What a signing! Madrid's new pearl looks good

Rafael Van der Vaart was presented as Real Madrid’s “first and only” signing of the summer yesterday and everyone, but everyone, was thinking about the same thing: His wife.  And now La Liga Loca’s doing exactly the same. In fact, today La Liga Loca’s going to write about Mrs Van Der Vaart – an actress, model and telly presenter by the name of Sylvie Mies.

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Real Madrid's new star attraction 

Now, you might think that’s a bit, well, sexist. You might think it’s a bit cheap. You might even think it’s little more than a weak excuse to get a few titillating photos up on the web – not just of Sylvie but also the women in whose dainty little high-heeled footsteps she’s following. Women like Mrs Karembeu, Mrs Figo, and of course Mrs Beckham.  And, let’s face it, you’d be right.  But only half right. Because it really was stunning ... it? she? ... it really was stunning the way that Sylvie completely and utterly outshone the latest Dutchman to arrive at the Santiago Bernabéu. Rafa’s big day became Sylvie’s big entrance. Rafa became a secondary attraction. Thorpe Park to Sylvie’s Alton Towers.   When Rafa arrived, there was polite applause; when Sylvie did jaws hit the floor, grown men started drooling, their eyes spinning maniacally, like a bunch of Benny Hills in a park.

When Rafa did a few kick-ups in a white shirt, no one really cared; when Sylvie strolled onto the Bernabéu pitch in a beige dress everyone went bonkers.

"Doesn't anyone want to ask me any questions?" 

As the media waited for Van Der Vaart’s press conference to start, they took advantage of the fact that Sylvie was sitting in the front row to surround her and start filming, recording and flashing away, firing questions at her. Questions like: “Will you go out with me? Oh pleeeeeease.”  No one was really sure what they’d use the interviews for or even really what to ask - they blatantly just wanted an excuse to talk to her; to have a good look up close; or to get a glamorous picture in their paper/website the next day. Any excuse. (Ahem).  The poor girl was literally cornered. La Liga Loca stopped counting when it got to 25 journalists trapping her in her seat. (La Liga Loca was too cool to join the scrum, naturally). And, ludicrously polite, Sylvie spoke to them all - in impeccable English with a slight sing-song American twang.

By the end of the afternoon she had given hundreds of interviews. Rafa had given just one, to a handsome Real Madrid TV reporter in a sharp suit and a look of Action Man about him. And when Rafa did eventually walk into the pressroom to deliver his first words as a Madrid player, hardly anyone noticed - they were all still gawping at his missus. When he took his seat, they threw a few dolly questions at him but there wasn’t much enthusiasm.

There wasn’t much of a clamour for Rafa. You could sense that everyone just wanted to get it all over - and have another blatant butcher’s at his wife.  It was all a bit un-edifying really. And a little uncomfortable. You felt bad for Rafa. You felt like shouting: “Hey! That’s Madrid’s new star signing sitting up there! Hello! Hello! Helloooooo! Everyone! Rafael Van Der Vaart! Dutch international! Top player! He’s what you’re here for!” Only, by the end, most of them weren’t.   It was quite a sight. The circus, you understand, not her. Well, her too, but you know what La Liga Loca means ... And the impression was confirmed all through the day and into this morning. Sod Mr Van Der Vaart, here’s Mrs Van Der Vaart.

Radio stations forwent tactical analyses or discussions over Rafa’s best position to discuss who the most attractive Madrid wife ever was, concluding that Mrs Karembeu and Mrs Figo were finally getting a run for their money.

(Funnily enough, no one mentioned Guti’s former girlfriend: the actress who turned out to be an actor).

Likewise, the telly splashed her across their new bulletins, making sure they led on “Rafael Van Der Vaart was today presented as a Real Madrid player ALONGSIDE HIS WIFE.”  Alongside? Some way behind, you mean.   Everywhere you looked it was as if Sylvie Mies had been unveiled, not Rafael Van Der Vaart. Marca’s front cover (above) showed Rafa and Sylvie together under the headline “Madrid sign well.”

Anyone who was in any doubt that the great signing in question was the one with the long blond hair not the one with the hairy legs, soon realised their foolishness with Marca’s centre-page spread - dedicated entirely to Sylvie under the headline: “the main attraction.”

On-line magazine Sportyou's cover (below) went one better and didn't include Rafa at all, going for a picture of Sylvie on her own under the headline: "What a signing! Madrid's new pearl looks good."

Meanwhile, AS might have avoided the temptation to put her on the cover but its page 3 (which isn’t THAT kind of page 3) had more photos of Sylvie than her husband, with a solitary paragraph brilliantly managing to crowbar in the words “svelte”, “glamorous”, “elegant”, “beauty”, “radiance”, “presence” and “niceness” all together.

Even German paper Bild got in on the act, lamenting the departure of Miss Bundesliga and beginning the search for a new champion.  After all, they have lost their biggest star to La Liga. Not Rafa Van der Vaart but his wife. As one cartoon this morning had it: Van Der Vaart’s arrival in Spain may not make up for the departure of David Beckham but it most certainly will make up for the absence of Victoria Beckham.

And at the Santiago Bernabéu yesterday it was hard to avoid the slightly uneasy conclusion that that was all that mattered.

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