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a lot of catching up to do

August 9, 2011

Hola, madridistas!  I’ve been on vacation, but I have kept an eye (like FP) on (almost) everything that’s been happening with Real Madrid, since I am very excited about this upcoming season.  So, here’s a super post on the last week and a half.  I figured if I waited any longer, I would be overwhelmed by the time I finally got back.  Plus, this is a good time, since it’s an international break and the club doesn’t resume training until tomorrow.

Mine, ALL MINE!

July 29: Nyon, Madrid

In the morning, Mou went to Nyon, Switzerland to be grilled by UEFA for six hours.  He was back in the afternoon for the latter half of the team’s training session (having headed directly for Valdebebas from Barajas, and still in his all blue street clothes outfit), which included the return of Nuri Sahin after hurting his left knee 17 days ago and Gonzalo Higuaín from vacation and the Copa América.  Pipita received a warm welcome from all his teammates, and from Mou as well.

Twenty five players were called up for the team’s next three friendlies, against Leicester in England and the two in China, with Ángel di María to join the team in Guangzhou.

Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Tomás Mejías, Jesús.  DefendersArbeloa, Ramos, Albiol, Pepe, Varane, Carvalho, Marcelo, Coentrão, Nacho.  Midfielders:  Xabi Alonso, Khedira, Sahin, Callejón, Granero, Özil, Kaká, Di María.  Forwards:  Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Higuaín, Jesé.

There was no way this picture was not making this post.

The team (with the exception of those players Mou is not counting on – I guess they’re also barred from team events) also attended an act in which the airline Emirates was presented as a club sponsor and official airline for the next five years.  FP presided over the event, saying that he was “satisfied with this union between two world and leading brands.  I believe we are at the beginning of an intense relationship that will help the club get closer to the millions of followers that it has in the world.”  During the act, the club presented Emirates’ officials with a shirt, while the airline gave the team a replica of one of the Airbus planes in their fleet, which Iker got to hold.

There was a lot of plaid shirts (Iker, the twins, Mesut), Ray-bans and collared shirts (Xabi and his protégé), and it looks like Fábio was made to remove his cap before he could enter the room.  Kaká (looking very elegant), Pepe, Marcelo and Cris wore blazers, and Cris had what appeared to be an entire tub of hair gel in his hair (he also had on some original sneakers.  Plus, Rafa is looking good, no?  His outfit does look like the team’s official non-sweats outfit though.  The players, for the most part, looked bored during FP’s speech (I watched like 20 seconds of it and almost fell asleep).  And doesn’t Sergio’s outfit resemble Mou’s?  Normally, you know I would do a fashion post, but these few sentences will have to suffice in this post.

And Xabi Alonso called Jeff Bridges’ performance in Crazy Heart “muy jefe” or “very boss.”

July 30: Madrid, Leicester

Madrid traveled to Leicester to take on Leicester City in their fifth friendly of the pre-season.  Hopefully, Rafa Varane will learn Spanish fast, so that he can start talking with his teammates!  On the airplane on the way to England, he reminded me of Karim Benzema during his first years, hiding under huge headphones and a mobile phone.  Meanwhile, Marcelo and Pepe were inseparable on the plane (and notice the sleepers behind them)…

… but once on the ground, Raúl Albiol and Pipita Higuaín managed to separate them, resulting in some adorable if unfamiliar pairs.

Karim Benzema and José Callejón both scored as Madrid beat the local team 2-1 to improve their record to 5-0 this pre-season.  The team changed their kits at the half, with Madrid going from white (goalkeeper black) to black (goalkeeper yellow) and Leicester changing from blue/white to all white.  The reason for that was because the shirts used during the first half will be auctioned off for charity, and of course for marketing purposes, to show off each team’s kits for this season.  And even Mou changed part of his outfit from white to black as well.  Madrid received a trophy at the end of the game, which was accepted on Madrid’s behalf by Sergio Ramos, the captain at that point.

José Mourinho told the press after the match that this was a more difficult game than the one against Hertha, that it was a more “European” style game and that he was content with the win, because he was able to give minutes to all the players (20 of the 24 played) and no one was injured.  Mou also explained that he himself decided that Sahin wouldn’t play.  The English press asked him about the possibility of Benzema going to Arsenal, and Mou firmly stated, “there’s nothing to that.  Benzema is not moving from Real Madrid.  There’s no speculation.”  He also refused to answer any questions about UEFA’s decision, since “I don’t speak about personal issues as coach of Madrid.”  Mou also showed that he was up to date on the personal lives of his players, as he said with regards to Ángel Di María, “Di María will be at his wedding in a few hours and he’ll spend his honeymoon with us.  Without his wife, I hope.”

Manolito Adebayor was at the game, supporting his former team (and sitting in the same palco as FP, although several rows behind).  Mou said during his press conference, “he’s here because he’s a friend.  He’s one of ours, he was here six months and he touched our hearts, we all love him.  It doesn’t matter if he ends up joining us in the end, he came here today as a friend.”  Let’s get a reunification going already!!

Despite the game, Iker also found the time to tease Raúl Albiol, posting the video of Raúl and wife Alicia’s GQ session on his Facebook and saying that they all believe he has a future as a model.  He also used his FB to post these pictures before and after the game.  Very boss on the left and adorable on the right!

July 31: Guangzhou

Madrid traveled to Guangzhou, China directly from the UK, taking a 15-hour long flight that included a stopover in Astana, Kazakhstan (which I only know of due to the Astana cycling team).  Pobrecitos, they must be so tired of airplanes.  But the airplane ride did give us this hilarious image of Pipita Higuaín (no more Eze Garay to sit next to!), Antonio Adán, Tomás Mejías and José Callejón sleeping.  If any of them moves a centimeter, the others will come crashing down.  And of course, hopefully no one’s feet smell.

