RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Thursday, July 30

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: REAL MADRID CF

{Sergio Ramos gets the most expensive red cards on Earth} 

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, but as we attempt to de-Anglicize ourselves further from that oppressive influence on our post-colonial western existence, we’ve decided to give the same treatment to top European clubs outside of England as well. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson. Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, VENMO US FOR OUR METAPHYSICAL LABOR @ravenmack23.]

We have decided to give a shot at giving one European club a month the 25-man metaphysical treatment as well, because to a certain extent, the UEFA Champions League is seen as a pinnacle event for U.S. and worldwide football fans. The best clubs in England work towards qualifying for that, as do the top clubs in the other major domestic leagues. A certain hierarchy has developed over the past few decades, and in fact feeds the continued expansion of the Champions League to those top few domestic leagues, while cutting out the actual champions of smaller nations, a manner very similar to NCAA basketball in America. For me personally, I have always supported the underdog, which is natural for born pieces of shit like myself. Being a cultural minnow, we have to enjoy the Cinderella stories in sports.

Yet, we're applying some metrics that rank the most important clubs according to how well they've done in the Champions League (and Europa League) this past quarter century, and we're only doing one a month, which means we're not going to get below those upper echelon continental clubs for the most part, even when we skip the English heavyweights as their part of our base schedule already. What's left are the largest conglomerates to start off with - those entities so impossibly large that they moved beyond a historical dominance contained within a single nation-state into global brands that can afford to extract nearly any player they'd want from any Global Southern stage, and in fact, don't even have to discover these stars at this point, because other European clubs on that second tier of continental greatness can import them, and then the true heavyweights can take them over.

I've always hated Manchester United because of their position as this overwhelmingly economically blessed entity in English football. And yet, on the world's football stage, which is entirely focused on Europe (since that's where the money is, and all the stars from all over the Earth end up there), Real Madrid is the international Manchester United. And no club has maintained that role quite like Real Madrid. For years (and multiple continental titles), they were built around Cristiano Ronaldo. But when he went off to Juventus in Italy, they never missed a beat. Their squad is stocked with the globe's supreme talent, and manager Zinedane Zidane won three Champions League titles in a row, before Ronaldo left, and Zidane took a break for nine months, saying the club needed a change. But after they were trailing rivals Barcelona in La Liga by 12 points, and got eliminated by lowly (by intercontinental standards) Ajax in the Champions League, Zidane returned. They've already locked up this season's La Liga since their return from the pandemic - Zidane's second Spanish title as a manager. And though down by a goal, they have their second leg return away at Manchester City to keep themselves in the running for a return to Champions League glory. It's hard to know what kind of Man City and Real Madrid will show up the first week of August, with this weird schedule we've had in 2020. But Zidane's care-taking of expensive superstars' egos, perhaps coming from the background of being a highly egotistic superstar in his own playing days, and Real Madrid's arsenal of talent will always give them a shot. And in their last 100 competitive matches, across all competitions, up to the first of this month, this is their 25-man Metaphysical Roster… [RAVEN]

