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Ten of Los Blancos' 11 players at Euro 2012 reached the semi-finals, but worries of fatigue will be cast aside as their star men hope to carry their good form into the new campaign

ANALYSIS
By KS Leong

The 2011-12 campaign will be fondly remembered by Spain's Real Madrid contingent as a momentous season. After playing their part to dethrone Barcelona in La Liga, they helped their national team to a historic triumph at the European Championship.

Even their non-Spanish stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Mesut Ozil have reason to be satisified with their summer as none had a catastrophically disappointing Euro 2012 after guiding their respective nations comfortably out of the group stage.

The Spanish giants sent 11 players to the Euros - the second highest of any club behind only Bayern Munich's 12 - with 10 of them making it all the way to the semi-finals, and half of that number came home with the winner's medal. Los Blancos provided five of Spain's 23-man squad and all but one -  Raul Albiol - were regular starters as well as key players in their title-winning run. Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos played every single minute in Poland and Ukraine, including an additional 30 in extra time against Portugal in the last four, while Xabi Alonso played 25 minutes less than the trio after being substituted against Republic of Ireland in the group phase.

While Xavi starred in the final, Andres Iniesta walked away with the Euro 2012 Player of the Tournament award, Fernando Torres with the Golden Boot and Jordi Alba as many observer's pick for revelation of the championship, the focus post-tournament has quickly shifted to their captain marvel Casillas.

The Madrid goalkeeper extended his extraordinary clean-sheet record for Spain in knockout matches in major competitions, while becoming the first footballer to win 100 international matches, and has now hoisted three consecutive trophies for his country as skipper. This has led to sections of the press, pundits and legends of the game calling for 'San Iker' to be given the 2012 Fifa Ballon d'Or ahead of pre-Euro 2012 favourites Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. A stellar first half to the 2012-13 La Liga campaign will strengthen his case further.

REAL MADRID'S EURO 2012 STARS

RAUL ALBIOL
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
0
N/A
XABI ALONSO
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
545

ALVARO ARBELOA
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
570
KARIM BENZEMA
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
346

IKER CASILLAS
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
 
570
 
FABIO COENTRAO
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
480
SAMI KHEDIRA
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
450
MESUT OZIL
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
438
PEPE
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
480
SERGIO RAMOS
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
570
CRISTIANO RONALDO
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
480

Casillas' exploits with Spain would not be possible without the help of club-mates Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos. The former was overshadowed by Alba on the opposite flank, but the ex-Liverpool man has never been renowned for his marauding runs. Often solid but rarely spectacular, that's the main quality he brings to club and country, providing the necessary balance to two attacking-minded teams. Club coach Jose Mourinho will be encouraged by his disciplined defensive displays.

Ramos shone at the 2010 World Cup as a right-back, and he has now done the same as a centre-half. The highlight of his tournament is the Panenka effort in the penalty shoot-out against Portugal, one that will go some way to burying the demons of his skied spot-kick against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Further up the field, Alonso did what he had been doing so brilliantly for Real last season: keeping the team ticking over like clockwork. However, the 30-year-old Basque had two key moments to celebrate during the Euros. He reached 100 caps for his country in the quarter-final against France, and topped it off by scoring two goals against Les Bleus. Reliability has always been the trademark of Xabi's game, and it is that high level of consistency that Mourinho will be counting on once again.

Alonso could very well have headed into the new season with shattered morale had his missed opening penalty against Portugal in the semi-final contributed to Spain's elimination. But it was the Portuguese camp, and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular, who were left feeling aggrieved after being knocked out by spot-kicks.

Ronaldo went to Poland and Ukraine on a high after netting a personal-best 60 goals for Madrid in all competitions last season. With the Liga title in the bag, many critics believed that an exemplary Euros campaign, or indeed the title itself, would all but guarantee him the player-of-the-year gong. Two dismal showings by his lofty standards in the opening Group B games threatened to derail his Ballon d'Or ambitions. But he recovered to put in two majestic, match-winning displays to guide his side to the last four.

Despite failing to lead the Seleccao to glory, Cristiano is still viewed by many as the leading candidate for Fifa's top individual prize. Leaving Poland and Ukraine empty-handed will only motivate the No.7 further in the 2012-13 term, especially since he will be fully aware that this year could be his best chance yet of wrestling the Ballon d'Or back from Messi.

Ronaldo was not the only Portugal player to impress. In fact, some would say he was eclipsed by Pepe, who was the highest-rated defender in Goal.com's Euro 2012 Ratings Index. His domineering displays further cements his status as one of the most uncompromising centre-backs in the game today. He will be looking forward to the reunion with Messi when Real meet Barca in August in the Spanish Supercopa.

Fabio Coentrao, unlike his two compatriots, endured a below-par season with Real heading into the Euros. He may have had more joy in the national team during the tournament, but he is unlikely to force his way past the constantly-improving Marcelo to become Madrid's first-choice left-back.

Los Blancos also supplied two vital cogs in the Germany midfield at Euro 2012. Mesut Ozil ended the Liga season as the top assist man, but despite setting up three goals - a joint tournament high - the playmaker never really took off in Poland and Ukraine to replicate his scintillating 2010 World Cup form. His only standout performance was in the 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece, where he provided two assists and came close to scoring numerous times, and it's that type of showing that Madrid fans will be hoping to see more of in the new season.

Sami Khedira joined Pepe in the top five of the Ratings Index, and just marginally ahead of his Real midfield partner Xabi Alonso. Playing in a more advanced role for Joachim Low than he is normally accustomed to for Mourinho, Khedira has proven that he can do more than just the heavy lifting in midfield. If he can improve on his finishing and increase his goal-scoring ratio, he could become one of the more vital players for Madrid in 2012-13 as they look to defend La Liga and claim the elusive 10th Champions League title.

Of Real's 10 regular starters at Euro 2012, only Karim Benzema failed to progress to the final four. The France striker was tipped as one of the favourites to clinch the Golden Boot, but instead left without scoring a single goal in four games, although he did provide two assists. It was reminiscent of his early days at the Santiago Bernabeu, and indeed the Madrid faithful will be worried about his confidence taking a knock after improving astronomically over the last two seasons under Mourinho.

Although the likes of Ronaldo, Pepe, Ozil and Khedira failed to progress further at Euro 2012 than they would have liked, they should all head into the new club campaign with their Spanish colleagues high in confidence knowing that they performed admirably and helped their countries as best they could. Their first competitive test, against Barcelona in the Supercopa, could provide a glimpse to whether Mourinho's men are ready to raise their game to yet another level and begin their own era of domination.

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