Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer Shignings

With Jorge Valdano very vocally slamming shut the door labeled “New Transfers” on the remaining poor souls who were not bought by Real Madrid, there’s still no guarantee that the transfer season has actually concluded at the White House. Because Valdano is after all an Argentino, and a quick look at how he’s backtracked so many times on statements of finality leaves you with a lingering feeling that Flo Perez will still open his coffers for that one last signing. But for now, we’ll take Valdano’s word as the absolute and assume that Real Madrid are actually done as far as the summer transfer window is concerned.

So, here’s a quick rundown of this season’s summer signings along with pre-season ratings …

Jose Mourinho
Undoubtedly, THE Galactico signing of the summer. The club aims to fulfill two objectives with this signing: a.) Win the Holy Grail a.k.a. El Decima a.k.a. The elusive 10th UEFA Champions League Trophy and b.) Forge a core team with a winning mentality.

Jose Mourinho is a thoroughbred in managers, the kind who have always achieved both points A and B at whichever club they’ve managed. All in All, a full 10 points for this signing. There have been big coaches who have failed fantastically at Real Madrid. But none of them were bigger than Jose Mourinho. By the winter break things will be clear either way; we may start listening to clarion calls or church hymns, and depending on one of them Mourinho might decide to exercise the release clause which he had the foresight to insert into his contract. It’s always better to scream “I Resign” than having “You’re Fired” being screamed at you.

Sergio Canales

Boy!!...Yeah he’s a boy, but that was supposed to be an exclamation. Anyway, Sergio Canales, at age 16, had already been dubbed as a crack, and following his last season exploits (notably the two goals against Sevilla), he was labeled by the irksome Spanish media as the next Golden Boy of Spain. Real Madrid swooped on the lad before Laporta could say “Cule” and Mourinho promptly decided to draft him into the team straightway, the proposed loan back to Racing Santander never getting any flight.

A superstar performance at the U-19 FIFA European Championship only saw his stardom rise higher and having seen him in the pre-season, I can only label him as a Guti-atric player plus work rate. He was always branded by the Madridistas as Guti’s heir and make no mistake, if this lad keeps his head down and works his ass off, he’ll be greater than Guti ever was; the maturity that he shows beyond his 19 years is testament to this fact. A solid 9/10 for this signing.

Angel Di Maria

Honestly, 25 million Euros? One would think Benfica had the decency to deal with us like gentlemen given the fact that half of our rejects play in their team and for one player going the other way, they would be less greedy. Sadly that wasn’t the case and they join all those other clubs who have regularly slit our pockets.

I followed Di Maria in Benfica’s campaign for Europa League glory last season and was quite impressed by the lad. He is a big match player and is generally not fazed by the opposition or the occasion. That’s good, because when the white hankies come out at the White House, he’s going to need that or he has to have the ice in his veins like Guti did (sigh!). Anyway, having wanked over Di Maria, I have to confess that he’s still quite green behind the ears and under his feet, which is why the 25 million euros seem absurd. If he stays in favor of El Jose Mourinho, he might develop into one of the scariest wingers. A 7/10 rating for now.

Pedro Leon

I feel that Pedro leon couldn’t quit Getafe soon enough. Imagine wearing those hideous blue colored jerseys with the Burger King logo and the “King” face on the inside to be flashed to the crowd while celebrating a goal. They also had an actor dressed up and masquerading as a King in the presidential box for the home games. Utter Madness, I tell you.

So Leon answered Real’s call and is now at the White House and I’m sure Madrid looks way different to him from this part of town. About the player; he’s an underrated winger, but a deceptively intelligent one with close control over the ball. His crosses are delightful and he has the tactical initiative to move into the box into scoring positions as well. He will mainly serve as backup to the other hallowed names like Cristiano (back as CR7), but I am actually quite glad that for the first time since the last 4 seasons, Real Madrid actually have two genuine wingers in their ranks in Di Maria and Pedro Leon. He has been quite good in pre-season and excellent in the game I play on my console. So I’ll settle with giving out a 6.5/10 to him.

