Monday, 30 June 2008

Madridistas in Euro 2008 (VI)

Spain put behind them 44 year of disappointments and relinquished the mantle of "perennial underachievers" (leaving that moniker to England, perhaps?) after beating Germany to their second European Championship. It's been a fascinating tournament, with some great open, attacking football, high drama, and, from this fan's point of view at least, the right result.

Casillas (Spain): the captain rightly lifted the trophy from the hands of the man who was almost single-handedly responsible for preventing Spain from winning this trophy back in 1984, French legend Michel Platini. St. Iker had once again little to do in this game, but it was refreshing to see his confidence and surety on some of the high balls floated into his area by the German attack.

Ramos (Spain): a bit of a wobbly start saw Germany threatening to run rampant down his flank, but Sergio and the rest of the defensive line got their act together to mop up most of the pressure for the best part of the game. Once again looked threatening going forward and was denied by Lehmann when his powerful header nearly put Spain two up.

Metzelder (Germany): poor, poor, poor. Slow at the back and gave the ball away countless times when going forward. The Spanish forward and midfield lines run rings around the German defence and were perhaps too generous in not putting more of their chances away and making them look more ordinary than they actually were. It's really is a testament to Germany's competitiveness that they managed to get this far with such a poor side.

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Friday, 27 June 2008

Madridistas in Euro 2008 (V)

And so onto the final of Euro 2008, which will see Germany, in their 5th finals, facing Spain, in their 2nd. Here's how the Real Madrid players on either side (there were none playing for either Russia or Turkey) performed in their semifinal pairings.

Metzelder (Germany): Still well off the pace, it seems strange that Germany has not been punished more heavily for the poor performances of their two central defenders: Metzelder and Mertesacker. Against an energetic but depleted Turkish side, Metzelder struggled to contain Semih Senturk, who was nearly once again the hero in the dying minutes. He also was lucky not to concede a penalty for pulling the shirt of Colin Kazim.

Casillas (Spain): a spectator throughout most of the game, he still had time to show why he's one of the best goalkeepers in the World with fingertip saves from Pavlyuchenko in the first half, when the game was still finely poised at 0-0, and another from substitute Sychev with two minutes to go, by which time Spain were comfortably up 3-0.

Ramos (Spain): one of Spain's bulwarks in the game against Russia: solid on his flank, keeping both Arshavin and Zhirkov pretty quiet, and forming an excellent partnership with the very dependable Marcos Senna. He was also dangerous going forward, with a half-chance for a headed goal in the first half, as well as a cross into the area that Fernando Torres should have put away.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Balboa to Benfica

Real Madrid midfielder Javier Balboa has signed for Benfica for the next 4 seasons in a deal reportedly worth around 4.5 million euros (plus 50% of any transfer fees if the players is sold on). The 23 year old is the first in the 2007-2008 squad to leave the club this summer (Cassano did leave for Sampdoria last May, but he had already spent a season there on loan) and he joins former Real Madrid player Quique Sánchez Flores' new project at the Portuguese club. Quique knew Balboa during his stint as one of Real's youth managers some years ago.

Balboa had asked Real Madrid to let him go, given the little playing time he had in the past season (10 games: 5 League, 3 Cup, 2 Champions League), in which hecame in as a substitute in all but one of them, but still managed to score two goals. Though he generally plays on the right wing, he can be useful on either side. All In White wish him luck in his career

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Sunday, 22 June 2008

Madridistas in Euro 2008 (IV)

We say goodbye to the first batch of Real Madrid players after the quarter finals, with the surprising elimination of both Portugal and Holland, two of the more fancied sides after their group games. Aside from Spain's first defeat of Italy in official competition for 88 years, all the group winners fell at the quarter final stage.

Pepe (Portugal): the Portuguese defenders did not cover themselves in glory against Germany. Pepe was beaten in the air by Klose on a number of occasions and then proceeded to inexplicably miss with a header around the hour mark which could have seen his side draw level and change the course of the tie. He also has to take some of the blame for Schweinsteiger's goal as between him and Bosingwa they were not able to cover Podolski's run.

