Real Madrid stars miss the team bus

Jose Mourinho ordered the Real Madrid team bus to leave without a host of his key men after they arrived late for their scheduled departure ahead of Saturday’s clash with Atletico Madrid.

The players were told to be at the Santiago Bernabeu for 20:45 before heading to their pre-match hotel, but Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe and Alvaro Arbeloa were all absent as they were stuck in traffic.

The Portuguese opted to leave without them and the five stars joined up with their team-mates later on after hitching a ride in Alvaro Arbeloa’s car.

Madrid host their fierce local rivals in El Derbi Madrileno at the Bernabeu on Saturday evening and the former Inter coach has selected 19 players in his squad for the clash.

Blancos currently trail Diego Simeone’s side by eight points, with the visitors winning 11 of their first 13 games. In contrast Mourinho’s men have made a slow start to the campaign and have tasted victory eight times in La Liga this term.

How the world has changed since Atletico Madrid last beat Real Madrid in 1999

SPECIAL
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

‘Two thousand zero zero party over, oops, out of time‘. So sang Prince on the title track of his 1982 album, promising to party ‘like it’s 1999’.

Atletico Madrid will share similar sentiments on Saturday if the capital club can conquer city rivals Real Madrid – because they have not beaten

Los Blancos since the final year of the last millennium.
The Madrid derby is always a hard-fought fixture and one which Atleti aficionados want to win more than any other. Alas, the last time those fans tasted success over their neighbours came back in 1999, 13 years and a month ago. Time has moved on, but Atletico have not – at least not in this clash.

And the world is a very different place to when Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink hit two goals to help claim a 3-1 victory for Atletico in the derby at the Santiago Bernabeu. October 30, 1999 was the date – and fans on the red and white side of the Spanish capital have been remembering it ever since. Now, though, with Atleti eight points clear of Madrid in La Liga (and just three behind Barcelona), perhaps it is finally time to record another win over Real and recall a new success – this time for all the right reasons.

               When I woke up this mornin‘, could’ve sworn it was judgment day (Prince, “1999”)

It will be for Atletico‘s players and their coach, Diego Simeone. The Argentine issued a passionate rallying cry to his squad ahead of Saturday night’s capital clash and will hope to become the first Atleti coach since Claudio Ranieri to lead his side to a win over Madrid.

So as Simeone’s side set out to end an unlucky 13-year streak and prepare to party like it is 1999, we take a look at just how different life is more than a decade on from the Colchoneros‘ last successful derby date.

MOURINHO AT BARCELONA; SIMEONE A WINNER WITH LAZIO

Spanish football was nothing like its current state back in 1999, and here is the evidence to prove it.

  • Jose Mourinho was coaching in Spain. The Portuguese, however, was not at Madrid, but Barcelona as an assistant to Louis van Gaal. After winning the Copa del Rey he had told Catalan fans: “Barca, in my heart, today, tomorrow, and forever …”
  • Diego Simeone had already spent three seasons as a player at Atletico, but was just starting a successful season with new club Lazio, where he went on to win Serie A and the Coppa Italia in 1999-2000. He would later return for a second spell at the Vicente Calderon as a player – and then as coach.
  • Ronaldo was a Brazilian – nobody had heard of Cristiano yet. The Portuguese made his Sporting debut three years later, at the age of 17.
  • Falcao was also a Brazilian – Radamel was a young boy finding his feet at Colombian amateur side Lanceros Boyaca, which would disappear the following year.
  • Florentino Perez had yet to take over as president of Real Madrid – for the first time!
  • Vicente del Bosque had recently been installed at Madrid, while Mourinho‘s assistant Aitor Karanka was on the bench for the match against Atletico, along with Iker Casillas – the sole survivor in today’s team.
  • Barcelona fans still loved Luis Figo. His controversial move to Madrid came a year later.
  • The Catalan club had yet to win the Champions League. Their sole success in Europe’s premier club competition had come in 1992 – in the old European Cup. Barca have since won three Champions Leagues (in 2006, 2009 and 2001) and Real Madrid two (in 2000 and 2002).
  • Pep Guardiola was still a decade away from revolutionising football. In 1999 he was captain of Barca.
  • Lionel Messi was a 12-year-old boy with growth problems in Argentina. He moved to Barca the following year and now has three Ballon d’Or trophies to his name.
FRANCE WORLD CHAMPIONS; ZIDANE REIGNING BALLON D’OR

