The murmur of disapproval from the Bernabéu has been many a players’ nemesis. It’s forced a fair few off their chosen path. We’ll see one of those today, Illarramendi, who has been happy since he returned to Real Sociedad. In his case, the price Real Madrid paid for him, a crazy amount back then, weighed heavily on him. It often happens: a player’s price isn't printed on his back, like their squad number, but the fans know it, the player knows it, and if it’s considered excessive, it makes its presence felt. And the footballer suffers for it, even though he had nothing to do with it. A footballer earns what he earns, but that amount is usually less well known and is hardly taken into account, while everyone focuses on the transfer fee. That’s what sets the expectations.
The Bernabéu demands style and commitment
A lot was paid for Danilo too, and that’s why the fans scrutinise him like they do. And because when he came in he was taking the place of an academy player, Carvajal, the first Real Madrid youngster for many a season who looked like being a regular starter. Another thing: Danilo is a Brazilian player who doesn’t play much like a Brazilian player. Nobody doubts his effort, a basic component of the game, but it’s not enough. The Bernabéu demands effort and style too. Both things. Benzema has the latter; he has, as Fernández told me the first time he saw him, ‘the feet of Nureyev’, but he’s no warrior. When things aren’t going well the fans complain that he doesn’t play well and he doesn’t make an effort. Neither.
The price of playing for Real Madrid
That’s the price of playing for Madrid: facing a difficult, demanding public, from the capital, who turn their noses up at anyone, who scrutinise everything with the air of experts, like the bull-fighting aficionados in Las Ventas, the most demanding bull-ring in the world. Zidane backs Benzema and Danilo because he has to, he has no other option, but he needs them to help him too. Benzema, with more commitment and more goals. He can do that. But Danilo? He’s had misfortune after misfortune, with two own goals one after the other, against Sevilla and Celta. But one thing should motivate them: there’s nothing the Bernabéu won’t pardon with a decent performance.