The team, which arrived around 19h local time, was given a rousing welcome at the airport by fans (and police – even the police tried to get autographs), with Kaká, Cristiano and Iker Casillas causing hysteria.  At immigration, Iker was seen looking exhausted, while an officer checked Sergio’s passport then asked him to sign a ball.  Police officers and fans alike hounded the team as they walked through the terminal (some officers took pictures of the players while ushering them through the airport).  The team then shuttled off to the Sheraton hotel, where they were greeted by more fans, who shouted each player’s name as he passed by.  FP and his family has joined in on the fun for this trip, but not Zidane, who was also absent in Berlin, as he’s working back in Madrid.  This is Madrid’s third visit to China, after the tours of 2003 and 2005.

The expedition was made up of 65 persons: 25 players; five coaching staff members; three first team assistants (including Chendo and the team’s new chef); three fisios; two doctors; three members of the security team (one of them is just for Mou); four equipment managers; four marketing specialists; nine press officers; FP, his wife Pitina, their daughter and son-in-law; two directors (Nicolás Martín Sanz and Pedro López Giménez); and Emilio Butragueño.

The Sunshine has arrived.  I love his sneakers.

Aug. 1: Guangzhou

In the morning, Mou – wearing a backpack – did some shopping at an electronics market near the hotel, accompanied by his own personal security detail and his coaching staff, including Aitor Karanka.  Xabi, XIT, Adán and Sergio Ramos were also spotted around the electronics market.

Madrid started out their full agenda during their China trip (the poor players must have been exhausted by event after event in the hot, humid weather) on Monday.  FP helped to inaugurate a new Realmadrid Foundation school in Guangzhou, where he said, “China is one of the places most loved by Real Madrid for the affection we’ve always received.”  The players relieved their boredom by talking with each other.

I love how Iker put his arms around Sergio and Cris.  It’s great that he’s the goalkeeper, the one who gets to wear a different color shirt, because he’s always in the middle of everything and so he can bring a touch of color to all the white.

The players also participated in an hour-long football clinic organized by Adidas, where they got to hang out with kids and play against 109 of them.  The number was chosen because that’s the number of years Real Madrid has been in existence.  It reminded me of that tribute game organized by Athletic for Exteberria when he retired.

During the game, made up of two 10-minute halves, there were scenes such as six or so kids surrounding Arbeloa to steal the ball away, Marcelo doing his little tricks despite the 20 or so kids around him, shirt autographing at the half, and Xabi – who else? – breaking up fights.  ¡¡¡¡¡Muy jefe!!!!!

Luckily for us, we got to have two goalkeepers (The Saint and Jesús (jaja!) in the first half, Adán and Tomy in the second) defend the one goal.  But can you imagine if all 109 kids formed a wall?  Of course, the players were also very affectionate with the children.  Karim Benzema scored the first goal off a free kick, Nacho scored the second, and one of the kids also scored once.

Make that 110 children.  Or 111, if we also add Rafa Varane.

That was followed by the obligatory autograph session.  Kaká and Xabi Alonso also spoke to the press after the clinic, with Kaká calling the experience “very positive” and Xabi  saying that this year’s objective is to win titles.

Then it was on to the afternoon training session, which was attended by more than 4,000 fans.  The players did their normal exercises and finished with a partidillo, with almost every move being cheered on by the fans.  Once again, Cristiano, Kaká and Iker proved to be the favorites of the fans.  The session finished with the players sending souvenir balls into the stands.  The only negative notes were the injury to Esteban Granero, as he suffered a muscle injury due to a bruise and was under observation, and the sight of Nuri Sahin training alone in the morning.

It’s never too early to start the posing.

Mou had to silence the fans because his own players couldn’t hear him due to all the screaming from the stands.

The two captains spoke to the press after the session.  Iker said the team wasn’t here for marketing purposes, as “for us, all the games are important.  Each time Real Madrid plays a game, it has to win and this is the mentality with which we’ve come to China.”  Meanwhile, Sergio said he was “proud to be here.  The people are very appreciative, they have smiles on their faces, they’re friendly and that’s something to be thankful for.”  Both players, like Xabi Alonso earlier, refused to talk about the upcoming Supercopa against Barcelona, as they all said it was not the right time yet.  And Iker cracked up when one Chinese journalist said, “hola, me llamo Flamenca” (hello, my name is Flamenca).

Even after all that, the day still wasn’t over.  There was still a reception and dinner at the hotel with Guangzhou officials to go.  The team was also present for that, presiding over a raffle of team items to benefit charity and participating in an autograph session.

You want me to sign what???  Meanwhile, FP keeps an eye on his assets, one of which was looking very elegant.

Over in Romania, four of our canteranos – MFC ABMM, Pablo Sarabia, Álex and Dani Carvajal – became the U-19 champions of Europe, with ABMM also taking home the tournament’s pichichi award, with his six goals.

Aug. 2: Guangzhou

In the morning, José Mourinho was seen leaving the team’s hotel along with his assistants and several of the canteranos to take a ride around the city.  The rest of the players stayed in the hotel taking it easy, and after lunch, attended the inauguration of Evergrande’s (the team they were to play on Wednesday) sporting complex as the guests of honor.  The ceremony ended with our boys being showered in confetti.

Ángel, I miss Eze…

Cristiano and Marcelo Sunshine spoke to the press before the team’s training session.  As Cristiano is one of the most beloved players for the Chinese, his presence made the press room overflow.  However, the Chinese journalists may have been a bit disappointed, as Cristiano didn’t say much, was very serious and used short phrases to answer their questions.  When asked if a new forward would come, Cris responded, “you have to ask Mourinho or the president that, not me.  I have nothing to say about that.”  He also once again reiterated that the team is not thinking about the Supercopa (why do they keep asking about it?) and said Madrid has a “great team and a great coach.”  When asked what difference he saw in Guangzhou between when he visited with Manchester United and now, Cris responded, “it’s the same, it’s very hot and humid.”  He also said Kaká is looking “perfect” (in more ways than one, I assume) and that he does change diapers (¡vaya pregunta!) “sometimes, I think it’s normal, no?”  For his part, Marcelo Sunshine stressed the need to work hard “because the competition is tough” and also said the team is doing well.

