It’s been two full days, but the hurt of that Clásico loss is still as agonizing as ever for madridistas, myself included. I’ll spare you all the details and simply state that white flags were waving early on Saturday. It was a repulsive and stomach-churning performance from an uninspired Madrid (to put it lightly), enough to prompt me to start my memoir, tentatively titled A Physically Painful Day of Fútbol Fandom.
But what exactly went wrong? Is there a way to assign blame for this most recent episode in what feels like a perpetual state of crisis for the merengues?
Marca put out a poll this weekend asking its readers to pick who we should attribute this catastrophe to – Club President Florentino Pérez, Coach Rafa Benítez, or the players. One hundred and twenty thousand people responded (peak crisis mode). Here’s my attempt at analyzing the results:
Forty-two percent of voters said Florentino Pérez was the person to blame.
The Telegraph put it perfectly when it described the 68-year-old billionaire’s “perpetual revolution” and “his myopic obsession with marquee names.” What Florentino wants, he gets. And he gets it ASAP, regardless of any and all calamitous effects on the Madrid locker room. Bale? Check. James? Check. Danilo? Check. Thirteen managers in 15 years, including Carlo Ancelotti’s dismissal despite the disapproval of players and fans? Check. Demanding that a disjointed lineup of galácticos take the field in order to lackadaisically lose to brilliant Barça on Saturday? Check.
"Florentino, dimisión…", grita de forma impresionante el Bernabeu.
— David Faitelson (@Faitelson_ESPN) November 21, 2015
For the first time in recent memory, “Florentino, resignation” rang from all corners of the Bernabéu. When the game was out of reach, fans were almost begging for an even more lopsided goleada in the hopes that their greedy president might finally make his exit.
Florentino is at fault, that’s for sure. But what can we do about it? Nothing, and that’s the sad truth. He is set to speak to media today, but you already know he’ll come out in full support of Benítez, most likely in an effort to continue using him as a scapegoat for his own shortcomings.
Nearly 32 percent of voters said Rafa Benítez was the person to blame.
Conservative, defensive, boring Rafa. The recipient of a “baño táctico-organizativo” on Saturday (thanks, Lucho). This picture pretty much sums it up:
La superioridad táctica-organizativa del Barça ante el Real Madrid, resumida en una imagen. pic.twitter.com/5NIXQZL0um
— Mr. Hooligan (@MrHoolihan) November 22, 2015
It’s hard to believe that a guy like Rafa would put a lineup like that on the field of his own accord. Despite proclaiming that the idea was to emphasize attack and high pressure, I have a tough time believing that Florentino didn’t play a heavy hand in Saturday’s team choice. No Casemiro? No Carvajal? Plop a struggling Danilo into the fold to be embarrassingly exploited by the Barça attack at right back? There’s something very wrong with this picture.
While Florentino clearly played a role, Rafa isn’t totally blameless. He’s got a somewhat cohesive unit looking like a bunch of strangers out there on the pitch. Not to mention the fact that his system – his supposed defensive prowess and any potential link up play between the defense and offense – is very, very flawed.
The origin of the second goal. Not (only) a Modric mistake, a systematic one. Picture says it all. pic.twitter.com/dYbeNXNqPf
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) November 22, 2015
— Az. (@_AAx98) November 22, 2015
Carletto, have I told you lately that I love you?
Twenty-six percent of voters said that the players were to blame. Is there any inkling of desire in this Real Madrid team?
Qué Madrid más triste. Y están Marcelo, Kroos, Modric, James, Ramos, Cristiano, Benzema, Bale. Están. Lo que es más triste todavía.
— Gemma Herrero (@gemmaherrero) November 21, 2015
I can’t even begin to count the number of times that Sergio Ramos was out of position – stuck in dead space or lazily keeping Barça onsides – on my two hands. Toni Kroos was disastrous; there was absolutely no connection between the forward line, and Marcelo and Isco – arguably two of Madrid’s most productive players – were unable to finish the match. It doesn’t even matter that Isco was shown a straight red card, at least he demonstrated some fight.
Bale? No words.
"What is his position? What is his role? What does he do?" "Catastrophic." "Seemed lost." L'Equipe on Gareth Bale.
— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) November 22, 2015
Cristiano? Well, a media cleanse may be in order, as the rumor mill continues to blow everything related to the Portuguese crack wildly out of proportion. Rumors of Ronaldo telling teammates “he [Benítez] goes or I do” are completely unsubstantiated. His final Clásico at the Bernabéu? Please stop speaking to me. Jorge Mendes – the legend’s agent – told French TV show Canal Football Club that Cristiano “will end his career at Real Madrid.” End of story, IMO.
This hurts. It really does. But through the pain of fútbol fandom we always find a way to carry on. A humbling weekend, to say the least.