Monday, November 30, 2015

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Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/Getty Images

Tonight we were lucky in the football aspect and terribly unlucky on the injury side. A free flowing Bale, who was playing quite well, went down to a muscle injury early in the match. Halfway through he was joined by Varane and shortly after Sergio Ramos with a shoulder injury.

Navas got yet another clean sheet tonight and continues to be unbeaten so far this campaign. He muffled a back-pass at one point that almost ended up between the goalposts, to the crowd’s dismay, but made a great save at the end of the match drawing the Bernabeu’s applause.

Shahkter was unlucky on the night as the first goal came when their goalkeeper mishandled the ball after a save and Benzema pounced on it. Then they went a man down when 2 yellow cards were dished out to the same player. Shortly after that they were hit with a handball penalty that shouldn’t have been called. Other than that they had some dangerous moments on the counter-attack but couldn’t make it count.

In my last article ahead of the Espanyol match I said I expected Ronaldo to return to his scoring ways and mentioned the last (an only) time he put 5 into the back of the net. Ironically he went on to score 5 again that night to end his short season-beginning draught.

Tonight he continued in the same way with 3 more goals. Two scores came from hand-ball penalties and the last came after Shahktar’s goalkeeper saved a shot from Marcelo. Cristiano took the ball on the deflection and scored a nice looking header. He wasn’t at the top of his normal level of precision tonight with some mistimed passes and missed shots on goal, but Cristiano looked electric, like much of the rest of the team.

When Shahkter went down to 10 men Real continued to press, attack and create chances. They moved the ball around extremely well, as they also did in periods of the Espanyol match. It’s quite exciting to see. They seem to now be running on all cylinders.

I wasn’t so sure Kovacic was the necessary addition we needed this year, instead of a striker per se, but now I’ve become a believer. He moves the ball really well and also defends extremely well. Last year we burnt out our midfielders and lost everything at the end. This year we are stacked with quality in the midfield, so prepared that we could have 2 or 3 great players go down and still have them covered.

I would like to see Cheryshev get some minutes but other than that I think Benitez is doing an excellent job with the players. He may just win me over yet.

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s numbers keep getting better every year, but at 30 years old has he finally reached the limit of his abilities?

It seems the downhill trend has started already with probably his poorest start to the season to date. He hasn’t scored in the last 7 matches (including preseason friendlies and international duty) and only has 1 goal in the past 9.

Much like the Spanish tennis legend Rafael Nadal, who changed the way he played tennis to win on surfaces other than clay, Cristiano has already reinvented himself to improve his goal scoring numbers. At United he was more of a dribbler and took on challenges. After moving to Madrid he increased his goal scoring with sheer speed and anticipation, simply running past defenders and anticipating ball placement.

Now he has hit an age where being the fastest is getting more difficult. Is it possible for Cristiano to reinvent himself again to keep performing better as a player? His number of assists has also increased in recent years as he has become more of an unselfish player. Will that trend continue?

Cristiano has 4 Golden Boot awards as top goal scorer in Europe. I believe he’s fully capable of winning again even though he’s past the 30 year mark. In fact, I think he could do it for the next two years before having to succumb to the inevitability of the aging process.

At any given moment goals can begin flowing like water. I remember witnessing first-hand the 5 goal massacre Cristiano put on against Granada last season. It was followed by several hat-tricks and he ended up with another Golden Boot, this at a time when he had started the second half of the season in a supposed ‘slump’.

One thing is certain, this year Cristiano Ronaldo will become Real Madrid’s greatest goal scorer in history, surpassing Raul and doing it in less than half the number of matches. With 313 goals in just 6 seasons Ronaldo is just 10 shy of Raul’s record.

Tonight’s match against Espanyol will be the perfect moment to begin the quest for another Golden Boot for the greatest goal scorer in the history of the game.

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Fabio Coentrao will not be included in the deal bringing Mateo Kovacic to Real Madrid.

The full-back has been linked with a move to Inter Milan recently but he will not move to the San Siro as part of the €30 million-plus deal bringing the Croatian midfielder to the Bernabeu.

Coentrao’s Madrid future is in doubt and Inter boss Roberto Mancini has made no secret of his desire to bring in a left back.

But representative Ernesto Bronzetti says if Coentrao does leave the Spanish capital it will only be for former club Benfica. “I don’t think Madrid are planning to let him leave – at least not at the moment,” said Bronzetti. “If the situation changes however, Coentrão will only go to one club and that’s Benfica.”

Marcelo is the out-and-out first choice left back at Madrid and that could force Coentrao to look elsewhere for regular first-team action.

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Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic is set to be announced as Real Madrid’s latest signing, according to reports in Italy.

The Croatian is set to arrive at the Bernabeu in a €30 million-plus add ons deal from Serie A, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Madrid coach Rafa Benitez is keen for more new recruits ahead of the season and the Spaniard will know the midfielder well from his time as coach of Napoli in Serie A.

