I still play FIFA 13 while sipping a fine glass of red wine, a melancholic gloom hanging over my head as my thumbs grow numb from the iPad slide-rule pass finger motions. I always play what is either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-1-1: Higuain gets the nod ahead of Benzema with Ozil underneath, Di Maria wide right, Ronaldo on the left, and Khedira and Alonso shielding the back four. I know that this team didn’t win the coveted Decima, but they did reach numerous Champions League semifinals and enjoy the best La Liga season for Madrid ever.
And they are no more.
At least the merengue diaspora thrives in foreign places. To see the former Madrid players you love(d), just look at the top of the table in other leagues. Juventus hasn’t tasted a defeat, let alone a draw, for over a month. And guess who replaced Arturo Vidal in the engine room? Sammy Khedira, the same man who started the Decima-winning Champions League final for Madrid. This past weekend, Juventus barely beat Napoli and climbed to the Serie A summit. Of course, Napoli’s great season can be attributed to Gonzalo Higuain’s goalscoring prowess.
In the Bundeslida, Bayern’s boring and inevitable march to the title has relied upon the aging legs of Xabi Alonso. Ribery has struggled for fitness, but Xabi’s pinpoint 40 crossfield passes still capably find either Costa or Arjen Robben on the flank. After the disappointing 2014 World Cup for Spain, folks whispered that maybe Xabi was finished. Pep saw otherwise, and Pep was right. Xabi can’t lose his pace because, like Michael Carrick, he never had any to begin with.
Arsenal recently defeated Leicester City, and Mesut Ozil has led their title charge. Arsene, like Jogi at Germany, has pinned Ozil on the left flank in theory, but in practice the crafty playmaker goes where he wants and when he wants. The Gunners would top the summit and be perhaps two games ahead if their strikers could finish Ozil’s chances at a slightly better clip.
But where does that leave Real Madrid? Mou left, and then so did the spine of the team. At this point in the season, Barcelona has games in hand and a probably widening gap over Zizou’s Madrid. Neymar, Suarez, and Messi are not getting geriatric old anytime soon. Either Rafa’s tactics or Bale’s fitness (or form) have sabotaged this La Liga campaign, depending on who you ask and what side of the bed he or she woke up on this morning.
Still, fans can take pleasure in watching former Madrid players sold by Perez challenge for titles abroad. They will always be merengues.