Friday, June 30, 2006

"He is Without a Single Democratic Conviction"

Picture from AS

Police Called to the Bernabeu

It just gets better and better. In the past few weeks the Real Madrid presidential election battle had already witnessed libel threatening mud flinging, childish insults and outrageous lie telling, but this week, the drama has been turned up a notch.

It all started when four of the candidates Baldasano, Calderon, Sanz and Palacios stopped squabbling for a moment and petitioned a judge to call a suspension on the postal vote process which allows Real Madrid ‘socios’ from around the country - and world - to select the new president ahead of the main poll to be held on Sunday 2nd July.

The reason for such a dramatic request being made by the quartet was suspicions that a campaign of vote buying and signature forging was being run by the fifth contender, Villar Mir. These were also accusations levelled at former president, Florentino Perez in the last poll - (although never proved, La Liga Loca’s lawyers add. And not with Mir either). Baldasano himself publicly burned 1863 votes cast to himself claiming that he wanted a ‘clean’ election to show his apparent comittment to the cause.

On Tuesday, the judge decided to rule in favour of suspending the vote on the grounds that the whole business was far too dodgy to continue. This was much to the chagrin of Mir who claimed that Real Madrid members not lucky (or unlucky) enough to live in the capital were being robbed of their democratic rights.

At the time of the decision, 3000 votes had been received at the stadium’s collection point.

This is where things get interesting. On Thursday, police were called to the Bernabeu, when another 4000 ballots were suddenly found - reportedly in a cupboard. No one knows when or how they arrived but they appeared at some point between Wednesday and Thursday.

Although a judge is decide today what to do them and try and shed some light on how they got there, some of the candidates were happy to point a finger. Lawyer, Ramon Calderon declared yesterday: “Villar Mir had 5000 postal votes...he wanted them snuck in.” Former president, Lorenzo Sanz, running again blamed his old enemy: “The guilty party has a name. And it is Florentino Perez” - also reported to be Villar Mir’s main backer.

So who is Snr Villar Mir - currently the leading candidate according to a poll by Marca? He is seventy three years old, a former government minister who held his position in the period following Franco’s death and has been the president of a number of large companies - one of which won the contract to build Real Madrid’s new training facilities. And not linked with his friendship with former president Perez, at all.

He claims to have been a Real Madrid fan all his life and his campaign centres around the theme ‘team’. Indeed, he has undertaken a study - with his running mate, Carlos Sainz - of the problems of the club and proclaimed that the club has “lost its fighting spirit and hunger for victory”. Good work, there. He also wants to build a retractable roof on the Bernebau stadium ‘for the comfort’ of the fans, should it be rainy or windy, despite the fact that it almost 100% covered anyway and there are thousand of heaters in place, already.

He refuses to confirm having signed up Arsene Wenger as his potential manager - something ‘Marca’ are reporting as fact, but has strongly denied tapping up other players - such as Man Utd’s Cristiano Ronaldo. “We are not going into other clubs like thieves”, he declared. A fine sentiment, had he not been photographed by ‘Marca’, meeting with Ronaldo’s agent Jorge Mendes, this week. “We caught them”, declared the paper.

Elsewhere, the insults and taunts have been continuing amongst the other candidates -here are the highlights...

“Palacios is my friend. I respect him. He sells watches, very well” - Villar Mir pays a lovely compliment to his fellow candidate - currently the owner of the Viceroy watch company.

“Villar Mir was a Francoist minister and is a man without a single democratic conviction” - Ramon Calderon gets himself struck off the favourite’s Christmas card list.

“We will focus on making the team more Spanish...and international” - Palacios with a clear plan of action.

“They will all be with us on the 3rd July, if I win. If not, I will resign” - Lorenzo Sanz is extremely confident of his five potential signings - Carrick, Emerson, Boulahrouz, Zambrotta and Gago.

The Essential Seleccion

Marca have been on the end of one of Zidane’s rare outbursts. After dumping the Spanish team out of the Mundial he declared that he was delighted to have ‘shut the mouths of Marca.” The reason for his ire was the headline on the 24th June edition declaring that “we are going to retire Zidane!” Marca sniffed in reply that it was Zizou who had decided to retire after the World Cup and not them.

Luis Aragones has declared his interest in carrying on as national manager and would like another four years to work on the team. He may well get his wish, as there does not seem to be much call to have him replaced, despite his team’s early exit at the hands of the French.

The television audience in Spain for the match was 14 million - the biggest managed since a Eurovision final, three years ago - a cultural high for the country, it seems.


In Other News.....

Atletico Madrid officially unveiled Mariano Pernia as their new left back, seeing as he had a bit of free time on his hands...Materazzi has said no to Villarreal...Liverpool and Sevilla have agreed a fee for Daniel Alves with just the payment timing to be decided...Osauna are facing a battle to keep hold of 17 year old Javi Martinez after a 6 million euro bid arrived from Athletic Bilbao.


All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Will the Spanish Dare to Dream Again?

The despondent commentator seemed close to tears as Zinedine Zidane jinked past Carles Puyol to bury the ball past Iker Casillas deep into injury time: "Zizou...Zizou...Zizou...Adios....Adios...Adios." Yet again, a highly-talented Spanish side had gone the way of so many before and choked in a major tournament.

For a country that has experienced more early exits than a screening of 'The De Vinci Code', Tuesday night's defeat to France was, perhaps, the cruellest of all and one from which it might never recover. Expectations of success for one of the best Spanish teams ever assembled had been raised to such a level that failure in the dreaded 'octavos' had never been seriously considered either by the press or the fans.

For the hundreds of thousands of supporters who had travelled to Germany or gathered in front of giant screens in cities across the nation to watch 'La Furia Roja' take on the old enemy, a tough match was anticipated but with a positive result, despite the best efforts of members of the team to lower expectations. "It's dangerous if everyone thinks that the World Cup will be like the Ukraine match," warned Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos.

This renewed optimism and passion for the national team stemmed from a number of factors. Ever since the opening round's 4-0 thrashing of Ukraine, the Spanish footballing press had been repeating the mantra that 'La Seleccion' was destined for a final appearance in Berlin against Argentina. The string of victories required to get there was, apparently, a mere formality.

