Friday, 20 October 2006

Helguera grabs his chance

Iván HelgueraHe's spent the last 9 months or so in footballing limbo, blamed by Real's previous coach, López Caro, for the team's weakness in defence. He was lined up to leave and go back to his native Santander, but the deal fell through at such a late stage during the transfer window, that the club had already registered Diarra with his shirt number '6'. Capello's arrival did not see any improvement in Helguera's fortunes, and he was more often than not sent to train with the youngsters in the 'B' team.

This must have been hard for someone who has been a near-permanent fixture in the centre of defence since he joined Real Madrid in 1999, with two Champions League and two Spanish League titles to his credit. Still, he turned up to train with the kids and waited for a chance he thought would never come.

forced Capello's hand and Helguera found himself in his accustomed position on the pitch facing Getafe. While Real's performance on the day is universally regarded as beyond awful, Iván was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise lacklustre side. Enough to retain his place in the side for the mid-week clash against Steaua.

His performance in Bucharest, where he often initiated Real's attacking plays, combining with Guti and Robinho means he is now expected to start against Barcelona on Sunday. A good performance there, and given that Sergio Ramos seems more comfortable and effective playing as right back, could mean that Michel Salgado will find it hard to break back into the side when he returns from injury.

Yesterday, the man voted best defender in the last World Cup, Fabio Cannavaro, was singing his praises: "He's had his problems with the club, but he's a great defender, the most intelligent in the squad, and he's got balls".

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