Has Calderón got his numbers wrong again?

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As Ramón Calderón wandered the room with microphone in hand, like a stinky stand-up comedian playing a dinner-dance in Doncaster, he realised that things weren’t going to plan.

“You’ve been a great audience. No really, you have. Please take care when going home... especially you, Royston! (boom tish). Coming up next, it’s Pedja Mijatovic with his raising the dead act! I’ve been Ramón Calderón, good night!”

The scene was the dining room of Real Madrid’s training centre. The time was last Friday afternoon and the occasion was a brave attempt to raise the sinking spirits of the Whites walking wounded ahead of the match against Recreativo.

Being a gentlemen of a certain age and possessing an ego the size of Jupiter, the Madrid president's first thought was that there was nothing a footballer enjoys more than a long speech delivered by someone they consider to be a bit of a plonker.

And seeing that Calderón not so much loves the sound of his own voice, but buys it a dozen roses every morning, Braveheart-style bravado was not a problem.

But then the Bernabeu bigwig realised that because the dinner involved neither the players’ beds, a Playstation, nor nudey ladies, their eyes were starting to glaze over.

“Time for plan B” thought Calderón, bringing out his Children in Need sized chequebook... an action that even brought Guti out of his deep reflections on whether there really are small people living in his television.

The Madrid president’s grand idea was that each footballer would receive 120,000 sparkling euro if they won the five matches against Recreativo, BATE, Getafe, Sevilla and Zenit. Or so the story went in the Spanish press.

The club claimed that the players would be receiving a cash bonus to reward them for playing a friendly, worth a reported 2.5 million euro, in the Middle East during their winter break. And nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that there was pandemonium of panic in the Bernabeu backrooms.

The incentive / bribe - depending on which way your capitalist cookie crumbles - has not gone down at all well in the game in Spain with the general perception being that it shouldn’t be necessary to pay players to win matches, when they are already receiving a hefty salary.

“People like Raúl, Casillas, Ramos and Guti don’t need to go out onto the pitch with barcodes on their head,” grumbled Tomás Roncero in Sunday’s AS.

Sport were equally as dismissive, pointing out that if Calderón believed that money was the solution to all footballing problems, why did he let Juan Mata leave for Valencia because of his demands for a 900,000 euro-a-year salary and allow the signing of Royston Drenthe for 13 million euro.

The paper may also have asked why Robinho was paid less than Roberto Soldado - a fact which may have been a slight factor in the Brazilian’s decision to jump ship to Manchester City.

But Calderón’s cash plan hasn’t just brought a sniffy response from the press, but from inside the game too.

Getafe president and Madrid ‘socio’ Angel Torres commented that “with the financial crisis and three million unemployed, it’s a bad example to talk about so much money, so easily.”

Athletic Bilbao coach, Joaquín Caparrós argued that the extra financial incentive is “saying with a giant megaphone that the football side of things is not going so well.”

All the talk of the Christmas bonus will be redundant in just a few hours time, should Real Madrid fail to beat BATE in temperatures that could freeze blood, according to an outdoing-each-other Madrid press.

AS’s Alfredo Relaño puts the match into historical context by noting that the freezing temperatures have brought about the demise of a number of other foreign invaders in the past.

“Napoleon's grand army and Hitler’s Wehrmacht both succumbed to the cold,” warned the paper’s editor getting all historical on the readers’ booties.

But there will be one warming thought that will get the players through Tuesday’s chilly Champions League clash in Minsk... the 120,000 euro they will be paid simply for doing their job.

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