Posts Tagged Jose Mourinho

Era of New Men – 2013/14 Premier League Preview 1


Going into a match, having just come out of a gruelling Christmas schedule with a six match unbeaten run to lie third on the league table, two points off the top, my team fall behind midway through the first half against a team two places off the relegation zone.

Rubbish! And perfect time to pause football manager and feel most inclined to put down this preview of the 2013/14 Premier League season, a season which comes with a sense of the new mixed with the usual, high octane drama we’ve become accustomed to season after season.

Last season, Manchester United reclaimed the league title from the noisy neighbours and as a result went past Liverpool as the team with the most league titles, thanks largely to the goals of Robin van Persie; the last genius gamble of long serving manager Sir Alex Ferguson who finally let go of the thinking cap and chewing gum at the Theatre of Dreams.

Moyes 'guarding' RvP

Inevitably, the new man at the helm will be banking on the flying Dutchman in his quest to begin a reign as Fergie’s successor on a high, off what has been a turbulent run up to the season, no thanks to speculation on Whine Rooney’s future at the club as well as failed bids for Barcelona duo Thiago Alcantara (who opted to join his former boss Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich) and Cesc Fabregas who ‘decided to stay put’ as well as for his former boy Leighton Baines.

That leaves David Moyes with pretty much the same squad that came from behind on numerous occasions to win the league. Only difference now from then is, can Moyes’s charisma evoke that similar spirit Fergie was always conjuring from his players on their way to a 20th crown last season?

Having gone fruitless years being a pain in the a.k.a.-donkey of the bigger clubs while at Everton, the expectation is that having a better squad and much better budget at his disposal now would make a ‘better’ manager of him. His ability to make the best out of what he has and potential to be at the helm for long – stability – is what got him the job and what is hoped would ensure sustained success at Old Trafford.

But his failure to land transfer targets however, point to an inferior character incapable of commanding a presence, a respect where it matters. It certainly cannot be at the level of Fergie’s but it right now is quite far from convincing even most fans of the club that Moyes is the ideal man for the job.

As a result, rivals for the league title, swirling around as sharks would at the presence of blood, have made their moves and all that’s left now is for them to go for the kill and take the league title from the Red Devils.

First shark in the tank is Manchester City that finished second last season, having failed to replicate the drive which led the club to a most dramatic title win minutes after Man. United thought the title was theirs in 2012. Hence, the hierarchy at the Etihad relieved Roberto Mancini of his job and replaced him with seasoned Chilean tactician Manuel Pellegrini.

Negredo, Jovetic and Navas

A number of players have also been added to the squad there, with Fernandinho joining from Shakhtar Donetsk, quickfeet Jesus Navas from Sevilla, followed later from same club by striker Alvaro Negredo, with Montenegrin forward Stefan Jovetic arriving from Fiorentina some time between the two Spaniards.

Fernandinho’s arrival gives the spine of City’s midfield a bit more dynamism to the one already provided by Yaya Toure. Javi Garcia never got going last season and with Jack Rodwell still in the mix of the hustle to be Toure’s starting partner in midfield, it’s looking like it’ll be a long season for Garcia.

Upfront, Pellegrini has an enviously potent forward line consisting of Negredo and Jovetic joining Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko, with support over the season from Fernandinho and Navas joining a midfield already rich with Yaya Toure, Silva, Samir Nasri, James Milner and Javi Garcia… not to forget Rodwell and Scott Sinclair who may leave the club on loan for this season.

However, Man. City’s main failing last season was the defensive lapses that brought about a number of unexpected losses, an issue that should not be a bother this season after all if the goals are regular from the wealthy choice of forwards he’s assembled. Otherwise, Pellegrini’s got a coming headache.

Having captain Vincent Kompany and the rest of the back line fit and in form (Joe Hart’s bipolar form comes to mind here) all season would be crucial to Pellegrini’s main test as new manager, which will not necessarily be how well he performs in the league, as he could lead City to a third place finish and still be regarded a success based on how well he does in the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup, especially in the former where the real test is.

