Real Madrid are in disarray. Utter disarray. If the whole Julen Lopetegui saga didn’t tell you that, or the three disastrous El Clasico performances, or the CSKA Moscow group stage thumping at the Santiago Bernabeu, then the 4-1 tonking from Ajax at that very stadium in the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie certainly did.
Essentially, this season – the first without Cristiano Ronaldo since 2009 – has been unapologetically “sh*t”. Or at least, that was Dani Carvajal’s assessment after their Dutch dethroning.
So, after two previous iterations on England and Manchester United, we arrive at our third Who Is to Blame? recipient. From the departing Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane to the refusing Arsene Wenger (a Who Is to Blame? staple), here are the top 20 offenders at Los Blancos.
20. Luka Modric & His Bloody Ballon d’Or
Blame Rating: 1/10
Poor Luka Modric. He probably deserved his Ballon d’Or last year for a sustained period of midfield excellence culminating in a glory-filled 2018.
But he’s not the best player in the world, is he? And it’s all become a bit too much for him ever since. The up-ending he got from future Barcelona maestro Frenkie de Jong felt like a torch-passing moment. He should’ve done more this season, but he’s not at the heart of the problem.
19. The Wind
Blame Rating: 1.25/10
Seems in vogue at the moment to blame the elements – even though they affect both teams in exactly the same way(?!?).
But, while I’m not overly accustomed with the typical weather systems that cover the Spanish capital, it didn’t half look blowy at the Bernabeu on Tuesday night. Just me?
18. Romelu Lukaku
Blame Rating: 1.5/10
You didn’t think we’d forgotten about him? While it might only be a slight portion of the blame this time, there’s no way Romelu Lukaku’s return to form coinciding with Karim Benzema’s collapse is a coincidence.
Absolutely no way.
17. Karim Benzema
Blame Rating: 2/10
Which leads us to the man in question. Who in their right mind thought a 31-year-old Karim Benzema was capable of filling Cristiano Ronaldo’s shooting boots?
The man can barely stay upright, FFS. ‘Benzema On Ice’, now there’s the name for his spin-off from Sergio Ramos’ reality show. Still, it’s not his fault the club didn’t recognise his imbalance.
16. Arsene Wenger
Blame Rating: 2.5/10
I’ve chosen this photo principally because it looks like the promo shot for Benzema’s fellow contestants on ‘Benzema On Ice’ (patent pending), but if you squint hard enough you’ll see that the old bloke in the right of the frame (uncharacteristically) offering up the sourest pose of them all is, in fact, Arsene Wenger.
And how can Wenger, the man who, by his own accord, turned down Madrid numerous times throughout his Arsenal career, not be blamed for this current malaise?
Do you think a last 16 exit would be big news under Wenger? OF COURSE NOT. It would be all too familiar, even comforting. He could’ve saved them plenty of grief.
15. Santiago Solari
Blame Rating: 3/10
Which takes us to the current manager. Hard to say how much he’s contributed tactically, so equally hard to blame said tactics for this turmoil.
But still, Isco is one of the best players in the world, and Solari seems to think he’s Danny Drinkwater. So, not great management.
14. Jose Mourinho
Blame Rating: 3.5/10
If we’re talking about disruptive managers (who’ve also done some quality promo work for ‘Benzema On Ice’), how can we not include this man? The guy is a constant menace to most in the football world. I mean, just look at the shambolic state of every single one of his last four clubs.
Chelsea have a transfer ban and players who think they run the club, Inter have lost all relations with their best player, Madrid are spiralling and Manchester United…well, they’re actually somehow ok, but only because they got rid of him at the earliest convenience.
13. Southampton FC
Blame Rating: 4/10
Southampton selling Dusan Tadic to Ajax for a poultry £10m is utter sacrilege. But it’s not only their fans – who may well be watching the Championship next season because of this – they have to apologise to. It’s Madrid as well.
The Serbian playmaker was unequivocally the best player on the pitch for both legs against Madrid. And it’s all their fault. Saints, you say? More like Sinners, AMIRIGHT?
12. Kepa Arrizabalaga, Thibaut Courtois & Chelsea Football Club
Blame Rating: 4.5/10
“Look at his face! Just look at his face!”
It was a bad night in what has been a largely bad season for Thibaut Courtois at Real Madrid. Which prompts the question: why did they buy him and who forced them into it?
