Tuesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu wasn’t a pretty scene.
What has been building in the Spanish capital for weeks finally reached its boiling point when the final whistle sounded signaling the end of Real Madrid’s 4-3 defeat to Schalke 04. Although they were able to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals, Madrid’s performance reached a new low for the season against their German opposition.
Madrid’s defense, which had been solid in recent weeks, allowed four goals and was a few inches away from conceding a fifth in the final minutes of the contest – which would have knocked the La Liga club out of the competition. Their midfield was outworked and overrun by Schalke, and the overall performance from the Spanish side was disjointed and soulless.
Since winning the FIFA Club World Cup in December, Madrid have been a shadow of the team which won four titles in 2014. The hunger, fight, cohesion and attacking flair, which was on display for much of the first half of the season, is now gone. And it doesn’t look like there are enough people of great character to pull the team out of its malaise.
Team captain Iker Casillas has been the heart of the club for years. He is the man Real Madrid managers have turned to in order to gain an understanding of what is going on in the dressing room.
However, if last night’s scenes are any indication, Casillas is up against it with his current teammates in Madrid.
After the final whistle, Real Madrid players had no intention of remaining on the pitch as the whistle and jeers streamed down from the tiers at the Bernabeu. The majority of the team made a beeline for the tunnel and were ready to make a quick escape.
But Casillas raced around the pitch, grabbing his teammates and demanding they applaud the fans – despite the noise of disapproval coming from the stands. No player was safe from the team captain. Anyone who was seen trying to sneak off the field was pulled back on to the pitch and ordered to acknowledge the supporters.
It was an amazing spectacle. Something that is specific to sport.
Casillas’ action and motivation should be applauded. But there should be more concern in Madrid that the captain is battling a broken dressing room.
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