#1: KARIM BENZEMA – Identity in our post-colonial globalized world is causes so much conflict in our heart, because most of us are now nowhere near where our bloodlines were three or four generations ago. If you accept the moral flaws in colonialism, you also suggest that people – from both sides of the colonial power structure – are not necessarily where they should physically be. And of course, in doing this you apply geographical borders which were drawn by the colonial rulers anyways. Just as history is written by the winner, as Howard Zinn told us, the map is drawn by they who are divvying up the land. In officially registered paperwork terms, Karim Benzema shares a French national identity with his manager Zinedine Zidane. And of course the French national team won the World Cup in 2018, which was heralded weirdly as some sort of wonderful moment of multiculturalism, even called “Africa’s first World Cup title” by some folks desperate to feel good about our fucked up world. Being Benzema is a practicing Muslim, the idea of “jihad” is relevant here, in my opinion, even though the mainstream western notion of jihad is terrorists blowing shit up for an extremely dogmatic version of Islam. The idea of jihad is the battle within a person’s heart between good and bad, for control of their soul’s actions. And this is relevant to national identity, for all of us really, as this world suffers the seismic changes it’s currently going through. For me personally (and all three of us writing here at Football Metaphysics), this means that on our official paperwork we are Americans. But none of our people originated on this continent, nor do any of us feel any affinity whatsoever towards the empire that has developed around the mythology of America. And yet we are all firmly trapped in meager existences upon this continental plate. So the jihad of identity becomes what parts of our blood histories do we uphold, and what moral mythologies do we let rule our heart? For Benzema, this was a real issue, because as a young, amazing striker playing at the top level internationally, he was recruited heavily to play for the French national team. But both his parents were Algerians, his mother born in a French suburb to immigrants, and his father actually emigrated from his native Algeria. Benzema declared “it’s in my heart” regarding playing for the Algerian team, but chose the French one due to sporting possibilities. “I will always be present for the French team, but it’s more for the sporting side, because Algeria is my country.” He also seemed to not sing the national anthem during pre-games, which further angered French nationalists. This was all well over a decade ago. But early on in his national team tenure, a prostitution ring was uncovered in Paris, which ended up getting both Benzema and Franck Ribery charged with having sex with underage sex workers. Charges ended up getting dropped, but it was obvious that Benzema was guilty of the sex at the very least, and very likely knew the sex worker was underage. Obviously this is not very Islamic behavior, and therein lies the deeper jihad within the heart around identity. Even if you don’t consider yourself a part of the culture you’ve been plopped into in this 21st Century, it still leeches into your heart. I worry about this a lot, and tend to dramatically refer to western culture, specifically American culture, as “poison culture”. The poisoning begins in our brains, through the media we consume, and eventually can leech down into our heart. In my own personal metaphysical philosophies (which are never stable), the “mind” is a combination of heart and brain, and a mind that thinks with too much brain is unbalanced, just as one that thinks with too much heart can be. But a poisoned brain will unbalance the mind and make it poisoned as well, and eventually these ways leech all the way into the heart. That is how you end up with multi-generational poor choices and learned behaviors that are self-destructive and in fact full of self-hatred. Benzema is a physical example of suffering this at that point. Unfortunately, it only got worse, as in 2015, he was arrested and charged with blackmailing another French player in Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape. Valbuena’s parents were Spaniards, but he was born and raised in France, so there’s an identity crisis there as well, but one unified in European power at least. As Benzema was being investigated, the French Prime Minister at the time said athletes “should be exemplary; there are so many youngsters in our suburbs that relate to great athletes.” In France, the suburbs are where the poor and economically disenfranchised reside, very often immigrants, who are very often unwanted by French nationalists (where “nationalist” is generally a code word for “racialist”). Benzema was suspended from the French team until resolution of the investigation. The end result, despite it all being tied up in legalese, is Benzema was considered finished with the French team forever, which means even though Benzema forsook his familial national identity, due to his own actions, he’d lost any chance to represent the sporting nation he’d forsaken Algeria for. All of this means, in terms of football identity, he’s a man without a country. So he becomes Real Madrid’s most prominent player, post-Ronaldo, and even sharing prominence with Ronaldo there. This also calls into mind another factor in the earlier jihad identity battle that slips completely off the map – global corporate identity, if you are of value to those entities. There are economic entities that operate completely oblivious to those geographical maps we are all taught as children, barely paying attention to the legal rules of each nation, usually only to circumvent them. There’s no allegiance to any physical place, only to the abstraction of wealth accumulation. There’s no real spiritual tradition behind a dedication to wealth accumulation. But Benzema – due heavily to his own poor choices, perhaps after being uprooted from his family’s grounding homeland, but also perhaps just because he’s a piece of shit – is now a man without a country. His allegiance is only to Real Madrid. And he continues to perform sporting magic on the pitch. His agent even recently suggested that Benzema would like to return to Lyon to close out his career, but that might be another season or two away. I sometimes wish these characters like Benzema would take the wealth they’ve accumulated and go back to their roots, Benzema returning to northern Algeria, perhaps buying up MC Oran, the main club in his mother’s people’s hometown, not necessarily as re-investing in forgotten places, because I don’t believe in the economic liberation of marginalized people, but just returning to his roots, with resources, so in essence a reverse flow of resources, both human and capital, back to where they originated from. That’s not really economic liberation so much as putting shit back closer to a more holistic order that feeds the heart more than the brain, hopefully. But it may be a sign of my own naiveté to think hopefully of anything at this point in history. [RAVEN]

#2: RAPHAEL VARANE – So now Raven has unleashed us on clubs outwith the EPL core, and to be perfectly honest, I am stoked as fuck about it. But that comes with some metaphysicals of the personal variety that I need to explicate before diving into the relentless, perhaps even boring, excellence of Raphael the central defender. Y’all fully know by now my hatred of English football, as a general concept. When I would binge on Football Manager, I refused to manage English clubs, instead making La Liga or Ligue 1 the height of my managerial aspirations. I’d set up at a club in one of these leagues, and essentially scour the EPL and SPL for all the Irish, Welsh, and Scottish players I could entice to go “Wild Geese” in an attempt to smite the Saxon in the time wasting fantasy land of algorithmic TRON world. In the “real” world, I would, by and large, root for any non-English team going up against English clubs in Champions League or Europa play. But trends in the world’s football, and perhaps some much needed introspection in writing about these EPL clubs over the previous (has it been a?) year now, reveal to me that it’s not so simple as just hating the English and all that they stand for [and herein I give my usual disclaimer that I despise England/Britain because I despise the U.S. as its deranged and even more grotesque offspring, and I despise the U.S. because I loathe England/Britain as its abusive, shitty conceited “I did the best I could, can you blame me?” parent—it is an ouroboros of self-contempt and despair). I already would choose Manchester United in all their shittery over Lazio, or Red Star, should I witness them in competition. Even more, how would I feel should underdog Portuguese-annex Wolves come up against Real Madrid? I hate Real for being Franco’s Eleven, as persistently complicit in a sleek fascist football mindset as Lazio. Those all-white uniforms, that crown. Fuck them. Plus, when it comes down to it, Spain is yet another former imperial power deserving (needing) nation-state disintegration—so I back Barcelona and the Basque clubs and the Galician clubs in metaphysical hopes of this. On the path of self-discovery, I suppose that I hate La Liga *almost* as much as I do the EPL. Anyway, on to Raphael. Here we have a still young man (27) touted as possibly the best ever central defender in world football—a Frenchman of Color, by way of Martinique (perhaps there is something to Caribbean Basin-originating central defenders, with Virgil also in contention as a peer “greatest”). I am, no question, biased in this assessment, but I feel SOUL from Virgil, and something mechanistic and systemized from Raphael here. Likely this has to do with his tutelage under Mourinho (the system man of all systems men) and his longstanding association with Real—while not a youth player, he has been with them for almost a decade and from a tender footballing age. He has been built, programmed, molded perhaps, by aspects without his own natural wild-bird inclinations. Virgil has earned, through perseverance and personality, the promise of his inherent soul—you cannot be beloved of the Celtic faithful without a readily sussed spirit warrior makeup. Even the time in Southampton built Virgil. But Raphael has had to experience all this growth in one place, with one expectation always in mind. One set of orders delivered, one set of orders to execute—excellence as demanded by one of the literal royalties of world football, an exoskeleton of demands that leaves but an inch, maybe two, for his young spirit to expand and contract, to experiment and create. I see evidence of this in Raphael’s squad number swapping: 19 to 2 to 5, with 4 for France duty. This is odd and inauspicious for time within one club. It’s one thing to switch when changing clubs—Virgil’s 5 at Celtic, 17 at Southampton, 4 at Liverpool and 4 for Holland duty. Virgil has settled on 4 as his number, proper for a central defender of power and respect. And he was given the opportunity to do so at Liverpool, from the outset. But Raphael’s 2 at Real is the clincher—a decent, respectable, hallowed number for a central defender, signifying oddity, but also confidence (taken from the left back, second only to the goalkeeper in holy derangement). Raphael could not handle this number, and selected the more systems appropriate number 5, which likely has no meaning to him because he does not claim it as his right at national level (he is far more celebrated, older, and experienced that Clement Lenglet). Perhaps that is the tragedy of a talent like Raphael at Real, a submission of spirit to the dictates of Madrid’s fashionable fascism, of glory within a system dedicated to a fatherland not your own, Hugo Boss designing SS uniforms, a woman filmmaker creating Triumph of the Will before later indulging in high end BBC (not the British one) gaze pornography, the Capitol of The Hunger Games—talent and expression, but only to serve the state, only to serve a nation whose boundaries are built on oppression and submission. [PAUL]

