When things go wrong at Real Madrid, they go really very wrong indeed. Tim Stannard predicted Atletico would triumph but it was with no real conviction. Oh dear...
A couple of tasty fixtures await in La Liga this weekend, with Athletic Bilbao hoping to follow Atletico Madrid's example and make it a party of four at the top of the table...
Angel di María must have thought that he had done enough to win the heart and mind of grumpy-faced Florentino Pérez at Real Madrid. A season that saw the Argentinean as the most important performer with 17 league assists and five in the Champions League would surely have put an end to all stories in the papers every summer that the ever-expendable winger was going to be sold off to fund the importation of the latest glamourous face to pop-up on the club president's TV screen.
Apparently not. Last year, the distinctly unglamorous di María was going to be given the cold shoulder to make room for Isco and Gareth Bale. Instead Mesut Özil got the bigger hump at the Santiago Bernabéu and decided to skip town to Arsenal. Now, the papers have the midfielder moving on to pastures new to make way for either Toni Kroos, James Rodríguez, Arturo Vidal or Paul Pogba. Or all of them.
To make matters more troublesome for di María, watching from Brazil, is that the media in Madrid seem happy to portray the Argentinean as a moaning want-away. One can only imagine who might be putting that idea into the journalist's heads.
In the same way that Real Madrid tend to buy players for marketing reasons, perfectly serviceable footballers are sold on for political purposes. The proof is in the pudding in that department is just how quickly Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder were moved on when Pérez returned as president in 2009, despite the Dutchmen being part of Manuel Pellegrini's tactical plans. The current head honcho is not averse to cutting off his footballing nose to spite his face.
At least Di María has enjoyed the appreciation of the rest of the globe due to his World Cup appearances, until a muscle tear against Belgium potentially scuppered the winger's tournament. Along with Messi, the ever vibrant Real Madrid man was one of the stand-out performers in a still somnambulant Argentina squad.
Unfortunately, the impact of di María in Brazil doesn't seem to have changed the narrative for him in Spain. Part of the problem is the fact that di María is not a particularly media-friendly or savvy figure. Painfully shy and difficult to understand when talking, he does not play the all-important marketing game well. Di Maria certainly didn't help himself when making a gesture of the Michael Jackson groin-grabbing variety when being taken off against Celta Vigo in January, after some fans booed him.
However, in Di María's mind the message was completely justified. "The (fans) always expect me to do something," he said afterwards. "I always have to clarify what I do. With everyone else, nothing happens and with me it's always a complete mess. I fight everyday for a place at Real Madrid and it makes me angry that things are always being invented about me."
When Di María eventually returns to Madrid, the 26-year-old faces another battle for reward and recognition, but you wonder whether the former Benfica man should even bother. There will be plenty of suitors out there willing to give the Champions League winner a new home. He can play on both wings, sit behind a forward, has a killer final ball and is quite the accomplished finisher.
Carlo Ancelotti certainly appreciates the player, saying last month that "I think Di María knows very well that everyone loves him." The club's Italian boss may be sitting in a very small camp at the Bernabéu, with the Argentinean set to move on to a side that can give him what he needs and deserves: big, big love.
Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter
@anthracyte that was really unnecessarily harsh. What purpose does calling him a rat do.- chrissb7