rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Sports » Season to celebrate for Real Madrid

Season to celebrate for Real Madrid

December 16, 2002 18:52 IST

Real Madrid will have every reason to feel on top of the world on Wednesday when they close out their centenary celebrations with a match against a FIFA World Selection featuring many of the best players on the planet.

The 75,000 fans expected at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium will have little concern for the names on the opposition team sheet, though, as they come to honour a Real side already with the look of an all-star line-up.

Real will run out with a side that could even claim comparison with the club's golden age from 1956 to 1960, when the likes of Alfredo di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, Paco Gento and Raymond Kopa were leading the team to five European Cups.

On Wednesday, it will be Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Raul and Ronaldo bearing the standard for a team crowned this year as World and European champions.

Real's Fernando Hierro, Luis Figo, Claude Makelele with the World club trophyThe club had originally believed that FIFA would clear the calendar completely to ensure that the whole of football was focused on the Bernabeu.

In the end that has proved impossible and the World Selection will feature no players based in England or France, for example.

The likes of Rivaldo, Michael Ballack, Alessandro Del Piero and Paolo Maldini will be present, though, to play for a side coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari, the man who masterminded Brazil's World Cup win in South Korea and Japan.

The game is the climax of four days of FIFA meetings in Madrid and comes the day after Tuesday's annual gala awards ceremony, where Real are already certain of receiving one award -- a special trophy to mark the club's first 100 years.

They also have a strong chance of landing Tuesday night's main prize, with their Brazilian striker Ronaldo and French midfielder Zidane vying for the Player of the Year award with Bayern Munich's German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.

Whether or not Ronaldo takes FIFA's top honour for the third time in his career, he will step up to receive the silver ball for being named second best player at the World Cup, as well as the golden shoe for finishing the tournament as top scorer.

The Brazilian is also in the running for the Golden Ball award for Europe's top player due to be announced by France Football on Monday.

After the match against the World Selection has been played, the fireworks have fizzled out and Placido Domingo has sung the club's new anthem, Real will be able to look back on a year that has been remarkable even for an institution with near-mythical status.

Real began the year still celebrating a FIFA award for Team of the Century, announced at the last annual awards gala.

While the 2001-02 Spanish league title proved beyond them, Vicente del Bosque's side won the title they really wanted when they landed the European Cup for the ninth time thanks to a wonder goal from Zidane in the final in Glasgow.

The team then settled an outstanding score with history by winning the European Super Cup for the first time, clinching it in style with a 3-1 win over Feyenoord in Monaco.

WORLD'S BEST

Meanwhile, president Florentino Perez was adding to the club's reputation as the natural home for the world's best players as he finalised a deal to bring in Ronaldo from Inter Milan.

RonaldoRonaldo made an immediate impact on his Real debut, taking about a minute to open his scoring account and adding a second goal a few minutes later, and the Brazilian scored again to lead Real to a World Club Cup victory over Olimpia back in Yokahama.

There was one major disappointment over the year, when Real were beaten 2-1 by Deportivo Coruna in the final of the King's Cup at the Bernabeu 100 years to the day since the club's official formation.

There are also nagging doubts about whether the team will be consistent enough to win the league title back, and whether a poor start to the second phase of the Champions League will spell the end for their hopes of a 10th European Cup success.