Matt’s Monday Musings: a series with no rhyme or reason – just coherent thoughts on all things real Madrid published every Monday. Some weeks can be long, others are just short anecdotal thoughts. Either way, I will be posting reflective content about the club’s current, past, and future activities:
It’s that time of year, the quiet time – when the players go on a well-deserved vacation and the fans have to wait for the return of pre-season. During this period, the Managing Madrid team will often browse through the archives and watch matches from Real Madrid’s past. In fact, there’s a segment on the Managing Madrid podcast that’s been dubbed “the historical segment” and dates back as far as the 60s. One thing that always strikes me when watching old Real Madrid games is the players I’ve never heard of; unsung heroes. The players who often do the “dirty work” for the team, the ones who clearly stand out but are rarely mentioned when talking about teams from the past. They are players remembered by those who lived through the season, but who have been glossed over in the top-flight recaps of the new generation of Madridistas. There are countless names that could be highlighted, but Geremi, Savio, Quique Sanchez Flores, Gallego and Canario are some of those who have been talked about in previous podcast episodes as underrated stars.
It then made me think of some of the unsung players from Real Madrid’s title triumphs of 2006, 2007 and 2012. In future editions of the Monday Thoughtsone player from those aforementioned La Liga title triumphs will be highlighted, this week we start with the famous 2006-2007 title triumph under Fabio Capello:
2006 – 2007: Ivan Helguera
Although he played at a high level in Madrid colors for almost a decade – often alternating between centre-back and defensive midfielder depending on the needs of the team – Helguera’s legacy and tenure did not mean nothing for Pedja Mijatovic (then sporting director) and Ramon Calderon (the president after Florentino’s first reign). In an attempt by the club to force his exit, Ivan Helguera was stripped of his No.6 shirt, instead given to Capello’s priority signing Mahamadou Diarra, and forced to train with the youth team. at the start of the season. Despite the undue treatment, where the veteran defender wasn’t even included in the matchday’s first seven teams, Helguera put his head down and got to work – seeking to convince Capello and co of the value he could still bring to Real Madrid.
Fabio Capello soon realized he had a problem at right-back. Michel Salgado was no longer the lively, raging full-back he once was and La Liga’s speedy wingers were aging him with every passing game. Cicinho, who was a Brazilian fullback who had the technical and attacking quality, but failed to stay fit or keep his game off the pitch together. Cicinho, years later, revealed to MARK that he had a serious drinking problem at Real Madrid. So the Italian manager renowned for his defensive tactics, the same man who had the nerve to pull off a Diarra-Emerson double pivot while playing at the Santiago Bernabeu, had to find a solution to his four back pains. Ultimately, Sergio Ramos was moved from centre-back to right-back and Helguera was brought back into the fold.
The then 31-year-old Spaniard has built a strong relationship with a 34-year-old Fabio Cannavaro at the heart of Real Madrid’s defence. In February, Real Madrid were 8 points behind leaders Barcelona in La Liga but managed to come back and win one of the most epic La Liga titles in the club’s history. The likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robinho, Guti, Casillas and Sergio Ramos have drawn plenty of applause this season, but Helguera has been a crucial cog in La Liga’s turnaround and has been a resolute defender, particularly in both games ( home and away). ) against Barcelona.
Ivan Helguera was never one of the “sexy” names that excited fans or managed to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition, but his role and consistency were essential for a winning team. He worked his way into Capello’s starting XI despite being exiled at the start of the season. These unsung heroes are essential to the success of titles and deserve their credit.