode. In this situation, Khedira and Modric's positions 'sagged' to the pivot areas while Isco and Ozil played as 'twin playmakers' behind Ronaldo and Benzema. The weakness of the 4-2-2-2 was also there to see: though the goal conceded was due to our CBs being asleep (again!!!!), our right flank was taken advantage of repeatedly by the searing pace of Cedric exploiting the space left behind by Carvajal on attack.
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3.0 Thoughts on Individual Performances
Before we criticize our players for a dull performance, it's also important that praise and credit is given where it's due: Pepe Mel's boys followed his tactical brief really well and could have come out of the match with a well-deserved 3 points. They kept their defensive line high and this meant that their front 4 was able to take full advantage of Khedira's faulty positioning as a pivot in attack while in defense, their back line was very well-drilled in 'stepping forward' to constantly catch our boys offside when we attacked.
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The CBs played poorly: Ramos and Pepe were caught napping constantly. Our fullbacks need to be assessed differently. My take on the matter is that if a fullback is going to attack, it should do so in a manner where the opposing wing players are pinned back by the attack. Because if they're not, then the flank is vulnerable to the space available behind for a counter. Based on this, I'd say that Marcelo did well, but Carvajal did not.
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Khedira IMO was poor in his rendition of the pivot role. Between Modric and Isco, the latter was always going to have the better night given that playing as the left-sided CM allowed him more passing angles to Ronaldo and Marcelo. Ronaldo, Benzema and Ozil weren't bad but were not up to the high standards that we normally associate with them. Diego Lopez did well starting ahead of Iker IMO (I still expect Ancelotti to make Iker first choice at some point of the season but anticipate that Diego Lopez will be getting a lot of playing time too).
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The Madridista of the match would have to be hands down Isco. 1 goal and 1 assist. Everything great Real Madrid did involved him. I'll admit that I wrongly assumed that Real Madrid would essentially follow the same system of play (4-2-3-1) under Ancelotti as we did under Mourinho and thus thought that our key upgrade needed to be on the wing (Gareth Bale for Di Maria). It did not occur to me that Ancelotti's more possession-based style of play might result in a different formation altogether (4-3-3). I also wrongly concluded that Isco was 'just like' Ozil: in need of 2 holding midfielders to cover for him to play directly behind the striker... that Isco could in fact play deeper, be given more defensive responsibilities and thrive as a central midfielder in a 4-3-3 (unlike Ozil, who would need to play on the wing - much like Coutinho does for Liverpool). I knew he was a great player, but I never knew he was this good.
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Isco: What a Player. What a Performance!
There's much more work to be done. Lucky for the team, there's another tune up match (Santiago Bernabeu Trophy) that will allow us to refine the playing style of the team, and simultaneously play tribute to the great Raul before the next La Liga game.
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It was a stuttering start, but it was 3 points nonetheless. There's plenty of reason believe though that once they boys master Carletto's system that it won't be long before the team stops stuttering.











Friday, August 16, 2013

Common Sense? or High Intelligence?

Carlo Ancelotti Raves About Being Given his Best Ever Squad
I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by the items coming out in the sports gossip columns regarding Gareth Bale these days - both from the Spanish and English Press.
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It started with Florentino's '100m seems much' and Ancelotti's 'Morata and Jese played very well' remarks post-match at St. Louis (vs. Inter). Today's (2013-08-13) Marca cover portrays a satisfied Ancelotti declaring that he's got the best squad he's ever had. AS on the other hand, has gotten tactical guru Arrigo Sacchi referring to Bale as not being a necessity but a superfluous 'commercial operation'. All of this seems to be in synch with the UK's telegraph publishing a story stating that Ancelotti's interest in Bale is cooling. The most interesting development of all to me however are the tidbit items (not yet becoming strong talking points) from both the English and Spanish press, discussing rumblings of a Manchester United pursuit for Gareth Bale - a move Marca has dismissed as a Daniel Levy tactic
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From where I'm sitting, I can gather 2 possible theories, both of which manifest positive vibes within me.
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THEORY #1: Common Sense
Whether we play our familiar 4-2-3-1, Ancelotti's 'classic' 4-3-2-1 / 4-3-3 or the asymmetrical 4-4-2/ 4-2-2-2, one thing is pretty clear: the team are not in need of additional players. There is no need for additional Superstars, no need for more role players and no further need for young players. The squad is stocked very well in every 'department' to allow the team to play any of the abovementioned tactical systems in consideration. We are 2-3 top quality players-deep in every position. Ancelotti knows this, and we Madridistas ought to know it too after our Italian Manager showcased it to us and to the world over several games during the pre-season.
