So far I have resisted the temptation to write about any games outside of the World Cup, but after watching Barça put away Real Madrid in such emphatic fashion today, I just HAD TO break that rule. Not because it was a wonderful victory (which it was, of course) but it was a victory for the sport. A victory for the beautiful game played beautifully!!
Some of my friends taunted me after the Copa Del Rey victory over the weekend. It was Real’s victory, after all. No matter that they played negative football for most of the game, or that Casillas performed miracles in goal, or that Blaugrana had most of the chances. It was the final scoreline that gave them the trophy…A trophy that Ramos managed to drop under the moving bus! [I’m sure you’ve all seen that video by now; was it poetic justice?... I wonder!?!]
But today, beautiful football prevailed again! And moments of brilliance (from Messi in particular) caused me a near-orgasmic sensation in a bar full of hockey-and-baseball-watching patrons in downtown Minneapolis! Yes, undoubtedly, Leo is the greatest player of this generation and arguably greatest ever [he’s not yet 24, so he still has plenty to grow]. I’m biased here, of course, but not too many can argue that point these days.
This was the third El Clásico in the span of 11 days, much anticipated, of course, given everything at stake, and set up with the proper pre-show mind-games by “The Special One”... Was it entertaining? Not much, for the most part…but it was tense (as games with that much at stake often are) and I watched a team that wanted to play the game, while the other tried to massacre it at every step. I’m not saying that Barça players were angels (they displayed their fair share of theatrics – Pedro especially, and gave back almost as much as they received) but did you see some of the blatant fouls from Adebayor (wiping off Mascherano), Sergio Ramos (on my boy Messi) and – especially – Pepe? That guy, incidentally, should not be allowed to play the game. Period. I don’t think I’ve seen a more vicious player in a long time (brings back childhood memories of F.C. Faru and Cîrîc, who never managed to finish a game before he finished an opposing player)…but I digress. He [Pepe] was actually suspended for 10 games in 2009 for violent conduct: http://www.goal.com/en/news/12/spain/2009/04/24/1227658/real-madrids-pepe-suspended-for-ten-matches . I would NEVER have a player like that in my team!
But back to the game: 72% to 28% possession in favor of the “tiqui-taca”. In the Bernabéu! No wonder Real were frustrated. Not many teams can claim that stat in that arena! But it’s not just possession. It’s the sheer pleasure of watching them stroke that ball around in almost artist-like fashion. Like a toreador playing with the bull until he finds that brief opening and goes for the kill. Adrenaline-pumping indeed! It’s “eye-candy” in a form that not too many people can appreciate.
And how about Mourinho? Oh, how happy I was to see that pretentious smirk wiped off his face… He was no longer that cocky, arrogant, theatrical, disgusting excuse of a human being once the stark German referee Stark [I didn’t even try that one!] put him in his place. Behind bars, that is! Of course, in typical sore-looser fashion, he’s crying “foul” about all kinds of UEFA conspiracies, unfair referee treatment and all that junk nested snuggly in his otherwise limited “intellectual” baggage. Yes, you probably more than sensed it: I’m not a big fan of the man; never been, never will be. I just can’t explain how some of the media finds him so fascinating. He “sells” news (for controversy sells, as amply demonstrated by all the so-called “reality-show” craze here in the U.S.). He really is the Becali of world football: an idiot who “sells air time”. But professionally, he’s a disgrace to the sport [I already said a disgrace to human race, so this is just a bonus]. His job as a coach is to develop the team, individual players, and game tactics. As much as I struggle to, I just can’t find ONE player he has developed, and as far of “tactics” [the quotes are on purpose, of course] the only tactic he’s capable of is “parking the bus” in front of the goal and hoping to capitalize on a counter or a set piece. It worked for him at Porto, because the team was always perceived as the underdog, but since then, “nada” [with last year’s exception when Inter managed to defeat Barca with similar tactics]… And it didn’t work for him today either.
Jose’s morals are deplorably pathetic and unsportsmanlike. Just a few months ago he was fined and suspended for instructing his players to get yellow-carded during the last minutes of that game against Ajax (so they can get suspended and start with a clean sheet the game after). As for his “mentoring” capabilities, nothing there either. He encourages the “foul-every-30-seconds” approach, because that’s the only way he knows how to break down a team. He doesn’t frown upon theatrics; he encourages them, rather. He just doesn't present a positive role model for his team. In my opinion, DiMaria would make a wonderful winger if his coach would have him focus more on his game and less on diving and imploring the ref for free kicks all the time. But then again, he would need a different coach for that...
Oh, and one more topic – which brings me back to his defensive tactics: today he started with 5 defenders (Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Albiol and Arbeloa) two defensive midfielders (Xavi Alonso and Diarra) and three midfielders (DiMaria – always isolated on the left, Ronaldo – you could argue he’s a forward, but always plays behind the front men, and Ozil – who was in Ronaldo’s way for the most part today). No forwards to speak of (with 3 very capable examples on the bench: Benzema – in rare form lately, Higuain – who scored 3 over the weekend, and Adebayor – also in form). And of course, Kaká – one of the best creative midfielders in the world – on the bench as well. I may not have a coaching pedigree, but definitely have more common sense to come up with a better starting 11. Any of these “options” would have made the game more entertaining, but then again, his “tactics” were to just kill the game, defend and hope for another spark of brilliance from one of his many high-paid “galacticos”. In the end, it was not to be, for karma is a cruel bitch!
So now, the return leg – which will undoubtedly result in a replay of the CL final from 2009: Barça against Man U. – should be a more pleasant affair. With Mourinho probably suspended and the “executioners” Ramos and Pepe in that same boat, we should expect more of a spectacle. That is, if Real want to play the game, not kill it again. I really hope they’ll do that, out of [hurt] pride and respect for the game…