A sideways look at Spanish football
La Liga Loca suspects that Cristiano Ronaldo will be a very happy millionaire megastar on Wednesday morning, irrespective of the result between Manchester United and Real Madrid.
Not only will Ronaldo be clicking on the ‘check balance’ button at the cashpoint – a twice-weekly treat – but he will know that it will be at least a season before he is asked never-ending questions about what Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson mean to him. “I hated every miserable, damp second I spent in England and that man was a tyrant,” was the response the blog got from the Madrid man the other day, but hasn’t got around to filing it yet. Doubt anyone would be interested, really.
Ronaldo is on the front cover of Tuesday’s Marca, running through the Old Trafford tunnel with some iffy health-and-safety issues and very much on fire.
Marca scoffs at the very notion of ‘Red Devils’, claiming that the real devil is “dressed in white and is called Cristiano.” It’s a fine conceit, if somewhat ruined a couple of pages later with the admission that Madrid may well be wearing green to avoid a clash with the home side's shorts.
Perhaps rather than the Tunnel Of Fire, Marca could have mocked up a picture of Ronaldo carrying the entire Madrid team on his back, perhaps in some kind of giant holdall with Kaká’s head poking out. It would have been more appropriate, such are the hopes and expectations that Ronaldo can lead Madrid through a tie which is impossible to predict.
AS also have Ronaldo on Tuesday’s front cover, claiming that tonight's tie is a “Match of Dreams” with editor Alfredo Relaño gurgling over a footballer who is a now “an adult player, powerful, a goalscorer, sensational. A formidable enemy for the team that formed him.”
The mood in Spain’s capital city is an odd one. The euphoria and confidence of the double defeat of Barcelona has certainly reminded fans that the Madrid players are still capable of turning it on when motivated sufficiently. However, the English outfit and the much-revered Sir Alex Ferguson are certainly causing concern in a game which everyone expects to be a belter with an uncertain outcome.
While José Mourinho claimed during Monday’s press conference that “I wouldn't cry if we lose or run 100 metres with my finger in the air if we win,” the sentiment isn't shared elsewhere at the Bernabeu. Every single poker chip the club possesses is being plonked onto the Old Trafford pitch, in an effort to stop the Spanish side's season being a complete wash-out.
Prevail, and Madrid still have a tough journey to Wembley, but it means the side is alive and kicking and still chasing the cherished decima – the self-mythologising 10th European Cup/Champions League title. Fail, and Madrid will be out of the Champions League (at the last 16, for the seventh time in nine seasons), 13 points behind Barcelona in la Primera with the prospect of dead league fixtures against the likes of Celta Vigo, Levante and Valladolid. Even a Copa del Rey final against Atlético Madrid won’t seem as exciting as it did after last week's win over Barcelona.
Tuesday's pre-match talk in Madrid may be of a “Match of Dreams”, but losing to United could well be a teeth-falling-out, not-studying-for-an-exam, trouserless-in-public, Alan-Shearer-with-a-slide-projector nightmare.
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