That backpack really helps to make him look super tough.

Once again, Nuri Sahin did not train with his teammates.  Instead, he had a double session in the gym and got his knee tested out, and later showed up with it bandaged.  Esteban Granero also missed out, as he’s still recovering from his injury.  On the flip side, Ángel di María arrived and did get to train with his teammates.

Angelito told Madrid’s web site that “I’m very happy to be here with the teammates and begin the pre-season with them.  I have a lot of desire to begin working and for good things to come.”  He also said he’s been keeping up with the team so far this pre-season, and that he thinks they’re looking good (yes, they are Ángel, though we probably interpret “looking good” in different ways) and that the new players have adapted quickly.  He also said it was nice to be back in China, as “this country brings back good memories for me, since I became an Olympic champion with Argentina here three years ago.” 

Note the wedding ring!

Pedro Granero took the time to travel to Guangzhou to visit younger brother Esteban while the latter was in China with his team.  As we know, Pedro lives in Shanghai and has lived in China for many years, and has a Chinese wife.  He said Esteban loves coming to China to be with him, because he doesn’t get the chance to go back to Spain often.  Their hair couldn’t be more different, but the family resemblance is easy to spot!  Plus, the way they speak is similar, no?

Back in Madrid, our U-19 Euro champions Álex, Dani Carvajal, MFC Álvaro Borja Morata Martín and Pablo Sarabia arrived back in Madrid from Romania and went to Valdebabas to see their teammates and coaches, who have already started their pre-season.  They received their congratulations, and MFC and Álex partook in a light training session.  Dani suffered an injury to the muscle of his right thigh in the semifinals of the tournament and is out for about a month.  Álex said that, “they offered us a few days of rest, but we didn’t want to take them because we want to be with our team as soon as possible.”  Dani said he was feeling better, while MFC expressed his satisfaction that “we’ve shown that there is a cantera in Spain.  Now it’s time to work and give our all to our team.”

Aug. 3: Guangzhou

Madrid made it six out of six as they beat Guangzhou Evergrande 7-1 behind goals from Sami Khedira, Mesut Özil, Karim Benzema (x2), Cristiano, Jesé and Ángel di María in a game marked by the 35 degree temperature and 80 percent humidity.  For us fans, that’s good news, because the more they sweat, the more transparent their kits get.

Mesut and Sami are holding hands!!

As always, the best parts came before and after the game – Cris being affectionate with the children before the game started, and Sergio and Pepe removing their shirts once the game ended.

After the game, Mou was quick to downplay the rout, saying, “the most important thing in football is passion and here in China there is a lot of that.”  He also said that they won’t risk Nuri Sahin because they don’t want to lose any players 15 days before the season begins, so it was still unclear when he will make his debut with Madrid.  He also said the team is training hard and playing with a lot of intensity.  And I loved his line, “we’re not drunk with victories, we’re not stupid” meaning the team is taking even these light rivals seriously.

I know that some of your readers from Asia have said before that you have to stay up late into the night to watch Madrid play, so you might be interested in this.  When Mou was asked whether Madrid could play Liga games at earlier hours to make it easier for Asian fans to watch the games, he responded, “I’ve been informed about that, that we might play some games at 12h and others at 15h or 16h and I like that, not for economic or promotional reasons, which is not my area, but because for a team that plays so many games it’s one thing to play at 12h on Sunday and get home at 16h in the afternoon and another thing – as happened last year – to play at 22h and get home at three or four in the morning.  It’s much better for them and for us to have more recovery time.”

Meanwhile, Jesé was content with his first goal with the first team: “I’m happy to have scored my first goal with Real Madrid.  All of my teammates have congratulated me, but they’ve also told me that there’s still a lot left to do.  We’re all very happy with how well we played and for the affection from the Chinese fans.”

His Castilla teammates, meanwhile, got their first victory of the pre-season, after tying Parla and losing to Ávila, when they beat Madrid’s old nemesis Alcorcón behind goals from Joselu, Óscar Plano and Álex.  Dani Carvajal and MFC ABMM watched the game from the stands.  Rubén de la Red is there as well!

Aug. 4: Tianjin

This tour of China really was non-stop as Madrid flew to Tianjin – a flight of two and a half hours – right after the game with Guangzhou Evergrande ended, arriving in the municipality at three in the morning local time.  Despite the late hour (or early hour, in Spain), fans were waiting to greet them at the airport and at their hotel.  Once again, Kaká’s popularity with the females was made clear.

Cristiano and Mesut were the protagonists of this cute little anecdote.  One fan kept yelling for Cris’ hat, so in the end, he decided not to throw his own, but snatched off Mesut’s cap and pretended to throw it.  From the little we can see of Mesut’s reaction, it was hilarious and adorable.

After getting some hours of sleep, the hectic schedule continued as the team attended an autograph session, with the exception of Kaká and Ángel di María, who were at an Adidas event.  There, the two players showed off their skills, signed shirts and took photos with the fans.  In addition, all the players received a figurine representing their Chinese zodiac animal, which is based on what year they were born.

