There was no domestic bliss for David Beckham to take the edge off his continued international exile last night as he was substituted after 75 minutes of Real Madrid's dour draw with Villarreal.
The former England captain was looking for an eye-catching display on the eve of an international week that will not involve him, but it was not forthcoming.
The new-look Real side laboured to a draw and Beckham's number, somewhat harshly, came up 15 minutes from full-time. He was replaced by Robinho despite combining well with Ruud van Nistelrooy and being part of the few openings Real produced in 90 turgid minutes.
Madrid's new manager, Fabio Capello, has spent £46m during the summer bringing in four new players and the emphasis on defensive solidity was there for all to see as Real reduced Villarreal to pot shots but created only two decent openings themselves, both of which involved Beckham.
Van Nistelrooy passed to his former Old Trafford colleague 15 minutes into the first half and Beckham flicked on for Raul, who crossed to the near post where Antonio Cassano glanced a header just wide.
Beckham almost brought the breakthrough in the second half when he released Van Nistelrooy but having turned his marker the Dutchman flashed his shot just wide. Shortly afterwards Beckham became the Italian Capello's second change of the evening.
New signings Emerson and Mahamadou Diarra were pedestrian in midfield and it was a surprise for Beckham when he rather than one of them was substituted. Beckham looked less than pleased when he trounced off receiving some applause from the home crowd who were not so generous to the team at the end of their dismal La Liga start.
Capello tried to gloss over Real's attacking shortcomings, saying: "Villarreal had no real chances; we had ours but just didn't take them. I'm not worried. In many ways they were the worst possible opponents we could have faced."
The worry for Beckham is that his chances to force his way back into Steve McClaren's England thinking will be limited in a solid but dull Madrid side in which Capello is not afraid to make the midfielder one of his second-half changes.
Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Salgado, Cannavaro, Raul Bravo, Roberto Carlos, Diarra, Emerson; Beckham (Robinho 75), Cassano (Guti 55), Raul; Van Nistelrooy Substitutes not used: Diego Lopez, Mejia, Woodgate, Pavon, Javi Garcia, Julio Baptista, Cicinho.
Villarreal (4-4-2): Viera, Venta, Álvarez, Peña, Arruabarrena, Cani (Josemi 90), Senna, Samoza, Riquelme, Forlan (Jose Marie 75), Nihat (Franco 60). Substitutes not used: Barbosa, José Enrique, Óscar López, Marcos, Guille.
Referee: David Fernández Borbalan.
* The former Liverpool striker Fernando Morientes celebrated his return to La Liga by scoring the first goal of the Spanish season, his 32nd-minute strike launching Valencia to a 2-1 win over Real Betis on Saturday.Reuse content