How Gareth Bale Changed the History of Tottenham Hotspur as We Know it

Finding a tenner in an old pair of jeans on your way to the shops. Dropping a slice of toast which lands butter side up. Benoit Assou-Ekotto picking up an injury and the young left-back slouching around on your bench happening to be one of the best players in the world.

There’s nothing like a bit of luck at the right time, is there?

For Tottenham Hotspur, Gareth Bale’s unexpected 2010 run of form, which announced him as one of the game’s modern greats, seemed like the ultimate four-leaf clover,.

But it’s not said enough just how much this one bit of good fortune changed the trajectory of the club for an entire decade, and perhaps forever.

Tottenham Hotspurs’ new signings French…

Typically, it was Bale who was framed as needing a bit of the good old rub of the green, with the Welshman to Spurs what Jonah was to sailing in his first few years at the club.

Indeed, Harry Redknapp famously had to bring Bale on in garbage time during a 5-0 thrashing of Burnley in order to free him from the albatross of a 24-match winless run with the Lilywhites.

But does anyone seriously believe that, had the famed sliding doors moment actually happened and taken the Welshman to Birmingham, Bale would simply have festered into obscurity? Would Franck Queudrue really have been too much competition for a bloke who went on to score an overhead kick in a Champions League final.

Birmingham City’s English defender Roger

No, Spurs, for all their admirable track record in developing youth products, were blessed by association with Bale rather than the other way round.

First off, there’s the somewhat obvious stuff – in 2009/10 Spurs came flying out of the blocks, and by December had a precarious advantage over Manchester City and Liverpool in the tussle for a Champions League berth.

However, there’s that thing with Spurs and, shall we say, disappointing one’s expectations in violent and sudden fashion, and to say they had a bit too much turkey was an understatement as starting from Boxing Day they won only two out of eight games.

Tottenham Hotspurs Gareth Bale celebrates

The whole situation stunk worryingly of lasagne, so when Bale, fully bedded in the side and acquiring a reputation as the scourge of Premier League defenses, inspired Spurs to five consecutive wins, the collective sigh of relief around N17 was massive.

His trademark performances came in two of the matches that would define Spurs’ season, and arguably their transition into a somewhat serious footballing outfit in the 2010s.

Spurs hadn’t beaten Arsenal in the league since 1999. Chelsea were soon-to-be Champions. Within 72 glorious hours goals from Bale had downed the both of them, and after Peter Crouch put his noggin on the end of Younes Kaboul’s cross at the Etihad, the rest was history.

It hardly needs saying just how important Bale was in keeping Spurs competitive during the years that followed.

The Real Madrid man was the architect behind a famous home win against reigning Champions League holders Inter, while Andre Villas-Boas all but swapped his detailed tactical Powerpoint presentation for a ‘just pass it to Bale and hopefully he’ll put it top bins’ strategy in 2012/13.

Some would say that Spurs were deeply unlucky during this period, missing out on Champions League football due to an array of factors, from Redknapp being offered the England job, to a bonkers game between Arsenal and West Brom, to Chelsea presumably making a deal with the devil to somehow beat Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League

But in truth, in a jumbled team (Alan Hutton played much more than you’d think during their first season in the Champions League), Bale, alongside the wantaway Luka Modric and the inconsistent genius Rafael Van der Vaart, was performing feats of alchemy almost every week.

His greatest trick, however, and the most meaningful one for Tottenham in their current iteration, was allowing Spurs to attract a new calibre of player.

With Tottenham now serious contenders for European football every season, and known for feats of derring-do against Serie A giants in the Champions League, some pretty good players decided that North London was the place to be.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League

Jan Vertonghen. Hugo Lloris. Moussa Dembele. Actual internationals who had won stuff wanted a slice of the action at Spurs now.

These players kept Spurs in the hunt for some kind of meaningful European-adjacent football during some abject excuses for management (naming no names, but if the gilet fits…) and, crucially, stopped them from descending into any kind of obscurity.

Also, it’s probably about time to address what Spurs actually did with the Bale money after he went to Madrid.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League

Yes, they spent a sizeable chunk of it on Roberto Soldado, but they also got Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela out of it, and were able to refresh their squad by selling a sizeable quantity of deadwood as a result.

The consequence of all of this, which could only have been possible through Bale? A certain Mauricio Pochettino could actually look at Tottenham as a decent step up from Southampton, where he had the raw materials to build a side which would eventually fall one game short of conquering Europe.

