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Hinchas y Jugadores - Real Madrid with Rez (10th May, 2017)

You can follow Rez on Twitter here.

A bit about yourself and your background

I am currently in my junior year of high school in Iraqi Kurdistan. Watching and playing football are among my predominant hobbies and the sport makes up a big part of my daily life.

How long have you been a fan of Real Madrid and what made you support them in the first place?

I initially started watching football eight years ago. I grew to admire the Spanish national side which accomplished so much during their so-called “golden generation,” and upon learning that the likes of Ramos, Xabi, and Casillas played for Real Madrid, I decided to watch a few of their matches. It took a while, but after enjoying emphatic victories and defeats in several Clásicos and other big fixtures, I became emotionally invested enough to consider myself a Madridista.

Given the transfer windows and the squad that was assembled at the start of the season, is Real Madrid where you want it to be?

In this club, the only measurement of success is silverware, and any season in which a major trophy isn’t lifted at Cibeles constitutes failure for us. As of right now, we are looking at the prospect of a possible double of both La Liga and the Champions League, something which we haven’t been able to achieve for a very long time. Of course, we could still end up trophy-less, and I am slightly disappointed at the numerous times we have wasted good chances of gaining a comfortable lead over Barcelona. However, I believe the team has done a fantastic job up to this point. Hopefully one last hurdle can give us reasons to celebrate in the coming weeks.

Of the signings made this season, which one worked out the best/had the most impact and why?

We have only made one signing in the summer - Álvaro Morata - therefore I can only go with him as an answer. When you consider his limited playing time as a second choice to Benzema, his 20 goals across all competitions is no small feat. You could also argue that Asensio’s return from a loan spell at Espanyol is akin to a new signing.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Real Madrid this season? Any standout players?

In terms of strengths, there is a lot to admire. Our squad is arguably the richest in Europe in terms of depth; no matter what selection of eleven players Zidane puts out on the pitch, there are always 3-4 fantastic players sitting on the bench. The attitude of our players has also been exemplary, with the likes of Isco and James doing everything they can to prove their worth despite limited minutes.

Our mental strength has also been commendable, once again thanks largely to the manager. On numerous occasions, we have scored late goals to clinch a positive result from the jaws of defeat. This season, we have done this more often than any other team that’s out there, and that is something to be proud of.

Alas, no team comes without weaknesses. Our most significant one is probably our occasional one-dimensionality in attack and unhealthy reliance on crossing the ball. This becomes especially apparent when Bale, Benzema, and Cristiano (or, the BBC) play together up front. Without someone to connect the midfield and attack, we become prone to predictability in the final third from time to time. Our difficulty in defending and seeming inability to keep a clean sheet at times is also an issue.

List some things you appreciate and some things you can’t stand about the club management. 

Our scouting has been top-notch in the latter years, and we have signed many young gems for low prices, such as Vallejo and Asensio. One problem that angers our fan-base, though, is that too much of our footballing decisions are dictated by our president Florentino Pérez and his politics. For instance, an underperforming star might still start over an in-form player simply because of his price tag. This “Galáctico policy,” as most like to call it, has done as more harm than good over the years, and it sometimes becomes very infuriating to deal with.

What has the mood among the fans been during the campaign? Do you generally agree/disagree with them?

You don’t need me to tell you that Madridistas are demanding. Even in the best of times, they will come up with something to criticize. The general current narrative about the squad is that we play boring unaesthetic football the majority of time, and we mostly come up with victories because of our fortune in the final minutes and our superiority on set pieces. There is also the idea that Zidane has zero tactical intelligence and only does his job as a motivator for the players.

While there may be a slight element of truth in some of these statements, they are still exaggerated, and so I do not fully concur with any of them. Things are not as black and white as they may seem. The work Zizou has done with the team is highly commendable, and it’s unfair to simply disregard it as “luck.” Sure, the football we play isn’t always the best, but no team can play beautiful football over an entire season. Fans need be more appreciative.

Are there any talented youngsters at the club that you expect to have a big future?

Definitely! Marco Asensio, for one, is an excellent attacking midfielder who looks like he will establish himself as a terrific player for both club and country. He has scored 9 goals across all competitions this season, including a cool finish against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Mateo Kovačić is the same, a Croatian playmaker being labeled by many as the next Luka Modrić. Apart from those two, we have Jesús Vallejo and Marcos Llorente on loan in different clubs, and both have been raising many eyebrows. Both have made cup finals with Frankfurt and Alavés, respectively, and could become highly useful additions to the first team very soon. The future looks bright.

If you could make one realistic signing for Real Madrid this summer who would it be?

Well, at the time of typing this response, we have been strongly linked with Atlético’s Theo Hernández, a very promising left-back who could become Marcelo’s deputy and potential replacement if he were to join. He is an addition I would welcome with open arms, and although the deal looks likely to go through, you can never be sure until he officially puts pen to paper.

Finally, predicted finish for Real Madrid?

The title race will be difficult, knowing that we’re neck and neck against Barcelona and Leo Messi, but the title is currently in our control, and if the players are up for the challenge, then I think we will win the league.

As for the Champions League, I am slightly less optimistic about our chances of triumph, especially knowing that Juventus have been mightily splendid as of late, as well as taking into consideration Sacchi’s long-standing curse of no team winning the competition back to back for decades. Therefore, I have personal doubts about winning the CL.

What I can be sure of, is that our players have produced a spectacular season in many aspects, and that will not be forgotten no matter what happens. ¡Hasta el final, vamos Real!

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