Míchel finds himself in the position Valdano was in
Míchel: a Madridista stands between Real Madrid and title
Real Madrid go to Málaga needing at least a point if, as is likely, Barcelona beat Eibar. And of course it seems so straightforward: Real always score, they nearly always win, almost all their starters are in sterling nick, and spirits couldn't be higher. To top it off, many feel, their opponents are coached by a man who's Real through and through, the most fervent Madridista of all the members of the glorious Quinta del Buitre: Míchel. His passion for the club is such that it has caused more than one ill-advised huff, like leaving the pitch at being whistled or saying it might be an idea to lose out on the odd title. It's no secret that he'd like to coach Real one day.
And events have conspired to place him in the role of accidental enemy, as part of the final hurdle between Real and the championship they so keenly crave; after all, they've not won many of late. He shouldn't worry. Jorge Valdano also found himself in his shoes; he denied Real not one, but two titles, and that didn't stop him from going on to be their coach and general manager, both successfully. Drawing on his exceptional intelligence and characteristic eloquence, he himself opened the door when he said: "I hope I can give back to Real everything I took away from them." Los Blancos need winners. Valdano won those games. Míchel needs to win this one.
Once the whistle blows at La Rosaleda, it's all about the players...
Whether he manages it or not is another matter entirely. We frequently tend to overestimate the effect of a coach on a single game. Their influence is brought to bear in the long (or at least medium) term. Míchel has had a real impact in his time there - Sandro Ramírez has taken off big style, and many others have improved. But he can only do so much. From eight o'clock onwards, it's in the hands of his players. Míchel will be the focus of curiosity, as Valdano was all those years ago, but neither his mind nor Zinedine Zidane's will control this match as much as the boots of the players. The likes of Isco, Sandro, Cristiano Ronaldo...
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