Redknapp has rightfully earned a lot of credit for acting as the catalyst for any of this, while Damien Comolli’s work behind the scenes at Spurs deserves a more positive appraisal than it initially received.

Tottenham Hotspur v SV Werder Bremen – UEFA Champions League

But while both of these man, and Martin Jol before them, made it possible for Spurs to be the best of the rest, Bale, the dice that you could roll again and again and always get your lucky number, elevated them and made them stick.

It remains to be seen whether Spurs have taken one punt too many with their latest appointment, but with rumours of a return for Bale forever circulating, you wonder whether the two parties might fancy spinning the wheel one more time.

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Real Madrid 4-1 Barcelona: A Clásico Romp as Los Blancos Celebrate Title Triumph in Style

7 May, 2008. A normal day for most, but the perfect party for Real Madrid fans.

Having clinched the La Liga title three days prior with a 2-1 victory at Osasuna, the imperious Los Blancos starting XI were greeted with a pasillo – guard of honour from their dejected rivals as they entered the Bernabeu cauldron with an obvious swagger.

Real Madrid’s title victors are welcomed onto the field with a guard of honour from the Barcelona players

The pasillo alone would have been satisfactory enough for the home faithful – seriously, some fans left after the pre-match antics, while Catalan newspaper Sport advised readers not to switch on until 10:05pm when the nightmare was all over – but Bernd Schuster’s side ensured celebrations would last long into the Madrid night with a superb display in the Clásico.

Raul kick-started the romp in the 13th minute with a sweeping left-footed effort from the edge of the area following some fine build-up play, before Arjen Robben doubled the hosts’ lead with, beg your pardon…a header?!?

That’s right. Pre-total baldness as well.

Substitutes Gonzalo Higuain and Ruud van Nistelrooy heaped the misery on Frank Rijkaard’s side as they both scored with their respective first-touches in the second period.

Substitute Ruud van Nistelrooy added a fourth from the spot following Carles Puyol’s handball

Although Thierry Henry bagged a late consolation, events which followed the pre-match pasillo can only be described as a paseo – a walk in the park.


REAL MADRID

Key Talking Point

Bernd Schuster helped Los Blancos retain their La Liga title in his single full season at the helm

From pasillo to paseo, this was purely a celebration of a spellbinding Real Madrid side.

After Fabio Capello had guided them to La Liga triumph in 2006/07, Los Blancos had the difficult task of retaining their title the following year with former Getafe boss Schuster at the helm.

But in the end, they waltzed to consecutive crowns; finishing a hefty eight points ahead of Villarreal and a staggering 18 ahead of Barcelona.

This was a side sturdy enough in defence, tremendously well-balanced in midfield and that boasted incredible depth in attacking areas. The use of inverted wingers, most notably with Wesley Sneijder in this one, allowed for rapid combination play in central areas and persistent numerical superiority.

A superb side at their awe-inspiring finest in the May Clásico.


Real Madrid Player Ratings

Starting XI: Casilas (7); Ramos (7), Pepe (7), Heinze (7), Marcelo (8); Diarra (9), Gago (7), Guti (8); Sneijder (8), Raul (7), Robben (8).

Substitutes: Higuain (7), Robinho (7), Van Nistelrooy (6).


Mahamadou Diarra

Fabio Capello insisted on signing Mahamadou Diarra in 2006, paying €26m to secure his services from Lyon

Diarra played a pivotal role in Real’s title defence, as his tactical astuteness and comfort at which he screened the back four granted the likes of Fernando Gago and Guti greater freedom from box-to-box roles.

His function in the side was somewhat similar to that of Claude Makelele’s in the pre-Galacticos era.

Nevertheless, the Mali international was superb in this one as his aggression often thwarted Barcelona from progressing centrally, while he also proved an unstoppable force when driving forward with possession, setting up Higuain’s strike following a determined surge down the right flank.


BARCELONA

Key Talking Point

The end to Frank Rijkaard’s impressive reign at Barcelona was a bitter one

Embarrassed. Humiliated. Gutless.

And much like Real Madrid’s display, Barcelona’s was a microcosm of their 2007/08 campaign. Torrid.

Rafael Marquez’s fridge-like agility was ruthlessly exposed. Xavi was overwhelmed, non-existent and eventually escaped the nightmare with a red card, while they were totally reliant on Lionel Messi to conjure up some magic from thin air in the final third. The need for wholesale changes in the summer couldn’t have been more apparent.

