Assume you’re Ronald Koeman. You’ve lost your best player the very last day of the transfer window, and he wasn’t just a great player. Messi is arguably the most influential playmaker in decades, which is important because the rest of the team had grown accustomed to playing FOR him, to following his flow. It’s not like losing a fantastic centre-forward or an insistent full back. Barcelona’s approach to playing football during the last decade was Messi, what he wanted to do or could do, much more than it was Guardiola, Cruyff or positional play.
Iker has retired. It’s hard to think there’ll be another one like him
For at least 10 years, I kept joking that Iker Casillas was challenging Julio Iglesias’ status as the greatest Spaniard ever.
Iglesias’ credentials are well-known, at least if you were born before 1980. Otherwise, let me explain: Julio is a billionaire singer who can’t actually sing – and yes, that deserves huge recognition—, which coupled with his global success and the fact that he managed to remain an irresistible sex-symbol for almost all of his adult life made him top the list. Ah! He also played on goal for Real Madrid until he broke his knee and changed careers… Nothing could go wrong for Julio. What else could you ask for in a Spaniard? Success, money, international recognition… Continue reading “The goalie who could win matches”
It took me a while to digest Sunday’s defeat. Not only because I felt optimistic about the match and the squad, but especially because I liked the line-up and thought it sent the right message to the team and the rival.
However, it didn’t work. In fact, the match became the continuation of the downward spiral Spain’s game got into after the tournament started. Each match was a bit worse than the previous one in terms of energy, risks taken, errors committed. Making a simple extrapolation, the tournament was bound to end badly. Continue reading “Back home”
“Cautious optimism” is probably the concept that best summarises the atmosphere in the Spanish camp hours before their match against Russia in Moscow. True to form, coach Fernando Hierro has decided to focus on the motivational aspect of the contest. One only needs to see the squad train for a short warm-up session and it’s evident that they can beat any team if they feel like playing hard, so it makes sense that Hierro touches the incentives rather than the tactics. Continue reading “Overdose of motivation”
Spain struggle to draw with Morocco. Fresh ideas & legs are badly needed
The fact that Spain managed to qualify to the knockout stages of this World Cup in the first spot of their group defies all logic. Yes, they’re undefeated. Yes, they’ve scored six goals in three matches. Yes, they dominated proceedings for most of the games against their three rivals. But all those facts fail to tell the story of an embarrassing defence – both in open play and in set pieces –, and of an endless succession of touches without much intent to score, easily dealt with by their opponents. The way Spain have played, especially in the last two matches, does not look promising for the outcome of this World Cup. Continue reading “Top of the group, thank VAR”
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”
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.
I’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”
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.
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”