ICYMI – the pre-season edition

I’m still very much in pre-season mode, and I think the Olympics will be taking up quite a bit of my time in the next few weeks (and not just La Rojita, I absolutely love watching the Olympics!) so this ICYMI post is kind of just a collection of my random observations and thoughts from the game, plus some game things and statistics.

Random thought number one: I was glad to see Gonzalo Higuaín and José Callejón carry on from where they left off last season, together!  Many hearts would have been broken had Pipita gone elsewhere, including Calleti’s, I’m sure. 

Random thought number two/game thing number one:  I absolutely adored the line-up that José Mourinho fielded for the game, though it was probably more out of necessity than any other reason.  All 11 of the players were canteranos.  Two of them – Antonio Adán and Esteban Granero – play for the first team, and the other nine for Castilla, though MFC Álvaro Borja Morata Martín, and Jesús, are expected to get fichas with the first team.  In fact, during the game, both of them wore first team numbers: Jesús had the 25, while ABMM wore the 23.  In addition, they both now have lockers in the first team locker room at Valdebebas.  Anyway, the average age of the starting XI was 22.6 years.

Game thing number two: Lucas, Denis, El Pirata and Ángel di María on two occasions scored for Madrid as they beat Oviedo 5-1.  Denis became the first ever Russian player to wear the shirt of Real Madrid, and of course the first ever Russian to score a goal for Real Madrid (keeping in mind that this was a friendly).  After the game, he tweeted, “at home!  Time to rest!  Today could be one of the happiest days in my career!  Without all of you, it wouldn’t have been possible!  Thank you.”  Congratulations Denis!

Random thought number three: what do you think about the two color numbers?  I like the concept, but I’m not sure it translates too well onto football shirts.  Maybe it will grow on me, just like Sergio Ramos’ short hair.  Plus, did you notice the goalkeepers in the striped socks?  I can’t wait to see Iker in them, yay!

Game thing number three/random thought number four: after the game, Esteban Granero said he was proud to have been the captain of Madrid (and I was proud to see him be the captain; the armband suits him!), although it was just for a pre-season game.  And though it was just a pre-season game, Esteban said that the team was upset they had allowed a goal, but were satisfied with their level.  As for the canterahis thoughts were that “the Castilla boys are helping us a lot and they’re showing that they have many things to bring to the team.  I am trying to help them in whatever they ask of me.”  I really do love our Pirata!  And I really do hope the club has more confidence in its youth system!  Plus, I loved seeing a female linesperson!

Random thought number five: I just like this picture because Ángel di María looks like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil, or at least in the moment before he begins spinning.

Random thought number six: the kids in the Tartiare really love our team!

Game thing number four: Aitor Karanka spoke to the press after the game, seemingly confirming that Kaká will be leaving.  He said, “we’re looking for the best solution for Kaká, and it was the míster’s decision that he not play tonight.  He’s one of our players and we hope that between all of us we can find a solution.”  He also lauded his players and the fans at the Tartiere.

I wonder when Mou will give his first press conference?

Game thing number five: prior to the game, gaiteros played a tribute to Slovakian footballer Peter Dubovsky, who had played for both teams and who had passed away in 2000.  Madrid’s team also wore black armbands to mourn the passing of Gregorio Peces-Barba, a politician, academic and socio of Real Madrid (he would have become a Madrid director had Lorenzo Sanz beaten FP in the 2000 presidential election).  He had passed away earlier that day at the age of 74 in Oviedo, although he was a madrileño in addition to being a madridista.

And now we await the arrival of some of the other international players, as we start preparations for the Eusébio Cup!

all set for Oviedo!

Hopefully this will be the lightest and least informative “all set for…” post we’ll have this season…

We’re only a little more than a week into the pre-season, but it’s already time for the first friendly!  Real Madrid will play Oviedo at the Carlos Tartiare tonight (19:45h).  You know who plays for Oviedo?  César Negredo, Álvaro’s older brother!  He actually played in Madrid’s cantera for several years, suiting up for the teams in the alevín and juvenil categories.

