For the first official match of his new coach, Julen Lopetegui, Real Madrid faces Atlético Madrid’s neighbor in Tallinn, with continental supremacy at stake.
It was nine years ago. In the summer of 2009, Real Madrid broke its piggy bank to offer the services of a new “Galactic”, Golden Ball and European Champion with Manchester United. The most expensive transfer in history, then (94 million euros), Cristiano Ronaldo landed in the Spanish capital and took over the destiny of the White House Madrid. Nine years, four Champions League (and as many Golden Balls) and 450 goals later, the Portuguese left Real Madrid in the summer. Orphan of his star, and after the departure – voluntary, which is sufficiently rare to be reported – of the French coach Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid starts, Wednesday, August 15, a new page of its long history.
In Tallinn (Estonia), the Merengues, who won the Champions League at the end of May, face their neighbors at Atlético Madrid, winners of the Europa League, in European Supercup. With as stake the supremacy in their city, and on the continent. For his first official match on the bench of Real Madrid, coach Julen Lopetegui inaugurates his functions by the possibility of a title, which, if he will not forget his predecessor – who won three consecutive Champions League -, put the career of the former coach of Roja on track.
Two months after his humiliating dismissal of the Spanish squad just before the World Cup, Lopetegui can erase this snub by winning his first trophy on the merengue bench. And justify his choice to join the Real … who had precipitated his dismissal of Roja. “My first official match is a final,” said the Basque. We will try to be well prepared to face a strong, complicated opponent, whom we know very well and who, moreover, is our neighbor. In front of DIego Simeone’s rugged Atletico, undefeated in the European Supercup (two participations, two crowns in 2010 and 2012), the coach has to compose without the player who has enlightened Real for a decade.
Gareth Bale released by the departure of Ronaldo?
More than Ronaldo, taking a final challenge at Juventus Turin. But the three-time European champion in title does not lack of finery. While waiting for possible recruits, other figures are trying to fill the void left by the Portuguese, top scorer in Merengue history. Starting with Welsh winger Gareth Bale, French forward Karim Benzema, or unfortunate World Cup finalist Luka Modric. Author of a high-flying preparation and perhaps freed from the omnipresence of Ronaldo, Bale pleases his new coach, “convinced that he will make a great season”, but refuses to make him the successor of the ex-number 7 Madrid. “He is a very great player, but he must succeed no one. I do not like making comparisons.
Despite the loss of one of the best players on the planet, Real Madrid has managed to retain its backbone. Besides Benzema and Bale, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Marcelo and captain Sergio Ramos are still there. Like defender Raphaël Varane, with a victory in the World Cup. And if the best player of the Russian World Cup, Luka Modric, has expressed desires for departure to Inter Milan, Real Madrid has held good, and the Croatian, in the recovery phase, could play the match against Atletico Madrid .
Former coach of youth teams in Spain – he had won the title of European Under-19 champion in 2012 in the stadium Lilleküla Tallinn, where takes place the Supercup Europe – Lopetegui intends to trust to the young nuggets of the Madrid club. Isco and Marco Asensio, whom he had hatched in Spain, should play the role of technical leaders of the Merengue, a feature widely seen last year, when the ubiquitous Ronaldo had oriented his game to the collective.
“Real will continue to win despite the departure of Cristiano”
If the departures of Ronaldo and Zidane place Real Madrid in a phase of reconstruction, the club Florentino Perez starts his season with ambition. Witness the arrival, in the cages, of the Belgian Thibaut Courtois – who will not be aligned against Atlético -, one of the best goalkeepers on the planet. “The loss of such an important player [as Ronaldo] is negative, but it does not mean that Real will stop winning, reassured the Madrid captain Sergio Ramos. We do not lose our ambition or our desire. Real is above all of us. Real will continue to win despite the departure of Cristiano, as he did after the departure of [Zidane].