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the round-up: Athletic

February 6, 2012

I had to wait five long months for the Real Madrid-Athletic game at the Bernabéu, since the players’ strike back in August had led to the first jornada being re-scheduled for the end of January.  I was eagerly anticipating this game, for several reasons (I think you can guess why, no?).  I went away happy with the win and for the opportunity to see Javi (!!!) play.

Jan. 20 – training, and a conversation.

The team got Thursday (Jan. 19) off, and resumed training on Friday for Sunday’s game against Athletic.

According to Marca, Friday’s training session was a tense one. Mou had divided the group of players into the starters from the clásico and the substitutes/unused players/canteranos. In his chat with the starters, he lectured the players (minus Pepe, who had stayed indoors and Iker, who was working out with the goalkeepers) for the defeat.  Apparently, Mou didn’t like the mistakes, especially defensive ones, that the team had made over the course of the game, and he let his players know that.  No one was exempt from the criticism and reproaches except Cristiano.  In fact, Cris was used as an example by Mou.

On Sunday, Marca divulged the supposed transcript of the conversation.  From that point on, the Spanish media went crazy trying to figure out who the mole that had leaked the information to the newspaper was (Punto Pelota has so far narrowed it down to eight players and said it was NOT Sergio or Iker), while several players denied being the mole and that there were bad relations.

Here is what was reported.

After Mou criticized the players for their performance, Sergio Ramos decided to respond.  Mou had expressed that he felt that the defeat was being blamed entirely on him, that his footballers, especially the Spaniards, weren’t standing firm against the criticism, and that he expected his players to protect him in front of the media.

JM: you all killed me in the mixed zone [Sergio had said after the Barcelona game that they had just followed Mou’s plan in the game].

SR: no, míster, you only read what was published in the press, not everything that we said.

JM: of course, since you Spaniards have been the world champions and your friends in the press protect you all… such as the goalkeeper…

IC (shouting from 30 meters away, where he was training with the other goalkeepers): ¡Míster! Here we say things to each other’s faces, ¿eh?

Mou also felt that the Spanish players were more worried about saving their relationship with Barça’s La Roja players than defending Madrid, which is why he only defends the Portuguese players in his press conferences. Thus, the Spaniards were upset with this difference in treatment.

JM: tomorrow, it will be me having to face the press.

SR: of course, míster, it’s because you don’t let us speak. We can’t give interviews or press conferences. You got mad at Iker for asking forgiveness from Xavi, but what is it that Pepe did yesterday in the video?

And when it came time to talk about Puyol’s goal, Mou blamed Sergio, although it was Pepe who had made mistakes. It turns out that prior to the game, Mou had ordered Sergio to defend Puyol, but during the game, the players decided to exchange their defensive assignments.

JM: where were you during the first goal, Sergio?

SR: marking Piqué.

JM: but you were assigned to mark Puyol.

SR: yes, but Piqué and Puyol were forming a bloque and we decided to change the markings.

JM: are you the coach now?

SR: no, but it depends on the situation in the game, there are times when you have to change the markings. And since you never played, you don’t know that at times these situations occur.  [Ouch!  Of note: Sergio used the formal “usted” with Mou.]

The tension kept increasing and then some of the players, including Xabi Alonso, “who barely opened his mouth during the meeting,” asked Sergio to calm down.  The world of Real Madrid can be a soap opera, no?  If it’s not one thing, it’s another…

We also found out that Pedro Mosquera is returning to Madrid (to Castilla, concretely) on loan from Getafe until June 30.  He’s not getting a lot of minutes with our neighbor, and so the two teams reached an agreement for him to play for his former team until the end of this season.  If you remember, Pedro played for Castilla from 2006 to 2010, and ended as captain.  After making his debut with Madrid and not playing much more after that, he signed for Getafe in the summer of 2010.

Jan. 21 – all set for Athletic.

The team trained again on Friday.  Twenty players were called up for the game, including Tomás Mejías.  Carvalho disappeared from the list following his re-appearance on Wednesday due to the coach’s decision, which was also the reason for Sahin missing out.  Khedira and Di María weren’t called up due to injury.  Sami is still recovering from the sprained right knee and Angelito from his right thigh injury.