Man. City’s embarrassing displays in the last two European seasons pose a threat to their domestic ambition. Doing well in Europe could hamper their league performance and vice versa. Pellegrini’s job will therefore be to strike a right balance in the Premier League and Champions League or end up only delivering what Mancini could to the oil money, unsatisfactory success.

From the blue side of Manchester to London’s, a shark swirling about Moyes, also with a new man at the helm but, unlike the previous two clubs, a man who is returning to familiar terrains.

Chelsea have satisfied the yearn for European success unlike City, and in fact won the Champions League and Europa League in successive years. The Premier League, last won 2009/10, will be the main goal at Stamford Bridge and Jose Mourinho knows all to well how to go about winning it.

Mourinho during his first Chelsea spell flanked by Lampard and Terry

He was the one who won the Blues a first league title in half a century, going right ahead to retain that title the following season. Now armed with more experience from Inter Milan and Real Madrid along with a diabetic wealth of choice in players, without forgetting his undying love of life in the Queen’s most pretigeous league, Mourinho and Chelsea are the genuine favourites to win the league and break the recent hold of Manchester on the title.

Fernando Torres may not have the chance to be the undoing of Chelsea’s title quest, even though I feel he’s been improving in front of goal lately. Not to say he’s close to his old lethal self but… he’s been improving. And if indeed he falls short again, there’s Demba Ba. The Senegalese however has a prone to going on a drought in the second half of the season following a flourishing first half. What then? Hello Romelo Lukaku.

If there is a set of players highly motivated to prove a point this season, the Belgian striker’s name would be at the top of that list. The imposing young striker left good memories from his loan spell last season at West Bromwich-Albion and has looked good in front of goal this preseason for the Blues.

And with a creative force led by Juan Mata that also comprises Eden Hazard and Oscar, along with Victor Moses and new boys Kevin de Bruyne and Andre Schurlle, the problem for Chelsea won’t be the number of chances created but the number of those taken. Who Mourinho picks as the man with the task to convert those chances will be key to Chelsea’s success this season.

Among the three teams written of in this piece, Chelsea (much to my biased side’s dismay) are favourites for the league title based on the facts that Mourinho knows the league well enough and he is the sort of manager who can get his team to grind out the needed results at crucial stages of the season.

Besides, the Chelsea squad doesn’t seem as one on the brink of tearing apart, unlike City where four internationals are vying for two striking spots, if not one (depending on Pellegrini’s choice of tactics) and the duo of Yaya Toure and David Silva seem untouchable in midfield. As for United, they are title contenders simply because of van Persie. One bad injury… it’s either Rooney or the little pea step up in the Dutchman’s absence or it’s over.

The rest of the league? There’s Arsenal to lead them, followed in no particular order by Swansea City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. I’ll rather write about them in another post, a sequel if you may. But right now, I’ll finish my match on football manager… whose makers by the way have announced and released screenshots of FM14. Exciting times.

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Benitez Has But Himself to Blame


Chelsea’s interim manager Rafael Benitez unexpectedly went uber-emotional on us with his outburst aimed at fans of the Blues who simply will not roll the welcome carpet out for him at Stamford Bridge, and this is months after his appointment by Roman Abramovich.

Initially via an interview with BBC Radio’s 5 Live before butressing his weary feelings at the post match conference of the club’s FA Cup win over Middlesbrough, Benitez blasted the fans for their misguided priorities and/yet inadvertently made their day by stating he would be gone at the end of the season.

I was going to compare his outburst with that of Arsène Wenger’s recently but both men’s blown cool are fundamentally very peculiar to each other. For one, Wenger’s was a lot more amusing. On another, Benitez hasn’t gone eight seasons without a trophy.

And while a majority of both club’s fans have certain levels of hatred/negative disposition towards both managers and would just love to see them leave, at Arsenal these fans just want a trophy and for the manager to spend big money in the transfer market. For Benitez, he simply isn’t welcome at the Bridge.

Back wholly to the Spanish tactician, he did make reasonable points about the fans wasting their time and energy on banners and angst against him when they should be supporting the club, as well as on being appointed ‘interim manager’, a tag that implied he wouldn’t last on the job.

That said, Benitez couldn’t have expected to be treated at the Bridge like he was a business class passenger on a long-haul Emirates flight as his appointment by Roman Abramovich was more of putting him on an interstate economy class ride on an Eurostar coach.

