Real Madrid’s only worth watching when they’re exceptional or getting embarrassed

There are two Real Madrids worth watching.

The first Real Madrid is the juggernaut that wears hot pink everything because we’re sexy and who gives a damn. This ungodly Real Madrid boasts underwear baron and soon-to-be high-end shoe aficionado Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos, a Welsh person, the great Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria, and several other players you’ve probably heard about at the water cooler or in the dark, unwashed corners of the internet. These players, they do dirty things. When that Real Madrid shows up to play, it’s must-see TV. It’s Galacticovision.

But we already know that.

The other Real Madrid worth watching is horrible, unkempt, in crisis, hot mess, “Please Cristiano come save us” Real Madrid. Watching a team that saturated with expensive, luxury items fail in the face of adversity is one of the world’s great pleasures, particularly when the beating isn’t handed out by accident, but is a deliberate, purposeful dismantling. That’s what Schalke 04 did to Real Madrid on Tuesday night. Schalke attacked and scored and fell down and got up and had to face a bout of Cristiano-Save-a-Game before ultimately coming out on top, 4-3. Sure, Schalke still lost 5-4 on aggregate, but it won in everyone’s heart — that is, everyone who isn’t a miserable Madrid fan or Cristiano Ronaldo after the final whistle.

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But between all the goals and the day’s ebbs and flows, there was one standout moment that really captured the essence of this slugfest. After months sidelined due to injury, the silky smooth, wonderfully balanced Luka Modrić returned, wisely with his hair grown out like a true Madrid player. It felt like the good old days. His touches quickly restored comfort levels at the Bernabeu; his flowing locks bounced rhythmically. It was almost as if he knew he had to go back to his long hair to restore the people’s faith. For a brief period it worked. And then reality struck.

Suddenly, I knew. This was 100 percent Real Madrid worth watching. This was horrible, unkempt, in crisis, hot mess, “Please Cristiano come save us” Real Madrid. I’ve watched this Vine dozens of times and it confirms my initial assessment. The only thing better than watching a great team be great is watching a great team crumble, at home, in the Champions League. And that’s what we saw tonight. Even if it was only for a moment, for a few hours, it was still a moment to cherish, a moment to tell the grandkids about. Have you heard the tale about 19-year-old Leroy Sané shaking Galactico Luka Modrić, a man returning from injury, so hard that Modrić fell over and rocked himself in the fetal position? Let me go get some kale chips. I’m about to tell you kids a story.

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