Secrets of Real Madrid dressing room revealed ahead of Champions League final
Jerzy Dudek was the hero of Liverpool’s last Champions League triumph – and he could play an unlikely role in their next.
In his 2016 autobiography, the former goalkeeper revealed some of the inside track on his ex-Real Madrid team-mates and their habits in the dressing room.
Dudek swapped Liverpool for Real Madrid in 2007, two years after his dramatic penalty shootout saves secured an elusive fifth European title for the Reds.
He got to know the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos well during his time at the Bernabeu.
Our friends at the Liverpool Echo recapped what he said in Jerzy Dudek: A Big Pole in Our Goal…
Dudek on… Cristiano Ronaldo’s professionalism, ego and run-ins with Mourinho
You’ve probably read a lot about him, but Cristiano is one of the most professional players you could ever meet. If training was due to start at 11am he’d be there for 9.15am.
He did extra work in the gym before and after our 90-minute training sessions.
I watched him for almost two years and I can say that everything he achieved on the pitch is through his own hard work. He also symbolises the modern football superstar – not many others have their own brand like his CR7 – and very quickly became the number one name at Real.
Cristiano is ambitious. He wants to be the star. If he doesn’t receive a pass when he thinks he should, he sulks. This sometimes p***ed the lads off, but we got used to it. His personality and character is similar to Raul’s. Raul wasn’t always happy when we won 3-0 and he didn’t score.
He preferred a modest 2-1 win with him on the scoresheet. He adored scoring the winning goal, being the hero, and Cristiano is the same. He wants to be the goalscorer at all costs and has an egotistical mentality about it. I think he sees team-mates as assistants who are working towards his greatness and this irritated our manager, Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho worked with him a lot. He knew his compatriot cared more about his own success than that of the team, but wouldn’t accept it. He explicitly warned him against provoking supporters and team-mates with his gestures and reactions on the pitch and told him he must become more of a team player. Mourinho was keen to avoid Ronaldo thinking that if Real Madrid won it was because of himself and if we didn’t it was because of the rest of us, but that took a long time to happen.
Ahead of one game against Barcelona his instruction to the front three was not to press the Barca players in their own half but to draw them forward to try to hit them on the counter-attack. Ronaldo ignored him. Right from the kick-off he chased the ball from right-back, to centre-back to left-back in their half, was unable to win it and then turned around to the other lads and gestured ‘why aren’t you backing me up?’ The crowd booed, thinking the others weren’t putting any effort in!
Afterwards, Mourinho asked him in the dressing room why he had ignored him. Cristiano is the type of guy who is not afraid of exchanging words and he and Mourinho then had a frank, aggression-free discussion in front of the rest of us about their differing tactical views.
Several of the other lads had their say and I sat there thinking if they’d had the discussion six months earlier then maybe the team would have gelled quicker and we would have won La Liga, and perhaps the Champions League, rather than Barcelona.
Dudek on… Ronaldo perfecting his craft – and mood changes if he loses
I regularly stayed late after training so Cristiano could practice his famous free-kicks. Obviously he had to get good at them to score past me! He can make a ball move at a different trajectory than any other player and this is always put down to the way he connects with it, but there is another reason.
Ronaldo has small feet. I have faced a couple of other players who can hit a ball like him, but with less power, and they had small feet too. Cristiano takes a UK size seven boot and I think having smaller feet allows him to control the power in his legs better than others.
He effectively crushes a ball when he strikes it so it flies off like a balloon that is losing its air. Trying to stop a ball that moves in different directions at such pace is incredibly difficult. I came to realise that in training!
I also have to say that Cristiano is a perfect role model off the pitch for young players, but he is very image conscious. He got his hair cut every couple of days and would spend a long time in front of the mirror in the dressing room to ensure he looked his best before TV interviews and matches. He would join in the banter with the other lads in the dressing room, but he didn’t take losing very well.
We lost to Lyon in the Champions League and I had invited the boxing champion, Dariusz Michalczewski, to the game as my guest. He came to watch us train the next day and was shocked when he saw Cristiano arrive and refuse to sign autographs for some kids: “I’m going to f***ing smash him,” said Darek. “F*** getting a picture with him and his autograph. How can he be like that with kids?” I calmed him down and spoke to Cristiano.
“I’m not here for f***ing autographs,” he said angrily. “I’m here to win. We went out of the Champions League to f***ing Lyon last night. I’m p***ed off, leave me alone.”
The kids were especially disappointed with him and it came across like he was being a prima donna, but Ronaldo is a perfectionist who takes defeats personally. Thankfully Darek didn’t get to him… Ronaldo might never have won a Golden Boot after a knock-out blow from him!
Dudek on… Zidane’s knowledge and wisdom
A legend. I tried to get Zidane’s shirt after Feyenoord played Juventus in 1997, but he had promised it to somebody else. Zizou is a gentleman who never raises his voice but gets his points across when he needs to. He was Florentino Perez’s ‘advisor’ when I was at Real but in reality he would pass his experience on to us, sometimes in the dressing room as if he was the coach. He progressed to be coach at Real and I think some of the passionate fighting spirit he showed as a player, most famously in the 2006 World Cup final when he head-butted Marco Materazzi, is evident in his team.
Dudek on… Marcelo’s futsal inspiration and family life
When I was playing in Istanbul for Liverpool, Marcelo was still playing futsal in Brazil so it tells you of his progress that he signed for Real Madrid in 2007. I marvelled at how well he took to being at a gigantic club and I noticed that he continued to adopt some of his futsal techniques such as using the sole of his boot to control a ball. He was one of the jokers in the dressing room – he’d juggle a ball like a circus artist before games – and because I was older he called me ‘grandpa’. He also went on some remarkable trips. We were given a weekend off so he jumped on a plane to Sao Paulo, had dinner with his family, stayed the night and then after a spot of lunch jumped on another plane back to Madrid so he didn’t miss training. He was in the air for 22 hours and in Brazil for less than a day, but Marcelo is very close to his family so to him it was worth it.
Dudek on… Benzema being a loose cannon
When Benzema first arrived for a summer training camp he reminded me of the Brazilian Ronaldo. He was very relaxed, but his problems started when he didn’t learn Spanish straight away. He was the type of guy who thought nothing about driving, and crashing, a Lamborghini. I think he shunted three cars in his first six months with Real! Despite that he seemed like a nice guy. His friend, Lassana Diarra, was a bad influence on him. If both of them weren’t playing regularly they were like two loose cannons ready to blow in the dressing room. It didn’t help the atmosphere. After Lassana left, Zinedine Zidane got into Karim’s mind and helped him turn things around. He learnt the language and grew up.
Dudek on… Ramos wanting to do everything
An Andalusian from Sevilla, they boo him in his hometown because he signed for Real Madrid but he is an energetic person, the heart of the team and a huge fan of flamenco! He buzzes around so much that you’d think he has ADHD and this caused him problems at first because he wanted to do everything – like take a corner and still be the person who was trying to get on the end of it! His importance to Real and Spain can not be underestimated.
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