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the captain’s armband, Sahin in Madrid & more vacation plans

July 4, 2011

According to today’s Marca (perhaps maybe because there’s no news?), José Mourinho is considering taking the captain’s armband away from Iker Casillas, because he prefers a field player – preferably a defender – to be the one wearing it.  In his previous teams, he’s always had field players as captains, and he believes this way will give his team an advantage, as the captain will be closer to the action.  He’s going to argue this case to the club and to Iker, to see what they think, since he knows it’s controversial.  The candidates most likely to end up with the armband, should Mou push his way through with this measure, are Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso, the vice captain and the “captain without the armband,” respectively.  In any case, Iker will still remain captain in all other areas, he’ll just “lend” his armband to someone else on the field.  Iker and Andrés Palop (Sevilla) are the only goalkeeping captains in the first division.


I understand why Mou would want to do this, but the armband has a symbolic value, and this will be a huge break with Real Madrid tradition.  And Iker himself is a symbol of this club, he represents the values of the club perfectly, having spent 2/3 of his life in Real Madrid.  He’s the only player on the current team to have been formed in the cantera, to have never known a team other than Real Madrid, and to be a regular starter.  And that counts a lot for us madridistas.  No one else fits the profile, and no one else represents el madridismo quite like Iker does.  He’s also shown that he possess leadership skills and charisma, and he has the respect of the referees.  Plus, he has worked very hard to get to where he is now today.  This (if true), coming on the heels of the lack of confidence in the cantera, makes me worry for the future of the club.  I’m not only disappointed in the lack of confidence shown towards our Castilla players, but the discouragement of another symbol of our club, the cantera.  There are several things that we madridistas hold dear, and these are two of them, because they are part of the essence of the club, and why we feel proud of and love the club so much.

Anyway, Iker will travel to Beijing today to continue with his campus visits.  Our captain will relate to the young goalkeepers (the campus is made up of only goalkeepers) his values, skills and experiences, accompanied by the Chinese national team coach Gao Hongbo and the starting goalkeeper of the team, Yang Zhi.  He’ll also attend the Beijing Guoan-Shanghai Shenhua game while there.  He’ll be in China until July 10.

Iker spent this past weekend in his parents’ hometown of Navalacruz, hanging out with his girlfriend and friends, and having a barbecue.  He posted these photos on his Facebook.

Nuri Sahin arrived in Madrid yesterday (Marca was there to capture the moment), to begin getting in shape for the new season.  He will follow a specific plan that will allow him to start the pre-season at the same rhythm as his teammates, beginning with medical tests to see how his right knee, which he injured in April, is doing.  He arrived in Madrid accompanied by his wife Tugba and his parents, and is staying at the Mirasierra Suites until he finishes moving into his new house.  The adaptation process isn’t expected to be difficult for the couple, as they’ve been taking intensive Spanish lessons for the last several months.  Sahin will meet this week with José Mourinho, who will arrive back in Madrid this week following his vacation.  Nuri trained for one and a half hours at Valdebebas on Monday.

Nuri spoke to AS regarding his signing with Madrid.  He described his signing as “a very special moment.  I was resting at the house of my agent, Reza Fazeli, who had invited me over to speak about some issues.  Suddenly, he told me that someone from Madrid was going to call me from England.  Five minutes later, I answered the phone.  I said, “hello?”  And I heard, “Hello!  This is Mourinho.”  I thought someone was playing a joke on me, but the conversation continued.  He told me that he had been following me this entire season at Dortmund and that he wanted me on his team.”  Sahin went on to say that he’s spoken with Mou several more times, and that he’s given him the task of organizing the midfield.  He also added that he’s feeling great, as great as before he got injured, and there’s no sign of any discomfort.  He joked that he must be the only person who wants his vacation to be over already, so that he can begin working.

What are some of our other players up to?  Xabi’s in Donostia, judging by this beautiful shot of the Playa de la Concha this morning, Sergio Canales is in Rome, Italy with brother Miguel and girlfriend Cristina, Álvaro Arbeloa is back in Madrid and having a great time at his campus, Cris is larking around with Irina in Portugal, and Álex and MFC Álvaro Borja Morata Martín – wearing matching outfits of what appears to be their official Real Madrid suit – shared a taxi to Las Rozas this morning to join up with the U-19 national team.