Sami Khedira

Until now, everything was quite good. From here on, things start getting confusing. The addition of Sami Khedira to the squad means that Real Madrid now has 5 players competing for 2 positions. The logic behind Sami’s transfer is that he’s a ball playing deep lying play maker like Alonso, so he’ll help the team retain possession, and therefore will offer more to the squad than Mahamadou Diarra ever did in his 4 seasons at the club. Fine, I accept this point. But it throws up two questions viz.
  • Is M. Diarra going to be sold? Will Mourinho, a guy who more or less, has always had his teams play with a pure destroyer anchoring the defence and the midfield, not want to have a pure destroyer in the team? Lass is not a pure destroyer if you’re thinking about him and he often tries to do a lot of playmaking which sometimes interferes with the team’s dynamics.
  • What is Gago’s role going to be? Gago has been certified as non-transferrable by Mourinho and honestly I’m quite surprised that Mourinho sees something other than a headless chicken in him (and a mediocre one as that too). I think Mourinho is planning to groom Gago as a ball playing deep lying midfielder (and I’ve held my breath already) because he cannot play the destroyer role even if his life depended on it.
One from the big contingent of defensive midfielders will get the axe and it’ll most probably be M. Diarra. I’ll be very sad to see him go because I’ve always appreciated the dirty work he did and the positional sense he had, his bad passing notwithstanding. Coming back to the signing, because of all the questions it has thrown up, I’ll be a bit strict and honor it with a 5/10.
Ricardo Carvalho
Things can’t get worse for Chelsea when it comes to pitting themselves against Real Madrid in the transfer market. Two seasons, Two Rickys to snub them. It reminds me of a small limerick I had written a couple of weeks back when Carvalho’s news became official:
Ricky, Ricky
Yes Papa
Enjoying in England?
No Papa
Coming to Madrid?
Yes Papa
How much do Chelsea want?
Just 8 million, Ha Ha Ha!

..Undoubtedly the Papa in this case being Jose Mourinho; Carvalho has played a lion’s share of his football career under Jose and as such this is a Jose signing to boot. The interesting thing was that Carvalho, a Chelsea legend, joined Madrid for a paltry 8 million euros (compared to Madrid’s standards), and the signing was announced with virtually no media source having a whiff of it until it was announced; so unlike Real Madrid’s transfers in general. Real’s attempts of trying to prize Ashley Cole away from The Bridge served as a smokescreen for this transfer I guess.
The downside here is that Carvalho is already 33 years old which means that this surely is a signing for the short term, unlike the others. That being said, Carvalho is one of the defenders who’s on top of his game and easily makes the cut if you shortlist the top 5 actively playing defenders in European Football. Having an experienced Center Back to anchor the defence is a pattern and can be seen in every single European powerhouse (Ferdinand for United, Puyol for Barcelona, Lucio and Samuel for Inter and Van Buyten for Bayern) and it’s precisely something which Madrid always missed. An effort was made to overcome the void left by Fernando Hierro by drafting in Cannavaro post the 2006 FIFA World Cup, but Cannavaro couldn’t replicate the form that won him the WPOTY; I hope Carvalho does. The best part of this signing is that the Madrid defence has a Portuguese center pairing with Spanish wings. How Albiol and Garay develop having to deal with trying to compete for virtually just 1 position is something that remains to be seen; and it’s a crucial point because I look upon them as the future flame bearers for Madrid. A 7/10 for this signing; my hand tips to award a 8.5, but since it is a short term measure, I’ll restrain myself.
Mesut Oezil
So we come to the final (at least for now) signing of the summer; Mesut Oezil. I think all the affinity for Octopuses in Spain has now extended to other water creatures like fish, at least in Madrid, which is why they have gone ahead and signed the German-Turkish midfielder with those unblinking fish eyes.
Jokes apart, the Oezil signing does throw up a conundrum of sorts. Yeah I know things about Oezil, especially the “German Iniesta” bit and Madrid’s understanding obsession to capitalize on anyone with the name Iniesta seeing as how they were deprived of having the great player play for them because of the whores in the city. It still doesn’t make any sense because they now have four players vying for a single slot, that of the Central Attacking Midfielder. Out of these, if you discount Oezil, you are left with:
  • God’s chosen child; oh yes in Kaka’s words it was God’s direction that he should play in Madrid and such we as normal mortals cannot dare to interfere with God’s will. In reality though, Kaka is on the brink of being a 65 million euro embarrassment and as such he WILL see some playing time, if only to make those jersey sales
  • Sergio Canales. Enough said. At an impulsive age of 19, and having most of the big clubs on alert in light of the Oezil signing, he will also have to start a number of games. And let’s face it, talent and composure wise, Canales does deserve to start many games
  • Van der Vaart never really broke into a starter’s role at Madrid, but he’s done more for the club than Kaka. For a player who even had his jersey number taken away from him at the start of the 2009-10 season, he’s always been a thorough professional always reiterating his desire to fight for a starting slot at Madrid and what he lacks in talent, he makes up for it in work rate
And as you can see two of the 3 other players are untouchables as of now and Van der Vaart is the one player Madrid actually stands to make some money out of, which is why I feel that he’ll be the one to get the axe. Not Good Enough. Since this is a pre-season rating, I’m obviously not taking the player’s impact on the game into consideration. So I’ll rate the Oezil signing with a miserly 3.5/10. Yes, I’m a Van der Vaart fan boy.
So that completes the rundown for the summer signings. If I leave my emotions and morality aside, I feel we’ve done an excellent job this summer. If all of these signings click, I’m sure we’re going to be a major force in Europe for the next 3-4 years and it’s about bloody time we reclaim what’s ours; European Supremacy. On an average, I think a 7/10 rating is enough to describe the quality of the signings this summer.


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