There are the most rabbits on Madrid (this year is coincidentally the year of the rabbit):  Mourinho, Adán, Khedira, Granero, Callejón, Benzema, Di María and Higuaín (plus Drenthe).  We also have three roosters (Iker, Xabi and Varane – Rafa is a full 12 years younger than Iker and Xabi), three dogs (Kaká, Arbeloa and Altintop), one pig (Pepe), one rat (Cristiano), two oxen (Albiol and Lass), three tigers (Peter Lion (jajaja!), Sergio and Gago), four dragons (Mesut, Coentrão, Marcelo, Sahin) and one horse (Carvalho).  There are no snakes, sheep (written in hindsight, as Sergio Canales is a sheep) or monkeys.  Which of the players most fit their Chinese zodiac animals?  I like Lass the ox, Sergio the tiger and Carvalho the horse, but Marcelo needs to be something more playful than a dragon and Mesut something more timid, and Mou something more intimidating than the rabbit.  I won’t go into the characteristics related to each animal, because that would be a whole separate post…

I love how true to life Mou’s rabbit is.  It even has the initials on the shirt!

In the training session, attended by 5,000 or so passionate fans, all the players with the exception of Nuri Sahin and Esteban Granero trained.  The players were also more comfortable, as it was much cooler and a lot less humid in Tianjin than in Guangzhou.  Those who started the game the previous day had a recovery session, while the rest had a more normal training session, which ended with a mini-game.

Forget Maradona, this is Pipita’s papá.

A dozen or so fans also tried to storm the field (cheered on by the crowd), and it took the combined efforts of Madrid’s own security team and the local police (who weren’t being very attentive) to stop them.  However, two of them were luckier than the rest.  These two were detained by Madrid’s security guard Jorge as they tried to get to Kaká to hug him, and sent off the field.  But Mou then “rescued” them and let them sit on the bench, even giving them some water.  So there they sat, watching the entire session unfold.  At the end of the session, Cris and Kaká threw their shirts into the crowds, causing mini-fights to break out as the fans fought over them.

The Portuguese-speaking contingent (Cris, Fábio, Pepe, Marcelo) also tried their hand (or feet, rather) at the new sport of football-curling!  There are so many great moments as a result, including Cris getting upset with how Marcelo was measuring things and appealing to Mou come in to mediate, and of course, Mou’s foot-length becomes the standard.  Don’t miss Cris’ reaction to his attempt, and Marcelo being hyper!

Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín were tasked with speaking to the press.  Karim was asked if he has a good understanding with Cristiano, to which he responded, “he’s a friend both on and off the field.  It’s true that I understand him very well and I will continue working hard for us to be able to understand each other better in the next few games.”  As for what has changed with respect to last year, Karim said, “the difference is that I feel much better now and I work very hard in the training sessions to have good games.”  I love this new attitude, but why wasn’t he working this hard in his first two years with Madrid?  Meanwhile, Gonzalo said he understood why the fans were so passionate: “it’s a country that doesn’t ever have the opportunity to see us and it’s normal that when we’re this close, these things happen.  There are no bad intentions, but it’s also the job of the security to defend the players.  If I were them, I would do the same thing.”

The day was closed off with an official reception and dinner with Tianjin officials, and the players were once again required to be present.  It must have been déjà vu for them, as there was once again a raffle and photo/autograph session.  As you can see, even Marcelo acted as photographer – luckily, he didn’t request that Cris put his thumb up.  Unfortunately, someone did ask that of Iker – or else he’s just so used to it it’s more of a reflex now whenever he sees a camera than anything else.

In other news, Madrid announced on Thursday that Sergio Canales will play with Valencia on loan for the next two seasons, with Valencia paying Madrid €1 million for each of those two seasons and the salary of the player, which is about €1.5 million gross per season.  Los Che also received the option to buy the rights to the player for €12 million after the first year, and he will sign a five-year contract with them if that happens.  However, Madrid retains the right to buy back the player for €14-15 million during the first year once the contract is signed, with that amount rising to €17 million in the second season.  There is also apparently the Morientes clause, which means that Sergio won’t be able to play against Madrid.  Sergio C. will join Valencia once he finishes playing with Spain’s U-20 team in the World Cup (where he’s doing fantastically, and not just on a horse).

Sergio said in declarations published on Valencia’s web site that “it’s a great satisfaction that a club like Valencia is interested in me.  It fills me with pride to go to Valencia and it’s where I wanted to play… It’s also an important step forward that will allow me to continue in the football elite.”  He also said he was excited to become teammates with Juan Mata because “I shared a locker room with him on the U-21 team and to me he’s a great footballer and person.  It will be a pleasure to coincide with him again.”  I hope Juanín says good things about Madrid to Sergio!  On his Facebook, Sergio said, “I’m very happy to sign for Valencia, a great team, with a great squad, a great coach and wonderful fans!  I hope to arrive in the Mestalla with the U-20 World Cup won!”  And he told Marca that he also knows Dani Parejo, so it’s good that he won’t be alone.

¡Mucha suerte Sergio!  I love Sergio, and I’m glad he’s going to go to a club where he’ll hopefully get playing time, mature and come back a new player.  However, this is bad news for Madrid, because on every team that has won a Champions League, they’ve had a player from Cantabria.  And now we no longer have one.  Hopefully La Décima won’t be affected!  It’s also sad to see us lose one more Spanish player, and a young, promising one at that.  FP promised to Spanish-fy the squad when he returned.  Instead, we’re going the other way and I don’t like that very much.

Aug. 5: Tianjin

Madrid continued preparations for their last game in China, with a training session in which everyone except El Pirata and Nuri Sahin participated (Nuri trained on his own).  There were the usual exercises, rondos and mini-game, as well as a shoot-out in which the goalkeepers had to stop an avalanche of balls.

The most expensive and talented bench in the world…

I love all three of these photos, but what was Xabi trying to accomplish?  New season, new poses?