52 Comments leave one →
  1. debsen permalink
    July 4, 2011 15:38

    I really hope that the armband doesn’t leave Iker’s arms :(. He does a great job of captaining Real Madrid and La Roja. And yes, it’s a huge symbol. Hope this doesn’t come to fruition.

  2. Maddi permalink
    July 4, 2011 16:11

    That’s NOT a good idea at all. Iker is symbolic of everything Real Madrid should represent, he’s been with the club for so long, hustled into the first team… Players can still be leaders without the captain’s armband. Xabi, Sergio, and everyone else will still defend the team regardless of whether or not they have a piece of cloth on their arm.

    Sergio C’s brother looks just like him!

  3. July 4, 2011 16:14

    It’s definitely not a good idea. I do love and respect Sergio and Xabi. And I don’t care if one from Sevilla or Basque takes the armband many years later, after Iker leaves the team (I do hope it’ll be long till that moment). In people’s eyes, at least mine, Xabi has already become the one who talks and communicates with those referees. And I don’t think he needs an armband or any more titles.
    Neither do I think it’s an efficient way to name a midfielder or defender as captain in order to get an advantage. Really unnecessary, and in vain.
    And yep, after Iker we’ll have no Cantera captains in a long time. So sad to realize this. Real should consider about this problem.
    Also, Mou is not wise to public this idea to Marca first and then ask Iker and the club. It’s so weird to hear this news before they reach some agreement. Not fair for Iker. I even feel more or less disgusting to hear that Iker’s armband is at stake.

  4. RealMadridfan permalink
    July 4, 2011 16:25

    I don’t get why Mou can’t do all of that WITHOUT bringing in the armband? Like select someone to ‘dictate’ the action like an outfield captain does and leave the armband with Iker. If he gets his way, this probably won’t go down well with Madridistas because, like you said, it’s a huge break from tradition. All of our captains have traditionally been canteranos…I remember as far back as Manolo Sanchis and I’m sure those before him too.

    • July 5, 2011 10:45

      It’s because many instances, the referee will only speak to the captain. That’s why Mou sees a disadvantage.

      There’s one notable recent exception to the captain/canterano tradition – Fernando Hierro. He was a great captain.

  5. Sarah, Madrid permalink
    July 4, 2011 16:43

    Let me just say as a Madridista when I read the news of Iker, I teared it up a bit, I know I was over reacting, but this is what it felt when it happened, like a slap on my face.

    IKER earned his right to be a captain, alonso is already the captain in the midfield, he is already leading, why do we have to give away the armband to him.

    I am already pissed that Raul and Guti never said bye to bernabeu fans, but now this, Iker is my pride as a madridista, I really don’t like this, I can’t believe Jose would do it, I hope is Marca selling paper, but it seems like it because Iker doesnt object much but he is a GK, it is normal not to do so, it is not normal to be running from your goal objecting.

    Let me just put it in this way; I EFFING HATE THIS NEWS! Heart-broken even to read it.

  6. superfan permalink
    July 4, 2011 16:58

    No, no, and no to the changes regarding the captaincy of Madrid. Marca (and Mou) cannot be serious about it. I don’t know how reliable Marca is, but based on what I have seen and read all over the internet over time, it really is not. So I’m taking this news with a grain of salt. Seriously. It just cannot be for all (and surely more) the reasons you have already stated. 🙂

  7. madridistafromchina permalink
    July 4, 2011 17:03

    Speaking of captaincy, isn’t Arbeloa also a cantera? I think he made his debut for Real in 2004 (though he was away for like a few yrs), and that’s definitely some seniority. Why not make him a vice-captain?

    • July 5, 2011 10:47

      Real Madrid bases the captaincy on seniority within the first team, using uninterrupted time with the first team as the determining factor.

  8. July 4, 2011 17:22

    The captain’s armband belongs to Iker for all of the things that you have already mentioned Una. Marca is really getting on my nerves with this. And the club should start paying attention to the cantera.

    Iker is spending lots of time in planes this summer.