This game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Denis Cheryshev, as he spent part of his childhood in Asturias, when his father played for Oviedo’s eternal rival, Sporting.  Denis also played for Sporting’s youth teams, and if he plays tonight, he’ll become the first ever Russian player to wear the white shirt of Madrid.

On Monday afternoon, the team was back in training.  Karim Benzema (driving a Mini Cooper and sporting some new stripes in his hair) joined the team after enjoying almost a month of vacation, starting from when France was eliminated by Spain in the Eurocopa.  He trained at the same intensity as his teammates, showing that he has taken care of himself during the offseason (his abs look pretty good, no?).  With the addition of Karim, the number of available first team players increased to 10 (Ricardo Carvalho remains absent).  They were joined by 14 canteranos for the session, and so the starting line-up of the friendly is expected to be comprised of many of these youth players.

Indeed, 15 canteranos (including Álvaro López from RMC) plus seven first team players were called up for the game.  As for absences, it comes as no surprise that Kaká and Ricardo Carvalho did not make the cut (Kaká was actually on the first list, and minutes later, his name disappeared).  Karim Benzema, who only has one day of training under his belt, did not make the call-up either, nor did Nuri Sahin, suffering from gastroenteritis.

Goalkeepers: Adán, Jesús, Pacheco.
Defenders: Varane, Fabinho, Nacho, Mateos, Casado, Ríos, Iván.
Midfielders: Granero, Lass, Mosquera, Álex, Juanfran, Denis, Lucas, Callejón, Álvaro López, Di María.
Forwards: Higuaín, Morata.

The team is already in Oviedo, having flown there earlier this afternoon.  Esteban Granero was looking quite stylish, no?

As for those footballers still on vacation, Sergio Ramos has made his way to Miami and has visited with one of my favorite singers, Alejandro Sanz.  He’s following the footsteps of Iker Casillas, who also visited Miami and Alex earlier this month.  And just like Iker, he took Alejandro’s boat out for a spin.  Sergio also got to listen to some of the songs off of Alejandro’s new album, La Música No Se Toca!  I’m so jealous.  I love the first single, “No me compares.”  Is it too much to hope that Sergio will collaborate on one of these songs, just like he did with Canelita?  That would be a dream come true!  Or he could even cover one of the older songs – imagine Sergio singing “Corazón partió” or “Regálame la silla donde te esperé”!

Speaking of Iker and Sergio and similarities, how about these photos and poses?  Iker scores points for not wearing his purse in the photo (it’s probably too precious to get wet), while Sergio gets minus points for that disgusting jersey.  Of the guys on the team whose basketball preferences are known, Raúl Albiol has much better taste, no?

And speaking of similar vacation routes, Mesut Özil showed up at the Grand Canyon just a few weeks after Sami did.  By then, Sami was already making some new friends!  Adorable pictures of adorable men!

Other random news that might interest you: Marca reports that the residence currently being built in Valdebebas to house the first team (so that they can have their concentraciones there, instead of at a hotel) should be completed by Aug. 12.  The rooms are already ready, they were pre-fabricated in Gijón and transported to Madrid, so they just needed to be installed.  These rooms apparently include a mirror that becomes a television set with the touch of a button (cue the jokes about how certain players will never watch TV then).  There will be a total of 60 single occupancy rooms for the first team/coaching staff/doctors/fisios/press officers/other staff, each with a large bed, an area with a desk, a bathroom, a sitting area and a terrace.  The rooms are spread out over two floors (the building has a total of three floors), and the residence also includes a dining room, as well as areas to work and rest.  The hotel faces the training fields, so the players can directly access the fields from the residence.

Meanwhile, another residence for the cantera is also being built; work will commence when the first team residence is completed.  This residence will house those canteranos not from Madrid (at present, most of them stay with SEK).  It will have space for 100 boys, who will stay two to a room.

