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Mailbag: Bale, sports journalism, midfield depth, back-up striker ‘issues’, and more

Kiyan delves deep into all your burning questions

These observations — where I look at Real Madrid’s history, its players on loan, Castilla, tactical tidbits, and other relevant thoughts -- are now a regular weekly thing. All previous editions can be found here.

Mailbag time. I do these for every international break, as well as both pre-season and post-season windows — so basically, between these and the podcasts, I’m always answering questions.

Let’s not waste time.

First, from our Patrons:

Yeah, the gun is being jumped. He was a beast right up until the point he got injured last season. He hasn’t been himself in the first two games, but he hasn’t been a disaster either as some fans desperately want to twist it.

Carl brings up an underrated point. No, he shouldn’t be sold — not until we see how this entire season pans out, anyway — but he does need to realize that just last season he was playing like a top-five player. He absolutely needs to morph into an alpha male. Being shy, acting as a passenger, and letting the game come to him is just not helping him. Many can do what he opts to do at times — providing an outlet, looking up, and playing a nice pass. He needs to do the things that no one else can do — cut in and strike from 40 yards, bark for the ball, swing in that underrated cross of his, dart in the box and score those headers he was scoring last season, switch flanks and blitz past players mercilessly, and just do Gareth Bale things.

A lot of people chalk it up to physical deterioration. I don’t buy it. You saw him leap 20 feet in the air and nearly score a bicycle kick for Wales last night. I think it’s mental. I think there are schematic issues. Despite his goal in Riazor, he was isolated in that 4-4-2. He’s meant to be a deeper player -- one that can defend on the flanks and out-gun wing-backs. He’s meant to cut in, to drift. With Isco and Asensio roaming at such an elite level, Bale has to accept another role. Under Rafa, Isco and Asensio hadn’t emerged the way they had now, and Bale could play as a ‘10’, switching across vertical channels. It suited him.

In 2016, would he shy away from launching this at goal instead of playing this in? I don’t think so:

That’s mental, not physical.

But, yeah. Gun = jumped. There are a lot of people still believing in him (and rightfully so), including ZINEDINE ZIDANE (who might know something about football); and the fans who can’t stand him are small, but loud. Someone tried to convince me he hasn’t been good at all, which is a bit.... nuts. He would’ve had a really nice assist against Valencia which Benzema should’ve finished; and apart from his goal against Deportivo, was involved in numerous chances, including a beautiful cut-back for the Kroos goal, and had more key passes in that game than Asensio, Isco, Kroos, and Modric. The only player who had more was Benzema (oh no).

Psssst, Bale also had the most key passes against Valencia. (OH. NO).

He’ll be ok.

Uh, practice, practice, practice.

When I first started, almost 10 years ago, I was horrible. No publication would return my e-mails. So I started my own blog and just wrote everyday until I became OK. Then I became good enough to be picked up by the ESPN True Hoop Network. Then I came here, then FourFourTwo brought me on. Literally an eight-year quest. There aren’t really any shortcuts.

And still, I’m a work in progress. Sometimes I re-read some of my earlier work for MM and I cringe, and that’s OK. The important thing is you improve with each piece.

You also have to watch a ton, read a ton, listen to a ton. Your articles, even if you’re an elite writer, can be off the mark if you’re not informed in the field. Pack it in. Live it. Breathe it.

Find your niche. Stand out. Be unique, be weird, and be unapologetic about it — in other words, be yourself and don’t let others dictate your style. The world is not a place for conformists and agreeable journalists. Find your shit and spew it. You’ll accumulate people who hate you along the way, but disregard the noise -- you do it for the people who buy in. I’m rooting for you brother. Make me proud.

Thanks for becoming a patron. We’re gonna take care of you -- I promise. You’re going to ride into the sunset with us.

Marcos is good. He’s a good big brother to Luka.

To answer your question -- no, not without the earth exploding.

