Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
Should Real Madrid have stepped in and taken Zlatan Ibrahimovic off Barcelona’s hands instead of AC Milan?
Perhaps a preposterous idea, but after the opening round of matches in La Liga, Real may be concerned they did not heed coach Jose Mourinho’s warnings about the need for a third striker.
Real Madrid’s signing of Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil is further proof that they have opted for youth and pace this year, after glitz and glamour failed to knock Barcelona off their perch last season.
Poster boys Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Karim Benzema were Real’s star signings in a 250 million euro rebuilding programme last summer, but they only managed second place as another trophyless campaign ended back in May.
Raul’s decision to join Schalke 04 in Germany rather than one of the English sides interested in taking him will have plenty of Real Madrid fans scratching their heads, I suspect. “What is he doing going to the Bundesliga when he could have gone to la Premier?” I can hear them ask. ”What a step down after playing for Real in the Best League In The World (TM)!” “And where is this Schalke place anyway?”
So pretty good news for the Bundesliga then, eh? It’s rare for a player of Raul’s considerable reputation, and even more distinguished salary, to choose Germany over England and he hasn’t even gone to Bayern, the one big beast of the Bundesliga.
Breaking news from Spain, where Barcelona have agreed a deal to sign David Villa from Valencia for 40 million euros.
The timing is interesting, coming as it does immediately after Barcelona successfully completed the defence of their league title, and before the distractions of a presidential election.
Failure and Pep Guardiola are words that haven’t appeared together in the same sentence for some time, but the Barcelona coach has a big task on his hands if he is to prevent them being applied to his side’s end of the season.
He was right to argue after Wednesday’s Champions League exit to Inter Milan that it was hardly a case of his team being a victim of their own success.
A Spanish soccer club’s youth programme is known as the “cantera”, or quarry, and Barcelona’s current dominance of Real Madrid highlights how the Catalans have mined theirs much more efficiently than their arch rivals.
Seven of the Barca players who started in Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Real at the Bernabeu, a record fourth straight win for coach and former quarryman Pep Guardiola in “El Clasico”, came through the club’s youth system, including Argentine maestro Lionel Messi, Spain midfielder Xavi and goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
Saturday’s game between Real Madrid and Barcelona had been dubbed “the match of the millennium” by sports daily Marca and for anyone living in Spain it was impossible to ignore “El Clasico” in the days leading up to the clash at Real’s Bernabeu stadium.
There was certainly plenty at stake for the protagonists, not least the chance to take a big step toward winning La Liga, but the country seemed in the grip of a fever at least as intense as anything I have seen during a major international tournament.
In a couple of short sentences, Cesc Fabregas summed up Wednesday night’s humdinger of a Champions League game pretty well perfectly, and made a persuasive case for a selection gamble that could make or break the Arsenal season.
We’re live blogging the night’s two Champions League quarter-final first legs, with expert commentary and analysis, including on-the-spot details from our reporters in the stadiums (or stadia, if you prefer).
Join us here from around 1645 GMT for all the build-up and action from the biggest club competition in town.