Turkey’s captain arrived in Madrid on a Bosman transfer in June of 2011 and spent his first six months at the club recovering from an unexpected injury, taking near-daily Spanish lessons, and refusing his salary. At the beginning of this season he was sold to Galatasaray after making only a dozen, albeit creditable, appearances for Real Madrid under Mourinho.
He remembers his time fondly, however. And the Spanish lessons, at least, appear to have paid off. Marca’s journalists interviewed him and noted they were greeted in "polished Spanish" and perfect hospitality when they paid him a visit in Istanbul.
I only have good words for the club. I always think positively and there aren't many players in the world who can say they've played for Real Madrid. I enjoyed playing alongside Cristiano, Xabi, Ramos, Benzema, Casillas...
Asked about what he thought his club’s chances were on Wednesday, Altintop was optimistic for his team.
In football anything is possible. I have played many matches where we were favourites and then lost. The key to the tie will be in the first leg. If we survive that, we can finish it off at home. Here in Istanbul, anything is possible... We are a passing team who are very comfortable on the ball. We are the Barça of Turkey. But the best thing about the team is that we use three different systems. At the Bernabéu we will attack.
Sneijder did not want to be sold from Madrid, a point he has made repeatedly in interviews since leaving. He had had a happy first year in Madrid, but a difficult second when the strain of his divorce and a custody battle began to tell on his game. Some feelings are stronger than others, however. Marca did an exclusive interview with him today entitled "Mourinho left more of a mark on me than Madrid."
Q.: Do you have happy memories of your time at Real Madrid?
A.: I certainly do. I still have a lot of friends there, and I have terrific memories of the team and the people at the club. There is no reason why I would have any bad memories of that stage of my life. I had a very good season, and we won the league, and I enjoyed my football a lot. And then I had another bad season because of my personal problems.
Q.: You are another of those players who Mourinho has left his mark on, aren’t you?
A.: Mourinho is like a second father to me.
Q.: Does Sneijder love Real Madrid more, or Mourinho?
The player finished the interview on his expectations of the tie.
We shall go to the Santiago Bernabéu with the belief that we can do well. We know that it will be a very difficult and complicated game, but we have a good side here. I believe in my team and as long as we don't lose confidence, we will make something of this tie.
The man who dragged his unfancied team kicking and screaming to a penalty shoot-out in Bayern’s own stadium in last year’s Champions League final before taking the decisive kick to win it for Chelsea was also interviewed, by Galatasaray’s in-house media.
The Bernabeu is a place of fond memory for Drogba, who made his Champions League debut at the age of 25 in the stadium and topped it off by opening the scoring in a game that Marseille was to eventually lose 4-2 to Real Madrid in September of 2003 in the opening game of the group stages.
Drogba termed that debut as "unforgettable" and compared his old coach to his new one in glowing terms.
Fatih Terim is a lot like Mourinho in that he is very close to the players and always talking with them. The psychological factor is very important in soccer and Terim is very meticulous in that respect.
Drogba also revealed his reasons for joining Galatasaray.
I just grabbed this chance to be able to play at the highest level in Europe again without thinking. That's why I am here. To have the opportunity to win again.
Other Press Notes
Comparisons between Mourinho and his friend Fatih Terim have been rife this week. Both have been successful in their careers and in different leagues; and both are considered geniuses at man-management and in the simple art of winning. Drogba is not alone in noting the psychological and management similarities between the two.
The Guardian has written up the match with a heavy emphasis on Fatih Terim. Their piece is highly recommended as the coach discusses his own players and his team's perceived strengths.
We don't need to describe Real Madrid, everyone knows they are a very good team, known across the world, and they eliminated Manchester United. But we are also a good team, with good players. We respect them, but we have confidence for the game...Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world at the moment. He can do everything, but we can't just approach Madrid as if they have only one good player...
The piece also gives a rundown of his career and explains the origins of his nickname: "The Emperor."
Cristiano Ronaldo was interviewed by BWIN today, with an emphasis on the upcoming game. Unsurprisingly, since the two have a wonderful on-the-pitch chemistry and because interest in Turkey is unusually (and unsurprisingly) high, Ronaldo was asked to comment on Mesut Özil.
Mesut is in really top form and he’s an important player for us. He’s proved that he’s a key player in the last few seasons. I love playing with him because he’s a really talented player and we understand each other well. That’s why I’m really comfortable with him...
The player concluded the interview by giving a tactical analysis of what he expects from the game. He feels that Galatasaray will probably attack and expects this will suit Madrid's style of play.