x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A reality cheque for Real

I couldn't help smiling when Real Madrid tumbled out of the Champions League this week.

Real's Kaka shows his frustration against Lyon.
Real's Kaka shows his frustration against Lyon.

I couldn't help smiling when Real Madrid tumbled out of the Champions League this week. When will people realise that you cannot buy a winning team? You can build a team but, I'm delighted to say, you can't buy one. If money can't buy you love, a cheque book certainly can't buy you the Champions League. The Galacticos project sold shirts but those who build teams over the years are the ones who eventually prove successful on the pitch.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Co are beautiful to watch but where's the grit? Where's the beef? Until Manuel Pellegrini, the Real coach, gets to buy his own players and is given time to develop a team I think the project will be ultimately flawed. In this money mad world, it's vaguely refreshing to know it's a team ethic that prevails, as was the case with Lyon getting the better of Real, holding the pampered stars of Madrid to a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu to win their last-16 encounter 2-1 on aggregate.

Give managers the time to develop and mould players and then we can all rejoice in success. As I always say: it's the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger who've been the most successful simply because they've been given the most time. When will people learn?

I remember my old boss at Granada TV, in the north-west of England, hammering me after one show because I split an infinitive while presenting live on air. In fact, I split two. But as I didn't understand what an infinitive was, and indeed still don't, I guessed that splitting more than one didn't really matter. The point he was trying to make to me was speak properly. With this in mind, why do commentators now say: "He doesn't want to be in a foot race with him." A foot race? As opposed to what? A car race or a bike race? They mean a race. Full stop. What a lot of nonsense fellas. Stop bringing the game into disrepute.

I've been transported back 40 years to my childhood in recent weeks as my six-year-old has become obsessed with collecting football cards and sticking them into his little sticker album. His are called "Match Attacks" while years ago they were called Panini Stickers, and even further back and in my collecting pomp, something else.

You buy a pack of stickers, collect all the players and teams and swap the ones you already have for the coveted stars your collection is missing. The same rules still apply. In my day it was 10 Ralph Coates for one Kevin Keegan. Today, it's 20 Paul McShanes to get Steven Gerrard's left leg. It's 42 Clarke Carlisles if you want the right one. It's great fun for kids and long may it continue. sports@thenational.ae