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There is in fact merit to the argument that the addition of Bale to the squad can end up unsettling it. With Di Maria has clearly manifesting his desire to stay and Kaka angling for a career revival under his former Milan-mentor, we will end up being 3-4 men deep in the 3 attacking positions behind the central striker. This will likely result in demoralizing roles for Jese and Morata (remember Soldado under Schuster) as well as diminished roles for Ozil and Isco who do not deserve to be marginalized.

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So simply put, are these news items floating around to start the process of psychologically conditioning Madridisimo and the world at large, that Real Madrid are backing away from this pursuit of Gareth Bale? Are they being put out there for the club to get a feel of how the fan base would react if they decide to abandon the pursuit of Bale this summer? I remember a very similar 'exercise' during Florentino's return to the presidency: stories came out calling Ancelotti the frontrunner for Real Madrid's coaching job, only for unfavorable fan reaction to push Florentino Perez to heed Valdano's advice to hire Pellegrini. Is this all related to AS' recent survey of their readers on what they thought Gareth Bale's price ought to be? (an overwhelming majority cited 60-70m)
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All of this sparkles of common sense: the realization of Bale as a non-necessity, the ridiculousness of his price and that the squad is more than good enough to face the challenges for the coming season without him.
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THEORY #2: High Intelligence
Florentino did not become owner / chairman (?) of the world's 6th largest Construction Company because he frivolously spends money. As hard as it may be to believe, Florentino Perez isn't 'loose' with the purse strings. Let us not be deceived by his 'The Most Expensive Players are the Cheapest Ones' signing policy:
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-During Jose Angel Sanchez's negotiations for Becks, he famously answered 'no' over Man U's demand for 25m after Sanchez reported to him re: the Englisman's price excitedly know it was a 'steal'. (not sure if I read it here or here).
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-He's conducted fire sales for players not deemed to be a galactico who were receiving high wages (Conceciao, Makelele, the refusal to sign Patrick Viera over salary demands, the Dutch contingent in 2009, etc.).
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-Cristiano Ronaldo was not really in his plans for his 2009 return to the presidency. He was 'forced' into the 96m Euro / 80m GBP purchase of the Portuguese winger thanks to a pre-contract signed with ex-president Ramon Calderon, which carried a penalty for either side who broke the agreement. It was reported that Florentino felt that if he was the one negotiating with Man U, that he'd have been able to get Cristiano for much less than the 96m agreed upon with Man U.
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Dealing with Daniel Levy
Also, a lot of discussion on the Bale topic amongst Madridistas have centered on  our club's situation. Perhaps we ought to have a look at the situation of the club (Tottenham) that we are dealing with. As of this writing, Spurs have spent 68.8m Euros on the following players:
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-Roberto Soldado (30m from Valencia)
-Etienne Capoue (11m from Toulouse)
-Nacer Chadli (8.1m from Twente)
-Paulinho (19.7m from Corinthians)
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And in return, Spurs have thus far 'earned' 25.7m Euros in player sales:
-Tom Huddlestone (5.8m to Hull)
-Clint Dempsey (6.8m to Seattle)
-Steven Caulker (9.1 to Cardiff)
-Scott Parker (4m to QPR)
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That's a net transfer spend of 43.1m so far.
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It's interesting to note that last season on the other hand Spurs had a 'profit' of 6.6m GBP from the transfer market. They spent 60m (Sigurdsson, Vertonghen, Adebayor, Fryers, Dembele, Lloris, Holtby, Dempsey) and 'earned' 66.5m (Button, Corluka, Bassong, Krancjar, Pienaaar, Modric, Van Der Vaart, Dos Santos). This activates another valid question: did the usually-cheapskate Spurs spend 43m Euros this summer while counting on a windfall from Bale?
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Perez also understands one thing about his Spurs counterpart (Daniel Levy): That the Spurs chairman would suffer a great disadvantage in the transfer market if he dealt with clubs knowing that he had a big stash of money in his pocket from the Gareth Bale deal. He will be forced by other clubs to buy high and sell low if it was publicly known that he had a bagful of money from the Bale deal. Thus, it is important for Spurs to complete all their shopping transactions before selling Bale. This gives Florentino the tiny advantage of knowing Spurs' net transfer spend coming into the negotiations. Florentino thus has the capability to negotiate with Levy for Bale's price in context to Spurs' net transfer spend.
