Ronaldo, Di Stéfano & The Pope - "I was the famous one!"
Alfredo Di Stéfano awarded Cristiano Ronaldo Marca's annual trophy (the aptly named Trofeo Di Stéfano) for best player of the 2011-12 season. He lauded Ronaldo, who is about to overtake his Champions League goals record, as a "great player and a great team player."
That was of rather less interest to The Daily Mail, who relate an anecdote Di Stéfano wrote up with his usual unconscious charm in his column this week regarding the new Pope - a fellow Argentine, also from Buenos Aires - someone he may have known, or not. It was really too hard to keep track!
'Pope Francis and I went to the same school in Buenos Aires,' he said. 'He lived in a church two blocks from my family’s house, where my sister Norma still resides.
'In our neighborhood we used to hold major football sessions that went on until it got dark, with everyone playing against each other,' he said. 'Maybe the pope was one of the guys I played football with in the street.
'At that time I was the famous one because from a very young age I belonged to River Plate’s youth team, everybody knew me,' added Di Stefano...
Let it never be suggested that Real Madrid's most famous legend is afflicted with any sense of false modesty!
Ronaldo did not discuss his future at Real Madrid (aside from an obligatory comment on his hopes for a trophy-win this season) and promptly left to join Portugal.
Press Reaction After
Sid Lowe said it well: "Luka Modrić: whoosh! Mesut Özil: woof!" - in his longer, highly recommended piece, detailing a scandal during the derby between Celta and Depor. For fans of the Spanish league in general, it is a very interesting account of the insults traded before the game that have landed Celta Vigo's Mallo and Aspas into trouble.
As far as the English-language and Spanish-language press are concerned about Madrid's game however, Lowe's view that the two players were the stars of the evening is fairly uniform. Özil is widely credited with providing the creative spark and Modric has been praised for his screamer of a go-ahead goal.
Marca's cover the next day had the German on the front with "Vitamina Özil" as their lead headline. Their English version of the story is entitled "The Özil Effect" and makes the following observation about Mourinho's recent attempts to "wrap the player in cotton-wool" by leaving him on the bench for less important games -
Real Madrid takes Özil offline, and the lights go out. Put him back in the equation, and the team shines again. The German has become a key part of the 'Blancos' machine. Without Mesut, the team judders and creaks along. With him in place, everything runs more smoothly.
As praises other players too in their write-up, which ends with a psychological observation about Real Madrid of this season in general:
In the end, Real Madrid won in a whirlwind of goals. What happened to Mourinho's men in the first half? Some say they were distracted, others purport the theory that they enjoy giving their opponent the initial advantage. Personally, I'd go with the latter notion: I don't see it as anything premeditated, but the subconscious challenge that the squad sets itself to make life that little bit more interesting. Until they meet Galatasaray, of course.
Meanwhile, Ramos told Real Madrid TV that Madrid has problems with set-pieces. Where could he possibly have got that idea from?
Mourinho & Galatasaray
Jose Mourinho paid Galatasaray a visit on Sunday and was seen waving and trading greetings with close friend Wesley Sneijder (formerly of Real Madrid). He was able to watch his former charge score the opening goal, while another former player Hamit Altintop (with the Real Madrid of last season) left the pitch injured.
Mourinho did not speak to the press. Galatasaray won 3-1 on the road and presumably gave The Special One plenty to think about. He did visit with Sneijder after the game however.
Marca, the same paper that was largely responsible for drumming him out of Madrid, provides an account of the visit and some of Sneijder's thoughts on the up-coming tie.
There are a staggering 17 players away on International duty this week -
For Spain: Ramos, Arbeloa, Albiol & Alonso - Nacho (with the U21)
For Germany: Khedira, Ozil
For Croatia: Modric
For France: Varane, Benzema
For Portugal: Ronaldo, Pepe, Coentrao
For Brazil: Kaka, Marcelo
For Argentina: Higuain, di Maria
The Germans will be making a round-trip to Kazakhstan in Europe's most far-flung World Cup qualifier, while the Argentinians will play thousands of feet above sea level and make a considerable round-trip of their own.
It is to be hoped that all the players return in one piece.
What do you know about Sami Khedira?
Finally: Madrid's number six is the subject of a quiz in The Guardian today. Test your knowledge on the German midfielders career.
Can you beat a score of 8/10?
Let us know!