#3: CASEMIRO – Casemiro has been a backbone type dude, and some would say the backbone, of Real Madrid over the last half decade or so, which is an eon in football years. He might even be their best player right now, I don’t know, I can only go by what little I see as a busy executive as well as my nerd stat sites which help me to contextualize this crazy football world. He’s also a Brazilian, which always brings with it a little extra pinache because you can’t get by in that world without being a little crazy or connected or divaish, but Casemiro is an engine and I can imagine him in some alternative reality in the Favelas hurting people for money which is all what you would expect from someone known as a destroyer or a tank which are names attached to Casemiro like a gladiator earning his sobriquets one ruined dance partner at a time. But Casemiro adds skill to that mix and the result is a dude who can conceivably be called the backbone of a team that won four Champions League titles in five years among fourteen other trophies which he gets to metaphorically bring home to Brazil to humble a Gracie with. I say metaphorically because you know they don’t let these dudes actually drag the trophies around like the Stanley Cup. I mean it would be cool if they did, but take your average hockey player who is gonna take the Cup home and do whatever with it and its mostly a Canadian thing with maybe some Swedes thrown in there, maybe a Russian baptizes a baby in it or some shit, and its that lone Russian that gets you even close to what the heathens that play the word’s football would do with their trophies. I mean, imagine Luis Suarez taking a trophy home to Uruguay and repainting it with cocaine and the blood of some hobo he beat the shit out of after getting off the plane. They just bring him hobos to beat. Anyway, Casemiro would have a Conquistador’s loot of trophies to bring home with him to Brazil if they did it up like that and I imagine he would probably get murdered for each and every one of them. Killed for the first one, resurrected in some Amazonian ritual and then killed again for the second and so on, you get the picture. [NEIL]

#4: DANI CARVAJAL – Outside of a single season at Bayern Munich, Carvajal’s been at Real Madrid since he was 10, having been born in a Madrid suburb and finding his way to the academy at an early age. And while the club COULD afford whoever they wanted on this Earth, them having the solid homegrown back line presence of Carvajal, along with Sergio Ramos and Nacho, has allowed them to flourish for the past decade as one of the most dominant clubs in European history, having won four out of five Champions League titles. And if they somehow find a way to do it this season, it would be six out of eight, where defense allowed high-priced strikers to move more freely out front, and cherry pick the opportunities fed to them from behind. And Carvajal’s only 28, believe it or not, so despite the club being able to obtain whatever they want, there’s a foundational aspect of it being built as well. That’s a difficult combination to overcome, because most other clubs are either benefactors of their own wealth (like Man City) or scrappy developers of talent. Having both those pieces feeding the same mega-club seems unfair as fuck to be honest. [RAVEN]

#5: SERGIO RAMOS – Real Madrid’s resident brutarian defender and both a club and national legend. Considering this is one of the most high profile clubs on Earth, who can buy whoever they want, it’s absolutely impressive that Ramos has been solidly part of the club’s culture from the center of the backfield for well over a decade. He also was instrumental in their Champions League win over Liverpool in 2018, by beating down Liverpool. Ramos holds disciplinary records in every possible way – in La Liga, European Champions League, for the Spanish national team, even in El Clasico alone. His style of defense includes cards, including the most red cards in La Liga history (as well as in all major European domestic leagues). Shockingly, for a dude married to a TV celebrity, he’s been pretty reserved off the pitch. He’d be a legendary figure had all this happened anywhere else but it happening with a club with unlimited wealth like Real Madrid manufactures a lot of haters. Have to say though, sometimes people deserve their haters. Ramos is kind of a dick. [RAVEN]