  9. kiki permalink
    July 4, 2011 18:40

    Ummm… I hope this is a joke or Spanish media just being Spanish media… I’ve been supportive of Mou in many ways, but this one is a No. Just No. Iker is the ultimate, true captain. End of. And Xabi doesn’t need an armband to be The Boss. 0.o

  10. emily permalink
    July 4, 2011 19:01

    If I were FP and Mou came to me with this proposal, I would fire him on the spot and send him away to a mental hospital, with 24 hour armed guards, because the people of Madrid, including Una, would probably be a viable and certain threat to his safety.

  11. Lorelei permalink
    July 4, 2011 19:01

    I really hope this is just Marca making up news again (and if it’s really true, I hope the club rejects the idea). Even though Iker would still officially be captain (and I get why Mou would want a captain who was able to easily talk to the refs, especially when the ref is being bombarded by Barcelona players), but I think the tradition and the symbolism is more important. And Iker deserves to wear the armband all the time. In fact, I think we should also wear it off the pitch, as it would vastly improve most of the outfits that he wears. Besides, players like Xabi don’t need the captain’s armband to be leaders.

    In other news, welcome to Madrid Sahin family!

  12. Amy2 permalink
    July 4, 2011 19:31

    The story about changing the captain seems like one of those things Marca invents based on pure speculation. They have no sources, no quotes; the only facts are the names of captains from his previous teams where things are done differently.

    Personally, I like the tradition of the captain’s armband being based on seniority on the team. It avoids all the drama and ego trips that the English teams go through.

    But Marca loves to stir up drama and they’ve already got like 4 columns out of this. Now watch, in interviews and press-conferences they’ll start asking questions about it – and on it goes.

  13. July 4, 2011 20:02

    I saw that article about Iker & the captain armband yesterday. I thought surely this was just a rumor and I hope that it still is!

    I agree with you for all the reasons you gave. Also, I don’t see why it is necessary for it to be a field player because Iker already has co-captains that assist him in the field, when it’s needed. Just because he can’t join the man-pile after goals does not make him any less of a captain. Although, how great would it be if he could?! :p

    “He joked that he must be the only person who wants his vacation to be over already, so that he can begin working.”

    Oh you couldn’t be more wrong, dear Sahin. I want all of your vacations to be over too. Let the season begin!

    Una, can we petition that the Canteras coaches add one thing to their training routine….that is “how NOT to pose for pictures”. Seriously?! The tumbs up? blah! lol

  14. manie permalink
    July 4, 2011 21:45

    I guess I understand Mourinho’s argument (if that is actually the case and it’s not a case of summertime doldrums) but I don’t agree with it. I think having Iker be the only canterano in the team and the captain sends a very powerful message to the cantera and everyone associated with the club. I like how you said it, Una.

    Also – I haven’t seen any evidence of Nuri fitting in with many of our boys from a “fashion (victim)” perspective, but is it toooo terrible for me to hope for it? Unless he’s emulating Xabi, in which case he has quite a ways to go sartorially and sportingly.

  15. Mani Thangadurai permalink
    July 4, 2011 22:04

    Una, I think you ought to look at Barcelona as an example before you make a hue and cry over this issue. If they had no problems handing over the captaincy to the former Real Madrid player Luis Enrique Martínez García (152 league appearances for the Merengues in five seasons before moving to the Camp Nou in 1996), I don’t see any problem with Madrid breaking from tradition as it were!!

    And mind you, there have been several instances in the Barcelona team where players who have not been a part of the club’s youth team have gone on to captain the side, Abelardo Fernandez being another example. We all know that if you were to cut Casillas open like a piece of rock candy ( A famous sweet sold in the seaside areas of Blackpool in North-East England), you would find REAL MADRID clearly written into him. I don’t see how removing the armband from him will necessarily change that!