It’s incredible. This is the deepest Real Madrid has ever been at the CM position. This team is not historically stacked in that role, and Kroos-Modric together as two elite brainiacs on their own is something unparalleled for this club (as I wrote about here) — but to have them backed up by the list you just mentioned is bonkers. Luckily, there’s no urgent need to sell with Valverde and Febas out on loan, and Modric ‘aging’ (one day). I think Ceballos is ready to start now, but for obvious reasons, just won’t. We’ll incorporate him more in the Copa games and other moments during this taxing season.

Febas I’m genuinely concerned about. 22 is not young. He may have been the best player in Segunda B, but he’s also older than Ceballos who is definitely ahead of him. My gut feeling is that Febas will turn out to be a better and more dynamic version of Dani Parejo somewhere else in La Liga.

I don’t think we’ll see Llorente much apart from Copa games (dies inside) with Kovacic being as versatile and ready as he is. Mayoral we’ll see less of too once Cristiano comes back and the team can just push him up front.

I was in love with this club far before I saw them play, which almost makes no sense. In the 90s, when the internet started to become something we could use in schools (and before my family had cable), I was allowed to check Real Madrid scores once a week — and that’s all I could see. The score. No highlights — just results and standings. I only knew I was a Real Madrid fan because my dad was one before I was born.

Late 90s, just before the millennium, this thing called ‘Kazaa’ came out. It was like the YouTube of its day. You could search things like “Real Madrid goals” and things would come up. The top results were always these two:

I had read about Raul’s goal in FourFourTwo prior, so it was cool to finally see it.

Then, this show called ‘Soccer Saturday’ launched on TSN in Canada. That was dope. It enabled us to watch highlights every Saturday of the matches that happened THE WEEK BEFORE. What an era. Kids these days have no idea how lucky they are to have stumbled into the internet epoch.

Joni, this is the very first ever Real Madrid match I watched from start-to-finish:

Ahhh, the days of Casillas’s vulnerability dealing with crosses, the Raul-Moro connection, and peak-Jardel.

On a side-note, the two legs in the group stages against Lazio were very vivid for me.. Figo-Macca-Raul-Moro quartet wreaking havoc, and Munitis / Solari being their dangerous-selves on the flanks when called upon (that team was deep on the wings):

Thanks for becoming a Patron.

Ondra Paul.

Yeah, in this particular scenario, I would. But here’s the thing: I think I’m ready to do that anyway. The last two seasons have completely morphed my perception of him. He’s somehow taken his game to another level. I think he’s the greatest of all time. I don’t need to bring up any stats to back this that you don’t already know about. He puts his team on his back over, and over, and over and over again on the biggest stage. He is the goat.

(If someone says Messi, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t argue too much about it, they both have a legitimate case. But they’ve both also almost definitely surpassed the previous greats we continually used to talk about, including the four kings of football).

Non-Patrons (but still fam)

Benzema’s always been good for France, but I think he would’ve been more crucial in 2016, not now. This France team won’t have many problems blitzing most teams not named Spain, Germany (and maybe new-look Brazil). I think they’re too deep to miss him.

Let me get this straight.

Mbappe and Asensio;


Ceballos or Llorente?

Let me make this clear by rewording the question:



Mbappe, Asensio, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema, Modric, Kroos, Kovacic, Marcelo, Ramos, Carvajal, Nacho, Varane, Ceballos, Zidane, Figo, Raul, Di Stefano, Redondo, Jesus, Batman?

Answer: Llorente.

Luka is good, thanks. Check out these guns:

Luka is on the Cristiano training program

A post shared by Kiyan Sobhani (@kiyanso) on

He has heard tales of his brother, yes.

Karim 2008/2009: 40 games, 23 goals, 4 assists
Kylian Mbappe 2017/2016: 26 games, 24 goals, 8 assists.

There’s a reason I was willing to roll the dice on Kylian this summer.

Tasty choice. Would be more than fine with taking him over De Gea next summer.

