Arjen Robben arrived in Munich and passed a medical exam on Friday, scored two goals after coming on in the second half with his new teammate Franck Ribery on Saturday, and then left his new home town on Monday to meet up with the Dutch international team in Enschede.
Reuters Soccer Blog
At last, Real Madrid have got their man. Liverpool agreed on Tuesday to sell Xabi Alonso, a Real target going back at least six years, for a reported 30 million euros.
Florentino Perez is on course for an unopposed return to the Real Madrid presidency on Monday, and is promising to set in motion a major spending spree to build a “spectacular sporting project.”Speculation on who might be arriving has reached fever pitch in the Madrid-based media, and the architect of the ‘Galacticos’ policy has done everything he can to stoke their enthusiasm, short of naming names.“We are going to have great players to continue increasing the club’s income in as short a time as possible,” he told sports daily Marca.“We will go a bit further into debt because I think we have to make up for lost time by doing in one year what should have been done in two or three.”He told radio station Cadena Ser he expected to make five or six signings.With a war chest of up to 300 million euros being spoken about in the Spanish media, they have moved quickly to fill in the gaps.With Arsene Wenger, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho slipping off the radar, Villarreal’s Manuel Pellegrini has now emerged as a surprise front runner for the coaching role.As for players, all the usual names are present. Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo, AC Milan’s Kaka and Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribery top the shopping list, along with Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso, and Valencia trio David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.But where do Real really need strengthening if they are win back the initiative from treble-winners Barcelona, and bring the spectacle back to the Bernabeu?Iker Casillas will continue between the posts, but Fabio Cannavaro’s departure for Juventus leaves them short of a partner for Pepe in the centre of defence. The injury-prone Christoph Metzelder cannot be relied upon.Left back has also been a problem position with first-choice Gabriel Heinze struggling.The area where they have suffered most this year is in midfield, where they have lacked the quality and pace to open up defences in the big games.Arjen Robben spends too much time on the treatment table, the ageing Guti flickers only intermittently, while Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Marcelo and Royston Drenthe have failed to step up when needed.In attack, Ruud van Nistelrooy missed most of the campaign with a knee injury and will be 33 by the start of next season. Raul will be 32. Gonzalo Higuain and Klaas Jan Huntelaar are not yet finished articles.Where would you splash the cash?PHOTO: Perez speaks during the presentation of his presidential candidature for Real Madrid, May 28, REUTERS/Susana Vera
Pep Guardiola’s superb Barca side four clear at the top with five games left to play. Champions Real in second on a run of 17 wins and a draw in 18 matches since a 2-0 loss at the Nou Camp in December and refusing to capitulate. The nation’s arch soccer rivals locking horns. Spain versus Catalunya.The stage was set for my first “Clasico” at the Bernabeu.I had read about the great matches of the past and seen the headlines: “The match of the century!”, “The greatest show on earth!”.It was time to experience it for myself.I hopped off the bus near the stadium and fought my way through the throng of Real faithful, already in good voice and enjoying the evening sunshine more than an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.A policeman waved me through the barriers holding back the crowds and I collected my accreditation and took the lift up to the press tribune on the fifth floor.It was oddly quiet inside the mammoth arena, a few photographers and officials milling about by the pitch, and the muted sound of the boisterous supporters outside punctuated by the occasional firecracker and police siren.Fabio Cannavaro, Arjen Robben and a few other Real players strolled out on to the pitch for a few minutes and Royston Drenthe posed for some photographs as I leafed through the media notes.Biggest home defeat for Real in “El Clasico” 5-0 way back in February 1974, four days before I was born. Probably won’t be needing that particular stat.When the spectators were finally allowed in, the atmosphere quickly warmed up and any attempt at singing by the small knot of Barca fans high to my right was met with a chorus of whistles and hoots.The volume of noise was rising all the time and reached a crescendo as the two teams marched on to the pitch and the spectators held up pieces of card that turned the stands white. Game on.“You don’t want to do that,” I thought as Sergio Ramos gave the ball away to Lionel Messi in a dangerous position in the first minute, perhaps a sign of things to come.The Real faithful went nuts when Gonzalo Higuain grabbed the lead but it wasn’t long before Barca asserted themselves and Real’s chances of defending their league title were fast receding.As the goals rolled in, a colleague in the press box, a lifelong Real fan, was growing increasingly despondent and the invective issuing from the mouth of the Spanish journalist behind us, mostly directed at the referee, was increasingly extreme.When Messi scored to make it 5-2 with around 15 minutes left, waves of shell-shocked Real fans started heading for the exits.The referee did not prolong the agony, ending the match on 90 minutes, and I quickly filed my first take and a rapid update before dashing down to the press conferences with a beaming Guardiola and a glum Juande Ramos.Eight goals scored by some of the most exciting players around, tons of chances, plenty of controversy, passionate fans in a stunning soccer arena and a famous result in one of the most intensely contested fixtures in world sport.The kind of match you don’t forget in a hurry.PHOTO: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (L) celebrates his goal against Real Madrid during their match at the Bernabeu, May 2, 2009. REUTERS/Juan Medina
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