Even a nervy performance against Tunisia and a siesta-inducing encounter against Saudi Arabia were not enough to curb the enthusiasm of the nation's football writers - 'We are also the best at suffering' was a headline from 'Marca' that typified their confidence.

However, there was some justification for this overwhelming and highly unusual belief in the national side. Luis Aragones' squad was, on paper, a superbly-balanced combination of experienced old hands who had won a trophy or two in their time and some of the best young footballing talent in the world. Although the qualification campaign to reach Germany had not run smoothly and required a play-off against Slovakia, Spain had started the tournament undefeated in 22 games.

Nevertheless there were still major concerns from many,on the actual state of the Spanish team, aside from the hyperbole. With a desire to promote youth over experience the uncompromising Aragones had left behind Fernando Morientes - a consistent goalscorer - and Valencia's Ruben Baraja. Two players, in hindsight, that would have been rather handy against a physical French team.

For all his confident bluster, Aragones never seemed to have a clear vision of his starting eleven or best formation, despite his protestations: "I understand why people think I'm confused, but I've always had clear ideas." However, it was the polemical figure of Raul - a player lucky to be in the squad at all - that seemed to be the source of his apparent unresolved dilemmas.

Dropped for the opening Ukraine game, the captain's cameo from the bench against Tunisia had, in fairness, inspired his side's comeback from 1-0 down. Despite a woefully ineffective performance against Saudi Arabia in the last group game, Raul was then given a special present on his 29th birthday - a start against France. In retrospect, it was a poor decision and a betrayal of the glorious attacking philosophy on display against Ukraine that had led to many World Cup watchers tipping Spain as eventual winners.

On the tactical side, the inclusion of Raul against France as an attacking pivot behind a front two had forced Fernando Torres and David Villa to the flanks - a position Villa has confessed in the past to disliking and from where he would find it hard to reproduce his scoring form from La Liga. Predictably, the Valencia striker was a peripheral figure in the game - penalty aside - and was replaced early in the second half by Real Betis' Joaquin, a
genuine wide man.

When Xavi was substituted on 70 minutes with the match at 1-1 for Marcus Senna - Villarreal's newly-nationalised defensive enforcer - Spain's fate was sealed. Aragones - whose touchline behaviour had been erratic, even by his standards - had lost faith in his side and was preparing them for extra-time. It was a signal to the experienced French team that the opposition was broken.

Although the Spanish will grumble for decades about the dive from Thierry Henry from Puyol's challenge that led to the late free-kick and subsequent goal, it does not excuse the poor marking that allowed Vieira to drift in with a header on the far post.

The events that then took place showed why football remains the greatest sport in the world, when two of France's most experienced and criticised players dug deep to ensure it was them and not their upstart opponents who would be meeting Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Fabien Barthez relived past glories in the French goal by countering Spain's final, desperate attacks and then Zinedine Zidane - not quite ready to play his final game - wiped clean the memories of three wretched years with a sublime piece of skill. The legend lives on.

For a few glorious weeks, the people of Spain dared to dream the impossible dream of World Cup glory. It remains to be seen, if they will ever dare to dream again.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Spain - Champions or Chokers?

The Essential Seleccion

With just a few hours to go before ‘La Furia Roja’ kick off their much anticipated second round tie with France, the mood amongst the long suffering fans in the balmy capital seems to swing between quiet confidence and dread.

‘Marca’, this morning, has tried to lift the spirits of nervous supporters by proclaiming on the front cover, “You may be scared, but the French are in panic!”. La Liga Loca reckons that their opponents - judging by the ones met recently - are actually quite relieved to have made it to the knock out stages and a looking forward to putting one over their Spanish neighbours.

Nevertheless, tonight’s tie looks like it will be a fine end to the ‘octavos’ and will also double as the first real test of Spain’s World Cup winning credentials. Whilst the French may not exactly be the team of old they still have some fight left in them and the younger, fitter Spanish team will need to be at the best to overcome their opponents - as well as their own psychological demons.

Luis Aragones is expected to make a couple of changes for tonight’s encounter with Cesc coming in for Senna and (sigh) Raul taking the place of Luis Garcia with Torres and Villa to hug the two wings - something that both have claimed to dislike doing in the past. Joaquin for one will be disappointed to not have made the starting line up, after decent performances in the last two matches, but there is still time for the Spanish manager to change his mind.

To coincide with the match, Raul is also celebrating his 29th birthday - “it’s the first time I’ve had my birthday during a tournament,” he joked, “normally we are out by now”. Aragones was also in jovial but spiky mood when questioned by the English press about the Thierry Henry racism incident from 2004 - “I have friends who are of all races”, he claimed, “blacks, gypsies even one who is a ‘sexador de pollos’ “. If any Spanish readers can help out with a translation of the last part, it would be much appreciated, as I am lost.


More Real Madrid Madness

Marca today published a survey showing that most Real Madrid fans still did not know which of the five candidates they were going to vote for on the 2nd of July. Whilst Villar Mir had a narrow lead on 17%, 42% of the ‘socios’ were still undecided. Interestingly, 22% expected Mir - rumoured to be Florentino’s candidate - to win.

In another poll, Real Madrid fans demonstrated that they really had not been watching the World Cup that closely, with 38% of them wanting Juve’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic to come to the club, despite a hopeless second half of the season with the soon to be relegated Italian club and a poor ‘Mundial’ for his country.

A judge today will decide whether that postal ballots sent in for the election will count towards the final total. Although they are the only means of voting for many club members not living in the capital, a case has been brought before the courts by Ramon Calderon - with the backing of three other candidates - due to the fear of vote buying. Especially from Villar Mir. Allegedly.

Manchester United’s weeping winger, Christian Ronaldo, has stuck his neck out and publicly backed Villar Mir for the Real Madrid presidency - “he has made the most serious offer and the most interesting plan”, he claimed, “and would pay be truck loads of cash to move here”, he didn’t add.

In the latest round of undignified but entertaining bitch slapping, Ramon Calderon has attacked the permataned Juan Palacios - “he doesn’t have a project and wouldn’t even know how to plan one”.

Arturo Baldasano has had a pop at everyone, “all the other candidates are bad. They just represent continuity”.

