all set for Valladolid!
The action shifts back to La Liga tonight, when Madrid takes on Valladolid (20h) at the Bernabéu. Before I turn my attention to the Liga, one more thing from the Champions League. Reader Afrah asked me to make this gif comparing Sergio Ramos with Juanito, and so here it is. It looks great next to the one of Cristiano and Raúl, no? Two legends and two current players, who are also already on their way to becoming legends with this club.
Madrid had two days of training before their game tonight. They have been training at the EADS instead of on their habitual field, apparently because of plumbing problems at Valdebebas – there is not water for the showers in the locker rooms.
Twenty players were called up for the game. Antonio Adán and Raúl Albiol (serving a one-game sanction for card accumulation) were left off the list, as were those players who are injured or feeling discomfort: Sergio Ramos, Álvaro Arbeloa, Marcelo.
During his press conference, Mou said he hasn’t decided whether he will continue at Madrid, that the first to know will be his wife and kids, and that he can’t confirm anything yet about his future plans. He also said the following.
on whether he feels hated: I don’t feel that I failed in anything. I continue to believe that keeping the press off of the airplane is correct, that keeping the press out of the training grounds and training sessions is correct, that not allowing the press to decide who plays is correct, that not putting in your favorites is correct. I continue to believe that my decisions have been correct. With the fans, the relationship has been fine. There are problems when someone thinks he is above the rest. I haven’t had any problems with those players who have felt they were equals to everyone else.
on what he would change if these were his first days in Madrid: I would be more proactive, I would be more blunt, I would be more demanding, resolute. I asked for Diego López at the end of the first season, but he wasn’t brought in, and I didn’t do enough to get him. That’s a shame.
These statements were seen by everyone as words against Iker Casillas, who has maintained a classy silence over the last several months. Also not going down well was what Mou said about Cristiano: “in the first three months, he wasn’t happy and now he is. We started the Liga off sad and when you have an adversary that doesn’t give up points easily, you give them the advantage, and it’s difficult to catch up later on.”
Then there was this exchange, in which another of those famous little papers made an appearance. Ay Dios mío, the circus again.
Do you feel that with the trophies you have won during your three years in Madrid [a Liga, at least one Copa del Rey, one Supercopa], you have triumphed as a coach?
Look, I believe that when you assess my work, and I’m not speaking about Madrid or you all, you all never assess it in an absolute way, you always assess it by what I’ve achieved. The fault lies with me, because I’ve won so much, so much, so much, that the expectations are always higher than what you later on achieve.
But… I have my one of my famous little papers here, because I always expect some smart ass to ask me a question that will require the paper. I want to tell you. The record Liga is mine. You might want to erase it from history, but you won’t be able to do it. You’ll only be able to do that when a team achieves 101 poitns, and we’ll see when a team manages to do that. Twenty years without winning the Copa. It’s because it’s not easy. And we won the Copa 20 years later. You also can’t erase that. The Supercopa is a less important trophy. But… the three Champions League semifinals. It’s not easy. I’m not saying this to feed my ego, or to feel satisfied, because I’m never satisfied with “almost” [as in almost reaching the final], I want to make that very clear. It’s not easy. I’ll explain to you why it’s not easy…. because. John Toshack. Di Stéfano. Antic. Beenhakker. Benito Floro. Arsenio [Iglesias]. Fabio Capello. Heynckes. Hiddink. Del Bosque. Queiroz. Camacho. García Remón. Vanderlei Luxemburgo. López Caro. Fabio Capello again. Juande Ramos. Schuster. And Pellegrini. Eighteen managers in 21 years, five Champions League semifinals. And Mourinho is so bad, with three Champions League in three years. It’s because it’s not that easy to reach the Champions League semifinals. Three in three? And five in 21 years? And three by one coach? Five by 18 coaches? It’s because it’s not that easy. I repeat: I’m not saying this to feed my ego, and for me, “almost” doesn’t mean anything. But the record Liga is mine… You want the paper?
Mou left out VDB’s two earlier stints as Madrid coach between Benito Floro and Arsenio Iglesias, and Jorge Valdano’s one and a half years in charge (May 1994 to January 1996) between VDB’s two short stints, as well as Toshack’s second stint.
