There will be no room for sentimentality when Fernando Morientes and Olympique de Marseille meet a Real Madrid CF side captained by great friend Raúl González in a must-win Group C match for OM.
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There will be no room for sentimentality when Fernando Morientes and Olympique de Marseille go looking for victory over Real Madrid CF in the UEFA Champions League, though the sight of old friend Raúl González will revive some fond memories.
Morientes has travelled a very different road to the Madrid captain since leaving Los Merengues to join AS Monaco FC in 2003, moving on to Liverpool FC in 2005. His departure from Spain signaled the end of a hugely successful time for the 33-year-old, who won three UEFA Champions League titles and collected two Liga winners' medals in tandem with Raúl. The pair formed a fearsome combination having first met in the Spain youth setup. "I've known him for nearly 15 years, since the [1995 FIFA] U-20 World Cup," Morientes said. "I think I was 19 and he 18 at the time. We were young and had a lot fun playing there."
Spain went on to finish fourth in Qatar, yet for Morientes it was the innocence of the time that still brings a smile. "I think that moment was one of the most beautiful in our careers because when you are with the younger national teams the pressure you face in club football doesn't exist," he said. "You live life and football in a totally different manner; we did so as teenagers who were just at the start, with a hunger to go on and achieve great things. Those memories of spending time together, the games and the training sessions, are great."
Morientes again teamed up with Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer in 1997 when he moved to the Spanish capital from Real Zaragoza and as the duo blossomed on-field so too did their friendship off it. "For those lucky enough to know Raúl, you can appreciate what he's really like," he admitted. "He's a normal person and a good friend. You could see from the early days that he had a great personality and the ability to occupy an important place in the culture of Real Madrid. Nowadays if we play against each other we always say 'hello' before the game and afterwards we can spend more time together and feel more at ease."
That will have to wait at the Stade Vélodrome, where Marseille need to beat Madrid while a draw or even a defeat by two goals would suffice to take Manuel Pellegrini's side through. The situation is hardly new for Morientes, who scored in both legs of the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League quarter-final victory against his former side while on loan at Monaco. "To play against them is something special and even more so when you are playing in a great competition," Morientes said.