Meanwhile, not wanting to miss out on the fun, Lorenzo Sanz has pointed an accusing finger at the still dominant figure of the club’s former president and his arch nemesis, “my big rival in winning the election is Florentino Perez, as he’s the one continuing to run the club”.

A fine gag from AS yesterday in responding to the rumours that Jurgen Klinsmann had been approached by one of the candidates to take over at the Bernabeu - “a manager that lives in Los Angeles? Must have been Florentino Perez”.


In Other News...

Ex Athletic Bilbao coach Jose Luis Mendillibar to take over at Valladolid...Atletico Madrid have reportedly received a 37 million euro offer from Manchester United for Torres who now have competition from AC Milan for his services...Rafael Marquez looks set to resign for Barca until 2010...Alaves striker Bodipo on the brink of joining Deportivo...Sevilla striker Jordi Lopez moves across the Med to Mallorca...Fiorentina want Gravesen...Valencia are trying to offload Corradi, Fiore and di Vaio...Getafe have signed Romanian rightback Cosmin Contra from Timisoura...Villarreal to take on Slovenian side NK Marribor and FK Zeta from Serbia in the Intertoto cup.


All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sheikh Battle and Goal!

The Essential Seleccion

3.45 on a Friday afternoon is never the best of times to be a pedestrian out on a streets of Madrid, even without a World Cup game about to kick off fifteen minutes later.

In Spain, the tradition during the summer is for offices and businesses to close mid afternoon on the last day of the week to allow the employees to chance to head to the beach - about a five hour drive away - or the mysterious ‘pueblo’ in the mountains.

It is a fine plan, in theory, if everyone in the city were not doing exactly the same thing, leading to insane traffic chaos that inevitably leads to jams of epic proportions stretching all the way to the Med. However, last Friday, with the temperatures hitting 37 degrees, the normal cacophony of bleeping and yelling from the in-transit weekenders was joined by the feverish honking of those trying to get back to their tv sets in time for the 4pm kick off of Spain’s final match in their group - Saudi Arabia.

The message to the drivers who had mounted pavements and blasted their way through crowds of fleeing pedestrians in their efforts to see the encounter was that they shouldn’t have bothered. The only good thing that came out of the game when Spain’s reserves took to the field, was that is was an excellent chance for a bit of a nap.

Reading the Friday morning edition of Marca, however, you’d have thought that the match was going to be a walkover, with the paper publishing details of some of the great thrashings the national team has handed out to others in the past. But not this time. Despite playing probably the worst team in the World Cup, Spain were fairly listless and were merely going through the motions - with Joaquin perhaps being a notable exception.

Whilst the cheer leading press are still optimistic about the sides chances against France in the next round, there are doubts creeping in and the realisation that the supposed glorious march to the final may not be as simple as first thought. Their opponents on Tuesday night looked considerably stronger without Zidane and the score line could have been higher had it not been for Trezeguet’s hopelessness.

Spain’s potential quarter final opponents, Brazil, are also gaining momentum and will not be the pushover they seemed to be in the earlier group games.

Thinking ahead to the France game, two key questions will be answered. Will Zizou be inspired to regain his old form as he takes on players he knows so well from La Liga and will Thierry Henry finally get to gain revenge on Luis Aragones, a man who referred to him as a ‘black sh%t’?


The Real Madrid Election Carnival Continues

To kick off today’s catch up on the circus going on in Madrid at the moment, some great questions from Ben in North London

“Just thought I'd throw in a few questions into the ring about this Real Madrid Presidency race. I glanced at all of there web sites and each looked as egomaniac and corrupt as the other.

I have been annoyed, no shocked even! By Villa Mir's
sudden announcement that Arsene Wenger has agreed to coach them from the 3rd July (11 days away!) and has agreed a 4 year deal worth £3.4 million a year, and also that David Dein acted like a 'hyena' when Wenger told him.

I read an interesting article from Guillem Balague (knows his stuff but a bit smug) that this was from the most respected journalist in Spain, but also that Villa Mir is Florentino Perez's main man. This just confuses me even further! If it is a respected journalist then fair play. But Perez! That just makes me think that this is bigger dross than Sol Campbell playing for England!

I honestly don't know who to believe at the moment and what's going on. I know that these candidates promise the earth and mostly deliver (Figo to Real for £48 mill but Becks to Barca didn't happen) what other transfer options have been thrown up from the main men? As being a loyal Arsenal fan i would trust Arsine with looking after my pet dog, he says it's rubbish, so i believe him. I've only just got over Henry umming and agghhing for months, i don't think I've got the nerves to deal with Wenger going!”

Cheers, Ben - the best policy to follow during the next 10 days or so is to believe no one. Each of the presidents is promising the earth, but without any actual proof or evidence of their claims - the trick is to leak a story to a writer who then publishes without the candidates either confirming or denying it - this is suiting Marca at the moment, which still continues to print that the Wenger deal is a done and dusted.

Where the English press are going a little overboard at the moment is headlines such as “Real Madrid want (insert name)”. Technically there is no Real Madrid until the 2nd July. My advise is to sit tight and see what happens - Villar Mir is by no means the strongest candidate, anyway. However, if he wins and Wenger does jump ship, you should hound him out of town with pitchforks and burning torches. Not literally of course, as that would be incitement.

As the 2nd July election day looms and the candidates continue to kiss babies, meet the people and sling mud, Marca writer Jose Antonio Abellan is less than impressed by what has been going on “I predicted that the electoral campaign would be a circus. I was wrong, It’s much worse.” He’s right.

Villar Mir - who has the air of a near dead member of the Soviet Politburo - has been taking the flak from the other candidates, primarily for the Wenger rumours that he is refusing to comment on. “The signing of Wenger is a lie”, blasted Juan Palacios. Lorenzo Sanz has also made a thinly veiled accusation to Mir that he has been ‘buying votes’ from Real Madrid members, “Anyone who sells their vote for 30 euros, does not deserve to be a member of this club”, thundered the former president, who now seems to be sporting a natty moustache. Meanwhile, Mir - the former construction tycoon - has been busy denying any involvement in a 30 million euro corruption scandal - ‘el caso Recol’.