But it was not just La Liga. Things were very different in football as a whole …

  • France were reigning World Cup winners after claiming the trophy at home in 1998. Zinedine Zidane, still with Juventus, held the Ballon d’Or, but the next Golden Ball was won by Rivaldo.
  • Spain had yet to go beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup and had won just one European Championship – back in 1964.
  • Sir Alex Ferguson had just been knighted after leading Manchester United to the treble, but the Scot was still only halfway through his incredible 26-year tenure (so far) at Old Trafford.
  • Manchester City had just won promotion to the second tier of English football, but hardly looked like future Premier League champions at that point.
  • England’s ‘golden generation’ had yet to deliver at international level, but David Beckham was optimistic of success after the appointment of new coach Kevin Keegan earlier in 1999.
  • Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry City, Bradford City and Wimbledon were all in the Premier League, while Venezia, Perugia and Piacenza played in Serie A. Palermo have since sacked 27 coaches.
  • The golden goal was still used by Fifa and Uefa. They reverted back to standard extra time in 2004 after the European Championship in the same year.
  • Paul Gascoigne was still turning out for Middlesbrough in the Premier League, although his England career had ended a year earlier. Roberto Baggio, Carlos Valderrama and Lothar Matthaus were all still playing as well, while Diego Maradona had retired just two years earlier. The Argentine celebrated his 39th birthday on the night Atletico beat Madrid.
  • He and Pele were still arguing. Actually, some things do not change …
BILL CLINTON US PRESIDENT; SPAIN USED THE PESETA

Away from the football field, life in 1999 is almost unrecognisable from today’s society …

  • Bill Clinton was still President of the United States and George Bush was the old guy who could not win a second term. The Twin Towers were still standing in the centre of New York.
  • Hugo Chavez had become President of Venezuela earlier in the year. Despite a frosty 13-year relationship with the United States and health problems, he is still going strong.
  • Spain still used the peseta. The Euro had not yet been introduced. Now, its future is very much in doubt.
  • Rafa Nadal had not hit a ball on the ATP Tour, while Lance Armstrong had months earlier claimed the first of his seven Tour de France titles (of which he now has none).
  • The 11th season of The Simpsons had only recently begun, with episode #230 (Treehouse of Horror X) airing in the US the night after the Madrid derby. The show is now into its 24th season, with a total of 514 episodes having been made. Pierce Brosnan was James Bond.
  • In 1999 only 24 users per 100 inhabitants in the developed world used the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In 2012 that number is now more than 74 users per 100 inhabitants.
  • Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter did not exist. A tweet was a high-pitched, chirping sound made by a young or small bird.
  • iPods were not around and phones were not smart. A Blackberry was still just a fruit.
  • The Y2K bug was a global concern. It turned out to be nothing. And everyone was talking about the millennium, even though nobody could spell it.
  • Beyonce was the pretty one from Destiny’s Child and had not yet become a global phenomenon on her own, while nobody had heard of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (or her stage name Lady Gaga for that matter).


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'Outrageous' Messi deserves Ballon d'Or, says Wenger

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes Lionel Messi deserves the Ballon d’Or because of his ‘outrageous’ goalscoring record this year.

The Gunners’ boss reckons the Argentina international deserves to retain his award ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta.

Despite being impressed by all three candidates, the Frenchman thinks that Messi’s 76 goals so far this calendar year make him the worthy winner of the award.

“It’s very difficult. For the class, Messi [should win it],” Wenger told Arsenal’s official website.

“He’s scored 76 goals in one year. It looks just outrageous to me. Therefore it would be one thing to reward something exceptional.

“Ronaldo has always been there and he deserves it as well. He won the Spanish championship. Iniesta won the European Championship with the national team and therefore, you could reward him.

“I’m not a big fan of these things. If you judge purely on class, you judge Messi. If you want the achievement of the year, you would choose Ronaldo and maybe Iniesta in second. That’s how I see it.”

