The Lead

The best Internet trolls will troll you with you being aware you’re being trolled. They’re kind of like the Apollo Robbins of blog scummery.

I’m not sure that Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué trash talks on forums and the like, but if he did he’d be devastating. Because the best trolls base their attacks in truth. Here he is ostensibly criticizing the Spanish press for their ‘hypocrisy’ in covering Mourinho at Real Madrid, and their general lack of objectivity in covering football:

“It makes me laugh because I remember that when Madrid won, Mourinho was allowed do anything,” Pique said. “He came here and poked Tito in the eye. How many games was he banned for? Zero. Now that Mourinho is taking on Iker, that he locked up a journalist [to yell at him], there is criticism. Mourinho has always been like this, ever since he arrived. He was allowed do anything.”

Pique also included Catalan papers such as Mundo Deportivo and Sport in his comments, saying that he did not think the media should just be a cheerleader for ‘their’ team.

“I do not think the press should act like this,” he said. “I am just saying this for Barcelona, but also for Madrid. Barca do not do everything well. But if you look at the front pages of Mundo Deportivo and Sport, it seems like the club does everything well. I say the same for both sides, for Madrid and for Barcelona.”

Yet more devastating is Piqué’s criticism of the way Real Madrid ‘play’ football:

Pique also believes that injuries and suspensions were to blame for Madrid’s 0-0 draw at Osasuna on Saturday night, not bad coaching from Mourinho or a bad attitude from the players.

“It did not look to me like Madrid had thrown in La Liga,” he said. “They went without four or five very important players. I believe they had the right attitude. Madrid have never based their game on playing great football. They have intensity and ambition. They ‘eat up’ their opponent. You could see they missed their injured players.”

So perfectly done. A ‘defense’ of Real Madrid that is in fact a devastating—and accurate—diagnosis of the club’s fundamental problem in chasing Barcelona. The club cannot possibly compete with Barcelona, a team with individually excellent footballers with decades’ worth of experience playing together under a unified tactical system. It’s no coincidence that one of Jose Mourinho’s most public spats was with the Real Madrid Castilla coach over their difference in formations and tactics. If the youth team is not on the same page as the first team, the club will not be able to compete with Barcelona as equals.

Additionally, the attitude of both the Spanish press and Real Madrid fans is fantastical. They believe because Mourinho is a jerk, or because he’s not intent on starting Iker every game, Real Madrid fail. Rafa Benitez did well here once, so he’s the answer. Meanwhile the core issue that separates the two clubs at present remains unaddressed, with many Madristas still under the impression the club is just another Galactico away from permanent dominance in Spain. Piqué understands this; it’s a shame many within the club do not.

Canada

Toronto FC land Brazilian midfielder Julio Cesar.

England

Swansea sign Osasuna’s Lamah on loan.

“But I know that one day I will come back because English football means a lot to myself.” -Mourinho

Wigan’s Ramis sidelined for the rest of the season.

QPR close to completing Remy deal, beat out Newcastle.

City release Michael Johnson, after declining performance and off-field incidents.

Linesman who told City players to thank fans dropped from FA cup game due to media pressure.

Italy

Berlusconi apologizes over Balotelli ‘rotten apple’ remark.

Galatasaray losing patience with Sneijder.

La Liga

Barcelona’s president says City trying to lure its staff and players.

Iniesta voted world’s best playmaker.

Sevilla fire Michel, hire new coach Emery.

Germany

Sven-Goran Eriksson joins 1860 Munich’s coaching staff.

Bit and Bobs

Scotland hires new manager Strachan.

Blatter says too many foreign players in EPl hurt English national team.

Danish goalkeeper scores a beautiful overhead kick.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links!