ICYMI – the bit of everything edition
In case you missed it – Ajax (or Ay-jax, as Marcelo says) vs. Real Madrid [2011-12-07, Champions League group stage, 0-3].
Madrid achieved its objective, going unbeaten in the group stage, making it 18 points out of 18, and a +17 goal differential. This was also Madrid’s 15th consecutive win, which puts us psychologically in a good position for this weekend’s game against Barcelona.
ONE. The highlight of the game, other than José Callejón’s performance, was the moment when Mou went over to the bench to say something to the boys. Once he had left, Mesut made a gesture like “¿está loco?” at Ángel di María, which caused the latter to crack up.
Here are those moments in picture form. Karim Benzema obviously did not find it too amusing.
TWO. I should have tuned in earlier, because there was a boy band providing the opening act for the two teams.
THREE. One of my favorite bromances was responsible for all three goals on the night. It’s great to see José and Gonzalo taking advantage of each opportunity they get.
In the first goal, José’s aim was so good that he hit the lone objects in the goal, the goalkeeper’s water bottles.
As for his goal celebrations, Calleti explained, “a relative of mine passed away, I wasn’t able to go to the funeral and the goals are for him.”
FOUR. For the first time, Gonzalo Higuaín wore the captain’s armband from the first minute of the game, as the other captains – Iker, Sergio and Marcelo – had not traveled to Amsterdam. And I loved the sponsor-free shirts! I wish they could wear them all the time. It reminds me of the centennial season.
Gonzalo was acting the part of the captain, not only doing the coin toss, but also offering his teammates encouragement and advice, as we can see here with Antonio Adán and Karim Benzema.
FIVE. Álvaro gave us a tantalizing glimpse of his abs when he lifted his shirt to wipe the ball…
… while Karim showed off everything when he exchanged his shirt at the half with Ajax defender Gregory van der Wiel.
SIX. At one point, Gonzalo Higuaín went over to Mou to comment on something (look at Xabi posing in the foreground), while earlier, Mou had many things to tell his field general Xabi Alonso before he entered the game.
Before the game started, Mou had done the same with Esteban Granero.
SEVEN. Pedro Mendes is the 11th canterano to debut under Mou, after Jesús, Joselu, Mejías, Álex, Juan Carlos, Mateos, Adán, Sarabia, Nacho and MFC ABMM. Now if only some of them could get regular playing time with the first team… A debut is nice, but when it becomes the only opportunity one has to play with the first team, then it’s really just an afterthought and not anything substantial. That’s why I hate it when the Madrid web site and others talk about how many canteranos have debuted under Mou (or whatever coach). A debut in a game that means nothing is nothing. Getting steady playing time and a permanent promotion to the first team is the real deal. Anyway, both Denis and MFC ABMM congratulated Pedro on his debut.
Of note: José Mourinho chose to debut Pedro Mendes ahead of Jesé. He explained why during his press conference (below), but since nothing was at stake, I’m not entirely convinced. To recap, Mendes is not Alberto Toril’s first choice in Castilla, and he’s barely gotten any playing time since joining the team this season. Despite this, he’s inscribed with the first team on the Champions League roster. Jesé, on the other hand, is a product of the cantera and has exploded in his first season at Castilla, after being promoted from Juvenil A. Thus, the message seems to be that sometimes what matters is who you know (Pedro Mendes is represented by Jorge Mendes) and not how you perform. These boys deserve more chances and better treatment.
