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Cristiano, Piqué and Yeray make the headlines

Every now and again a change is news. The one that Zinedine Zidane made on Saturday in the Ciutat de Valencia was. The Real Madrid manager took Cristiano Ronaldo off with his side 2-1 up and immediately the team’s performance dropped off and Levante equalized. It’s not the first time that has happened. In Las Palmas last season, again with the score at 2-1 in Madrid’s favour (although there was more time on the clock), Ronaldo was removed and the game ended 2-2. On that occasion the Portuguese left the field in more rebellious boding than he did on Saturday, when he limited himself to a small grin of bemusement and a little argument with the cameraman, who lingered on the player instead of following the game. Ronaldo failed to score again in Valencia, and that is what bothers him the most. Monday is his 33rd birthday, but he has little to celebrate. You can see that he looks a bit lost.

In Barcelona the man of the moment was, of course, Gerard Piqué. He scored an excellent headed goal and then put his finger to his lips in the manner of Raúl, inviting the home fans to keep their counsel. It was a response to the insults levelled at his wife in the same stadium last season. His statement about “Espanyol de Cornellá” wasn’t sufficient, he needed something more. At some point Piqué should ask himself, as Mario Balotelli once did: ‘why always me?’ Why not someone else? It has to be assumed that he likes being the centre of attention. A suggestion for the authorities: this type of gesture should be punished. Celebrating a goal with your own fans in the stands is a yellow card offence, but offending or provocative behaviour towards the opposition supporters is not. It should be, whether your name is Raúl, Messi, Ronaldo or Piqué.

The third protagonist of the match weekend was Athletic defender Yeray Álvarez, and in his case for some excellent news. On December 23, 2016 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and on the 27th he underwent surgery. The initial prognosis was encouraging and he was back on the pitch on February 4, 2017 after renewing his contract. But in June, a check-up revealed the tumour had returned. Yeray was forced to leave a Spain under-21 squad and submit to another torturous round of radiotherapy. His teammates all shaved their heads in solidarity, a gesture which reduced Yeray to tears. In November he was given the all-clear after a gruelling recovery process and at the weekend he finally returned to the pitch. And on what a significant day: Sunday was World Cancer Day.