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take a deep breath…

August 11, 2011

Most of us have been waiting since the end of last season for this new season to start, but we’ll have to be patient a bit longer, as the AFE (Association of Spanish Footballers) have called a strike for first and second division players during the first two jornadas of the 2011-12 season.  Luis Rubiales, the president of the association, said, “the footballers have united and we said ‘enough.’  All the footballers of the first and second divisions have taken the responsible, firm and unanimous decision to call a strike for the first two jornadas of the Liga BBVA and the Liga Adelante.  There won’t be any Liga until a new collective bargaining agreement is signed.”  Among the players at the press conference in at the Hotel Hesperia in Madrid were AFE vice president Iker Casillas, Álvaro Arbeloa, Raúl Albiol and Xabi Alonso, as well as Carles Puyol, Juan Mata, Fernando Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Javi Martínez (no exclamation marks – this is serious stuff, even Javi wasn’t fidgeting, though I have to say Xabi was looking muy jefe), along with 100 or so other players representing all 42 clubs in the first and second divisions.

More on this, plus all the other Madrid news from the past several days!

The association will continue to negotiate to get an agreement signed, although the strike may be extended if there is a lack of agreement.  What the players want in the agreement is basically to get paid: a larger wage fund for players who are not getting paid (they believe the one approved by the LFP for €40 million until 2015 is not enough) and preventative measures so that clubs unable to pay their players will not be able to compete.  Right now, 200 players are owed about €50 million by their clubs, up from 100 players and €12 million last year.  There are six insolvent clubs in the first division.

I love this picture so much.

Iker has expressed his support for the AFE’s decision, reiterating that “there won’t be any football until there is a new agreement.  I believe that you have to show solidarity with those who are suffering, the numbers are there.  Luis spoke for everyone and we’re with him until death.  I can assure you that we’re not going to play.”  Iker also added that they’re going to try and continue to reach an agreement, so that football can be played, although it will be difficult.

I support the players and I do believe some changes are desperately needed, after hearing so many stories last year about players not being paid, or fans having to raise money to pay their team’s electricity bill.  And it’s great to see that clubs such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, who aren’t in this dire situation, are also in support, though we were missing the AFE’s other vice president, David Villa.  But I’m going to be selfish for just one second, and say, I’m not going to get to see Javi on Aug. 21????????????  Okay, selfish moment over.

In other news, Madrid was back in training yesterday, although Pipita Higuaín and Ángel di María have spent the last several days training with Castilla, to get back in shape (and Sami Khedira took the time to go to Saint Tropez with girlfriend Lena).  Wednesday’s session was missing a lot of footballers, including the ten internationals, as well as the injured Sergio Ramos, Esteban Granero and Nuri Sahin, who did their own specific recovery work.  That left only 14 footballers out on the field, eight from the first team and six canteranos: Mejías, Isaac and Mandi from Castilla and Diego, Iván Sáez and Carmona from Juvenil A.  Today’s session will be at 17h again and with the international players.

(By the way, I think there may have been some confusion in a previous post when I referred to Marcelo as “Marcelo Sunshine.”  The way I wrote it – which I have since changed – could have been interpreted as quoting Iker as calling Marcelo “Marcelo Sunshine.”  Unfortunately, he did not, and the nickname is from me.  Sorry about that.)

Fernando Gago was also due at Valdebebas, as the club’s doctors want to check out the injury he suffered in the Copa América.  The club had left him do part of his recovery work back in Argentina as long as he was back in Madrid on Aug. 10.  However, his stay in the capital should be short, as he has a cross next to his name in Mou’s notebook and needs to find a new club.

Our international players, meanwhile, had mixed success during the international break yesterday.  Portugal beat Luxembourg 5-0, with Cris and Fábio Coentrão scoring the second and third goals for the Portuguese, respectively.  These two and Pepe started the game, with Coentrão playing the whole match and Pepe and Cris just the first half.  Ricardo Carvalho played the entire second half.  Karim Benzema helped France to tie Chile 1-1, assisting Remy’s goal before leaving the game in the 65th minute.

And in Italy, Xabi Alonso scored off a penalty as Spain fell 1-2 to host Italy.  The A-team played the entire game, while Iker played one half.  You know, it takes talent to sum up everything one’s team is feeling in a single pose, but Xabi – unsurprisingly – manages to do that.  What a man (we’ll overlook the wet part of his shorts).

And Castilla tied Guadalajara 2-2 behind goals from Juanfran – sporting a new hairstyle, or lack of – and Joselu.  Jesús, Nacho and Jesé played for the first time this pre-season.  Castilla has one more friendly before the season starts, against Gimnástica Torrelavega on Aug. 13.

I love the way they celebrated!

And AS has reported that this season’s second Champions League kit and third Liga one will be red!  I like it, since red is my favorite color.  However, the names and numbers will not be edged in gold, unlike the white kits.  The socks will also be white.  Meanwhile, Iker’s second kit will be black.  So far, we’ve only seen Iker wear yellow.  AS also tells us that Madrid has worn red three times in their 109 years of history: twice in 1970-71 and once in 1972-73.