RMC forward Fran Sol got himself into a bit of trouble over this very issue. A message appeared on his twitter yesterday, reading, “in the cantera, we’re upset and that shows favoritism.” Shortly after, the tweet was erased and Fran explained what had happened, that a friend had taken his mobile phone and tweeted that message. Fran’s tweets read, “I’m sorry for everything that happened. My friend Ismael took my phone and he made these declarations because he’s upset with the situation in Real Madrid. I have good judgment and I would never think this, much less tweet about it. I’m explaining the crap he got himself into trying to “help” me. Some people have insulted me and I want to stress that these words did not come from my fingers because I am a player for the best club in the world and I would never question anything as important as the meritocracy of the team that I love, and I’m one of the staunchest supporters of Real Madrid CF. This happened because my telephone doesn’t require a password to enter into twitter. Real Madrid has made me the person I am and it has instilled in me the values of humility, hard work, ambition, honor and the colors of this shirt. I feel sad that there are people who have insulted me and questioned my commitment to Real Madrid, the most important club in the world. I would have to be an idiot to write something like that. I’m one of the most committed footballers to Real Madrid. My friend Ismael will create a twitter account to ask for forgiveness for the serious mistake he made.” Many of Fran’s teammates on RMC as well as several players from the other teams also came to Fran’s defense, saying that they know him and he would never do anything like that. Meanwhile, both Fran Sol and Ismael became TT. To be honest, I agree a bit with this Ismael, because unfortunately we’ve had too many examples of products of the cantera overlooked and neglected in favor of players that come from the outside (this is nothing personal against Mendes).
EIGHT. The Xabi Alonso / XIT pose section.™
Esteban Granero started the game, so we’ll start with him as well.
He threw out a couple of Xabi worthy poses during his time in the game.
In the second half, Xabi was sent to warm up, and he came in for Esteban around the 58th minute mark. Before Xabi had even finished running to his position on the field, he was already shouting out directions and gesturing. I love this man.
In the half hour he was on the field, Xabi did what he does best, control the midfield and pose (not necessarily in that order).
He can go horizontal as well!
Xabi is the complete boss out there, from organizing the wall to congratulating Pedro Mendes at the conclusion of the game. Included is bonus stripping Nuri.
NINE. The Mou corner.
José Mourinho was satisfied with the win, saying, “I’m very happy with the players. They didn’t joke around, they played seriously, they wanted to win… it’s not easy for people who don’t play to get into the rhythm during the 90 minutes. We played well in the first 45 minutes, and we were dangerous. The second half was more complicated… but I’m happy with the attitude.” Later on, he said, “those who usually play less deserve to play and be happy. This is a good and united group. All you have to do is look at the telephone and see all the congratulatory messages from those who stayed in Madrid.”
He also explained why Pedro Mendes, despite being out of favor with Alberto Toril, was the one who got to debut: “I hadn’t planned it, my intention was for Jesé to play, but since the game was 2-0 and Arbeloa had problems with the injury he had, I had to take him out.” It looks like Mou is still planning things for Jesé, as he said, “he’s done what we asked of him. He will play many games with Real Madrid. Let’s see if he can debut against Ponferradina.”
As for the upcoming game, Mou was cautious: “if I remember correctly, last season we beat Ajax and two days later we lost against Barça. Football is a box of surprises and you never know. But the reality is that this team is more stable, the people have more confidence, the team is more compact and we’re better than we were last year.” He described the clásico as “one more game,” and said that Higuaín and Benzema wouldn’t be starting that game together because “it’s a normal game and we always play with one of the two. Cristiano and Di María didn’t play today because they’ll play the next game with Higuaín or Karim.”
TEN. Other notes.
The seven starters left in Madrid – Iker, Sergio, Pepe, Marcelo, Lass, Khedira and Cristiano – trained at Valdebebas on Wednesday morning, under the orders of Aitor Karanka, Rui Faria and Silvino. Once the session was finished, the three coaches traveled to Amsterdam so that they could be with Mou for the game.
We also got some pictures from the team’s trip back to Madrid. Gonzalo spent part of the flight with the pilots in the cockpit (perhaps getting a few tips, in case he wants to celebrate like a plane again?) and José posed for the cameras once back at Valdebebas.
And Sergio tweeted that he spent his Wednesday training, having lunch with his friend and Rayo defender José Manuel Casado (like Sergio, a product of the Sevilla cantera) and watching the game at home! For once, I like what Sergio’s wearing! Then again, I don’t know what it looks like on the bottom or what shoes he wore…