Gareth Bale could be set for a starring role for Real Madrid as coach Rafa Benitez uses him as a number 10 this season.The Welshman played behind striker Jese in Saturday’s friendly against Roma in a move Benitez confirmed “was not an experiment”.Bale was largely used on the right flank by previous coach Carlo Ancelotti, with James Rodriguez and Isco used most frequently behind the striker. Despite failing to ignite Real’s attack in the 0-0 draw with Roma – and apparently upsetting Cristiano Ronaldo by not passing to him – Bale appears set for a central role.Ronaldo expressed frustration with Bale last season and reports in Spain suggested the Portuguese was unimpressed by his team-mate on Saturday – yet Benitez is a big fan of Bale. “Playing him in behind the striker is an option and I like it,” said Benitez. “It’s not an experiment and I think that it’s an interesting possibility for other games if he likes it there.”Madrid daily Marca believes Bale will be central to Real’s fortunes despite being jeered by some fans at the end of a difficult second season at the Bernabeu. The move could lead to a greater balance in a Real Madrid team that has been worryingly reliant on the goals of Ronaldo.Despite ostensibly lining up on the left wing, Ronaldo has scored 280 goals in his last five seasons and notched a personal best tally of 48 Liga goals last season.Benitez has been careful not to single Ronaldo out as a star player, saying on Friday: “Ronaldo, Bale, all of them — they are so good. For me it’s not a problem. James (Rodriguez), Isco, (Karim) Benzema, Ronaldo or Bale, we have an option with all of them.” –
Buenos Aires, Argentina | AFP |Like neurotic parents, Argentines swung from criticism to unconditional love for their star footballer Lionel Messi this week, providing the soccer-mad nation’s many therapists with rich material for psychoanalysis.Fans’ frustration at the superstar’s missed penalty in Sunday’s defeat to Chile in the Copa America Centenario soon gave way to panic as he vowed to quit the national team ahead of the 2018 World Cup.As fans online pleaded “Leo, don’t go,” psychologists, neurologists and philosophers appeared on chat shows and published newspaper columns to analyze the hero’s motivations and help the nation cope.To judge by the past criticism Messi has received, having a player widely rated as the best in the world is not enough for Argentines.They also want him to win — as Diego Maradona did at the World Cup in 1986.Now they have started to ask themselves whether they are too demanding.President Mauricio Macri said Tuesday that Lionel Messi was “God’s gift” to the country and it should “take care of him.”One school teacher became a minor celebrity when she sent an open letter to the player which was read out on television.“Please don’t give up,” wrote the teacher, Yohana Fucks — a not-uncommon surname in Argentina.“Don’t make people think that all we care about in this country is winning and being first.”Football idolatryAndres Rascovsky, former president of the Argentine Psychoanalytical Association, links the country’s intense sporting passions to its dirty politics. “Argentines need idols,” he said.That desire stems from “the humiliation and denigration of the masses by the politicians,” Rascovsky added.“That generates a need for them to redeem themselves through sporting heroes like Maradona or Messi.”The provocative extrovert Maradona “is more identified with transgression and omnipotence,” Rascovsky said.That exuberant spirit is epitomized by what Maradona called his “Hand of God” goal against England at the 1986 World Cup.“The Hand of God was a goal of transgression, a false goal scored with the hand which in a spirit of idolatry was elevated to the status of the divine,” Rascovsky said.The nation’s relationship with Messi is different, however.“A lack of decent values causes a lot of Argentines to identify with the transgressive omnipotence of Maradona,” said Rascovsky.“On the other hand, Messi comes across as a more modest, normal personality.”Maradona himself recently accused Messi of having “no personality.” But he too threw his support behind Messi after he vowed to quit, urging him to stay.“I knew him when he was a kid,” said Enrique Dominguez, who coached the young Messi at Newell Old Boys football club.“He is very sensitive though his face doesn’t always show it.”Share on: WhatsApp
The Rebels held playoff scoring leader Ryan Edwards off the scoresheet Sunday.In 11 games this playoff season, Edwards has 21 points including eight goals.Rockets a game away from knocking off GhostridersThe Golden Rockets took care of business on home ice, winning both games to assume a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eddie Mountain Divisional Final.The Rockets dumped the Riders 6-3 Saturday in Golden.The win came on the heels of a 7-3 drubbing the Rockets put on Fernie Friday.The series resumes Monday in Fernie. It’s not normal to see Jordan Gluck allow six goals in one game as he did Friday in Fruitvale during Game four.So with their top goalie back in fine form, the Castlegar Rebels regained control to the Murdoch Division Final with a stingy 2-1 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League playoff victory Sunday afternoon in the Sunflower City.The Rebels now lead the best-of-seven affair 3-2 and can eliminate the defending KIJHL champs Monday in Fruitvale when the series resumes for Game six. Puck drop is 7 p.m.Goals from Brayden Horcoff and Travis Wellman was enough for Gluck, who stopped 32 of 33 shots in the Castlegar nets.Castlegar held period leads of 1-0 and 2-0 before the Hawks snapped Gluck’s bid for a shutout in the third period with a goal from Dan Holland.