Álvaro Arbeloa and Pepe spoke to the press, with the former saying “we’re very happy with how we have been received, we’ve been shown a lot of affection, and this is a wonderful experience.”  Álvaro also said the balance of the pre-season is positive, and that the team is more mature this year than last year.  Meanwhile, Pepe said they have a great team, and that the Portuguese and everyone else are helping Coentrão to adapt.

No.

Back in Madrid, Lass, Peter Lion and Drenthe continued with their particular pre-season at Valdebebas, while club officials worked hard to basically get rid of them.  Mou wants to see them gone before the team arrives back in Madrid, and if that’s not done, then Aug. 14 is the next deadline, before the first official game of the season.  Meanwhile, while Boca Juniors may have listed Fernando Gago on their roster for the Torneo Apertura, his agent says that means nothing, since the club hasn’t made any offer for Gago to Madrid, though his client’s desire is to return to Boca and he’s even willing to take a pay cut to do that.  Madrid, on the other hand, wants to sell him to the highest bidder.  If his situation is not resolved in the next week, he’ll return to Madrid to (sort of) join the team.

As for Castilla, our U-19 European champions spoke to the club’s web site about their experience in Romania and their hopes for this new season with Castilla.  Dani Carvajal said, “without a doubt, it’s been the most special moment of my sporting career.  The Copa de Campeones with Juvenil A was also very special, but winning this championship has been the maximum.”  MFC ABMM described it as “an incredible feeling.  After debuting with the first team, this has been the best thing that has happened to me and I’ve had the luck of being able to do it with friends.”  Meanwhile, Álex called it “the best experience” in his sporting career, and “along with my debut in Santander, this has been the most special moment of my life.”

Adorable, all around.

As for Castilla, Álex said the goal this year is to be promoted to the second division by being champions of their division and getting promoted automatically, instead of having to go through a playoff series.  Dani echoed this sentiment, saying that they will fight to win the league and ascend.

Madrid also announced that Castilla’s Fran Rico has been sold to Granada.  ¡Suerte, capi!

And several international call-up lists were announced for the friendlies next week.  Vicente del Bosque called up his usual Madrid five (Iker, Sergio, Albiol, Arbeloa and Xabi) for Spain, Paulo Bento called up their four (Cris, Pepe, Carvalho and Coentrão) to play Luxembourg and Laurent Blanc called up Karim Benzema for the game against Chile.  Rafa Varane has also been called up for a three-day French U-21 team concentración.  Meanwhile, Germany decided to give Mesut and Sami a rest, with Joachim Löw doing Mou a big favor by letting these two rest before the all-important Supercopa first leg game.  It’s not the first time the German national team coach has been nice to Mou – back in March, he also “liberated” these two players from a friendly after Mou called him to ask him to do that, perhaps because he knows how much both of them have evolved as footballers since going to Madrid.

Aug. 6: Tianjin

Another goalfest to close out the pre-season: Madrid beat Tianjin Teda 6-0 behind goals from Kaká, Di María, Higuaín, Cristiano and Benzema (x2).  Sergio Ramos suffered a recurrence of the back problems he had in Los Angeles and had to be subbed out of the game.  Meanwhile, Mou entered the field to calm things down after Fábio Coentrão received a very ugly elbow from Tianjin’s Luciano Olguín.

He’s obviously trying to get some rays of sun there.

The anecdote from the game came when Iker, despite being on the field, was not the team captain.  He had started the game from the bench, so Sergio Ramos was the captain during the first half.  After Sergio left the game in the 39th minute, the armband was passed on to Higuaín.  Pipita wore it until he was subbed out in the 68th minute, and it went to Marcelo, instead of its real owner, Iker, who was already on the field as he had come on during the half.

And once again, the best moment came after the game.  Thanks to reader C who sent this in.

At the postgame press conference, Mou revealed that he was “a bit” concerned about Sergio: “I thought that Sergio, after the tests in Los Angeles, would be fine, but with so much traveling, airplane rides, the bad state of the field, he didn’t have luck [perhaps the insane amount of events in China had something to do with it too?].  He hasn’t had a good start to the pre-season in this sense and we’ll see if he can get to the Supercopa because there’s still a week.”

What a life.  Getting paid to stare at Sergio’s ass and while his uniform is transparent.  The touching is an added bonus!

Mou also said the team has achieved its objectives for the pre-season and maintained Real Madrid’s good name because “the players didn’t joke around and played seriously.”

Mou also wanted to clear something up.  After the game in Guangzhou, he had mentioned something about having a short squad (his exact words translated by me are: we have a good squad, but we have a short squad).  When asked about this statement, he responded (in English): “A good question.  A few days ago, I answered the question in Spanish, the same question in Spanish, but the Spanish press didn’t understand my answer, or because they don’t want or because they don’t like my answer, so they transform everything the way they want.  So maybe they understand better my English because my English is better than my Spanish.  And I’m going to answer you and at the same time maybe they can understand now.  We have a short squad but it’s my decision that the squad is short, because I want a squad of 20 players, no more, with the risks a short squad has, but with the good things a short squad has.  The good things are: competitive, everybody feels part of it so I hope tomorrow I don’t read again ‘Mourinho wants more players.’  Because I don’t want more players.  I’m happy with the short squad I have, with the good things and the bad things.  Thank you for the chance to speak in English, because I speak English better than Spanish.”  Jajaja!  But I don’t know how his words could have been misinterpreted, because he clearly said, “… but we have a short squad” to which he added that they don’t have the luxury to risk people.  That doesn’t sound like he what he wanted is only 20 players, no?

Exactly what Mou wants.

As soon as the game was over, Madrid headed to the airport to go back to Madrid.

Aug. 7 and on: Madrid

They arrived at seven in the morning Madrid time after a 15-hour long flight, with a stop in Baku, Azerbaijan.  The players all looked exhausted as they walked from the terminal onto the bus.  I’m sure the players are all happy to be at home again, though some of them won’t be for long as they have international duty on Monday.  The rest of the team will return to training on Wednesday at 17h.

