At the end of every season we have to take out our handkerchiefs to say goodbye to some players. Three of the group who have won five Champions League titles are leaving Madrid, the enormity of which reflects the team’s long run, which Zidane and Ancelotti have stretched beyond what we expected. It is true that none of the three have contributed much to this fifth success, but they are part of the club’s history. All three have had their time to perform at the top of their game. Marcelo’s has lasted longer, Isco’s has been relatively brief - although very tasty during his best days - Bale’s has been strange and much interrupted, but until his final, ugly, decision to give up, he had some impressive runs and goals, including some unforgettable ones.
It’s a shame about Bale, the boy with few fans or empathy, and a rather surly agent. His last two years have been aggravating. Mbappé was on the verge of coming from Monaco to Madrid but didn’t want to clash with the BBC, with Florentino making the mistake of not selling Bale to Mourinho’s United, when they were keen. He trusted him but was let down in the same proportion that Benzema long justified the president’s hopes. At least Bale says goodbye with a lovely farewell letter (‘un bel morir tutta una vita onora’, Petrarch said, ‘a noble death is an honour to the whole life’), albeit in English. An absolutely impervious guy is leaving. Farewell to him well.
It’s also a pity about Isco, who had some great days. At some point, though, he lost his way and was pushed to the side, not handled well. Now Lopetegui, who gave him the keys to the national team, wants him for Sevilla, but there are some there dragging their feet because the club’s model is focused on young and re-sellable players. Marcelo has had a better ending, hanging the flag and scarf around the neck of the club’s goddess, Cibeles. He went through a dodgy phase when he was overtaken by Reguilón but was later able to react. He has ended up as a lively and positive understudy and at the same time a captain with distinction. He arrived to fill some huge shoes, those of Roberto Carlos, but he did just that. Pure joy, he leaves only good memories.