    For one thing, I understand Mourinho’s mentality, in fact goalkeepers very rarely are given the captain’s armband for that same reason. This reminds me of when Jurgen Klinsmann came in as manager of the German National Team. His first task was to demote Oliver Kahn to de facto vice-captain, handing the armband to the then deputy Michael Ballack, not only for the reason mention, but also because the 2002 Golden ball winner at the World Cup was going through a midlife crisis and a patch of poor form that was costing the team heavily and Klinsmann wanted him to be challenged for the number one spot by Jens Lehmann. The team did have a mixed series of results, but performed reasonably much better than after the 2002 World Cup, and went on to reach the semi-finals in 2006. I think there is this mentality that goalkeepers are already in the spotlight, if they make any errors with the armband then they’re pretty much magnified further. Rather allow them to concentrate on their primary job rather than having to worry about matters on the pitch. As you’ve pointed out in your blogs, Casillas often berates his defenders very often for their lack of cohesion and responsibility, maybe this move can help bring about a little harmony in some way!

    As for who would be given the armband, I’m not too sure Sergio Ramos would be my choice, despite being the man in waiting as it were, especially since there seems to be a lot of surprising uncertainty over his future at the club. Of course the added responsibility could make him a better player, but I firmly believe that Xabi Alonso would be a good option for a team that is getting ever younger. Very focused, and a quiet yet efficient player!

    And also, I don’t think you need to worry about the cantera, they will soon come to the fore. In fact, I think that Mourinho’s decision to put Jerzy Dudek out of his misery and promote Antonio Adan to the position of second keeper is a perfect example of the coach’s belief that the cantera is the future of the club, and with Tomas Meijas coming as the third keeper the younger guys are being given more responsibility. Mourinho clearly has one eye on the future, and I can definitely see more and more youngsters coming into the first team. One hopes that they will get the chance to establish themselves and prove their worth.

    • July 5, 2011 10:51

      What Barcelona does is not something that concerns me, so I would never compare Real Madrid to them on this issue. I have no problems with captains that aren’t canteranos – for example, I think Fernando Hierro was a fantastic captain. However, he had years of service to the club before he became captain, so he got what this club is about.

      • Mani Thangadurai permalink
        July 5, 2011 19:23

        Again, I understand your indignation, but what I am saying is that if Barcelona had no problems with regard to the captaincy, why should there be any repercussions at Real Madrid? Barcelona are every bit as big a club as Real Madrid, if not bigger, and their fans are just as passionate about their club as you are about Real.

        I also think another way to look at it is that with Casillas also being captain of Spain, maybe the idea of taking away his on-pitch responsibilities will free him and push him to more consistently great form. It’s not for nothing that they say that every cloud has a silver lining!

        And finally, the success of Manchester United over these past few years in England and in Europe despite being led by Serbian Nemanja Vidic should be proof that no matter who the captain isor how long he has played for the team, the most important thing is that he is the right man for the job and commands the necessary respect while performing consistently well himself. IF Casillas is still the best man to captain Madrid then fine, if there is someone else who can do a better job, why not give him a chance?

  16. amouria permalink
    July 4, 2011 22:43

    Ah, the MARCA is really sh***t at marketing, otherwise how on earth one would believe that a coach (who is still on vacation) and a captain (who is also on vacation or sort of) have had an issue of changing bands. My God, MARCA deserves to turn into producing toilette paper, at least it would be useful somehow.
    The lie is too big to be believed, so, my dear, just ignore it..

  17. Rachel permalink
    July 4, 2011 22:44

    Does anyone seriously believe this? Seriously? It’s Marca.

  18. Siv permalink
    July 4, 2011 22:49

    no way. no ******* way. I really hope that Iker remains captain for all the reasons you listed above and I don’t see why we can’t just have Xabi remain the “unofficial” captain on the field like he is now. I really hope that no one gives in to Mou on this issue.

    • July 5, 2011 10:53

      A lot of times, the referees will only speak to the captains, so even if Xabi is an “unofficial” captain, he won’t have the weight that the official captain does.

  19. mar permalink
    July 4, 2011 22:54

    no, i don’t think they wil remove the armband from iker, just a make-up story of marca

  20. cisarovna permalink
    July 5, 2011 00:04

    Maybe I don’t understand the responsibilities associated with the armband, but what difference would it make if Xabi had an armband or not? It is pretty well recognized that he relays messages from the bench, so how does the armband help him do that?

    I heard that a rule change was contemplated which would limit the ability of players to approach the ref during the game. Could it be only the captain would be allowed to approach the ref? If so I might be able to see why the keeper should stay in the goal, especially if the foul happened at the other end of the pitch.