Would you rather have a picture with Raúl Albiol with that expression on his face, or no picture at all?  I think I would go for the latter.  Poor Raúl was probably “agotado.”

Castilla beat Tenerife 4-1 after a penalty shootout (there were no goals scored in regulation) to take home the Trofeo Teide.  MFC ABMM was chosen as the best player of the tournament.

And Álvaro tweeted this photo him and “the greatest” – Esteban Granero.

AS reported that Nuri Sahin will be out for another 15 days, and that there is no set date for his return, following an injury to his left knee.  Meanwhile, Esteban Granero has fully recovered from the bruise that kept him out of the two friendlies in China, and is available to play in the Supercopa.

In an interview re-published by AS, Karim Benzema said that “I’ve acquired a lot of experience in Madrid.  I’m now forming part of what are called the veterans [it says a lot about Madrid that a third-year player is a veteran].  I get along well with everyone.  For example, with Cristiano.  We laugh and we talk a lot.  He’s really a good friend and he gives me a lot of advice.”  As for his physical state, Karim revealed that he’s seven kilos lighter than he was at this point last season, and that he’s now at his ideal weight.

We also found out the day and time of the first Liga game, though we already knew the opponent, Athletic (!!!).  Madrid’s 2011-12 Liga debut will be on Sunday, Aug. 21 at 18h.  I can’t wait to see my Madrid boys AND my Athletic boys, including one Javi Martínez (!!!)!  Jornada 2 has us away to Zaragoza (and MSFC Juan Carlos and David Mateos) on Aug. 28 at 20h.

Other things:

– the 33rd edition of hte Trofeo Santiago Bernabéu will take place on Aug. 24, and the rival is Galatasaray.  Kick-off time is 22:30h.

– this has no meaning whatsoever, but Madrid won the World Football Challenge 2011, beating Manchester United out for the top spot.  Both teams finished with 17 points, but Madrid had a better goal difference (7 to 6) so they took the theoretical crown.

– a fun video of Nuri Sahin and an original football trick during his days with Dortmund.

– watch Kaká and Carol’s music video for their song “Presente de Deus” here.  It’s nice to see Ricky has a backup career, since football doesn’t seem to be going so well for him at the moment.

– after their civil ceremony in Buenos Aires, Fernando Gago and Gisela Dulko also tied the knot in a religious ceremony on July 30 in the Parroquia Santiago Apostol.  Gisela arrived at the church on the arm of her brother and coach Alejandro (her father died in a plane accident when she was 11), wearing a dress by Argentine designer Sylvie Burstin.  Her mother Ana and grandparents Amalia and Domingo were also there.  For his part, Fernando was accompanied by his brothers Guillermo and Pablo, and his mother Alicia (his father Héctor passed away in 2005).  Alicia told the press, “they’re very happy and very much in love; they make a beautiful couple.  I still remember the day when he came, took me to his house and told me, ‘this is my girlfriend, mamá.’  I didn’t know who she was.  Later on, I found out she was a tennis player.  I don’t follow sports; don’t even ask me about football because I don’t know anything.”

And two tweets from Gisela (I wonder why she and Fer no longer share an account?).  On the left, Gisela tweeted after their civil ceremony, “I’m full of love and joy.”  On the right, after their religious ceremony, “yesterday was the most beautiful day of my life!  Thanks to my friends, my family and especially my husband for making me so happy!!!!”

– over in Rosario, Ángel di María married Jorgelina Cardoso (who is six years older than her now husband) in the city’s cathedral on the same day as Fernando and Gisela’s wedding, July 30.  Leo Messi was invited to the wedding, and Giannina Maradona and son Benjamín (whose father is – yay! – the non-Real Madrid player Kun Agüero) were present.  Following the ceremony, Jorgelina said to ¡Hola! Argentina, “Ángel is out of this world.  I’ve never known a man like that, so transparent and good.  We’re very happy, more in love than ever.”  They also expressed their desire to start a family soon.  The reception was held in the Metropolitano, but there wasn’t time for a honeymoon, as a few hours later, Ángel was jetting off to join his team in China.  The happy couple met more than two years ago, through a cousin.  They exchanged many emails and chats before they ever met, and a short time later, Ángel invited Jorgelina to go with him to Portugal, where he was playing for Benfica.  They moved to Madrid after he signed with Real Madrid.

– in an interview with goal.com, former Madrid player Carlos Diogo (remember him?  I barely do, since he’s one of those players that never made an impact on the team or on me) was asked which player caught his attention for being a normal person off the field.  His response: “Zidane.  Zidane because he was a very normal guy, very tranquil.  Sometimes he got riled up like everyone else, but he was what you saw.  He’s one of those people that you quickly see is a good person… For me, he was one of the best in Madrid.  As a player, he’s a crack.  As a person, very humble.  The truth was he was one of the best teammates.”

– in an interview with ¡Hola!, Carlota Ruiz, wife of Álvaro Arbeloa, told the magazine that in the future, she’d like to do something related to what she has studied: teaching and speech therapy.  She also revealed that she likes to ask Álvaro’s opinion on things because “he has a good eye and he usually gets things right” [very true, no?], and that she gets along “phenomenally” with Alicia and Nagore, because she knew them even before their husbands all signed with Madrid.  Carlota, like Alicia, is the current face of jeweler Yanes.

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49 Comments leave one →
  1. mschili permalink
    August 9, 2011 16:55

    wow this post must’ve been a lot of work. thanks!

  2. Jenny permalink
    August 9, 2011 16:55

    Beautiful, perfect roundup! So lovely! I can’t imagine the work that went into it.

