Posts Tagged With: Real Madrid

Roberto Carlos Retires (there are videos…)


Wow. So ol’ thunder thighs has officially hung up his boots. For my thoughts on that, pretty much see my thoughts on Ronaldo retiring last year.

Meanwhile, without further ado, here is that goal:

(The second replay behind the ball is the one, unbelievable scenes!)


125 caps for Brazil (11 goals)
1x FIFA World Cup: 2002 (runner-up 1998)
2x Copa América: 1997, 1999
1x FIFA Confederations Cup: 1997

Real Madrid (over 400 appearances, 50 goals 1996–2007)
3x UEFA Champions League: 1998, 2000, 2002
4x La Liga titles: 1997, 2001, 2003, 2007
3x Spanish Supercopa: 1997, 2001, 2003
2x Intercontinental Cup: 1998, 2002
1x UEFA Super Cup: 2002

(…and that’s just the highlights!)

More vids? Go on then…


Bobby Carlos: bloody hero.

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Sunday 13th May: Man City, Madrid, Milan & Memories

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are probably aware that on Sunday 13th May Manchester City were crowned champions of the Premier League in one of the most dramatic climaxes to a title race ever, right up there with likes of Liverpool v Arsenal 1988/89 and the final day of the Eredivisie 2006/07 both of which have featured on Mountain’s Short Thoughts & Bits in recent weeks. Add in the three-way scramble for the final guaranteed Champions League place not to mention relegation battle controversy and it was some end to a truly memorable season.


In Spain and Italy the titles were already wrapped up but far from making the final day meaningless, it was still one that will be long remembered…

Real Madrid signed off in style by beating Mallorca 4-1 to end the season on a record breaking three figure points total, topping Barcelona’s record of 99 points from 2009/10, whilst the win also saw them break the record for matches won in a single season.

Their 121 goals scored is also a record (an average of over 3 per game!). Their goal difference of +89 is also a record. Their 16 away wins is also a record. Sunday 13th May was the day that Madrid set down a marker, they didn’t just successfully prise the title away from the current Barcelona team, they redefined what was possible in La Liga and placed themselves firmly back at the top of the domestic pile.

A  Very Special Season

In Italy Sunday 13th May saw four true club legends bring their AC Milan careers to an end in a 2-1 win against Navara. Having each given at least a decade of service (a combined total of 43 years at the club) Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf are moving on in search of one final challenge before hanging up their boots for good.

Thank you for Everything

The fab four’s Milan trophy cabinet contains 2 Champions Leagues, 2 Scudetti, 1 Coppa Italia, 2 Supercoppe Italiane, 1 Club World Cup and 2 European Supercups. As Cassano says injuries may have cost Milan the title this season having been leading as late as March, robbing the outgoing heroes of a fairytale ending. The truth however may be far more interwoven with the tale of the departing four as there is of course one man missing from the picture above, somebody who was also at Milan for a decade and was there with them for every single trophy but who found another challenge at the end of last season before it was too late to do so at the top level. That man is of course Andrea Pirlo who was instrumental for Juventus in 2011/12 providing more assist (13) than any other player in Serie A. Milan’s loss was Juventus’ sizeable gain and it seems likely that this may have been the real difference.

Despite having already missed out on the title ‘Super Pippo’ Inzaghi, who scored in the World Cup in 2006 on his last ever appearance for Italy, did not of course disappoint scoring the winner on his final, emotional appearance for Milan…

Elsewhere in Italy another outgoing legend did get his fairytale ending. Sunday 13th May saw Alessandro Del Piero play his final game for Juventus in a match, like Madrid’s, where only a place in the record books was at stake. A 1-3 victory over Atalanta, in which Del Piero of course scored, saw Juve complete an entire Serie A season undefeated; the first team to do so since Capello’s Milan in 1991/92 and the first ever to do so in a 38 game season.


Those of you who read my piece on Ronaldo’s retirement last  year will know that these era ending moments in player’s careers give me pause for thought. That piece contained quotes from Del Piero about Il Fenomeno as well as one from Batistuta who said “For me, Ronaldo is football“, well for me (along with Paolo Maldini who retired in 2009), Del Piero is Calcio going right back to my childhood. Thank you for the memories.