He also failed to mention that out of those five semifinals reached by the 18 coaches, three trophies were won. In addition, VDB was responsible for four of the semifinals, and in consecutive years. And he also won two Champions Leagues. Plus, none of those coaches had so much, if any, control over which players to play or to purchase as Mou has had.
Iker was honored by the Comunidad de Madrid on the day of the Comunidad, May 2, when he received their gold medal [he had already received it as part of La Roja back in 2011. The other madridistas who have been honored in this way are Alfredo di Stéfano (2008) and Raúl (2009)].
When introducing Iker, (the other) Madrid President Ignacio González said, “the Comunidad de Madrid wants to recognize an athlete who represents the values of sports like no other. He’s one of the most universal and beloved madrileños, and today the Comunidad wants to recognize and honor Iker Casillas… he’s the most decorated goalkeeper in the history of football. This mostoleño has been a part of some of the most emotional moments we Spaniards have experienced in the past few years. Despite his youth and the many years of his career ahead of him, he’s already a legend for el madridismo and for world football. For all this, we wanted to present this gold medal to Iker Casillas for his impeccable work and for representing Madrid with so much pride around the world.”
Later on, Iker told the press, “my future is Real Madrid, where I’ve been since I was nine, and where I want to be.” He is really universally adored, no? Look at the way Esperanza Aguirre is looking at him! And I love this picture of a sister with the saint!
He missed the team’s training session in the morning to attend the event, and left once he got the medal so that he could train on his own.
The Women for Africa Foundation has released two videos of its ambassador, Xabi Alonso.
The first is a promotion for a project the foundation is carrying out in Liberia, to treat obstetric fistula. In it, Xabi encourages women who have the condition to seek the free help that the foundation is offering. I first heard of fistula in the excellent book Half the Sky, which I highly recommend, and I’m happy to see it being addressed, especially because it can be treated.
The second is an interview with Xabi, where he speaks about which African footballers he has admired, and why he decided to collaborate with the foundation.
On the cover of today’s El Mundo is Alfredo di Stéfano, who announces that he’s marrying his girlfriend, Gina González. In the interview, ADS says he wants to get married, as he’s been a widower for eight years already, and that he’s in love. Gina is from Costa Rica and 50 years younger than Di Stéfano (36 to his 86). She has a doctorate in law and international relations, worked for Real Madrid (and is a madridista) and is a licensed football coach (all three levels). ADS also says he will ask Florentino Pérez to be his best man, and jokes about getting married in the goal on the south side of the stadium.
They met when Gina was helping the author of ADS’ biography to transcribe what he was saying. Apparently, she didn’t do a good job because she couldn’t understand him, and ADS asked for her to be let go. By then, she was already in love with him, and I guess he was feeling the same way, because then she became his secretary, manager, representative and nurse.
I also found this funny: before they started dating, she got a tattoo of the words “La saeta rubia” on her arm. ADS didn’t have a high opinion of tattoos, and was disgusted when he saw it, telling her to wear long sleeves, even though it was summertime. She then threatened to go back to Costa Rica to get it removed, and so each day ADS would call her to ask if it was done. She told him yes, but when she returned to Spain, it was still there. By then, he was alright with it and even happy with it.
Valladolid will be wearing shirts supporting the city of Madrid’s 2020 Olympic Games candidacy at tonight’s game (the city will host football games if Madrid wins the bid). And speaking of special shirts, I loved what Athletic did against Celta on Friday! All of the leones came out with shirts with their mothers’ last names, instead of their own habitual first/last names to honor their mothers ahead of Mother’s Day! The LFP gave them special permission to do so. I’d love to see Madrid do that.
Parla, a team that plays in the third division, suffered a robbery last weekend, and the thieves made off with all of the boots in the locker room. The team is a modest one, and the players have already spent several months without getting paid. Therefore, Castilla’s players sent over 25 to 30 pairs of boots to help the team, and Getafe chipped in a dozen as well. What a great gesture!
And what’s a post without some adorable children and their fathers…
… or a Karim Benzema self portrait?