That was the weekend that was

Well shiver me timbers – what an awesome three days of matches in Spain! Just when you were thinking that it couldn’t remain so interesting and competitive, and that things were gradually reverting to the old hierarchies, LaLiga comes up with a cracker whose glow will warm the Spanish firesides for the next fortnight.   The teams that won can spend the international break all smiley and positive in training, whilst the victims can search in the rubble for the positives and just keep on working, as the clichés go. Continue reading “That was the weekend that was”

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Home sweet home?

What do Valencia and Real Sociedad have in common, apart from the obvious fact that they both have football teams?  Well, neither of them has won at home yet, and Valencia’s only (away) win this season to date was at….yes, you’ve guessed it, Real Sociedad.  Huesca and Rayo have also failed to win at home, but maybe that’s not so newsworthy.  Bottom-placed Huesca almost made it on Sunday but visitors Getafe pooped their party by equalising in the 91st minute, and Rayo were looking as though they might break their hoodoo against the unlikely presence of Barcelona, but the Catalans have a tendency to break local hearts in the final minutes, and thus it proved, a 2-1 turning suddenly into a 2-3 in the final ten minutes of the game.  Another member of the homeless club is Villarreal, which is something of a surprise – with a mere three goals scored in six games. Continue reading “Home sweet home?”

Decline and Fall

When I was writing ‘White Storm’ for Real Madrid’s centenary, a book commissioned by a British publisher and endorsed by the club as kosher, I got to meet various interesting people at planet Bernabéu. Some were more interesting than others – but that’s the nature of a multi-national enterprise, although it felt less like an impersonal leviathan back then in the early naughties. One of the most interesting (and remarkably open) folks I spoke to was Jorge Valdano.  Valdano wasn’t everyone’s cup of coffee back then, but as Director of Football he acted as a public buffer between the club’s supporters, the press and Florentino Pérez, then a relative newcomer to the presidential post but already beginning to put his ‘galácticos’ policy into action. José Angel Sánchez had been in his post as head of marketing for about two years, and was already Pérez’s most trusted lieutenant. Continue reading “Decline and Fall”

Pond life making a splash

Preview of La Liga’s 10th week

The clásico tends to put the rest of the fixtures into the shade, over in the small pond with its pond-life flapping and flipping about – a minor eco-system of relative irrelevance compared to the leviathans chopping through the waves of their own public importance.  And yet the ‘look at me’ aspect of Sunday’s clásico differs in several ways to previous encounters.  For one, the absence of Messi and Ronaldo is certainly interesting (it’s the first time they both missed for eleven years) and for two, you get the feeling that the result – come what may – will have a major influence on the development of events this season.

This tends to be the case with the 2nd clásico of the season, not the first.  But here, a win for Barcelona will confirm their ‘okay’ status whilst condemning Madrid to depths of the league well below their already unthinkable 7th.  It will certainly signal yet another change of coach.  If they win, he still might go.  All these things have a general impact. They are not confined to the Bernabéu alone. Continue reading “Pond life making a splash”

Clásico Conundrum

Every cloud has a silver lining, eh? Just when Real Madrid thought that things couldn’t possibly get much worse, in the 25th minute of Barcelona v Sevilla, Leo Messi took on his compatriot ‘Mudo’ (the mute) Vázquez, toppled over and injured his arm.  The world stood still, Dembele replaced LM (who had already scored and set up a goal) and hope returned to the Bernabéu, where the grey-suited chiefs sat hunched in Saturday night pow-wow over the future of Mr Lopetegui. Ah, alas poor Julen – we thought we knew him.  From seeming like a thoroughly sensible bloke running the national team with serious-faced efficiency, his boat floated too close to the Siren shores of the Bernabéu. Julen dived into the water, and the rest is history. Continue reading “Clásico Conundrum”

Tantric antics

Given the foul weather on Sunday morning, I wandered down to the local bar with my papers and pored over the footy stuff, accompanied by my ‘Tejano’ coffee (Texan – which is an ‘Americano’ with a bit of cold milk) and a croissant whose sugary nature will mean some gym-ridden penance sessions this coming week.  I like these coffee visits to the bar, usually alone.  I can read all the Spanish news and all the sports tabloids, in perfect peace.  In fact I stayed so long that Valladolid v Huesca began on the telly.  ‘They’re going back down, that Huesca lot’ pronounced the owner of the bar from within shouting distance – aware of my weakness for football.  I nodded. ‘They try to play football, but it doesn’t work for them – look!’ he proclaimed, as a pass went astray. Continue reading “Tantric antics”

A dose of democracy?

I was reminded of the Seekers’ song from my childhood when Messi came onto the pitch with Barcelona 0-1 down to Athletic on Saturday:  ‘I could search the whole world over/Until my life is through/But I know I’ll never find another you’.  We were talking about the wee man last week and once again he hit the headlines by pulling his team back from their third brink in three games by shaking up the general movement and getting the vital assist for Munir’s equaliser. Well actually it was four games on the brink, because they were mighty fortunate to win at Real Sociedad before this little negative ‘run’ began, but hey – crisis what crisis? They’re still top of the league.

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The forty-minute Messi effect

Continue reading “A dose of democracy?”