Horror show in Russia

Or how to start a tournament off the wrong foot

The sequence of events surrounding the Spanish national team in the few days before the beginning of the World Cup deserves to be remembered as the pinnacle of Spanish sports weirdness, and that is quite a feat.

Decisions made and actions taken by every participant can indeed be justified: Real Madrid / Florentino’s ego needed a top-level coach; Julen Lopetegui felt that Real Madrid never calls twice, although a certain Fabio Capello may differ; and Mr Rubiales, the president of the Spanish FA, surely thought that Lopetegui’s behavior was disloyal to such an extent that the Basque coach could be trusted no longer.

But the fact that all three parties can argue their respective cases does not mean that they’re right. In fact, and from my extremely humble perspective, they are all closer to idiocy than to rational, sensitive behavior. Continue reading “Horror show in Russia”

Lopetegui puts Spain back on the right track

Julen Lopetegui, Spain’s national coach, is not an easy character. Stern and focused on his work, he avoids the media as much as he can and does not deal well with losses. Before he was chosen for his current job, his highest profile job was at Porto, a tough assignment that, with some moments of promise, ended badly.

Continue reading “Lopetegui puts Spain back on the right track”

Speak up

Preview of La Liga’s 19th week

Xavi en QatarI’m sure we all agree: one of the most frustrating aspects of modern football is the development of a generation of players and coaches trained to say absolutely nothing during an interview. Able to speak like politicians, they avoid anything remotely similar to uttering a real opinion about other teams, teammates, coaches and anything that could somehow get them into trouble. Continue reading “Speak up”

Stick to your guns

Valverde and Zidane made the difference in El Clasico

After a few days packed with overreactions to the Madrid-Barça, it’s time to cut through the clutter and see what’s next for both clubs. Granted that the following reflections have matured as my closest relatives and friends kept filling my glass with top-quality wines and spirits – pretty much any wine that you drink with someone you love improves immensely –, so some of these comments might belong to different phases of the drunken state. In any case, I do believe that the effect of the alcohol has enrichened the depth of these thoughts, rather than the opposite.

comida 23
Busy post-match / Christmas celebration

Continue reading “Stick to your guns”

Gluttony before Christmas

Preview of La Liga’s 17th round of fixtures

In his last column, Phil commented how odd this round of fixtures is. Indeed, the first match is to be played on Tuesday and the last on Saturday, which makes for a very long “weekend”.

That said, it’s a cracking set of matches: the 17th round includes El Clasico, the Galician derby, the “other” Madrid – Barcelona derby between Atletico and Espanyol, the Valencian Community derby between Valencia and Villarreal, two duels involving Sevilla teams and Basque teams, a relegation thriller with Malaga visiting Alaves… Continue reading “Gluttony before Christmas”

We need you, Basques

Preview of La Liga’s 16th week

derby vasco

With the obvious depressing state of Basque football, the fight over a top six finish in La Liga seems already settled for the rest of the season. Unless something shocking happens in the next couple of months, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Sevilla, Villarreal, Valencia and Atlético de Madrid will end the tournament in spots that give access to European football next season, while the rest of the clubs will have to fight to avoid relegation or die of boredom in mid table.  Continue reading “We need you, Basques”

The Champions Club

Preview of La Liga’s 15th week

Last Tuesday, the coolest wife on earth had her birthday. Her present, received with utter happiness, was a short trip to Barcelona and a couple of tickets to see Lionel Messi live at ‘his’ own stadium.

Lio Camp Nou
Priceless

Initially disappointed because her idol was on the bench, she – plus the rest of the Camp Nou, and even the languid Sporting de Portugal – lit up when the diminutive playmaker joined the match in the second half. Despite the cold evening, the experience was well worth the trip. Watching Messi get the ball in a dangerous area and feel the whole stadium contain their breath simultaneously in anticipation is one of those precious little things that every football fan enjoys, no matter which team they support.

Continue reading “The Champions Club”