Arturo Baldasano has said that he would love to see Fernando Torres at the club and either Del Bosque or Eriksson as manager....Ramon Calderon has promised eleven new players at the team ranging from Chivu to Robben....Juan Palacios has said that he would be giving priority to the basketball team and has also invited all Madrid members to a free day out at the local amusement park. Which is nice.

In Other News...

Celta Vigo are interested in taking Ariel Ibagaza off Atletico Madrid’s hands. Although the Argentinean midfielder claims to be quite happy at the Calderon, he is said to be concerned at his chances of starting next season with the arrival of Aguero, amongst many, many others.

Getafe look set to lose tough tackling midfielder, Diego Rivas, to Real Sociedad...Real Betis are to appeal their one match home ground ban imposed in response to a pitch invasion on the final day of last season...Sevilla are signing Andreas Hinkel, a right back from Stuttgart.


All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca 2006.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Cheeky Liga Round Up

Although there is the small matter of the World Cup rumbling on in the background, there are still bits and pieces going on in La Liga - and here are the highlights...

Athletic Bilbao look set for a European tour this summer - their last for some time - and have lined up friendlies against Cologne, Essen and Middlesboro amongst many others.

Atletico Madrid fans are praying that Fernando Torres suddenly turns a bit rubbish for the rest of the World Cup tournament to put off the long line of suitors now lining up for his signature. In the meantime, the club are running the rule over Osasuna’s much in demand left winger, Ludovic Delporte.

Fairly quiet in Barcelona, however they are being linked with pretty much every full back who is possibly available this summer. Names randomly being bandied around in the press include Germany’s Philippe Lahm and Ashley Cole - perhaps not after Tuesday night, though.

Over at Real Betis, Joaquin’s father, Mr Joaquin Senior has claimed that Real Madrid candidate Juan Palacios has been tapping up his son to use as bait for potential voters in the upcoming presidential elections. Meanwhile, striker Dani has said that he wants be loaned out somewhere, anywhere and Lorca central defender Fernando Vega looks set to arrive sometime this week.

Not too much excitement at Celta where they have lined up pre season friendlies with Spurs, PSG and Atletico Madrid. Even less at Real Sociedad who are taking a trip to England to play big names such as Doncaster, Huddersfield, Leicester and WBA - their agent is no doubt being beaten to death with a leg of ham, as you read this.

Deportivo have said they are going to do their best to help push Diego Tristan out the door and have lined up Getafe’s slightly overrated Riki as replacement.

Getafe are looking at Argentina’s very hard to spell goalkeeper, Roberto Abbondanzieri with the cunning plan to bringing him in from Boca Juniors. In case that falls through Atletico ‘keeper Ivan Cueller is set to move a few kilometres down the road on a season’s loan.

Mallorca president Vicente Grande has promised to bring in a big name from the World Cup, over the summer, Ronaldo?....Osasuna’s Moha has moved to Espanyol for a rather embarrassing 300,000 euros....Racing Santander have contracted Pablo Alfaro - who joined them during the winter break - until he is 38.

Valencia are looking at Inter Milan’s Obafemi Martins but are a little constrained financially with Carboni having a look at the accounts and realising that “we have good players but with star’s wages” - a comment by no means directed at Patrick Kluivert.

And in the Real Madrid presidential elections Juan Palacios has called Villar Mir a big fat liar for claiming that Arsene Wenger has agreed to take over as manager, should Mir win the vote.

That’s all folks.

All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It Was Only Tunisia !!!

"We are also the best at suffering" - Marca

“It’s dangerous if everyone thinks the World Cup is going to be like the Ukraine match”, were the wise words of Sergio Ramos on Sunday. It was a lone voice of reason in a country that has been getting a little bit too carried away in recent days. If you were to believe the sporting papers, over the weekend - never a good idea at the best of times - the other 30 nations taking part in the World Cup this year were merely making up the numbers. Spain were surely destined to meet Argentina in the final, in Berlin.

The fact that they still had to potentially beat Tunisia, France, Brazil and maybe England to get there was happily overlooked. So it was a bit of shock to the 9 million or so who had tuned into the game on Monday night that it was the Spain of old that turned up for the first two thirds of the their match - criminally wasteful in front of goal and defensively wobbly.

However, thanks to a number of substitutions from Luis Aragones - who at one point, looked like he was having a nervous breakdown on the bench - the ‘furia roja’ came good and the victory in the end, was fairly comfortable. Which is how it should have been from the off.

So what learnings can be taken from the game?

On the plus side, Fernando Torres finally seems to be finding his feet on the international scene - although he should be kept away from penalty kicks whilst Xavi and Xabi Alonso look as good as a midfield pairing as anyone's in the Mundial this year. However, Aragones should be worried that out of the handful of chances Tunisia created, they were able to convert one when Minari weaved his way through the defence.

Elsewhere the normally reliable Puyol found himself caught out of position on a number of occasions and having to charge back to clear danger - a situation that a country like France even in its current awful form would be able exploit.

It looks like the Spanish team will be looking considerably different for the final match with Saudi Arabia with call ups for Reina, Salgado, Juanito, Marchena, A. Lopez, Cesc, Albeda, Iniesta, Joaquin, Raul and Reyes. A strong reminder to all, if it were needed, of the strength in depth of the squad, this year.

The message to Spain and especially those who honked their frickin’ horns till two in the morning on Monday night is that a victory against Tunisia should have been routine and not a cause for massive celebrations. Far harder challenges ahead await.

Real Madrid Election Watch

Ramon Calderon’s right hand man, Pedja Mijatovic, claims that he has made a verbal agreement with Robben and Kaka to come to Bernabeu should his boss win the upcoming elections.

Arturo Baldasano declares that Roberto Carlos, Helguera, Pavon, Woodgate, Graveson, Pablo Garcia and Cassano would all be booted out of the club under his regime.

Ramon Calderon’s team have taken the electoral fight to cyber space and placed a banner add next to any google search of rival candidate Villar Mir.

Lorenzo Sanz is keen to poach Sevilla’s director of sport, Monchi, as his own.

If all this has given you a taste for more then these are the web sites of all the major candidates.


