Lucky Real Madrid leave it late to land La Decima in ‘Franco time.’ What next?

Lucky Real Madrid leave it late to land La Decima in ‘Franco time.’ What next?

Fascism-Football-FrancoFranco once fixed it for Spain to win the Eurovision Song Contest. Did he organise the quantity of injury time in the Champions League final?

On Saturday night I had the distinct feeling that the fascist leader had, from beyond the grave this time, fixed it for his beloved Real Madrid.

I feared so when the fourth official held up the board that stated 5 minutes of injury time would be played. Where that 5 minutes came from, who knows? But let’s not go there.

The stars of Real Madrid did not turn up for the first hour of the match. I would argue that they were absent without leave for up to 75 minutes.

And yet people, including many whose opinions I respect, say they deserved to win the final. I don’t agree. I thought Atletico Madrid deserved to win. They dominated the first half and were in control for the first 10 to 15 minutes of the second half.

True, after that it was one way traffic. Real Madrid threw the kitchen sink at their city neighbours. But they left it very late to save their reputations.

 

Make no mistake, had this talented Real Madrid side lost the final to their low cost neighbours, they would have been vilified.

Had the game finished three minutes earlier, disgruntled fans would have been waving their white hankies. The sections of the Spanish media that do not share the same bed as the club would have been demanding change.

ramos header Sergio Ramos, who looks a player reborn since the departure of Jose Mourinho, equalised with a sublime header in the 93rd minute. From then on I knew there would be only one winner. I felt for the tired Atletico players. Particularly the defender and unlikely scorer, Diego Godin. He was my man of the match.

Their manager Diego Simeone made one big mistake that more experienced managers would not have made. Starting the game with Diego Costa in the line up was a gamble he was always likely to lose. We all saw Costa pull up with a hamstring a week earlier against Barcelona.

Treating him with horse placenta was never going to make him fit for the biggest match in the history of Atletico Madrid. He was substituted within minutes of the match starting, so leaving the manager with one less substitute to choose from when his players tired from the 75th minute.

Real Madrid took a 2-1 lead in extra time when a shot saved with the palm of the Atletico ‘keeper span up in the air at the perfect height for Gareth Bale to head home and become the most unlikely hero of the night. For the previous hour an a half Real Madrid fans had been despairing of his efforts.

But what I like about Gareth Bale is that he keeps going. Things were going wrong for him but there was no moaning to the ref, rolling around in feigned agony or throwing his toys out of the pram.

He said afterwards that his dream had come true. That he joined Real Madrid to win the Champions League. I can tell you that, in those early matches he played, Real Madrid fans were not convinced. Then he was injured and supporters and some journalists began wondering if Real Madrid had wasted their money on Bale. That’s all very different now.

‘Marca’ is a Spanish paper that never sits on the fence. Of Bale it claimed: “He has already paid off his €100m transfer fee with two goals in two cup finals”

Gareth Bale at the celebrations in Madrid

Gareth Bale at the celebrations in Madrid

 

Gareth Bale is a model professional and I was delighted for him. And I was even happier for Carlo Ancelotti.

Why this man is not spoken about with the same regard as other high profile but less successful managers is a mystery to me. Ancelotti is a good man, a good manager and a class act.

When he looked up at the big screen and saw his tie was all over the place, he straightened it. How wonderfully Italian of him!

I was also pleased for Iker Casillas, whose error of judgement had given Atletico a half time lead. And for Ramos. I’ve spent years loathing Ramos the henchman. But with the change in hairstyle came a change in approach. It’s as though for years he thought of himself only as a defender who could chop down players. Not for nothing did he become known as red card Ramos.

 

Sergio Ramos is now a much better, more rounded player.

Like Casillas, he fell out with Mourinho. The goalkeeper was cast aside and when Ramos did play for Mourinho, the men would barely speak to each other.

Cristiano Ronaldo had also lost faith in his fellow countryman. He thought Mourinho was too defensively minded. I have no idea who was in the right or wrong when it came to the dressing room discontent with Jose. But players and manager were pleased to see the back of each other.

I do know that Ronaldo once again went missing when it mattered. For at least the first hour of the Champions League final he was anonymous. In part the credit for that goes to Atletico and how, not for the first time, they nullified him. But he’s better than that. The best player in the world currently, he should be able to outwit the Atletico defenders.

Ronaldo has an annoying habit of failing to deliver in big European games. He too has improved considerably as a player in the past few years. He is a much less selfish footballer now. More of a team player than in his earlier years at the Bernabéu.

ancelloti gets bounces fromteam

Let’s be frank, with their collective talent Real Madrid should have been beating Atletico in normal time. As it was the final score after extra time, 4-1, flattered Real Madrid.

The good thing is that they will now have a period of stability. The lunatics who run the assylum have appointed 11 managers in 12 years. Continuity has not been in their dictionary.

Club President Florentino Perez had promised La Decima (the tenth win) since the last one back in 2002. Had the game ended three minutes earlier, he would have sacked Ancelotti.

When will Real Madrid learn? Stability is the key to building something long lasting. I don’t why Real Madrid choose to buy big names rather than develop a squad that includes many more home bred youngsters. The club has spent a small fortune chasing the Champions League dream. Was it worth the financial outlay?

The club is over 500 million Euros in debt, but that will not stop them going out and splashing the cash again.

After Ronaldo had once again gone out of his way to show the world his body (and shaming all us normal men in so doing), Luis Suárez was probably urging his agent to go ahead and talk money with Real Madrid.

I don’t know why Cristiano Ronaldo feels the need to rip off his shirt and pose. We know you have a beautiful body lad, why do you keep reminding us? Us men on the street have self worth issues to deal with, don’t you know?

ronaldo shirtless

How many Real Madrid fans celebrated victory by making love to their woman. How many of those women were imagining they were making love to Ronaldo?

Spanish newspaper AS was not impressed: “Ronaldo had a tame match, out of form and his celebration for the fourth goal was distasteful.”

I do know that Atletico Madrid were the actual winners of La Liga and the moral winners of the Champions League. At 92 minutes on the clock they looked set to achieve something monumental in Spanish and European football.

I felt for their supporters, for the players who left everything on the pitch and even for their manager who, understandably, lost his cool at the end of the match. Simeone must now decide whether to stay where he is loved, or move on to a bigger challenge at a club with a bigger budget.

As for Real Madrid the question being asked in Spain is whether this win signifies a return to the old days. The era when Real Madrid dominated European football.
The La Decima monkey may have been lifted from the back of Real Madrid. But is this a new dawn? Like buses, will Champions League titles now come along in quick succession?

I am not convinced that we’ll see a new era of dominance for the club that did so much for Franco and the fascist cause during the Civil War.

Even with Barcelona entering a period of transition and many changes on the playing front, I saw nothing on the greatest club stage of them all to make me think Real Madrid will win successive Champions League titles. At least not with the team that played in Lisbon. True, they missed the class act that is Xabi Alonso and, yes, Luca Modric is a much better player than when he joined the club from Tottenham Hotspur.

But the players that can make a real difference for Real, namely Bale and Ronaldo, will have to show they are a class apart in the big games. Not the ordinary fixtures against the mid table and lower third La Liga clubs. But against the quality European opponents in the matches that matter. They each scored a goal on Saturday night, but neither impressed in open play.

If Suarez joins Real Madrid then, yes, they may well win back to back Champions League trophies and should reclaim La Liga.

Last autumn I tipped Real Madrid to win the Champions League title this year. Their time had come, I told members of VG Tips.

I didn’t know it would come in ‘Franco time.’

I shall take out my ouija board and find out what the dictator has planned for next year. I’ll get back to you.

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