Rejuvenated Real Madrid embark on a spot of pre-season Cherries-picking
While not everything in Barcelona's garden is entirely rosy, with the unfortunate Tito v Pep spat, all is blooming with Real Madrid. That's the reality according to Marca, at least, with the paper following its traditional pattern of positivity following the appointment of a new coach at the Bernabeu. The footballers are smiling more, working more, kicking the ball around more and spending hours and hours giddy with happiness in each other's company. Even Pepe has stopped snarling and kicking the coffee machine.
Wednesday's front cover was the most gushing of the week, with another love-in for Cristiano Ronaldo. Apparently the king of the contract-stallers was back in training without an ounce of fat on him. 'Cristiano surprises everyone with his spectacular physical shape,' swooned the paper, ignoring the fact the forward wasn't exactly carrying 15 spare tyres around his waist last season.
While Ronaldo was expected to be cramming in some serious gym and mirror time in Valdebebas, the sight of Gonzalo HiguaÃÂn was more of a surprise. The forward had made it quite clear he wanted a move over the summer. Juventus stated their interest. Ipswich Town put in an offer for a swap deal with a couple youth teamers. Both deals came to nothing. Instead, it is dithering Arsenal who are reportedly offering way below what Real Madrid are requesting for a footballer they don't really need to sell. Arsene Wenger should perhaps be reminded that HiguaÃÂn was born in France as an incentive to up his financial game.
Yet there have been some departures to help fund the expensive pinching of some of Spain's finest young talent from other clubs. Pedro LeÃÂ³n was sold to Getafe without anyone really noticing, JosÃÂ© CallejÃÂ³n moved to Napoli, with RaÃÂºl Albiol reportedly on the brink of joining the winger in Southern Italy.
AS have been a little bit sniffy with Real Madrid of late, and the feeling is very much mutual, at least according to LLL's covert insiders. The paper's headlines have focussed more on transfer targets, with the impressive topless torso of Zlatan Ibrahimovic gracing the front cover of Friday's edition.
The headline talks of 'The Hunt for a Number Nine'. Marca reports that the Swede's agent was in town trying to convince Real Madrid to make a move for his client, but that Carlo Ancelotti was uninterested in the concept. That sounds a shame to LLL, whose stomach would be grumbling in anticipation if both Ronaldo and the former Milan man were to line up together at the Santiago BernabÃÂ©u.
The whole Gareth Bale business has died down a little, leaving the only point of interest in Real Madrid's world being whether HiguaÃÂn will be staying or going. And that depends on Arsenal's motivation, which is linked to Luis Suarez and Liverpool. And so on and so on and so on...
The great Ancelotti revolution begins on Sunday evening in the curious surroundings of Bournemouth. Fans on England's south coast will be able to see the newly-promoted Cherries facing a bemused Cristiano Ronaldo. The Bournemouth players though will have just a single thought on their minds when facing the famous Portuguese forward - 'what a hunk.'