#6: THIBAUT COURTOIS – Where to begin with this absolutely fucked dude. So when I was coming up, there was this phrase “born in the mountains, raised in a cave….” with some variation of obscenity rhythmically following. The version I’m most familiar with is “pussy and violence is all that I crave” which entered my consciousness through this local punk performer in my hometown who tried to filter GG Allin through Appalachia, which to be honest didn’t really need all that much work to happen. Dude went more the full BDSM route (as one does) than the shitting and pissing on stage, but still, he did fairly well, or well enough that I’m always gonna remember that structuring of the phrase. I’ve also heard (or would like to hear) “fighting and fucking” or maybe “liquor and women” or “weed and dick” for all my hillbilly leather bear homies. But you get the picture. So I’ve always thought of Courtois here as raised in a cave to be the world’s best goalkeeper—that he’s human, yes, but bioengineered, genetically enhanced, neurologically altered as some King Léopold ejaculation resembling Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. I’m fairly convinced his whole biographic backstory is false, or at the very least he was kidnapped at a young age and whisked away to a secret underground city of Belgian mutant mole people all carrying mutated strains of Saxe-Coeburg Gotha-Hapsburg-Romanov DNA (maybe even a little Kennedy or Rockefeller mixed in too) a mile underneath the Blue Mountains in Congo. I’ve watched this Courtois since he was with Atletico Madrid, through his time at Chelsea, and at the World Cup with Belgium. He is good, excellent even, and technically probably the best goalkeeper in world football at the moment. But there is nothing behind his eyes—no joy, no murderousness, no absurdity, no foolishness, no lust—just a mechanical reaction to saving nearly everything fired at him. He doesn’t even seem particularly passionate—little yelling at his defenders, no contempt for the strikers that confront him. Just….empty….and hyper-competent at his mission. On a more pragmatic, “realistic” level, perhaps his split Flemish-Walloon ancestry explains his ability to transgress the Madrid divide—from hero and forlorn permanent signing hope of the Atletico partisans (fuck them too, by the way, but that’s more from my Celtic affiliation than anything objectively political-ideological like my contempt for Real—and fuck some Celtic dude years ago trying to make some dumbass argument that Celtic had more in common with Real Madrid than Barcelona, man that dude was one dumb motherfucker….) to fundament of Real Madrid. With Chelsea in between. And repping Belgium. I mean damn, the choices here are this dude either has no soul, or he’s just straight evil. So he has no allegiance, to himself or to club. He just performs in excellence, protects the “perfected” system (a Big Money club in England, Spain, or Italy) into which he is thrust. I’m seeing a trend here with Real Madrid. [PAUL]

#7: TONI KROOS – From his infant days feeding Miroslav Klose to his midfield partnership with Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos was always the hot young thing on the German scene, and I remember when he made the move to Real Madrid and thinking how fucking unfair the whole goddamn thing was because this dude was already a World Cup Champion, a Bundesliga hero and Spain just had to have more more more, as Real Madrid and Barcelona spent the better part of the, what are we calling them, the teens? Sure, the fucking teens, just amassing talent in an arms race not seen since Stalin buttfucked Harry Truman in a cabin somewhere north of the Artic Circle in 1948 during a game of Truth or Dare. They don’t teach that in school, but that shit happened. Anyway, Toni Kroos has since gone on to comfortably roll as the playmaking midfielder for Real Madrid ever since, although his game might have slipped a hair since his gluttonous days of a few years ago when Real Madrid was winning all those Champions League crowns and he was racking up double digit assist totals. But I mean he’s not the hot young thing anymore. He turned 30 this year which means that he is an old fucking man by football standards and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next couple of years he shifts back to Germany or maybe makes a hedonist run in Turkey. Those old Axis powers always stick together. [NEIL]

#8: LUKA MODRIC – The Croatian legend who helped lead the national team to the World Cup final in 2018. Modric got the Golden Ball as best player of the tournament, and it just confirmed his place as a Real Madrid superstar as deserved. The past season or so, age is slowing him down, and his minutes are being reduced for Real Madrid. In a weird instance of how clubs will view two players as interchangeable, who actually might have highly charged differences, Modric has been a straight sub back-and-forth with Luka Jovic. The names may be similar to an outsider, but Modric is Croatian, and Jovic is Serbian, and there’s a whole history of tension between these two nationalities. In fact, even more to the point, Modric’s entry to the European stage came as a youth and then senior player for Dinamo Zagreb, the premier Croatian club. Jovic did the same for Red Star Belgrade, the premier nationalist Serbian club. It was a match between these two clubs in 1991 that helped escalate ethnic tensions when it broke down into a riot and people fighting police, including players that ultimately broke up Yugoslavia. It’s strange to contemplate that larger and deeper history when you think about all the individual matches where Modric and Jovic are subbed for each other, either direction, and one runs off the pitch and slaps hands with the other. Modric is 34, so was a child during those wartime years, and in fact his name comes from a grandfather he stayed with and helped take care of goats. That grandfather was executed by Serbian rebels in 1991. During this time, as his family was fleeing conflict, he lived in a hotel with a bunch of other families fleeing shit, and he picked up playing football, in the hotel parking lot. Jovic is only 22, and was born after Serbian independence, and Red Star Belgrade’s supporters formed many of the paramilitaries that caused the worst damage during the years of conflict, so he is steeped in that culture, even if it’s not as on the surface as it might have been a couple decades back. That’s some deep metaphysics within the player metaphysics with these two, especially as Modric’s career is winding down, to see him literally handing off his time to a Serbian player with the same name as himself and his grandfather who was murdered by Serbian militants. [RAVEN]

