Real Madrid Debate: Predicting 2010-11 Starting XI Para Los Blancos
Real Madrid must be wondering what the world is coming to.
What type of planet do we live on, where 96 points isn't enough to win your league and arguably the most successful football club in history hasn't won even a third of the treble in three years?
Damn those Catalans!
Real Madrid management grows nervous and weary as the supporters at Bernabeu grow more and more impatient by the day.
Countless changes, hundreds upon hundreds of millions of Euros spent, and nothing to show for it.
The best boss in the world, Jose Mourinho has been brought into Madrid to right the ship and restore glory to the winning depraved Blancos.
Expectations, stakes and hype could not be higher.
Here are the 11 men that Mourinho will lead into battle.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
Real Madrid's captain and fearless leader, if you see Casillas scrape his knee during the 2010 campaign, look closely: He bleeds white.
The Spanish captain was bestowed the honor of "World's Best Goalkeeper" last season, and garnered the Golden Glove at the FIFA World Cup.
However, his most prized hardware from this summer will be the 2010 World Cup, a trophy that he undeniably deserved to lift first.
His point blank stops against Arjen Robben showed his wit, determination, and infallible technique.
Not bad for a keeper who many suspect has lost a step.
Casillas has only every felt loyalty to Real Madrid, having never played for another club—Bernabeu is St. Iker's second home. He's been with the club through thick and thin, and there's no doubt he'll be back this year in true form.
After a light-hearted month filled with shared jokes and smiles with Barca players from the national team, look for Casillas to be all business as Real Madrid tries to re-capture the La Liga title from Barcelona.
Right Back: Sergio Ramos
Shocking, I know. However, I ask that you please hold all comments until the end.
Ramos is the obvious choice for right back, he's been Real Madrid's bread and butter for years , and now has a World Cup trophy to solidify his place as one of the best right backs in the world.
Speculation has been abundant as to a possible replacement. Brazilian right back Maicon has been keen on a move to the Spanish giants, hoping to stick by the side of the manager who brought Inter Milan Champions League glory.
Inter was all set to let go of Maicon for the right price, however negotiations have stalled and Inter has rejected Real's first bid of 22 million euros. All signs point to Maicon staying put for now, but don't be surprised if a late transfer is on.
Of course, Ramos wouldn't be removed from the starting xi, a move to the middle would be the most obvious choice for the Spanish international, but for now he'll remain at his comfortable post out wide.
Right Center Back: Raul Albiol
Albiol was brought in to Real Madrid two seasons ago to bolster the club's defense. However, he was only able to keep his performances at an average level last season.
Albiol performed well for his previous club Valencia before coming to Madrid. Supporters speculate that once he is firmly settled in at Madrid, then the good form will follow.
Mourinho better hope that is the case as his only other real option at the position is Arbeloa, who's disappointing show last season has him out of favor in Bernabeu.
Of course, Albiol's spot in the starting xi is very dependent on the Maicon situation, but for now, expect to see him take the field for kick-off on matchday one.
Left Center Back: Pepe
Pepe has undoubtedly been an impact player on defense since arriving at Real Madrid, his fixture among the faces of the Portuguese national team are a testament to his development as a center back at the club level.
An imposing player, Pepe can control his box with his large and bald head. His superb heading techniques keep crosses out, and help him in opposing territory when he pushes forward.
The Brazilian born Pepe can also deliver a good long ball, his soft touch and good vision on the breakout will be crucial in setting up attacks, and picking out playmakers in space.
Left Back: Marcelo
One got the feeling that Marcelo was out of place at Bernabeu last season. The Brazilian even made an appearance as a striker against Barcelona.
His sub-par form last season were enough to get him the cold shoulder from Dunga while selecting the Brazilian squad for South Africa.
However, Real supporters should not be deterred by the snub as Marcelo is acutally a solid player.
He is definitely the best option available to Mourinho, seeing as Arbeloa and Drenthe were torrid coming down the stretch last season.
Now that rumblings of an Ashley Cole signing have died down, look for Marcelo to develop into an everyday player at his natural position.
Right Holding Midfielder: Sami Khedira
Lass dons No. 10 for los Blancos, but he will find himself on the bench at the start of the season, making way for the breakthrough German international Sami Khedira.
Khedira was brought in for a reason. One of Mourinho's most significant transfers, the ex-Stuttgarter fits the Special One's style of play. He's in essence, a great box-to-box midfielder who happens to cover well.
Los Blancos should have no reservations about letting the newset Madridista carry the ball on the counterattack as he boasts surprising pace, and the refined ability to feed the wings.
