all set for Rayo Vallecano!
After 3,396 days (slightly less than 10 years), Madrid will be playing at the Vallecas once again (16h). The last time was on Nov. 9, 2002. Madrid won that game 3-2 thanks to a goal from Figo in the 93rd minute. Only one of our current players took part in that game, Iker Casillas. That season, Madrid ended up winning the Liga, and Rayo would descend to the second division, returning only to the first division this season.
A little game preview.
A lot has happened since then, most notably that Rayo no longer plays with that bee on their shirt (for good reason), though they have kept the stripe.
And a couple more scenes from Vallecas in past seasons. I chose the clips with the familiar faces, those players that are still linked to Madrid today – Iker, Zidane, Aitor Karanka, plus Roberto Carlos, who just visited, and Fernando Hierro, whom we see each time we play Málaga (three times so far this season).
More on the upcoming game: only two of our players have played in the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas: Iker (as stated above) and Xabi. Iker has played there three times, while Xabi has done it twice with La Real (2001 and 2002), losing both times. Álvaro Arbeloa has also played there, but he did it while playing in the Segunda B division with Castilla in 2004 (he faced Miguel Albiol in that game). Aitor Karanka also has experience there, as he played four games at Vallecas, twice with Athleti and twice with Madrid.
Here are some excerpts from an interview José María Movilla, Rayo’s capitan and our former canterano, did with La Información. I really like what he said. And what he does – he opened a football school (La Escuela de Fútbol Movilla) in Leganés, where he’s from, because he saw that the town lacked this and he wanted to help out the children. Now, there are 300 kids in the school.
Mourinho is a person that invokes both passion and hatred. What side are you on?
I’m on the passion side. I believe there are some who don’t like his sincerity, he says what he thinks and that’s good. Proof of that is that he takes the responsibility from his team, and there are the numbers, the work that he’s done. It’s meaningful that when he leaves a team, he’s missed a lot, not only by the club or directors for having won titles, but also the players, and that’s important. I have friends in Real Madrid and they tell me how he is, and all of it is praise.
What is the principal virtue of this Real Madrid team?
That they know how to play in whatever type of field, in whatever type of field they comply with the orders of their coach and they don’t stray from the objective. The other day we saw it in Moscow – with the field as it was, they had to play some ugly minutes and they put on their work clothes and did it. They never fail on any field.
TVE interviewed some of Rayo’s youth players (think six-year-olds). They asked them who Mourinho is. The answers were: “coach of Madrid” and “someone who protests a lot.” And when they asked who Cristiano is, the answers were “he has highlights in his hair” and “he doesn’t pass too much.” Jajaja! As for Iker: “he stops everything” and “he has a beautiful girlfriend.”
And Real Madrid got Sergio Ramos and his fellow Sevilla canterano, José Manuel Casado, now with Rayo Vallecano, together before they face each other on the field this Sunday though of course they’ve gotten together before this. They’ve been good friends since meeting in Sevilla at the age of eight, as they have a lot in common besides being footballers: they’re also the same age and both are from Sevilla (Camas and Coria del Río are only about 20 kilometers apart). And Sergio calls José “Cori” (for his hometown). After the small talk in the beginning (José tells Sergio he’ll try to make Sergio’s debut at Vallecas a “bad” one, and Sergio responds that he wishes him the best “after Monday”), they sit down and look back.
The two talk about how they met 15 years ago at Sevilla, and how they’ve been friends since then, even though Sergio continued with Sevilla and José went to Barcelona. Sergio describes their relationship as “familial” and “splendid.” José says, “it seems like yesterday when we played together. Those were great and happy years.” Meanwhile, Sergio remembers that their two families had a lot of “feeling” and would get together after games, so that they were practically a family since they shared so many moments together. José says he believes their parents enjoyed it more than they did themselves, watching them in the training session and then going out together after. Sergio says there are lot of anecdotes, but not a lot that can be revealed.
Sergio says the José back then “liked to joke around but he was also more reserved than the rest of us and always lost his temper when we played a joke on him, so we would always do that” while José describes Sergio as “having the soul of a leader and with a lot of character.” We also find out that at one point, Sergio had a knee injury, which made him afraid to play football and so he considered giving up the sport. This surprised Cori a lot, because Sergio had such a strong character. Thanks to the support of teammates and friends, he was able to snap out of it. They also say a lot of other stuff (such as talking about the game, or each other’s coaches), but none of it is as fun as when they reminisce together.
The last question is if whether they’ll make a bet on the outcome of the game. Sergio says, how about a meal for everyone there (on the set), including the cameraman and photographer at a seafood restaurant nearby that he knows of. So Cori says that if he loses, he’ll have to ask him for a loan because there are a lot of people there. So Sergio responds, then we’ll go for the children’s menu. Adorable!
And I have to discuss Sergio’s outfit. Not a single piece complements another! The blazer looks horrible with the button-down shirt, I don’t like the belt at all, and the pants don’t go with either the blazer or the shirt. The only part I like is the sneakers. Fail.
The boys returned to training on Thursday, after receiving one and a half days off following their return from Russia. Six canteranos (los hermanos Fernández, Carva, Jesé, Joselu and Jesús) were invited to join 19 first team players for the session. The absences were the injured Hamit Altintop, Ángel di María, Karim Benzema and Lass.
