Long before the Uruguayan version landed at the Camp Nou following his truncated and less than totally harmonious departure from Liverpool, a different Luis Suárez was wowing the Catalans in the famous Blaugrana colours of Barcelona. Rather than being part of a trident for the club, this Luis Suárez, became an integral part of a quartet, achieved hero status in Catalunya and then nationally, before being recognised as Spain’s first and, so far, only Ballon d’Or winner. He then took Serie A by storm and became a legendary figure for the Nerazzuri in Lombardy. His namesake, currently strutting his stuff alongside Lionel Messi in the Barcelona front line has a bit of work to do if he is to become recognised as the best Luis Suárez of all time. Continue reading →
It’s probably the most famous club game in the history of football. The 1960 European Cup Final, played at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. You know the one. It was the game when the might of Real Madrid secured their fifth successive title as Champions of Europe under new manager Miguel Munoz. The former Bernabeu midfielder had joined the club on 13th April 1960, just over a month ahead of the final. He would be at the helm of Los Blancos for almost 14 years, winning nine La Liga titles, twice triumphing in the Copa del Rey and landing two European Cups, as well as one Intercontinental Cup. It was the game when legendary striker Alfredo Di Stefano struck a hat-trick, but was outgunned by the ‘Galloping Major’ Ferenc Puskas who netted four times. It was the game when legends were born. It was the game when a crowd of some 127,621 officially attended the game, but for years afterwards, many more would have claimed to have done so. Everyone wanted to say that they were there at the game where Real Madrid received their coronation as the best club side on the planet.
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 →
In sport, especially within the often wildly unpredictable world of football, there is rarely anything like a guaranteed winning bet. The Europa League Final on 14th May 2014 was however, probably as close to being a ‘dead cert’ as almost anything ever is when the ‘beautiful game’ is involved. Bet on Sevilla to beat Benfica and lift the trophy, was the call. It’s as close to being brass in the bank as any bet can ever be. Honestly! Would I lie to you? On paper it appeared to be a close contest. Both clubs had enjoyed a reasonably successful season, and had deservedly reached the showpiece final in Turin. That was as may be, but it didn’t mean backing Sevilla wasn’t a good money shot. Continue reading →
It’s that moment. Through on the goalkeeper; one on one. Everything else is still and a second seems to take a minute to runs its brief course. The delicious agony of the instant, standing on the precipice of a moment that will result in acclaim or opprobrium fills pumps the adrenalin up to maximum levels. No time for breath. No time for consideration. Action is required. Anticipate the relief rapidly turning into adulation. Fear the agony and the anger chasing it. There’s pressure. There’s real pressure. Then again, there’s Real pressure. Continue reading →
Last season saw Liverpool come as close to a realistic title challenge as they have for a number of years. Luis Suarez had become the most potent force in the Premier League and Steven Gerrard had performed exceptionally in his ‘quarter-back’ role, spraying around the passes to feed a voracious front line. Add in the pace of Sturridge and the emerging force of Jordan Henderson in midfield, and there was little reason to question the credentials of Brendan Rodgers’ squad as a growing power in English football. That was certainly the headline theory anyway. Some however, had doubts. 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 →
La Liga offers an intriguing prospect for the coming season as both Barcelona and Real Madrid seek to re-establish themselves at the head of the pecking order in Spain. It’s tempting, but would probably be too easy, to write off the chances of Diego Simeone piloting Atletico Madrid to a second successive title. Safe to say however that Atleti’s chances will surely have been damaged by the loss of so many players to supposedly ‘bigger’ clubs.
Los Blancos and Barca, on the other hand, have very much gone the other way, with both having strengthened their squads significantly. Last week I assessed the chances of Luis Enrique bringing the title back to Catalunya in his first season in charge at the Camp Nou. This week, I’ll be taking a look at Carlo Ancelotti‘s squad and the prospects of him making Real Madrid champions of Spain once more.
It’s a game oft-painted with the vivid colours of a cultural conflict played out on a green sward, feeding the hungry passions of people separated by history, but united by desire for gaining an all too brief and surrogated sporting victory. Red and yellow to one side and blood and gold to the other, champions donned in white or claret and blue vie for victory, honour and acclaim. “Mes que un club!” Perhaps. More than a game? Probably. El Clasico is the game that must shout. Born in conflict, intensified by war, it’s the game that cannot forget the past. Continue reading →