“A heart problem has forced me into retirement, but my heart still beats for Real Madrid.”
Those were the last words uttered by the talented Real Madrid youth product, Ruben De La Red Gutierrez, as a Real Madrid player. Last week, at the tender age of 25, he officially announced his retirement as a player due to heart problems. Ruben was a pearl of Real Madrid, hailed as one of the most talented youngsters to emerge from Real’s Castilla. He made his debut in 2004, but was only called up for first team action to participate regularly in Fabio Capello’s squad and showed that he had what it takes to wear the famous white shirt.
But after Capello’s sacking, Ruben was loaned out to Getafe to get playing time. And what a move it proved to be! De La Red went on to become a huge success at Getafe and even earned a call to Spain’s Euro 2008 campaign. He won his first medal on International stage with Spain in their Euro 2008 triumph. Although he didn’t play a major role in La Roja’s triumph, he did score the winner against Greece in the group stage.
Soon after the Euros, Real Madrid called him back and the then coach Bernd Schuster was ready to give him first team opportunities. In his first match for Real Madrid after the recall, against Valencia in the Spanish Super Cup, he came off the bench and scored an astonishing long range shot to help Real Madrid win the Super Cup. Soon after he scored his first league goal for Real against Racing Santander. But that was all we saw of Ruben. On October 30, 2008, in a Copa Del Rey game against Real Union, Ruben collapsed due to what was later confirmed as effort syncope, a problem that occurs when there’s insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain.
On 12th December, the same year, Real Madrid officially confirmed that Ruben was to miss out the entire season. Media speculation surrounded this issue and some even claimed that Ruben might never be able to play football again. And it was proved true two years later. But, if only he was able to play again, what kind of a player he could have been?
A Player He Could Have Been
Ruben was a central midfielder, a typical box-to-box player who would do all the running from recovering the ball in his area to running with the ball to the opponent’s box before scoring an astounding long range goal or setting his teammates up. To say Ruben could play in more than a couple of roles would be an understatement. He was the definition of versatility. He could play as a centre back, a holding midfielder, an attacking midfielder, or sometimes even as a winger, he could play in all those positions. One could even say that he was the heir to Xavi for Spain, he was that talented! He had the right mix of aggression and subtlety to be a top central midfielder the game has ever seen.
In 2008, when he was recalled by Real Madrid, Real had no player of his mould. There was Diarra, Gago, and Guti. But no one could do what Ruben was capable of – run with the ball towards the opponent’s box. The situation at Real Madrid then would’ve easily played to Ruben’s hands if he had stayed healthy. In the Spanish national team too, once Xavi and Xabi Alonso retired, Ruben and Cesc could’ve ruled the central midfield positions for years to come. For Real Madrid, he could’ve partnered any of Diarra, Gago or Guti and could’ve formed a formidable central midfield pair with any of them. But unfortunate events didn’t allow him to fulfill his dream of winning trophies at Real Madrid. However, there are a lot of positive things one can concur from this retirement – one, what happened to Puerta and Jarque will never happen to him on the football field and two, he will have a massive amount of time to learn coaching. With his personality, Real Madrid might find the next Miguel Munoz.
It is indeed very young to be a coach at the eve of 25th birthday, the age he could’ve been at the top of his game. Nevertheless, this provides him an opportunity to learn the job very well. And who is better than “The Special One” to guide him in the right direction? Jorge Valdano recently told :
“This day marks a turning point in Rubén’s life. He ends his career as a player to focus all his passion for this sport on training. He is, from today, a part of Real Madrid’s coaching staff and will start learning about what we do and how we come about it. He will also be part of Mourinho’s ‘lab’, in which every game is rigorously prepared. The objective is for Rubén to learn skills in order to apply them to whatever team he ends up being assigned to. He’s gone through all of the different teams the club has and he will use that experience to continue to be a part of the world of football.”
Ruben has Real Madrid and their management’s full support to help him in his coaching ambitions. It’s too early to say if he can indeed become a great coach, but signs are good and positive. As a player, Ruben was intelligent and showed excellent vision. These makes for good attributes to become a successful coach. And under Mourinho, he’ll learn a lot and develop his coaching skills well. Perhaps it’ll be good for Ruben if he gets the opportunity to start as a coach for Real Madrid’s youth team in a couple of years’ time. His dream will be to coach Real Madrid’s first team, which is arguably the toughest job in the world. A stint of 4-5 years at Castilla can help him know what the coaching responsibility is all about. From there onwards, he can move to smaller teams in smaller leagues and come back to the Spanish league to manage Getafe or Malaga or the likes. That will be a huge platform for him to be able to show his coaching skills, after which he may get an opportunity to coach Real Madrid, if at all he does well with those teams. We can only hope that he will become a great coach and make a name for himself and fulfill his unfinished dreams – as a coach at the least; – because he deserves it.
Ruben will always remain in the Madridista hearts as a special personality for his dedication, determination and the passion he showed for Real Madrid color.
It will be fitting to finish this article with a video of Ruben announcing his emotional retirement…
HALA RUBEN! HALA MADRID!