All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Forces of Darkness Gather in Madrid

Real Madrid Candidates Go Postal

When La Liga Loca woke up on Thursday morning to dark, threatening skies and distant rumbles of thunder, the original thought was that it was must simply be an outlet for the unusually humid weather conditions that had been blighting Spain. However, the real reason for the inclement conditions soon became clear.

‘Marca’ had gathered together the forces of darkness, the legions of Hades and the minions of Beelzebub into one place - the five main candidates for the Real Madrid election were meeting face to face for the first of a series of pre election dust ups. And it looked nasty.

Instead of talking about how to bail the club out of the trouble it is in and transfer strategies, they spent much of their time making barbed comments about each other’s credentials to run the club including such gems as “none of the other candidates have what it takes to run a club like Real”, from Villar Mir. However, the biggest topic of all is the question of postal voting during July’s poll, which seems to be a bit of a hot potato for some of the candidates.

Because of rumours of vote buying and wholesale fraud at the last election some of the candidates either want to see the process banned for the upcoming election or heavily controlled, with Arturo Baldasano requesting that every single postal vote received be examined by a hand writing expert to check it matches the writing on the ‘socio’s’ original application. A crazy plan which would see the election results being declared some time in December 2008 as there could well be up to 26,000 votes coming in - approximately 40% of the total amount.

Unfortunately, La Liga Loca has not been able to track down the group photo of all the leading candidates and they stood together after the debate and pretend to like each other, but this is a taster.

Lorenzo Sanz - big, scary looking former president who looks like he could bear hug his opponents to death, like a WWF wrestler.

Villar Mir - miserable, sour faced old bugger who has the look of a South American dictator shortly before ordering a firing squad to deal with some pesky opponents.

Arturo Baldasano - like a kindly uncle. Will be rolled over by his opponents in due course.

Juan Palacios - sports a bright orange tan and a brilliant white shiver-inducing beaming smile. Like a shark on PCP.

Ramon Calderon - Despises Lorenzo Sanz and has look of a man who is contemplating how many ways he can kill you with a tooth pick.

All You Need to Know

To help bring you up to date with all the in’s and out’s of La Liga, this summer, so far - here is a handy guide.

It has been pilfered wholesale from ‘AS’, so it is entirely their fault if there are any inaccuracies.

In - Gudjohnsen
Out - Larsson, Gabri, Maxi Lopez
Linked with - Forlan (Villarreal), Chivu (Roma), Gallas (Chelsea), Zambrotta (Juve), Oliveira (Betis)

Real Madrid
Bugger all

In - Morientes
Out - Fabio Aurelio, Carboni
Linked with - Forlan (Vilarreal), Castelen and Kalou (Feyenoord), Ocio, Maresca (Sevilla), Simao (Benfica)

In - None
Out - Ortiz, Sosa, Clavero, Brit
Linked with - Arango, Jordi

In - Poulsen
Out - Saviola !!!!
Linked with - Kerzhakov (Zenit), Arango, Campano, Angel (Celta), Palacio (Boca), Duda (Malaga)

In - Guayre
Out - Bouzon
Linked with - Jorge (Atleti), Silva, J.Enrique (Valencia), Lequi (Lazio), Jordi (Sevilla), Soldado, Jurado (Real Madrid Castilla)

In - Nihat, Pires, Cani (very tasty line up)
Out - Calleja, Guayre, Roger, Cazoria, Cesar Arzo, Roger
Linked with - Materazzi (Inter), Ferrari (Everton), Metzelder (Borrusia D), Vargas (Livorno), Saviola (Sevilla)

In - Pablo Alvarez, Juan Rodriquez, Lopo
Out - Cesar, Romero, Molina, Jesus Muñoz, Gallardo
Linked with - Riki (Getafe), Nene, Uche, Jurado, Soldado, Diego Lopez, Nino, Gabi...and many more

In - Manu del Moral, Sousa, Alexis, Nacho
Out - Pernia, Craioveanu, Matellan, Gavilan, Calatayud, Contra
Linked with - Dorado (Sporting), Calleja (Villarreal), Soldado (Real Madrid Castilla), Bizzarri (Vallad), Domingo (Almer.)

In - Pernia, Aguero, Seitaridis, Costinha, Ze Castro
Out - None
Liked with - Raul Garcia, Milosevic (Osasuna), Aimar, Silva (Valencia), Zigic (E.Roja), Savioloa

In - None
Out - Toledo, Valbuena, Cani, Savio
Linked with - Juanfran, Diogo (Real Madrid), Alexis (Malaga), Pique (Man Utd), Sergio (Celta), D’Allesandro

Athletic Bilbao
In - Alex Garcia, Sarriegi
Out - Karanka, Escalona, Felipe, Bordas
Linked with - Gabilondo (Real Sociedad), Raul Garcia (Osasuna), Gorka (Espanyol)

In - Maxi Lopez
Out - Campano, Farinos, Okubo, Tuzzio, Borja, Potenza, Maciel, Yordi, Braulio

In - None
Out - Canas, Varela, Oscar Lopez

In - None
Out - Domi, Posse, Juanfran, Lopo, Pochettino
Linked with - Mark Gonzalez (Liverpool), Saviola, Sergio (Depor), Geijo (Xerez)

Real Sociedad
In - Felicio, Juanito
Out - Nihat, Mark Gonzalez, Alberto, Barkero, de Paula, Boris
Linked with - Guiza (Getafe), de Silva (Toluca), Bizzarri, Anderson (Charlton), Armando (Cadiz), Acuna.

In - Alfaro, Damia
Out - Antonito, Valencia, Pinilla, Pablo Cesar
Linked with - Guiza (Getafe), Cazoria, Ochoa (America)

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blimey !

The Essential Selection

Judging by the amount of dried-up vomit stains on the pavement outside La Liga Loca’s penthouse apartment this morning, it looked as if there was some heady celebrations going on in Madrid yesterday evening - although probably all over by seven, as the Spanish are not great fans of English style day time binge drinking.