Besides those comments made about Chelsea while he was in his prime at Liverpool; a period in which both sides met more often in all competitions than any other two teams in all of Europe, made him a persona non grata at the Bridge. His appointment thus only made it easier to have him suffer for those comments.

But would Benitez have succeeded as Blues boss? Having won the UEFA Cup at Valencia and the Champions League *once at Liverpool? Casting all grievances aside, I honestly believe he would have failed as he currently is and here is why I feel so.

There is the Fernando Syndrome/Torres Factor ongoing at the Bridge. Only very few managers would come to Chelsea and not even consider giving Torres an umpteenth second chance. Others would simply not want to believe £50m can go to waste just like that. Well, there’s always a first time.

Second is the Roman factor. Benitez in my opinion cannot thrive under such kind of authority, as evident in his spell at Inter Milan where Massimo Moratti reigns. At Valencia and Liverpool, the hierarchy were far less… authoritative.

At Liverpool, the hierarchy has allowed managers bring in certain players including Jordan Henderson for an obscene amount and even Joe Allen. It’s under this sort of loose reign Benitez thrives on, not somewhere his request to get a player will be sanctioned or worse still for him, where there’s isn’t time and space to bring in more players owing to the lot already available.

Ideally Benitez would have a certain set of calibre of players, usually Spanish, that he would bring to the club in order to see his methods come alive. At Inter where he failed, and the Serie A generally, Spanish players aren’t exactly in demand there as it is mostly natives along with South Americans, a few Africans and a variety of others that thrive there… any variety but the Spanish one.

Without making Barcelona’s defeat at AC Milan an example, a product of the Spanish giants makes for a perfect example and Bojan Krkic is whom I write of. Going to Italy was always going to be the wrong move and though he has spurts of brilliance, he generally has declined as a footballer over the seasons.

Third, going to a club that looks set to begin searching for a 10th manager in as many years when the season’s over, was a poor choice for a manager of Benitez’s calibre and I can only blame his eagerness to return to active management for this poor choice by him.

Benitez pretty much threw himself at Liverpool, like a desperate woman complete with her red bra showing and bit too much make-up, only for Brendan Rodgers to be appointed. In the end, the lure of a good looking first team squad of players (especially the midfield) may likely have deceived Benitez into a hasty decision.

He probably should have waited for a suitable job vacancy from a modest club in La Liga or the Premier League; Swansea would have been a good project for him, or from the Bundesliga (Wolfsburg for instance) to show up. There, his rustiness in management may likely have been forgiven for a season just as he would be allowed to bring in his calibre of players.

But being a multiple-time European cup winner, Benitez most likely didn’t and still doesn’t see himself going a step or two down to manage a modest club and increase their stature with a finish in a European spot on the league table along with a good cup run.

And I really feel he should have gone this route having performed miserably at Inter, where he inherited a solid title winning team yet decided to allow his predecessor Jose Mourinho play games with his mind and make him focus on a trivial war of words rather than sustaining the team he met there.

In truth, Benitez may feel unfairly treated at the moment and maybe, just maybe some of us feel or want to feel sorry for his plight but the fact is, Benitez should never have taken the Chelsea job and since he did, he only had the heat coming for him.

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Special Word for…


Blackpool/ Ian Holloway
Ian Holloway must be a man with an inhumanly high self-esteem and if he added a bit of ambition to this spirit, I sense Blackpool could become a much better team than its potential currently shows and I hope they avoid relegation. The Tangerines meanwhile will make for a purist’s favourite as they play football for the gallery, even if it backfired hard in a good number of matches. #Jolly

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson has made Manchester United England's most illustrious club

Love him, hate him, two things are sure with this wily old Scotsman, frequent success and a loyal customer to the chewing gum industry. Despite the familiarity in the Old Trafford atmosphere having been at the Manchester United helm since 1986, Sir Alex will do what needs to be done in order to keep the trophies coming and that’s how the Red Devils eclipsed arch-rivals Liverpool to become the team with the most league titles (19); like we did not recognise him as a legend already though. Writing of doing what needs to be done, there’s a third thing you can be sure of with SAF… the hairdryer treatment; testimonies abound! #Wine

