Real Modric FC

It was the 84th minute. Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid, for the first time, were adrift, playing erratic football and giving off an air of desperation. Los Cármenes was driving José Ramón Sandoval’s courageous side forward, adding ammunition to the dynamite attacking trio of Isaac Success, Adalberto Peñaranda and Youssef El Arabi. Madrid were backing off in retreat; a draw would have meant losing the league, in February!

But then Luka Modric intervened. A genius, slight of frame but huge in in terms of talent and heart. The Croatian midfielder was the only Real player to have remained switched on amid so much half-light. He never lost faith. It should be remembered that it was Modric who delivered the corner for Ramos to smash home in the Champions League final in Lisbon, which put Real on the front foot towards victory.

In Granada, hallowed ground for me, Modric picked up the ball off balance, three metres from Andrés Fernández’s area. He feinted and cast his spell on the ball, his line of fire providing an unnatural blip on the keeper’s radar. The ball hit the back of the net with the force of a herd of buffalo. It was a goal to freeze the hearts of Granada fans and one that flushed Madridismo with a pride that has been lacking in recent times, when the default setting has been resignation to defeatism.

Modric celebrated the goal with a cry of triumph as though he was the captain of a ship fighting to recover its course in the middle of a storm. Modric was the lifejacket in the middle of a shipwreck. He was the jack of all trades, the hero who earned his welcome. We love you Luka! This is Real Modric.

Team Sandoval. We knew that Granada would put up a hell of a fight. Club president Quique Pina, who is always able to find caviar on the market for the price of sardines, made some good signings in January (Ricardo Costa and David Barral lifted the starting 11). And Sandoval is a wily old fox who knows how to motivate his troops in games where his side need to entrench themselves. Far from falling apart after Karim Benzema scored Real’s opener, the home side went for the win. Peñaranda looks like a future star, as does Success, who was wonderful on Granada’s right. And El Arabi was like an arrow from the moment he came on in place of the combative Barral. From that source the equalizer came. Keylor Navas, who was also affected by the contagious mediocrity around him, left his line too early. If they continue to play like this Granada will stay up.

The Chinese Year of the Goat ended on Sunday and Madridismo welcomed it warmly, because it seemed like it was aimed at us. But we won despite playing poorly, as Guillermo García, a promising journalist with a bright future, noted. We remain in the fight. I’d like to mention, with my body still wracked with fear, the supporters’ clubs of Bailenense (Jaén), Tardajeña and El Cid (Burgos), Rincón de Soto, Arnedo, Entrena, Nájera and Tormantos (La Rioja), La Najarra de Almuñécar (Granada), Villa de Sotillo and Valdemoro (And Santiago, who is as brave as Modric and who travelled to Granada to cheer the team).

A final note: Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t even a shadow of himself. Please, crack, be yourself again…