Zinedine Zidane will be glad to see the back of this international break, that’s for sure.
He’s having to get on with things despite several distractions including the Spanish players being asked awkward questions about Gareth Bale’s fitness at their new kit launch and more injury problems to contendwith.
James Rodriguez; who is on his way back to Madrid before a ball had been kicked in earnest, is looking as though he too will be out for several weeks with a knee sprain.
Even Nacho, who took part in a diabetes conference in Madrid arranged to coincide with World Diabetes Day, found himself facing the press and answering questions about Real’s recovery time before the Clasico and other topics.
Barça, of course have an additional recovery day before the Clasico; playing at Real Sociedad on the Saturday while Real are at Valencia on the Sunday.
As a Type 1 diabetic himself, Nacho was at the event to spread the word that being diabetic isn’t necessarily a barrier to having an involvement in sport.
But it didn’t take the media more than two minutes to digress from the main purpose of the day and put Nacho, currently out with a knee sprain, firmly on the spot over a number of issues on the day.
It was much the same earlier in the week with the Spanish Real Madrid players in the squad for the European qualifiers against Malta and Romania. Dani Carvajal was asked about a hypothetical situation in which he hadn’t trained or played since the last international week and to his credit Dani refused to answer.
Clearly the players of Real Madrid don’t take kindly to any of their team mates being criticised in public whatever their own personal thoughts might be and that’s something to be commended; although we’ve seen that in the past on several occasions.
The whole situation with Gareth Bale puts other players in difficult positions though where the media are concerned, since the latter are usually desperate to have an opinion from someone in the club that might be a bit controversial.
Nor has Wales coach Ryan Giggs helped matters by saying that he’s well aware that Gareth hasn’t trained or played since the Croatia game in October. “If he is fit, he is fit, it’s as simple as that’’ the Wales coach told the UK’s BBC Sport when he announced the Welsh squad a fortnight ago.
From Zidane’s viewpoint, comments like this do nothing for club - country relationships.
Sure Gareth might get through Wales’ two games against Azerbaijan and Hungary but then again he might not; and it will be Real Madrid’s medical team who have to pick up where they left off a week ago.
The news about James Rodriguez only emphasises Zidane’s frustration in the whole club versus country dilemma; particularly with Colombia’s Carlos Queiroz saying earlier in the week that James would be playing against Peru and Equador even though he’s not trained or played much for Real Madrid either.
Clearly, there needs to be more interaction between the clubs and the National Federations since this situation seems to have escalated in recent times with players being made to report for international duty even when obviously unfit at club level.
It’s not an ideal situation for Zinedine Zidane to have players returning from injury and playing their first games back in an international match whether it’s a competitive fixture or otherwise.
It’s even worse when players pick up new injuries in international training such as happened to James, who was reported to have pulled out of training with the Colombian national team due to a knee injury.
This was initially evaluated by the Colombian medics and was deemed to be enough of a concern for them to arrange scans as a precursor to further investigation and an early return to Madrid.
Like Gareth Bale, James also seems to attract criticism from outside, yet as an individual he’s always desperate to play.
In the past he’s been criticised by the former Colombian team doctor Hector Fábio Cruz over his choice of footwear, which the doctor felt were wrong for him biomechanically and contributed to his injuries; then lately for his attitude which Dr Cruz feels wasn’t what it should have been at the start of the season.
Now James will face even more criticism for being injured again; albeit not his fault. It does raise the question though of whether like Gareth Bale he should even be with his national team at all until his fitness is no longer in doubt.