The next trophy which is guaranteed to be presented at Real Madrid's magnificent home will be the Champions League next May as the climax to Europe's premier club competition will be staged at the Bernabeu. The Real players would have known that as they climbed the steps of the main stand on Monday night to be presented with the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy. Manuel Pellegrini's charges beat Norwegian side Rosenborg 4-0 with two first-half goals from Karim Benzema and one from Lassana Diarra. Raul, the captain, made it four in the second period.
Like Barca's Gamper Trophy, the game is the traditional final pre-season match, an opportunity for Real's fans to see their summer signings. While Real's have been notable they have attracted global headlines, the attention was fixed on players who have already proved themselves in the white shirt. Defender Michel Salgado was given a rapturous send-off for a decade's service before he joins Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League.
There was further applause with 15 minutes to play when striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and midfielder Mahamadou Diarra emerged from the bench after long absences. Van Nistelrooy's knee injury was the more severe and has kept him out since November 2008. "It was emotional for me to return and I'm struggling for words to describe how I feel," stated Van Nistelrooy. "I was deeply moved with the welcome the fans gave me when I warmed up and took the pitch. It was incredible.
"I've worked very hard for months to recover and I went through some complicated moments that I managed to overcome. The worst thing about the injury was that I couldn't run for six months. I had to spend four hours a day in the gym and couldn't step on the pitch. I can thankfully leave all that behind me now." Much has changed at Real since he last played. Florentino Perez has returned as president, bringing with him a new coach and clutch of world-class players as he attempts to bring past glories back to the Bernabeu.
Van Nistelrooy will have watched with interest as one, Benzema, skilfully converted a brace of goals. Van Nistelrooy's goal-scoring record is a match for any in world football, but at 33, he will not be a starter for the first time in his career. There is speculation Real will listen to offers. Real are looking sharper with every game and as Cristiano Ronaldo said in near-perfect Spanish after the final whistle: "Little by little, we're getting there."
The same could be said of the Portuguese winger, with coach Pellegrini saying: "Cristiano needs a little more time to adapt to the style of his new team. Pellegrini added: "The team is ready and every player has the right level of fitness as we go into the season. We look exceptionally strong in attack." The Chilean is blessed with a squad packed with talent and his starting line-up will be similar to the side that beat Rosenborg when Real open their Primera Liga campaign against Deportivo La Coruna at home on Saturday.
Facing players like Kaka, Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso, Deportivo will do well not to be overawed. @Email:email@example.com