The Lead

I may or may not go on the record later and say I devised this lead story merely so I could write the headline above. Only time will tell.

Indeed, he wrote, pivoting badly, only time will tell whether Real Madrid’s ugly 1-2 win against Levante in La Liga on Sunday will propel the club back into the title race. Although it’s hard to see if it was ever out of it in the first place, media whinging aside. With a squad of that depth to be a mere eight points off the leaders in mid-November under Jose Mourinho could mean any damn thing, between winning the title by ten points or one.

Anyway, there was lots of “off-field drama”, if that’s your bag. Fisticuffs in dressing rooms, elbows in the face, the temporary in both Cristiano Ronaldo’s eyes, Pepe being a massive dick. Rain. A sodden pitch. A classic Mourinho-post match presser, in which the Portuguese manager bullishly spoke of Real Madrid Castilla’s historic failure to produce first team players, in order to defend his record in taking players from that team. Sid Lowe has the soap digest-like round-up if you care to read further.

Meanwhile, in typical fashion, Barcelona could not help but pip Real Madrid to the headlines through a single, solitary statistic for a single, solitary player:

Lionel Messi surpassed Pele’s milestone of goals in a calendar year by scoring for the 75th and 76th time in 2012 to move within nine of Gerd Mueller’s all-time record as Barcelona won 4-2 at Mallorca in the Spanish league on Sunday.

What is course remarkable in this is that Messi has the incredible footballing versatility of a Pele, with a scoring record of an inestimable fox-in-the-box like Mueller. Moreover, his two goals in the Mallorca were decisive in the 2-4 win. Their football may be robotically effective; they may not shred dressing rooms; Tito Vilanova may be the single most boring manager in the last decade of Spanish soccer. But boy, are they a statisticians wet-dream, and can claim to having produced the single greatest footballer in the 149-year history of association rules football.

Canada

Armen Bedakian argues as to why you shouldn’t give up your Toronto FC season tickets just yet.

England

Hodgson’s calls Zaha to the national team to replace injured Rooney.

Liverpool boss Rodgers say’s he’ll be happy if team finishes in the top eight.

Fellaini crucial to Everton’s Champions League hopes.

Terry could miss the entire season after sustaining a knee injury.

Italy

Atalanta snap Inter Milan’s 10-game winning streak.

Antonio Conte breaks his silence and chats with fans on Twitter.

La Liga

All the latest in La Liga.

Ronaldo suffers eye injury but soldiers on.

Phil Ball’s in-depth look at why youth development in Spain is slower than elsewhere in Europe.

Messi continues to break records.

Germany

Cristian Nyari has all the best in Bundesliga action.

RVP to miss friendly against Germany.

Schweinsteiger to miss Wednesday’s Netherlands friendly.

Bit and Bobs

Luis Suarez sends John Terry Twitter hugs.

Paul Grech makes a case for how Scottish football should be run.

Michael Owen’s Movember pic.

In case you missed it, here is De Rossi’s punch on Mauri.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.