Demotion of Sergio Ramos is a hint that all is not well in the Casa Blanca of Real Madrid
Thursday 20 September 2012
Not everyone connected with Real Madrid celebrated Cristiano Ronaldo's last-minute winner against Manchester City on Tuesday night. With the Portuguese forward on his knees in the penalty area, his manager adopting the same position just pitch-side of the touchline, and the majority of the 70,000 crowd arms aloft, Iker Casillas stood hands on hips staring down the pitch as if he was watching a throw-in.
That the Real Madrid captain was so underwhelmed by what was Real Madrid's first comeback in a Champions League game in seven years was not lost on those convinced the "Casa Blanca" remains a house divided against itself. Real Madrid had won, but so had Jose Mourinho. The latter having risked everything on a team that had started without the flair of Luka Modric and Mesut Ozil, and most importantly without Sergio Ramos.
History tends to repeat itself with Mourinho. Be it the habit of walking away from a club as the victor in a Champions League final or suggesting he might quit in January only to stay on in June. His fondness for shaking up a dissenting and complacent dressing room is also nothing new but he has just never tried it with a national hero before.
The decision to drop Ramos was made last Sunday after the defender had said: "It is strange that the manager is taking such a hard line after just four games."
Back in August 2005 Chelsea were beginning the defence of their Premier League title and it was Ricardo Carvalho talking out of turn. After being left out of the first game of the season the Portuguese defender said the decision was "incomprehensible" and soon found himself in permanent dry dock until he had made a dressing room apology. Arjen Robben was also relegated to the bench after storming down the tunnel having been taken off in a win over Arsenal.
The difference between 2005 and 2012 is that Mourinho has just presided over one of the worst starts in Real Madrid's recent history and Ramos is a World Cup winner and two-time European champion.
The standing ovation David Silva was given by Real Madrid supporters when he was taken off in the second half of Tuesday's game spoke volumes for what Spain duty means to the Madrid fans.
Ramos will captain Madrid as soon as Iker Casillas gives up the armband. His contribution to those three tournament wins was immense and his Panenka-style penalty against Portugal in the semi-final remains one of the moments of last summer's triumph.
Had Mourinho lost with Ramos on the bench he would have had little room to wriggle in the post-match inquest. But he didn't lose. And in 10 years as a Champions League coach he has never lost his first game.
Back in 2003 Porto drew with Partizan Belgrade and in the four subsequent seasons with Chelsea he won the first game in his first three seasons, drawing the opener in the fateful fourth campaign against Rosenburg.
In his three seasons at Madrid his team have picked up three points in each group opener and so it was on Tuesday. It didn't look that way with six minutes left but with Ramos on the bench and Casillas apparently unmoved, that was how it turned out.
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