Overall, it was a bitter end to the Rijkaard era which returned a pair of La Liga titles and a Champions League triumph in 2006.


Barcelona Player Ratings

Starting XI: Valdes (6); Zambrotta (5), Marquez (5), Puyol (6), Abidal (6); Xavi (3), Toure (7), Gudjohnsen (5); Messi (6), Bojan (5), Henry (6).

Substitutes: Dos Santos (6), Sylvinho (6), Edmilson (5).


Yaya Toure

Barcelona v Real Madrid – La Liga

Amid a humiliating day in La Blaugrana’s recent history, the gangly Ivorian put in a respectable display in the middle of the park.

Paired alongside an incompetent Xavi and Eidur Gudjohnsen – for about 20 minutes before he was hauled off for no apparent reason – Toure somewhat held his own against an on-song Real midfield which persistently had a numerical advantage thanks to the movement of Raul in a withdrawn forward role and Wesley Sneijder from out wide.

The poor lad tried his best, okay?


What Aged the Worst

Real Madrid v Barcelona – La Liga

This Bojan Krkic fella was supposed to be the next Lionel Messi, right? He had the shaggy hair and everything!

Although the Spaniard was isolated as the front man in this one, the then 17-year-old had burst onto the scene following his debut in September that season, finishing the campaign with ten La Liga strikes.

However, the fact he was lining up alongside Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross merely three years removed from his departure from Catalonia in 2011 suggests not everything quite went to plan.

Giovanni Dos Santos is another who failed miserably in his bid to fulfil his lofty potential, while Schuster’s coaching career took a significant u-turn after the La Liga triumph. The German was sacked in December 2008 before going to manage Malaga, Besiktas and Dalian Yifang with minimal success.


What Aged the Best

Marcelo rocking a buzz cut as he impressed in the 4-1 victory

Marcelo was superb in the ’08 Clásico in what many cited as his finest performance in Los Blancos colours up until that point. But how ’bout that barnet?

Sure, the neat and tidy two all over was cute ‘n all, but the outlandish afro would become symbolic of the flamboyant Brazilian full-back during his decade of dominance down the Bernabeu left.


What Happened Next

Pep Guardiola guided Barcelona to a majestic treble the following season

La Blaugrana would round off the campaign with a victory away Murcia following a 3-2 home defeat to Mallorca, before, well, Pep Guardiola happened.

The unproven boss was drafted in that summer as Rijkaard’s replacement to immediately rid Catalonia of the dark final days of the Dutchman’s reign. Guardiola’s 2008/09 and 2010/11 sides are two of the best in football history, as Barça re-established themselves as Spain’s supreme force.

Surprisingly, meanwhile, only three players who started this Clásico – Xavi, Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos – would be apart of the Spain squad which triumphed at Euro 2008 that summer.


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Seville Derby Pencilled in as First Fixture for 11 June La Liga Return

La Liga president Javier Tebas has spoken of his optimism that Sevilla’s derby against Real Betis will be the first match at the restart of La Liga’s season.

Preparations to resume the season after it was put on hold are accelerating, with players beginning to train in groups of 14 from Monday, having already trained in groups of up to ten over the last week.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez gave La Liga the go-ahead to return from the week of 8 June, as Spain begins to plot a return to normal life after the impact of the coronavirus.

Barcelona Players Return To Training Following Coronavirus Lockdown

Tebas, speaking with Spanish TV network Movistar, revealed that scheduling for La Liga’s return is already underway, and that the league’s revised fixture list could use El Gran Derbi between Sevilla and Betis as its jumping-off point.

“There is a possibility that there is a game on 11 June, which would be the only match that night and perhaps there will be a tribute to all the people who have died [as a result of the coronavirus],” Tebas disclosed.

“I hope that date can be confirmed and we would like the game to be the Seville derby, kicking off at 10pm.”

Club Atletico de Madrid v Sevilla FC – La Liga

Tebas stressed, however, that La Liga clubs first need to succesfully return to regular training in order to progress to the eventual stage of the league’s resumption.

“Right now that’s [full training] our main goal, and if we can achieve that then we can start to bring forward the return of the competition. Our aim is to be able to announce the first four rounds of fixtures next week,” he asserted.

“The government’s announcement took us by surprise but it shows that professional football is very important to this country.”

