Real Madrid’s Portuguese manager JOSE MOURINHO offers his thoughts on a policy of squad rotation as France international midfielder LASSANA DIARRA (10) prepares to come on as a substitute during the September UEFA Champions League match against Ajax Amsterdam at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in the capital city of Spain. (Andrea Comas/Reuters)
Is any professional footballer truly happy on the outside looking in on first team status?
Now that the young and dynamic German duo of SAMI KHEDIRA and MESUT OEZIL have established themselves in the starting XI of Real Madrid’s first-year manager, JOSE MOURINHO, it will be interesting to see if any of the other midfielders on the books of Los Blancos take leave of the Spanish capital city club this winter.
It should be remembered, the pair of World Cup midfielders for third place Germany opened the La Liga season on the bench against the Mediterranean islanders of Real Mallorca. Both, however, did come as substitutes in the second half of the scoreless draw and have not looked back. From that time forward, Khedira and Oezil have joined forces with Spain World Cup champion XABI ALONSO, a rival in South Africa this past summer, to form a virtual ever-present midfield for the new manager Mourinho.
The influential Oezil, who is tied for the team lead with five assists in La Liga, has not missed a start in the domestic league since the Mallorca match; the uncompromising Khedira, doing the unsung work in front of the backline, has started 10 of Real Madrid’s dozen Spanish Primera Division games so far.
Although GUTI (Jose Maria Gutierrez) left on a free transfer for Turkish club JK Besiktas Istanbul and Holland World Cup attacking midfielder RAFAEL VAN DER VAART was sold to English side Tottenham Hotspur and even with Brazil World Cup star KAKA on the shelf as a result of knee surgery, someone was always going to be giving way in midfield for a Mourinho-managed Real Madrid.
Los Blancos had six midfielders make at least 14 starts last season in the Spanish Primera Division. A seventh, Guti, had ten starts and 26 appearances in La Liga for Real Madrid. Such diversity in the middle of the park will not be prevalent this time around at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
SAD MEN OF REAL MARDID MIDFIELD
LASSANA DIARRA — the 25-year-old France international has been chosen for the first team in just two league games for Los Blancos managed by Mourinho after making 19 starts in La Liga last term and 19 starts the season before for Real Madrid after his purchase of 20.0 from English outfit FC Portsmouth in December of 2008.
PEDRO LEON — a summer signing costing 10.0 million Euros from CF Getafe, the 24-year-old former Spain U-21 international has had very limited opportunities to shine for Real Madrid with just four substitute appearances in La Liga thus far; Leon did lift Los Blancos in the UEFA Champions League earlier this season with a late equalizer away against AC Milan.
ESTEBAN GRANERO — a modest acquisition for Real Madrid at four million Euros, the 23-year-old former Spain U-21 international has seen his playing time cut dramatically after 21 starts and a further 10 appearances as a substitute in La Liga last season; Granero has contested just four league games, all as a substitute, so far under Mourinho.
MAHAMADOU DIARRA — after 55 starts his first two seasons in La Liga for Real Madrid following a 26.0 million Euro transfer from French Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyon in August of 2006, the 28-year-old Mali international was selected for the league starting XI by Los Blancos just eleven times over the next two campaigns and has exactly one substitute appearance in La Liga this season for Mourinho.
At just 19 years of age, SERGIO CANALES is far too young to be sad on a contract with a club as big as Real Madrid at this point in his career. Besides, after arriving from Racing Santander this summer with a price tag of 4.5 million Euros, the youngster has already started one La Liga game for Real Madrid and appeared in two others as a replacement. Canales was selected by Mourinho for the first team in both legs of the Copa del Rey tie with third division side Real Murica, as well.
Meanwhile, the impending return of Brazilian maestro Kaka — who was projected to miss four months at the time of surgery — will ensure that the competition for a place in the midfield of the masterful Portuguese manager JOSE MOURINHO will not be getting any easier with Club de Futbol Real Madrid.