Real Madrid need a right back

Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid are not doing too much in the transfer market this summer, but they are focused on two key acquisitions. Luka Modric will complete the formidable line up in midfield, as long as Daniel Levy from Tottenham and Florentino Perez from Madrid can come to an agreement.

Neither man is willing to back down, and Modric has attempted to force Spurs’ hand by refusing to go on the club’s pre-season tour of America. There is a gap of around 10 million euros between what Spurs want and what Madrid want to pay.

Meanwhile, Mourinho has another important position he needs to cover, an attacking right back. Alvaro Arbeloa is currently the first choice right back, but the special one would like a player that offers a bit more going forward. Arbeloa is a fantastic right back but is mainly defensively minded.

Reports were claiming that Inter Milan’s Brazilian right back Maicon was virtually assured of coming to the Bernabeu but , at 31-years old, Mourinho may be looking at a younger option. The 8 million euro price tag may also have discouraged Madrid.

The two players who are thought to be on the mind of Mourinho are both English. 27-year old Glen Johnson of Liverpool has established himself as one of the best attacking right backs in the Premier league and has been given the starting position by current England manager Roy Hodgson.

Many people were surprised that the England manager did not take Manchester City’s 24-year old right back Micah Richards to Euro 2012, and he is the other player that Mourinho has been considering. It would not be easy to persuade either of the English clubs to part with their players, however.

first week of training – done!

I want to go to there (or here.  Even though Sergio’s no longer in Ibiza, it’s still beautiful enough that I wouldn’t mind)… but since it’s not time for me to take vacation yet, I’ll just have to stare wistfully at pictures like this one taken by Xabi Alonso and think how lucky I am that when it’s my turn, I’ll have football to watch while I’m relaxing “somewhere,” to quote Xabi.

That’s because our boys have been training hard in this first week of the pre-season.

On both Thursday and Friday, the team trained once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  The nine first team players were joined by the 14 canteranos for the sessions, while Ricardo Carvalho had permission from the club to be absent (I copied that straight from the previous days’ reports).  As for details, Ángel di María worked out in the gym in the Friday morning session, while Rubén Belima from RMC joined the team for the Thursday afternoon session.

Mou had to put his beloved clipboard under his shirt to keep it dry from the sprinklers, in case you were wondering why he suddenly seemed fuller in a certain area.

Álex, meanwhile, visited the children taking part in the summer campus of the Realmadrid Foundation after the Thursday afternoon session.  The kids, whose ages ranged from seven to 17, got to ask Álex questions and get photographs/autographs from him.

We finally got a change from the monotony on Saturday, with only one training session (which was open to the press) and a press conference.  As usual, the session ended with a partidillo (made up of two 30 minute halves), and this time around, Castilla (Juanfran, Mateos, Casado, Iván, Mosquera, Álex, Denis, Álvaro Borja Morata Martín and Lucas, plus Antonio Adán and Nuri Sahin) beat the first team (Higuaín, Lass, Kaká, Varane, Di María, Callejón and Granero plus Fabinho, Pacheco, Ríos and Nacho) 5-1.  Jesús switched between the two teams.  Higuaín scored for the seniors, while Lucas, Nuri Sahin (penalty), MFC ABMM and Denis (twice) for the freshmen.  A great 40th birthday present for Castilla!

Jesús, Fernando and Antonio made my dream come true during this training session, because they were wearing the striped socks!  Even though it’s no longer the bumblebee version from last season, I can’t wait to see Iker wear them!  However, I’m not entirely convinced that will happen, so I’ll put it on my list of wishes for the season.

The team will now get two days off, as they won’t return to training until Monday afternoon.

