It's perhaps fair to say that Real
Madrid's 2004-2005 season started too late. The Galacticos responded to
their early-season criticism by winning six of their last seven games,
starting with last April's masterful 4-2 victory in 'el clasico' against
eventual champions Barcelona.
Unfortunately, football is about results, and
Real Madrid needed to reinforce their squad if they ever wanted to
compete with their Catalan rivals.
Real's president Florentino Perez - like every year he's been in charge
- decided to take measures in his own hands and captured two more
flamboyant Brazilians, Julio Baptista and Robinho, and in doing so he
enriched an already attack-minded team.
With these acquisitions, no one can deny the endless possibilities of
forward partnerships coach Wanderlei Luxumburgo can choose from.
Although, we may think that there are two many options upfront,
Luxemburgo will have learned from last year's tinkering and should get
it right this time around.
Luxemburgo knows that in sport, you must trust your instincts and go
with a formula that gets results. When the Brazilian came to Madrid, he
favoured two strikers, but against Barcelona, he finally dropped Luis
Figo and played all three of his forwards together. Ironically, Ronaldo,
Raul, and Owen all scored that day.
This year, expect Luxemburgo to go with continuity from the first
whistle. Ronaldo and Michael Owen will get the nod ahead of Raul and
The choice above may cause a few heads to turn, but it's the conclusion
most Bernabeu regulars will come up with.
There is no doubt that Ronaldo has claimed his place in the starting 11
with his four goals in his last five outings.
The former-Barcelona striker pledged a 35 goal season in all
competitions this year - a promise he's made annually since arriving at
the Bernabeu and scoring 29, 31, and 22 in three individual seasons -
and watching his recent pre-season form, it's impossible to find a
striker as consistent as him.
Owen, if he doesn't leave before the start of the season for either
Liverpool, Newcastle, or Lyon, deserves to start for Real. The former
Liverpool man spent a considerable amount of time last season proving
himself by coming off the bench and scoring goals. And after netting in
the famous "el clasico," the English international convinced Luxemburgo
that he was the meant to play along side Ronaldo and Raul.
And despite all his transfer speculation, there are many within the club
who want to see him stay, none more than his boss and his English
speaking defensive midfielder, Thomas Graveson.
"Michael Owen plays here. I am the coach and I say we need to have
Ronaldo, Raul and Owen as our forwards. Not only do we need 11 players,
but we have to have a more complete team," Luxemburgo told
"It will be such a big loss if Michael leaves because he is one of the
best strikers in the world - if not the very best," Graveson said. "Every
time Michael plays he scores and shows quality."
If Ronaldo and Owen start, the question still remains - what to do with
the new signings and club captain Raul? Graveson explains - "Madrid have
just signed Julio Baptista and Robinho but they have come more to play
in midfield so there is still room for Michael."
Raul, as he's getting older, will be playing further away from goal. A
recent survey conducted by Spanish sport paper AS showed fans preferring
Zidane in the line-up to their beloved hero. Will Luxemburgo be the
first coach at Real to fall into the trap of not playing the Spanish
international if he's fit?
That leaves Baptista, Guti, Robinho and Portillo on the bench with the
ability to play upfront. Excluding Portillo - has anyone asked how and
why he's still at Madrid? - the other three can slot in anywhere in the
It's scary to think that Carlos Quieroz, Jose Antonio Camacho, and
Mariano Garcia Ramon couldn't get this amount of depth when they were in
charge. Is it not possible that, given the same resources, they would
still be in the job now?
Whether or not you follow Real Madrid, keep that imagination open
because if it all clicks, it'll be fun to watch!