I’ve heard it said that non-football fans are – to paraphrase Bart Simpson – the MTV Generation, knowing neither highs nor lows. Anyone not hooked up with a femme fatale of a football club – someone upon which you pour your affections, only to be scorned and disheartened at so many turns – is incapable of understanding the all-too-brief but euphoric highs of success for the object of your adoration. Sometimes though, albeit so very rarely, those highs linger and join together to offer an enticing view of a world full of joy and bereft of despair and disappointment, a sunlit upland that will be yours for ever and ever; your club becomes dominant – the paragon, a beauty inarnate, the iconoclast that kicks down the rules of normal roller-coaster emotions. Into the mid-nineties, the Barcelona team of Johann Cruyff was such a team. Continue reading →
In England there was the time when Michael Thomas made sure ‘it was for grabs’ as Arsenal snaffled the title away from Liverpool with a late smash and grab raid at Anfield. Then, back in 2012, we had Martin Tyler’s famous ‘Agueroooooo’ moment. Needing a victory to secure their first league title in over forty years, Manchester City entered injury time trailing 2-1 at home to QPR. For the first, and so far only, time in Premier League history however, a team performed the oracle of turning a deficit into victory during the brief time added on by the referee, and City lifted the trophy. For the sky blue-decked City fans, the word ‘tense’ didn’t even come close, but at least they had that glorious release of victory at the final denouement. In the Estadio Riazor in 1994, fans of Galician club Deportivo de La Coruña had waited much longer and were not so fortunate. Had a key man played his part in the outcome of the game a week or so before though? Continue reading →
Around nine years ago or so, I was on holiday in Sitges, just outside Barcelona. As is my wont at such times, I was sitting outside a bar with a cold beer whilst the wife had gone off shopping. Relaxing in the Catalan sunshine, I was reading – well reading may be too strong a word, but my fractured Spanish just allows me to understand every third word or so, so I can grasp the essence of the story – a copy of ‘Sport’, a local newspaper that covers football, and predominantly FC Barcelona. Continue reading →
There’s been time for a period of reflection after Greg Dyke’s introspective narrative on the trials and tribulations of the English game, and what needs to change in order to get the national team back in the higher rankings of the world game from our currently lowly status of seventeenth, tucked in behind Chile and the USA.
I’ve heard and read many ideas of how to change the scenario to give young English players a better chance of playing first team football and developing the potential that they have. Some, such as Everton manager Roberto Martinez have declared that there isn’t so much wrong with the ability of players at the early stages of their careers, but unlike in Spain, there isn’t the chance for them to play in many competitive matches, to case-harden their techniques with real game time experience. Continue reading →
In the modern game, the term ‘player power’ has come to be used to describe a process wherein a player’s wish to leave a club can be made real, even if his employers may not want to lose him. Any reference to a contract of course is purely incidental. Once a player’s head is turned, by the lure of loads more lucre or the tantalising glitter of silverware, club’s faced with the alternatives of keeping a dissatisfied player or cashing in, usually take the latter as the least bad option.
There is another element to this however, where player power manifests itself in a battle of wills between the manager and a particular player nominally under his charge. Some have painted such a picture with regard to the relationship between Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and talismanic skipper Steven Gerrard. Continue reading →
Fourteen years after he left the club for a ‘dream’ move to Chelsea, and fame and glory under Jose Mourinho, Eidur Gudjohnsen has landed back at Bolton. The stadium that was once the Reebok, is now labelled as the Macron, but the 36 year old Icelandic striker will be hoping that there will be no need for a ‘bedding’ in process and that familiar surroundings will fit him like a comfortable pair of ‘bedroom slippers.’ Continue reading →
First it was just a logo. Not a commercial one of course, and it was certainly presented as being an altruistic move. Whilst other clubs were selling their shirt space, donating yours to charity seemed a statement of intent. Perhaps. Whatever the reasoning however, it was an opening of the door. Now the name emblazoned across the famous blaugrana shirt is ‘Qatar.’ Commercial without a doubt. Continue reading →
The appellation ‘legend’ is often overused. The merely good become star players and such stars receive an even more exalted status. With the case of Alfredo Di Stefano however, it’s a label that fits comfortably with the history and record of the player. Although his zenith was a little before my time, it’s not difficult to discern from grainy tapes of games that here was a player with the poise and balance of an genuine athlete, and the ability to play in virtually any outfield position and still be outstanding
The Argentine-born striker played just under 400 games for Los Blancos, netting 308 goals during his time in the capital. Between 1954 and 1964, he also accumulated eight La Liga titles, five consecutive European Cups, one Spanish Cup and one Intercontinental Cup. It could however have been so different, as the first kit he donned in Spain was not the white of Real Madrid, but the Blaugrana of fierce rivals Barcelona. How this came to happen is a story full of intrigue and conspiracy theories, all painted in the colours of the people deploying their own particular versions of it. Continue reading →
For Real Madrid, a league without Barcelona would be akin to the position in which Celtic find themselves in Scotland. Florentino Perez famously once said that “if Barcelona didn’t exist, (Real Madrid) would have to invent them.” Should independence movements progress in Catalunya however, it may just be a situation that Perez’s club need to address.
Across the province, there is heated debate at the moment regarding whether a referendum on independence should go ahead on 9th November. Barcelona has, over its history, often been regarded as a touchstone for Catalan independence, be it openly supporting it, or as more latterly offering more obtuse support. An example is their second strip used this season, which represents the Senyera, the flag of Catalunya. Continue reading →
Last weekend, led by their new manager Marcelo Bielsa, Marseille defeated St Ettienne in Le Classique to go two points clear of Bordeaux at the head of Ligue 1 and a full five points in front of oil-rich PSG. After two games without a win, OM have now recorded six straight victories and look a solid contender for Le Championnat.
When Pep Guardiola was considering taking up coaching, he sought out the advice of the man he described as ‘the best manager in the world.’ A man often nicknamed ‘El Loco.’ Undertaking an 11 hour journey to South America seemed very much worthwhile however, as the two men sat and talked long into the night. The apprentice was told of the effects of the job and folklore has it that he was asked “Do you really like blood that much?” It may have seemed an extreme way of warning the younger man of what lay ahead. A few years later, after three league titles, two Champions Leagues and two World Club Cups, when a drained Guardiola exited Barcelona, he understood. The wisdom was borne out. It’s somewhat ironic then that Guardiola’s last match in charge of the Blaugrana was against Athletic Bilbao, managed by El Loco himself, Marcello Bielsa.