Arsenal FC
The Gunners did all in its power to extend an unenviable run of years without a trophy… and succeeded *ticks seventh year*. Arsenal only has itself to blame for winning nothing this season and unless Arsène Wenger stops being emotional about the matter, a lot of the great talents at the club will never attain greatness at the club. #Drought

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho in one of his on-field state

The Portuguese tactician once again proved his prowess from the bench by winning the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona and breaking Real Madrid’s six season jinx of not going past the Champions League first knock-out round; going as far as the last four. It never was going to be easygoing at the Bernabeu and I sense two more seasons there would see Mourinho mould himself into a tactical legend. All that said, the Portuguese of course wasn’t going to let the season go by without a dose of touchline bans as well as “all eyes on me” and “me against the world” rants; encapsulated in the four El-Clasico encounters at close season #Journeyman

AC Milan/Massimmiliano Allegri
The Rossoneri may have been embarrassed out of the Champions League in the first knock-out round by debutantes Tottenham Hotspur but they handled affairs back home and ensured FC Internazionale’s run of four consecutive ‘Scudettos’ came to an end, thus earning some respect for the coach Allegri as well as a season’s worth of local bragging rights while at it. #Resurgence

Falcao

Falcao

Falcao has been in raging form for FC Porto this season

His 16 goals in the Europa League so far; a record already for most goals in a single season in either European Cups (Opta Sports), certainly served FC Porto well in the Portuguese side’s run to the final and in my opinion brings the 25 year old Columbian out of the shadows of the imposing Hulk; his Brazilian strike partner at the club. #Potent

BV Borussia Dortmund
The high competitiveness levels attained by the Bundesliga makes Dortmund’s league triumph very laudable. More so making use of a young, skilful team in dethroning perennial title favourites Bayern Munich, Dortmund now must prove to the rest of Europe; though without Real Madrid-bound Nuri Sahin, that not only the Bavarians can perform well on the big stage but for now, it’s always good to see a team other than the usual win. #Refreshing

Mario Gomez

Mario Gomez

Mario Gomez

How many hat tricks was that again? Five hat-tricks in one season; this season, is just lethal stuff! Too bad this form still was not enough to get Bayern Munich the German league title though 27 goals in 30 league matches should serve a good enough personal consolation for the striker. #Vain

Pepe
Perhaps Real Madrid’s best performer this season through his assured play in defence and later on in midfield, his importance to the team became most glaring following an underserved red card in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against arch-rivals Barcelona… the Catalans went on to score two goals afterwards and virtually seal its place in Wembley that night. #Gibraltar

Iker Casillas
Called upon on too many occasions to rescue Real Madrid, Casillas proved his class as a reliable goalkeeper time and again. #Reliance

Sergio Ramos
Thanks for making Arsenal the butt of yet more disheartening jokes after letting slip of the Copa Del Rey trophy from the parade atop the Real Madrid winning train… we know the rest. #Slipshod

André Villas-Boas

Not to say he is him but this is a bit how Jose Mourinho started… I’ll keep my eye on his teams and currently that’s FC Porto that he has guided to the league title and Europa League final in lethal, record breaking fashion; being the third youngest manager to win the Super Liga at 33 years, guiding FC Porto to amassing a massive 80 out of a possible 90 points in the league complemented by a run of 16 league matches won… all without any previous managerial experience? #HotShot

Queens Park Rangers
This very financially stable club has gained promotion to the most viable financial league in the world and I’m looking forward to QPR matches next season especially the London derbies. #Royal

©d.òÁ

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Is the Red Devil You Know Really Better than the Angel You Don’t?


Having won the UEFA Champions League in 2005/06 (2-1 vs. Arsenal) and again in 2008/09 (2-0 vs. Manchester United), Spanish giants C. F. Barcelona now appear to be favourites to once again reclaim Europe’s most prestigious club competition following the semi-final first leg matches. According to statistics (from Opta Sports) no club has overturned a 2-0 defeat in 15 attempts at the semi-final stage of this competition, a result the Catalans achieved on April 27 against fierce rivals Real Madrid; all the better at the Santiago Bernabeu home of the Merengues.