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Real Madrid's public cooling on Bale due to Ancelotti and the fan base's sentiments gives Uncle Flo an advantage too: "My coach says he doesn't need Bale and my fanbase is only willing for me to go up to 70m Euros - there's no sense for me to go to 90-100m anymore."
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By walking away from the negotiating table over a 100m demand for Bale, Florentino asks Daniel Levy a few important questions:
1.) Are you ready to swallow a net transfer spend of minus 43m Euros?
2.) What will you do if a pissed off Gareth Bale decides to sulk for an entire season? (scenario: he sulks his way to a paltry 10 goals this coming season and sees his value drop)
3.) Are you prepared to face the consequences of spending 43m Euros, play the 13-14 season with a sulking Bale and fail to qualify for the CL, and miss out on the money that qualification brings?
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Florentino has gained some leverage here. I hope he uses it wisely.
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Manchester United Joins the Party?
I have no idea whose idea it was to bring Manchester United into the discussion.
-Was it the English Press?
-Was it Manchester United themselves?
-Was it Tottenham?
-Was it Real Madrid?
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If it was the English Media - then we can chalk it up to the need to sell papers.
If it was Man U - then they're just being stupid to pursue a player valued at 100m in a market where 64m is paid for Cavani and they make an opening bid of 25m for Cesc Fabregas while competing with the richest club in the world. On money terms, there is no way a Manchester United owned by the Glazers can compete with a Florentino Perez run Real Madrid in bidding for a player.
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If it was Spurs - then it was pretty stupid. If it was Real Madrid - it was pretty clever. There is absolutely no way Real Madrid will be beaten by Manchester United in a bidding contest.
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If Manchester United want to be irrational and spend 100m for Bale. Real Madrid can/should happily let it happen and allow Spurs to send their star player to a club that will keep them off the top 4 once again.
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If Manchester United behave rationally (as you'd expect them to), there is no way they can make a 'rational bid' which Real Madrid cannot easily match or beat. If Man U bids for Bale's 'correct' value of 30-40m, Florentino can smile, yawn and say 'Ok, we're in for 50'.
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Common Sense, High Intelligence or Stupidity?
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The Bale Discussions in the media are making a comeback again
The preseason has worked out wonderfully for Real Madrid. With the current squad sans Bale, Ancelotti has given us much cause for optimism that success is on the horizon with what we currently have.
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Gareth Bale for me is an amazing player, a star player worthy of 'galactico status'. Prior to Isco's arrival, he was a player whom I yearned to see in a Madrid shirt. Today however with the squad as it is, I am now of the opinion that there is absolutely NO NEED for him in the squad. Make no mistake about it: I will still celebrate his arrival if he comes. I will rub my hands in glee and excitement at the thought of seeing him play with Ronaldo, Ozil and Isco.
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Today however: it's pretty clear to me that the club has the power to either exercise Common Sense and abandon this superfluous pursuit for Gareth Bale or apply High Intelligence to bring his pricetag down to a more sensible level.
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Far more than Gareth Bale, I want that my beloved Real Madrid chooses not to be stupid. There are more than a 100,000,000 better ways to spend 100m. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Return of Sport

After what seemed to be an eternity without any Sports that I was truly passionate about of several weeks, I was finally treated to a long weekend filled with utterly enjoyable sports events over the last 4 days. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish any Singaporeans out there who read this blog a belated Happy 48th Birthday to their country... and all the Muslims out there Eid Mubarak!
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Amongst the Giants at Last
Despite Falling Short of Gold, I'm incredibly proud with what our boys achieved out there.
I never thought I'd live to see the day when my country, The Philippines, would be able to reclaim its (IMO rigfhtful) place as amongst the best in Asia in the sport of Basketball. Over the past couple of weeks, fuelled by the fervent support of my countrymen (we were hosts), it happened: the Philippines took Silver in the FIBA Asia Championships and will be one of Asia's 3 representatives to next year's World Basketball Championship in Spain.
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Cursed with the genetic burden of being vertically-challenged, Filipinos were always going to face an uphill task in thriving in a game made for giants. My country's inexplicable love for the sport however means that we will always aspire and with a few pleasant twists of fate, might find ourselves with a fighting chance to be considered among the continent's (Asia) best again. I still remember vividly the Robert Jaworski-coached 1990 Asian Games team comprised of the PBA's best - bagging silver and only unable to beat China. The list of the impossible-to-beat has gotten much longer since then (South Korea, Japan, etc. would join the list)... and not even the influx of the Fil-foreigners (Filipinos with a foreign parent), with their bigger bodies and sometimes-international-exposure has helped much.
