One of my and fellow Managing Madrid partner Gabe Lezra's favorite players, Real Madrid youth product Ruben de la Red, has prematurely retired from football this week at the tender age of 25.
We developed something of an affection for the young man while playing FIFA, discovering that he could be acquired for a pittance and was a great addition in defensive midfield. Virtual de la Red also had a wicked free kick that Gabe was highly enamoured of, sticking with him despite the availability of players with higher numerical values.
We were understandably overjoyed when real-life de la Red began to emerge as a hot prospect in the Real Madrid first team, and when Madrid exercised his buy-back clause in 2008 after a successful spell with neighboring Getafe, we were excited to see what he could accomplish. Although his performances earned him a place in Spain's winning Euro 2008 squad and three full international caps, his career ended tragically almost before it had begun.
On October 30th, 2008, de la Red collapsed during a Copa del Rey match against Real Unión and was rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, unlike Sevilla youth product Antonio Puerta the previous year, who died at just 22 after collapsing on the pitch during a Liga game, de la Red survived. Tests were inconclusive, and no one—not the club, not the press and not even the player himself—was sure whether he would play again. This week, de la Red finally decided that playing football was not worth risking his life and decided to retire from the game.
Real Madrid takes care of its own, however, and he has been offered an incredible opportunity to apprentice himself to Mourinho as a coach. De la Red will learn from the master and be rigorously trained before being assigned to one of the Real Madrid youth teams. It must be said that getting such an early start and learning in such a rigorous environment might advantage de la Red as he goes along in his coaching career. Perhaps one day he may become the manager of Real Madrid.
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