The result may have been different had Real’s Portuguese defender and a sturdy defensive midfielder of late Pepe not been sent off quarter of an hour into the second half with scores still goalless, albeit it would be biased to let that take the shine off the very well executed brace by Argentine phenomenon Lionel Messi whose second saw him weasel past four white shirts before finally slotting past Iker Casillas for his 52nd goal of the season in all competitions for Barcelona and 36th goal in all his Champions League appearances, which has seen him go past German legend Gerd Muller on the all time top-scorers list.

Meanwhile a repeat of the 2008/09 final is on the cards after the Red Devils finally got two goals past the impressive Manuel Neuer of Schalke 04 in the second half after the German goalkeeper kept his side in the tie with a string of saves in the first half. Barring what happens to any of the teams’ players in the second leg matches, Manchester United stand in better frame to match the ingeniousness of Barcelona. However, it would be very difficult for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side to reclaim a trophy it won in the 2007/08 season.

First factor going against United is the unfair fluidity Pep Guardiola’s charges have attained when it comes to team play, which leaves opposition teams either having to play a faster pace game, have at least a 90% completion rate in its passing game and then have a minimum of three players that each can produce a moment of magic from any part of the pitch. There also is going about grinding the game to scrap, not allowing Barcelona the fluidity they have perfected and successfully implemented in a majority of matches in all competitions this season before then going about to win such match.

And yes, United’s attacking third comprising an in-form Wayne Rooney with goals and assists paired with this season’s revelation in perhaps all of Europe, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez with his great technique at positioning and not just goals scored but important match winners time and again that have seen him earn himself a starting shirt ahead of Dimitar Berbatov (left out completely in the Champions League semi-final first leg at Germany) can pose quite a threat to the rampaging Catalans.

This is complemented by Edwin van Der Sar who stands stalwart between the sticks, the imposing Nemanja Vidic who is the heart of the Red Devils’ defence and a midfield based more on effectiveness than on flair through veterans Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs alongside Michael Carrick and Anderson with Nani especially and Antonio Valencia most capable of the flair part of the business.

All that said, whichever of the aforementioned midfielders Sir Alex puts in the starting line-up must play like they sometimes have over this season in order to not see Rooney having to come deep just to get a feel of the round leather, a scenario the Red Devils team must avoid otherwise Chicharito would be left isolated upfront and Rooney would have been taken some distance from a range where he can actually cause damage.

It would be the best starting Scholes as he has the ability to achieve a pass completion rate the Barcelona forwards enjoy supply from their midfield while starting Giggs would be a better idea than starting Luis Nani as the vastly experienced Welshman has been more consistent over the season and more so lately than the Portuguese whom one isn’t sure would turn up on match-day. Carrick is also capable of achieving a good pass completion rate but like Nani, one can never know which Michael would turn up on match-day.

Based on this seeming uncertainty in midfield that normally would not be glaring against most other oppositions, United may still just find Barcelona a riddle a bit too hard to sort out.

©ð.òÁ

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Top Ten Players of 2009/10


This would normally have come at the end of May but being a World Cup year, I held it till the Mundial was over before coming up with players I feel deserve to be so recognised. Obviously, performances at the World Cup in South Africa has a lot to do with the players that have made this list; a lot, not all to do with who makes this list.

10.
It’s a three-way tie here made of Luis Suarez of Ajax, Englishmen Jermaine Defoe and Bobby Zamora of Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham respectively.

Africa may not like him no thanks to his hand in Ghana’s quarter final exit, but Suarez is a fine player nonetheless as shown in the three goals he scored at the World Cup on the back of 47 goals in 46 starts last season for Ajax, putting him in good stead to replace Diego Forlán as Uruguay’s main man. Besides, if not for his handiwork, Forlán most probably wouldn’t have got the Golden Ball award because Uruguay would definitely have crashed out.

Defoe appears on this list thanks to his goals that helped Spurs reach the League Cup final, FA Cup semi final, finish 4th in the Premier League and qualify for a first ever UEFA Champions League. Redknapp’s continuous faith in him (from West Ham to present) has consistently being repaid in kind. Admittedly his World Cup was average but he did score a goal (more than Wayne Rooney).