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Kudos would have to go to the Philippine Basketball authorities who worked with the professional teams to create a national team 'pool' of players, for camps, workouts and participation in international tournaments. It was a big investment that took a long time to pay dividends.
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Along the way to Silver, the Philippines managed to beat one of our regional Bette Noirs - the sharp-shooting South Korea... and we did so convincingly. In the end, our boys fell short of gold against the giants of Iran - whose used their size to bully their way to the basket constantly (helped by the fact that our 6'11 naturalized, American-born center was injured). All in all, it was a gallant effort to be proud of.
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Bundesliga Season Begins
As the Premier League struggled to (over)spend ridiculous amounts of money for top quality strikers, Borussia Dortmund have (once AGAIN) managed to unearth a jewel of a striker in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
I promised myself at the end of last season that I'd begin catching Bundesliga games this season in the wake of how truly impressed I was with the quality of Bayern and Borussia Dortmund. The Bayern-Mochengladbach game was at 2:30 am Singapore time and could only be seen if recorded, but my wife had beaten me to the remote earlier, recording a marathon telecast of 'Switched At Birth' in the same timeslot. So I was only left with Augsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund on Saturday night (on a decent 9:30pm timeslot).
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I was looking forward to see Borussia's Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (they're much easier to pronounce than spell with a keyboard!) but only managed to catch the latter (Mkhitaryan was not even dressed for the game). Without Gotze and Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang started on the right wing (where Kuba normally starts) while Gundogan started as a '10' for Dortmund. From what I saw, Dortmund are missing the presence of their '10'. Gundogan didn't look at home in his advanced position up the pitch at all. Borussia couldn't manage to control the game early on (despite the first half goals) and looked much better when Kuba came in during the second half, switching Aubameyang to the left with Marco Reus playing behind Lewandowski.
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Aubameyang however, was a wonder to watch. As we are in a transfer market filled with over-priced strikers, Dortmund seems to have completed a great bit of business in signing one of the French League's topscorers last season for "only" 13m Euros. The Gabon striker scored a hat trick from a header and 2 great finishes all coming from his impressive pace. I'm not sure if he is the man to eventually replace Robert Lewandowski, as his slight frame raises question marks in my mind though. Lewandowski also still managed to score from the spot to make it 4-0.
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I honestly wonder if the coming season will raise questions in Lewandowski's mind about his suitability for Bayern - with all their 'experiments'. If Dortmund can snag some silverware this season at the expense of Bayern, will a nice hefty pay rise do the job in keeping him where he is? Or make him choose to go elsewhere?
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EPL Friendlies - Celtic vs. Liverpool
I managed to catch the friendly between Celtic vs. Liverpool as well. Liverpool's possession-based play has improved by leaps and bounds especially with the presence of Philippe Coutinho. The young Brazilian looks the part as Liverpool's '10'. His vision, incisiveness on the pass and on the dribble is impressive. Now, they only just need to get their hands on a reliable finisher for those chances that they can now create with him onboard.
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Liverpool's biggest problem however remains to be Luis Suarez who seems to be deliberately out to become the poster child as Modern Football's Bad Boy. For a club that values its image like Liverpool, it was shocking to read about their now-abandoned pursuit for Altetico Madrid's wind up merchant Diego Costa. Maybe they ought to have gone after ex-Sevilla (now with Cardiff) defensive midfielder Gary Medel La Liga's King of Red Cards too. A Suarez-Costa-Medel teamup at Merseyside would have been the Premier League's ultimate Bad Boy Team. 
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Real Madrid: Bale-ing out on Madness?
Seems like people have forgotten that we have our own wonderkid in Jese.
"Why do we need to talk about Bale when we have Morata and Jese?" - Carlo Ancelotti
"100m for Bale seems much..." -Florentino Perez
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Could it be true? Did Florentino Perez go to Miami not just to see Madrid crush Chelsea and meet with Daniel Levy? That he also went to see a shrink who helped him get past his Daddy (or Mommy) issues? To hear him tell ESPN that 100m for Bale 'seems much' and later on have Carlo Ancelotti draw talk away from Bale and towards our young forwards Morata and Jese are promising signs that Real Madrid are veering away from the childish pissing contest with Barca on signing 'galacticos'. 