Kovacic had been linked with a move to Liverpool but Madrid upped their gear in the chase for the player and have agreed a fee with the Italian deal.

The Croatia international come be unveiled in the coming days ahead of the start of La Liga next weekend.

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The future of Denis Cheryshev is set to be decided in the coming days.

The Russian player’s agent was at the Santiago Bernabeu on Monday to discuss the future of the midfielder, who could stay to fight for his place or move on-loan to another club.

Cheryshev has been keen to prove himself to coach Rafa Benitez over the pre-season but minutes on the pitch could still prove hard to come by.

Villarreal, who he spent last season on-loan with, are keen to take him back to El Madrigal while Premier League club Liverpool have also been linked with the player.

His agent Gines Carvajal, who also represents Dani Carvajal and Jese, held discussions with the club yesterday on completion of Madrid’s pre-season matches and there could be news regarding the player’s future in the coming days.

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Sergio Ramos is set to end the uncertainty over his future by signing a new contract with Real Madrid, according to reports.

The defender has been in dispute with Los Blancos regarding his new deal but La Sexta reported on Monday that his contract renewal with the club will be announced on Thursday.

The Spain international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United this summer but those rumours have cooled since Madrid’s return to pre-season training and talks between the player and Los Blancos have smoothed in recent weeks.

Reports suggest Ramos feels he has been undervalued by the club and his relationship with Florentino Perez took a hit.

But the player, his agent and brother Rene and the demanding Madrid president seem to have sorted out their differences with the new season less than a fortnight away.

Ramos believed he should be on a higher contract to mirror his standing in the dressing room and the new deal could reflect his demands.

Madrid are yet to comment but his future could be tied up sooner rather than later with the new season edging closer.

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has poured cold water on speculation linking the Premier League club with a move for Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.

The Madrid striker has been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium throughout the summer but the Gunners boss says there is no truth to the reports.

When asked about the rumours after Arsenal’s 1-0 Community Shield victory over Chelsea on Sunday, Wenger replied: “No, honestly, no.”

Some reports had suggested Arsenal were prepared to break their transfer record to sign the striker but those rumours should  now be put firmly to bed.

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After a nice summer rest things are starting to move again in the football world. (I for one have actually enjoyed the rest since the remainder of the year things are non-stop in the Real Madrid universe.)

After a disappointing draw and eventual loss in penalties against Roma, Real put in an impressive performance against Manchester City this morning.

Benzema, Cristiano, Pepe and our home grown Cheryshev all scored in today’s second pre-season match. The team was solid in defense and dangerous in attack. Had a penalty not been mistakenly called on Ramos (who handled the ball outside the box), it would have included a clean sheet.

Things are just getting started but let’s hope this is a glimpse of what’s to come.

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Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez has refused to confirm that David de Gea will be the replacement for outgoing goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Pérez was asked about his plans for replacing Casillas, who has left the club after 25 years for Porto, at Monday’s hastily-arranged press conference.

He mentioned the Manchester United goalkeeper by name but refused to add detail owing to the club’s “friendly” relationship with the Premier League giants.

“It will be impossible to substitute him and our only thoughts are about saying goodbye to Iker at the moment,” said the club president in response to a question over whether the 34-year-old left the Bernabeu in light of the probable competition from the former Atletico Madrid player..

“We have to wait and see who comes in,” he continued. “De Gea belongs to another club in Manchester United, one who we are friendly with. There won’t be another player who arrives at the club at nine and leaves 25 years later. He will always be a legend for us.”

Madrid have long been linked with De Gea but have yet to get their man and could be forced to wait to sign him on a free transfer next summer.

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Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez came out fighting today after being criticised for the club’s handling of the departure of goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Pérez held a press conference alongside the 34-year-old club legend to bid a fond farewell and dispel reports that he was partly to blame for Casillas’ demise and eventual exit.

His appearance came just 24 hours after Casillas read out an emotional statement at the Bernabeu alone and after his parents criticised the club president for wanting their son out of the club for the last five years.

Pérez defended the move, however, and said Casillas’ move to Porto came at his own request and not that of the club’s.

“Casillas asked us to leave,” said the president. “We wanted him to retire at Real Madrid but he received an offer from Porto and asked us to consider it. We always had a good relationship and many reports published throughout these days are false. I have a lot of affection for Iker, contrary to what some report.”

Pérez instead shifted much of the blame on the fans who have been heard whistling the goalkeeper, amongst other players, in recent seasons.

“I’ve always said that I don’t understand why some fans whistle our players. Our players deserve respect and they are part of our history. Casillas deserves respect from our fans. Those who whistled Casillas are the ones who will miss him the most in the coming years.”

Casillas also spoke at the press conference but when the question and answer session started it was the president who fielded all the questions. Pérez was also subject to loud whistles himself from the fans who gathered inside the stadium to wish Casillas a fond farewell.