Sometimes, it seems that words don’t need to be said or written anymore about Barcelona and Real Madrid. We’ve been through four matches already this season, with Barcelona winning two of them, one draw and one Real Madrid win, in extra time, at the Copa del Rey final.
With every match that has gone by, the soccer level has dropped, the amount of talk and hype has grown and probably also the animosity on the pitch between the players and managers. It’s funny to think that Jose Mourinho used to be an assistant with the Catalan Club during the late 90’s under Bobby Robson and Louis Van Gaal before moving on to bigger and greater things.
He’s never been shy of controversy and of saying the “truth” or whatever he thought would draw the media’s attention and creating of feud of sorts with opposing managers. That’s why his relationship with Alex Ferguson, which began when Mourinho knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League, on their way to the 2004 Champions League final and trophy. There wasn’t much love there when Mourinho dominated the Premier League with Chelsea during his first two years. All talks of respect and being United’s next in line came after he left England, when he was no longer a constant threat.
Barcelona have always been around. From the 2005 clash in the Champions League till today. Barcelona became the fashionable thing again once Ronaldinho came. It took Frank Rijkaard about a year to get this team into true dominating form, but ever since the 2004 away win at the Bernabeu, it was pretty obvious. Barcelona, always a media and fan darling around Europe due to the clean perception and attractive style, still remembered from the days of Cruyff as manager and player, were back. Ronaldinho was the best in the world, and there was nothing stopping them. Chelsea did in 2005, in the quarter finals. There was some keeper grabbing by Carvalho during the final goal, Ronaldinho scored one of the most memorable ones, but who cares.
A year later it was again Barcelona, but this time Rijkaard’s team was too good for him. The thing I most remember about those clashes is Mourinho pretty much eliminating Asier Del Horno after his horrible mistake. I don’t think Del Horno, a very talented Basque defender, ever made it back, mentally.
It took some time, but another Barcelona clash came in 2009-2010, just last year, when Mourinho was with Inter (seems ages ago…). The two met in the group stage. Barcelona were in the midst of the perfect 2009 year – Messi became the best in the world, the team was the best in the world and playing (they still are) the best football, or the most attractive, at least that’s what most people think. Inter manager a 0-0 draw at home, but couldn’t hold on at the Camp Nou, losing 2-0, hardly looking like a team that wins the Champions League six months later.
The Semi Finals brought the two juggernauts together again. Inter stunned Barcelona 3-1 at the San Siro, and managed to come away with a minimal 1-0 loss, with 10 men, with a ‘heroic’ defending display (some would say). Mourinho celebrated like it was 2004 again at the Old Trafford. The amount of ink spilled on how the ‘bad’ footy beat the ‘good’ one weighed a few good tons. Mourinho was the enemy of Los Cules, of proper soccer. The move to Real was inevitable. The Escalation in his ‘war’ with those on the seaside was building.
The club are being totally abducted by the figure of Jose Mourinho. Carles Villarubi, Barcelona vice-president. This came out today, a day after Real Madrid began their twitter attack on Barca – first with the photos proving Barcelona players are divers and cheaters and things went on from there. Both teams will be punished by UEFA in due time for the fights that broke out on the pitch on Wednesday. But back to the comment –
I’ve already written about this. For a club as huge and successful as Real Madrid to play second fiddle to their manager’s words, his identity and his press conferences is not something to be taken lightly. I don’t know if it’s good or bad in the big picture. I think it keeps Real Madrid players just a bit outside of the focus. Probably good for most. Maybe Ronaldo doesn’t love that, but he’s doing pretty good this season (42 goals in 49 matches).
It’s been quite a while since such hate existed between the two teams. Probably when Figo left for Real Madrid. It’s good for selling papers and producing headlines, but as Mourinho and his team after him sink further and further into the ‘Beat Barcelona’ obsession while playing the ‘Us against the World’ card, it’s bad for football. Real Madrid look like a small club trying to steal a win here and there from the big boys. That’s beneath them. But a club with no ideology but ‘buy the best and most expensive players’ shouldn’t be surprised when they find themselves losing when and where it matters.
Did/do Barcelona players dive? Yes. Not just them, it happens all over, but they did push it a little on Wednesday. I still think Pepe’s challenge was a leg-breaker if it’d hit right. It just missed. He does it every game, and no one is there to stop him. Real kept playing violently before and after – Sergio Ramos, Arbeloa and Adebayor. I don’t think they have any reason to complain. Mourinho? He can’t stay quiet. He tried that for one match but couldn’t keep it up.
Barcelona get preferential treatment from referees? Probably yes, a little. The best team usually does, in each league, it’s always like that. I’m not talking about buying refs out like in Italy. I’m talking getting swept along with the hype. The problem is, most teams don’t try and play man to man with Barca. It’s usually a defensive struggle, hoping to sting on a counter attack. It leads to aggressive play. Violent at times. You have to protect creative players with red cards against leg breaking thugs.
Mourinho was scarred on November, in that 5-0 defeat. He couldn’t catch up with Barcelona in the league, blaming referees and the schedule. Barcelona did get about 2-3 days of rest more than Real. That’s not why the title is going for a third straight time to Barcelona. If Mourinho sets aside the hate, at least in the press, and focuses on building, giving Real an identity and proper ideology of style, not just goals and ambitions, it’ll be good for the game, and him.