Metzelder (Germany): not many gave Christoph much of a chance against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Nuno Gomes, but, to his credit, he turned in a solid, though not brilliant, performance. His uncharacteristic playacting after someone brushed his face is reprehensible. There was little he could do, however, to stop Nuno Gomes's goal.

Sneijder (Netherlands): his side's best player of the match and, in my opinion, Holland's best player in the whole tournament, he constantly harried and tried to find ways through the organised Russian defence. It was that final pass into space that seemed beyond him and he resorted, unsuccessfully to shooting from outside the area. His cleverly taken free kick found Van Nistelrooy towards the end of normal time and resurrected the Dutch, for a time at least.

Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands): looked very much alone up front and did not really get great service from his teammates. His goal at the end of the second half when all looked lost, was a typical "Van Goal" effort, but ultimately to no avail.

Robben (Netherlands): on the substitutes bench, but was not used by Van Basten against Russia.

Casillas (Spain): immense. There's no other word for it. Kept Spain in it with a left foot out of nowhere in the second half to keep Camoranesi out, and also saved di Natale's header in extra time, not to mention the two penalty saves that finally mean that Spain breaks the 'curse' of the quarter finals and their lack of success against Italy in official competitions which stretches back to 1920. The process of canonisation has started, in the Spanish press at least.

Ramos (Spain): much better - not yet at his best - but significantly improved from the first two games. He still made a few mistakes, especially in the first half, giving away possession too easily, but he also helped out as centre back when needed (Puyol was just too short to manage Luca Toni in the air).

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Madridistas in Euro 2008 (III)

Though half of the national sides taking part in Euro 2008 have now been eliminated, all of the Real Madrid players who started the tournament have booked their ticket to the quarter finals with varying degrees of brilliance. Rubén de la Red, back from his season-long loan at Getafe, and still a Real Madrid player (it's not yet clear whether he will feature in the transfer market this summer) made his debut in the tournament with a goal against the Greeks.

Pepe (Portugal): Scolari made eight changes to his starting line-up having guaranteed first place in the group after the first two games and promptly went down 2-0 to co-hosts Switzerland, who were playing for honour only. Though Pepe had little blame for the two goals, it was clear the whole squad was not as 'switched on' as in the previous games. Whether this has anything to do with Scolari's announcement that he will be joining Chelsea after the tournament ends, remains to be seen.

Metzelder (Germany): barely any improvement over the previous match, although it has to be said that Germany had a particularly pedestrian game against Austria as a whole. The two German central defenders have been shown up time and again by fast moving opponents, although they seem to be solid from set pieces and aerial balls. They need to take it up a notch or two if they are to progress beyond their quarter final game against Portugal.

Robben (Netherlands): played just over an hour of Holland's inconsequential game against Romania, which they still managed to win 2-0 despite resting most of the starting 11. Arjen Robben wasted a good chance in the first half from a Huntelaar flick-on by poking his shot wide. Somewhat imprecise in some of his passing, he may not have done enough to get a starting spot in the quarter finals.

Sneijder and Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands): were rested and did not play against Romania.

De la Red (Spain): after a fairly unimpressive first half, in which he missed a chance to put Spain ahead against Greece, he picked up his game in the second half with a tremendous strike that gave Nikopolidis no chance. The goal seemed to give him added confidence and his passing improved significantly, although it is unlikely he will be picked over any of the members of the starting 11.

Casillas and Sergio Ramos (Spain): were rested and did not play against Greece.

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Monday, 16 June 2008

FIFA rules out action against Real

FIFA has responded to last week's complaint by Manchester United about Real Madrid's alleged 'tapping up' of Cristiano Ronaldo by saying that no breach of contract has taken place and no action will be taken.

In their statement, FIFA confirmed that "we received last week a formal complaint from Manchester United related to the player Cristiano Ronaldo and the club Real Madrid. From the documentation received, no breach of contract appears to have occurred yet. Therefore, in accordance with the applicable practice, no kind of formal procedure has been opened by Fifa regarding this matter.