  3. kiki permalink
    August 9, 2011 17:01

    I’m overwhelmed Una!!!!! I’m overcome!!!!!! I love you!!!!!! This post has me swooning in so many ways I cannot even formulate a complete response to it!!!!! You make me VERY HAPPY!!!! MUY JEFE BABYGUUUURRL!!!!!!

  4. Louise permalink
    August 9, 2011 17:02

    Wow, thank you for the exhaustive review! Just what I needed today!

  5. August 9, 2011 17:16

    Yay you are back!! I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation , mine is over 😦 .It’s such a large wonderful post but I cannot comment on everything.

    1- I feel their pain with long distance flying, I hate it even when my company books me in business, jet lag is horrible.
    2- Marcelo is so cute, ray of sunshine, source of joy etc 🙂 My love for him has grown a lot since he joined.
    3- I guess Mou will continue to give interesting press conferences this season.

    Una, do you know if Diego Torres of El País is a credible journalist? Its just that when you read what he writes he seems to dislike Mou or something and today his article was about Iker, that he is wanted and not in pressure in the national team whereas its a different story in Madrid where Mou and others don’t want him to be captain. Is/Was Iker in danger of loosing it, despite Mou’s assurance that he will not touch the captaincy?

    BTW: Iker is the best thing that happened to facebook. His google translated English is so funny.

    • Laryssa permalink
      August 12, 2011 15:15

      I don’t live in Spain, but I always read El Pais and I think Diego Torres has a personal issue with Mourinho and Real Madrid. His reports about the club are always tendentious, negative and I honestly doubt about his sources.

  6. August 9, 2011 18:49

    Yet again, Amazing job Una!! I love it, thank you for keeping us Madridistas updated all the time 😀

  7. jenkin permalink
    August 9, 2011 19:23

    WWWWOOOOW what a great post!! I’ve been on vacation too, and thought I had missed everything, so thanks!!!

  8. ramoss permalink
    August 9, 2011 19:38

    its about time we got a post, we missed ya!!!

  9. August 9, 2011 19:42

    wow Una that was some long but very entertaining story! 🙂 Thank you so much. Theres no way not to love our players!!!! So missed you! Hope you had some great holidays though! 🙂

  10. mokia permalink
    August 9, 2011 20:12

    Your Back!!! 😀 <3<3<3<3 haha

  11. Maddi permalink
    August 9, 2011 20:18

    Una!!!!!!!! You’re back!!!!!!!! I’ve missed you!!!!!!!!!!!
    Felicidades to Fer&Gisela and Angel&Jorgelina! They all look so fantastic and cute together! Gago sounds so sweet and I love Gisela’s hair. And poor Jorgelina, Angel’s been so busy this summer!

    I’m glad we’ll still see some of Fran this season when we play Granada. Hopefully they can stay up so we can see even more him. !Buena suerte!

  12. Dina permalink
    August 9, 2011 21:27

    No Mou said the following: “Es una plantilla corta por OPCION” (it’s a short squad for OPTION”! sounded pretty clear to me…the spanish press likes to make events of actual non-events 🙂

  13. Iram permalink
    August 9, 2011 21:28

    God bless you Una (and your tired fingers) for such a wonderful post. You are a sweetheart for giving us so much to read- esp when u r on vacation. Hope u r having a lot of fun.

    I loved the clip where Xabi is breaking up the kid-fight, I loved all pics that included his handsomness. I’m glad RM is having a terrific pre-season. That’s always a good sign of things to follow.

  14. Alyssa permalink
    August 9, 2011 21:43

    There are far too many things I love about this post to tell you what they all are so I’ll just share my absolute favs. First, I laughed for about 5 minutes when I read “the saint and Jesús” hahahahaha! And second, that photo of Kaká and Xabi. I absolutely love seeing such a big smile on Kaká’s face! We don’t see it often enough recently but it makes me all warm and tingly on the inside :).

  15. Laura permalink
    August 9, 2011 21:50

    Thanks for the great update! So helpful to have everything grouped together like this, it’s been a very eventful time!

    As to Gisela’s twitter, the impression I got is that she created an account for only herself initially to promote her tennis academy, and then just kept tweeting with that one. She’s also stopped using the account she’d shared with doubles partner Flavia Pennetta.

  16. August 9, 2011 23:07

    I just have to add that I think the Chinese zodiac animals are lovely! And I agree with you Marcelo and dragon don’t fit!
    XIT’s brother looks a lot like him except for the hair.
    Congrats to the newlyweds 🙂

    Does anyone have the ‘ hola, me llamo Flamenca ‘ moment video?

  17. Zparklemotion permalink
    August 9, 2011 23:34

    Aaaah, you are amay-sing!! I’ve missed a lot of the pre-season because of vacation/moving etc, so this was wonderful and helped me catch up with this wonderful team ❤ Thank you so much!

  18. August 10, 2011 00:33

    as usual great post keep up the good work 🙂 went to c the madrid leicester game one of the greatest days ever cnt wait for the new season hala madrid!!!

  19. Lindsaay permalink
    August 10, 2011 00:41

    Ah, I’ve missed the Xabi Alonso Posing Section.

  20. August 10, 2011 00:56

    thank god you’re back. thought i lost u forever.
    fantastic as always. thank you.
    next time please notify us when you’re taking a trip.

    • August 11, 2011 17:12

      She did let us know, and I’m sure it was a long overdue vacation! Muchas gracias, Una, for all your hard work upon return….I’m usually exhausted after a vacation, which I couldn’t afford to take this year, umfortunately. All the more reason to live vicariously through my favorite futbollers 🙂 I know we were all ready for some Sergio!

    • arshjot permalink
      August 12, 2011 08:28

      She did notify

  21. @ulonghaz permalink
    August 10, 2011 02:41

    UNA! so glad to have you back..
    my life is not complete without your post
    😀

  22. Pei Ye permalink
    August 10, 2011 03:43

    It is heartwarming to see Xabi breaking up a fight. So fatherly! I wish they come to my country though. And I hope things go well for Sergio Ramos.

