Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno
From Iker's socks, to supposed locker-room tension, to Özil's loyalty and the politics of free kicks, and an Ángel getting his wings back: the press and players had plenty to say just before and after Madrid's first half exhibition match against Valencia.
We begin with...
A Little Superstition!
San Iker's blessed socks, as the Marca reading public has known for years, have been worn inside out since 2007. Iker Casillas is famously superstitious about his jersey too. He tears the cuffs of his sleeves off before every match - sometimes with help from Arbeloa - who himself tears off the bottom of his jersey - since he was just a child in the youth-set-up!
Upon being benched against Málaga, sharp-eyed Marca (and spare a thought for the journalists! They have dozens of pages to fill up every day! Things are bound to get silly!) noticed that Iker has begun to wear his socks properly again. I note this because it could have something to do with Madrid's win, obviously. I know I'll certainly not be washing the socks I was wearing yesterday any time soon!
Around Madrid, the usual tongues are wagging about recent difficulties. In this example, it is not a journalist paid by the column inch but club legend Míchel Salgado. In a hint to the location of his future career as a coach, he gave an interview in Sport Express in Russia - explaining that Mourinho's problems with the dressing room (according to Marca's rendering of the interview) are with the entire dressing room. The club legend believes that a meeting should be held, to clear the air.
He also rather bullishly believes the league is far from over and the players should give everything because anything is possible in 4 months! Madridista to the bone, forever!
...And a Declaration of Love & Loyalty
Well, that's one version of what's going on. Over in Germany, Sport Bild have published an unintentionally funny interview with Mesut Özil at length. The paper, which is a barely-disguised tabloid even in its sport-section, really wanted to talk about everything from his love-life (there's a new lady, as it happens) to his wax statue at Madame Tussaud's in Berlin (for which he will be measured next week) along with other charming nonsense.
But those who follow Özil's interviews will know him to be rather shy and uncomfortable talking to journalists, so Bild were reluctantly forced to start talking about football.
As always in his interviews, Özil was positive and loyal (the translation is mine):
We laugh in the locker-room about the things they [the Spanish press] write about us. All that matters to us is that there is respect in the group, and we have that...
José Mourinho is the best coach in the world. I always wanted to train under him, even before coming to Madrid. He's a father figure to me and I'm grateful to him and want to pay him back with good performances. He talks to me a lot and is always direct and honest. I appreciate that in him.
[On being asked how they manage to talk]: He usually gives directions in Spanish. If I can't understand he tells me in English. And if I still don't one of the co-trainers can speak German and that helps!
[On being asked about rumours of a transfer]: I feel support from the club. I'm very happy here in this beautiful city. If I could I would retire at Madrid.
...I play in the best team in the world.
German, of course, is one of the few remaining languages that José Mourinho hasn't yet taken up!
A final comical note (I have, for this section, italicized Bild's questions) begins after Özil claims he needs to get more goals to improve his game.
You are now allowed to take free kicks, to raise the total!
Yes. Cristiano Ronaldo and I take turns. Whoever feels good about taking the shot, takes a turn.
Ronaldo seems to feel good about it a lot. How do you get a look-in?
The free kicks from the right are the ones I usually take. He takes those on the left. When we don't agree we could always play rock-paper-scissors...
On To The Game!
Madrid is back to being the Madrid of last season - a Madrid that As no longer entirely believed existed!
From their editorial by Alfredo Relaño:
For the first time this season, last night I felt like I was watching the same Real Madrid that won 100 points last season...
Gago, who was slow and passive and let Özil do whatever he wanted. And the full backs Guardado and Ricardo Costa, thrown into this unfamiliar position as a last resort, were rolled over by di Maria, who seems reborn after a number of poor week, and Cristiano. But even taking all this into account, you got the feeling you were watching the same supreme Madrid again that won so many games last season in the league and only missed out on the Champions League final due to penalties.
To say this is a common reaction in the press is an understatement. I have yet to come across a press review that didn't reference last season, the facility and ease with which the team scored goals then, and did again last night.
Marca's headline: Best Madrid Show Of The Season
Another common theme in the press: that it was Madrid's best half of football, all season. And it had, according to As's review, an added benefit: that of intimidating a difficult Copa rival only days before the second leg of the quarter final. Madrid have scored 7 goals without reply.
Ángel Di María is also the subject of some praise today. The consensus is that if one is going to come out of a slump, one couldn't really do it in better style or more emphatically - in a hostile stadium, away from home, against a difficult team. Ángel gets his wings back, writes Marca.
And finally, some praise from his assistant coach - who notes what many fans have long-since realized: the Argentine is a confidence player:
We all know him from the two and a half years that he has been with us. It is true that if you look at the Di María that played in Pamplona, the other day for a while and that played today you realize there is no issue physically. It is psychological. He has not been on his best form and today we the Di María that we all know and we all want to see.