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Three answers and three questions from the March international break

Who played the most minutes? What to make of Bale’s comments?

Spain v Kosovo - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifier Photo by Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Here’s a special edition of Euan McTear’s three answers and three questions column, looking at some of the queries we had going into this round of FIFA fixtures that have since been answered and looking at three new questions that the March international break has thrown up.

Three answers

1. How many minutes would the Real Madrid players rack up?

There were actually only six Real Madrid players away with their countries over this international break, limiting the risks of the FIFA virus taking its toll. Even still, the big concern for Real Madrid fans was over how minutes the club’s internationals would rack up, especially with some huge fixtures coming up at the start of April. The players who were away on international duty can be ranked in this order in terms of number of minutes played: Luka Modrić (216 minutes), Thibaut Courtois (180), Raphaël Varane (180), Sergio Ramos (49), Ferland Mendy (0) and Andriy Lunin (0). Toni Kroos also went away with Germany, but suffered an injury on the first Tuesday of the international break and returned to Spain.

2. Would we see a Real Madrid-less Spain team?

There was just one Real Madrid player in Luis Enrique’s Spain squad for this international break and it was Sergio Ramos, who went into the break with some injury issues (and we’ll get to that later…). So, there was a good chance that we might witness a Spain match without the presence of a Real Madrid player. And we did. Although Ramos played some minutes in the first game against Greece and in the last game against Kosovo, he didn’t feature at all against Georgia. Not since Spain vs Luxembourg on October 9th 2015 had Spain played without a single Real Madrid player, 41 matches previously. It’s not a very Real Madrid Spain team right now. It’s not a very LaLiga-based one either, actually.

3. Would Modrić break the Croatia record?

Luka Modrić went into this international break ready to make history, and he did so. Darijo Srna held the Croatian national team’s record for the most caps with the country, of 134. Modrić went into this international break on 133, so he matched and then overtook the retired defender to set a new record of 136. As the Croatian federation showed the squad a video of Modrić’s highlights, he got emotional and teared up. No wonder. It’s quite an achievement.

Three questions

1. What the f**k was going on with Sergio Ramos?

Ok, let’s get into it. What the f**k was going on with Sergio Ramos this international break? Let’s go back to just before the break, when what Zinedine Zidane described as a “discomfort” prevented Ramos from travelling for the game in Vigo. But, apparently fully recovered, he went away with the national team, where he is chasing record after record. Only, Ramos wasn’t fit enough to play the full 90 minutes in Spain’s first game vs Greece and came off at half time. “Minutes management,” sources in the Spain camp called it. Then, he didn’t play at all against Georgia and only came on for the final five minutes vs Kosovo. “That was a technical decision,” said Luis Enrique’s number two Jesús Casas. His brief appearance was enough, though, to take Ramos to 180 international appearances, moving him just four behind the all-time record. And then… on Thursday we learned that Ramos suffered a calf injury. As the player himself said, it was during a post-game workout that he carried out on the pitch of La Cartuja. It’s been a very eventful international break for Ramos and one that raises many questions. Should he have gone off with Spain? Was he recovered enough to have played? Did he come on vs Kosovo just for stat padding? Is he still Luis Enrique’s first choice? Basically, what the f**k was going on?

2. Is Kroos retiring from Germany?

Kroos didn’t play with Germany this international break as he suffered an injury basically before the break even started. But, he was in the headlines in Germany during these World Cup qualifiers for a reasons, most eye-catchingly because of a Bild report claiming that he’ll retire after the European Championship this summer. For Real Madrid, that would be most welcome. Kroos has had a splendid international career, but if he can spend the rest of his current contract – which runs to 2023 – focusing on club matters then even better.

3. Is Bale really expecting to come back?

International breaks always produce some interesting quotes, as players speak more openly alongside their international press officers than next to their club ones. Gareth Bale has proved that once again, talking a lot with the media while on Wales duty. And the on-loan Tottenham player spoke about potentially coming back for Real Madrid in 2021/22 for the final year of his contract. He said: “Real Madrid are my parent club and, as far as I agreed, I was with Tottenham on loan until the end of the season and I go back. That’s the plan so far. The reason I left was because I wanted to play games and get match fit and enjoy my football. Obviously come the summer I will go back to Real Madrid and we’ll go from there.” Well, that’s certainly one to watch. We’ll see.

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