At one point in the match against Sevilla, the camera zoomed in on Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Gonzalo Higuain. They all seemed to know where the match was headed. It seemed quite obvious.
Sánchez Pizjuán was buzzing with energy, Sevilla were focused, Michel was shouting instructions and the players were pretty pumped up. They all wanted to win. And win they did. Without any fuss. Against Real Madrid.
When the new season was about to begin, Real Madrid had a fabulous preseason. Pep Guardiola had left FC Barcelona and Jose Mourinho was expected to lead his team to glory again, as he had done with his earlier teams. Instead, Real Madrid started in the worst possible fashion, despite salvaging a super cup victory against an erroneous Barcelona. Everybody thought the worst was over. And then they won against Granada by 3-0 riding on the brace by Cristiano Ronaldo and then it actually began falling apart.
In the post match conference, Ronaldo said that he was unhappy at the club and the rumor mills ran into overdrive with conjectures and opinions. There seemed to be a rift among players; the coach had complained earlier that his players were not performing properly and he would like to know why. Suddenly, the victory against Granada was not the talking point. Certainly, it was laborious but there was underlying theme to all of it.
The loss against Sevilla last night looks like Real Madrid are actually in tatters. José Mourinho stood on the bylines, often silent, but with a steely resolve in eyes to change something, which never came. Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid’s best players last season were off at the break. Gonzalo Higuain was clueless the entire night; his only notable contribution was kicking the opposition and hitting the ground in disgust. Whether it was due to the tackling of the opposition or his abject finishing, you could not tell.
José Mourinho rung in the changes as he went all out. Karim Benzema and Luka Modric came on to inject new life into the team, but it did not work. Jose Callejon was also brought on in place of Alvaro Arbeloa, in one final attempt to break the shell of mediocrity protecting the team. Khedira was pegged back at right back, as Callejon tried to run to help his team’s cause. There was no result. The reality is that, everybody watching knew that they would be no result. It was a team performance without imagination, effort and awareness. Real Madrid deserved to lose.
José Mourinho started with Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo on the left. In the last couple of years, this partnership would shed shivers down the opposition due to the offensive prowess of the duo, but against Sevilla, there was no coordination, no overlaps. Marcelo hardly went for an attacking overlap, instead he started coming inside leaving Ronaldo without any proper support or with a partner to help him out.
And then, there was the case of Angel Di Maria. The Argentine was so poor that it seemed that thought before the kick of the ball was impossible. Wild running at the opposition and losing the ball easily were the hallmarks of his disastrous performance. While Barcelona rested Lionel Messi after his international duties, Mourinho did not feel the need to do anything of that sort.
At one point, there was a huge gap between the forwards and the midfielders, which enabled Sevilla to take control of the match and dictate their plays. The usually reliable Xabi Alonso was wayward and Khedira was clueless. Sevilla were creating chances. opening up the defense while the Champions were caught napping on more than one occasion.
Also, It was perplexing to see a team as physical as Real Madrid getting outmuscled by the Sevilla players in every 50-50 opportunity. There was neither intense pressing nor the famous one touch football to open up spaces as Michel charged his troops to press wildly and purposefully.
One can blame the international schedule and the number of player involved in those matches but everyone knows it was not the case. It was carelessness and lack of attitude which led to the loss. Sergio Ramos was right in stressing the lack of proper attitude in the team and the necessity to sit down and resolve it while Mourinho went one step further. A step which truly has set the alarm bells ringing at the club.
“From the first to the last minute we were poor. We were bad in the first half and we were bad in the second half too. They really deserved the win and we deserved the loss more…I made two changes(at half-time), but I could have made seven…The image of the team was bad from the first minute.
It is about a state of mind and of two or three who aren’t thinking like the rest. They are the minds of players which are not committed and for whom football is not a priority in their lives. There aren’t many involved and it’s complicated, but I’m coach and if there are those less committed then it is my fault…At this moment I have no team.”
It may sound harsh but it was not false. Every bit of that was true but the last statement is what really mattered. ‘No Team’. And the bit about commitment was the nail in the coffin. You can blame your team for playing poorly but if the team lacks commitment, and if that team is Real Madrid, it is a nuclear bombshell.
With the Champions’ League campaign about to start and Manchester City visiting the Santiago Bernabéu in midweek, it remains to be seen how the fans will react to the team and how the team will react at their home. If the players show the same attitude they have been showing in their matches against Getafe, Valencia and Sevilla, expect the whistles to be stronger than before.
Everybody at the club needs to sit down and iron every issue out. Any individual causing any problem should be relegated to the bench to preserve the harmony within the team. Real Madrid need to address the situation now or it may be too late.