#9: FEDERICO VALVERDE – Young central midfielder metronome type that I previously mentioned is a big thing with La Liga and which I think the EPL is trying to emulate. Frederico here, given his choice of national representation, looks to be, at age 22, challenging for Suarez’s role of the Uruguayan You Love to Hate [I personally don’t hate Suarez at all—he cracks me up to be honest, and him trying to rip out that Italian dude’s jugular at World Cup 2014 was funny as fuck]. To be fair, Freddie does look like he’d be a piece of shit, based on his photos—like some private school dickhead, probably goes around claiming that despite being from South America there’s no indigenous blood in him and he’s “100% Castilian” [years ago a Puerto Rican friend hipped me to their actual being fucked up Latinx folk like this, and it about blew my mind, but I think I also saw something about there being Mexican Nazis, and there’s this fucked up racist homophobic bugalooo type youtube gun channel Latino dude in North Carolina that I’m like “dude you are NOT fucking white, if you were pulled over in Texas a red-faced white-haired high-and-tight state-trooper with a surname like “Lownton” or “Maynard” would totally collapse your kidneys with his nightstick just because he got a cock twitch from thinking about you looking at his pharmaceutical rep daughter’s panty-line under her tight doctor-visiting skirt]. So Frederico here lives up to the image by being a racist piece of shit (making “slant-eye” gestures at the crowd during a match in South Korea). Predictably, he comes up with some bullshit convoluted excuse for it not being racist, or racist, but not in that kind of way—like, apparently his agent is called “The Chinaman” and he just wanted to signal his appreciation. To be honest, all this makes me think that Frederico might not be a long term Real player—even being a piece of shit is evidence of some character and personality, that he may be unable to fit in this Real Madrid “system” that I am now committed to believing exists. Like Ronaldo, I’m gonna speculate that Valverde ends up on a big money transfer to some upper level Serie A club like one of the Milans, or Napoli, something like that. Italian football is unapologetically racist as fuck, so that’d go well I guess. Fuck it though, bet Chelsea would love him. [PAUL]

#10: MARCELO – Marcelo has been with Real Madrid for 169 years, and at times during those long years he was probably the best left back in the world, at least as an attacking aggressive very Brazilian style of left back. He certainly is not your stay at home and guard the castle type of defender, and maybe shit happens from time to time because of this, but fuck it, he is a dude who has been on the main stage for over a decade and I mean the main, main stage, which is a tough act to pull off, especially for a dude who grew up dirt poor in Brazil and was only able to keep playing because his grandfather stretched what little cash the man had to keep Marcelo going. Naturally, like every good dirt born warrior, Marcelo got gramps’ name tattooed on his body to honor the man’s sacrifice, although it was probably less a sacrifice and more the singular joy that old man ever got out of his life in dire fucking straits in the dark streets of Brazil which are pretty fucking dark the deeper you go and Marcelo was born and raised pretty deep. He got swooped up by Fluminese in Rio as a young teen, which is probably the best possible outcome for a young teen in those parts of Rio and half a decade later he was on a plane to Spain and he’s been there ever since. I mean, my dude here has been with Real Madrid for the aforementioned 169 years which breaks down to 14 years in Earth years but the cosmic years don’t lie. Obviously he’s at that point where a passing of the torch will have to happen reasonably soon, but for now he’s still out there playing for his grandfather and his Brazilian wife whose Instagram page reveals her to be exactly what you’d fucking expect which is to say that Marcelo has lived a very good life in those 169 years. [NEIL]

#11: VINICIUS JUNIOR – So as much as I hate on Real Madrid, and by transference, the players that make up the club, I can’t do so for a guy like Vinicius here—I wondered what that name meant, and supposedly it’s a Portuguese derivative of “wine”—so this dude goes by “Wine Junior” and that’s just tight. He started as a Futsal player, and I think that delivers a ridiculous skillset for a modern footballer—footwork, control in tight spaces, insane dribbling technique. So he looks like a real flair player and maybe a future Brazil superstar. At only 20, he’s getting regular substitute minutes in Real’s matches and maybe he goes on to develop there. Possibly he would benefit even more from a loan next season at some big, mid-big club in either Spain or EPL, especially given Real’s “wealth” of attacking wingers. I guess this is wishful thinking, because I’d rather he’d not be subject to any tutelage by Eden Hazard’s stupid ass [man I fucking hate that dude, and that’s saying something because how do you hate a guy with the last name “Hazard”?] My fear would be that this young man turns into Verane, where we started, talented, exceptional, but something off—the individual subjugated in spirit to the system-state of Carlism and the Falange. Maybe Real plucked him out of Brazil on a competitive whim, a potential Neymar to combat Barcelona’s path. [PAUL]

#12: ISCO – I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately, and wanted to write a good Isco blurb, but instead just took too much wild dagga tincture, and sat on the metal siding part of a railroad bridge over the Rivanna River, meditating to the sound of the soft rapids beneath me, saying “Isco… Isco… Isco…” a few hundred, maybe thousand times. At one point, with a gentrified warehouse space turned into microbrewery/upscale apartments for a demographic of people I’m not sure exists to the north of me, I thought if “Isco” as some sort of supply chain company. The repetition of linguistic sounds starts to strip the conscious meaning of the word like that. But eventually, “Isco” morphed into this notion of everything being okay, no company involved, no supply chain logistics, no renovation of old warehouses, just man and nature intertwined in a sensual embrace of simply existing, with no delusions of progress or dominion. Isco. Of course, this is accidentally befitting, because Isco the footballer is from the autonomous Andalusian mountain region in the southern part of the Spanish peninsula. The path of mountain top to large body of water is a spiritual path, where the pilgrimage of universal truths find their way to the minds of humans, often through their lips, in metaphysical drinks that baptize us in esoteric realities. Andalusia has mountains and the Mediterranean, and thus Isco was born. [RAVEN]

