In the overblown controversy between Gary Lineker and Zinedine Zidane over Karim Benzema’s talents (or lack thereof), some have missed the obvious. One of them is a pundit doing his job: opinions on the game, including his personal preferences about players, even if he does not watch them play that often. The other is a coach also doing his job: defending his squad no matter what, especially against any outside critics.
Debates about Benzema’s right to start for Real Madrid begin with a very misleading fact: he wears the number 9 shirt. Continue reading “The Benzema Debate”
Preview of La Liga’s 9th week
La Liga’s ninth week looks like an easy one in terms of predictions. Beware, though. Much has been said about the FIFA virus and the effect of international weeks on the performance of top teams the following weekend, but the UEFA virus also exists, especially in the case of Europa League participants. Continue reading “UEFA Virus?”
Preview of La Liga’s 8th week
For many of us, football takes up an inordinate amount of space and time in our lives. We devote hours and days to following news, watching matches and analysing results, no matter whether it is midweek or weekend, day or night, South American qualifiers for the World Cup or a Premier League match between two struggling sides on a rainy night, perhaps in Stoke.
However, sometimes real life yells out, shows you its uglier face, takes that mental space back and sends football back to what it should be: fantastic entertainment that deserves our attention only every once in a while. Continue reading “La Liga to the rescue”
The homework is done. After their 3-0 victory over Albania, Spain have qualified for their eleventh World Cup in a row. Their last group match, away against Israel on Monday, will allow Lopetegui to give quality minutes to representatives of his under-21 squad, some of whom have already shown that they can deliver in the top international level as well as they did when they played for the Basque coach in Spain’s youth teams. Continue reading “Isco or Iniesta?”
“Piqué, I love you”, screamed a section of the fans as the Barcelona player jumped onto the Rico Perez stadium in Alicante on Thursday. Another section booed him with all their might. While a silent majority of the 28,000 supporters present watched the Spanish National team train, both groups kept at it with decreasing intensity. Continue reading “The Matter at Hand”
Preview of La Liga’s 7th week
This scribe knows well that the title of this column may mislead some readers given the current context in Spain. Many could think that I was going to write about Catalonia, but that’s not the case. What is currently happening there undeniably has a somewhat rebellious component, but has little to do with the humble: the region is one of the richest in the country and, according to surveys, its richer citizens demand full independence in greater proportion than its less wealthy ones, who wish to remain in Spain. Catalan secessionism, among other less pragmatic reasons, has a lot to do with stopping the region’s financial contributions to the rest of Spain. Continue reading “Rebellion of the Humble”
Preview of all La Liga matches in the 6th jornada
There’s a new powerhouse in La Liga, probably at the level of Real Madrid and Barcelona. Yes, their budget is considerably smaller, but when you look at Atletico’s squad now, and what it will become in January, there’s very little argument: they can compete with the best in Europe. Continue reading “Atlético make the big move”
Quiniela for the 5th set of fixtures of the season
How much time does a footballer need to show his true potential? In some cases, probably years. Which club or coach has the patience to wait all that time nowadays? Sometimes there’s no room for error, as it’s hard to justify certain investments and salaries with the mere hope that prospect X can bloom into a fantastic asset.
But when clubs take their time and it works, it’s a fantastic feeling for their usually fickle football fans. Think of Isco, for instance. It has taken him a few seasons and a bizarre conjunction of events to feel at ease in a Real Madrid shirt and show all the talent many of us – not me, by the way – thought he had. Or Marcelo, who arrived in Madrid ten seasons ago and could have left the club quite a few times before he finally looked not only talented, but as consistent as he does today.
What should Real Madrid do with Gareth Bale then? Continue reading “Time and Patience”
Analyses and predictions for La liga’s 4th set of fixtures
I could spend a few thousand words describing how much I’ve been thinking of writing this comeback column, but it would be a waste of your time, so let’s get down to business. This is a Quiniela and hopefully you already know the drill: a home team win is reflected by ‘1’; a draw with ‘X’; and an away team victory with ‘2’. So there we go: ten matches, ten analyses, ten decisions to make… And some terrible jokes in the process. Continue reading “Back for Good?”