Well, it started with a failed attempt to get Kepa Arrizabalaga, which prompted Chelsea to consider him as a replacement for their way-too-short Belgian custodian, who was promptly sold for £35m, which, stacked up, would’ve probably done better against Lassa Schone’s free kick.
11. Young Spanish Talent
Blame Rating: 5/10
A few years ago, Florentino Perez was convinced by some imbecile that he should do away with his successful Galactico model and concentrate on signing up young, promising Spanish talent.
Well, what a load of sh*te that turned out to be. B*llocks, the lot of them.
10. The White Handkerchief Wavers
Blame Rating: 5.5/10
Let’s face it, there’s a section of the Real Madrid fanbase that aren’t the most, how would you say it, supportive?
I mean, waving a white hanky around in distaste, that’s not helpful for anyone. From wee incompetent Spanish lads to the very best players and tacticians, no one likes that.
9. Zinedine Zidane
Blame Rating: 6/10
The sight of this smug, handsome face must be almost physically repulsive to Madristas these days. A bit like David Cameron and you-know-what, the guy saw the sh*tstorm that was on the horizon and got out of there with his Champions League three-peat while he still could.
Shameful…but also smart.
8. Julen Lopetegui
Blame Rating: 6.5/10
Not so smart? Losing the opportunity to coach your national team to World Cup glory because you pre-emptively agreed to take up the reigns at a club with said sh*tshow on the horizon, then blubbing about it, then torpedoing the club and with it your career.
Yeh, not a great look.
7. Florentino Perez
Blame Rating: 7/10
Remember that imbecile who told Perez to snap up promising Spaniards, or hire Julen Lopetegui, or not replace Cristiano Ronaldo, or buy Courtois, or allow Dusan Tadic to leave Southampton?
That was probably all just the man himself. Nice work, Flo. Still, Brahim Diaz was a savvy signing, wasn’t it? He’s really excelled in his *checks notes* 24 minutes of action.
Blame Rating: 7.5
This encompasses the PGA TOUR, the European Tour, every single golf club and every single golfer, especially in Spain, but really just the entire golfing universe.
IT IS ALL TO BLAME for Gareth Bale not being liked by his teammates.
5. The Battle Between Tapas & Egyptian Cotton
Blame Rating: 8/10
If you were given the choice between a bed (probably) made out of the most comfortable material known to man, or a night out with Thibaut Courtois and some other frauds, it’s a no brainer, isn’t it?
Do you really think the club would be where they are today if all players, and not just Gareth Bale and Toni Kroos, chose the relaxing wonders of their bed sheets over the oil-soaked delights that the local cuisine has to offer? Cause I certainly don’t.
4. The Spanish Language!!!!!
Blame Rating: 8.5/10
WHY THE HELL WOULD SOMEONE WHO’S LIVED IN SPAIN FOR SIX YEARS HAVE TO LEARN BLEEDIN’ SPANISH. IT MAKES NO SENSE. ZERO. NADA.
3. Gareth Bale
Blame Rating: 9/10
Finally, here he is. ‘The Golfer’. Golfeth Bale. He’s a squad recluse, on account of refusing to speak to anyone unless it’s in the QUEEN’S ENGLISH and he picks up injuries like they’re tabs on a team night ou-oh wait no, he never goes to those because he hates food and fun.
He hates the culture, he hates the fans, he hates his teammates and he hates the words that come out of their mouths. He hates it. All of it. Except for, well, golf.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Blame Rating: 9.5/10
That’s right, after nine years and 15 trophies (some more important than others) Cristiano Ronaldo turned his back on Real Madrid.
He decided they weren’t good enough for him any more. They weren’t a big enough challenge. Sure, the club went about replacing him with as little tact as possible, but he forced their hand, and they’ve both suffered the consequences.
1. Sergio Ramos
Blame Rating: 10/10
Of course it’s Sergio Ramos. It HAS to be Sergio Ramos. Not only did he decide to deliberately miss the second leg in order to get away with as many suplexes as possible in the quarter finals onwards, he used the opportunity that was presented to record a “this-is-how-much-I-support-my-teammates-from-the-sidelines” segment for his upcoming show.
But this turmoil is not just recompense for that stark moment of arrogance. It is recompense for all those thousands of instances of pure, unabridged sh*thousery that he has got away with throughout his career. All of them.
Even in this day and age of dictatorships and oligarchs, Tuesday night’s loss showed that Karma does still exist in football. Morally reprehensible actions can occasionally have consequences. Does it take away from his 23-strong trophy cabinet?
No. But it is cathartic. And well deserved.