#13: GARETH BALE – When I first started paying serious attention to English football, Clint Dempsey had just had his epic American run at Fulham get rewarded with a transfer to Spurs, where he joined Gareth Bale, as a pairing of striker talents that drew my newbie attention pretty strongly. I remember my oldest kid, just tween/young teen, was going on a trip with a friend to England and Ireland, and I suggested she bring me back a Spurs track suit. Ahh, so naive. My love for all things Dempsey has never waned, as he’s the one major American footballing force that seems to align with our football metaphysics tenets. And I thought Gareth Bale would as well, being the top Welshman on the planet, but he has instead turned into a cautionary tale against the economic spoils of success. Bale, who perhaps made the infamous footballer’s manbun popular early on, moved onto Real Madrid, where he has consistently been either injured, or unmotivated, and alienated the club’s supporters with his seemingly nonchalant indifference about all the things they obsess over. And having just turned 31, it’s not like he’s in his prime striker years anymore either. But that name is a big one, so surely if he falls out with Real Madrid (which has been threatened for a couple of seasons to be honest), he’d have one more big club transfer left one would guess. And there’d be no shortage of other clubs - either major ones in lesser domestic leagues like Turkey or China, or lesser clubs in major leagues, that would gladly take Bale on for the name value branding alone. And it’s all so sad to be honest, because even unmotivated and lacking care, Bale still has moments of pure brilliance. But he appears to be someone who ended up believing his own hype, which has made him more hype than delivery unfortunately. He seems like the perfect candidate for an eventual MLS transfer to light up a well-paying league for a ton of goals to make him look like he’s as great as ever, in a league level sleight of hand meant to make MLS look better than it is as well. That might not come for a couple more seasons, but it’s coming. Lord I hope it’s not with DC United. My tacit support for that club was tested hard enough with Wayne Rooney. In fact, it may have been killed by Rooney’s time here, but if there’s any doubt about it, a Gareth Bale arrival in the suburbs of DC would be such an insufferable act that I’d no longer be able to ignore all I’ve somehow been able to ignore about American soccer, and DC United. Cognitive dissonance is pretty great. [RAVEN]

#14: FERLAND MENDY – Real Madrid seems to be in the midst of a reloading, perhaps engendered by the post-Ronaldo realities of their club. Discovering that young players like Vinicius and Ferland are making significant breakthroughs in the first team makes me ponder that the Real system could be altered, somewhat at least. But a metaphysical reality of the world’s football is that you can never uproot a club’s cultural DNA. To be direct, once a fascist establishment club, always a fascist establishment club. I’ve pondered this at length in relation to the Rangers FC of my eternal contempt and hatred. I know good folk, people I count amongst my dearest friends, who are Rangers supporters—pro Scots independence, as ready to lift a kilt to drain their substantial hogs on the collective heads of Prince Phillip, Steven Frye, Boris Johnson, Piers Morgan, and JK Rowling as I am. This makes me wonder, could Rangers become *just* the everyday scumfuck dude Scottish club (a sort of mild Protestant Nativism set against Celtic FC and it’s immigrant Catholic origins), and could I somewhat abide that, could it somewhat redeem them? Yet I always run up against how you get out from underneath that history and current cleaving to the rattling Butcher’s Aprons, the “We Love our Para Regiment” blue cumstains on the terraces, “Rule Brittania” disgracing the Earth. Every club wages a war within, between the assholes and the righteous (I have met some DUMBFUCK Celtic supporters in my day, let me tell you), but some clubs, I am convinced (because I have never seen evidence of it) can escapes their lineage, no matter how well-intentioned (some of) their supporters, no matter how many good and righteous players and managers may compete under their flags [I very much like Zidane]. So I like the looks of Ferland here—another Afro-French dude that will probably go on to devastate the white-assedery of world football. I will set on the edge of my seat and will him to glory when he’s laying in a devastating cross for Moussa Dembele to rake home while John Stones lays weeping and prostrate on the goal-line, cursing a father that couldn’t pull out a half-second sooner and thus forcing such a wretched existence as an England central defender upon him. But I can only appreciate him in the abstract when he pulls on that Francoist strip of emptiness, of negation under a crown. [PAUL]

#15: LUCAS VAZQUEZ – Another player who came up through the Real Madrid youth academy, moving from the C team to the B team to the main squad. This got me to looking into the weird ownership structure of Real Madrid, which is a sort of secretive club of wealthy Spaniards who then elect their President for the club, who manages shit. Florentino Perez has been President since 2009, and also held that position for six years at the turn of the century before. Players like Lucas Vazquez are considered “canteranos” which literally means people from the quarries, who were mined and developed in the Real Madrid youth academy. These players work alongside “galacticos” or expensive superstars who are brought in to make the club more marketable as much as improve the squad. In fact, Perez’s first term as President wasn’t ended due to lack of success, but more because other ownership club members became worried he was more concerned with marketing the club than the actual football performance. It was hard not to say “football product” there, but a product is meant for marketing, not winning competitions. And therein lies why Perez regained the Presidency. Real Madrid is going to win regardless – they have conquered the physical realm of athletic battle. Sure, they’ve only won La Liga three times in the past decade; but they’ve also won the Champions League four times during that period. With 34 Spanish titles and 13 European titles, any trophies just get stuffed tighter into the display case at this point. They’ve nothing left to prove on the pitch. So it’s all about marketing, squeezing the life out of the rest of the world, so that kids in the far corners of Brazil or west Africa or southeast Asia all want Real Madrid jerseys to wear. The seeds of a brand, scattered across the planet, which then also expands the quarry system, so that the idea of a Brazilian or Nigerian kid’s childhood hometown club is shattered, because they’re far more interested in Real Madrid than Santos or Enyimba. [RAVEN]