    If this story is true, then I would wonder if this would decrease the number of interviews Iker would give to the press. Maybe someone is unhappy with a few of his comments, but that is of course total speculation. I just can’t come up with another logical reason, other than the rule change.

    • July 5, 2011 10:53

      Yes, even right now there are times when the referees insist on speaking only with the captain.

      • cisarovna permalink
        July 5, 2011 13:26

        I guess I understand the logic. Just seems like a lot of changes for a coach that will be gone in 3 years. All for changes that help the team win, but at the end of it all would be nice to still be Real Madrid, not Mou’s Madrid.

    • Sarah, Madrid permalink
      July 5, 2011 11:15

      Well, already media is milking this up by suggesting names other than xabi and ramos, they throw in Pepe and Caravalho?!!, even Ronaldo.

      This is a Mess never the less, I read some even say captain don’t get carded if he protest which it is not case, yeah? I remember Iker was carded against Seville when he merely spoke with the referee.

      I really believe this is unnecassary issue that has been created! That caused madridista to be outraged on Mou before anyone. then the club. then the management!

  21. July 5, 2011 00:14

    Oh! I don’t know what to say about this captain issues, I am a bit shocked. I prefer to think Marca just made it up. It’s hard for me to believe that Mou would like to break with this tradition of RM, especially in the situation where he has IKER as a captain. IKER CASILLAS for God’s sake!

    and what would this switch change, really, besides messing with the symbols? For example Xabi in all cases is so bossy in the midfield anyway, he doesn;t need any armband at all.;-) what I’m trying to say is that you do not need an armband for the player to give him a certain role in the team. The armband is really kinda symbolic, so if someone has respect of their teammates, they just have the respect of their teammates, they need no armbands.

    If that’s true, however, I only see Xabi Alonso in this role of the “field” captain. I adore Sergio, but Xabi has the words “BOSS” written all over his face (and the pose);-)

    BTW this picture of Iker, on the right, standing next to this stone, made me breathless. what is air.

  22. July 5, 2011 01:48

    i will FLIP OUT if the captaincy is taken away from iker. just. no. it’s one thing if he wasn’t a good captain, but he’s proven that he is and he SYMBOLIZES the club. wtf. the thought of it makes me want to hurl. ugh.

  23. black widow permalink
    July 5, 2011 01:52

    i … wow. i respect mou, i think he’s a great strategic thinker and obsessed (in a good way) with the game, but … no. this is much more symbolic than he can even begin to understand. tactically, yes, it probably does make more sense for a field player to be the captain, but there’s SO much more to it than that. so much more. what that armband represents, what it means and symbolises, to the players, to the club, to the fans … i think this is a terrible idea. sergio and xabi would be my natural choices to succeed iker, certainly, but … no. i mean, how does that even work? how can someone be captain on the field and then someone else be captain in all other areas, just like nothing more than a figurehead? iker IS real madrid. he symbolises the club, the crest, the fans, the cantera, the madridismo … i know he will accept whatever decision mou makes with grace and dignity and honour, because that’s just who he is, but i also can’t help but feel there is so much more to the captain’s armband than organising the players on the field and mou isn’t respecting that. i really, really hope this doesn’t come to pass. 😦

  24. claudia permalink
    July 5, 2011 02:41

    Is he even for real? There is Sergio, Marcelo, Xavi on the pitch. Do they need the Armband so that their fellow Madrid players will listen to them? I don’t think so. It’s good that Real Madrid is giving Mourinho more freedom, but sometimes i feel like Mourinho is the president of Real Madrid and Mr. Perez is the employee.

  25. July 5, 2011 04:46

    While I have no doubt that Sergio and Xabi are very capable of being captain, I have to agree with you. Taking the armband from Iker destroys the symbolism of what it stands for. It is bad enough that there’s a lack of confidence in the cantera… But this would add insult to injury and I don’t like it.
    It seems that the “powers that be” at Real Madrid are looking for a quick fix and not a long term fix. This is disturbing to me.
    But hey, what do I know… I’m just a dumb American girl….

