Javier Portillo insists he never lost faith in Real Madrid this year but La Liga was ‘almost impossible’ and recalled the 2003-04 collapse.
Portillo was part of the squad that saw an eight-point lead pulled back by Valencia in much the same manner as Madrid are trying to do to Barcelona this season, with the Coach at the time, Carlos Queiroz, having given his take on what happened.
“For me it remains a mystery I’m unable to explain. We reached the half-way point but suffered a let-down in the Copa del Rey Final with Real Zaragoza in March,” Portillo remembered in an interview with AS.
“It was a blow. There was talk of a treble and it affected us. Even that Final started with us winning, so it was harder still. That night was a turning point. I think within ourselves we started to doubt after having everything in hand.
“There were also injuries. Ronaldo, for example, wasn’t in the Final. Then we lost to Monaco 4-2 [in the Champions League] after winning the first leg. The squad was short and we couldn’t meet our objectives.
“The middle ranks of the squad had been eliminated but the XI was the best in Europe, loaded with Balons d’Or. Even so, we missed having some more in the squad and the youth team players were counted on more.
“Man, I scored 15 goals [in Vicente Del Bosque’s last season]. I had fewer minutes with Queiroz. It happened to some of the canteranos more. It’s true that [Steve] McManaman left, [Claude] Makelele, Geremi…but it’s also true that some more minutes could have been given to the youth team players.
“The team in the end collapsed. Look how well Zinedine Zidane does it now with Jese or Lucas Vazquez as he moves the pieces.
“There was no problem in the locker room. Everyone got on well. There was Raul, who was a great captain, demanding the maximum. It was just a lock, mental and physical. Everything collapsed. We wanted to but we couldn’t get out of it. We even had to grit out teeth to stay in the Champions League positions. We lost seven of the last 10 games! It was a nightmare.”
Portillo can see the reverse happening today, however, with Madrid on the charge, though he admits the title looked a long way away two weeks ago.
“As a Madrid fan I never lose faith but it looked almost impossible. Something happened to us like what is happening to Barca,” he noted.
“In all seriousness, I can see Madrid winning. As it stands today, yes. I don’t know if Barca have a problem in the locker room, but they seem bankrupt. And Atletico Madrid have a lot of tight games.”