Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Eternal Struggle

The hardest thing to do in football is win your domestic league. You can hide from no one. You must play everyone else in the competition twice home and away. You do not have the luxury of knocking a team out of the running permanently after one meeting. You must perform consistently week in and week out just as every Champion before you has done.

However in the land of Spain, there is a manager nown as the Special One. His managerial post is that of the World’s biggest club, Real Madrid. Perhaps being at the World’s biggest club it therefore means there are greater expectations.

However, Mourinho’s objective remains simple: beat Barcelona.

Many bloggers, writers, pundits, journalists and fans have speculated on how you beat Barcelona over a 90 minute match or a two legged affair.

But none of us dare to answer the question: ‘how do you beat them in a league campaign?’

Florentino Perèz had to come up with a plan in which to do so, he initiated the plan of bringing Josè Mourinho to Los Blancos. This was then fo

llowed with the signings of Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Angel Dì Maria and Ricardo Carvalho. These new Galacticos saw Real Madrid crowned as the Copa Del Rey Champions for the first time since 1993. They reached the Champions league semi finals for the first time since 2003 and they finished with a stunning 92 points along

with being the division’s top scorers with 105 goals.

The only problem was Barcelona were better.

So now Mourinho’s reign as Real Madrid boss is a year old. He has said his teams improve in his second season in charge. His second season at Porto saw him lift the Champions League trophy as well as finish as domestic champions. At Chelsea, his second season saw him win the Premiership in an even more dominant fashion than the first. While with Inter Milan his second season resulted in 3 trophies for Inter and this includes a Champions League trophy.

So here comes lucky number 2 for Jose.

But how can he best Barca over the course of 38 games? He has started his manoeuvres in the transfer window, with the removal of general manager Jorge Valdano. This probably is sufficient evidence to suggest that Jose Mourinho will have more say in club arrivals in comparison to any other Real coach in the past. Real have already sealed the signatures of the Turkish pair Nuri Sahin and Hamit Altintop. Emmanuel Adebayor is expected to follow soon and make his loan move from Manchester City permanent.

With Gonzalo Higuaìn and Karim Benzema in the ranks Adebayor may play the role of super sub should Real be chasing a game. He showed in his loan spell that he can start games and score goals in the absence of the first choice strikers.

The only two statistics Real Madrid trumped Barcelona in were; goals scored and aerial duels. Barcelona were not even in the La Liga’s top 6 in the latter statistic. Scoring goals and aerial duels are the first two things you will read on Adebayor’s CV/Internet dating description. He is by no means a big signing like Beckham, Ronaldo, or Zidane. He is a squad player, of the calibre like Solskjaer for Man Utd or Kalou for Chelsea. If Real Madrid want the La Liga title back, Adebayor is a must.

With Hamit Altintop, Real have purchased a right sided player rich in technique who can play at full back or on the wing. Like Adebayor we won’t see him start ahead of other attacking midfielders like Ozil, Ronaldo or Dì Maria. But we will see him here and there and he will give Real Madrid more attacking options on a wider level in every sense of the word. Given Sergio Ramos is Real Madrid’s most booked player of all time we can expect to see Hamit fill in at right back once or twice as well. There is one other reason why he can help Real Madrid win the league. This:

A rumour that appears to be gathering truth is the one surrounding the Brazilian wonderkid Neymar. Real Madrid revealed last week they were close to signing him back in 2005. But contractual issues prevented Neymar putting pen to paper. Since then Neymar has played his football with Santos in Brazil. His tricks, flamboyant style and his mask helped him score 24 goals in all competitions this season. The 19 year old is a player well ahead of his time.

It is expected Neymar will become a Galactico after the Copa Libertadores final. This signing will be more for the future one would imagine. But, if he does sign, he will certainly help Real Madrid in their pursuit of the Catalans.

As mentioned before scoring goals for Real was not a problem, defending them wasn’t too big of a problem either. After all, they only concede 33 goals in last seasons La Liga campaign. It’s a better defensive record than Manchester United. The only team who had a better defensive record in the Spanish League was....well, you know who it was. Barcelona conceded only 22 goals last season. This is the kind of defence Mourinho will be looking to build. At right back he now has Altintop as along with Alvaro Arbeloa and yellow card collector Sergio Ramos. At the core of Madrid’s defence they have Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe and Raùl Albiol. Behind these high class defenders is the Spanish captain Iker Casillas. So the obvious area in which Jose will look to tighten up his back line is at left back.

Marcelo has just enjoyed his best season at the Bernabeu in terms of goals scored and matches played. He does however lack some position awareness which Sky’s Graham Hunter stated the only solution was to equip him with a Tom Tom sat nav device. Even then he is a liability. Given the attacking talent Real possess and the further quality they may purchase do they really need a full back of this nature? They probably don’t, at least not as a regular first team player. If Real want a left back who can gallop up the left hand side without neglecting his defensive duties maybe they should take a closer look at Gael Clichy. Arsenal appear to be willing to sell the highly rated Frenchman.

Hypothetically Real Madrid can win the league with these arrivals and affordable departures:


Emmanuel Adebayor (Manchester City)

Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund)

Hamit Altintop (Bayern Munich)

Neymar (Santos)

Gael Clichy (Arsenal)

Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)


Esteban Granero


Ezequiel Garay

Fernando Gago

Lassana Diarra

Jerzy Dudek

Must stay:

Ricardo Carvalho

Sami Khedira

Karim Benzema

Sergio Canales

The latter two lists are players that have been speculated to leave. Obviously the rest of the squad is a ‘must stay.’

Only time will tell if Real can trump the team which many call the greatest club side of all time.

However, Jose Mourinho is like a virus, he grows stronger over time so does his teams. Dì Maria, Ozil, Alonso, Ramos and the great Cristiano Ronaldo will all improve next season. I won’t say all this will result in Real Madrid once again becoming La Liga Champions but it will give them a very good chance.

If you were to ask me do I THINK Madrid could win the La Liga title? I would have to say yes.

Below is my Madrid XI with players Mourinho has at his disposal.

This piece was written by Kevin Leonard, you can follow him on his Twitter - @megatronSTALIN, Kevin regularly writes for Away Goals too.

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Andrea Pirlo – a true legend of the game -

Jose Mourinho, the ultimate manager? Or the ultimate journey man? -

Just how good is Gary Cahill? -

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