Khedira's first big test was the FIFA World Cup, and he passed with flying colors. Expect Mourinho to hand him large role right away, trusting him to handle the pressure the same way he did in South Africa.
Left Holding Midfielder: Xabi Alonso
Xabi Alonso is definitely a player that Mourinho will be happy to have from the get-go to start his reign as Madrid boss with.
Alonso's consistent performances since coming over from Liverpool have quickly made him a fan-favorite at Bernabeu. Plus, Alonso will undoubtedly benefit from Mourinho's defensive wizardry as he'll be a key player in stopping opponents, then igniting the counter attack, and bridging defense to offense.
The Spanish International also proved his weight in gold during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. His distribution, long balls, and shot selection were superb as Spain pieced together their dream run towards a World Cup trophy. The title win quietly solidified Alonso's spot as one of the best deep-lying midfielders in the world.
Look for Alonso to play a crucial role in the midfield this season.
He should perform well, relishing the opportunity to play alongside the youthful and energetic Sami Khedira.
Sami, like Alonso plays the defensive midfield position with a more playmaking mentality.
Center Midfielder: Rafael van der Vaart
Real Madrid supporters looking for Kaka to get a fresh start after an injury-plagued season last year were only hit with disappointment again as Kaka went under the knife this offseason to repair a damaged meniscus. Recovery will see the Brazilian playmaker out up to four months.
Madridistas now turns to the heir to the Dutch captaincy, Rafael van der Vaart to weather the storm while Kaka watches from the sidelines.
Van der Vaart has had a tumultuous time at El Real, after being nominated for the Ballon D'Or in 2008.
Many speculated that he had fallen out of favor with boss Manuel Pellegrini. However, last year's injury to Kaka saw him get a chance to show his stuff, and he did so effectively, demonstrating that Real Madrid should still value his services.
Van der Vaart continued his good form into the World Cup this summer, most notably finding the head of Wesley Sneijder off of a set piece to see Holland through past Brazil.
He performed well also in the semifinals against Uruguay, where he was brought on as a sub and really opened the game up, allowing the Oranje to bury the Uruguayans en route to the final.
Ideally, Mourinho would of loved to have Kaka fit and ready to go for the start of the 2010 campaign, but he could do much worse than to have VdV waiting in the wings whilst the Brazilian star embarks on his long road to recovery.
Right Winger: Cristiano Ronaldo
The lone star in Real Madrid's triumvirate of huge signings last season (Benzema, Kaka, Ronaldo). The Portuguese captain, and Ballon D'Or winner lived up to his huge transfer fee, bagging 26 goals in 29 appearances and seemingly scoring at will.
Ronaldo's individual performances were enticing to watch last year, but his "one man against the world" mentality was unable to bring Los Blancos the La Liga title, or advance past the Round of 16 in the Champions League.
The disparity between his club and country form will be an interesting subplot to keep and eye on as Ronaldo laces up his boots in 2010. This time as a proven superstar at Real.
Mourinho holds Ronaldo in the highest respects, his ability to function within Jose's system as a leader in Kaka's absence will be crucial to Real success as a unit.
The barrage of goals made for a great arrival, but it's safe to say the Madridistas would exchange Ronaldo's gleaming goalscoring record for a La Liga title any day of the week.
Left Winger: Angel Di Maria
Another one of Real Madrid's big signings this offseason, Di Maria found his way to Bernabeu from the Portuguese production club that is Benfica.
Despite his youth and relative inexperience, Di Maria found his way into Diego Maradona's Argentine starting xi, proving that his game is developed enough to step into a complex system and function effectively.
The addition of Di Maria to the starting lineup will have Madrid supporters drooling over the combination play between Di Maria and his national teammate, Gonzalo Higuain.
Plus, his pace and good feet will make him a viable option opposite Ronaldo as the 2010-2011 Real Madrid squad looks to go on the attack and bring home the hardware.
Center Forward: Gonzalo Higuain
Pipita looks to enter the 2010-11 campaign as Real Madrid's premier striker.
Real Madrid's massive signing of Lyon forward Karim Benzema brought competition to the frontline, however Benzema's inability to stay on form and Higuain's astounding 27 goals in La Liga made the forward position exclusively Gonzalo's by the end of the season.
His scoring ways carried over quite nicely into the World Cup. Higuain continued to impress. He scored four goals in the tournament, which included registering the World Cup's only hattrick.
While he is still young, Higuain's ability to display consistency on the biggest of stages have made him an intricate party of Madrid's offense heading into this year.