Real Madrid midfielder Ruben de la Red announced his retirement from football on Wednesday at the age of 25.
As Jose Mourinho’s men returned from the Champions League draw at Milan to begin preparations for the weekend’s Madrid derby with Atletico, de la Red’s story served as a reminder of values that go beyond the twice-a-week games of football.
Sitting alongside Jorge Valdano, de la Red said in a tearful press conference: “A
Working his way through the youth ranks at the capital club, de la Red made his name at Getafe where alongside Real loanee Esteban Granero he impressed, including a stint at centre-back, and his return to the Bernabeu in 2008 seemed the natural step for the then 23-year-old. However, after a handful of appearances for Real, including a memorable strike in the Spanish Supercup against Valencia, de la Red collapsed on the pitch during a Copa del Rey tie against second-tier Real Union on October 30, 2008.
The player fainted in the 13th minute as he was jogging from out of the opposition penalty area before regaining consciousness and being substituted. Caught on camera, the reaction of his teammates told their own story of the shock and distress. The player spent the night in hospital with club doctors confirming he had collapsed due to a ‘drop in blood pressure caused by overexertion’. As a precaution, the youngster was ruled out for the rest of the season, and after undergoing several cardiac tests over the last couple of years, it was decided safest for the player to call it a day.
As distraught as de la Red is, he is still considered one of the lucky ones in a country to have witnessed an incomparable number of player heart-related cases, most notably with the deaths of Sevilla’s Antonio Puerta and Espanyol’s Daniel Jarque, and five other professional footballers in the past decade alone.
De la Red misses out on a playing career that had great promise – he was part of the European Championship-winning side of 2008 and scored against Greece in his only start for La Roja. Real miss out on a dynamic, home-grown midfielder with pace, vision and ability to match his enthusiasm.
He will now watch the Madrid derby as a member of the coaching staff, a role that will see him work in the same youth ranks he had played his way through as a promising young prospect. In Wednesday’s Press conference, De la Red cited Quique Sanchez Flores as a major influence in his early career, the former Real Madrid youth Coach sat in the Atletico dugout for Sunday’s match.