After a season spent struggling with injury, Portuguese midfield player Luis Figo looks rejuvenated. In the absence of his illustrious colleagues Zinedine Zidane, Claude Makelele and Ronaldo, Figo took over the leader's role in last night's 6-0 UEFA Champions League first group stage win against KRC Genk. Now, he once again looks like the player who won the Golden Ball in 2001, and his running and passing is harking back to his first year in Madrid, as well as his previous successful spell with FC Barcelona.
Alongside Figo, Argentina's Esteban Cambiasso, a tender 21 years of age, has become one of Madrid's most valuable assets. He is extremely intelligent, puts in a considerable amount of running, passes well and combines perfectly with Makelele and Zidane (and, against Genk, with Albert Celades). Many people see him as Fernando Redondo's heir, and it is possible that he could soon be making his debut with his national team. Given that he now has Cambiasso to call upon, Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque has decided to put Iván Helguera in the centre of the defence, and the side's rearguard looks more solid as a result.
With Zidane and Makelele absent, Del Bosque decided to field the Catalan Celades next to Cambiasso, with Figo and Santiago Solari joining them in midfield. In front of them, Raúl González and Guti provided a constant forward threat. When Raúl, Figo and Guti clicked, Genk had absolutely no answer. "What we didn't do in the first 44 minutes, we did in the next 30 minutes," said Del Bosque. Guti scored two goals in the Champions League opener against AS Roma, and found the target once more against Genk. There is one key question now - what will happen to him when the new boy Ronaldo is finally fit? Does he deserve to be banished to the bench? That is a question that only Del Bosque can answer in the end.
Genk coach Sef Vergoosen decided to field a four-man defence to thwart Madrid's attacking actions. The Belgian side looked solid until Didier Zokora scored an own goal after 45 minutes. From then on, Genk subsided badly, and their players were unable to combat Madrid's quality. "I talked to my players about the individual high class of Real Madrid's stars. We weren't able to stop this virtue," said the Genk coach.
KEY PLAYER: Luis Figo (Real Madrid CF)
The Portuguese ace began the match on the right flank, but gradually he began to move all over the field. He created the most dangerous opportunities in the first half, and won a number of free-kicks in his duel with Genk's Moroccan Akran Roumani. Raúl and Figo linked perfectly for Madrid's second goal. This was the key moment of the match, because Genk went into immediate decline thereafter.
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