José Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo pick up meaningless two-match bans

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While Atletico Madrid was on their way to claiming the Copa del Rey last week, José Mourinho was being sent off during his last major match at Real Madrid’s helm. When Cristiano Ronaldo saw red  in extra time, the Merengues couldn’t have had a more fitting end to a bitterly disappointing season.

With their 2-1 win, the Atleti snapped a 14-year unbeaten run against their capital tormentors, depriving El Real of the thin silver lining they’d hoped to take into the summer. How else do you end a season that started with promise, ended in turmoil, and became microcosm of Mourinho’s time in Madrid?

Now comes the check. Both Mourinho and Ronaldo have been handed two-match bans, suspensions that only apply to cup play. Mourinho’s ban was given for the protestations that saw him dismissed. Ronaldo gets a one-match ban for the red card and a second one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, having been cautioned earlier in the match.

Neither punishment’s likely to mean anything. When this news was handed down, José Mourinho was probably walking movers through his house in Madrid, pointing at baroque designs and classical prints – the curt instructions like a puppet José: “Take it. Leave it. Take it. Forget it.” Unless he coaches in Spain again, this suspension’s never getting served, and unless Barcelona has a change of heart in the future, Mourinho’s days in La Liga are probably done.

Ronaldo, for all the rumors surrounding him, is likely to stay in Madrid, which means he’ll probably serve his suspension. Yet given the nature of the Copa del Rey it’s unlikely to matter. Real Madrid’s latest opponents in their opening Copa rounds have been Sporting Gijon, Ponferradina, Murcia, and Alcorcon (to whom they lost in 2009). If they can’t beat those teams without Ronaldo, a Copa exist won’t be the team’s biggest problem.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.