At his press conference, Mou (whom some journalists noticed was not wearing a Real Madrid shirt for the first time ever at a press conference) had the following to say.  Regarding Pepe’s video and a question on why he and Pepe say that the action was “involuntary,” Mou responded, “if you want to call Pepe a liar, you have every right to do so and afterward you’ll have to accept the consequences.  If you want to call him a liar, do it and assume the consequences, it’s a problem between Pepe and whoever calls him a liar.”  When the journalists persisted in asking about Pepe, Mou went on to say, “if a player says it wasn’t intentional, why does he have to worry about it?  You all are very annoying with the Pepe issue.”  Mou finished by saying, “I don’t want to say any more but I didn’t see you all having doubts last season about a player who made a racist comment and then afterward said he didn’t.  Everyone believed that what the player said was the truth.  I saw his coach say that he had confidence in him and everyone believed that was the truth, including UEFA, the highest organization believed it.”  He was of course referring to Sergio Busquets.

And in response to a question about how he was, Mou said, “in bad moments, I don’t stay at home crying.  I hide more when things go well.  On Thursday, I went to El Corte Inglés, to the movies, I went shopping with my wife, I picked up the kids from school.  I don’t hide.  Here I am.  The only thing I can say about tomorrow is that I promise that we’ll start the game as leaders and end as leaders.”

It also turns out that the father of Óscar Ribot, José, had passed away the previous day at the age of 72, and Óscar had been with the team when he found out the news.  FP, Mou, several players and coaches, directors and employees of the club went to the funeral home to be with the Ribot family.

As for Castilla, they played to a 2-2 draw with Conquense, leaving two points behind in EADS.  Nacho and Denis were the goalscorers.

Jan. 22 – RM vs. Athletic (!!!).

The big day!!!  The big day!!!  The big day!!!  That team made up of only Basque men is in town!!!*  It’s finally here!!!  This is the only place I can be this vocal about my adoration for a certain Athletic player (!!!), because if I do that at the Bernabéu, I’d get some very confused looks and probably lose some credibility.

*on normal days, having Xabi Alonso on my team is more than enough to satisfy me.

The joy returned to the Bernabéu as the team scored four goals, but the game was much more nerve-wracking and torturous than the final score indicated.  Cris is the fourth player to make 20 consecutive penalties in the history of the Liga, after Kubala, Marañón and Koeman.  He also broke the record for most goals in the primera vuelta, with 23.  And I loved the chants of “Ca-lle-jón, Ca-lle-jón” after Calleti’s goal.  It of course helped that he’s a canterano and that he pointed to the escudo during his celebration.  He deserves it all.

I see these types of moments all the time, but they never get old: Sergio’s fantastic hair, the kiss between Iker and Sergio, this time in the tunnel, plus the Eskimo kiss between Sergio and Agustín Herrerín, and finally hugs between La Roja teammates.

The players observed a moment of silence prior to the game for the death of José Ribot, and the Madrid players also wore black armbands.  Here’s a shot from the moment of silence.  Marcelo Sunshine is so tiny, no?  And he has such big eyes!

Other fun moments: Kaká nuzzling Marcelo, and then resting his head on Cris’ shoulder when the two of them hugged.

Over on the bench, El Chori and Calleti were teasing Pipita, and a clean-shaven Hamit Altintop was also in a good mood.  Plus, José’s reaction to a near goal from Gonzalo Higuaín is precious, no?

I also loved this moment.  Cris had disagreed with the referee’s call, and he made that known through his actions.  Xabi then pushed Cris aside to make him stop complaining, and to get into defensive position for Athletic’s free kick.  Cris didn’t understand the gesture and shot daggers with his eyes at Xabi for several long seconds.

Here’s the “if looks could kill” death stare from Cristiano Ronaldo.

At the conclusion of the game, Iker tossed his shirt into the crowd (he seems to love doing that, no?).  The La Roja players hugged it out, such as Javi (!!!) and Sergio, while the two Ikers did the same.  Sergio and Esteban thanked the fans.  There was some shirt exchanging as well – that’s Mesut and Ibai Gómez there –  and Ander Herrera gave Aitor Karanka (who is of course a former lion) a hug and the two of them chatted briefly.  Javi (!!!) and Iker Muniain also walked into the tunnel arm in arm.

