Manero

​Crisis? What Crisis?

By: Alfonso Duro

Thirteen goals in two games are enough to prove that Real Madrid is back on track after a rough start to the season. The stats tell us the Whites had lost two games in a row—something that hadn’t happened in the last five years—and that they also gave up the Spanish Super Cup to crosstown rivals Atlético Madrid, but let’s be rational about this: most of the players came back from World Cup action barely a month ago, they had no proper preseason, and the team has had to revamp 70% of its midfield after selling Xabi Alonso and Di María. Why, then, all the commotion about two lost games? This is nothing new for the diehard fans, but it definitely merits an explanation.

OH, THE SPANISH PRESS. This may be a structural issue: if you are a sports daily covering the ins and outs of Real Madrid, and the team takes a two-week break due to national team action, then you’ll most likely run out of stories to publish. And if you do, then you’re probably inclined to make some up. Like the one that said Gareth Bale would play in the middle, on Di María’s old spot (they even put that on their cover page), or the follow-up (the same day!) insisting Ancelotti also considered Coentrao for that role. Two weeks and three games later, have any of those two options been remotely tried out? Well, the same guys who tried to make you believe that losing twice in September ruled Real out from the League will now try to tell you that after thrashing Deportivo they’re back in the running. Simply brilliant!

A MORE NUANCED TAKE ON THE (REAL) POWER OF THE FOURTH STATE. Let’s not be completely cynical, though. Spanish sports dailies are not constantly making up stories; they do a fine job in reporting the daily happenings of the biggest teams in La Liga and have access to stories that probably most other media don’t; but they are also so powerful that they can influence the vast majority of readers and actually push their own agenda on them. And so, if after two lost games the team is six points behind FC Barcelona, they can conclude that their chances on the title are over and summon fans to the darkest of depressions. Yet, merely seven days later, after a crushing victory—although still six points behind their all-time rival—they can turn things around and signal the rebirth of the European champions, basking in the glory of James and Chicharito’s golazos, in order to unilaterally bring the team back into the game. What’s a fan to think? Is the team dead or are they still contenders? Guess we’ll find out in tomorrow’s paper.

NO MEMORY AT ALL? What’s probably the strangest thing about Real Madrid’s first few La Liga games this year is that the same exact thing happened last year, but people seem to have forgotten all about it. While the Merengues lost two games and tied another in the first two months of the season, they were still in the running until the end of La Liga, and actually won the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. There’s really no memory at all in football nowadays, and the common currency of the sport clings on the present more than it does in the future or the past. When it comes to analyzing your team’s performance, it seems to be a lot more fun for most fans to be on this crazy roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs, than to be in a coherent and comprehensive state of mind. To put it in a different way: conversation at your nearest watering hole would be quite boring if we were really thinking clearly, right?

NO NEED TO WORRY–YET. Ultimately, thou shall not worry about Real Madrid’s early performances this season. Losing two straight games in La Liga is not good news, for sure. And seeing how closely decided the last few seasons have been, if this difference with FC Barcelona is sustained until April, you may as well say the Merengues are done for. But it’s not April. It’s September, people, and that means you still need to go through February–Barça’s historical slump month—and that’s good news for Real Madrid. Plus, with both Clásicos still ahead on the calendar, the Whites still have a way to recover six points (seven with goal average in case a tiebreaker is needed) against Luis Enrique’s men. Of course that may prove tougher than finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but it’s still a possibility.

So don’t burn your pricey hot pink Adidas jersey just yet, Real Madrid still could have a great season in spite of the tremendous crisis they seem to have overcome.

LOGISTICS: Real Madrid, official English website

Alfonso Duro is a Spanish freelance writer. When he's not managing Google's agency in the United Arab Emirates (his current job), chances are he's watching and writing about soccer.