Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
It was always going to be difficult for Pep Guardiola to repeat last year’s astonishing achievements when Barcelona swept up six trophies.
Since adding the Club World Cup to their haul in December, they have started to look vulnerable, and, more recently, jaded.
Their exit from the King’s Cup in January was considered a blessing in disguise, allowing them to focus on the main prizes of La Liga and Europe, but February and March have not gone to plan.
They are still a massive 15 points ahead of third-placed Valencia, having only lost once all season, but they were knocked off the top of the standings on goal difference by their arch-rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.
Deloitte’s latest survey of the world’s richest soccer clubs, entitled “Spanish Masters”, highlights how the dominance enjoyed by the top two, Real Madrid and Barcelona, largely depends on them raking in around half the available income from La Liga broadcast rights.
A glance at the current league table in Spain shows how this affects the domestic league, with champions Barca leading on 61 points and Real second on 59, 13 ahead of third-placed Valencia with 24 out of 38 matches played.
As I huddled deeper into my jacket at the Galpharm Stadium on Saturday, watching Huddersfield Town play local rivals Leeds United, I regretted having made scoffing remarks about the overhead heaters in the stands at the Bernabeu.
I’m lucky to be able to visit Real Madrid’s iconic arena regularly through my work, reporting on La Liga stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Real Madrid and Barcelona dominate European football in terms of economic might and sporting success, a study of the continent’s five major leagues has shown.
But are the Spanish giants sucking the life out of La Liga in pursuit of short-term profits and at the expense of their long term competitiveness on the football field?
The first week of May 2009 was a rather good one for Barcelona fans and it seems like many of them celebrated in the time honoured fashion.
An historic 6-2 humiliation of arch rivals Real Madrid at their Bernabeu home on May 2 that effectively wrapped up the La Liga title was followed on May 6 by Andres Iniesta’s brilliant, last-gasp goal at Stamford Bridge that took Pep Guardiola’s side through to the Champions League final at the expense of Chelsea.
The best and the worst of Cristiano Ronaldo were again on display in Sunday’s 2-0 La Liga win over Malaga, and his sending off for violent conduct has prompted fierce debate over what some in Spain are calling his “Jekyll and Hyde” character.
The Portuguese forward netted a superb first-half double to put Real Madrid in command at the Bernabeu but his night turned from glory to shame when he was dismissed for lashing out at Patrick Mtiliga and breaking the defender’s nose.
Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo has not not been shy in trumpeting his intention to win back the FIFA World Player of the Year award, but current holder Lionel Messi appears to have other ideas.
The monstrously-gifted Argentine has consistently stolen the limelight from the most expensive player in football history with a string of sublime performances for Barcelona in the first half of the season.
David Beckham can look forward to en emotional evening at Old Trafford, after AC Milan were drawn to play Manchester United in the second round of the Champions League.
Beckham had said in the days leading up to the draw that he would love a chance to return to his old stamping ground and the England man has his wish in the pick of the matches (although Inter Milan v Chelsea isn’t bad either, for all you Mourinho watchers).
Cristiano Ronaldo’s thunderous free kick for Real Madrid against Olympique Marseille and Barcelona’s slick passing move that led to Xavi’s equaliser away to Dynamo Kiev were given a statistical overhaul in the Spanish media on Thursday.
Under the heading “Precision missiles” in sports daily AS, Ronaldo’s net-buster was measured at 102.7kph over 33.4 metres, and reached a height of 3.70 metres before tearing past Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s match-winning performance against Olympique Marseille on Tuesday has helped defuse the fierce criticism he attracted for his irresponsible sending off against Almeria at the weekend.
The Portuguese forward, a world record signing for the La Liga club in the close season, apologised for the two yellow cards he picked up — one for ripping off his shirt to celebrate a goal (which had the effect of showing off his bulging muscles to the cameras) and the second for recklessly kicking an opponent.