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Iker Casillas Opens Up on ‘Regrets’ Surrounding Real Madrid Exit in 2015

Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has admitted he harbours one or two regrets about the way he handled his 2015 exit from the club, but says his decision to leave was one he had to make to ensure he started enjoying football again.

Casillas marked his departure with an emotional farewell press conference after making the decision to join Porto in the summer of 2015.

He retired from professional football in February this year after his 2019 health scare ruled him out of football indefinitely, and posting on Instagram on Saturday evening, the legendary Spanish keeper reflected on his decision to leave his boyhood club.

“I rarely spoke about my departure from Real Madrid. I gave a press conference alone, mistake, and I left. Five years have passed since then,” Casillas said, alongside an image of him waving goodbye after a 7-3 victory over Getafe.

“Five years that I crossed the border that took me to our neighbouring country: Portugal.

“I needed to feel like myself again. Having a new environment, giving up being so exposed to criticism and wanting to improve. So friends, all players (be they good or bad) want to improve. And for this you have to improve physically and mentally. And the latter was important.

“In Porto I felt it again. Don’t let them tell you other things. This photo is from Real Madrid vs Getafe, season 14/15. I already knew it was going to be my last game. The last match.”

Casillas has rarely discussed his exit publicly, but in 2016, he blamed it on the ‘strange atmosphere’ around the camp at the time. There were reports of a fractious relationship with incoming manager Rafael Benitez, and Casillas departed just over a month after his appointment.

“I knew that my time at Real Madrid was coming to an end in January or February 2015,” he said, as quoted by AS. “The atmosphere was not good. I thought about making a decision. We thought hard about what to do, and the best thing was to leave Real Madrid.

“I think it was the [right] moment. I had thought about leaving Madrid after winning the Champions League in 2014. Due to circumstance, Madrid decided to sell Diego Lopez, but the atmosphere was very strange.”


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Thibaut Courtois Reveals He & Eden Hazard Used to Plot Real Madrid Transfers at Chelsea

Thibaut Courtois has revealed he and Eden Hazard discussed moving to Real Madrid while they were both still at Chelsea.

Former Atletico Madrid stopper Courtois, who won the Premier League twice with Hazard while at Chelsea, became La Liga’s most expensive goalkeeper when he signed for just under €40m after the 2018 World Cup.

His countryman Hazard made the move to the Santiago Bernabéu last summer, tying the club-record €100m fee that Los Blancos paid for the services of Gareth Bale.

Training Real Madrid

Courtois has now revealed the two transfers were less coincidental than they may seem, telling El Mundo that the duo would often fantasise about playing in Madrid during their time at Stamford Bridge.

“In the Chelsea dressing room, we were talking about the possibility of playing here,” recalled Courtois.

“‘The White House, the White House…’, we said. It was nice to speculate about it,” the Belgian added, invoking the Bernabéu’s famous nickname among its fans.

“Now, we are very eager to win trophies.”

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona – La Liga

Courtois struggled in his first season in Spain, being blamed for a number of high-profile mistakes and struggling in particular against Ajax as Real Madrid bowed out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage.

The Belgian has put his early blunders behind him this season, firmly establishing himself as one of the best goalkeepers in Spain with his side conceding just 19 goals so far.

Things have not been as easy for Hazard, who has started only ten times in the league this season for Madrid, with a solitary goal against Granada to his name so far.

Real Madrid Unveil New Signing Eden Hazard…

The former Premier League Player of the Season has been unfortunate, with a series of injuries so far which have stopped him from hitting his stride in his first season in Spain.

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On This Day in Football History – 24 May: Real Madrid Win La Décima, Gerrard’s Goodbye Goes Wrong & More

Under normal circumstances, the football season should be coming to a close about now. Unfortunately, there has been nothing normal about this campaign.

With the end still a fair while away, it’s time to take a look back at the kind of excitement we should be enjoying – Champions League finals, Premier League title wins and some historic retirements.

Let’s take a look at what has happened on 24 May in history.


1966 – Eric Cantona’s Birthday

Kicking things off with a birthday, Manchester United legend Eric Cantona was born on this day back in 1966.

During his five years with the Red Devils between 1992 and 1997, Cantona bagged 81 goals in 179 appearances, winning four Premier League titles and earning a reputation as one of the all-time greats.


1972 – Rangers’ First European Title

Despite not actually winning a cup during the 1970/71 campaign, Rangers landed a spot in the European Cup Winners’ Cup as Celtic were already in the European Cup. They went on to win the competition thanks to a 3-2 win over Dynamo Moscow.