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I don't care if it's because Daniel Levy has discovered that Real Madrid is not that liquid and can only pay Bale's fee in installments. If it's true that Real Madrid offered 100m for Levy to reject and in the process, piss Gareth Bale off, Real Madrid must now approach their pursuit of Bale with absolute sense and LOWER their bid to not a cent more than 65m. It ought to be a take-it-or-leave-it offer. If Spurs want to jack up the Bale's price by claiming that Manchester United are in for him, then Madrid ought to call their bluff. Let's REALLY see if United can spend 86m GBP on a player (I have full confidence that there is no way that Man U can outbid us for Bale)... or if Spurs will let him go to another Premier League rival. It is a consequence I as a Madridista am fully prepared to face. And while they're at it, we should tell Levy that we aren NOT accepting a cent less than the 30m Euros we forked out Coentrao when we got him, if Spurs want him.
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In the mean time, I'd rather see Perez, Ancelotti and Zidane place their trust in Morata and Jese. The 2 Castilla products whose success outside of Real Madrid haunt me the most are Samuel Etoo and Juan Mata. If Morata doesn't pan out to be as prolific as Etoo, then he might just turn out to be in the Alvaro Negredo-Roberto Soldado level: very much  worthy of a place in the squad as a second choice striker who can give us 15 goals/season in that role. Jese on the other hand, has the makings of Spain's first choice winger, he moves with pace, dribbles with confidence and is in dire need of trust to perform for Real Madrid's first team to show his true potential. 
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In this regard, I find Real Madrid to be in the crossroads in the way they deal with the 2 youngsters: do we shun them away to quench the unreasonable thirst for an overpriced 'galactico' ? And accept the possibility of seeing them succeed so spectacularly outside of Madrid, to haunt us and remind us of the club's ridiculous short-terminist mindset in player recruitment and development (just as Etoo did and Mata promises to do)? 
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Or do we blood them into the squad, give them minutes and opportunities to grow with the team, develop their talents further and boost their confidence to form the next generation of Real Madrid's core?
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Let us remind ourselves that we are NOT talking about Oscar Minambres, Raul Bravo or just anyone  who can pass as a 'token presence' of the cantera in the squad. We are talking about certifiably talented young players whose capabilities have been affirmed by no less than Ancelotti and Zidane. 
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Barca's Not-So-Friendly Trip to Southeast Asia
"Do You Have Any Idea Who I Am!?!??!" Cesc asks a Malaysian Player
I wondered at first where the photo of an ex-colleague all dolled up in Blaugrana scarves was taken from when it first turned up on Facebook. I soon discovered that it was taken from Barca's recently-concluded trip to Malaysia upon reading the discussion thread: No Messi due to injury.
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It was the same 'friendly' where there were typical Barca complaints about the condition of the pitch (clearly they didn't see the state of the pitch in from the Barclays Asia trophy in Hong Kong some weeks back) - which resulted in a venue change and guaranteed chaos for reserved seating and the organizers. 
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 It was the same 'friendly' Cesc almost had some testy exchanges with the local players... and the same event that endeared Barca to the local fans and media (NOT!). 
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One would think that after the disastrous Messi and Friends exhibition match in the US (where fans paid thousands of dollars for VIP tickets to meet Messi and Friends only to be snubbed), that entities in the club would be more wary with how they deal local organizers. This apparently was not done. As one headline hilariously put it: It was not just Messi, It was Chaos.
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Note to Real Madrid's PR Deparment: Please learn from this. The last thing I want to hear about my club is to have it described as being one comprised of ungracious snobs.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Gunners Need a Gunner

I finally managed to catch some football (albeit pre-season) over the weekend. Apart from Real Madrid 2 - Everton 1, I also managed to catch Arsenal vs. Napoli and bit parts of Arsenal vs. Galatasaray.
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Arsenal can 'construct' plays. Wilshere gives them a great drive from deep in midfield while I'm surprised to see than Thomas Rosicky can bring quite a bit of spark as a '10'. Arsenal however are clearly in great need of a reliable goalscorer to finish the plays they 'construct.'
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Giroud did score a nice, semi-bicycle kick vs. Napoli. He remains however, in my opinion, a class below an Arsenal-calibre first-choice striker. Not many left in the market - the Gunners need a Gunner badly. They REALLY need to make a move in the market. Immediately.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A BALE-full of Questions, Some Answers and a Really Nutty Idea

QUESTION #1: Can Real Madrid Afford Gareth Bale?
Marca originally said that the Bale Saga would conclude in a matter of hours. Now, they're telling us that the saga ends after 145m  Euros... when oh, when will it ever end???
The answer to this is simply, yes. 
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Real Madrid are very Rich and are very good at becoming even Richer.
