x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Huntelaar glosses over the gloom in Madrid

It has been a bittersweet week for Real Madrid. Defeat at Getafe last Sunday left the club at their lowest ebb of the season.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar juggles the ball as he is presented to the Madrid press.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar juggles the ball as he is presented to the Madrid press.

It has been a bittersweet week for Real Madrid. Defeat at Getafe last Sunday left the club at their lowest ebb of the season. As under-pressure coach Bernd Schuster surveyed the massive injury list at the Bernabeu, the task of closing the widening six-point gap on league leaders Barcelona looked ominous. Real needed a lift ahead of tonight's tough home game against Sevilla and it arrived on Wednesday with the announcement Klaas Jan Huntelaar had signed from Ajax for ?20million (Dh93m). The Dutch striker, who will replace his injured compatriot Ruud van Nistelrooy, can officially play in his new No 19 shirt from January, but the Spanish champions couldn't fly him to the Bernabeu quick enough for him to be presented to the media who have been accustomed to writing negative stories recently.

Huntelaar has made all the right noises about scoring lots of goals, but while his arrival was largely welcomed, it caused the head of Real's youth system to resign. Michel, the former Spain international, quit in frustration at the lack of first team chances given to rising stars in Real's cantera (youth system). "The club don't give the youth players the same opportunities they do to other young players who are bought from outside," Michel said.

Those fans who chanted "more cantera, fewer outsiders!" as Huntelaar was unveiled would agree. Both Real and Barcelona regularly develop more talented youngsters than any other European club, but while Barca have given chances to many, Real have seen players like Valencia's Juan Mata, Liverpool's Alvaro Arbeloa and Getafe's Esteban Granero establish themselves at the highest level after leaving the club where they were schooled.

Real president Ramon Calderon disagreed with Michael, stating: "Madrid's youth system does not work" which prompted Barca manager Pep Guardiola to join the argument, saying: "Madrid's cantera is every bit as good as Barca's. The difference is that we give our players a chance." Michel's boss, sporting director Pedrag Mijatovic is expected to comment next week, but he preferred to talk about tonight's game, saying: "This team has the ability to react. We have a team more than capable of winning titles."Fifth-placed Sevilla have injury problems of their own with striker Luis Fabiano suspended.

amitten@thenational.ae