#16: NACHO – The man known only as Nacho is far more elegantly handsome than one would expect with such a nickname. Nacho has worked, in tandem with Ramos, to be the defensive backbone to Real Madrid for nearly a decade now. Nacho, in fact, has been steeped in Real Madrid culture most all his life, having joined the club's youth system at the tender age of 11, born and bred in Madrid thus getting on their radar early on. He's never played anywhere else at the club level, having grown from their youth team to their reserve team to the senior club over the course of the past 20 years. Age dulls shine though, and this past Real Madrid campaign was full of injuries for Nacho, who missed the bulk of the season, and has his fewest appearances for the club since 2012. He did, however, get his 200th cap for the club on the final day of La Liga this month. [RAVEN]

#17: EDEN HAZARD – Honestly, fuck Eden Hazard. I am just so happy that he is not at Chelsea anymore getting sucked off as Little Messi or whatever the fuck. He is the epitome of the dude who has always been advantaged. His parents were both footballers and they raised their kids so they were never more than 3 meters from a training ground, which is both super-privileged and also super-pathological, the type of Nazi Superman Parenting shit that breeds these soulless ass suckers. Even his Wiki page is like a thousand times longer than everyone else’s, with each year of his fucking life broken down in painstaking detail, as if anyone could possibly give that much of a fuck about this milquetoast cyborg. He worshipped Zinedine Zidane growing up, which is not really a surprise and makes it kind of creepy that he plays for him now. So, he’s probably a fucking teacher’s pet too, which is just the fucking worst. I get that he’s a great player, but there is no magic here, no flare, no debauched hedonistic glory to be drenched in, guilty of the same human sins as the rest of us. No, he is a bioengineered footballer, bred and raised on a fucking factory farm, pumped with god only knows what fucked up hormones and that shit that makes those chickens so fucking fat that they can’t even support their own weight and walk anymore. Eden Hazard is a just fucking gross. Fuck him. [NEIL]

#18: RODRYGO – Rodrygo is fun. His name is fun. His style of play is fun. He is a breath of the future for Real Madrid, and honestly, at the age of 19, he is a challenge to Neymar's influence on the Brazilian national team as well. In fact, during his time at Santos (the prominent Brazilian club he came to Europe from), in his last season he assumed the #11 kit there that once had been worn by Neymar as well. Rodrygo's arrival in Madrid happened just one season ago, so he's only now incubating his potential into a European hybridized young talent/budding global superstar. I mean, there's not a ton of hope being in the Real Madrid processing machine, but because Neymar is such a wretched human being, it's fun to hope something better might exist for Brazil. [RAVEN]

#19: EDER MILITAO – One of the key components to basic perfection of metaphysics in a football squad is a spirit warrior at defensive midfielder who can connect both ends of the game at a psychic level most players don’t see. These guys tend to come from outside of Europe, west Africa more often than not, but Militao is a young Brazilian who checks off many of the boxes to be a fluent fulcrum on a high-powered squad. He made his European entrance in true post-colonial fashion, spending one season in Portugal after being “discovered” in his native Brazil, and that single season showed enough potential (with Porto) that Read Madrid came calling, signing him in March of last year. He can play true defender, and in fact made his debut subbing in for Ramos, but he’s not a brutarian center back like Ramos at all. His touch is different, and is maximized with movement, not anchored close to the box as the GK’s protectorate. [RAVEN]

#20: ALVARO ODRIOZOLA – Young dude, came up with Real Sociedad before getting the call up to Real Madrid, which is a bit like the hayseed getting off the bus in Hollywood and getting thrown into the world of porn, fucked a bit and then sold to some German perverts with a van that shoot snuff films in the LA River basin. And that’s basically what’s going with young Alvaro, who made a handful of appearances for Real Madrid before they loaned him out to Bayern Munich, which isn’t exactly a van down by the river, but the Germans don’t care, they’re gonna fuck him and kill him anyway. [NEIL]

#21: MARCO ASENSIO – Asensio is a young winger from the Balearic Islands, another autonomous area that’s a questionable part of the Spanish nation. The Balearic Islands are an archipelago, with four larger islands, notably containing the Mediterranean destination spot of Ibiza, which is itself one of the primary Baleraic Islands. Asensio was born on Mallorca, the largest of these islands, and one that was once conquered by the Romans, later raided by Vandals during the decline of the western Roman Empire, and ever since it’s been a historical hotspot, of Muslim and Roman and Viking and Spanish and Andalusian interference. Now, in our 21st Century world, it is tourist destination, which supports the population of a less than a million people, floating out there in the Mediterranean. And though teammate Toni Kroos also lives on Mallorca island, Asensio is probably the greatest homegrown football talent to come from the island. [RAVEN]

#22: SERGIO REGUILON – Sergio Reguilon sounds like a robot's name, which perhaps this guy is, as a young, reserve left back, who spent this past season on loan to Sevilla. He even dates a high profile Spanish YouTube celebrity, which also suggests cybertronic possibilities. I refuse to believe YouTube celebrities are fully human, nor would their relationships be. But I also worry when I think about this digital cyborg possibility that there's patents of nobility involved, and high profile cybertrons only "procreate" with other high profile cybertrons. It's like the illuminati to an extent, but way more fucked up, and not just old white industrialists. Like a lot of folks don't realize that Jay Electronica is a cybertron like this. That's how he fathered a kid by a Rothschild, and why he even rocked that "electronica" moniker all this time. We live in such an absolutely fucked time to be honest. [RAVEN]

