Category Archives: La Liga

MTV, poetry and Johann Cruyff’s Dream Team – A new Ballad of Reading Gaol.

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 →

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Watching football in the house of Cholo.

Simeone

Following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho from the hot seat at Chelsea, one of the names mentioned as a the long-term replacement is Diego Simeone, currently managing Atletico Madrid in La Liga. There’s a relationship already in place between the two clubs with players moving between them. Could El Cholo be the next one to move from the Vicente Calderon to Stamford Bridge? If the Bookies are right it could well be the case. There is however, something special in the fit between the Simeone and Atleti. It’s something that just works; something that may not be transferable. It’s something I experienced earlier this year. Continue reading →

Of Galician dreams and a man with a suitcase.

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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 →

Barcelona fans get shirty, as financial reality bites in Catalunya.

Carrying the UNICEF log was originally seen as an altruistic move, but was there a deeper plan?

Carrying the UNICEF log was originally seen as an altruistic move, but was there a deeper plan?

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 →

DC’s move on Valencia would have been just comic.

Picture the scene. “Holy Logo Dilemma Batman!” cries the Boy Wonder. “We need to rescue our trademark.” Having curtailed with the cruelly comic cuts of The Joker, the somewhat fishy ne’er do well activities of The Penguin and figured out the contrived criminal capers of The Riddler, it now appeared that an altogether different sort of target is causing the lights to flash on the Bat-scope. Fortunately for the Dynamic Duo, the crisis was averted.

Don't panic old chum. Crisis averted!

Don’t panic old chum. Crisis averted!

Continue reading →

Moyes seeking redemption amongst the Basques.

Moyes is to take over at the Estadio Anoeta.

Moyes is to take over at the Estadio Anoeta.

Sir Alex Ferguson was always fond of saying that whenever anyone leaves Manchester United, inevitably it was a step down, regardless of whichever club they went to. Real Madrid, among a couple of others may dispute such an assertion, especially of late, but for David Moyes, taking a step back to reignite his managerial career after his traumatic time in the Old Trafford hot seat was probably inevitable. That he has landed at the Estadio Anoeta to take charge of Real Sociedad, a club often compared in stature to Moyes’ previous employer at Goodison Park, at least shows that the Scot retains a hunger to prove himself in the managerial game.

Just over a year ago, Moyes, together with his then Manchester United charges returned from San Sebastien following a fairly satisfying 0-0 draw against his new employers in a Champions League encounter and could hardly have envisaged the turmoil and dismissal that was to follow. With an 18 month contract now is place with the Basque club however, he faces the task of rebuilding both a career and a reputation seriously damaged by the doomed attempt to take over the driving seat at Old Trafford from Sir Alex Ferguson. Continue reading →

“People argue between Pele or Maradona. Di Stéfano is the best, much more complete.” (Pele)

The greatest player of all time? Pele thought so.

The greatest player of all time? Pele thought so.

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 →

Could Catalan independence destroy La Liga – and Barcelona?

Independence is a popular cause in Catalunya.

Independence is a popular cause in Catalunya.

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 →

Bielsa leads French Revolution for Les Marseillaise.

Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa

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.

Continue reading →

Flagging up the politics in La Liga.

Athletic Club v FC Barcelona

Athletic Club v FC Barcelona

At the weekend Barcelona will entertain Atletico Bilbao at the Camp Nou. Nothing so unusual about that however. The clash has been an enduring La Liga fixture for over a century. This particular match up however looks likely to have more than a nodding acquaintance with the heightened political tensions across Spain concerning independence, particularly for the Basque Country and Catalunya.

Continue reading →