ESPN’s Phil Ball is one of the less-heralded football writers out there, and he ranks among the very best. His column today on the Spanish press’ attempt to stoke flames of unrest at Barcelona in light of footage of an irate Messi calling for a pass that never was from team-mate David Villa is a delight. On Messi, he writes:
Messi does appear to be a fairly calm chap most of the time, and it might be news if he gets cross, but when I played football, I loved it when there was a guy in the team who would shout and complain, just so long as he was fair, and just as long as he was good enough himself. It kept you on your toes. The best teams have always had a shouty guy, one to whom the rest deferred. Football is a canine world – it’s very hierarchical. There’s a certain way of behaving in a dressing-room, a certain way of talking, depending on where you are in the pecking order. If you ignore this, as some over-confident young players sometimes do, they are soon put in their place.
Ball argues this is a particularly Spanish trait, and it reminded me of an old interview with Alfredo di Stefano recounting Real Madrid’s strategy during its European Cup heyday in the late 1950s. This was a team marked more by players than coaches or managers, and the reason in part had to do with how the players regularly berated each other during matches, forcefully pointing to positions not covered and screaming over missed opportunities.
The trick di Stefano said was that off the pitch, everyone was great friends. They knew the difference between game state and real life. It was one of the reasons, as star forward Francisco Gento once remarked, that Madrid was able to break down any and all tactical systems in Europe. Far from a sign of discord, in the right context, players yelling at one another is a sign of health.
Thankfully, Granada CF’s second-choice goalkeeper Jorge Sanchez isn’t part of the problem. As detailed in Canchellena (in Spanish), Sanchez earns a sub-poverty line 100 Euros a month stemming from some inscrutable youth policy at the club.
Granada visit Barcelona this weekend, and Sanchez is hopeful for his team’s prospects. He (and us) may secretly be praying for first choice keeper Tono to pick up a knock so that we can see a player who earns 8,333 times Sanchez have his shots stopped in humiliating fashion.
“I’m speechless. I really can’t describe it. What Radamel is doing is indescribable. He’s a lad that whenever you set the bar high, he sets it higher and rises to the occasion. He has dedication above and beyond what is normal.”
Diego Simeone is a hard-nosed Argentine better known for the cynicism that got David Beckham sent-off at the 1998 World Cup than for dishing out compliments, so when he issues high praise there’s usually a special reason. Radamel Falcao’s recent form certainly applies.
The Colombian scored again on Tuesday night as Los Cafeteros edged closer to their first participation at a World Cup in 12 years with a 3-1 win in Chile to back up a resounding 4-0 win over Copa America champions Uruguay on Friday.
Unsurprisingly, the 26-year-old was the catalyst then too as he stroked home the opener within two minutes, prompting one Spanish commentator to exclaim, “A man with such confidence it is simply terrifying.”
Simeone’s praise came two weeks ago on the back of Falcao’s scintillating destruction of Chelsea as Atlético Madrid lifted the European Super Cup. His first-half hat-trick was his second that week, as he had already returned to haunt Athletic Bilbao with three goals in a 4-0 win four days earlier.
His start to the season, tagged onto his finish to the last, mean he has now netted 14 times in his last 15 outings, and yet his 24 league goals last season weren’t even enough to merit Atlético a place in this season’s Champions League. Read the rest of this entry »
The Catalan daily paper Sport broke the story on Monday. From next season, Barcelona’s second shirt will apparently be based on the emotive colours of the senyera, the national flag of Catalunya.
In the past, its yellow and red stripes were confined to the captain’s armband, first worn by Johan Cruyff between 1973 and 1975 in a small but symbolic show of defiance against the Franco regime. Then, under Barcelona’s former president Joan Laporta, it appeared on the back of the shirt’s collar, generating controversy but also the most shirt sales ever recorded by the club. Yet not once in its long and illustrious history has Barcelona based an entire strip on the senyera.
A leaked photo did the rounds, as always happens when a new kit is in the works. For good measure, Sport’s picture desk also Photo-shopped captain Carles Puyol in the 2006 home shirt with its colours changed to the red and yellow of the senyera. Visualisation after all is essential to realisation.
There has been no official confirmation of the plans reported in Sport, but neither has there so far been a denial from Barcelona or Nike. Instead, it’s said that, although the design for the next Barcelona second shirt is still in its early stages, the concept behind it does have board approval and Nike will be given the green light to take things further. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s not about the money, you shallow, shallow people. From CR7′s Twitter account:
That I am feeling sad and have expressed this sadness has created a huge stir. I am accused of wanting more money, but one day it will be shown that this is not the case. At this point, I just want to guarantee to the Real Madrid fans that my motivation, dedication, commitment and desire to win all competitions will not be affected. I have too much respect for myself and for Real Madrid to ever give less to the club than all I am capable of. Abrazos to all madridistas
In my limited experience on planet earth, any time anyone says it’s not about the money means it’s precisely about the money, although there may be some boot-throwing story to emerge at some point.
My own feeling is this will be about as banal as we think it is: something related to a “lack of spiritual support” over his UEFA award snub or some such nonsense. Hell, people have gone into paroxysms of sadness over losing their parking spot, so, well, it could be anything. I CAN’T WAIT TO FIND OUT.
Atlético Madrid has made a habit of replacing quality with quality up front. Torres, Forlan, Agüero and now Falcao. The best striker in the world plies his trade in La Liga – apologies, EPL zealots. Here are the Colombian wizard’s three first half goals against Chelsea. David Luiz won’t be able to sleep for days.
Barcelona are natural innovators. Not a lot of people realise quite how many important aspects of football they’ve actually invented: passing, of course, but a glowing sense of entitlement too, and a confusing mix of commercialism and moral flag waving on top of that. Last night they added yet another layer to the game: Victor Valdes fell over the ball in an El Classico and, in doing so, really shook modern football up. Barcelona: we owe you one. Read the rest of this entry »