Other notes.   Iker played in his 600th game, and coincidentally enough, it was against Athletic, the team which he made his debut against.  Sergio Ramos received his fifth yellow card, meaning he’ll be sitting out next weekend’s game against Zaragoza.  In the 85th minute of the game, the ultras chanted Mou’s name, and a large part of the stadium responded with whistles.  In all, Mou received whistles four times during the game: when his name was announced by the speaker prior to the game (the players received applause when their names were flashed on the screen), in the 85th minute, again in the 86th minute as the chants continued, and in the 91st minute.

Following the game, Iker refused to say whether what Marca had published was the truth or a lie, because “you have to ask the person who published that.  I don’t have anything against a newspaper that I read, but you have to ask them for the news they published.”  He was more certain when asked about the relationship between the players: “I don’t have a bad relationship with any teammate.  There are days in which I’ll get upset with some and they with me, but there’s nothing more to that.  The relationship between the Spaniards and the Portuguese is very good.”  He also reiterated that “the support for the míster is 100 percent.  If we want to win the Liga, we have to be united, including the fans.”

By the way, that was a very, very scary moment when Iker went down, no?  I can’t remember the last time he needed medical attention on the field, so it was quite frightening, although I have complete confidence that Antonio Adán will do a great job and be a super sub if needed.

Meanwhile, Álvaro Arbeloa also said the atmosphere is very good, “there are no fractures on the team and if I need to, I’ll go to Portugal on vacation.  We’re with Mourinho to the death.  The whistles?  It’s unjust to make him responsible for what happened on Wednesday because if anyone deserves it, it’s us, the players.”  He also said, in response to the news published by Marca, “when that kind of information is published, I would like to see a byline.  If they’re brave enough to publish it, they should be brave enough to sign it as well.  I was there training and I didn’t hear anything of what was published.”

Several other players also refused to confirm or deny the information, saying that was not what they were there for.  According to La Sexta, Mou told his players during a meeting at their hotel that the filtration of news to Marca was not professional at all, that he’s going to find the mole and if he manages to do so before the game, that player won’t play.

Mou said in the press conference that being whistled at is not a problem for him and that it won’t affect him, although it’s the first time that it has happened to him.  He added, “Zidane was whistled here, Ronaldo and Crstiano Ronaldo as well.  Why wouldn’t I be whistled at here?  Zidane responded with football, Ronaldo the same and Cristiano continues to do so.”  He also said in response to the Marca conversation, “I don’t read Marca.  I don’t know what they published, I don’t read it, much less on game days, and I prohibit newspapers from the hotel where we have the concentración.”

The Xabi Alonso pose section.™

In charge and muy jefe.

Even a mundane thing like blinking becomes mesmerizing when Xabi does it!  And I would like to imagine that Javi (!!!) is picking up boss tips from Xabi in the gif below.

And these photos made me laugh, because they made it look like our boys were dancing throughout the game, but unfortunately not coordinated enough to be doing the same dance.  Karim was break dancing, while Xabi was doing the “Hokey pokey” (he’s got his left foot in)…

… Marcelo did his best Saturday Night Fever impression, and Sergio and Mikel San José indulged in a bit of square dancing.  Hilarious, no?

And of course, I have to include some Javi Martínez (!!!) and Athletic moments in this post.  Javi (!!!) was looking adorable (to me, adorable is his natural state, he’s never not adorable) as he warmed up, especially the hug between him and Fernando Llorente.  By the way, what happened to Javi (!!!)’s hand, and is it a coincidence or something else that Iker Muniain is sporting the same type of bandage on the same hand at the same time?

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Javi (!!!) provided a wonderful pass to Fer for Athletic’s one goal on the night.  That’s bad news for Iker, but good news for La Roja, because Fernando is on a hot streak, and we need him to go into the Eurocopa like that!  Meanwhile, Álvaro Arbeloa collided with Javi (!!!).  In my daydreams, Javi (!!!) does end up in that position – flat on his back – but unlike Álvaro, I don’t bounce off of him and I end up on top of him instead.  Too much information?  Okay, I’ll be quiet.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I didn’t get myself arrested during the game.

