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Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos are indispensable

Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos are indispensable

It may only be pre-season, but the result still stings: Manchester City 4-1 Real Madrid. A thrashing in a box-office clash (glamour is the name of the game in the International Champions Cup, which seeks to pit the best against each other) and at the hands of Pep Guardiola, too. Even if he's no longer at Barcelona, he remains a natural enemy of every Madridista, and I mean that as a compliment. The panic his Barça sowed at Real, having seemingly found an unstoppable winning formula, was monumental. It led Florentino Pérez to the madness of placing Los Blancos in José Mourinho's hands, with negative consequences for the club's image and the harmony among its fan base. Revenge came with that 4-0 walloping of Bayern Munich, but now it's Guardiola who's laughing.

Manchester City celebrate during their 4-1 win over Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup.

Eight from the Champions League final line-up - but...

"Eight playing from Cardiff," Tomás Roncero texted me when the XI was named. Except that, of the three missing, two were Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo. The absence of the third, Toni Kroos, can be remedied. But Ramos and Cristiano's can't. The greatest criticism that can be made of Real's fabulous squad is that, with Pepe gone, they could use another genuinely experienced centre-back. For a while, I thought Leonardo Bonucci would come and see out his career here. There are several fine young central defenders, plus the versatile Nacho, but the hole left by Ramos, a true pillar of the back four, will be felt every time he's out. That was the case against City. As for CR7, there's not much to say. He's synonymous with goals.

Óscar Rodríguez after scoring his late stunner for Real Madrid.

I liked what I saw from this City side

I was impressed by Manchester City. The huge investment that has been made at the Etihad Stadium since Guardiola's appointment as manager is starting to bear fruit. They have a wealth of footballing talent, and are able to press high and find solutions wherever they are on the pitch. It's only pre-season, but the Premier League outfit look to have the makings of a really top-notch team. Apart from the thumping scoreline, meanwhile, the encounter also left us with two picture-book goals to take in, each scored by exciting young prospects - both of whom are Spanish: Brahim Díaz, spirited away from Barcelona by City at the age of 15 (he's now 17 years old), and Real's Óscar Rodríguez, who fired in a sublime late consolation.


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