Monday, October 2, 2023
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The luckiest man on the face of the earth

Paco Buyo said last night at El Chiringuito that you have to leave football before football leaves you. But how do you know? How do you know when it’s time to hang up your boots? Or how to know when you have to leave the team of your life? It’s hard. Di Stéfano, for example, did not know it, he was not aware that he had to leave Real Madrid, and it had to be Miguel Muñoz, who had been a cook before becoming a friar, who grabbed the bull by the horns. Don Alfredo did not hang up his boots but nothing was the same anymore because for him it was not the same to play for another team after having won five European Cups in a row with the merengue shirt.

If there is a farewell speech unanimously applauded by everyone in the world of professional sports, that is without a doubt the one that Lou Gehrig delivered in 1939 on the occasion of his farewell to the New York Yankees: “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth”. Gehrig had been a first baseman on probably the most iconic team in Major League Baseball between 1923 and 1939, and although he was already a veteran player, had he not been diagnosed with ALS, he probably would have stayed a little longer. The disease made a decision for him that is usually very complicated because, and although Paco Buyo’s phrase seems quite sensible, it should not be easy to adopt it. “For the last two weeks you have been reading about bad timing, yet today I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Less than two years later, Gehrig died of ALS.

Last night, in the midst of a slide of emotions after a perfect Champions League, another legend said goodbye to the club of his life, Real Madrid. When Marcelo Vieira de Silva Júnior came to our League from Fluminense, Night at the Museum, Mission Impossible 3 and Casino Royale premiered in Spain and on TV El hormiguero, Manolo y Benito corporeision and Survivors; the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Orhan Pamuk and the Prince of Asturias Award (now she is Princess) for Sports went to the Spanish basketball team. Marcelo arrived with Fernando Gago, who today trains Racing, and with Gonzalo Higuaín, who is spending his last days as a professional soccer player at Inter Miami after having passed through Napoli, Juve, Milan and Chelsea. Gonzalo was here 6 years, Gago 5, Marcelo has been here 16, Saturday was the The first Brazilian player to collect a Champions League as captain, he is already the player with the most titles from the most important sports club in history and, although he has tried until the last moment to continue for another year, last night he came to say the same thing that Gehrig said 83 years ago, “today I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth”. And it is because, in the best possible scenario, no one could have written a more perfect script for an ideal farewell, in his stadium, surrounded by his family, applauded by his fans, loved and acclaimed by all.

Marcelo’s goodbye also shows that one can choose between going wrong or doing well. Even with all the pain in his heart because this Sunday he has closed the door to 16 years of his life, the first captain of Real Madrid sent a message of enthusiasm and confidence in the youngest players, a message of institutional responsibility, far away of the desire for protagonism that, in similar situations, other former colleagues of his showed. Basically, and digging a bit into his behavior, the success of this Real Madrid of the second Ancelotti is also the triumph of a locker room full of world stars who do not believe they are, players with a low profile and who have even the extreme that phrase by Di Stéfano that There is no better footballer than all of them together.

Today everyone talks about the comebacks, about the success of a team that has been able to defeat emirs, sheikhs, oligarchs and even UEFA itself, the illustrious Ceferin, and also about the communion between these players and their fans; today everyone talks about the fear that the fans experienced in Paris, which seemed to be the capital of a banana republic, about the organizational example of the capital of Spain and about some fans who do not jump the fences or attack the police but rather endure orderly and with respect, there is even talk of Almeida leaving the bench referring to Courtois when what he should be concerned about is Madrid Central, but I have preferred to do it about this lucky man who came to Madrid as a lucky kid but probably with many fears and that today he leaves his Real Madrid being a world star, a player loved by all and a great captain. Between going badly or doing well, Marcelo Vieira preferred the latter, parking his ego on Calle Padre Damián, near the stadium. Thanks for everything. This will always be your home. We have also been very lucky, Marcelo.

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