Apart from being the richest club in the world (largely thanks to a TV deal that's killing the rest of La Liga), Real Madrid (the Florentino Perez - Jose Angel Sanchez tandem, in particular) are also the pioneers and current world leaders in capitalizing on the marketability of their star players. This was true with Figo-Zidane-Ronaldo-Beckham, and it continues to be true today. Despite the fact that only Cristiano Ronaldo panned out to become a galactico in Perez's second presidency (Kaka and Benzema have not lived up to it thus far), his popularity and profitability has been immense. And even though Kaka never played like a galactico for Real Madrid, his immense popularity in Asia remains something the club can bank on even just a bit.
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Florentino Perez is a man who is acutely aware of the power of 'stars' in the 'business of football' and is also fully aware of the magnetism of the Premier League in Asia. In Gareth Bale, he will have an English-speaking, British player who was undisputedly the best player in the world's most popular (not the best, but most popular) league in the world. There is no doubt that he can capitalize on the earning potential that Bale can bring to Madrid.
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Real Madrid haven't "REALLY spent" for anything in this transfer Market.
To date, 74m has been spent on player purchases:
-6m for Dani Carvajal, from Bayer Leverkusen (buyback option)
-6m for Carlos Casemiro, from Sao Paolo (post-loan option)
-30m for Isco, from Malaga
-32m for Illaramendi, from Real Sociedad
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BUT, Real Madrid has also 'earned' 63.4m from Player Departures.
-37m Higuain to Napoli
-12m Albiol to Napoli
-10m Callejon to Napoli
-4.4m Negredo from the deal between Man City with Sevilla (sell-on clause)
(Benfica's Ezequel Garay, a supposed Manchester United target, also reportedly has a sell-on clause)
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That's a net spend of 10.6m Euros - less than what Swansea paid for Wilfred Bony (12m GBP).
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This is the first summer of Florentino's second term in this presidency. In the first summer of Florentino's first term in this presidency, his significant purchases were (265.7m):
-Cristiano Ronaldo 96m from Manchester United
-Kaka 67m from AC Milan
-Karim Benzema 35m from Lyon
-Xabi Alonso 35m from Liverpool
-Raul Albiol 15m from Valencia
-Alvaro Arbeloa 5.7m from Liverpool
-Alvaro Negredo 5m from Almeria (Buyback)
-Esteban Granero 4m from Getafe (Buyback)
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While the key departures were (88.5m) :
-Klass Jan Huntelaar 15m to AC Milan
-Wesley Sneijder 15m  to Intern Milan
-Arjen Robben 25m to Bayern Munich
-Javier Saviola 5m to Benfica
-Javi Garcai 7m to Benfica
-Miguel Torres 2m to Getafe
-Dani Parejo 3m to Valencia
-Gabriel Heinze 1.5m to Marseille
-Alvaro Negredo 15m to Sevilla
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That's at net spend of 177.2m.
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So having spend a 'merely' 10.6m Euros thus far in the offseason on transfers - it's not ridiculous to believe that Real Madrid have 100,000,000 lying around somewhere for them to spend.
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QUESTION #2: Can You give me 3 Good Reasons Why Real Madrid wants Gareth Bale?
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No, But I can give you 3 Stupid Reasons why:
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Reason #1: Florentino continues to have a fetish for 'Galactico Players'
Nuff Said.
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Reason #2: Florentino is Engaged in this Childish Playground Pissing Contest with Barca's Sandro Rosell in the pursuit to sign 'Galacticos'.
So what if Neymar went to Barca? Does this necessarily mean that we should participate in a Galactico-signing pissing contest with the Cules
Prior to Barca's successful pursuit of Neymar, Florentino Perez was supposedly on the cusp of signing the Brazilian starlet (yet another player who plays in EXACTLY the same position as Cristiano Ronaldo but is also a potential 'Galactico'). The operation was reportedly hijacked by Barcelona, particularly their current president Sandro Rosell whom reports suggest, used his Nike ties to turn the head of Neymar and successfully sign a pre-contract with Barcelona with the Catalan club supposedly making a deposit for his transfer as early as last season.
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Rosell, it seems, like Florentino Perez, has a 'Galactico Fetish'... it is one that appears so bad that it actually reminds me of Florentino's first presidency where his unquenchable thirst for star attacking players and disregard for the team's blue-collar workers ultimately destroyed the team. Think about it: Barca are in desperate need of a center half to support the 35-year old Puyol, the hips-don't-lie Pique and the converted-to-CB Mascherano, yet instead 57m is spent on Neymar.