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah, Madrid permalink
    February 6, 2012 22:44

    Did you actually believe the Marca story Una?…because Ramos did deny it all on his twitter, no?!..

    Do you think the mole is Sara, no xD :p?

    Anyway the team shows more solidarity than ever! Mourinho in the other hand I don’t understand why he is not addressing the press anymore…

    I just hope for titles and that’s it!! Hala Madrid, that was such an awful week after the first clasico, no?

  2. Alyssa permalink
    February 6, 2012 22:48

    I think how I feel about the Real boys is getting redundant so instead: oh god that Javi/Fer hug is BEAUTIFUL! What do you say we separate these two and you take Javi and I take Fer? Teamwork! 😉

  3. Sara permalink
    February 6, 2012 23:09

    Everything about this post is perfect and hilarious! The first thing that came to my mind when I saw Javi(!!!) was you and and your exclamation points. Btw why the exclamation points? Marcelo has pretty cool dance moves:)
    P.S: Una, I’m very glad you didnt get arrested. Do you go to all the games?

  4. manie permalink
    February 6, 2012 23:26

    By the way, in case you were wondering, I didn’t get myself arrested during the game.

    I have to be honest, I was thinking about you Una during the match. And watching out. Hahah.

    Thanks for doing the recaps! Love the basque-ness of this.

  5. senjojo permalink
    February 6, 2012 23:39

    lol
    nice to have u back.

  6. rojafan permalink
    February 6, 2012 23:46

    I was going to comment on your last post and welcome you back. My mornings weren’t the same without your always optimistic point of view. I also admire your honesty, even when it means speaking out about a Madrid player. I decided to comment here because I really love the fact that you posted the photo of Sergio and Esteban. Together!. Pirata is looking especially adorable there! Thank you!
    And, you are so dedicated! I don’t think I would have backtracked and covered all the missed matches, but I’m so glad you have. The bad one over with, I look forward to reliving all the highlights of the last few.

  7. amouria permalink
    February 6, 2012 23:48

    Una: its strange that none of our players denied the allegation of Marca re the conflict between some (Spanish) players and the coach. This is weird, no?
    I liked Arbeloa’s response more than that of Iker. In fact i was disappointed by everything said by him. As a captain, you should be the first to defend the unity of the team not to say nonsense like, its alright, sometimes we have quarrels and the like… with stupid newspapers’ stories, one should be firm and look directly at their eyes…

  8. amouria permalink
    February 6, 2012 23:53

    the entire post was lovely, dear Una, but i loved these pics most: “Kaká nuzzling Marcelo, and then resting his head on Cris’ shoulder when the two of them hugged.”… he looked adorable…

  9. Pammie permalink
    February 7, 2012 00:29

    “By the way, in case you were wondering, I didn’t get myself arrested during the game.” I was wondering about that when you where on hiatus 😛

    I missed your posts! Thanks for adding some of the things that happened between the games. The whole mole thing is annoying. I’m sure this kind of discussions happen in all teams, but when it goes public it gets blown out of proportion, especially when it’s RM.

    Oh Xabi. *.*

    I love the dance section, lol! It’s so good to see the pirate on the pitch again.

    The hug between Fer and Javi, how strong, aw.

  10. February 7, 2012 00:47

    oh, how i’ve missed you! this post is hilarious and adorable and so very, very you! 🙂

    i’m glad you provided some more of the background details about the marca leak — i’d read the transcript and the exchange with mou/sergio/iker, but i didn’t know anything else about it. *sigh* we’re 7 points clear, you’d think the atmosphere would be a little happier and more supportive, no?

    glad to hear you didn’t get arrested! xo

  11. Nora permalink
    February 7, 2012 00:55

    Wow! So much drama! I really do hope that that conversation isn’t true – I don’t like to think that anyone on RM would leak information like that or that Mou would speak to his team like that. Should it be true, my indignation would be quite similar to Iker’s.