Sunday 13th May 2012, quite a day in football.

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Three and Out for Pep’s Barça?

Pep following defeat in El Clásico at the weekend

“The third year,” the great Hungarian coach Béla Guttmann always said, “is fatal.” If a manager stays at a club more than that, he said, his players tend to become bored and/or complacent and opponents start to work out counter-strategies…

– Jonathan Wilson

Back in January I read this Jonathan Wilson piece for the Guardian Sport Blog that outlined how at the very highest level the greatest teams in history often only last a maximum of three years (especially those who played a pressing game) or ‘Béla Guttmann’s Three-Year Rule’ as also mentioned in Wilson’s excellent book Inverting the Pyramid. The piece was written following a draw against Espanyol that saw Barça fall five points behind Real Madrid in La Liga but having comfortably defeated their rivals in El Clásico in December and with them still being most people’s favourites for the Champions League.

Fast forward three and a half months and with the end of the season approaching Barça now find themselves trailing by seven points in La Liga having just been defeated in El Clásico and having been knocked out of the Champions League by 10 men from a team that are currently only sixth in the English Premier League (twenty-five points behind Man Utd).

(left to right) Béla Guttmann, Victor Maslov, Johan Cruyff, Arrigo Sacchi

Dynamo Kyiv 1966-68 (3 consecutive Soviet titles under Victor Maslov)

Ajax 1970-73 (3 consecutive European Cups)

AC Milan 1987-90 (1 Scudetto & 2 consecutive European Cups under Arrigo Sacchi)

Barcelona 2008-11 (3 consecutive La Liga titles & 2 Champions Leagues under Josep Guardiola) ?

Decay can have numerous causes. A shape-based game saps players because it requires constant thought, and because training to get the shape right is boring and repetitive. Pressing is physically exhausting, demanding perpetual running. Players living and working in close proximity for three years will start to get on each other’s nerves. And then there is hunger: when you’ve won a league title three times, does the fourth really matter as much as the first?..

…Yet in many ways, Barcelona are a side set up to endure. Like Ferguson, who reflected last week on how those who have been brought up at a club have more instinctive loyalty, Guardiola has a stock of homegrown talent. The impression is that most players play for Barcelona because they want to rather than because it’s a convenient way of paying for the cars and clothes and rounds of Jaegerbombs…

If they can kick on, if they can overcome Guttmann’s three-year rule, then their achievement will be truly historic; if it does all slip away, then they will merely have been another excellent team.

Chin up

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Il Fenomeno and Me (and perhaps you too)

Originally posted on Mountain’s Blog

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to start a blog for a little while now and whilst the debate about Wilshere’s role for England nearly stirred me out of inactivity and Arsenal’s dramatic victory against Barcelona could have had me writing, in the end it took something more poignant to inspire me. Something that takes me right back to my childhood: the recent retirement of a true footballing legend.

I was born in November 1988, and I don’t think it was until the 1994/95 season of the still young Premier League that I fully grasped professional football and made sure that I recorded Match of the Day onto my VHS tape to follow my beloved Arsenal to a 12th place finish with my favourite player Paul Merson going into rehab (the kind of introduction to football that could have come straight from the pages of Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch). The world cup in the USA in 1994 came along just too early for me, my clearest memory of the tournament being that I owned a football that had “USA ’94” written on it as opposed to any of the competition itself.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, USA 1994 came along just too early for a 17 year old wonder-kid who had scored 12 goals in 14 appearances during his first season for Brazilian side Cruzeiro. Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima, not yet known as simply ‘Ronaldo’, was named in Brazil’s squad for the tournament but unlike Pele who had starred in the 1958 world cup at the age of 17, Ronaldo did not play a single minute. Despite this, there was a huge amount of excitement about the youngster making a name for himself and after the World Cup he moved to Europe with PSV Eindhoven.

