About Last Sunday…

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Fernando Torres captioned this photo as “Liverpool family”. I can’t even muster any eloquence to describe what the All-Star Charity Match (a.k.a. everyone’s chance to say goodbye) means to the fans. This club is making me weepy again (apart from the huge blows against Arsenal and that club made of manure).

World Cup 2014: Spain 1 – 5 Netherlands

It’s a little over five hours since the final whistle blew on what has been another Red Wedding of sorts (ah, querida, La Roja, blood has spilled, figuratively), and I am still wearing my Xabi Alonso shirt. The FIFA World Champions 2010 patch and the single star above the Spanish escudo remind me of this team’s greatest achievement—which seems both etched clearly in my mind and yet long, long ago.

Watching the Netherlands dismantle Spain is nothing less of a nightmare unfolding before your eyes. Sure, there were moments were it was too easy to blame Iker Casillas—but where were Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in some of those instances? Those three may have been the most culpable for a couple of goals that could have been saved on any other given competition.

Still, more questions needed to be asked. Why take out Xabi Alonso for Pedro Rodriguez who didn’t contribute to anything? Call me incredibly biased, but Xabi has been the midfield maestro since Euro 2012, overtaking Xavi from setting the pace of the midfield (as well as providing adequate cover). Was Diego Costa truly the best man to be put up front? Would it have been a different story if David Villa started? When will Fernando Torres finally overcome the demons in his head? Where were the fullbacks? Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta were nowhere near tracking back. I missed Alvaro Arbeloa. Has everyone got Spain’s game read like the alphabet?

More importantly: For the ones that ones that won everything, is there anything left to win?

Saying that this is the beginning of the end is quite premature. Defeats will always make Spain have a reflexive conversation with itself—to ask the right questions, to find the right answers.

Just as in 2010 when we lost the opening game, we will bounce back. Tenemos las corazones de campeones.

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¡Reyes de Europa!

If there’s any word to describe the UEFA Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, it would be: INTENSE. It wasn’t the most beautiful of games, but it had that mounting tension that every final should have from the moment the first whistle blew.

An error from Iker Casillas allowed Godin to score in the 36th minute, and in the dying minutes of regulation time, that’s when you start to think, “Surely, we did not build up for La Decima with just this?” Atleti were too good in closing down spaces, with the midfield unable to supply the balls, and BBC largely shut down.

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But faith will bring us La Decima. In the form of a Sergio Ramos header in the 93rd minute.

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What a season it has been for Sergio Ramos. Undoubtedly his best yet. Undoubtedly his most important header.

Mucho animo, as they would say. It was as if he pumped life back into this Real Madrid team, who knew momentum swung their way in extra time.

Then the goals came. From Bale, from Marcelo, and icing on top of the cake, a cleanly scored penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo.

At last, La Decima is ours. What an incredible feeling. I’ll be telling my grandkids one day that I was able to witness for myself a portion of Real Madrid’s journey to their 10th European Cup.

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Rallying the La Roja faithful in time for WC 2014

Maldita Nerea’s “Buena Energia” (Good Energy—sounds something like Paul Hewitt would say)/”Yo Te Seguiré” (I will Follow You) is my new LSS. They’ve got Iker, Xavi, Diego Costa, Jordi Alba, and Cesar Azpilicueta on the video. It is also quite remarkable for the sole fact that Iker does not have a sense of rhythm.

Here’s a TVC from Cruzcampo, which asks for the “hearts”/escudos of the La Roja shirt. Even if it’s in Spanish, you can figure out pretty much what they will do with those collected—form a giant heart to be sent to the NT in Brazil. Oh, and mad props for Sergio Ramos’ subtle acting skills.

My favorite has got to be the Movistar TVC. Basically, it asks the question, “How do you motivate the stars who have won everything?” The simple answer: make them wear disguises and put them in another’s shoes and make them experience the effort put in by different people in different fields. Andres Iniesta is sent to the kitchens to peel potatoes. Juanfran and Santi Cazorla are sent to work as gardeners. Pepe Reina is a pre-school teacher. Xabi Alonso is a nurse in a home for the elderly.

Cannes-worthy, I think.

We’re going to Lisbon!

The German Theory still holds. On their way to capturing the Champions League trophy, Real Madrid had to beat at least one Germany team. Going back into the not-so-distant future, the men in white under Jose Mourinho were eliminated by Bayern Munich (ah, the ghosts of botched penalties) and Borussia Dortmund.

It’s funny how scripts in football just always manage to pit you against your biggest demons. It could be Murphy’s Law in place or it could just be a way to acquit yourself. For Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo, it had to be the latter. Both men scored two goals apiece against Bayern Munich—acquitting themselves nicely of the botched penalties from two years back—and more importantly, booking a ticket for Real Madrid to the Champions League final in Lisbon.

Guess what? Real Madrid had to beat Schalke, Dortmund, and Bayern on the road to the final.

It may be 1/2 the destiny waiting to unfold. After all, the formidable opponent is a hungry, attacking Atletico Madrid side. Ah, as my friend Chica remarked, todos los campeones estan hecho en Madrid. There’s a part of me that would have wanted Chelsea to be in the final, if only for the drama and mind games that will ensue, but parked buses never make for great finals. Besides, all there is to it will just be the football within 90 minutes of play in the Portuguese capital.

In any case, it was a Sergio Ramos Celebration Day yesterday. Two headers merit two crazy football fans in this corner of the world to proudly don their Sergio Ramos shirts.

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Oh, and this was also a glorious post-match photo, in all its off-centered glory.

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The only downside? Xabi will miss the final. He has been on yellow card alert prior to the 2nd leg of the semifinal, and unfortunately, he got booked in the game. Darn it, nine years after Istanbul, and he misses out on Lisbon.

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The Art of Suave

Here are my two favorite men doing what they do best—being suave.

Here’s Tom Hiddleston driving us through the art of villainy for Jaguar.

And here’s Xabi Alonso for the Spring 2014 collection of Emidio Tucci (“solo en El Corte Ingles!”). How can this man get even more perfect?

Men in Suits

A man is always his sexiest when wearing a suit. Consider these two case studies:

Xabi Alonso:

Tom Hiddleston:

Nothing needs to be said further.