With Real Madrid facing a very busy couple of weeks (Valencia on Wednesday, Sevilla on Saturday and Olympiakos the following Tuesday), Bernd Schuster decided to leave Raúl on the bench for the a priori easier task of dealing with Deportivo at home. This is the first time this season that Raúl has been included in Schuster's rotation policy, and so far, only Iker Casillas seems to be immune. Without their very own "Captain Marvel", Real were arguably at their most disjointed, playing an insipid, diluted game that could barely be described as football.
Over the past few weeks, in the media frenzy that developed around Raúl after the latest snub by national team coach Luis Aragonés, many squad members have been almost sickeningly fulsome in their praise for the Real Madrid (and formerly Spain) captain:
After last night's performance, you have to wonder if there isn't more to it than just cynical attempts by those players to ingratiate themselves with one of the heavyweights in the dressing room, or by certain elements of the press to put pressure on Aragonés. When Raúl came in for Saviola halfway through the second half, in what was the thirteenth anniversary (minus one day) of his debut with the first team, he seemed to inject some much needed energy and vision to his team-mates. Robinho, once again absent for most of the game, hit the crossbar and Guti, who had not had anyone to latch on to his deadly accurate passes, saw firstly Raúl himself, and secondly Robinho put paid to Deportivo's solid defence.
And thus the reason behind this article's oblique title: Real seems still to be unhealthily dependent on three of its longest serving players: Raúl, Casillas and Guti. Without taking away anything from their contributions, a squad of this depth (and cost) should by now be able to perform as effectively when they are not playing. Nobody should be indispensible when the season is this long. Real Madrid may think itself fortunate that it is facing two potential contenders for the title (Valencia and Sevilla) at a time when they have recently lost their managers. Don't be fooled; both teams have been playing more solidly and consistently (albeit without the luxury of having results go their way) and will provide a stern test of Schuster's ability to construct a team out of a bunch of talented individuals.
One last thing, can anyone explain to me why Salgado continues to play first team football?