Joshua Sutter of Managing Madrid was kind enough to complete a somewhat bemused edition of the question-and-answer ritual with us in advance of tonight’s MLS All-Star Game against Real Madrid. Thanks, Joshua!
Hot Time: How do Madridistas feel about the revelations around Luka Modric and his long-term and rather unsavory business relationship with strongman Zdravko Mamic? Do you expect that the worst is behind Modric, or is there more difficulty over this in his future?
Managing Madrid: The Modric thing is difficult to gauge. Since the case is on recess and yet to be completely resolved it's tough to say how exactly to feel. Once the dust has settled on the situation it'll be a bit easier to sort out opinions on the on Modric and Mamic.
HT: Real Madrid, despite years of massive transfer spending, always seems to manage to feature young players in key depth roles. How do you explain Madrid's continued success in this regard? And who are some of the younger players we're likely to see?
MM: In order to most effectively recruit and build a team there are a few different approaches. To make the best use of the massive purse that Madrid are lucky enough to have, you can buy players at an older age and pay more, or you can be wise with scouting and purchase players at a younger age. Now, Real obviously do a bit of both. However, to continue to have a breadth of youth and experience on your side balancing buying players before and in their prime is key, and Real have done well at both.
The guy that MLS fans should keep an eye on is Marcus Asensio. He is one of the most enjoyable young players to watch on Madrid . Asensio scored 10 goals and had six assists last year for Real in all competitions and is going to play a much bigger role in Zidane's side this season. IF you want an idea of what he can add to a Madrid side, check out his goal against Barcelona in the Miami El Clásico just last weekend:
HT: Which current Galatico is most likely to dive backwards into a swimming-pool of cash as a Designated Player with MLS?
MM: The obvious answer is Cristiano Ronaldo. He's the oldest player on the roster, so perhaps the closest to being in that stage of his career. The name recognition is there for a big money, backed by sponsors, move to an MLS side. It just makes sense for the next stage of his career, after he feels done at Real Madrid. A move to the Chinese Super League or league like it doesn't make sense for Ronaldo. He's one of the all-time greats, and playing in a league not in one of the main media markets isn't something I see in his future.
And here are my answers to Joshua’s questions, which serve as a sobering reminder how little many soccer-loving people in the USA know about MLS:
MM: What do you want from the game against Madrid? It's a weird dichotomy of seeing the MLS's best play against a world power, and in some ways measure the league's progress, but it's also tough to judge because the All-Stars aren't a cohesive unit.
HT: Frankly, I just want a spectacle that leaves the Fire players uninjured and without serious emotional difficulties. I'm an old MLS grognard, and rather past the point that I'm worried about how a group of All-Stars shows against a world power in warm-up mode - unless Real Madrid wins this game 45-(-5) and leaves with the souls of the subs bench, I'm unlikely to care. I'm curious how this very weird MLS XI will try to work, and how quickly Velko Paunovic will sub in actual central defenders.
MM: Who's the non-ex Euro player Madrid fans should keep an eye on?
HT: There's only a couple of guys in the XI who haven't played in Europe, so the obvious choice there is Miguel Almíron, who plays all over the attacking band for Tata Martino's Atlanta United squad. The young Designated Player manages to find pockets of space in crowded midfields, and seems to turn up on the end of opponents' bad passes more often than mere chance would predict. The 23-year-old Paraguayan was linked with Arsenal last summer; acquiring his signature, as an expansion team, was considered a sign of the overall seriousness of Atlanta's intent.
MM: Would you rather see an MLS All-Star game be against the Liga MX or another CONCACAF domestic league All-Star team?
HT: I'm going to answer this question backwards. Any MLS All-Star team matched against a non-Mexico CONCACAF foe would be interesting, I guess, but not the kind of draw that MLS looks for from this glitz-and-glamor event. Frankly, there's not a huge number of clubs in the world who really fit the bill for this game any more. We'd be unlikely to see this against Valencia, for example.
Now, the prospect of a pure interleague All-Star game - the best of LigaMX against the best of MLS - could really be compelling, as the rivalry between the nations and leagues would provide an interesting overlay to an otherwise meaningless kickaround.