Constant rumour and speculation is par for the course when it comes to Real Madrid. Whether Los Blancos have a settled side winning week-in, week-out, or whether they have a side struggling for improvement, not a day goes by without players being linked with a move to, or away from, the Santiago Bernabeu.
It's usually why I steer clear of the majority and take the rumours with a pinch of salt as do, I suspect, the majority of Madridistas. Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Esteban Granero are amongst the names making the headlines with possible moves away from the Spanish capital this season. Players such as Neymar, Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez are amongst those being mentioned with a move in the other direction.
Two rumours have caught my attention this week, however, and compelled me to mention them in this week's blog. Arsenal striker Robin van Persie's possible move to the Bernabeu - and Madrid manager Jose Mourinho's possible move away.
Let's start with van Persie - or RvP as he's affectionately know in the English Premier League. For sure, it's the case that whenever a top-class player is hitting top form he's linked with one of Madrid and/or Barcelona. You can probably throw the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, AC and Inter Milan, in there too. There's a bit more to the van Persie mumblings, though, with the player himself reported as saying he would be "excited" to play at Madrid, according to Spanish sports paper Marca.
The Dutch striker has netted a splendid 22 goals in 24 appearances for the Gunners so far this season in the league and he's arguably the hottest property in the Premier League. He's Arsenal's key man, no doubt, and one would expect Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's manager, to do all he can to keep the club's talisman at the Emirates Stadium. However, Wenger and Arsenal have come in for criticism from some of the club's supporters over the last few years for failing to win silverware - they've not won a thing since their FA Cup success of 2005. That, coupled with the high possibility of Arsenal missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in over a decade, could force a man of van Persie's pedigree to look elsewhere to bolster his trophy cabinet. Trophies won't be in short supply at the Bernabeu, that can be almost guaranteed.
RvP is reaching his 'peak' at 28 and his next move - should he decide on departing London - is likely to be his next big one. Where bigger than Madrid? They have the funds, and with less than 18 months now left on van Persie's contract, Arsenal could well cash-in. The club has already shown its lack of power this season by losing both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, to Barca and Manchester City respectively, despite claims from Wenger that the pair wouldn't be going anywhere. The Dutchman could well follow suit if Madrid comes calling.
His qualities as a striker are unquestioned - van Persie would be one of the first names down on the Madrid teamsheet if he was to make the move. Although not proving problematic, Mourinho has rotated Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain this season. That wouldn't the case with van Persie, who would slot into Madrid's attacking line-up week-in, week-out, like a glove. Both of Madrid's strikers this season have shown their qualities by bagging a hatful of goals. Both have improved from last season, too, but haven't been in top gear all season, it's been more of a case of 'fits and starts'. There's always room for improvement, no matter how good a side is, and van Persie would certainly improve Madrid. Make it happen, Mr Perez.
What of Jose? Well, Fabio Capello's resignation from the England manager's post, that's what. Not that Mourinho will take the national job - he's said before that the job should be for an Englishman - although he is on many people's shortlist in England. Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham Hotspur manager, seems nailed on for the England job and that opens up an opportunity at Spurs - one Mourinho has been linked with this week.
Jose is the master of setting up his next job. Many people believe he could walk into any job in world football (Barcelona now the only exception for obvious reasons...), but his next job seems likely to be back in England. From the minute he left Chelsea he's always aired his desire to return, it's just been a case of which club he'd choose - or which club would go for him, depending on how you look at it. Manchester United? City? A return to Chelsea? While Mourinho's last three jobs have all been at big clubs - Chelsea, Inter Milan and Madrid - he does like a challenge. The challenge of winning the league at Chelsea, or the Champions League and Scudetto at Inter, and getting Madrid back the Liga crown - something he's currently on-course for.
What challenge awaits him in England? United has been mentioned but Sir Alex Ferguson will still be at Old Trafford for a few years yet. A return to Chelsea is debatable due to his relationship with the owner, while Arsenal and Mourinho may not be the best match in terms of playing style, and transfer style. What does that leave him? Spurs or Liverpool, two clubs who have ambitions to end years of league glory by winning the Premier League. Both have the finances and both are relatively well positioned for an assault on the title.
So what of his time at the Bernabeu? It hasn't exactly been a stroll for Jose. Not on-the-pitch (although that does have implications) but off it - a rough ride with the Spanish press, even a complete dislike for some, including usually pro-Madrid Marca. A struggle for 'complete' power at the club has gone on since his arrival. Whistles at the Bernabeu a few weeks ago greeted chants of 'Jose Mourinho' from the Madrid Ultras. It's probably water off a ducks back though, and if anyone can handle it, Mourinho's probably the man.
He won't quit a challenge. Just look at the table - Madrid are seven points clear at the top of La Liga. Although it was a realistic aim of toppling Barca this season, few expected such dominance in the league at this stage. But while Madrid want to win the league, many eyes are also on the Champions League - Madrid's major joy. I can't see Jose leaving unless he wins both or unless, of course, he's pushed. That Champions League success may be this season, but Madrid have still found Barca a tough nut to crack in head-to-head meetings this season so Champions League glory is still a way away. It could be this season, it could be next.
A return to England is almost a definite, but just when is the big question.
I'm almost forgetting there's a game this weekend - Levante at the Bernabeu. The early-season Liga leaders caused one of Madrid's two league defeats this season when they edged out Mourinho's men 1-0 in Valencia but Madrid should face no such problems on home soil this weekend. It's the old saying that the next game is the most important - and it's apt for Los Blancos at this stage of the season. Keep winning, and there's nothing Barca can do to deny their bitter rivals the league crown this season. Barca are at Osasuna and although they've battered them twice already this season at home - 8-0 and 4-0 - Osasuna are a different prospect on home soil and will be looking to make amends from those heavy losses.
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