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Are Real Madrid a reliable team when it comes to injuries?

The players might not be getting the ideal treatment.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen's comments about Gareth Bale will have been well-publicised by now.  The former Wales national team assistant to the late and respected Gary Speed wasn't very complementary about Real Madrid's injury record in the British media the other day.   Referring to Gareth Bale's recent problems at the Bernabeu, Verheijen stated that "staying at that club is basically playing Russian roulette with your career."

Speaking to BBC Wales online in midweek, Verheijen asked whether Bale wanted "to risk injuries every season or look for a club with a very professional approach and a very healthy injury record?"   This comes soon after Carlo Ancelotti was reported to have commented in an interview given to China's Sina Sports; that according to the data, for a club like Real Madrid "the (injury) situation isn't normal."

Former Madrid coach Fabio Capello also took a shot at the club recently when he too queried why Madrid have so many injuries.

It's almost impossible to comment on reports such as these without knowing the facts since the true medical picture is only known to the club personnel concerned with injury matters.  Injuries come and injuries go and they don't always have to be anyone's fault; but the Madrid club have come under heavy criticism all this season and well into last year as well.

It's almost as though it's become an accepted part of Madrid life to criticise the medical team at the club; but it has to be said that Real themselves have done little to reassure the fan base that the medical side is in all in hand.

We don't generally get to know the true ins and outs of the injury scenarios - or more specifically the personnel involved - although it does seem that Dr Olmo has become the main target for criticism.   As far I can remember, only Rafa Benitez has publically spoken out in the doctor's defence in his time at Madrid; commenting last year that he was happy with the way things were being run.   Coaches often tell a different tale when they've moved on from a club, but since Zinedine Zidane doesn't appear to have any intentions of doing so it's going to be interesting to see what happens.

Media reports regularly suggest that the players are unhappy with Dr Olmo's methods but with medical / physio staff always seeming to come and go it's difficult to get the true picture without actually being on the inside.  However, among Zidane's new coaching team, Hamidou Msaidie is reported to be a rehabilitation specialist so perhaps we'll see if the overall approach to injury management differs in any way to the previous two regimes of Rafa and Carlo; both of whom also had their own rehab guys as part of their backroom staff.

When the head coach leaves and people move on who have come in with them, clubs look for the medical side to continue to function irrespective of who is charge of the playing side.  Although both coaches brought in their own rehabilitators in the same way as Zinedine Zidane has done, they're not necessarily going to slot into the existing medical team right away.  Sometimes you can find that you're accepted only up to a point; with the key medical decisions expected to be taken by the personnel already there such as Dr Olmo and Ximo Mas; and in those situations the roles of Hamidou Msaidie and Francisco Moreno before him can be almost impossible to manage.

It may well be that although both Hamidou and Francisco Moreno are renowned professionals in the field of injury rehabilitation and fitness, the terms of their employments means that they have to abide by decisions made by the "permanent" medical people if you like, since these are the ones who will remain in post long after individual coaches like Rafa, Carlo, and their support teams will long since have moved on.

The medical set-up at most clubs usually remains intact no matter who the head coach is; and although other staff come and go on a regular basis, medical changes are usually the prerogative of the club management above the level of the head coach; so we're effectively talking about the institution itself here as opposed to individual personalities.

Clubs like their medical sections to function independently of the head coach's influence; and that's why the doctors will often remain cooperative but at the same time distant from the coaching team.

The growing trend to outsource medical services to organisations like Sanitas in recent years has gone a long way towards separating the medical side from the playing side of the clubs, but with that comes both benefits and drawbacks.  Outside people may not necessarily have the specialist knowledge of football injuries and particularly about rehabilitation; but it does keep the medical department as a separate entity with the responsibility for arranging MRI scans, operations and the like all coming as part of the overall package.

If the President trusts the medical team then it's usually a case of the football side having to work with them; since the board will usually expect the existing medical team to provide the continuity of care that doesn't come when new managers / coaches bring in their own staff.  Let's not be in any doubt that Florentino Perez is going to want the best medical care for Real Madrid players; but from a club point of view you can never keep everyone happy.

When the star players like Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo are injured, all bets are off as they fly out to see independent consultants or decide to go elsewhere for treatment often with the club's backing.  That's where the whole situation falls down even if you have got the best medical team in the world working for you; there will always be someone who can do it better.

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