Also on Thursday, Hala Madrid Junior magazine handed out prizes to the winners of the contests that one can find in each issue. Nuri Sahin, José Callejón, Kaká, Pipita, Xabi, Raúl Albiol, Sergio and Pepe helped to hand out the prizes, such as signed balls or shirts. José Mourinho also stopped by to autograph things.
Training continued on Friday afternoon (this week, the sessions have been in the afternoon since the game will be played at 16h). Participants in the session were 18 first team players, one Castilla player (Tomás Mejías) and five RMC canteranos (Álex, Aguza, Belima, Sobrino, Barril).
The Xabi Alonso pose section.™
On Saturday, the team held their last training session, with 19 first team players participating, plus Jesús and Joselu from Castilla, as both would make the convocatoria. Off to the side, Hamit Altintop ran around with Carlos Lalín, which he had also done the previous day.
Only one player out of those who participated normally in the training session did not make the call-up. That was Nuri Sahin, and the medical report had him suffering from stomach pains, even though he seemed fine at the session. I hope Joselu gets a chance to play!
Goalkeepers: Iker, Adán, Jesús.
Defenders: Arbeloa, Carvalho, Varane, Albiol, Pepe, Coentrão, Marcelo, Ramos.
Midfielders: Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Özil, Callejón, Granero, Kaká.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Higuaín, Joselu.
Following this game, the team will receive two and a half days off, and return to training on the afternoon of Feb. 29, as next week is an international week.
José Mourinho had spoken to the press before the training session, and this is what he had to say.
on what he expects: we’re not looking to set records, we’re looking to win the championship, which is our objective. We’re not looking at how many goals we score, at the pichichi. It’s not an obsession for us, nor is it an objective. We want to win the championship and we’ll fight for that until the end, that’s the most important thing. We don’t like to allow goals, but what we’re looking for is to score more than we allow. The perfect team does not exist and I’m not going to say that we’re it.
on playing in the afternoon: the sun? A good hat will resolve some problems, sunglasses is another solution, but anyway… these are things that are part of football, the wind, the rain…
on calling up Joselu instead of Morata: Joselu is the one that plays in Castilla. Morata either doesn’t play or he plays on the left wing, or when the coach uses two forwards. With one forward, it’s Joselu who plays.
Mou also said that Benzema will be out two weeks, and that Di María is susceptible to muscle injuries due to the way he plays. He also says he’s liked Rayo since last season, and Sandoval’s work has been “spectacular.” And when given a question about whether he’s going to stay with Madrid, Mou’s only response was “again?”
International call-ups (all games on Feb. 29, only Brazil and France’s U-21 team play on Feb. 28): Mesut and Sami have been called up for Germany’s friendly against France in Bremen. Too bad Karim is injured, I would have liked to see the hugs/exchanging of jerseys before and after the game! Iker, Sergio, Xabi and Álvaro Arbeloa have been called up for the Spain-Venezuela friendly; Raúl Albiol missed the convocatoria due to his lack of playing time with Madrid. That wasn’t a problem for Turkey, who called up Nuri Sahin (whose last minutes came on Dec. 20, two months ago) for their friendly against Slovakia. Hamit Altintop, due to injury, wasn’t called up. As for Portugal, Cris, Pepe and Fábio will be joining their national team teammates to play their friendly against Poland. Gonzalo Higuaín (and Fernando Gago) made Argentina’s list for their friendly against Switzerland at the Stade de Suisse. Marcelo, but not Kaká will be playing for Brazil in its friendly against Bosnia Herzegovina on Feb. 28 in Switzerland. And Rafa Varane will be suiting up for France’s U-21 in their game against Italy. All in all, 13 of our players have been called up for the international break, although more would have made it had they not been injured.
Iker has been named one of the most “affectionate” Spaniards, according to the results of a survey taken by chocolate brand Milka (yum – the chocolate and Iker). Iker ended up fourth with 4.9 percent of the votes. Ahead of him were David Bustamante, Rafa Nadal and David Bisbal.
Sergio posted this photo of him on his day off “on my field with a little Arabian ‘colt” that I’m raising.” Why is the word “colt” in quotations? Not long after, Xabi called Sergio “the horse whisperer” in his tweet. Jajaja!! And I guess now we can see why Sergio’s been dressing like an English gentleman off for a hunt recently. He has his own field for his animals!
As for Castilla, they tied La Roda on Saturday afternoon, adding one more point to their group-leading total. The final score was 2-2, with MFC Álvaro Borja Morata Martín and Lucas scoring for Castilla. Álex was sent off from this game, so chalk up another expulsion for Castilla. Joselu watched the game from the stands, as he was called up with the first team. Castilla’s next game is against Tenerife.
And why can’t Madrid’s players do something like this? It would be so fun! What do you think would be a good song for them to do? There aren’t many Spanish boybands (unfortunately, this international one doesn’t sing), so there aren’t these types of cheesy songs to choose from, so I would suggest the “classic” “Ave María” by Bisbal or “La Macarena” (complete with dancing, please). And please, let’s have Marcelo dancing along in the background?