Blame game begins in Madrid press

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At the start of the season, journalists lucky enough to be working for Marca and AS had three stock questions they would ask Real Madrid’s footballers whenever they saw them: Would you like to win the Champions League? Would you like to win La Liga? Would you like to win the Copa del Rey?

The players in turn would give three stock answers: Yes. Yes. The Copa del what?

Thanks to the mighty Alcorcón and a French side described by Guti as “not one of the great teams of Europe”, hacks may simply be probing their subjects on the state of the weather come the middle of May, if the defeat of Lyon eventually sends morale-sapped Madrid into a nose-dive.

The pressure of five years of knockout failure, the quest for La Décima, insane summer spending and the failure to score an away goal at Stade Gerland had already given the Real Madrid players the biggest of willies ahead of Wednesday’s tie.

But the knowledge that the final was being held in the Santiago Bernabeu could well have pushed the footballers to the limit. This extra fear factor was like an arachnophobe finding a tarantula their tights.

After the early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid looked calm and confident and on the way to racking up an Arsenal-sized score against their Gallic opponents.

But when the second never came, passes went astray (or were never made) and chances were missed, tempting Lyon into their second half revival that sent the home side crashing out of the Champions League in the last 16 for the sixth time in a row.

Pjanic! Lyon level and Madrid are on their way out

Within minutes of a tearful Gonzalo Higuaín trudging off the pitch and Guti attacking his teammates for being too individualistic on live television, Marca had set out its journalistic stall with the paper’s website leading with “Goodbye Champions, Goodbye Pellegrini.”

It was a theme that was developed in the following morning’s edition with the somewhat rude instruction for the Third-Choice Chilean to “Leave!” on the front cover.

The paper – and unofficial mouthpiece for Florentino Pérez – has been calling for the Madrid manager’s head now for months and Wednesday’s knockout disaster sees them ramping up the campaign to dizzying levels, with Roberto Gómez noting that “Madrid will not be in the final at the Bernabeu, but it is the final for Pellegrini.”

Marca’s Thursday editorial echoes these thoughts by announcing that Madrid "need to start looking for a coach for next season. Last night must never happen again."

The paper’s other traditional target is Gonzalo Higuaín, on the simple grounds that he was a Ramón Calderón signing and is popular with the fans. There have been renewed attacks on the Argentinian striker, who comes third from bottom of their midweek list of doom.

“It would be unfair to make him fully responsible for the defeat but had he been more on target then things could have turned out differently,” tutted Marca.

AS are a little less political in their post-match protesting and simply call the knockout to Lyon a “catastrophe” on their front cover. “This is the disaster that never ends,” sobs the next page.

The maddest of Madridistas, Tomás Roncero, mopes over the club having thrown their enormous summer spending into the bin and vents his righteous spleen in Kaká’s direction. “A footballer who cost €68m cannot behave like a trainee who’s on probation,” rants Roncero about the Brazilian God-botherer.

Kaka: Down the dumper

Over in the offices of Barcelona-based Sport and Mundo Deportivo, the aroma may be getting a little unpleasant as their journalists appear to have wet themselves over Real Madrid’s latest mishap.

“The Great Failure KO,” yells Sport, using bold white letters on a sombre black background.

“Isn’t football great!” beams Josep Maria Casanovas, having the time of his life in his Catalan column. “Florentino Pérez spent the worst night of his life watching his big dream turn to s**t.”

“The faces of Ronaldo and co heading back to the dressing rooms were those of losers, of failures,” continues Casanovas, evidently warming to his theme.  

Mundo Deportivo spent some quality time turning global sports headlines about Real Madrid’s defeat into a cackling collage and finger-point that “football doesn’t have a price.”

“Once again they crash out in the last 16 because no one in Europe allows themselves to be intimidated by ‘Villaratos’ or other ridiculous inventions,” writes Santi Nolla, the paper’s director.

In the yin and yang nature of football in Spain, what has been a genuine, all-out, abandon-ship disaster for one club has turned out very nicely indeed for another. 

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