It was a day of mixed emotions for Rangers, who were hit with a 12-month European ban after major fan unrest led to violent clashes with police shortly after the final whistle, so they were left unable to defend their title.


1989 – AC Milan Seal Iconic European Triumph

In 1989. Arrigo Sacchi’s iconic AC Milan side stormed to a 4-0 win over Steaua București to win their third European Cup, in what was one of the single greatest performances in competition history.

Doubles from Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten got the job done for the Rossoneri, and the team were so good that L’Équipe famously wrote: “After seeing this Milan, football will never be the same again.”


1992 – AC Milan Become Invincibles

Just three years later, Milan stormed to a 8-2 win over Foggia to ensure they finished the season unbeaten and lift the Serie A title in outstanding fashion.

This run was part of the famous 58-game unbeaten streak which lasted until 1993, and it made them the first team to go undefeated and win the title.

Somehow, Perugia went unbeaten during the 1978/79 season but failed to win the title, drawing 19 of their 30 games.


1995 – Youthful Ajax Stun Milan

Milan were the defending champions heading into the 1995 Champions League final, but they came unstuck at the hands of Ajax, whose average age of 24 years and 364 days made them the youngest winners in competition history.

The game was decided by an 85th-minute winner from 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert, who also became the youngest player to ever score in a Champions League final.


2000 – The First Same-Nation Champions League Final

The 2000 Champions League final was the first time that two teams from the same nation met to fight for the trophy, and the honour was shared by Real Madrid and Valencia.

The game itself wasn’t much of a contest as Real ran riot en route to a 3-0 win, but hey, it’s all about making history.


2008 – Dean Windass Fires Hull to the Premier League

Just five seasons after being stuck in the Football League’s lowest tier, Hull City fired their way to the Premier League thanks to a stunning volley from hometown hero Dean Windass.

The Tigers had been down in the Championship relegation zone when Phil Brown arrived in December 2006, but he led them to the top flight for the first time in the club’s history.


2014 – Real Madrid Win La Décima

Real’s win over Valencia in 2000 was their eighth Champions League victory, but it took them another 14 years to make it to La Décima.

Their tenth triumph came against Atlético Madrid, who came within seconds of winning the trophy themselves. An injury-time equaliser from Sergio Ramos sent the game to extra time, in which Real bagged another three to seal one of their greatest achievements of all time.


2014 – ZAMORA!

Queens Park Rangers had limped to the 2013/14 playoff final and looked to be dead on their feet against Derby County. The Rams were dominant throughout, and things looked to get even worse for QPR after they went down to ten men.

Fortunately, Bobby Zamora wasn’t going down without a fight.

With seconds left on the clock, Zamora fired home to send the crowd wild and lead QPR back to the top flight.


2015 – Stoke Spoil Steven Gerrard’s Goodbye

For Liverpool, the end-of-season meeting with Stoke City was supposed to be one of those ‘the score doesn’t matter’ occasions as it was Steven Gerrard’s final game for the Reds.

However, losing 6-1 was definitely not in the script.

Stoke were 5-0 up by half-time, after which Gerrard did manage to get himself on the scoresheet, but the damage was well and truly done. Fans mainly cared about the occasion, but it’s hard to ignore getting thumped 6-1 by Stoke.


2015 – Didier Drogba & Petr Čech Leave Chelsea

Didier Drogba left Chelsea for the second time in 2015, and he was joined by goalkeeper Petr Čech, who both walked away from Stamford Bridge after lifting the Premier League title on this day in 2015.

The pair’s final game was a 3-1 win over Sunderland, with Diego Costa and a Loïc Rémy double ensuring the day was one to remember for the Blues.


2017 – Manchester United Complete the Treble (Kind of)

Having already won the Community Shield and League Cup, Manchester United made it three by lifting the Europa League in 2017, completing the most underwhelming treble of all time.

After a comfortable 2-0 win over Ajax, José Mourinho instructed his players to hold three fingers up and rub their accomplishment in everyone else’s face, but it had the opposite impact as most rivals spent the trophy ceremony laughing.


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Spanish Prime Minister Gives Green Light for La Liga to Return From 8 June

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has confirmed that La Liga matches can resume from 8 June.

Football in Spain was put on hold in March following the COVID-19 outbreak, with the country being one of the worst hit in Europe by the virus.

