The LA Galaxy's much-anticipated friendly against Real Madrid is still two weeks away, but fans can expect a high level of competition from the Spanish powerhouse for the Aug. 7 match at the Rose Bowl.
New Real manager Jose Mourinho, who recently began his first preseason with the nine-time European champions, said that he doesn't schedule preseason games like these as merely glorified workouts and expects a battle with the Galaxy. According to Mourinho, who’s preparing for the La Liga season opener on Aug. 29, Real Madrid will have the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain available for the game, as well as the club’s trio of Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos, who all were part of Spain’s World Cup winning team in South Africa earlier this month.
And if that wasn’t enough, Mourinho hinted at two, possibly three, new signing making their Madrid debut here in Los Angeles.
“I’m not ready to tell you that ‘this’ or ‘that’ new player is a arriving, but for sure during that first week in L.A. next week some new players will arrive to Real Madrid and that game will be the first game for them,” he said Monday in an exclusive interview with LAGalaxy.com. Mourinho didn’t specify any names, but added that the players are “players everyone knows” and of “quality” caliber. “If you can add two or three quality players to our squad, I think that game can motivate people.”
With that much star power on show for the visitors, the match could attract a crowd rivaling that of last year's Galaxy-FC Barcelona friendly, which drew more than 93,000 to the Rose Bowl.
Even with his full complement of Galacticos, Mourinho said he expects a good test from the Galaxy. In fact, he would have it no other way.
"I'm not the kind of coach that likes easy friendlies, easy matches in preseason. I don't play the preseason to win 5-, 6- or 7-nil. I play to win 1-0, even draw or lose,” he said. "(Because) that game is at the end of our preparation work, everybody will be involved. It will be an important match for us. The Galaxy has a name, a prestige and some quality to give us a game. I think the crowd will be very enthusiastic and it will be a good moment to enjoy."
The 47-year-old Mourinho, known worldwide for by the moniker "The Special One", has found success at every step of his coaching career, winning the Portuguese Liga twice with FC Porto, the English Premier League twice with Chelsea and Serie A twice with Inter Milan. He also won a pair of UEFA Champions League titles, first with FC Porto in 2004 and then again this year with Inter Milan. A few days after leading Inter to their first European championship in 45 years, Mourinho left the club and became the new manager at Real Madrid, for a compensation fee reportedly as high as $10.5 million.
While Mourinho said that he has not had the chance to follow MLS too closely, he did, say he has been impressed with the league's improvement and the recent performances of the U.S. National Team.
"The best image you can have at this moment is the representation of your national team, what it did in the Confederations Cup, the World Cup, competition after competition and the quality of the American players in good European leagues,” he said. “Good players in the Premiership, Bundesliga, also in Serie A. The players are good, the competition is improving and the passion is coming up.
"You could probably have reached the quarterfinals in this last one," he said. "You probably deserved it. If you reached the quarters, the way the draw was made, why not reach the semifinals? I think the experience of players in big competitions in Europe is a plus. You can see that in the way (Landon) Donovan is playing, (Clint) Dempsey is playing, the midfielder in Germany (Michael Bradley). I think this is a plus."
"Your soccer, our football, has a ways go, but you are attracting some important names to the country. As long as you have (David) Beckham, (Thierry) Henry and others, it will improve."