At his press conference, El Piratita stressed that he had never considered leaving Madrid, and that he hopes to form a bigger part of José Mourinho’s plans this year: “I have not considered leaving and I have not considered repeating the same role (as last year).  I want to be more of a protagonist, which is natural and something all players want.  There’s no need to change teams in order to have a bigger role.  It can be done here and I’m going to train hard for it, like I do each day.  I hope to make a space for myself, to be important.  I matured a lot during the past year, and so I’m better prepared this year.  I have a lot of hope, just like I had in the past 15 seasons.  I have a desire to learn.”  When asked about how his contract renewal negotiations were going, Esteban said, “my renewal is not a problem.  This is my 15th season and there’s no doubt that I want to be here.  There won’t be any problems.  If Madrid wants, I’ll be here for as long as they want me.”  He also said Madrid is going to be the team to beat, and revealed his (philosophical) thoughts on the Ballon d’Or: “giving an award to a footballer is unjust because it’s a collective sport.  A footballer by himself doesn’t have much meaning.  Last season, there was a team that was above all the others, we broke many records and it seems just to me that the footballer who wins it comes from this team, which is ours.”

By the way, various teams, such as Zaragoza, are training on the beach.  Why can’t we do that?

In other news, Raúl Albiol was made an honorary member of Club Deportivo Mercadal, a team that plays in the Baleares third division.  Although Raúl was in Menorca on vacation, he was still working out most days (good boy), and he chose to do so at Mercadal, which is why the club decided to make him an honorary member.  The club’s president, Antoni Palliser, presented El Chori with a club keychain, a club scarf, some typical products from the town of Es Mercadal and an ensaimada with the escudo of Real Madrid on it (made by the Pastisseria Ca’n Pons)!  It looks delicious, no?  Raúl is back home in Vilamarxant now beating Brian at padel.

In other news, Fernando Gago is going to Valencia.  Fernando arrived in the city of Valencia on Thursday night, after his old club and his new club reached a pre-agreement.  Since then, the signing has been made official.  It’s been reported that Valencia will pay Madrid somewhere in the range of €3.5-5 million, and that Fernando accepted a pay cut, meaning he’ll “only” earn €1.5 million for each of the four seasons he’s set to play with Valencia.  He told the press upon arrival in his hotel that he’s content and excited to play with Valencia.  The next day, during his presentation, he said he doesn’t hold any grudges against Madrid.  We’ll be seeing Fernando in about a month’s time, as Madrid is set to kick off this year’s Liga against Valencia.

During these negotiations, the issue of Sergio Canales was also discussed.  Apparently Valencia wants him to continue with them for two more seasons, and since players are not allowed to be loaned out to one club for three consecutive seasons, the two clubs had to come to an agreement on a situation that both sides can accept.  In other words, they have to agree on Canales becoming a Valencia player in all aspects, and Madrid is apparently asking for €8 million for that to happen.  It’s also been reported that Madrid will have a buyback option in whatever contract is signed.  I hope he has a chance to shine and triumph!  I can’t help but feel that his career took a giant step backwards when he signed for Madrid, and then there were those two consecutive injuries with Valencia… pobrecito.  He deserves good things.

Modric tells Tottenham he wants to join Real Madrid

Luka Modric has told his bosses at Tottenham that he is determined to be A real Madrid player next season. The 26-year old Crotian playmaker did not join his Tottenham team mates for training today, as he tries to persuade the club not to block his dream move.

Spurs are demanding no less than £35 million for the midfielder who is contracted with them until 2016. There is a danger of Madrid backing out of the deal and that would leave Modric angry and upset. Last summer, Chelsea were rebuffed by Tottenham even though Modric believed he had a “gentleman’s agreement” with the chairman Daniel Levy.

Modric refused to play in the opening game of last season and was expecting to be allowed to join Chelsea but it did not happen. Former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp managed to then convince him to concentrate on football. It seems as if the same thing could happen again. Levy should seriously consider how the player will react if he is forced to stay at White Hart Lane against his will.

The current manager Andre Villas-Boas has spoken to Modric and says “I understand his point and he understands the club’s point.” Levy is a hard negotiator but neither Madrid or Manchester United agree with his valuation of the player. Will Modric be able to persuade him to lower the price? I hope so.