Real getting it all Ron in the dressing room
Watching Real Madrid in action over both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Juventus transported me back to my international playing days.
Back to a time when Ireland used to play Holland once a year, or so it seemed.
In those days the Dutch had a reputation for in-fighting and there were times out on the pitch against the ‘Oranje’ when you could smell that something wasn’t right.
And so it was with Madrid against the Italians. Real had the better players, but Juventus had the better team.
Have you ever noticed that when Cristiano Ronaldo scores, he runs to the corner flag and only one or two other players follow him.
But when somebody else scores,
Ronaldo might give one other player a hug or a handshake and then trots back to the centre-circle for the restart.
Contrast that with Lionel Messi, who is enveloped by Barcelona players on every one of the regular occasions he finds the net.
I suspect all is not well within the Real Madrid dressing room.
Ronaldo has never hidden his disdain for the fact that the player who commanded the world-record transfer fee is at the club − and it is not him.
Gareth Bale is not playing well either. No more than Ronaldo, he didn’t get the job done against Juve.
As the Sky Sports panel remarked on Wednesday night, a good definition of a big player is one who does big things in big games.
Well, this was a big game for Real, their last proper chance to win a trophy this season, and also an opportunity to set up what would surely have been called ‘El Super Gran Clasico’ in the Champions League final.
And after my few halting words of Spanish, here’s something else about that language.
By all accounts, Bale has still not mastered Spanish, despite living in Madrid since August 2013.
Sorry, but that’s not good enough.
When you go to work and live in another country, you must adapt and that involves doing your best to learn the language.
If you don’t attempt to master it, then the dressing-room gets the vibe, fairly or unfairly, that you are just there for a couple of seasons for the big salary.
Gareth could learn from two Irish internationals who moved over to the Continent.
Liam Brady is fluent in Italian to this day, having immersed himself in Italian culture and style during his time with Juventus.
Michael Robinson’s Spanish became so good that he was a Radio and TV commentator in that country − so it can be done, Gareth.
Every season for the last 20 years in which Real Madrid have not won a trophy, they have fired their manager.
Indeed, in one season when they won the Champions League, 2002, they still fired Vicente del Bosque.
Carlo Ancelotti is surely a goner now and some new manager will arrive.
He’ll have a transfer budget to buy a Galatico of his own and try to fit that new player in alongside Ronaldo, Bale, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema, James Rodriguez and all the rest of the talent already at the Bernabeu.
Yet you’ll note all of the players I’ve mentioned are attackers. Where are the class defenders, the ones who might have kept Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata quiet over the last fortnight?
And what about the goalkeeping issue? Iker Casillas is nearer the end of his career than the beginning of it.
Casillas has been a brilliant net-minder for Real Madrid and Spain for more than a decade, but he is now starting to make mistakes and he wasn’t good, at all, for Morata’s winner last Wednesday night.
It’s just another issue in the in-tray for the new manager of a club that is, at the same time, one of football’s greatest clubs and one of its biggest soap-operas.