  26. danikoko permalink
    July 5, 2011 05:26

    hi Una, this is not a criticism of you or ur comment but you said “I understand why Mou wants to do this.” My question tho is, how do you know “Mou wants to do this?” there is no direct quote from Mou in the Marca piece, Marca is the only newspaper to have reported this, and more importantly, Mou has been on vacation and just returned this morning. Finally, Mou does NOT speak to the press. I am confused.

    • July 5, 2011 10:56

      You’re right, I should have written, “I understand why Mou would want to do this.” Sometimes English gives me problems. I’ll change it to avoid any more confusion.

      Regarding what else you wrote, Marca claims that it’s not a new issue, that even last season Mou was considering doing this, so whether Mou is on vacation is irrelevant to them. And even if he doesn’t speak to the press, there are other people who work at Valdebebas that do.

      • cisarovna permalink
        July 5, 2011 13:28

        If English sometimes gives you problems then there is no hope for the rest of us, even the native speakers 🙂

        • July 5, 2011 21:19

          lol too true! I know many Americans who have horrible English and I’m not referring to recent immigrants either.

          It’s quite funny when these Einsteins have the nerve to comment on how immigrants (usually meaning Spanish speaking immigrants) need to learn to speak English when they’ve been here their whole lives and haven’t yet learned it.

      • danikoko permalink
        July 5, 2011 16:03

        thanks for the reply! The captaincy is a very important part of the team. I am sure Mou will do what he believes is right for the team/club.

  27. Gina permalink
    July 5, 2011 06:15

    IF, IF this turned out to be true, then it’d be highly disheartening. But IMO it’s just Marca trying to stir things up (again) coz it’s running out of news. Xabi (or any other players) doesn’t need an armband to argue for the team or help his teammates out on the pitch, so making him a captain or not doesn’t make a difference. And I doubt Mou would go that far, though it fits the image the media created for him.

    Not that the management is likely to allow such request, either.

  28. @ulonghaz permalink
    July 5, 2011 07:46

    that ‘captain’ issue had made quite a fuss here among Madridista in Indonesia.
    i just think that Marca is having joke, i don’t want to believe it.

  29. Ebrahim permalink
    July 5, 2011 11:34

    right so lets all forgot iker gestures in the thrashing at the nou camp hey in our most difficult moment our captain just stood looking pissed not to mention sara bringing the club into disrepute, not backing his own player over messi.

    i think this is marca rubbish but Iker actions in the past few months have left much to be desired.

  30. Chloe permalink
    July 5, 2011 13:28

    Una, I saw some fotos of Iker arriving in Beijing today.

  31. July 5, 2011 21:22

    Oddly enough the 2 captains of the Mexico v Chile (Copa America) game that I watched yesterday were both goalkeepers.

    Una, I now understand why there might be some argument for having a field player be a captain, since the refs will only talk to them sometimes but what’s to stop Iker from coming out of the net to talk to the refs? or is that not allowed sometimes?

    • jellyace permalink
      July 7, 2011 17:49

      Goalkeepers have longer careers and can play until their mid-30s. Thus, if the captaincy is given to the one who has been with the team longest, then that would be the goalkeeper. So it’s not so unusual.

  32. July 6, 2011 02:58

    The decline of Marca as a newspaper has been pretty strong of late

    Not that it was any good to begin with, but posting this rubbish about our Captain is going too far.

    PS: Thanks again to unamadridista, I got my table designed by Ramos finally delivered today and without you I would have never known the auction was on. So again many thanks.

  33. Jessie permalink
    July 6, 2011 18:31

    iker should stay the captain!

  34. Alyssa permalink
    July 8, 2011 01:57

    I’ve only started reading your blog relatively recently and since then I’ve been trying to figure out what MFC stands for. You seem to love Morata like I do so I’m sure it’s something good but…wanna help me out?

    • July 8, 2011 16:17

      MFC = my favorite canterano. You might also see “MSFC,” which means “my second favorite canterano,” even though I no longer have one.

      • Alyssa permalink
        July 9, 2011 11:32

        I knew I could trust your acronym to be amazing! I’m right there with you, let’s hope a new second favourite comes along soon. Or actually, let’s not give up hope that the favourite canterano isn’t JUST a canterano for much longer and that he gets to stare at Cristiano’s legs and be with the big boys permanently.


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