They say sport and politics should never mix, however, in Spain football simply isn’t football without the board room sideshow that goes with it and that has been evident once more this week at Barcelona.
Due to extreme pressure from supporters and more importantly from potential presidential rivals, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has brought forward the next election by a whole twelve months.
While it’s clear an election is what’s needed at the Camp Nou, the announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The unrest at board room level started with the resignation of previous President Sandro Rosell off the back of the Neymar transfer scandal, which landed the Catalonia club a transfer embargo for the next two windows.
The hassling and harrying that goes with a presidential election can be distracting enough for any club but add in all the media reports regarding Lionel Messi and coach, Luis Enrique this past week and you really do have a headache on your hands at the Camp Nou.
In the meantime, Barcelona’s arch rivals, Real Madrid suffered the almost alien experience of losing back to back games this past week, having surrendered their historic 22 match winning streak against Valencia at the weekend.
Meanwhile, speculation continues to grow over the world’s most expensive footballer, Gareth Bale’s future at Los Blancos with reports linking him with a return to the Premier League.
Bale’s first season in Spain got off to a slow burner due to injury and the pressure to deliver on the promise of a £90 million price tag. However, 22 goals later and a with Champions League and Copa Del Ray medals to his credit, the former Tottenham Hotspur man can safely say his debut season with the European giants was a major success.
But despite that, it appears Madrid fans favour of Bale has begun to waver with criticism of the number eleven’s effort and greed on the ball being levelled against him. The deciding factor in this whole situation however, will come down to what most issues in the game come down to in the modern-day – money.
If speculation linking Manchester United with a €150 million move are to believed, it’s easy to see why the capital club may consider it, especially with the freedom in the transfer market it would give Ancelotti in terms of Financial Fair Play.
Atlético Madrid were the side who inflicted their city rivals’ second defeat in a row this past week and at present they find themselves just a point off the pace in La Liga.
40,000 ‘Atleti’ supporters turned out at the Vicente Calderon earlier this week to welcome back the prodigal son, Fernando Torres on loan from Chelsea, and that is just one of the many signs of the good vibes surrounding the Atlético camp right now.
Having taken over at a mid-table Atlético, four years ago, Diego Simeone has gone on to forge one of the great success stories in post-millennial Spanish and European club football, with five major trophies in that time.
The fiery Argentinian, who already held legendary status with the club following an astonishing playing career, has built a team philosophy as great as the ones witnessed under Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan and Chelsea.
Many would argue however, Atlético’s lack of star power compared to names such as Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba makes Simeone’s success story in Madrid a much more unlikely one and it’s hard to disagree.
When you break down the television rights income alone between Real Madrid, Barcelona and Simone’s Atlético, It truly is amazing that the red and white stripes are able to compete with the big boys lets alone topple them.
Many felt ‘Los Colchoneros’ late heartbreak in last season’s Champions League final, combined with the loss of star performers in Diego Costa and Felipe Luis to Chelsea, may spell the end of their dominance.
However, as with any great manager, Simeone has been able to identify suitable but quality replacements with the shrewd addition of Mario Mandžukić a key one for the defending champions.
The fact that Simeone was able to rest six of his first team players for Wednesday nights first leg cup tie against Real and still come out not only winners, but comfortable ones at that, is a testament to the strong squad depth built by one of Europe’s top managers.
On Sunday, the Champions will face off against the under pressure Barcelona and should they manage to pull off yet another Simeone masterpiece, you will find very few willing to back against back to back titles for Madrid’s ‘other’ club.