Juventus and Real Madrid stars say Rose Bowl friendly is important
For someone who has played football for as long and changed clubs as often as Ángel Di María, it’s not uncommon to find yourself playing against the shirt you once wore.
That’s exactly what Di María will experience on Saturday when the newly acquired Juventus midfielder takes on Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly at the Rose Bowl.
Di María, who won six trophies in five seasons with Real Madrid, signed with Juventus three weeks ago after a seven-year spell at Paris Saint-Germain. At 34, he hopes to advance a fourth World Cup with Argentina, where his 122 caps are only ahead of Lionel Messi among active players. To do so, he will need to prove his fitness quickly after making just 22 starts in all competitions last season, his least in a decade.
“From the day I arrived, my colleagues treated me spectacularly and they all integrated me very quickly into the group,” Di María said in Spanish. “Its important to me.”
Di María and midfielder Paul Pogba, who played last season with Manchester United, are among four major additions Juventus made during the summer transfer window. Getting them acquainted with the team’s style and their new teammates has been one of the main goals of the club’s three-game pre-season in the United States, its first since 2018.
Di María started the first two games, playing a combined 122 minutes in a 2-0 win over Chivas in Las Vegas and a 2-2 draw with Barcelona in Dallas. He has made previous visits to the United States with Real Madrid and PGS and finds them valuable, even if the scoreline doesn’t really matter.
“It’s a place where people don’t see these clubs a lot,” he said. “The stadiums are always full. The results of these games do not have much influence. Do what the coach asks you. Show that we are physically well. Try to get to know your teammates.
“We also try to make it a nice show.”
The tour comes with a re-fitting of Juventus after the first season since 2011 in which they failed to win a trophy. Among those who have left is former captain Giorgio Chiellini, who signed last month with LAFC. Among those returning is US national team midfielder Weston McKennie, the subject of many transfer rumours, who didn’t play in the first two exhibitions but could see action in the Rose Bowl game.
For Real Madrid, the tour follows a season in which they won the La Liga and Champions League crowns, losing just nine times in 56 appearances in all competitions. And only three of the 23 players who qualified for the Champions League final have not returned, including winger Gareth Bale, who has also signed with LAFC.
“Although we won the Champions League, we have plenty of room to improve,” said Carlo Ancelloti, the only manager to win four Champions League titles. “Trying to do better than last season is not easy because last season was an exceptional season, an extraordinary season.
“But in our mind, you have to try to improve. The system now, we have more confidence. We have more knowledge in our system.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who made a record nine saves in the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League final, said the victory only fueled his desire to prepare to win at new.
“When you win a few trophies, it’s like adrenaline to keep winning,” he said. “That feeling of winning important trophies and trophies is something you want to repeat.”
Playing in the United States is also something you want to repeat, said Courtois, whose last summer tour here was in 2019. Real Madrid had planned a US tour in 2020, which included a friendly with Barcelona that the organizers had hoped to play at SoFi Stadium, but it was canceled by COVID-19.
“I love going to the United States,” said Courtois, who played 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss to Barcelona in Las Vegas last weekend and then missed his 2-2 draw. team against Club America in San Francisco on Tuesday. “Being able to go back after a few years because of COVID is exciting.”
Ancelloti called it “a responsibility”.
“Real Madrid have supporters all over the world,” he said. “We do our best to bring happiness to our supporters in the United States.”