And Zamora, whose crucial goals helped Fulham finish respectably in the league and imperatively in their amazing run to the final of the maiden Europa League, shushed his critics all in a season plagued by injury which ultimately cost him a place with England’s party to South Africa.

9. Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

It’s difficult to place a defender among the best of them all but Ramos in my view is an excellent defender and with an average of one goal in three games for underachieving Real Madrid last season coupled with a solid performance for newly crowned world champions Spain at the World Cup, fully deserves his place here.

8. Maiçon
It’s a pity Brazil met the Netherlands in that quarter final match either side could have won and had Brazil won, Maiçon would have come in higher on this list. He had a good World Cup, scoring quite a goal but it is his season with treble winning Inter Milan that catches the eye. Maiçon was consistent for the Nerazurri and was one of the stars that helped Inter to that treble.

7. Thomas Müller

Thomas Muller

Thomas Muller

The 20 year old has had a season to remember having broken into the German national team with top rate performances for Bayern Munich on the Bavarians way to winning the league and cup double as well as losing in the Champions League final. Müller capped his season with five goals and three assists at the World Cup to win the Golden Boot award ahead of David Villa and Forlán.

6. Lionel Messi
In my initial shortlist of players, Messi actually did not make the top ten…something definitely wrong there and this is the best I could do for the Argentine hope following a World Cup below expectations for country and a season parallel to our expectations. Messi remained true to his pace, menace and sheer will to disgrace opposition – until Mourinho came with his tactics and the Germans with their machines. Messi remains a fan favourite and his four goals against Arsenal (for me) in the quarter final of last season’s Champions League sums just why.

5. David Villa

David Villa

David Villa

Fernando Torres is regarded as the golden boy of la Roja but a month at South Africa surely must have changed perspectives with Villa running the show up front and from the flanks too, scoring five clinical goals and simply justifying the £30m or so Barcelona paid Valencia for his services. Asides scoring, Villa was a team player (sometimes) and had more shots on target at the Cup than anyone else – the move from modest, cash-strapped Valencia was only a matter of time and his form for Spain with his new club mates leaves the world to wonder, who will stop Blaugrana 2010/11?

4. Arjen Robben
He’s one of those Dutchmen that fall prey to injury season after season and he’s had his little fair share this season which gives his accomplishment this season even more credence in my books, helping Bayern Munich to a German double and the Champions League final as well as playing his part in the Netherlands run to the World Cup final despite missing the group stages (safe for the substitute appearance in the third match). He however will rue for a long time his missed chance one-on-one with Iker Cassilas (who by the way, finished at no. 11 on my shortlist or having more players at the number 10 spot would just have made this lose some cred) that most probably would have won the World Cup for Oranje…bygones I guess.

3. Xavi Hernandez
Xavi’s only flaw is the lack of goals in his games, safe for the occasional free kick and poachers effort otherwise it would be his name; and not Messi or CR9 (with all due respect), that would be on every football lovers’ lips. That said, he again was at the heart of affairs for Barcelona as Blaugrana won a Spanish double and fell short of retaining the Champions League against eventual champions Inter Milan with his ever pinpoint assists and overall vision and intelligence.

2. Diego Forlan

Diego Forlan

I’ve only heard Sir Alex Ferguson state his respect for players he sold twice – Jaap Stam and Forlan. Forlan without question was the spine behind Uruguay’s run to a fourth place finish at the World Cup, finishing with five goals and capping his campaign at South Africa with a goal that had class glossed all over it against the Germans. That, plus a season with Atletico Madrid that saw him lead the Spanish side to the Europa League trophy caps a terrific season for the late bloomer.

1. Wesley Sneijder
Not saying he’s going to be named World Footballer of the year but then again, he won the Italian league and cup and the Champions League being the playmaker of the Nerazzuri before coming so close to lifting a first World Cup for the Netherlands…enough ingredients in my opinion to be named the best footballer for the year #nodisrespect. And to think he is a Real Madrid reject, along with Robben! Sneijder has come a good long way from his torrid time at the Bernabeu where ironically he won the Champions League.

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