Billy’s Soccer Beat
Madrid fans can breath a sigh of relief after narrowly escaping Schalke’s clutches with their UEFA Champions’ League lives, as they look towards the quarterfinals.
The defense of the title they won last season will not come easy however, as Real have put a target on their back this season, and Schalke certainly took aim yesterday. While Schalke emerged victorious from yesterday’s match, winning by a score of 4-3, Madrid won narrowly on aggregate, with the two away goals they scored visiting Germany solidifying their spot in the quarterfinals.
Real looked tired throughout much of the game, and rightfully so, this was Madrid’s 43rd game of the season, while Schalke has played just 33. Additionally, injuries to key players like James Rodriguez, Luka Modric, and Sergio Ramos have hindered Real’s ability to compete, the depth of their squad should make their team virtually invincible to the kinds of injuries that ruin other teams. Barring an injury to Cristiano Ronaldo, no one is irreplaceable in the entire Real Madrid lineup. While fatigue and injury have played a significant part in Madrid’s fall from grace, there remains some fundamental flaws in the construction of this Madrid team.
The poor play largely began after the New Year, and that falls largely on the shoulders of manager Carlo Ancelotti. Real Madrid pay Ancelotti a boatload of money to not only come up with the proper tactics and scouting reports for each opponent, but develop his talent and motivate the players he buys to put on the white jersey every game and go out to compete. Quite frankly, in the latter, he has fallen short. Iker Casillas has come a long way from the man who won three consecutive trophies with the Spanish national team. Alvaro Arbeloa and Fabio Coentrao showed against Schalke why they’ve ridden the bench for Real for most of the season. Additionally, the trio of attacking players: Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, and Gareth Bale looked completely exhausted and overmatched by a Schalke back line that many soccer experts would consider less talented.
Is it tactics? Is it fatigue? Is it age? Regardless of the issue, it’s up to Carlo Ancelotti to figure it out, and with a team full of stars, chemistry can deteriorate quickly. That issue in itself has caused much of the problems Real Madrid has come because of the egos clashing in the locker room or giving up because of superstar status.
Florentino Perez, the president of Real Madrid, has had one philosophy since he took a senior position at the club: attract superstars. This ‘Galacticos’ model has brought in some unbelievable talent to Madrid. Beginning in 2001, Perez has brought in the following players to the Madrid locker room (in order): Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Robinho, Kaka, Xabi Alonso, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesuit Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Isco, Toni Kroos, and finally Colombian starlet James Rodriguez.
All of these players have cost millions of euros, but won Real cabinets full of silverware and raised the profile of the club, to what is now the number one brand in all of international sports. However, in today’s soccer world, where the ever watching eye of social media has put a looming magnifying glass on Madrid, the star model may be breaking down.
Two losses in a week, to Bilbao and Schalke no less, is unheard of at Real Madrid. Rumors are constantly flying regarding one star or the next fleeing to next best situation. Stars are not performing like stars. And that fact is a very daunting one for any Madrid fan looking for a title repeat.