Will the Real Number 9 Please Stand Up? (By Paul Morrissey)
Available Immediate: Mythical Number 9 Shirt
Previous Owners:Â Ronaldo aka O Fenomeno (02/03 – 06/07, 102 goals)Â
Ronaldo aka C-Ron (09/10, 33 goals)
Hugo Sanchez ( 85- 91/92, 251 goals)
Di Stefano (53/54-64),
Description: Propensity to elevate suitors to legend status, perfect state of repair
Acquisition Conditions: Interested parties apply within regardless of purported reputation
Raul’s humble exit from the Bernabeu left the number 7 shirt vacant, which Ronaldo wasted less than 48 hours in procuring. C-Ron wasn’t hearing any talk of a democratic vote or selection; he nominated himself with an alleged vouching from his ex-team mate â€“
”Raul would be happy for me to take the number 7.”Â
You’d be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on account of his as-yet imperfect Spanish, but note the use of “would” as opposed to “will” – it seems (a subconscious slip?) that Raul is now entirely out of sight and out of mind – andÂ more pertinently, he won’t be nearly as missed internally as he will be externally.
Thus spoke Cristiano.
Retiring the number 7 was mooted and briefly entertained, but was that realistically never going to happen with Pâ‚¬re$ at the helm? A Raulista he may have proclaimed to be, but that was then and this is now. There’s no room for symbolic sentiment with a cash cow to be fattened, and she can prepare for a gluttonous palette once the CR7 brand is re-patented.
That has left the number 9 vacant for keen suitors.Â In the absence of a bona fide Galactico, it was duly offered to Gonzalo Higuain, the black sheep of Perez’s Galactico Project II.
His reaction? Thanks, but no thanks.
“You don’t have to wear the number 9 order to be Real Madrid’s 9.”Â
Well, strictly speaking, you probably do – but you can appreciate his argument. Every season since his arrival with Javier Saviola and Roberto Soldado in the summer of 2007, he’s been swimming against the tide in a sea of adversity.
He’s the last man standing from that Calderon-purchased trio, but his association with that ”inglorious” era – in image and style terms at least – and hence lack of affiliation with Perez, means he is perpetually close to a curt “adios” a la Sneijder and Robben.
He’s scrapped and harried like a malnourished piglet at an overcrowded trough, and more than simply surviving, he’s prospered and grown in an unlikely triumph of the working man in the most capitalist of environments.
El Pipita has been unfairly accused of selfishness, but when your career hangs so precariously at the behest of a manipulative press; goals are the only currency that matters.
Last season (09/10), he fought it out blow for blow with the Player Formerly Known As CR9 for the Pichici title in a battle endemic of the “survival of the fittest” culture that has marked Real’s recent tribulations. He lost out in the end but he made his point: if played regularly he will guarantee goals.
Given these circumstances in which he’s had to play his hand, his snub of the historic number 9 is wholly understandable. He revels in the role of the outsider and that’s where he’ll happily stay, with his distinctly un-marketable number 20 an apt reflection of his marginal identity at the Bernebeu.
The number 9 has now reportedly been offered to Karim Benzema by simple process of elimination, but has he earned it? Moreover, does he have the presence and aura of the previous owners?
Resoundingly, no – in both cases – albeit to a lesser extent in the latter.
Hailed as Ronaldo’s genuine successor and hampered by the language barrier, add an introverted personality into the mix and his return of 8 goals in his debut season was not so miserable all told.Â He was known to have been badly shaken by the nightmarish Alcorconazo experience and struggled thereafter to cope with the Madrid media’s scrutinous penchant for papparazi. Lyon to Real Madrid is a mountainous climb for a striker and the burden of expectation that comes with a historic shirt could prove an unnecessary burden for an unproven young player.
If the Real Madrid number 9 is indeed left unceremoniously redundant for the upcoming 10/11 season, the cules will have their first laugh at their rivals before the season even takes off.
It seems Perez might ultimately learn, not for the first time, that you can’t buy what is intangible: character, charisma, and cojones.
Retiring the number 7: The enigma of Raul Gonzalez to follow.