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Going back to Madrid, this attempt at Gareth Bale smells like an attempt not only to lick the would inflicted by Neymar's turning down of Florentino's offer, but also an answer-back to Barca for Neymar's signing. If Barca have signed a supposed star unproven in Europe, Real Madrid were then going to sign a PROVEN star in a proven league in Europe. If Barca has N11, Real Madrid wanted to have GB11.
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Reason #3: Florentino is either A.) Trying to Prepare for a Doomsday Scenario of Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the Club or B.) Trying to teach him a lesson in humility during their Contract Negotiation for an extension

It's still not clear as to what Ronaldo was 'Sad' about early last season - was it his contract?
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There are reports that Cristiano Ronaldo and Florentino Perez are supposedly going to meet in LA to discuss a contract extension. Whether they occur in LA or not, the renewal of the contract of Real Madrid's best player ought to be the number one priority of the club. Why then would Real Madrid choose to break the transfer record paid for Cristiano Ronaldo (something he probably considers to be a sort of badge of honor) at the same period of time when they are trying to woo the recently-sad Portuguese winger to sign a contract extension?
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There is thus merit conspiracy theorists' belief that the timing of the re-ignited Bale Soap Opera might actually be tied to the status of Cristiano Ronaldo's contract re-negotiation.
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-Are Real Madrid starting to get spooked that their marquee player is dithering on the extension of his current contract and thus trying to ensure that 'they have a galactico in the bag' just in case the contract extension talks turn to shit?
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-Are Real Madrid showing Ronaldo that they as a club are well and truly capable of dropping 100m *just-like-that* for another galactico just to waive their finger at him as if to say: "We can always get another galactico if you don't want to sign, you know..." ?
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After all, if Ronaldo does not sign an extension and makes a push to leave Madrid next summer, Madrid can still probably sell him for 40-50m and recoup half of the Bale money (where's he going to go anyway? to a lesser league at Monaco/PSG? to a Ferguson-less Man U? to Mancunian rivals City? to Mou's Chelsea?). Best case scenario is that Florentino will have 2 'Galacticos' to carry Madrid for the next 5-6 years. 
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QUESTION #3: If he comes, Where Does Gareth Bale Play?
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Possibility #1 - On the Right (in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3)
If Bale comes, my best guess as to where he will play will be on the right wing. The left-footed Gareth Bale can play as an inverted winger, cutting in from the flanks to shoot with this stronger foot - just like his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. There are many skeptics re: this, especially among those who remember hearing Spurs fans serenade Harry Redknapp with the song "Gareth Bale, he plays on the left..." but this still feels like the best fit in my opinion. Every great winger in today's game has been shifted to the opposite flank for for this purpose: Cristiano Ronaldo (right to left), Arjen Robben and Angel Di Maria (Left to Right), etc. I don't see why he can't succeed in this role.
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The downside to this is that the '10' position will need to be shared by Ozil and Isco and will likely create a situation similar to the Benzema-Higuain one that took place over the last 3 seasons - and we all know how that turned out (Pipita left). Let's not forget that Kaka also still has aspirations to revive his career with Ancelotti. Competition within a squad is good: but managing and balancing the expectations of of 2 world-class #10s (Ozil and Isco) with a 'fallen' Balon D' Or winner (Kaka) for one slot, is a dangerous and difficult task.
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Possibility #2 - On the Left (in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3)
This will mean that Ronaldo will need to either A.) To be shifted to the right wing or B.) Play as an out-and-out striker... and I hate it because it alters the way our best player (who scores 1 goal / game!) plays.
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Playing on the right as a true winger will likely mean less goals for Ronaldo as it deprives him of the opportunity to cut to the middle to shoot or make a run into the box to create trouble for the opposing defense.
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Playing Ronaldo at Center Forward does seem to have its merits. Benzema doesn't deserve to be trusted as Real Madrid's undisputed first choice striker just yet. Ronaldo scores goals with both feet, has a goal-scoring predator's instinct, his awesome in the air and has the physique for such a role. Despite that however, we've never seen Cristiano Ronaldo truly comfortable playing as a '9', be in Machester United Red, Real Madrid white or even in his country's colors.
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A day will come when father time takes Ronaldo's pace away from him. When that time comes, he will need to evolve into a full-fledged striker (something that can result in him fully capable of playing at the highest level till he's 38 or even 40). I believe however that that day is a long time from now. Bottom line: in my humble opinion, if Bale comes, don't fix what's not broken with Real Madrid... and Ronaldo on the left wing isn't just 'not broken', it's actually one of the best (if not the best) things about the team at the moment.
