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Detecting that there is something not quite right in the world of Real Madrid isn't always done in the traditional manner, which is assessing how things are on the pitch. The club has blown many a match in the past, and still gone on to win the league at a canter. More often than not, a bad result can be put down to laziness, a lack of concentration or Pepe.
Instead, sensing a disturbance in the Madrid universe is akin to Kremlinology and rodents taking cover when low level tremors are felt. There is definitely a gentle tingle going on at the moment and it isn't just because of the 4-2 defeat at Real Sociedad on Sunday, even after the visitors stormed into a 2-0 lead. It wasn't even due to the fact that yet more set-piece goals were conceded - that has been the way at Madrid for a good four or five years now.
The real issue is that some of the heavy hitters of the team are not entirely happy with how the past two summers have gone in the transfer market, and in this case the big swingers are Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian coach is normally as political and reticent as they come - the employee of the month, as Roberto Palomar wrote in Marca - but Ancelotti sounded very unhappy indeed at the departure of Xabi Alonso, a key player who had the chance to win back-to-back Champions League titles with Madrid rather than jump ship to the Bundesliga and go through all the effort of moving house.
"We signed Toni Kroos to play alongside Xabi," complained Ancelotti with his favoured eyebrow raised, "but if a player wants to go then I am not going to stop him." How much of an effort his bosses made to keep the midfielder is open to debate with a longstanding rift with Iker Casillas dating back to the José Mourinho days potentially a key factor in Alonso literally donning a pair of Lederhosen to pose in Bayern's pre-season photo-shoot.
Another departure from a perfectly serviceable team - a Champions League winning outfit, nonetheless - in the form of Angel di María has also hit some members of the squad hard, with the winger writing that it was just one particular person at the club simply did not like the cut of his gib. That accusation was leveled quite clearly at president Florentino Pérez, who felt that the Argentinean's face simply didn't fit. Or sell enough shirts.
The departures of these two players - and Sami Khedira was nearly forced out too, before Ancelotti put his foot down - has left Real Madrid a little unbalanced, without their quarterback to sit and protect the back four and a big game player who has always gelled well with Cristiano Ronaldo. James Rodríguez and Gareth Bale simply aren't at that level of reliability yet. The loss of Di María and the unselfish Özil last season has clearly left Ronaldo more than a little miffed.
"If I was in charge, I would not have done things this way," Ronaldo said, "but if the president thinks that it is best for the team to have signed the players he signed and let others go, you have to respect this and support his decisions." In the frenzied media environment of Spain, this is bordering on a tabloid 'slamming' of Florentino Pérez from Ronaldo, who was absent from Sunday's defeat.
The loan of Javier Hernández certainly won't do any harm, as the club only had the single forward in Karim Benzema, but an awful lot of character and grace under pressure has been lost with the departures of Alonso and di María. Unfortunately for Madrid, the side's return to league action in a fortnight's time is going to be a test of whatever backbone is left with Atlético Madrid coming to town, a team that showed in the recent Super Cup encounter that they are still more than a match for their neighbours.
Whilst Atlético still have work to do on their new attacking formation, which now features the very exciting Alessio Cerci, the character and DNA of the team is alive and kicking. Once again, Real Madrid need to change the wheels while the bus is in motion with a transfer window that was a reminder of who will always be in charge of the team, no matter the figure giving instructions from the touchline.
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter