Real put faith in youth to topple Barcelona

August 18, 2010

SOCCER-WORLD/Real Madrid’s signing of Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil is further proof that they have opted for youth and pace this year, after glitz and glamour failed to knock Barcelona off their perch last season.

Poster boys Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema were Real’s star signings in a 250 million euro rebuilding programme last summer, but they only managed second place as another trophyless campaign ended back in May.

Coach Manuel Pellegrini paid the price and Real pushed the boat out to land Champions League winner Jose Mourinho from Inter Milan, and he has nudged the club in a different direction for the new season.

Ageing stalwarts such Raul and Guti have been off-loaded and in have come a clutch of talented and hungry youngsters who still have a lot to prove.

The 21-year-old Ozil joins fellow German international midfielder Sami Khedira (23), two of the central figures in the country’s impressive run to the World Cup semi-finals in South Africa.

Argentina winger Angel Di Maria (22) and Spanish wide player Pedro Leon (23) give Mourinho flying options down the flanks, and the precocious talents of the 19-year-old Sergio Canales should give Kaka plenty to worry about.

The pop star style presentations and the circus-like atmosphere at the Bernabeu have disappeared to be replaced by Mourinho’s more serious, down-to-earth approach.

The only disadvantage he has with respect to Barcelona is that he will need time to mould the side into the sort of team he wants.

Pep Guardiola has an established team and system but financial constraints mean he has only added David Villa, Adriano Correia and youth players to a squad that has lost Thierry Henry, Yaya Toure, Rafael Marquez and Dmytro Chygrynskiy.

Mourinho proved he had the tactical nous to defeat Barca last season, and he appears to have the weapons at his disposal to do the same again this year.

Real’s young guns should put Barca’s three-point winning margin in La Liga from last May, well within their reach.

PHOTO: Germany’s Mesut Ozil reacts during the 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match against Spain at Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban July 7, 2010. REUTERS/Marcelo Del Pozo

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