  12. evvl permalink
    February 7, 2012 01:12

    Ramos comment is a disgrace.

    • rojafan permalink
      February 9, 2012 20:56

      What comment? The one in the mixed zone that was edited or the one he denied making? If any of this is true, it’s Mou whose behaviour is a disgrace.

  13. jas permalink
    February 7, 2012 01:41

    my week is made… javi and xabi!!!
    thanks una… love love love it!!!!

  14. cloudy permalink
    February 7, 2012 01:44

    love the kaka gifs 🙂
    i hope you didn’t break your keyboard after this post… with all the !!! because of javi 🙂
    great job as always una!

  15. Roxii permalink
    February 7, 2012 02:02

    Lord this was far one of my favorite match! There were so many moments that made me laugh and the pictures of the dancing, priceless…everytime I would see Javi I would think of you xD I missed your posts the last few weeks but I’m glad you caught up! Thank you! Love your blog! ❤

  16. February 7, 2012 02:10

    I’ve been wanting to hear your take on the mole drama. While I’m glad that the players, including Iker and the other Spaniards have declared their support of Mou publicly, I can’t help but worry that there could still be some underlying tensions there, since more likely than not, they were ordered to speak favorably of the locker room dynamics and of Mou.

    When it comes to the football media, I don’t know who or what to believe anymore. Even the more respectable outlets have reported the possibility of Mou leaving at the end of the season. While I don’t agree with his tactics all the time, Mou was able to do things with this team that countless of coaches have failed to do, so I’m all for him staying.

  17. eny permalink
    February 7, 2012 03:10

    if i wasn’t wrong, in that game javi’s position was a center back.. that’s surprise me..

  18. rajita moelto permalink
    February 7, 2012 03:50

    is it true about the conflict between Mou and the player ? is it true?? Gosh.. everytime i read or hear a news like this, i’m become more and more worry. I know this is not a hot issue anymore, but still.. i don’t want Real Madrid being mocked by other fans about their internal atmoshphere.. please stay unite RM!!! I love youu!! i love the club, i love the players, i love the coach (I’m a Moumania), and i love the entire fans too.
    Why when everything goes normal, we still being criticized? And it can be moooore bad when we didnt do well..
    in my very personal opinion, i’d like to say that for this season and 2 more season ahead, Mou still the best coach for Real Madrid.. The players more dicipline, unite, and work hard. Real Madrid must change their habit to always sacked the coach every seasons..

    Thank you for tnis wondurful posting as always, Una.. and i want to say so sorry for my bad english. =)

  19. fivemouths permalink
    February 7, 2012 03:56

    haha. Una you are phenomenal!

  20. February 7, 2012 04:35

    What happened prior to the game was really upsetting to us fans. I hate it when stuff like this happens at my club. Yes, when we win it’s all glossed over, but the fact remains that it did happen and that’s not good.

    What is your take on the situation? I notice you did not say anything on how you feel about the mole and all that. If you are cool with answering me, I would love to know your opinions on the whole mess.

    I am loving how you are recapping everything for us. Thanks so much Una, this is such a treat! I know you take a lot of trouble to do all this, so please know that these catch up posts are really appreciated.

    It’s also a good thing that we have a break between matches huh? 😉

  21. February 7, 2012 10:45

    I missed you invading the pitch, una! ;D

  22. Soñando con Dios permalink
    February 7, 2012 11:01

    Una, I’m so glad you’re back!!!
    I don’t even want to comment on the Barcelona game, I’ll wait for round two, because I was so proud of the team there.
    As for Athletic, I was happy to see Llorente score (sorry everyone, sorry Iker), I just like him so much. But of course I say this in the light of that RM won.
    My favorite moment was definitaley when Xabi pushed Cris who kept complaining to the ref even though he already got a yellow (if I remember correctly). I don’t think he really knew why he was pushed at first he was so into talking and that stare he gave to Xabi is just absolutely great! And Iker getting hurt was scary. I’m also very happy to see more of Kaká in the starting XI.

  23. Real Madrid permalink
    February 7, 2012 11:47

    I’m really, really convinced that Marca’s story is made up. not by Marca but by Mou himself. and it was worth it, it did destabilize Barcelona mentally and well, cut the talk about Pepe short.