What this means of course is that Ronaldo’s career took off at the exact time that I become obsessed with football as a kid. For me there was no ‘before Ronaldo’. In his first season in Europe he scored 30 goals and in the 1996/97 season he was at Barcelona, scoring 47 goals in 49 games for them (one goal every other game is often used as the benchmark for a good return in the modern game), won the UEFA cup and had been named the Fifa World Player of the Year. He was 20 years old.

By the world cup in France in 1998 Ronaldo was widely regarded as the the best player in the world as well as being a household name. Now playing for Inter Milan, he had proved how deadly he could be in yet another top league receiving the nickname Il Fenomeno from the Italian press and had been a star for the Brazil national team for a couple of years. By the end of his career he would have 97 caps for his country, scoring 62 times.

The aura of the Brazil national team should not be overlooked as a factor in what made Ronaldo such an icon, especially to someone my age who was too young to remember the more pragmatic tactics employed by the side Dunga captained to victory at USA ’94. As Hugh McIlvanny said in his match report from the 1970 world cup final “Other teams thrill us and make us respect them. The Brazilians at their finest gave us pleasure so natural and deep as to be a vivid physical experience” (taken from Jonathan Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid) This is the view popular culture still holds for them and at 9 years old I was either oblivious that this was not necessarily gospel or simply had no interest anything but that idealised view of futebol arte. Brazil was were Garrincha, Pele, Jairzinho, Zico and Socrates had come from and now (more importantly perhaps) they had Ronaldo as well as the likes of Romario and Roberto Carlos. They played in yellow shirts and blue shorts and they were magnificent.

The Ro-Ro strikeforce of Ronaldo and Romario, the star of the previous generation, had destroyed Australia in the final of the Confederations Cup of 1997, both men scoring hat-tricks in a 6-0 victory for example. This moment in the history of Ronaldo’s career and in my life will forever be immortalised in Nike’s France ’98 advert where they flaunt their samba skills in an airport, the first of the great Nike football adverts.


As it turned out, France ’98 would be a low point in Ronaldo’s career. After reaching the final, he apparently suffered some kind of fit before the game and was off the pace for the entire match; team mate Roberto Carlos claiming afterwards that he was far more worried about his friend’s health than the outcome of the final. France won 3-0. I lost no sleep about the result, France were the underdogs and Arsenal’s Emmanuel Petit who had helped us to win the Premier League and FA Cup double that year had scored the third.

The following season Ronaldo ruptured a tendon in his knee and was out for almost five months only to injure it again just seven minutes into his comeback game. After this, he was never the same player again, which when you consider what he achieved later seems ridiculous but that is just testament to how good he was to start with. In Japan/South Korea in 2002, sporting one of the strangest hairstyles ever seen, Ronaldo finally led Brazil to victory in the world cup, scoring 8 goals in the process. He scored against every team they played against except for England who were cruelly knocked out by a freakish free-kick by the new emerging star Ronaldinho (literally meaning ‘little Ronaldo’) which sailed over the head of Arsenal keeper David Seaman. I could have cried. (Debates about whether it was deliberate roll on to this day – given how good he turned out to be… it probably was.)

Ronaldo’s club career now took him to Real Madrid who were going out of their way to sign the best players in the world for their ‘Los Galacticos’ project including his Brazil team mate Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane (the only person to equal Ronaldo’s record of 3 Fifa Player of the Year awards) and eventually David Beckham.

It was in 2003 however, that something happened which blew me away. Manchester United, who were on course to catch Arsenal at the top of the Premier League that season (they succeeded), a team that much to my annoyance I was used to watching win week in week out had drawn Real Madrid in the Champions League, a competition United had won in 1999. It was a huge clash with Real Madrid winning the first leg 3-1 at the Bernabeu. The second leg at Old Trafford was one of the matches that I remember most vividly; United won 4-3 with two late David Beckham goals (still a United player at this point) but Ronaldo scored an exceptional hat-trick to single handedly knock United out (6-5 on aggregate). It was one of the greatest performances I had ever seen. “He’s unreal isn’t he?” exclaimed Ron Atkinson as Ronaldo’s third goal sailed in from distance whilst his commentary partner Clive Tyldesley observed that “He’s just the best player in the world, that’s what he is” as Ronaldo was substituted to a standing ovation from both sets of supporters late on in the game. Truly unbelievable.

