So I've been trying to avoid writing about this. It's one of those annoying and completely irrelevant stories that not only casts the team in a bad light, but makes a joke out of the sport more generally. And of course, it's the only bit of news I've seen about Real Madrid on ESPN (or in the American media generally) since the LA Galaxy friendly.
[Gabe's Edit, 12:03 A.M.: OMG HE'S SOOO CUTE! But seriously, this kid is adorable!]
Just like when Sergio Ramos dropped the Copa del Rey trophy under the team bus (and thereby obscured the fact that los blancos had actually won the Copa), this very lucky, talented 7-year-old Argentine's "signing" for Real Madrid has begun to obscure the fact that los merengues have actually had a fantastic preseason. But whatever, this is still kinda funny.
In fact, this story is extremely funny--but it becomes slightly less funny if you know that this kind of stuff goes on all the time. Iker Casillas "signed" with Real Madrid when he was 9, for example. But this case is a little different: Madrid are paying to relocate this young prodigy's family to Madrid, and will put him up in a top quality school. But they aren't paying him, because he didn't actually sign anything. Because he's effing 7.
Of course, this whole situation is only made more ironic (and funny) by the fact that this kid's name is "Leo," and he wants to be like his favorite player, Leo Messi--only on Real Madrid.
But this is how the whole youth academy system works--which is what many Americans who don't follow soccer don't understand: kids younger than Leo "play for Real Madrid." But they're not signed to anything; they try out, and are given the opportunity to play for their favorite team. Every year they try out again, and so on as they get older, with more and more kids getting cut at every stage. When they reach 16 years old they're able to negotiate for professional contracts.
Still, this whole situation is funny--the fact that teams even think they can begin to predict future professional prospects when kids are that small is unbelievably absurd. But still, sometimes you strike gold--and that's what Madrid are hoping for with young Leo, a winning lottery ticket.
But first, let's see an annoying American commentator talk about stuff he doesn't understand!