Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Emirates Cup Review and Van der Vaart

A recap of the events of the last seven days saw Real Madrid play two friendly games in London for the Emirates Cup with contrasting results, a serious knee injury to one of its most in-form midfielders, the announcement of a signing that had been widely heralded, and the retirement from international football of one of the top strikers in the game. The last three all involved Dutch players, or "Tulips" as the Spanish sports press is fond of calling them.

Real defeated Hamburg on Saturday with goals from Van Nistelrooy and Parejo. Yes, that's one of the youngsters Schuster has decided to take with him for the preseason and who the following day announced his deal with Championship side Queen's Park Rangers (QPR) for a one-year loan (which could be extended to two). Parejo had already had a decent performance against Linz in Real's preseason opener. His winner was a header from a cross by another one of those youngsters, Juanmi Callejón.

The following day Real faced up against the tournament hosts Arsenal, and found themselves on the back foot for most of the game. They did not look as fit or sharp as their London counterparts (whose league championship kicks off two weeks earlier than the Spanish one) and succumbed to a well-taken penalty by Adebayor. More important than the result was the serious injury sustained by Wesley Sneijder following a nasty (or clumsy, depending on your viewpoint) tackle by Abou Diaby. It was initially feared that Sneijder's cruciate ligament was affected, with an estimated recovery time of 6 months. Subsequent tests showed that the Dutchman will avoid surgery, but will still be away for an estimated three months, a serious blow to Real Madrid.

Coincidentally or not, Real then moved very swiftly to secure the services of another Dutch midfielder, Rafael van der Vaart, making the official announcement on Monday. Real had already reportedly offered €6 million for him and the fact he did not play for Hamburg in their Emirates Cup game against Real Madrid hinted that the deal was very close. In the end, and perhaps because of Sneijder's injury, Hamburg managed to extract €13 million for the transfer plus two more million depending on results. Not a bad deal for a player who could have left at the end of the season for €1 million, and whose transfer from Ajax originally cost Hamburg in the region of €5.5 million. Van der Vaart signed a five-year contract with Real on Tuesday. I think this is an excellent signing, potentially better for the team structure and balance than a 'star' like Cristiano Ronaldo. It's a shame we won't see him play with Wesley for a few months yet, but perhaps this will for Schuster to use him from the beginning and give him the confidence he needs to gel properly with his new team-mates.

On Monday, Ruud Van Nistelrooy announced his retirement from international football: "Given the physical effort you need to perform at this level, I had to make a choice," he said in a statement released by the Netherlands' Royal Soccer Association. "The combination of Real Madrid's competition, cup and Champions League games on the one hand and the Netherlands team on the other, would be too heavy a burden for me."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Damn Diaby! I so badly wanted to see Sneijder and van der Vaart play together and now it won't happen at least for the first 10 games of the season.

Parejo I think will be a great prospect for us in the coming seasons. I hope we don't lose to English football. That is the last thing Real need.