#23: LUKA JOVIC – Luka Jovic is a Serbian which means that he is almost definitely closely related to someone who has done some heinous shit in the name of old blood horror show shit that has gone on there like a fucked up volleyball game with human heads for the last thousand or so years. He is also supposed to be the new hot shit striker on the streets but so far he has struggled to find his place with Real Madrid and more recently has been caught up in controversy for violating Serbia’s Covid-19 restrictions which got him in hot water with the fucking prime minister. Naturally, he is young and dumb and is fucking a Serbian supermodel who has made her own run through the world of male Serbian tennis players before hooking up with this idiot. And she is apparently a member of the Vasojevice tribe, which is a Montenegrin tribe that lived in the highlands for centuries where they whooped down and attacked merchants. Basically this is all deep, dark Serbian hillbilly people shit, like these are the people who rolled out to slaughter the Turks back in the day and got slaughtered in return and anyway that’s what young Luka is putting his dick in which is bound to happen when you are a nation of war criminals and blood feudists echoing back to the fucking Byzantine Empire. Luka better start scoring some fuckin’ goals or else her people will have his legs broken. [NEIL]

#24: KEYLOR NAVAS – One of the more amusing aspects of these metaphysical tirades [they’re amusing, right?] is that we have to contradict ourselves. Or, through the methods of New Writing, explain how our contradictions are not really contradictions, or if they are, that contradictions have value and import as we all stumble about, unraveling the intricacies of our daily lives in this, the 2020 that should, by December, resemble Blood Meridian, but with AR-15s and Barrett .50 BMG antimaterial rifles instead of blackpowder muskets and lances. So Navas, despite long tenure at Real and his incumbency at Petain Saint Germaine, is probably my favorite elite class goalkeeper in world football. I have absolutely loved watching him play for Costa Rica, because it’s fucking Costa Rica (who definitely punch above their weight, but do have to toil like fuck when up against the big boys) and there’s Keylor at the back, all swarthy and hair-oiled up like an absolute STUD keeping out all manner of bombardments. For sheer relentless workrate, I don’t think there’s a more exquisite keeper out there. In keeping with the contradictions that aren’t contradiction, I see that Keylor is all about his devout Catholicism, even down to having a documentary film about such. Again, this is well and good—among the many “eccentricities” of a top tier goalkeeper is religious devotion bordering on zealotry (see my beloved Artur Boruc, “The Holy Goalie”, or Grzegorz Szamotulski, “The Mad Monk”—and man, would I be stoked if some Algerian or Kosovar goalkeeper comes along with the nickname “The Mujid” and maybe that post-American Appalachian League Raven is trying to manifest into being will have one, or more, goalkeepers that just full-on Pentecostal Holiness it up between the sticks—big shimmery timber rattler print on the longsleeve top, speaking in tongues during a penalty shootout. But I’ve always had a sense of the sordid from Keylor, appropriately sacred and profane—like his hot wife (and of course she’s hot as fuck) just smothers him out between her thighs on the regular, flogs his ass with a leather strap (30 minutes for every open play save, a full 100 for a penalty save), while he stares towards the heavens and gives thanks unto his God, with elaborate and poetic prayers composed while waiting in the tunnel. I bet Keyloor looks at Neymar every once and awhile, with that crooked grin he has when he’s not actually playing, and shakes his head without saying a word, while Neymar gets all gripey petulant and asks repeatedly “”Que? Idiota velha, que?” and Keylor keeps slowly shaking his head and even maybe lifts his eyebrows a bit. But stays silent, serene, blessed. [PAUL]

#25: JAMES RODRIGUEZ – James is only 29, but him dancing in celebration of Colombian goals in World Cup 2014 feels like decades ago. What happened to the young man who was going to take over the world? His high profile transfer to Real Madrid was supposed to usher in his final ascent to dominating the world stage, yet he’s only gotten lost in the shuffle, and experienced probably one of the highest level loans one will ever see, getting loaned from a huge footballing entity like Real Madrid, to a club that rarely resists just purchasing the talent they want in Bayern Munich. Who the fuck gets loaned to a club of the magnitude of Bayern Munich? A guy like James, that’s who. And yet, the talk right now at Real Madrid is that Zidane may never play him again. It seems like James can still play, and a big transfer to a club in the Premier League seems a good potential. But has his smile been decayed by half a decade in the overloaded roster oblivion of Real Madrid? Is there any passion left for playing the game in a beautiful way, or is James just now going through the motions of doing what he’s known to do his whole life, because there’s nothing else he could possibly do? Another cautionary tale, like Gareth Bale, but in a way different way. Sometimes when these young stars get snapped up by big clubs, it ends up just ruining their lives, if you consider living your life completely separate from the money you make. I always think of Wilfried Bony in this sense, who was amazing for Swansea City, and lighting up the Premier League, only to get bought by Manchester City and put on a shelf like an amazing tool to never use, collecting rust, so that whenever they did pull it off the shelf, they’d be confused as to why it did not work as wonderfully as it had when they bought it two years ago. Being able to rest in peace while still alive is tough lane to find. I hope James is lucky enough to get one more glorious run somewhere, because he really made me love Colombian football at one point in time. [RAVEN] 

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