Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Dilemma over Diarra

Mahamadou Diarra captained Mali to a 2-0 victory away to Togo on the weekend, ensuring the national side's qualification for next year's African Cup of Nations in Ghana. The competition, which runs from the 20th of January to the 10th of February will leave Real Madrid without their key defensive midfielder for at least the whole of January, given that players have to be available to join their national sides 15 days before the start of official competitions. During that time, Real Madrid will play nine games, a number that could increase if Mali qualify for the latter stages of the competition.

This is not the first time there's been a clash of fixtures between club and country, although last time FIFA ruled in favour of Real Madrid to ensure Diarra was present (and crucially scored) in league championship decider against Mallorca. This time, despite the protestations of some club presidents, country will win over club, and Real Madrid finds itself with a big problem in midfield.

Schuster, has included Diarra in his rotations policy, mostly, I suspect, because the player could not train as hard as normal during the month of Ramadan (13 September - 11 October). However, his replacement, Fernando Gago, has struggled to be as effective in his defensive coverage (not helped by the fact that there is little assistance from the rest of the midfield).

Hence, Real Madrid is already reported as either scouring the winter transfer window for an alternative or 'repurposing' another player in the squad. The departure of Emerson and De la Red in the summer, means that this could be one of Drenthe (still unsettled), Baptista (not defensive enough) or Sergio Ramos (not a natural midfielder).

Diarra himself narrowly avoided injury in the Togo - Mali qualifier, where the crowd invaded the pitch at the end of the game and assaulted the Mali squad with bottles and knives. His countrymen Kanouté, who plays for Sevilla, and Sidibé (Stoke City) were less fortunate and subsequently needed medical assistance African players in Spain have also been in the news recently due to the Spanish Federation ratifying the 2000 Cotonou agreement and granting citizens of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific states the same working rights as EU citizens (as long as they are working legally in Spain).

You can also read this, and other articles, over at Real Madrid Online


ruben said...

Well, as you know I´m spanish but I see that all your comments are in english and my english... it´s very very poor as you can see. So, I don´t know if I can comment you in spanish. If I can´t, I will try doing it in english, but the result can be very bad.
But thanks for writing in english. It´s good for me for trying learning it.

Gonzalo said...


No te preocupes por tu inglés, se te entiende perfectamente. Si quieres poner tus comentarios en español, puedes hacerlo también, no se trata de excluir a nadie aquí.

[Don't worry about your English, you can understand it just fine. If you want to comment in Spanish, feel free to do so, I don't want anyone to feel excluded here]

ruben said...

Muchas gracias. Me quitas un peso de encima. Cuando vea que lo que quiero poner soy capaz de hacerlo en un inglés aceptable, lo intentaré.

Sobre lo de Diarra, es un despropósito más del Madrid. Deberiamos de haber reforzado esa posición. Hay que ir acostumbrándose a hacer las cosas mal.
Por cierto, ¿hay interés allí en el Real Madrid?

Un abrazo amigo!

Anonymous said...

yeah!, ok. So, now what is fella gonsalo saying in Spanish?

Gonzalo said...


Creo que Schuster tiene la intención de cambiar como defiende el Madrid, estrechando las líneas. Eso ayudaría a que la posición que ocupa Diarra no quede tan desprotegida y Gago, que no tiene tanta fortaleza física pueda desempeñar sus tareas defensivas mejor. En lo que se refiere a interés aquí (en el Reino Unido) en el Real Madrid, hay bastante menos en los medios que cuando había jugadores ingleses (sobre todo Beckham), pero, claro está, es considerado uno de los "gigantes" del fútbol europeo.

[So that everyone else does not feel left out (sorry Anonymous!) by the exchange between Rubén and me, I will translate:

Rubén commented that Real should have planned in advance, knowing that Diarra was likely to be out for a significant length of time, and reinforced that position. I replied that I thought that Schuster's intention is to change the way Real defends, decreasing the gap between defenders and midfielders and making sure the position occupied by Diarra was not left so exposed. If that happens, then perhaps Gago, who is not as physically strong as Diarra, might perform better than he has thus far.

Rubén also asked about the level of interest here (in the UK) in Real Madrid and I replied that it had decreased a lot in the media since the English players (especially Beckham) had left, but that it is obviously considered to be one of the "giants" of European football.

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ruben. Your translation was very helpful and thank you.

Football is a great sport, a unifier, isn't it? I am from Mali and because of Diarra I have become a big fan of Real's. Too bad that Real is losing fans in England because Beckam left, but on the other hand, the club is winning many more new fans, particularly from the countries of origin of its new players. We also hope that Mali will have many supporters from Spain (Madrid, Sevilla...) come the African Cup of Nations in Ghana in January.

Rajab Bader said...

Rubin is right. Real Madrid should have planned for this. However, Gonzalo gave a superb explanation of what Schuster tends to do. I think If they get Fabregas, they will be fine, otherwise they will be in a big trouble.

john said...

I would honestly love to see how Sergio Ramos would fit in the role of defensive midfielder. Ramos has proved capable, thus far, of floating into the positions where we need him, and his combination of pace, long passing, and defense all indicate he could fill the role.
Furthermore, Madrid has plenty of options for full backs and center backs, with Marcelo and Drenthe developing, Torres fully capable Heinze who can play both full back and center, and then Cannavaro, Metzelder and Pepe: We could spare Ramos on the back line.

ruben said...

rajab bader,

I love Cesc Fábregas for Real Madrid and he may be teh solution for our poor play but is very dificult because he has said twice that he want to stay in Arsenal.
Now it seems that Barcelona wants him and maybe Real try to sign him, but is really dificult.

Linda said...

Realistically, I don't think there's a chance that Real will get Fabregas in January. (I don't think he's that eager to come to Barca either, but that's another issue.)

It's interesting that both Real and Barca will be losing their best holding midfielder to the ACN. Barca will hope that Rafael Marquez is fit enough to cover the position, although there have been rumours that we're looking to sign someone as cover as well.

Gago should in theory be able to cover for Diarra, so are his struggles a problem of adapation? (Well, the rest of the midfield hast to defend, too, but that's a team mentality thing.)