  23. black widow permalink
    August 10, 2011 04:32

    it is so nice to have you back! welcome back! and thank you for that massive post on your first day. you were missed! 🙂

  24. HermosaChica permalink
    August 10, 2011 05:04

    Boy, Jese’s hand is just RIGHT on that area of Angel’s backside, isn’t it..

    Welcome back, Una! Gracias for the super post. 😀

  25. jean permalink
    August 10, 2011 06:24

    Wow this is a long post:)
    I hope you had a great vacation Una:)
    I love the pic of Marcelo and cris with that Chinese fan:)
    Ok What is it with the thumbs up? All the time? Is there a special meaning behind it?(Im being sarcastic).
    Poor Kaka I like him:(. His situation makes me sad and to think that we had huge hope.Hopefully things are going to get better for him because Im afraid that if he continues like this , we are going to sell him.
    Shirtless players:) I think that our team is the sexiest club in football.
    Im looking forward to the first classico of this year.Hopefully we will not see some behavior of the past(Im optimistic).
    Oh and I think that Fabio C. is a good addition to the team.I like him already.

  26. Hala_Madrid permalink
    August 10, 2011 07:22

    UNA i missed you with all my heart. Don’t take vacations too often please i know you deserve them but don’t torture us like that any more lol. A lot going on while you were gone i was so happy to read your long post. Your posts always brighten my day. We love you UNA thanks for updating us with our favorite boys in the world. They all looks so good now damn!

  27. August 10, 2011 07:31

    yea. you are back ❤

  28. Sam permalink
    August 10, 2011 07:35

    Hope you had a great vacation!

    p.s. please don’t leave us again (at least not for so long)… :-p

  29. August 10, 2011 07:40

    Thank you so much for this post Una. I hope that your vacation is going well for you!! I’ve been keeping up with info about my team, but this is the icing on the cake for me! This must have taken so much of time and effort to put together, (especially while you are on holiday!) and I really appreciate it so much! *hugs*

    PS: Living in the timezone that I am in, I used to get up at 1AM to watch most matches live till 3:30AM – on a working day. LOL what can I say, my team is worth the loss of sleep!

  30. Buckhum permalink
    August 10, 2011 07:52

    Thank you for your effort in ‘following Real Madrid’
    Your work is much appreciated.

  31. August 10, 2011 07:53

    4 days till the Supercopa and new season in just over a week … well 248 hours (not that I am counting).

  32. Sean permalink
    August 10, 2011 08:25

    Really enjoyed reading the long post, it’s great to read about the players and waht happens off the field. It would be really cool, if Real Madrid had a V-Log for every week. I hope Sahin recovery’s fast, he has been injured for a few months now, and once he is on the field, he will be a rising superstar. Have a great day friend.

  33. Sr421 permalink
    August 10, 2011 08:29

    Thank you Una so much for the massive update, it must’ve taken you ages!! Hope the rest of your vacation goes smoothly! 🙂

  34. wandering permalink
    August 10, 2011 09:22

    Wow Una! You’re the best! 🙂

    I am quite excited for the new season especially with Coentrao and Rafa as new signings. I wish Canales didn’t have to go. Was there a time when he appeared belligerent to how Mou handled the team? I noticed TSO wants high competitiveness from his players, does that mean Canales and the Lion weren’t giving their all last season? 😦

    Good luck covering the upcoming season! 😀

  35. Real Madrid permalink
    August 10, 2011 14:14

    Welcome back Una.

  36. Sarah, Madrid permalink
    August 10, 2011 16:39

    Oh Una! we missed you, thank you for this lovely post. Hope you enjoyed ( enjoying) your vacation :).

  37. Gilly B permalink
    August 10, 2011 17:34

    Hope you had a lovely vacation Una, and great having you back!

  38. August 10, 2011 18:30

    That was good read, thanks.

  39. Tash permalink
    August 10, 2011 19:13

    Thanks for the detailed catch-up post…you were missed!!

  40. Camera25 permalink
    August 10, 2011 22:47

    Una, it’s good to have you back!

    Jorgelina and Gisela look so beautiful. Congrats to them and to Angel and Fernando.

  41. Jennie Culhane permalink
    August 11, 2011 06:19

    What a beautiful video of Kaka and Carol. They make a beautiful couple.

  42. marie permalink
    August 11, 2011 12:26

    wow i missed you!

  43. superfan permalink
    August 11, 2011 15:19

    You’re back!!!! 🙂 I’m sure I’m not the only who’ve missed your posts. I hope you had (or still have) an awesome vacation.

    Anyway, thank you so much for taking the time off of your vacation to summarize the things that have happened in the wonderful world of Real Madrid.

    It’s really good news if the game time would be moved to earlier times so it wouldn’t be during the wee hours of the morning here, but I (and I’m sure others too) honestly don’t mind waking up earlier than usual (or not sleeping at all. haha).

    And, Supercopa’s just around the corner!! Aaaaahhhh. We can do this!

    And like you, I am also excited for this season. I can feel that it’s going to be much better than the last. 🙂

  44. August 11, 2011 20:31

    WOW, what a great post UnaMadridista! Thanks! It sumes the recent events perfectly and you absolutely chose the best pictures!!!!

    I hope you are enjoying the rest of your vacation!

  45. asma permalink
    August 12, 2011 00:56

    Welcome back Una! How was your vacation? I hope you had a lovely time and was able to relax and enjoy yourself to the max. What a great effort to produce this long post. It is much appreciated, thanks so much. We are absolutely lost without you, sure we can read the news from other sources but it is just not the same. If there’s a sad news, I rather hear (read) it from you. Somehow you make everything feels so much better. Gracias amigo!

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