La Liga Review takes a look at Monday's Spanish football headlines in Madrid: MARCA claims "Real Madrid, with a nine point lead at the top of La Liga, have the title in their pocket". Elswehere, Sneijder wins the plaudits and the Madrid president, Ramon Calderon announces that he intends to start shopping closer to home: re-signing Ruben De La Red and recalling Esteban Granero from Getafe...
As you might have guessed, ten man Real Madrid's 1-0 win over Real Murcia dominates the Madrid football press.
"NINE POINTS!" shouts AS from its front page in reference to the, um, nine point lead that Real Madrid hold at the top of the La Liga table. Nine points above FC Barcelona. Naturally, those dyed in the wool Madridistas on planet AS are quite pleased.
"The Madrid players celebrated their job well done doing cartwheels, something that would cause the elevators in any office block to collapse at the end of the working day. Yesterday, at the end of the match, Pepe and Casillas were rolling around on the grass like a couple of lovers in the first week of their romance. These kinds of celebrations are not normally seen taking place on the office carpet," writes Juanma Trueba.
AS gives us, quite possibly La Liga Review's favourite picture of Guti. Ever. A joy for Guti lovers everywhere.
(Picture published in AS)
In spite of the win, all is not well in the offices on planet AS. Oh no.
Trueba laments that 'a win is a win', but that he can't help feeling that this Madrid side are not at the very top of their game, that their is something stopping them from being labelled 'great': Schuster? Calderon? Mijatovic? Don't be daft.....it's those conniving Catalans. According to Trueba, the reason that this Madrid side aren't "touched by greatness" is all the fault of those spoilers up in Barcelona, ruining it for everybody.
Trueba writes "In criticising the leaders, you have to point the finger of blame at the rest. The measure of something is established by comparison: we'll never know how good this Madrid side could be without their opponents being a bit better and pushed them a little harder. It's not unusual for teams, and individuals, to get by with the minimum of effort, to do what needs to be done and nothing else." Three words for Snr Trueba: Roma. Champions. League.
The other matter that has ruffled a few feathers on planet AS, was "the ill fated performance of the "Cowardly Basque referee," as claimed in an editorial.
"The Basque referee made a mistake in almost every big decision he had to take, especially where the penalty area was involved. Real Madrid could have had the match sown up much earlier if he had blown the whistle for the clear foul and penalty on Guti: instead of booking him for 'exaggerating' the contact made," writes AS.
And of course, Torres' red card for viciously raking his studs down the back of an opponents leg without making any attempt to play the ball was never a sending off, according to Madrid's favourite comic: "Torres was sent of for a light tap on Aquino"
Over at MARCA, Real Madrid's position at the top of La Liga also dominates the front page: "A Great Goal That Is Worth A League Title!" is the headline, accompanied by a picture of Wesley Sneijder celebrating his 58th minute wonder strike.
The Dutch Midfielder is the man of the hour for MARCA after scoring the only goal in an otherwise poor display by the home side at the Bernabeu: "Wesley Sneijder is the anchor of this Madrid sign in the final stages of the 2007/2008 season. The Dutchman started the season with a bang, lost his way in the following games, in spite of claiming a berth in Shuster's midfield, where his touch is favoured over a more physical option. However, he has rediscovered the goal as the season has gone on: scoring eight. Not bad for a midfielder."
For MARCA, the fulfilment of that early season promise has been key for Real Madrid in the absence of a certain other goal scoring Dutchman: "After overcoming a painful rib injury, Sneijder has returned to the team and has brought with him goals - like an oasis in the desert for a Madrid side deprived of Van Nistelrooy and dependant upon Raul."
Of course, now that Real Madrid have the league title "In their pocket", according to MARCA - and 76% of Marca's readers agree that the race is won - their attention turns to next season.
The paper claims that Calderon told a Madrid supporter's convention that Ruben De La Red and Esteban Granero will be returning to Real Madrid in the summer.
De la Red was sold to Getafe at the start of this season, but Real insisted upon the inclusion of a clause in the player's contract that would give them the option to buy the player back should it take their fancy.
Granero, on other hand, went to Getafe on a season long loan and, after winning many admirers with his midfield performances in the UEFA cup as well as La Liga, is very much in demand across Europe (Granero Profile).
It remains to be seen whether or not the pair are returning to Madrid to take up a place in the first team, or in order to be sold for a tidy profit. Madrid can then use the money from the sale of these two talented canteranos (youth team graduates) to fund the purchase of a couple of overrated and overpriced graduates from someone else's youth academy. Why give someone like Esteban Granero a break in the first team when you can always fork out 16 million euros for Royston Drenthe?
As Calderon is quoted in MARCA today as saying: "The money needs to be out on the pitch, not in the bank." He fails to mention that with Mijatovic in charge of spending, it doesn't sit in the bank for very long anyway - and usually ends up on the treatment table rather than the pitch.