Real Madrid's End-of-Season Awards Show Marathon, Part 2: The Losers
Whenever teams like Real Madrid, or any organization that expects to compete for championships every year, falls short of their ultimate goal, fans, players, management, and sportswriters alike look for reasons why.
Each of these constituencies voice their questions slightly differently—players sullenly grant interviews, management looks to shake the right pieces loose, fans depressively scan over their memories of the season, and sportswriters, well, we write lists like these.
In my last article, I gave out awards to the best players for Real Madrid during the 2010-2011 season: Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Özil were the big winners, along with Iker Casillas, Karim Benzema, and Marcelo (and Xabi Alonso definitely deserved something like a “Most Important Player” award).
Now, I’m looking back over the season for the worst performances, the goats—if you will—of los blancos’ 2010-2011 campaign.
While I would categorize the season as a success overall (second in the Liga, a Champions League Semi-Final berth, and the Copa del Rey title is pretty good on paper), there were certain players and certain moments that deserve negative critical acclaim.
Worst Performance in a Major Match: The Entire Defense in the 5-0 Drubbing
Madrid’s 5-0 destruction in the Camp Nou will go down as one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of the Clásico (right up there with Barça giving Madrid the “Pasillo” in 2008), and the shame rests mainly on Madrid’s defensive line (though everyone on the team was complicit).
Barcelona cut up Madrid’s back four easier than, well, the Globetrotters crushing the Generals—and that’s pretty much what the entire match looked like. Added to los blancos’ misery was the (pretty unsporting) ad campaign that the Barça brass put up after the match.
Worst Actor: Angel Di María
When I say “worst actor” I don’t mean “worst player.” Di María was far, far, far, from that—his electric runs down the wing, his absurdly energetic help defense, and his clutch scoring won many a game for Madrid throughout the course of the year.
What I mean is that more than any other player on the team, di María was guilty of feigning fouls (note: I almost named this award the “Sergio Busquets Worst Actor Award,” but I didn’t really want to deal with all the hate that would be channeled my way).
Angel feigned a lot of fouls, and by the end of the year stopped getting legitimate calls because he was on the ground so much—this is much like what happened to Cristiano Ronaldo when he first played in England.
I will say this, though: he did get hacked a lot because he was so quick, he just tended to flip around a few too many times. He’s a superstar-in-the-making at the moment, and I hope he’ll be able to cut this part of his game down, much like a certain Portuguese forward.
The Bill Walton “What If” Award: Kaká
I named this award after one of the greatest, and most tragic, basketball players ever: Bill Walton had one amazing season, then his body betrayed him. But for that one year, he was the most dominant player in the league, an offensive threat unlike almost anyone else ever.
Now, I’m not saying that this is Kaká’s fate: I have no doubt that he will return stronger from his injury next year. But the fact is, he was never the same after his surgery this season, which is why he gets the “What If” award: what if Kaká had been healthy?
Would Mesut Özil have become such a superstar? Would he have found a way to play in Mou’s midfield? It’s possible he would have made the team worse; but he could have made them even better.
And that’s the beauty of “what ifs”—they can’t be answered.
The Brian Scalabrine “Least Important Benchwarmer” Award: Sergio Canales
At the beginning of the season, the young Spanish phenom Sergio Canales looked to break onto Madrid’s starting roster from day 1; after a series of lackluster performances, he was relegated to a bench role.
As the season progressed, Mourinho used him less and less, until he was essentially bolted to the bench with adamantium—nothing was getting him off.
He remains an incredibly talented young player, and one of the best prospects in the world—but, he had a very disappointing first season for Real Madrid.
The Charlie Sheen Award for Most Bipolar Player: Pepe
What on earth can I say about Pepe that hasn’t already been said?
On his best days, he’s a maniac, a fanatical defender capable of completely shutting Leo Messi out of games. On his worst days, he flips out and kicks the stuffing out of random players.
He’s just as likely to make a game-saving tackle, or shut down the best player on an opposing team as he is to snap and make a red-card worthy tackle or punch someone in the face.
What the heck is going on in his mind? Why can’t he just put it all together without the mental mistakes?
Well, it’s called #winning, bro.
Most Disappointing Player: Sergio Ramos
I have a lot of respect for Sergio Ramos. When he first came to Madrid, I thought he was the next superstar defender for Madrid, like the best of Michel Salgado and Roberto Carlos combined.
And for a while, he was: I remember him shutting down some of the best players in the game year after year, and then running blazingly quickly up the pitch to score a goal off a corner.
But last season he seemed to fall off a bit: his play was erratic, his crosses didn’t find heads, and his head only rarely found the ball on corner kicks. He was caught out of position too frequently, allowed too many runs behind him, didn’t get back fast enough.
He seemed out of whack. My theory is that he’s really tired: he plays one of the positions that requires the most conditioning, and he had just played through an excruciatingly tiring World Cup.
But whatever the reason, he didn’t impress me at all this year; and yet I fully expect him to bounce back next year.
The “Bad Luck Chuck” Award: Pepe
So I named this award after that terrible Dane Cook movie “Good Luck Chuck,” which features a man who seems to be a consistent stepping stone to marriage—as soon as a woman dates him, she marries someone else. Good luck for her, bad luck for him.
Well, Pepe was this season’s Bad Luck Chuck, a player who kept being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He got the raw side of quite a few important plays, and was roundly blamed for things that were certainly not only his fault: his “red card” “foul” on Dani Alves in the first leg of the Champions League semi final springs to mind.
He is a famously neurotic player, apt to make a rash challenge at any time, and I think that reputation haunted him throughout the season and swayed referees' decisions at important moments.
Bad luck, man.