In an interview with L’Equipe, Rafa Varane spoke about life with Madrid, Mou and being the new Hierro.  Excerpts from the interview below.

What has been more difficult: signing with Madrid or passing the Baccalaureate in economics?

(Laughs) Perhaps it was more complicated to sign with Madrid, because there are a lot less people that can sign for this team than able to pass the Baccalaureate this year, no?

What was your reaction the first time you heard about Madrid’s interest?

It was: ¡Guau!  What is this?  Is it serious?  What’s the project like?  I was curious to know what Madrid had in mind for me.

What made you choose Madrid?

The choice was quite simple, because in Paris, it wasn’t the coach that wanted me, but rather the new shareholders.  If the coach of PSG had come to see me and said, “this is my project for you…,” perhaps I wouldn’t have thought any more.  The situation there is not clear however.

Did José Mourinho play a key role in your signing?

Before signing the contract, I traveled to Madrid to get to know him and he told me, “if you come to Madrid, it’s to form part of a group and not to be loaned out.”  He was very direct with me about this.  And it’s true that when Mourinho tells you something like that, you feel much more secure.

Rafa looks much better with the short hair, no?

In the moment that you made your decision, were you conscious of how big Madrid is?

Perhaps not in all the senses.  When I arrived at Barajas, someone told me, “you’ll see some journalists, but don’t worry.”  I got off the airplane and there were 60 or 70 journalists.  In that moment, I told myself, “Ok.  Now I understand where I am: I’m with Real Madrid.”

There are some people in Spain who refer to you as the new Hierro.

Saying that of me is flattering, but it’s too soon.  Imagine, I’m 18 years old, I just arrived in Madrid and I’m already being compared to Hierro, a legend, and I make the front pages…  They speak of me as a great footballer but I haven’t done anything yet.  But I’m not going to lie, I’m content (laughs).

How has Mourinho treated you?

In reality, it corresponds to the image that I had of him.  He’s quite paternal.  It’s the same with the majority of the leaders in the locker room, such as Ramos, Xabi Alonso or Carvalho.  You can tell that they want to help me and that’s important.

Do you have any contact with Zidane?

I see him often.  He gives me advice about how to integrate into the group.  He says to me, “you don’t have any reason to be shy.  The fact that you come from Lens does not oblige you to be reserved.”

And in a little video with Nike, Nuri Sahin – this is the most we’ve seen of him since he signed with Madrid – says that he likes the city of Madrid a lot [my opinion of him has immediately gotten better], he’s adapted quickly to the lifestyle, and that’s he’s already visited Cibeles with his brother, since he knows that’s where Madrid celebrates its victories!  Watch it here.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2011 18:08

    I miss my team soooooo much!

  2. Pipita permalink
    August 11, 2011 18:27

    Adan actually wore the black second kit during a game, I think it was against Leicester.

    And it’s kind of funny that Verdasco also shaved his head recentley, they look more then ever like twins now!

  3. kiki permalink
    August 11, 2011 19:29

    Very proud of all these big stars (oh, Iker & Xabi I cannot love you more) for standing up for those less fortunate players.

    Thanks again for everything you do Una!♥

  4. camille permalink
    August 11, 2011 22:04

    200 players owed 50 million euros?! That’s an average of 250,000 euros per player. Outrageous. I had no idea the situation was so bad. I’m glad that the players are standing in solidarity.

  5. anonymous permalink
    August 11, 2011 23:12

    has super copa match also been called off?

  6. August 11, 2011 23:44

    i see you, sleepy santi.
    afterwards, puyi tweeted that he was having lunch with floris. would have been nice if la roja all had lunch together but… too much to ask.

  7. jean permalink
    August 12, 2011 00:41

    Lovely post!
    Does it mean that we wont have a classico this weekend?
    I cant wait to see Sahin play:)

  8. debsen permalink
    August 12, 2011 02:23

    I love that picture of Iker too! (with Javi in the background)! Looks like they broke up the tension at some point with this cute pic.

  9. black widow permalink
    August 12, 2011 03:47

    at first, i couldn’t understand why you wrote “i love this picture so much” … i thought, well, it’s not a particularly flattering picture of iker, he looks sort of dazed and bored and tired … but okay, to each her own! but of course, i was so fixated on my iker that it took me a full 2 minutes to realise who was in the background (!!!). hahaha! i get it now. 🙂

  10. emily permalink
    August 12, 2011 20:31

    Here in the US, some of the professional leagues participate in ‘Revenue sharing’. By-laws state that the richer teams pay TV, ticket and merchandise revenue into a coffer that then distributes this money to the ‘small market’ clubs. Maybe this is a process that should be looked into over there. But, even Barca is in some financial trouble, too. They have had to close down some of their sports programs to stop losing money. Sad to see the process blowing up so badly that we may lose some games as a result, but it does need to be fixed.
    Incidently, it would appear that Santi has fallen asleep in that first photo!
    Is anyone surprised to hear that Gago is injured?

  11. August 13, 2011 05:28

    Iker looks so cute when he’s daydreaming ;p

    and well,,it’s so surprise that in this season Madrid will wear red jersey..but it’s ok..
    red spirit!!

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