The press are certainly in a happy mood with yesterday’s result with Marca claiming that Spain played the “best football of the World Cup” so far, whilst AS, not wanting to be left behind in the hyperbole department, scream - “Spain are the best!”, with their columnist Thomas Guasch claiming that “we’re going to Berlin!”. As long as all the upcoming opponents are as hopeless as Ukraine, the referees award dodgy penalties and they get the odd lucky deflection, then maybe.

In the meantime La Liga Loca reserves its judgement but is starting to half believe Luis Aragones when he commented on Tuesday that “I understand why people think I’m confused, but I have always have clear ideas”.

Incidentally, more on the tv business - AS reported the other day that Canal Plus were proudly boasting an average audience share of 6% for their broadcasts of the live games. Just 6%. However, the commentary itself - the little I have managed to catch - is always pretty good with Michael Robinson and the ever excellent Maldini actually offering insights into the game.

Quite unlike la Sexta and Cuatro (who were shocking yesterday - “It’s like playing against little kids!” Look ! Look ! Four Nil !!), who seem to think having three men yelling for ninety minutes constitutes good commentary.

I leave the last word on the matter to Rafa from Burgos - thanks Rafa.

“Worst thing of those semi-live games is comments and obviously, the
commentators. Former Argentinean goalkeeper Hugo Gatti was (to my view)
rather incorrect calling Ivory Coast guys "los morochitos" (word
related in Rio de la Plata area with dark featured people). Is quite embarrassing
to discover Luis Aragonés is not alone in his crusade. Maybe it all is a
question of street slang in the wrong context but TV should be more
aseptic in this subject. Anyway it seems very poor. For sure is what we deserve.”


In Other News

Despite most of La Liga being on holiday or off over at the Mundial at the moment, there are still bits and pieces going on in Spain - here are the highlights.

Barcelona have finally completed the signing of Eidur Gudjohnsen from Chelsea - “when Barca call, you can’t say no”, beamed the Icelandic striker and occasional midfielder. Unless you are Thierry Henry, that is. As there is only very limited peg space in the dressing room at the Nou Camp, forgotten man, Maxi Lopez is to be offered to Mallorca on a season long loan. Frank Rijkaard himself has offered to drive the girlie-haired one to the ferry port, just to be rid of the Argentinean misfit.

Atletico Madrid’s spending looks set to continue with new manager Javier Aguirre taking a long hard look at Werder Bremen and Germany midfielder Tim Borowski - the poor man’s Michael Ballack. “I like someone who can go up and down” says the Mexican manager with a Kenneth Williams-esque glint in his eye.

The exodus from Deportivo has started with former Spanish international Sergio returning to Espanyol, after a five season spell in La Coruña, although an Espanyol director said they had to come with ‘imaginative solutions’ to fund the transfer. Sounds like former coach Lotina has just lost his pay off cheque.

Over at Real Madrid the presidential campaigns rumble on and are starting to get entertainingly bitchy. Front runner Villar Mir - whose face seems to be everywhere these days - has been accused by another candidate, Baldasano of ‘lacking humility’. Villar Mir has himself had pop at Palacios - another candidate - by informing him that Real Madrid “is not a watch market” - a reference to his rival’s main job as founder of the Viceroy jewellery company. Ramon Calderon has attacked all his rivals by claiming that his campaign is “the only one with real substance”. This could be good.

At Real Sociedad, goalkeeper Asier Riesgo (risk - in english) has signed for another four years of picking the ball out of his net having enjoyed the last campaign so much where he stood behind the worst defence in La Liga. Centre back Juanito has completed his move from relegated Alaves.

Athletic Bilbao have signed central defender Josu Sariegi from Alaves after checking he has the prerequisite number of consonants in his surname...Celta Vigo continue to eye up Real Madrid reserve team striker Soldado...Sevilla have signed midfielder Christian Poulsen from Schalke 04...Valencia have told Pablo Aimar that he can stay if he wants - something to think about as he warms the Argentinean bench over the next few weeks...Barca’s Fernando Navarro has joined Mallorca...Osasuna president, Patxi Isco has reconfirmed that Raul Garcia - their young midfielder branded ‘ugly’ by Beckham and Guti - is not for sale - except for stacks of cash...Betis are said to be interested in signing Osasuna’s very excellent flying winger Ludovic Delporte.

That’s the lot.


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Monday, June 12, 2006

Aragones to Think the Unthinkable?

The Essential Seleccion

It would appear that Luis Aragones has finally taken on board what millions have been telling him for some time. The key to Spain’s success this year is to take the plunge and drop Raul - and thanks to a toe injury and a couple of other twinges picked up over the past few days, it seems that the decision has been made for him.

Although it seems a little harsh on the sulking striker, trying to crow bar the Real Madrid forward into the manager’s preferred 4-3-3 formation was causing a bit of headache - an even bigger one than having to deal with the thornier issue of how to deal with playing a World Cup game at the same time as they players would normally be taking their siestas. One player who seems to be having a spot of bother adapting to the new timetable is Michel Salgado who complained, “the problem is having to eat a plate of spaghetti at 11 in the morning.” Ronaldo always managed it.

Instead, yesterday, the first team squad managed to resist the temptation of having a bit of a lie down and played a practice match against the substitutes and managed to beat them 4-0, with Casillas even playing up front at one point. Judging by the recent performances of Torres and Villa, it may be a cunning strategy.

It seems according to Marca’s spies in the training camp that the starting line up for La Seleccion on Wednesday against the Ukraine will be as follows....

Casillas; Puyol, Pablo, S Ramos, Pernia (or A. Lopez); Senna, X Alonso, Xavi; L. Garcia, Torres, Villa.

Elsewhere in the paper, some of the other managers, and ex ones, have been having a pop at guessing how well Spain will get on in Germany....with most predicting them to make it past the quarter final stage - Spain’s big psychological hurdle.

Miguel Angel Lotina (ex Espanyol) - ‘it is important that we keep the ball’; Spain to reach quarters at least.

Victor Fernandez (new Espanyol) - ‘the semi’s at least’

Javier Irureta (new Real Betis) - ‘we have the team and the manager’; semi’s.

Gregorio Manzano (Mallorca) - ‘we have a lot of options in an emergency’; semi’s

Juande Ramos (Sevilla) - quarters, at least

Joaquin Caparros (Deportivo) - ‘I see a team with a lot of passion’; no idea how far Spain will go.