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Possibility #3 - In the middle in the Line of 3 Behind the Striker (in 4-2-3-1)
Bale's best season at Spurs (last season) saw AVB hand him a 'free role' roaming behind the central striker. Not as a 'media punta' or '10' (i.e. playmaker), but as a sort of second striker, free to roam deep, along the flanks or the channels as he pleased. Simply put, Andre Villas-Boas designed his entire team's system around Bale. 
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At Real Madrid, this 'free role' behind the striker would essentially mean that we do away with the use of the '10' to accommodate him.
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Newsflash to Bale fanboys: Firstly, if Bale joins even for 200m Euros, he will not be the best player in our team. Ronaldo is and will remain the kingpin of the team and thus ought to have the team 'built' around him, not the Welshman. Secondly, not only does Real Madrid have one of the world's best #10s, we have 2 of them (Ozil + Isco). To play Bale in this 'free role' means that Isco / Ozil will play in the flanks in roles that will not bring the best out of them.
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The ideal solution would be to start Bale on the right wing of the 3 behind the striker and allow him, Ronaldo and Ozil/Isco to be in a state of constant flux, interchanging positions and confusing defenders simultaneously. It is much harder to put in practice of course rather than discussed with words.
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QUESTION #4: IN MY OPINION, Does Real Madrid need Gareth Bale? 
We used to. Not Anymore.
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At the beginning of the offseasion, I felt that Real Madrid's needed to address a few things:
1.) A Right Back
2.) Xabi Alonso's heir
3.) An Upgrade from the inconsistent Di Maria
4.) A replacement for Higuain if he left
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We found the solutions to 2 of these 4 'needs' from the Cantera: Carvajal at RB and Morata as our backup striker. The arrival of our other 2 young Spanish acquisitions (Isco and Illaramendi) however does a few things: A.) It establishes Modric as a player for a 'pivot' role rather than an alternative to Ozil as a '10' and B.) potentially pushes Ozil to a role that can see him compete with Di Maria for a starting spot in the right wing if Isco plays as a '10'.
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Bale would have been the straightforward upgrade from Angel Di Maria. Isco's arrival however undoes the need for him in many ways despite the fact that they are 2 very different players. And if backup players are needed for wing positions: let us also remember the fact that both Jese Rodriguez and Denis Cheryshev were both inked to 4 year deals.
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QUESTION #5: IN MY OPINION, Should Real Madrid fork out 100+m for Gareth Bale? 
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Absolutely not. Just because you have the money - it doesn't mean that you ought to spend like an idiot.
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Gareth Bale last season joined that "class of player" directly beneath Messi and Ronaldo in the game's current pantheon of greats to headline your team. You could argue that this class includes the likes of Suarez, Cavani, Van Persie, Ibrahimovic, etc. He's a player love watching and as a Real Madrid fan, God knows I'll go crazy excited to watch the team play if he joins (who wouldn't?).
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In my opinion, even in the age of over-inflated player prices fuelled by the likes of PSG, Monaco, Man City and yes, Real Madrid, Gareth Bale at 100+m is not silly money. It's just stupidity. If he was priced at 64m Euros like Cavani or 55m like Liverpool are holding out for Suarez, then for me, it's a silly money move worth considering.  FOR ME, I wouldn't buy Gareth Bale for more than 65m even in a video game! IF viewed as an upgrade to Di Maria, (whom you can cash out for 35m) it will makethe net spend on Bale a more edible 30m. 
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If it's true that Gareth Bale wants to join Real Madrid, then in my opinion, RM should use it to their advantage and bid no higher than 60-65m. It is in my opinion, an offer already much higher than Bale's actually worth. It is big enough to be considered silly money and be deemed a serious enough of a bid to show Bale of Madrid's eagerness to sign him... and high enough for him to formally ask the club to seriously consider.
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That's as high as I'd be willing to go to sign a player who's a great on the pitch addition to the club but is truthfully more a vanity signing to boost the club's image and perceived prestige in the world game.
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I'D LIKE TO END WITH A CRAZY THOUGHT:
It's clear for all to see now that my beloved Real Madrid is a club run by a bunch of crazies. If the club are as rich as they say they are, then here's a really nutty idea that I think will land them Gareth Bale AND boost their global image in a positive way:
-Offer 65m for Gareth Bale and not a cent more
-If by end August, Tottenham refuse to accept the 65m on deadline day... give EVERY CENT of that 65m to charity.
-Then, assuming he has another season like last year (or a better one), on the next summer transfer window, make one last, ABSOLUTE FINAL offer for Gareth Bale: 65m and not a cent more.
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Deal or No Deal?