"The Spanish Football Federation has been informed of the complaint lodged by the English club and been asked to remind its member club Real Madrid about the potential legal consequences of a breach of contract without just cause during the protected period and of a possible inducement to such a breach of contract, as established by the Fifa Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players"

Earlier today, sports lawyer Mel Goldberg has argued that even if the complaint prospered, any punishment meted out by FIFA to Real Madrid would likely be minimal. "If Real Madrid are reported to FIFA, they will probably get a rap on the knuckles. I don't know whether they would be expelled from, for example, the European Cup or whether they would be deducted points in the league. What FIFA would probably say is you cannot keep a player against his will if he is not happy and wants to go elsewhere. They would give some minor castigation and the deal would go through.", he said.

As the whole saga unfolds, the ever-unreliable Daily Express reported that Real Madrid is ready to deal directly with Manchester United's owners, the Glazer family and put an offer on the table around the 90 million euro mark (or 50 million plus Robinho, according to Marca). This supposedly has sent Alex Ferguson into a fit of fury with threats of resigning if the owners sell Cristiano without his consent. All this is most likely fantasy, but it was so amusing I just had to put it in.

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Saturday, 14 June 2008

Madridistas in Euro 2008 (II)

Matchday 2 of Euro 2008 has already seen some of the nations eliminated, while others have secured their passage into the knockout stages. At this point, we have not yet said a definitive goodbye to any Real Madrid players, although some have still not guaranteed their place in the quarter finals:

Pepe (Portugal): no goals this time (though he did come close on one occasion), but another solid performance in central defence alongside Chelsea's Ricardo Carvalho. However, the Portuguese back four did look uncomfortable dealing with the balls crossed into the area by the Czechs; one such action resulted in Sionko's equaliser, though ultimately it proved irrelevant.

Metzelder (Germany): missed a good chance to put Germany back in the game against Croatia with a header from close range that went just over the bar. He was not particularly at fault in either of Craotia's goals although the whole German back four looked slow and pedestrian in this game and a lot less impressive than following their opener against Poland.

Cannavaro (Italy): though he's injured for the whole of the competition, it is clear Italy are missing him, after conceding an almost unprecedented four goals in their first two matches and teetering on the verge of elimination.

Sneijder (Netherlands): man of the match once more for his contribution to the Duthc midfield dominance, Wesley once again found the back of the net with a top drawer finish from outside the area. If the Dutch get far in the knockout stages, as most pundits are predicting based on their form thus far, Sneijder may win the Player of the Tournament award.

Robben (Netherlands): though he was expected to be off for a few days longer following his pre-tournament injury, Arjen Robben came on as a cubstitute at the start of the second half against France and helped his team-mates turn the tide decisively in their favour. First he provided the assist for Van Persie's goal which doubled the Dutch lead, and then he followed it up with a goal out of nowhere to make it 3-1 and take the wind definitely out of France's sails.

Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands): no goals against France, but plenty of chances, and his constant incursions in the opposition area gave the defenders plenty of headaches and his team-mates more room to manoeuvre. Still a key piece of the Dutch attack, though he may be rested in their third group game as they have already secured first place.

Casillas (Spain): precious little work to do all game (and virtually none in the second half), Iker had little chance to stop Ibrahimovic's strike which put the sides level.

Sergio Ramos (Spain): a slight improvement on the first game, but still imprecise in some of his passing. His penchant for attacking down the right flank left his flank uncovered in a couple of occassions as he struggled to get back in time to head off the Swedish counter-attacks. He has to shoulder some of the responsibility for Ibrahimovic's goal as he returned late to his position and then did not manage to get a tackle in.

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Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Madridistas in Euro 2008 (I)

As all the nations complete their first game in Euro 2008, those Real Madrid players involved in the tournament made an immediate impact. Well, those who weren't injured, at least:

Pepe (Portugal): scored his first international goal in his first major championship and opened up a potentially tricky tie against Turkey, momentarily taking everyone's attention away from Cristiano Ronaldo. Pepe and Carvalho are probably the best pair of central defenders in the competition and gave the Turks few options.

Metzelder (Germany): sporting a dense beard, Metzelder showed that he's still a long way from full match fitness. Had Podolski not made the match safe, Metzelder's slowness part way through the second half might have cost Germany dear.

