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 →