It was half an hour before the start of the derby and the golden confetti shone on the tiles of the plaza of the parish of the Sacred Hearts, in front of the Bernabéu box. The Madrid bourgeoisie had just celebrated a wedding. The ladies dressed in rigorous etiquette and the gentlemen in tuxedo mixed with the fans who were happy on the sidewalks of the Paseo de la Habana. The weather was festive. Barca had just drawn (1-1) against Athletic at the Camp Nou and the bars in the vicinity were packed with optimistic people who were hurrying the last cup before going to the stadium to suffer. The thing got so ugly that after 90 minutes the draw (0-0) was a relief for many. For Julen Lopetegui, the first.
"We have not won the match because we have not scored a goal," said the Madrid coach, with a grimace of tension, before the first question asked when he sat in the conference room.
The explanation was as profound as almost all the explanations offered by the official channel in these uncertain days for Real Madrid. Lopetegui, in any case, slipped a tacit message: he considers that his team does everything in their power, but lacks something that neither he nor any coach can provide. The definitive flash is missing, the imponderable that turns some soccer players into scorers and others do not. Without Cristiano, the model lacks the auction that characterized her.
Madrid, who traveled to Moscow on Sunday to face CSKA in Champions without Bale (officially injured), have 14 points at the end of the seventh league day. Exactly the same as last year, when the cycle of Zinedine Zidane showed signs of exhaustion and the League was lost in the first two months. The numbers reveal the team's worst start after the 2012-13 season, when the breakdown of José Mourinho's authority led to two defeats, two draws and three victories in the first seven games of the championship. With a fundamental difference: none of the versions of Madrid over the last decade offered worse records auctioners than the current Madrid. Madrid had never scored less than 13 goals at this point (amount 12) and had not fired so little.
The shots on goal, elementary indication of the possibilities that have a team to score goals and, ultimately, to win titles, plummet. The declining Madrid of Mourinho undid in the first seven days of League but shot 128 times; and in the same period the worst Madrid de Zidane finished 145 times. Today he only has 118 shots.
Meticulous, obsessive and calculating even to control the banal, when Lopetegui signed for Madrid, he felt that his duty was to do what all coaches do: analyze the squad and ask for reinforcements. He must have detected several weak points. They say in the club that it did not fall short. Who asked for three signings: one per line. And that it was not just any players, but international footballers for whom important disbursements had to be made. Lopetegui publicly declared himself "delighted" with the squad while, in private, he moved the board that to replace Cristiano was necessary to incorporate a top scorer. He concluded that Benzema, Bale and Asensio, three attackers without pure profile of nine they alternately exerted as points, they did not have enough goal to compensate for the absence of the outgoing figure. The president, Florentino Pérez, however, preferred to save the reinforcement money for the best occasion.
Time gives the reason to Lopetegui, who meets Mariano and a juvenile, Vinicius, as the only solution to the lack of punching. He should not believe much in either of them. Maria was left sitting on the bench throughout the derby. Vinicius made it enter in the 57th minute. His search points to a change of scheme, rather than a substitution of attackers. He wants to remove one of the points to put a player capable of linking the game between the lines: Isco or Ceballos, or both at the same time.
"The road we have to follow is that of the Roma match and the second half against Atlético," the coach said, as if he were posing a riddle. Against Roma, he sacrificed Asensio to play with Isco in the playmaker; and against Atlético he changed Bale to place Ceballos as a link between the midfield and the attack. The two alternatives markedly increased the possibilities of Madrid. But none is politically simple. When the big matches arrive, the coach will have to convince the club of the appropriateness of giving ownership to Isco or Ceballos, two players who are not among the directors' favorites, instead of Asensio, Bale or Benzema, who, today today, they enjoy the predilection of Florentino Pérez.
Lopetegui, who appreciates his position, does not want to talk about it in public. But the information that concerns you is within the reach of anyone. Bale, Benzema and Asensio, the first Real Madrid attack line, have scored five goals in 58 games against Atlético. On the other hand, Griezmann and Costa have 11 goals in the 43 matches they played throughout their career against Madrid.
That's how the game started. Shot of Saul and stop of Courtois; Hand in hand of Costa and stop Courtois with the face; mano a mano by Griezmann and third stop by Courtois; Casemiro's hand in the area of Madrid that the referee does not judge and the VAR does not examine … Before the visiting domain, the only response was a shot from Bale from 30 meters and a shot at a set piece, on the way out of a side fault that Bale himself sent out. Nothing more in 45 minutes. As in Seville, only that, this time, in Chamartín. In front of the box that presided over Florentino Pérez, the man who aspires to equal and overcome Santiago Bernabéu's reputation. The decomposed face of the president, reflected all the nuances of a poorly concealed fury.