In Other News....

Atletico Madrid confirm that they have had no firm offers for Fernando Torres, with the big clubs of Europe quite wisely waiting to see how he performs in the Mundial.

At Real Madrid, all 9 presidential candidates have been following each other around the city like sheep, attending all the public events they can from bull fights to Shakira concerts.

That’s about it. Apart from a quick well done to the Spanish broadcasting authorities for awarding the world cup tv rights jointly to a subscription channel and another that many people in Spain do not have coverage for - and that shows the games with a one hour delay. Great move.


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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Spain With Bigger Fish to Fry

Essential Seleccion

World Cup fever has still to grab Spain, whose people have their attentions turned to more immediate sporting matters. This Sunday sees both their latest sporting heroes in action as Fernando Alonso starts from the pole in the British Grand Prix and Nadal takes on Federer in the final of the French Open. Now they are just showing off.

All this means that there is little coverage of the Spanish national team as they prepare for their opening encounter with Ukraine on Wednesday. In fact, there does not actually seem to be a great deal going on at the moment in the camp.

According to the headlines yesterday, crusty coach Luis Aragones is less concerned with having absolutely no idea of his starting line up and more worried about having to play their first match at 15.00 - lunchtime in Spain. For a country of habit, this is a causing a bit of a stir and the Spanish team have brought in a team of dieticians and fitness specialists to find a solution to this most perplexing of problems. Eating at 12.30 pm is even being considered.

On the field, Raul’s injured toe may well be a blessing in disguise. The part of the Spanish constitution that says that the Real Madrid captain must play in every single game for his club and country means that the Spanish camp has had to put up with the constant complaints from their skipper about not given enough respect, despite having been rubbish for three years. With any luck they fans at home will be treated to Raul peering from the bench for the next few weeks.

We are no closer to guessing the first eleven for Wednesday, with Aragones still tinkering away on the training field, but there was a note of dissension in this morning’s papers with Valencia’s David Villa - who has been pushed out to the wings for previous matches - commenting that it is not exactly his favourite position. However, with Torres the favourite target man in Spain’s 4-3-3 formation, it is something he has going to have live with.


In Other News...

Elsewhere, there is still the usual news rumblings in the is an update on the latest goings on.

Real Madrid are still paralysed by the upcoming presidential elections which means that the troubled club are unable to buy or sell a single player until the results of the ballot to be held in early July. Instead, the gaggle of identical looking, shifty candidates are passing the time making promises they cannot possibly keep and trying to buy off the votes of the ‘socios’ with claims that the likes of Zlatan and Cesc would be brought to the club, should they win. Leading candidate Villar Mir has reportedly given Arsene Wenger a ten day ultimatum to decide whether he would be interested in taking over at the Bernabeu, should Mir win the poll. I imagine the reply will come in a two word SMS.

Barcelona are reported to be planning on signing Chelsea’s Eidur Gudjohnsen on Monday, although a couple of other unknown Spanish clubs are also said to be the running - Valencia and Deportivo is La Liga Loca’s bet. Frank Rijkaard has recruited fellow Dutchman Neeskens as his assistant next season with the departure of the oddly named Henk Ten Cate to Ajax.

Atletico Madrid - who have gone transfer crazy over the past couple of weeks - have brought in 12 year old (well, looks it) Ze Castro from Portugal’s Academica. He is also the centre back star of the national U21 side and the club had to fight off the attentions for his signature. Phew.

Betis are set to appoint former Depor coach Javier Irureta as their new coach, although the name of Getafe’s Bernd Schuster refuses to go away.

Elsewhere, a big bunch of teams are after new strikers - Celta want Real Madrid’s Soldado...Depor still want Bodipo from Alaves but are having to work their way through Dmitry Piterman who is looking to fleece the club for all he can.


If you are looking to kill a bit of time in between all those World Cup games, La Liga Loca recommends a couple of podcasts to see you through...

First up, is the ever excellent Baddiel and Skinner World Cup podcast....

Also, this is a fine podcast from America - with all you could ever need to know....


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Thursday, June 08, 2006

More Questions than Answers for Aragones

The Essential Selection

“We know how to play, we know how to suffer, we know how to come back and we know how to score great goals” - so says the cover of ‘Marca’ this morning in response to Spain’s 2-1 late victory over Croatia last night, in their final warm up game before the World Cup.

And what a strange game it was too with a number of plus and minus points.

It was a solid game for Pernia, who started at left back and actually managed to score a goal from a direct free kick, all be it with a little help from a deflection. Joaquin looked lively, although he missed an absolute sitter in the second minute when he somehow put the ball wide with an easy header. Reina and Cañizares especially, show that Spain is spoilt for goal keepers - although not strikers.

David Villa had another disappointing game and badly needs a goal. Torres missed a penalty which may well have broken him had he not scored an injury time winner with a fine strike off his left foot.

And Raul? Well, a familiar story with his performance. Another 45 minutes of misplaced passing and hole digging. Aragones is going to have to do the decent thing and drop his captain to the bench - whether he will do it remains to be seen.

However, Spain’s starting eleven is still very unclear. Will Albeda and Senna be restored to the side? Will Reyes start again? Will Joaquin or Luis Garcia take up the spot on the left? Will Salgado or Ramos play at right back?

And will Pablo be allowed back into the team after a stunning own goal when he flicked the ball over the very surprised Reina in the first half?

We shall see on Wednesday.

In the meantime, send in your thoughts either through the comments box or by e-mailing


Who’s In and Who’s Out

Things are getting very confusing in the upper echelons of La Liga these days. With each club having presidents, sporting directors, managers and coaches running them, it is hard to keep up with events at the best of times.

However, at the moment, it seems that everyone in Spanish football has itchy feet and over the past week there has been an unprecedented amount of sackings, resignations, culling and appointments. Here is the latest news...

Real Betis - hot on the heels of despicable president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera announcing his plans to leave the club at the end of the month, manager Lorenzo Serra Ferrer has done what he has been threatening for some time and resigned although he claimed he was “disappointed, but not angry” at the management which treated him so shabbily over the past season. While he is expected to be on his way to AEK Athens, Betis are lining up Javier Irureta, former Deportivo manager, to take over in the hot seat.

