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Having spent 250 million euros on reinforcements and with the final due to be staged at their own Bernabeu stadium, winning the Champions League is seen almost as an obligation for Real Madrid this season, at least by much of the Spanish media.
Kicking off their campaign, perhaps appropriately, in one of Europe’s most expensive cities, Real showed flashes of what may be to come, both in terms of attacking inspiration and defensive vulnerability, as they beat Swiss champions FC Zurich 5-2.
Cristiano Ronaldo was his old self, firing in two free kicks at decisive stages of the game, performing a few trademark shimmies and stepovers and remonstrating with the referee every time he was tackled by an opponent.
There were tantalising glimpses of the potential offered by his parternship with Raul and former World Player of the Year Kaka, although Real often gave the impression that they are still finding their feet with so many newcomers.
“Ronaldo and Messi could miss the World Cup!” screamed the headlines after Portugal drew 1-1 in Denmark and Argentina were humiliated 3-1 at home to Brazil.
It sounds awful, doesn’t it? How will we ever manage without Cristiano and Leo, two of the poster boys for the elite, Masters of the Universe level of footballer we’ve come to know and love?
******Real Madrid’s expensive new team boasts an awesome array of attacking talent and huge goal-scoring potential but their defence looked worryingly porous in their opening match of the La Liga season on Saturday.******President Florentino Perez spent 250 million euros ($359 million) to bring excitement and spectacle back to the Bernabeu after two barren years and judging by Saturday’s 3-2 win over Deportivo Coruna, when Real twice surrendered the lead and created a host of chances, the fans will not be disappointed.******The return of the suspended Pepe and injured pair Christoph Metzelder and Sergio Ramos may help to eradicate the errors that blighted their performance.******However, Real’s hopes of mounting an effective challenge to treble-winners Barcelona seemingly rest on the ability of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema and their team mates to score more goals than are inevitably conceded.******Sports daily Marca said in an editorial on Sunday that Real were following a script against Depor that the fans had become well used to over the years.******”An opponent with a solid back line who refuses to be intimidated by so many star players and knows how to exploit the whites’ defensive weakness but who ultimately yields to massive firepower,” the paper wrote. “This (Real) promises excitement.”******Perez’s latest creation resembles the band of “galacticos” he assembled during his first stint in charge in 2000-2006, who included Zinedine Zidane, Figo, David Beckham and Brazilian striker Ronaldo.******DYNAMIC SIDES***El Pais soccer correspondent Jose Samano said that coach Manuel Pellegrini was under orders from Perez to focus on attack because the president had grown up watching dynamic Real sides including players such as Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas in the 1950s and 60s.******”Over time soccer has become more conservative but not in the mind of (Perez),” Samano wrote.******”Manuel Pellegrini has no other option than to field as many defenders as attackers, a gamble that almost got them into trouble against Depor,” he added.******”Madrid were struggling to dictate the game and obviously won’t be a balanced and well calibrated side anytime soon but their box of tricks is limitless.”******Writing in El Mundo, Orfeo Suarez said that the new-look Real side were “terrific going forward and vulnerable at the back“.******”That’s the conclusion to be drawn from the start of the second Florentino Perez era; understandable because it’s a project under construction,” he said.******”Madrid kept Depor’s hopes alive because they are not yet a team and perhaps never will be, and some of the stars are still not firing on all cylinders.”******PHOTO: Real Madrid’s Raul celebrates his goal against Deportivo Coruna with Karim Benzema (L) and Kaka (C) during their Spanish first division soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid August 29, 2009. REUTERS/Susana Vera
Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Raul Albiol, Alvaro Arbeloa, Esteban Granero and Ezequiel Garay have all been added to a squad that finished second in the league under Juande Ramos last year.
If your first reaction on hearing about the Samuel Eto’o-Zlatan Ibrahimovic deal was “How much?” then I can assure you you weren’t the only one.
To land Ibrahimovic, who is due to be presented this evening at the Nou Camp, Barcelona will not only hand over the Cameroon international striker but will also give Inter Milan a reported 45 million euros and the loan, for one season, of Aleksandr Hleb.
Click the video above for a look at how Shamrock Rovers are preparing for the visit of Real Madrid — a match the entire soccer word will be keeping an eye on, with Cristiano Ronaldo set to make his debut for the Spanish club.
Interesting line about Real’s continued interest in Franck Ribery. Do they really need him still. Raul seems to suggest they’d still like him…
Watching Cristiano Ronaldo getting the rock star treatment at a packed Bernabeu stadium on Monday night, I found myself thinking back to the U2 concert I had been to at Barcelona’s Camp Nou last week.
At a record $130 million, the Portuguese winger has cost Real considerably more than the Irish band’s entire world tour, which kicked off in the Catalan capital and is reported to be their most expensive to date at an estimated $100 million.
While new Real Madrid signing Cristiano Ronaldo was being presented in front of a packed and excited Bernabeu, another great European club was dealing with an influx of fans but for a very different reason.
Hundreds of AC Milan ultras turned up at the first day of pre-season training to protest against the sale of Kaka to Real and the lack of major signings to replace him and Paolo Maldini (whose heir as skipper is Massimo Ambrosini…)
Finally, Real Madrid can say that Cristiano Ronaldo is their player after the club reached agreement with the Portuguese over personal terms (which are presumably pretty generous).
The announcement is there on the Real website, with the news that Ronaldo will be presented at the Bernabeu on July 6. Expect an announcement with the razzmatazz to rival the Beckham presentation…
from Left field:
Cristiano Ronaldo's obsession with scoring an unforgettable goal in the Champions League final makes perfect sense now the world knows he always intended to leave Manchester United afterwards for Real Madrid.
Reaction in England to his departure was captured in a Guardian headline: "United fans will miss outrageous talent but not a charmless man". Ronaldo, it was said, possessed sumptuous talent coupled with obnoxious self-regard.