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Open Thread: July 1, 2021

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Our Thursday issue of the Daily Merengue

Real Madrid v UD Almeria - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The Open Thread/Daily Merengue is a place where you can discuss anything and everything related to football. Feel free to discuss the topics presented here, or start your very own discussions! The Open thread will be posted every day by one of the mods: Valyrian Steel, Felipejack, YoSnail, Ezek Ix or NeRObutBlanco.

PSG acquires Achraf Hakimi for €70 million

Real Madrid get €2 million out of the deal.

Manchester United acquires Jadon Sancho for €73 million

ManU are probably a centerback away from sporting an imposing lineup- on paper.

Commentary

In the 2020-2021 season, Real Madrid went trophyless for the first time since 2009-2010. In the Champions League semifinal, it became dreadfully obvious that Real Madrid were outmatched by the depth and athletic ability of Chelsea. We had been through unreal injury problems this season and had to fall back on our Castilla squad, who performed admirably, for sure. The common impression among readers was that we need heavy rotations and major impetus from new, young players, such as Houssem Aouar or Eduardo Camavinga, to help against the sides that can simply bring explosive running on the counter to overwhelm Real Madrid’s skillful but aging maestros, namely Marcelo, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Real Madrid has the class and style to be press-resistant, to control games and to provide balls to the final third, but there is lacking explosiveness, athleticism and guile to support attacks and break down low blocks. This seemed to be a sound analytical conclusion.

Meanwhile the messages from Florentino Perez have been sobering. He knows exactly what we dream about at night, but, alas, the club will have to have to wait until the stadium is finished and the finances have recovered from the pandemic. Covid19 has hurt club teams a la RMA and Barcelona far worse than state-owned or billionaire-owned teams. Therefore, we can comprehend as devoted fans that there are times when a club like Real Madrid has to face rationally and realistically its limitations and put faith in the overall leadership and values of the club. This would seem to be one of those periods in history when our mettle as a club and as fans is tested.

Would it be wonderful if we could get rid of some dead wood contracts? Undeniably, but for good reason players under contract hardly ever desire to leave Real Madrid. For this coming season it looks as though we are going to be turning to the younger generation of players the club has brought in, nurtured itself, or sent on loan. With Eden Hazard’s fitness situation teetering along a tightrope, we are talking about Martin Ødegaard, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius Junior, Fede Valverde, Alvaro Odriozola, Eder Militao and Marco Asensio — the latter of whom is coming into his mature years but clearly the board has envisioned him as their own and as a key part of the renewal. Last season in La Liga Real Madrid was merely a VAR miscalled hand-ball against Eder Militao away from winning back-to-back titles. We can infer inductively that Real Madrid is not far away from titles.

So, how do we assess the capability of our younger players to step in as the new generation for Real Madrid? Are they seasoned enough to withstand the mental and physical rigors of performing under the brightest spotlight in the world of football? It would be unfair to place unrealistic expectations on them. Can Carlo Ancelotti and the squad can pull off this renewal of Real Madrid with preseason starting up July 5? There is plenty of rational basis for optimism and excitement — namely, there is still world class quality and we have young players with good attitudes — but we must also be well-prepared to have patience when issues arise.

AS: “Courtois gives an insight into the world of Real Madrid’s dressing room”

The Belgian keeper was asked which player he felt had the most technical skills in the Real Madrid squad. His answer was surprising: “For me, Marcelo. Technically, he is very good. But the so is Toni (Kroos), Luka Modric, Eden…” The questionaire then took a slightly different course: “The best dressed? Asensio always dresses well. Ramos has his own style. I think for those who work in the fashion industry, he is very stylish. It might not be the kind of clothes that I would wear myself, but he’s often well dressed. Mariano and Carvajal also have good fashion sense”.

Today’s selection from Steven Mandis’ The Real Madrid Way

The Importance of the President Consistently Driving the Values

When Florentino took over in 2000, he was an outsider. He knew that, when evaluating talent, he wanted the players to have the same core values as the community. He could assess the data analytics provided by the technical team, but because of soccer’s complexity, the interpretation of the data can be highly subjective depending on competition level, system used, and even the definitions used in describing actions. Also, data needs context. Admittedly, he was not an expert in soccer-skill appraisal, evaluating how players would work together, or how they should be coached. Florentino provides the mission and values and then relies heavily on the expertise and execution of the people he hires.

Probably the biggest misperception in the media is that Florentino makes the decisions himself. He is very much about consensus and having people come to decisions together, around a set of values and expectations. Over time, Florentino has learned what works and what doesn’t work and whose opinions should mean more than others. Also, he has learned that day-to-day factors (e.g. moods, opinions, favorites, etc.) quickly change in sports. [...]

Another misperception in the media is that Florentino micromanages the coaches. We’ve learned from numerous interviews with coaches that Florentino never tells them who to play or how to play the team members. Perez has addressed this publicly: “Since I arrived in 2000 none of the coaches have ever said that I have suggested anything to them. They always have had full autonomy.” Former Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has also spoken about the point in an interview: “Even in Madrid I was accused of picking the team according to the president’s desires. Benitez has his own ideas and he puts these into action on the field.” Typically, Florentino and the board review the coaches’ performance at the end of seasons. He doesn’t make material decisions without consulting with board members. Florentino and his team invest in the best training facilities and infrastructure, and then it is left to the coach and players to be led by the community’s objectives. The coaches may feel pressure by the community to play certain players or choose not to rotate players to appease the community.

Mandis, Steven G. “The Real Madrid Way: How Values Created the Most Successful Sports Team on the Planet.” Pp. 182-183. Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books Inc., 2016.