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Thursday, July 14, 2011
Real Madrid back in L.A.
LOS ANGELES — David Beckham has had the opportunity to play for some of the most respected managers in soccer.
But the chance to be coached by Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho would be a "dream."
Mourinho was honored as FIFA coach of the year in January, then guided Madrid to a runnerup finish in the Spanish league and a King's Cup title over Barcelona.
"To have had the chance to be coached by him, would have been any player's dream," Beckham said Tuesday. "And of course my dream, as well."
Beckham, who spent four years with Madrid, will take the field opposite Mourinho to play his former team for the first time since leaving. He will guide the Los Angeles Galaxy against the Spanish heavyweights in a friendly on Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Beckham was with Madrid from 2003-07, helping the club win its last La Liga title in his final season before joining the Galaxy.
"I spent four amazing years at Real Madrid. To go from a club like Manchester United to Real Madrid, it doesn't really get much better than that in football," said Beckham, who welcomed a baby girl, Harper Seven Beckham, with wife Victoria on Sunday.
"To be facing Real Madrid for the first time since I left, it's emotional. Because you get attached to the club, you get attached to the people at the club."
Madrid arrived in Los Angeles late Monday to begin its preseason camp in advance of a three-game U.S. tour. The club will spend the week training on the campus of UCLA, taking the field for its first session on Tuesday morning.
It marks the second consecutive year Madrid has held camp in Southern California. Mourinho said it's not a coincidence his team is back training under the sunny skies.
"The freedom that we have here is good. In Europe, our lives are socially difficult," Mourinho said. "Here, the players feel some freedom. They can walk in the streets, they can be together and share some time together. It is important for the players to build team spirit."
While Madrid will be easing its way back into form, it will be matched up against a squad that is already in midseason shape. The Galaxy currently lead Major League Soccer in points and are unbeaten in 12 straight league games.
Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said his squad is more focused on winning league games than friendlies, but added that the chance to play one of the world's best teams is exciting.
"We're no Real Madrid, we don't play games like this every week," Donovan said. "A lot of our guys will have an incredible experience. And we want to make the most of it. We want to put on a good show."
The showdown will be a rematch from last August when Madrid beat the Galaxy 3-2 behind three second-half goals at the Rose Bowl. Beckham was unable to play in the match due to an Achilles injury.
The nine-time European champions announced their 25-man U.S. travel roster, and it includes much of their first team. Along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka, Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xabi Alonso, Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa — all members of Spain's winning squad at the 2010 World Cup — will be on the field against the Galaxy.
Ronaldo, who broke La Liga's scoring record with 40 goals last season, is eager to get back on the pitch and start a new campaign against a strong opponent.
"If you play against good teams, it's better for us, we feel more motivated," Ronaldo said. "It will be very exciting. And I hope, of course, to win the game."
Madrid will also face Mexico's Chivas de Guadalajara and the Philadelphia Union of MLS as part of the World Football Challenge during its two-week American stay.
Madrid's season opener is at home against Athletic Bilbao on Aug. 20 or Aug. 21.
Mourinho relishes the prospect of playing three teams that want to give Madrid more than a tough workout.
"The competition is very good," he said. "They play hard, they play strong, but they play fair. They want to win. They don't want to play a defensive match, like we have sometimes in Europe."