The Ballon d’Or was relaunched in 2010 after France Football‘s award was merged with the FIFA World Player of the Year prize.

Lionel Messi picked up the inaugural gong two years ago before once again topping the polls last year.

Keane fans flames in Kaka to LA Galaxy rumours

Robbie Keane has fanned the flames linking Kaka with a move to LA Galaxy, as the MLS club begin their search for a big name to replace the outgoing David Beckham.

The Brazilian playmaker has struggled to find consistent first-team action at Real Madrid, and the MLS Cup finalists would offer a potential outlet should the Real Madrid star seek a transfer.

“If we want to – as a team and an organisation – to push on and be the best that we can, to attract players like Kaka would be brilliant,” Robbie Keane has told reporters at a press conference.

Rumours continue to link the 30-year-old away from Santiago Bernabeu. Kaka has largely failed to recapture his AC Milan form which saw him awarded the 2007 Ballon d’Or.

“Someone like Kaka was only voted one of the best players in the world a few years ago,” Keane said. “We welcome anyone with his stature and his ability to the Galaxy, but ultimately it’s down to the boss.”

The ‘boss’ – AEG president Tim Leiweke – agrees with the Republic of Ireland international. The man who brought Beckham to Los Angeles is now batting his eyelashes at Kaka, and doing so publicly.

Kaka has frequently talked of his admiration of the United States. His brother, Digao, plays for the New York Red Bulls, and the best man at his wedding, Marcelo Saragosa, is at DC United.

“We’re well aware of Kaka’s interest in MLS, and we in turn have made it very clear to him that he’s aware of our interest in him,” Leiweke told Sports Illustrated.

“We have a great relationship with Real Madrid, and just as we worked through a player with them six years ago [Beckham], I’m absolutely convinced we could find the right deal this time, too.”

Mourinho: Criticising others becoming Spain's national sport

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho insists criticising others is fast becoming the “national sport” in Spain, as his side prepare to host Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

The Blancos‘ 1-0 defeat to Real Betis last weekend saw them fall 11 points behind Barcelona at the top of the Primera Division table, casting further doubt on their title defence.

However, speaking ahead of the capital derby at the Santiago Bernabeu, the 49-year-old believes he has been harshly treated by sections of the media.

“You can applaud and whistle at me,” he told reporters at a press conference. “If you want to, I will be in the dugout at 21:00 [CET].

“Football won’t force me out just yet. I hope the fans support the team and help us win the game. Giving people stick is the national sport here, but it’s okay.”

Mourinho then hit out at critics who have overplayed the significance of Madrid’s gap behind the Blaugrana at the league summit.

I do not play for anything,” he added. “A match is meant to be enjoyed. If you win, you enjoy the experience a lot.

“If you lose, you still enjoy [being on the pitch]. We play every three days so there is not much time to be happy or sad.

“The point tally is finalised at the end of the season. People don’t have to be mathematicians to know that 14 points or eight are not the same as 11.

“They should go game by game. We always play with the intention of winning. I do not care what my players have to say.

“What I want is that, on the pitch, they all share the same mentality as me and go all out. You have to give everything. That’s better than words.”

In contrast, Atletico have built on their Europa League success last term by flying high in the Liga standings, with los Colchoneros currently in second place, and Mourinho spoke positively about his opposite number Diego Simeone.

“I have a good relationship [with Simeone],” the trainer continued. “I met him years ago when he was at Inter, and I have kept in touch with him since.

“I’m glad that things are going well for him, especially in Europe where our interests do not clash.”

Mourinho then alluded once more to the poor performance of the match referee in last week’s Liga loss to the Real Betis but hopes officiating will not overshadow the match in Madrid.

“In this game there were three teams – one that was very good and two who were bad. Tomorrow I would like to be both good and one bad,” he added.

“That being Madrid and the referee playing well and Atletico bad. But as I like football, I want us all to do well.”

The former Chelsea and Inter boss was named as one of the three finalists in the running for the Fifa Coach of the Year, along with Vicente del Bosque and Pep Guardiola, but he remained coy over his inclusion.

“I have no time to think about it,” he shrugged. “Guardiola does have time because he is on holiday. The same goes for Del Bosque, who has no match for another three months.”