Cannavaro (Italy): Alas, though Fabio made the team, his ankle injury in pre-competition training meant he is ruled out for around two months as he recovers from surgery. Watching his team-mates lose 3-0 to Holland made painful viewing from the sidelines for il bello.

Sneijder (Netherlands): Wesley Sneijder shrugged off an injury scare in training after he was tackled perhaps more vigorously than required by team-mate Robin van Persie to put on a sensational display for his country on his 24th birthday. This included a truly memorable goal from a seemingly impossible angle past Buffon to cap a great day for Holland and a miserable start to the tournament for Italy.

Robben (Netherlands): Though he was his country's most consistent performer in the run-up of friendlies to the tournament, Arjen Robben limped out of training on Saturday with a groin injury that will keep him out for around a week to 10 days. This may not see him join the fray until (and if) Holland reaches the next stage.

Van Nistelrooy (Netherlands): Gave the Italian defence all sorts of trouble, and, although his opener for Holland was thought at the time to be offside by most observers except the referee, UEFA General Secretary David Taylor later confirmed that, according to the rules, he was actually played on side by Panucci, though the Italian was off the field when the goal was scored. In fact, Van Nistelrooy could argue that he was unlucky not to add to his tally, as he had a couple of decent penalty appeals waved off by the referee.

Casillas (Spain): Did not have a lot of work against Russia for the most part, although the two shots that hit the woodwork would have beaten him. Looked unsure on some of the high crosses, although he was not helped by his defenders in this area, and there was little he could do in Russia's goal.

Sergio Ramos (Spain): Probably one of the worst performers on the Spanish side, though the final result made that irrelevant. He looked nervous and lost a lot of balls. He will have to improve to make an impact on the tournament, although there is no natural replacement, so Aragonés is unlikely to bench him.

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Monday, 9 June 2008

United rattled by Real

In a statement on the Manchester United official website, the English club has announced that it has made a formal complaint to FIFA over the alleged involvement of Real Madrid in the transfer of Cristiano Ronaldo. The brief statement reads:

On 27 May, Manchester United made clear its intention to report Real Madrid to FIFA if it continued to involve itself in the future of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Unfortunately, Real Madrid has not kept its own counsel and the Club feels it has no alternative but to make a formal complaint to the world governing body, which it has done today.

The precise content and nature will remain confidential.

FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola confirmed the complaint had been made: "it is too early to say how the matter will be dealt with. We will first have to look at the precise nature of the complaint before seeing what steps will be taken."

Though there are few people who doubt that Real Madrid have been "sniffing around" the Portuguese star, it is doubtful whether any complaint to FIFA can be made to stick, as there is unlikely to be anything signed between the player and the club and proving any other type of contact is potentially difficult. However, given that both Manchester United and FIFA are keeping the contents of the complaint confidential at this time, it is possible that evidence that is compelling enough has been unearthed.

Depending on how this pans out, it may spark 'tit for tat' complaints between clubs. Sir Alex Ferguson, for one, has been criticised for his alleged approach of Owen Hargreaves while the player was still under contract at Bayern Munich in 2006, although a transfer was eventually agreed between the two clubs in the summer of 2007.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Robinho Voted Player of the Year

The readers of All In White have voted, and their verdict is that Robinho has been this season's most valuable Real Madrid player. The results, based on the total votes collected throughout the season on a month by month basis, show that Robinho received 65 out of a total of 394 votes cast, or about 1 in 6. Despite this, recent reports have linked Robinho with a move to either Chelsea or Manchester United, the latter as a possible player exchange for Cristiano Ronaldo.

The top three Real Madrid players were:

  • Robinho - 65 votes
  • Casillas - 62 votes
  • Raúl - 53 votes
Robinho was also the only player in the whole squad to receive at least one vote every month between September 2007 and May 2008, showing that he is consistently well regarded by voters, even though his form dipped in the run up to the end of the season. Robinho also won the monthly accolade twice during the season: in November and March. The Player of the Month awards are listed below:

Of the 25 players in the squad, only three received no votes: Salgado (no surprise there), Codina (who only played one game all season) and Balboa (whose chances were more restricted in the second half of the season, when more votes were cast). The results for the whole squad were:

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