Reports in the press over this past week have started to throw in various items of note including the Catalan's unsuccessful attempts to torpedo Madrid's moves for both Martin Ødegaard and Marco Asensio; and highlighted the latter scoring on Saturday against Barça ‘B' for Real Mallorca. Additionally, we had the ‘interview' broadcast by Charly Rexach in which he is reported to have said that Angel Di María was "too ugly to play for Real Madrid" and also included Vicente Del Bosque in this for good measure. Now, it is has been reported in Marca and AS that Johan Cruyff has been critical of Madrid over Zinedine Zidane, and that both Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao want to play the Copa del Rey final at the Bernabéu.
If ever there was a time for a team / club / squad to shut the door on the outside world and get on with playing it's now.
We've already had just about everybody telling us how bad Real Madrid have become in the past few weeks; how Gareth Bale cannot play, how Cristiano Ronaldo cannot score unless from the spot, how Jesé missed that chance against Villareal, how Carlo Ancelotti cannot make proper use of his subs and how his job will depend on the Barca result etc etc. I think the time has come for Ancelotti to take everyone into a private room at Valdebebas or wherever (directors included if they want) and just lay it on the line that enough is enough - the world has had it's say and now it's time to listen to Real Madrid on the pitch; starting this weekend in Bilbao.
The Basques have had their own dig at Madrid (as have Barça) with the request to play the final at the Bernabéu; but at the end of the day the decision about where the final is played will not be theirs to make. It's funny how less than 72 hours before Athletic host Real Madrid after stringing a few results together themselves in what has been a very disappointing season for them so far, that this request is made at the present time. I don't suppose there is any intention to try to unsettle Madrid before the weekend by any chance? Similarly with the Barcelona request; this happens time and again and as usual it's just before a ‘Clásico'.
I did have a bit of sympathy for Charly Rexach, though, on reading about this alleged interview just before it went viral about his reported comments on Lionel Messi eating too much pizza. Sometimes comments like this are made tongue in cheek and are seized on by the media in much the same way that Castilla's captain Sergio Aguza said he wished he got paid the same as Martin Ødegaard and that too hit the headlines. The difference here, however, is that Rexach denies that any formal interview actually took place and that he was merely invited to a meal with a few Barcelona fans in Girona last August or September to engage in topical conversation about football in general and about Barça in particular.
The opposite reaction from Catalan newspaper Regio 7 is that they did consider the conversation to be a proper interview and as such published the contents with (alleged) permission from Rexach to use his comments. They even went as far as to say that Rexach knew this was to be a formal interview rather than accept his defence that "they have made an interview out of a meal with a few friends".
Although neither side has done any favours here to anyone I don't think that will wear well with Vicente Del Bosque or Angel Di María. It's been well publicised how hard he's finding it at Old Trafford at the moment and it's only recently that the Di Maria residence in England was subjected to an armed robbery and reports say that they are currently living in a hotel as his wife refuses to go back to the house. Vicente Del Bosque won trophies with Madrid before his current role as a Spanish World Cup winning coach among others and I'm sure that's what he'll ultimately be judged on.
Although he's now back in the Netherlands, Johan Cruyff is still associated with Barcelona in the eyes of the footballing public. As a former player and manager, he feels that his opinions are still valued when discussing Barca matters and no doubt they are; but he publically distanced himself many years ago from Real Madrid and it just seems odd that he finds the time to comment on Madrid matters in the run-up to another ‘Clásico'. No one will be more aware of the situation surrounding the legal requirements to coach than Zinedine Zidane himself and Real Madrid as a club. As with so many other matters that come to light over the course of a football season, this one will be being dealt with ‘in-house' and the fact that Zidane is still on the Castilla bench says it all.
It didn't take long for Marco Asensio to get the feel of scoring against Barcelona, though. Playing last weekend for Real Mallorca against Barça ‘B', Marco managed to notch in the fixture and will no doubt remember the goal for some time. The deal between Real Madrid and Real Mallorca for Asensio to remain at the Balearic club on loan at least until the end of the season suits everyone concerned and ensures that he plays first-team football at a decent level until he finally joins the full squad in Madrid. Reports that Barcelona tried to intercept the signing of Asensio were rife at the time but the young Mallorcian had made up his mind that Madrid was where he wanted to be; and aided by a few words from tennis ace Rafa Nadal, it was reported at the time that a deal had been struck long before Barça decided to make their approach.
Similarly with Martin Ødegaard, reports again suggested that the Catalans tried to torpedo the deal with a late offer - and in truth you can't really blame them - but again by that stage the commitment had been made to Madrid and Ødegaard himself admits that it was the influence of Cristiano Ronaldo et al who made him feel such a part of the set-up during his pre-signing period that the young Norwegian was never going to consider signing anywhere else at that stage.
The same Cristiano Ronaldo now needs to sit down behind closed doors with Ancelotti et al as earlier stated and focus on how best to turn the memories of these last few weeks into distant ones. With the injuries reportedly beginning to clear up and the return of Luca Modric and Sergio Ramos imminent, the backbone will be returning to the team. As we said, there's been a lot of talk so far about the forthcoming ‘classico' and no doubt even more revelations, stories and distortions will emerge from both camps over the course of the next couple of weeks; but Real Madrid must remain in control of their own destiny by remaining ahead on points by the time the match is due.
This can only be achieved if the players remain in control of themselves and regain control on the pitch, the management must remain in control of the team selection, everyone must come together and show to the world that what has been achieved already, can be achieved again. The league table doesn't lie; Real Madrid are top. It's up to everyone collectively to ensure they remain there.