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-HEALTH-VIRUS

Following a lengthy lockdown period, Spain has eased some restrictions recently – paving the way for La Liga clubs to return to small scale training at the beginning of the month.

The league’s president Javier Tebas then confirmed that plans were afoot for matches to resume on 12 June two weeks ago – so long as the government allowed it.

That state-backed approval has now come with prime minister Sánchez confirming further easing of coronavirus restrictions. These included permission for top flight football to return from the week beginning 8 June (via Sid Lowe).

Though a 12 June restart is preferred, La Liga have yet to confirm the exact date when action will resume.

The news means that Spain would likely become the second major footballing nation in Europe to restart proceedings after the Bundesliga kicked off last weekend.

The Premier League’s Project Restart has also been picking up traction in recent weeks. English clubs returned to small-group training this week with both Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson and Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire revealing they felt safe throughout proceedings.

However, plans for Englsih football’s imminent return have been criticised by other players. Danny Rose and Raheem Sterling have both expressed concerns while Troy Deeney went as far as to rule himself out for the rest of the season in order to keep his young family safe.


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Ex-Referee Claims 90% of Spanish Officials Support Real Madrid Over Barcelona

A former La Liga referee has revealed that 90% of Spanish officials are Real Madrid supporters, while the other 10% lean towards Barcelona.

While there is often mistrust over favouritism among referees, ex-official Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez has claimed that there is a clear favourite in El Clasico.

Iturralde retired in 2012 after refereeing over 300 games in the Spanish top flight, and refereed Spain’s major derby on three occasions.

Barcelona v Real Madrid – La Liga

In an interview with Cadena SER, the Spaniard explained: “Around 90% go with Real and 10% with Barcelona, whether Barça [fans] like it or not, 70% of the Spanish population, excluding Catalunya, are Real Madrid supporters.”

Iturralde went on to offer an explanation as to why, as he stated: “There are more Barça fans these days because the younger generation has seen the trophies they won under [Pep] Guardiola. But before the ‘Lionel Messi era,’ how many people supported Madrid in Spain? About 70%?”

It is no surprise to hear that the success of Pep Guardiola’s remarkable side between 2008-2012 created a surge in the following for Barça, yet the wider nation still appears loyal to Madrid.

Iturralde has previously spoken about the fact that referees are likely to have a team they support, as he explained (as quoted by ESPN): “We don’t come from Mars. You become a referee because you like football and there’s no one that likes football that doesn’t have a team.

“I’m lucky to have been born in Bilbao. Everyone is Athletic there. But in the rest of Spain, the majority are Real Madrid of Barcelona fans, because they’re the teams that win. And that’s how it is. And the majority are Real Madrid.”

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Agent Confirms Achraf Hakimi Will Return to Real Madrid When Loan Deal Ends

Borussia Dortmund defender Achraf Hakimi is set to return to parent club Real Madrid once his loan spell in Germany ends.

The Moroccan full-back has emerged as one of Europe’s top defenders over the past two seasons, and has been integral to Lucien Favre’s impressive attacking side.

The right-back joined the German side in 2018 on an initial two-year loan deal, after featuring a handful of times for Madrid, and has been linked with a permanent stay at Signal Iduna Park – as well as a possible move elsewhere.

Real Madrid v Celta de Vigo – La Liga

However, Hakimi’s agent Alejandro Camano has seemingly put an end to any speculation, and revealed his client is set to return to Los Blancos in the summer.

Camano told El Mundo Deportivo that: “There is no such offer. We will return to Madrid.”

The 21-year-old has been in sparkling form this season, scoring three times and laying on ten assists thus far in the Bundesliga this season, as Dortmund continue to hunt down rivals Bayern Munich for the league title.

Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona – La Liga

As for Madrid, the presence of Dani Carvajal – as well as the out on-loan Alvaro Odriozola – would perhaps make it difficult for Hakimi to earn a starting berth, yet he could provide some much needed youth to the ageing Spanish side.

The defender himself is seemingly undaunted by the prospect of a return to his parent club, as he revealed to Telefoot: “Real Madrid are the club I call home. ‘I’ve really enjoyed my time there and played lots of games there. If Real Madrid want me to go back, I’ll go back. And if not, I will need to write the next chapter at another great club.”

His return to the Spanish capital would no doubt be a hammer blow to Favre and his men, as well as for other interested parties.

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Real v Atlético: Picking a Combined XI of El Derbi Madrileño Legends.

