La Liga Review is back after taking a bit of a break following the end of the Spanish football season. Actually, it wasn’t much of a break at all as we’ve been very busy helping a friend and colleague set up and run his new website: guillembalague.com.
Needless to say, for those of you who know Guillem Balague, his website is nowthe place to go for first rate insight and analysis on all things to do with La Liga and the Premiership - bu then I would say that wouldn't I. Of course, you won’t find anything like that around here, but we’ll continue to do our best.
However, we’ll attempt to continue casting a critical eye over the Spanish press for the remainder of Euro 2008, and pick things up again at the start of the next Spanish football season. If its insight and exclusives you’re after in the meantime, then Guillembalague.com is a far better bet than hanging around here!
Euro 2008 is underway and there is the added bonus that AS and Marca have both been forced to give up banging on about Raul’s non-selection in the Spanish national squad.
Never mind, Spain’s real number 7 – the one that actually wears the shirt for Spain rather than the one that the idiot stadium announcer at the Bernabeu kept referring to all season – didn’t do badly at all now did he? David Villa’s hatrick has suddenly alerted the rest of Europe to the fact that he is the best Spanish striker around, and has guaranteed that we have a battle for his signature to look forward to when the tournament finishes. We can tell you that Barcelona are very keen, and Valencia will almost certainly have to sell.
The Spanish press haven’t got overly carried away with last night’s 4-1 demolition of Russia in Spain’s opening game at the tournament. After all, we’ve seen it all before. Remember the game against Ukraine at the last World Cup?
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about watching Spain last night was the apparent sudden realization by Aragones and the rest of the team that 90 minutes of tiki-taka – pass and move as we call it in Spain – was not going to put the ball in the back of the net. After watching Spain in friendlies and qualifiers there has been a concern that we were going to see the side pass the ball around, making pretty, yet ineffective triangles while forgetting that Torres needs to receive the ball at some point if he is going to stand any chance of scoring a goal. The Madrid sports paper, AS, called it "midfield masturbation" - quite clever for AS and we even had to look up the word 'Onanism'.
Last night we saw a new found directness to Spain’s play that was as surprising as it was effective. They also found a way of getting the best out of both Torres and Villa: on the pitch at the same time and receiving the ball much earlier. Why spend 20 minutes knocking it about when you can just pick out Torres with your first pass on the counter attack.
The revelation of the performance was that Spain adhered to their principles of short, quick passing and movement for most of the match, but their ability to incorporate this newly discovered direct play enabled them to catch the opposition off guard. An overdependence on one style of play is useless, but the ability to switch between the two can be devastating: as Spain proved against Russia.
It’s not all sunshine and roses for Spain, however, and the doubts about the defence remain. This was an incredibly naïve Russian defence, with fewer caps between them than Iker Casillas, and Spain probably won’t have it as easy as that again. But for now, we’re starting to think maybe….just maybe….
On the domestic front, what have we missed in La Liga while we’ve been away?
Well apart from all the build up to the European Championships, there’s been a fair bit of transfer activity – and even more transfer speculation.
While FC Barcelona have been busy in the transfer market, signing the likes of Caceres, Keita, Pique and (imminently) Dani Alves and shipping out Gio Dos Santos for little more than the loose change in Tottenham’s pocket, Real Madrid have been talking, loudly, about signing a number of people – including Cristiano Ronaldo.
Of course, all of Barcelona’s transfer activity has taken place against the backdrop of the clubs fans once again storming the barricades and starting yet another revolution. In the case of the fans of FC Barcelona they really are revolting.
Yet again, the self proclaimed ‘best supporters’ in the world have shown that the term ‘supporters’ should be applied in the loosest sense of the word, and as for the terrm ‘best’...
Unless of course La Liga Review has got it all wrong, and supporting you r club means forcing an election a week after winning the Champions League because of a bit of a small print in the statutes that nobody bothered to read, or forcing an election and throwing out a President – two years in to a four year tenure on the back of an overwhelming mandate – simply because you haven’t won anything for 18 months.
Make no mistake. Bad decisions were made at the club and in hindsight, perhaps Rijkaard should have gone 12 months earlier, along with some of his bloated and complacent players. However, the board and President always ensured that funds were available and also managed to clear the club’s €260 million in debt – doing a considerably better job than the previous incumbents.
A motion of censure should be reserved for serious wrong doing or gross financial mis-management, not for backing a successful manager for a couple of months longer than you perhaps should have done.
A motion of censure should not be a means to running the club by referendum. What next? A change of President following every defeat or tedious home draw?
Added to that, the real fans must now endure the sight of someone desperate to enjoy his 15 minutes of fame by creating havoc at the club while enjoying having his picture taken with the vermin that are the Boixos Nois. Well done Snr Giralt. You must be incredibly proud of yourself.