Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
The campaign to be the next president of Real Madrid Football Club has finally kicked into gear with the claim from the little known Eduardo Garcia that, if elected on June 14, he will bring with him the Chelsea striker Didier Drogba.
Promising big-name signings has long been an easy way for candidates to drum up support for the presidency at Real and Barcelona, the two member-owned Spanish clubs, but ever since Florentino Perez came from nowhere to take the 2000 election what was once an entertaining sideshow has become the key battleground.
Perez, you may remember, outrageously delivered on a promise to sign Luis Figo from Barcelona in 2000 and the grandmaster is set to announce he is standing again, after resigning in 2006.
Garcia, the 29-year-old director of an IT consultancy, is considered a huge outsider for the position but he earned a bit of publicity with his claim that he could land Drogba, as well as Palmeiras attacking midfielder Keirrison and Racing Santander left back Ivan Marcano. (The fact the interview was hidden away on page 6 of sports daily AS shows how seriously his candidacy is being taken in the local media.)
A couple of early thoughts on Manchester United’s ruthless demonstration of superiority against Arsenal tonight (click here for the full match report).
1. United are over that little blip they had against Liverpool and Fulham and look to be timing their run-in to perfection. They have no significant injuries, Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be getting his mojo back and, as they showed once again against Arsenal, they ooze class right the way through the team.
It says more about the value of the pound than it does the value of Franck Ribery that the sum United are supposed to be prepared to pay for him is so high — 63 million pounds, if there’s anything to the story in this morning’s Guardian.
That sum is a shade over 70 million euros, which is a slightly less ridiculous amount than the 100 million euros it would have been a year or two ago but is still, of course, vastly overinflated.
Pep Guardiola’s superb Barca side four clear at the top with five games left to play. Champions Real in second on a run of 17 wins and a draw in 18 matches since a 2-0 loss at the Nou Camp in December and refusing to capitulate. The nation’s arch soccer rivals locking horns. Spain versus Catalunya.The stage was set for my first “Clasico” at the Bernabeu.I had read about the great matches of the past and seen the headlines: “The match of the century!”, “The greatest show on earth!”.It was time to experience it for myself.I hopped off the bus near the stadium and fought my way through the throng of Real faithful, already in good voice and enjoying the evening sunshine more than an hour-and-a-half before kickoff.A policeman waved me through the barriers holding back the crowds and I collected my accreditation and took the lift up to the press tribune on the fifth floor.It was oddly quiet inside the mammoth arena, a few photographers and officials milling about by the pitch, and the muted sound of the boisterous supporters outside punctuated by the occasional firecracker and police siren.Fabio Cannavaro, Arjen Robben and a few other Real players strolled out on to the pitch for a few minutes and Royston Drenthe posed for some photographs as I leafed through the media notes.Biggest home defeat for Real in “El Clasico” 5-0 way back in February 1974, four days before I was born. Probably won’t be needing that particular stat.When the spectators were finally allowed in, the atmosphere quickly warmed up and any attempt at singing by the small knot of Barca fans high to my right was met with a chorus of whistles and hoots.The volume of noise was rising all the time and reached a crescendo as the two teams marched on to the pitch and the spectators held up pieces of card that turned the stands white. Game on.“You don’t want to do that,” I thought as Sergio Ramos gave the ball away to Lionel Messi in a dangerous position in the first minute, perhaps a sign of things to come.The Real faithful went nuts when Gonzalo Higuain grabbed the lead but it wasn’t long before Barca asserted themselves and Real’s chances of defending their league title were fast receding.As the goals rolled in, a colleague in the press box, a lifelong Real fan, was growing increasingly despondent and the invective issuing from the mouth of the Spanish journalist behind us, mostly directed at the referee, was increasingly extreme.When Messi scored to make it 5-2 with around 15 minutes left, waves of shell-shocked Real fans started heading for the exits.The referee did not prolong the agony, ending the match on 90 minutes, and I quickly filed my first take and a rapid update before dashing down to the press conferences with a beaming Guardiola and a glum Juande Ramos.Eight goals scored by some of the most exciting players around, tons of chances, plenty of controversy, passionate fans in a stunning soccer arena and a famous result in one of the most intensely contested fixtures in world sport.The kind of match you don’t forget in a hurry.PHOTO: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (L) celebrates his goal against Real Madrid during their match at the Bernabeu, May 2, 2009. REUTERS/Juan Medina
Spain’s sports journalists will be doing their best to outdo one another in superlatives after a performance that ranks right up there with the 5-0 Barça managed at the Bernabeu with Johan Cruyff in their team in 1974.
Arsenal played poorly at Manchester United on Wednesday but escaped with a 1-0 defeat that leaves them still in with a chance of reaching the Champions League final.When you consider that they haven’t conceded a goal at home in the competition all season, the situation doesn’t look half bad. After all, they have already beaten United in north London this season and there is no reason why they can’t do it again.First though, their big performers need to turn up, because they went missing at Old Trafford. Theo Walcott barely got a kick, Emmanuel Adebayor was subdued and Cesc Fabregas was overwhelmed in midfield.It will also help if Robin van Persie is fit after missing the first leg. Without the Dutchman, and the ineligible Andrey Arshavin, they looked lightweight in attack.United were not at their best either and will be frustrated at not putting the tie to bed. However, they did not allow Arsenal an away goal and so will start clear favourites to reach Rome and a possible re-match with Chelsea.Remember, they were in far worse shape after drawing 2-2 at home with Porto in the quarter-final, first leg. And with such a plethora of attacking options, Alex Fergsuon’s side will be confident of breaching Arsenal’s Emirates fortress.PHOTO: Manchester United’s John O’Shea (C) celebrates with Darren Fletcher (L) and Rio Ferdinand (R) after scoring during their Champions League semi-final, first leg against Arsenal at Old Trafford, April 29, 2009. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis
Chelsea will feel they are within touching distance of the Champions League final after holding Barcelona to a goalless draw a the Nou Camp in the first leg of their semi-final.
The Chelsea performance oozed professionalism, with Guus Hiddink’s players showing terrific resilience to leave Barca coach Pep Guardiola bemoaning Chelsea tactics and the performance of the referee.
I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m not as excited as I should be given it’s the Champions League semi-final first legs this week.
Both ties should be making my mouth water. Manchester United v Arsenal is always a decent game in the Premier League and with Alex Ferguson’s men still wearily battling for the domestic title, Arsene Wenger’s boys have the perfect opportunity to spring a surprise.
I nearly fell out of my chair on Sunday night when I realised the identity of the Real Madrid player who had surged into the box and sent across a perfectly-weighted centre for Raul to score the equaliser against Sevilla.
Christoph Metzelder? What on earth is he doing up there?
The 28-year-old defender is trying to win back his place in the German national side but has only played in eight of the Spanish champions’ 33 league matches this season and has said he is considering moving on if he doesn’t get more time on the pitch.
United, who visit Porto, have not looked like European and English champions recently and have a lot to do to reach the last four after last week’s disappointing 2-2 draw with the Portuguese side at Old Trafford.