As darkness seeped through the balmy Madrid Saturday evening twilight, I was happily ensconced in a crusty yet fun bar in Lavapies sucking on my umpteeth Mahou of the evening. On the TV before me a cavorting assortment of loons from FC Bayern pranced the hallowed* Wembley turf and as the camera cut from beaming face mannish hug, it fell upon Javi Martinez. The one-time engine of Athletic Bilbao’s midfield who now fulfills a similar role at Europe’s best club side very ably indeed.
Bilbao fans must have looked on with a combination of pride and frustration when twenty four hours later, the sands of time ran out on Bilbao’s San Mames home (above, sometime between the advent of powered flight and digital cameras) with it’s last ever competitive match, which turned out to be the dampest of squibs; a single goal loss to Levante.
The result epitomised a season for Los Leones which promised so much and delivered so little. Significantly they played the whole of it without the services of the aforementioned midfield dynamo and a chunk of it without goalscoring beanpole, Fernando Llorente who has been angling for a move since last June and is now dreaming of a hot date with an Old Lady in Turin. After the highs of last season, this must be chastening for the fans and board, but before they call for manager Bielsa’s head, it would be worthwhile to recall that, one way or the other, he’s been deprived of two of his teams best players. Then again, he’s made a fair amount of unnecessary noise and picked his battles with all the care of, well, a Portuguese man who finishes his job in Madrid next week.
Aside from that we had a full-program of 8pm kick-offs.
All the games starting at the same time! Imagine!
Espanyol hosted the champions – Barca – in the Catalan Love Parade. The home side applauded the team in and the normally anti-Cule contingent had clearly over indulged in some Bez Biscuits as they too eschewed parsimony in favour of applause. Alas for Espanyol, the generosity spilled onto the pitch as they fell by two goals to nil.
It was a double celebration for Barca. They capped the evening knowing that a record breaking 100 points is on the cards after revealing that they’d beaten Madrid to the signature of Brasil prodigy and Spike from Gremlins look-a-like, Neymar – just don’t let them go near hair gel after midnight. Interestingly, he’s been congratulated on his move by Tito Vilanova, for signing up to the Tiki-Taka Project worth a paltry seven million euros per season rather than for the money on offer elsewhere. It’s not know whether Tito managed to keep a straight face whilst muttering this.
Talking of Madrid, they got over the Neymar thing (who?) with a rip roaring three all draw at La Real – the home side keeping the Champions League flame alive with a last minute equaliser.
Off the pitch Marca reports that the only man on the planet to have won TWO European Cups with two different teams only to be relieved of his duties the following day, might like a chat should Florentino Perez just pick up the bat phone and give him a tinkle. Then again, seeing as one of those teams wasReal Madrid, it seems a smidgen unlikely, doesn’t it?
Putting a paella platter in the Real Sociedad’s Euro aspirations with a one nil home win over Granada were Valencia. The home side now just need to equalLa Real’s result next week to be in the one place the bank manager is demanding. Perhaps then they can stop messing the fans about and do something about their crippling debts and pay-off the vast new stadium that is in danger of never being completed… all of which is by-the-by to Granada who remain only two points ahead of the drop zone.
Talking of which, Osasuna gained the result they needed with a two one home win to Sevilla. The latter were nowhere to be seen a month ago, then they fizzled brightly for long enough so that even the blinkered El Balonazo noticed. Now they’re back from whence they came and at the the mercy of the Courts to grab a Euro spot from tenth place.
The Courts? But why? Simple…
Simple – Part 1. Rayo still hold pretensions for Europe – although that would rely on Malagas expulsion being upheld – whilst their own for general skintness and non-payment of debts to other Primera Liga teams and assorted unpaid players is quashed. The realist in me tells me that this won’t happen. On the pitch at leat, a last minute two one away win, courtesy of own goal, did the business against Getafe.
Simple – Part 2. Malaga have been expelled from European competition for having the same attitude to sustained and sustainable economic growth as Sevilla seem to have toward on-field sustainability. However, on the pitch they kept the race alive with a three-one win over Depor which leaves the latter only a point off of the trap door with the Andalucians brushing up on German, English, French, Italian and Legalese.
Perhaps I’m naturally biased, but wouldn’t an English Premier League style solution of a points deduction during the course of the season be far better than a will they/won’t they debate at the end of a long, tiring and costly campaign for players and fans alike? That said, Luton Town would probably have taken the former option any time…
Before I waddled off on that blathering rant, I mentioned Depor, didn’t I? Well, their cause was given no cheer by the news from Valladolid that their Gallegan bed fellows, Celta, managed a win. The two nil result leaves them a point behind going into the last weekend.
Thrashing around below the Galician two are Real Zaragoza, whose roller coaster season is at that point on aforementioned Fairground Attractionwhen you realise that your stomach is about three feet behind you the rest of you. Inevitably they crashed by four goals to zip at Betis who now lag a couple of points behind Malaga in a (TBC – Spanish Courts of Justice) Europa League position. Zaragoza, intriguingly are also just a point behind Depor on the same 34 point mark as Celta.
At rock bottom are Mallorca who had the unenviable task of trying to pick up some points at cup winning party boys Atleti. So well done to them for getting the point that leaves them clinging to the precipice like Bruce Willis in a publicity shot for any one of the Die Hard series. Los Vermellones are on 33 points they now need other teams to do them favours…
As for Atleti, it seems that Falcao – El Tigre – has reached the point of departure. His destination – although to be confirmed – isn’t Manchester, Madrid (Real, that is), or Munich. No. It now appears that he’s been invited to join the Monaco project which is busy hoovering up players you’ve never really heard of (go on, admit it) from all around Europe (okay, Porto) to revel in the newly minted French league club. We await the musing’s of Joey Barton on this power shift in the Gallic game.
And that’s that. One week to go and the bottom three have to scramble, scrape, scrap and hope for favours to get out of their predicaments. La Realmust do better than Valencia whilst Malaga and Rayo need to give their defence a little more thought.
*Hallowed, my arse. It’s been churned up and replaced more times than the Real Madrid managerial role.