Real Madrid join LaLiga's Monday-night club
"The game just doesn't feel the same if there's no Real Madrid match on a Sunday," a friend said to me this weekend. Sunday or Saturday, I couldn't help thinking; when it comes to football, they're basically one and the same now. It's true, though: we've all found it slightly odd not seeing Madrid among LaLiga's procession of weekend games. They played last night, in a support-act role they won't have relished. After all, Monday is a slot reserved for sides not in the Champions League; that's why it feels that bit stranger to see Madrid there than Leganés or a number of others. And yet it has happened more often than you might think. 34 times, the stats specialist Mister Chip has revealed; 20 in LaLiga, mostly since 1996.
Madrid on a Monday seen as confirmation they've flopped in 2018/19
Monday-night football, now picked up by RFEF president Luis Rubiales as ammo for his battle with LaLiga chief Javier Tebas, actually came about as a result of the Spanish game's first 'broadcasting war' between TV channels Canal+ and Antena 3, the latter of which opened up this midweek slot - and found that it was more successful than expected. Until then, such scheduling had been a rare exception, an option really only used in emergencies. For example, I remember a Clásico being moved from Saturday to Monday in 1968, after Barcelona's fine Uruguayan full-back Julio César Benítez died suddenly and tragically on the Friday night, aged just 27; food poisoning from mussels, it was said. That remains a bit of a mystery.
These days, though, Madrid playing on a Monday is viewed as confirmation that they've failed, that they aren't where they should be. If they're not in action on Saturday or Sunday, well, it's because they're out of Europe and have presented Tebas with the chance to hand them a Monday game and, in the process, give the slot a greater share of the limelight; even when they're in the doldrums, they remain a major draw. Some of my Madridista pals feel they've been humiliated; others accept it as a necessary penance for Florentino Pérez's hubris in believing Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale could fill the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo. Benzema's done all he could, to be fair; Bale, however, has merely succeeded in definitively alienating the fans.