  24. maria permalink
    February 7, 2012 12:21

    Una your posts are so much fun!! I can never get enough of them… And I loved the dancing sequence you did about the players. When I saw benzema do that back flip move, I remember thinking to myself: “God, this kid got moves…” Who would have known??!! Hahahahaha… The other pictures were funny also, specially Marcelo pulling out his best John Travolta’s performance… Good job Una, you’re the best!!

  25. Sarah Nikolich permalink
    February 7, 2012 13:20

    I love you so much, you truly are the best!!! 🙂

    It was a nice game…. was nice to see javi and ander on the same field as my real madrid boys (since I’m practically in love with those two) :$

    glad you didn’t end up arrested, if I was there I sure would 🙂

  26. Pepegirl permalink
    February 7, 2012 14:30

    Thanks for this catching- up post, Una – we have missed you but hope you got all the work project sorted out that you needed to do. I always appreciate all your efforts to bring us all the best bits about our boys.

    Hamit looks much less scary without his beard! But I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing – we might need him to frighten off the opposition. None of the others are scary – all much too cute.

    I hope Sami and Angel will be back soon – we need them too.

  27. February 7, 2012 16:40

    do you think that “thing” in marca is true? ’cause I don’t… I think they all want to sell newspapers and they just publish things so people talks about it… I hate it when our own press it’s against our team…

  28. Maddi permalink
    February 7, 2012 17:12

    Una you are hilarious!!! The dancing part made me giggle, especially the square dancing

  29. Kristen permalink
    February 7, 2012 21:34

    Geez, so much drama… why so much drama when we are in first place??

  30. ThatPerson permalink
    February 7, 2012 21:35

    1. i have to say, i don’t know how much i can believe about what Marca published… I just hope the team is still in tact.

    2. that Part about Javi was hilarious and his hug with Fernando looks really passionate. i like that 🙂

  31. mar permalink
    February 7, 2012 23:50

    it’s nice to hear that you avoided the arrest! After so long time (even if you told you are not going to write for a long time), I started to think that you did sth in the Bernabeu in this match which resulted with you in handcuff (?). 😛

  32. Hazel permalink
    February 8, 2012 13:59

    I love this!!! Especially the dancing bits. I haven’t sang the hokey pokey since I was around 5 and this was the best way anyone could ever bring it up again. Hahaha!

    And don’t worry about your daydream, Una. I’m sure many of us have the same dream. In fact, we all might have to fight each other off to be the lucky one on top of Javi (!!!). Thanks for the wonderful post! 🙂

  33. Yojo permalink
    February 8, 2012 16:12

    You can write whatever you want, however you want. You’re still the best, most reliable source of behind-the-scenes info about Real Madrid.

    Keep up the good work!

  34. Happy permalink
    February 8, 2012 16:22

    Welcome back~~ Kaka is sooooo charming, Marcelo is lucky!!!! I love the song of Callejon, could our management know that our desire to have more canterano in team?

  35. February 9, 2012 03:36

    I’m a bit late but what a post. Your analysis of the rubbish “feud” was spot on and told it like it should be told.
    This team is playing so well and Mourinho is just a champion so La Liga here we come

  36. Marie permalink
    February 9, 2012 04:32

    I’m so glad you’re back with your wonderful posts Una! All I hope with all these rumours etc is that people are ultimately thinking about the team and not their own egos… (And don’t worry about your Javi comments – you’re just saying what everyone thinks :P)

  37. jellyace permalink
    February 9, 2012 11:08

    During the match, I was hoping you would invade the pitch and relieve Javi from his jersey! That would have been a sight to see!

    Now that Athletic have made it to the Copa del Rey finals v Barcelona, I’ll be rooting for Bilbao!

  38. kiki permalink
    February 10, 2012 08:46

    Welcome back Una! FANTASTIC POST, AGAIN!!! I’ve been quietly soaking in your posts theses last days…

    So much drama! A Mole! Basques everywhere! (Mama likey!!!)

    ps. loved your daydream dear! I was thinking of you during this match, as well 😀

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