2 December 2015 went down as a black day in Real Madrid history. One to forget.
Despite a 3-1 Copa del Rey victory over Cádiz at the Estadio Ramón Carranza, Rafa Benítez’s side exited the competition after it emerged they had fielded an ineligible player in Denis Cheryshev, who had carried over a suspension from a loan spell at Villarreal without anyone at the club bothering to take note. An amateurish error for which Madrid paid a heavy price.
Five years on, Real Madrid history repeats itself
Well, it may seem hard to believe, but five years later Los Blancos have once again come unstuck against Cádiz after bungling their team selection. Half an hour before Saturday's game, my son warned me: “Dad, with this line-up, I can’t see how we’re not going to lose. Cádiz are really dangerous on the wings and up top Choco Lozano and Álvaro Negredo have what it takes to do us a lot of damage. Where’s the strong ball-winner in midfield?”
I was surprised by his pessimism, but it gave me pause for thought. When I was his age, I barely glanced at the opposition team sheet; I didn’t need to look any further than a Madrid side in which the same players always went out there and showed just what a class act they were. Do you think the likes of Camacho, Pirri, Benito, Stielike, Juanito or Santillana were ever rotated? You could recite the starting XI off by heart and the only changes made were because of injury.
Is anyone really going to tell me that a 4x4 like Casemiro needs soothing with time off on the bench? Or Federico Valverde, a box-to-box midfielder with bundles of energy, a lad who’s at an age where he’s ready to take on the world day in, day out? Or Ferland Mendy, for that matter: a rock-hard footballer who lets absolutely nothing past him on the left flank.
Cádiz could have been out of sight in that first half
Having spent two weeks at Valdebebas with players overlooked by their countries, Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane had clearly taken pity on some of them and had taken it upon himself to gift-wrap starting spots against Cádiz. Well, these days the competition couldn’t be stiffer and any side out there can make you look silly.
If they can bear to watch it at all, the players and coaching staff will need several video sessions to go through everything Madrid did badly in that first half at the Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano. They were outrageously fortunate to go in only 1-0 down.