Picking an all-time XI for either one of the Madrid sides is hard enough, but picking a combined XI? Near enough impossible.

The list of players who learnt their trade, cemented their status in the football hall of fame, or even finished off their trophy-littered careers in the Spanish capital is endless. So we’ve done the hard bit for you and narrowed down the shortlist.


GK – Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)

Iker Casillas leaves Real Madrid – Press Conference

Only one choice for this spot really. Casillas is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and his trophy cabinet is absolutely heaving. Debut at 17, Champions League winner by 19 and over 500 appearances over 16 years.

Extraordinary cat-like reflexes and a man-mountain in between the sticks (despite only being 6ft). All hail ‘San Iker.”


RB – Michel Salgado (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid’s Michel Salgado (L) fights

Former Real Madrid teammate Steve McManaman once described Salgado as “the hardest person in the world…a genuine psychopath, even in training.”

If you add that to his decade-long stint at Real, re-defining how a right-back should play and holding aloft four La Liga trophies and two Champions Leagues – he owns the right-back spot.


CB – Diego Godin (Atlético Madrid)

Club Atletico de Madrid v Sevilla FC – La Liga

Much of Atlético’s resurgence can be filtered back to the steady foundations of Diego Godin. Since his move from Villarreal in 2010, Godin matured into one of the world’s best centre-backs.

Simeone’s defensive management style is synonymous with Godin’s aggressive style of play. Solid in the air, not scared to get stuck in and always has the surprise element of bursting through with the ball.


CB – Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid v Liverpool – UEFA Champions League Final

He really is like Marmite, Sergio. The master of the dark-arts, win-at-all-costs, ultimate sh*thouse. But he’s Real’s beloved sh*thouse.

He’s been a force of nature during his time at Madrid and has helped them to a lot of trophies, and when the dust settles, he’s pound-for-pound one of the best centre-backs in world football.


LB – Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid)

Brazilian Real Madrid’s Roberto Carlos j

It’s pretty sad that there is a generation of football fans who won’t have seen Roberto Carlos don the all-white strip. That left peg must be worth a fortune.

Former Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque said “Roberto Carlos can cover the entire [left] wing all on his own,” perhaps one of the most attacking-minded full-backs of a generation and boy, he could hit a set piece.


RW – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid – La Liga

Does this one need justifying? One of the best footballers of all-time.

Rather than giving the opinion of ‘just some guy’, here’s what George Best had to say about him: “There have been a few players described as the new George Best over the years, but this is the first time it’s been a compliment to me.”


CM – Adelardo Rodriguez (Atlético Madrid)

Adelardo is plausibly Atlético’s best ever midfielder, holding the club record for appearances to this day with 551. He enjoyed a 17-year spell in the Spanish capital from 1959 to 1976.

Probably one of the best complete midfielders of his time, combining skill, commitment and a knack for goalscoring.


CM – Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)

Zinedine Zidane of Real Madrid

It’s 2002, Zidane’s only just balding and he’s sporting those gorgeous predators. Oh, when life was simple.

Zidane was a pure joy to watch, his ability to create space when there very clearly was incredible. Them predators were like two silk slippers, carefully moulded to his feet so he could pluck a ball straight from the clouds.


LW – Paulo Futre (Atlético Madrid)

Paulo Futre of Atletico Madrid

Paulo Futre became a bonafide legend at Atlético where he spent six seasons. His explosive nature, dribbles and little twists and turns was adored by the crowd.

He attained comparisons to Maradona and it was easy to see why. An important generational Portuguese talent late 80s/early 90s.


ST – Ferenc Puskás (Real Madrid)

Ferenc Puskas

Ferenc Puskás’ career was obviously before most people’s time but the fact his legacy still stands is testament to a wonderful player.

Joining Real Madrid in 1957 at the grand old age of 31, Puskás scored four-hat tricks in just his first season. He won La Liga five years in a row from 1961 to 1966, scoring a total of 82 goals over that period. Not surprising the most beautiful goal award is now named after him, ey?


ST – Fernando Torres (Atlético Madrid)

Atletico Madrid’s Fernando Torres celebr

Sometimes in life, things are just meant to be. You know, they just click. Fernando Torres was made for Atlético Madrid and Atlético Madrid was made for Fernando Torres.

Atlético’s prodigy, native son and folk hero played a total of 404 times for Los Rojiblancos. A true example of the idea that trophies aren’t everything, El Niño only won the Segunda División and the Europa League in Madrid.


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