In the 2003/04 season Ronaldo and Real Madrid were on course for a treble before injury ruled him out for the end of the campaign. Madrid ended up winning nothing despite all their other star players. Fitness concerns and weight issues meant that by 2006 his time at Madrid was coming to an end and perhaps so was his career at the very top. None of this however stopped Carlos Alberto Parreira, the manager who led Brazil to victory at USA 1994, from playing Ronaldo at the 2006 world cup in Germany, where he scored 3 times to beat the prolific German ’60s/70s striker Gerd Muller’s record of 14 world cup goals. Despite this, after the tournament Madrid signed Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo found himself surplus to requirements.

AC Milan would go on to sign him the following January, another huge club and incidentally my favourite Italian team. Whilst his time at AC Milan is not usually considered a huge success, he still managed to score 9 goals in 20 games and became the first person to score for both clubs in the Milan derby having scored for Inter against their city rivals 8 seasons earlier. Milan did not renew his contract however after he suffered yet another knee injury.

By 2008 Ronaldo was no longer world class, unfit and unwanted his career could have ended there. Even Ronaldinho, the young Brazilian player who burst on to the scene with the nickname ‘little Ronaldo’ before going on to become one of the world’s best players had seen his star fade by this point (ironically also moving to Milan as a result) and was being eclipsed by the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Fortunately, at the end of the year Ronaldo signed a contract with the Brazilian side Corinthians.

Making his debut in 2009 he won league and cup trophies in his first two seasons and appeared once again in continental competition, this time the Copa Libertadores. From 2010 he was joined by Roberto Carlos and to me it did not matter that Ronaldo looked more overweight than ever and had grown a bizarre light brown afro at one point or that Carlos was the wrong side of 35 years old; there they were, competing in the South American equivalent of the Champions League. Occasionally a youtube clip would find its way through to me of one of them scoring, for example Roberto Carlos scoring direct with the outside of his foot from a corner and Ronaldo running over to congratulate him.

All was right with the world. Everything made sense. That is until just over a week ago. Corinthians were knocked out of the Copa Libertadores and amid threats from angry fans Roberto Carlos left to play for Anzhi Makhachkala in Russia and Ronaldo announced in an emotional press conference that the injuries and fitness issues had finally caught up with him and that he was hanging up his boots for good. How was this possible? In the words of another great striker Gabriel Batistuta: “For me, Ronaldo is football“. Alessandro Del Piero meanwhile wrote on his official website that “His announcement struck me even if it didn’t surprise me” and I think that is the point that I am trying to make. He could not go on forever but to lose such an icon of the sport, a true great who achieved so much over so any years should give any fan of football pause for thought. This was a player who scored 247 league goals in 343 league appearances over 18 years, scoring near as makes no difference a goal a game at the highest level in his pomp. He gained almost a hundred caps for Brazil whilst playing for arguably the greatest teams in Europe: Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan. World cup record goalscorer and world cup winner. In many ways his record is untouchable and the scary thing is that were it not for the injuries he may have achieved much more!

If, like me, Ronaldo has also been there with you every step of the way as a football fan from USA ’94 to February 2011 then the news of his retirement should strike you all the more. Perhaps there are a group of people born around 1979 who felt the same way when Maldini retired but if you are around my age no player has defined the sport you love as much as Ronaldo.

Del Piero goes on to say:

Ronaldo was one of the players who I respected the most. What Ronaldo did will forever remain in the history of football and in the eyes of the people who love this sport, independently of the colour of their shirt, of their support, of the flags. Players like Ronaldo belong to everybody. It was touching to hear Ronaldo say, amid the tears, in his goodbye press conference the phrase ‘it’s like I am dying’ because the footballer Ronaldo won’t be there anymore. But luckily for him a new life starts now. Thanks for what you did on the pitch and for being a great opponent, Fenomeno.


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