The Rise of Real’s BBC
In the 1960’s, Beatlemania swept across Europe, including Spain, and Real Madrid featuring a mop-topped group of younger players with Joe Namath sideburns dubbed “The Ye-Ye Generation” from the words “Yeah Yeah” in a Beatles song. Five decades later, you can forgive Madrid fans for their anglophilia when nicknaming the attacking trident of Benzema, Bale, and Cristiano as the “BBC.” Times change, but attacking flair is eternal.
Perhaps the most striking part of Bale and Cristiano is how they’ve brought the best out of Karim Benzema. For years, fans griped about his weight and he played second-fiddle to now departed Gonzalo Higuain. Of course, the Frenchman’s game is limited. He doesn’t press well, he doesn’t drop deep, and he’s not a particularly great aerial threat. Playing a sole-striker in Jose Mourinho’s hardworking and counter attacking 4-4-1-1, he looked more tired than likely to score.
In current manager Carlo Ancelotti’s attacking 4-3-3, Benzema is a man reborn. With Cristiano and Bale flying down the wings and dashing into the box, his ability to play one-twos and find his own shot have resulted in 21 goals in 37 games, much better than last year. Bale and Cristiano tend to draw a double team, and Karim has feasted on the one vs. one’s with normally slower centerbacks. His bag of tricks and box instincts have flourished, not even including the lovely passes from Modric and Alonso.
Tactics and stats aside, the BBC is just simply fun to watch. In the first leg away to Schalke, each player in the BBC baggaed a brace. In the second leg, don’t expect a similar result. Why? Because Carlo will likely rest one or two of them. The only man who can stop the BBC is the team’s own manager. And even he will only do so begrudgingly.
The Rebirth of Di Maria
When Real Madrid paid over one hundred million Euros to sign Gareth Bale, most fans had mentally said goodbye to Argentine winger Di Maria. We said goodbye as Gonzalo Higuain left for Italian side Napoli. We waved adios as Mesut Ozil departed for English club Arsenal. Given that Di Maria played the same position as Bale, sure he was next in line. But then, thanks perhaps to personal intervention by Ronaldo, he stayed. And the club is better for it.At the season’s onset, Bale struggled for fitness and Di Maria dutifully zipped up and down the right wing. He may not have the shot of Bale, but he’s also no slouch and serves a fine cross. Di Maria, though, is no placeholder. He’s a chameleon. When Bale found his legs and the Argentine started to ride the pine, tragedy struck when Sammy Khedira hurt his knee playing for Germany. The solution? Di Maria.
Of course, Carlo did not immediately think to play Di Maria at center mid alongside Modric (just in front of Alonso). The Argentine had not played that position since his days in Portugal and at the 2010 World Cup with Argentina. In 2010, Mourinho moved him wide to the wing where his pace would be an asset, and also because he has a pretty thin frame. Still, with Sammy injured, no Essien on loan, Carlo asked Di Maria to resurrect his old role. Fans asked: would Modric and Di Maria offer too little muscle in the middle?
The answer is a resounding no. Di Maria has always possessed a great workrate and been responsible on defense. He’s also a vicious tackler, stabbing with his long legs as a mantis devours its pray. His energy and spark, coupled with Modric’s happy feet and Alonso’s long balls, now form an integral part of Madrid’s most technically gifted midfield in a decade. One that has fans dreaming o La Decima.