The covers of Madrid sports dailies
If it was corrective, and it was also inevitable. Almost as inevitable, in fact, as the headline in the Catalan daily
Barca good, Madrid bad. Madrid good, Barca bad. Even when they're right -- after all, much as
It was all pretty standard stuff, both from Ozil and the media. Except that lurking among the platitudes and the politeness were a couple of interesting answers masked by the unremarkable manner in which they were delivered. Like the fact, for all the obsession over it, that Ozil isn't actually fasting for Ramadan; and his declaration that he had spoken to
"I am," Ozil replied, "a No. 10. I like to play behind the strikers."
Well, duh. Obviously.
Maybe. But despite the subsequent rider -- "It's up to the coach" -- the response was so immediate and quietly confident that it was significant.
"Ozil: another problem" the Barcelona-based
In fact, he is not any number yet.
Ozil does not have a shirt number and can't have one until someone leaves. Madrid has 26 players, one more than UEFA rules allow. Mourinho has made it known that he wants 23 -- three goalkeepers and two players for each of the 10 outfield positions. Madrid also only just complies with the quota of Spaniards demanded by UEFA rules, meaning that the three departures have to be foreigners, and that limits the club's room to maneuver.
Deciding which players to shed, of course, is no easy matter.
Who do you get rid of -- and how? Not Ozil, obviously. He's the new star signing.
Not Canales, either. Mourinho was determined to keep the 19-year-old, who has impressed in the preseason, and not send him out on loan. Madrid is conscious, too, of not curtailing his progress. And, besides, he's Spanish. So while his minutes may now be more limited, he'll stay.
Not Kaka, obviously. Actually, why not? The Brazilian is recovering from knee surgery and will be out up to four months. By the time he comes back, Ozil or Canales may well be entrenched. And Kaka did little in his first season to warrant a place -- he certainly did not perform like the man who had been a Balón d'Or winner just two seasons before. When he's fit again, a return to the team could prove impossible. No wonder that, long term, many saw in Ozil's declaration a threat to Kaka. But can Madrid really sell the player who was a standard-bearer for the second galactic era, the third-most-expensive footballer of all time? Probably not. In the future maybe, but certainly not now.
That leaves van der Vaart, who, like
The problem for Madrid is how to get rid of him. It tried last year and failed. Who can afford a fee that will satisfy Madrid? And who can afford his wages? Madrid has to find a club that wants him and a club it wants to sell him to.
A club like FC Barcelona, perhaps? Madrid would get its new star, its cash and a smaller squad; Barcelona, whose own squad is as short as Madrid's is long, would get a very good player who could be genuinely useful, one who offers something none of its other midfielders do. As for van der Vaart, he would get a big club and the chance to stay in Spain. Even the media would be happy. They'd certainly have a story on both sides of the divide. In Castile, Barcelona will have bought a Real Madrid reject, a man who only pitched up at the Camp Nou as a desperate afterthought. In Catalonia, they will have stolen the midfielder they need from right under their rival's nose, a man who is finally where he really wanted to be, after being a martyr in Madrid.
And, as always, what yesterday was white will today turn black. Or blaugrana.