You’ve already exhausted your ‘one-question-per-mailbag-quota’.

On Odegaard, I wrote a detailed analysis of his last match with Heerenveen here. Valverde has yet to play with Deportivo apart from some pre-season matches. In that same Odegaard article, I talked a bit about his loan from a Deportivo point-of-view.

Some more vigorous arm-twisting could’ve probably taken place, but Mariano didn’t want to be in the same situation as last season. Him and Zidane actually sat down and talked about it thoroughly -- it wasn’t a cold sale. Zidane told him he would rather he goes somewhere where he can be a regular starter. Mariano could’ve stayed and played slightly more this season, but nothing like the experience he’ll get in the next couple seasons in Ligue 1.

Again, Ronaldo and Benzema will share the CF duties, making a second-string striker more likely to be a third-string striker — a role for a player like Mayoral, not Mariano. And hey, given Lopetegui’s success in packing the midfield last night with Asensio, Isco, and Silva rather than a pure 9, maybe we’ll see even less of a non-traditional striker approach this season than we think.

imma do a written mailbag for Managing Madrid instead of twiddling my thumbs during the international break. Ask me anything below, and I promise to do my best in maybe answering them in the mailbag.

Posted by Kiyan Sobhani on Friday, September 1, 2017

Big questions, and I’ll take both on this Wednesday’s Churros y Tácticas Podcast with Euan Mctear.

Take note of the following schedule:

Itinerary next few days: Tomorrow: Managing Madrid mailbag, and podcast with Gabe. Monday: Churros y Tácticas Podcast...

Posted by Kiyan Sobhani on Saturday, September 2, 2017

There is not official statement on why, but one theory is that it would’ve prevented that De Gea fiasco from happening two summers ago.

If it were up to me, every single league would adopt the exact same transfer window — it would last two weeks and end July 31st instead of August 31st. Get it done with quickly. No prolonged sagas, and ample time to prepare with your finalized squad.

100%. Probably a bit later in the calendar year, with Luka and all. But I’ll be at Sevilla (H), maybe Leganes away, some Castilla games, training, pressers, and maybe el Clasico depending on when it gets rescheduled to.

I asked for questions. Shame. Had you included a question mark you would’ve gotten a jersey from me. The ship has sailed now.

Of the current Castilla squad? Near future? Not a chance. Last year’s crop — Diaz, Odegaard, Febas, Fede — were way closer, and even they aren’t close at all.

Distant future might have a place for Dani Gomez and Oscar; but we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. One of my favourites, Luismi Quezada, won’t get a sniff with Marcelo and Theo around. I think this crop will be more of a breed-and-sell yield.

  1. Asensio
  2. Mbappe
  3. Dembele

Alan — Asensio is the future. I’m not sure when was the last time I felt this way about a player. Maybe Isco when he first broke through with Malaga? But even he wasn’t playing at this level when he was younger. Asensio right now reminds me of a young Bale with some added benefits of being able to see the field in slow-motion from a central role. Super exciting.


International break means Kiyan will be doing a mailbag. Ask him anything in the comments below, and he'll try his best to answer it in the mailbag going up on our site!

Posted by Managing Madrid on Friday, September 1, 2017

This is an incredible narrative that somehow still exists considering...

  1. I don’t think Benzema is a starter in our best XI, as stated multiple times since last season
  2. I would’ve kept Morata over Benzema
  3. I once shoehorned into my column the fact that Benzema lets the ball hit the back of his heel when making a run. Of all things to criticize!

Having said that, yes, I do like him. But this particular narrative really is incredible.

One of the issues is the fact that there are fans who actually think the Managing Madrid staff votes on an agenda (real comment, according to the MM Slack group). Om once made a video of Benzema’s off-the-ball work in the Supercopa, and the next day fans showed up on Kiyan’s Facebook Page with pitchforks.

Uhh... Newsflash:

  1. There was nothing wrong with Om’s video
  2. I had nothing to do with that video


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