Racing Santander - eternal mid table Santander have brought in former Real coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro has their new boss. Fresh from eight months of torture at the Bernabeu, the haggard looking coach looks rather pleased to be away from the glare of the media spotlight in Madrid and is in feisty spirits - “I will fight to the death for these colours”, he proclaimed. Certainly not a phrase he picked up from his previous team.

Real Zaragoza - They have gone back to the future to bring in Victor Fernandez as their new coach who is back in town for his second spell in charge after managing Celta, Betis and Porto over recent years. Fernandez was so emotional at the thought of being back in charge of a middling club in between Madrid and Barcelona that he burst into tears during his unveiling to the press. La Liga Loca would have done the same, no doubt, but for very different reasons.

In Other News...

Valencia manager Quique Sanchez Flores has been in tough talking mood recently and declared that “the players know who is boss here”. Correct - the club president. Flores has been showing off his new found authority by inexplicably putting the very excellent Pablo Aimar on the transfer list. The club are also though to be after Benfica’s highly rated Simao.

Goalkeeper and spell check nightmare Gorka Iraizoz has decided not to leave Espanyol and move to Athletic Bilbao...Barcelona’s Gabri has signed for Ajax for three seasons...Getafe to sign Malaga’s Nacho for 300,000 euros...Deportivo to take Racing Santander’s tremendously named goalie Dudu Aouate off their hands...Zaragoza on the brink of signing Argentinean midfielder Andres D’Alessandro from Wolfsburg...Sevilla’s Jordi to Osasuna...Osasuna’s Raul Garcia to be going nowhere...Gudjohnsen to Barca or even Betis’ Oliveira. Phew.


And Wenger will not be going to Real Madrid in a million years, despite what the Spanish press and a whole host of presidential candidates claim.


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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"I Would Never Go to a Spanish Club"

Atletico Madrid Splash the Cash

Despite only being away for a couple of days, La Liga Loca has returned to Spain to discover Atletico Madrid have resembled Posh Spice at a tupperware party and have gone into a shopping frenzy, by blowing a cool 30 million euros in one afternoon.

First to walk through the Calderon doors, having discarded their fur hats and boots on the way are Dynamo Moscow’s Yourkos Seitaridis and Costinha. Seitaridis, a 25 year old Greek international looks set to take up a spot at right back, whilst his companion - who was described by ‘Marca’ as a pit bull - will slot into central midfield to give a bit of much need va va voom to the ‘rojiblancos’.

But that is not all. After months of endless speculation, Atletico Madrid have also bought their very own over-hyped, hideously expensive South American wonder kid. Arriving in Madrid’s Barajas airport yesterday, to scenes not dissimilar to those seen in Ikea on a bank holiday in Croydon, was Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero, straight from Independiente.

All this transfer activity means that Fernando Torres’ future in Madrid looks even more uncertain, as he may well have to be sold to pay for this extravagant spending. Indeed, some comments from the club captain published yesterday, suggest that this is a scenario that is very much on his mind.

“I would never go to another Spanish club, the only white that I like is that of Spain”, he confided.

It is unlikely that any further news on this front will occur until the striker returns from the World Cup - so in about three weeks, then.


Barca’s Building Disaster

With Barcelona’s dominant season in Spain and Europe, the sporting press have had little to write about in trying to have a pop at the league champions and bring them down a peg or two. However, yesterday, AS had a good go at it.

It seems that Barca’s new flagship training facility may not actually be of any use, despite the club having forked out 68 million euros on it. In the unveiling early this week, president Joan Laporta was looking a little uncomfortable as all the tales of what was wrong with his pride and joy were detailed.

The highlights are -

- 8 training pitches of such poor quality that the first team refuses to play on them.
- Only 70 parking spaces
- no gym or medical centre
- showers for the basketball team that are only 180 cm high, forcing the players to stoop like Peter Crouch in a wine cellar
- solar panels that are pointed in the wrong direction

Sounds perfectly normal for Spain.


The Essential Seleccion Round Up

Arsenal’s Jose Antonio Reyes is staking a late claim to the starting eleven with his goal against Egypt on Saturday night, “I am not settling into just being a number 12”, he grumbled.

Luis Aragones is starting to fret that his tactic of keeping possession and slowing the pace of the game is not going to work for his team, “at times, we tend to overplay and lose the ball to easily”. And not score enough.

The Spanish team’s tournament motto is the very optimistic “One country, one dream”.


How Was It for You?

And now La Liga Loca’s ongoing dip into last season...

Deportivo: 8th, 55 points

If management consultants were sent into this calamitous club to discover the route causes of another poor season, there would be a record breaking number of corporate buzz words and pieces of jargon contained in their report. Last season, the side’s management were not pulling in the right direction, harnessing synergies and lacked a common goal. In basic English - they were a mess.

In his first season in charge, Joaquin Caparros - who jumped ship from Sevilla - failed in his primary goal of bringing European football back to Depor. However, this was not entirely his fault as he inherited a club lacking in funds and packed with players such as Victor and Tristan who spent more time complaining than performing.

The complete lack of fight in the team was encapsulated by Depor’s final match at Alaves when a victory against the relegation threatened side would have been enough to grab an Intertoto cup spot. They lost. A huge amount of work is needed over the summer to rebuilt the team if they are not to suffer another disappointing year.

Marks - 5 / 10

Espanyol: 15th, 41 points

This season Espanyol. rather like Primal Scream over the past 15 years, have walked a fine line between triumph and disaster. Fortunately for their fans, they managed to stay on the right side. But only just. For a squad that lacked real strength in depth, a UEFA cup campaign added to their usual struggle for survival was always going to be a test, however an unexpected and eventual Copa Del Rey run which lead to victory, added extra strain on the team.

And it also added extra pressure to manager, Miguel Angel Lotina, who spent the season fending off attacks from his own board and management, as well as trying to guide his team through the various season’s campaigns.

In the end, it was all too much for the him and he resigned minutes after witnessing the miraculous last minute goal, on the final day of the season that gave Espanyol another season in the top flight. All in all, it was a wild ride but not one that the club’s support would want to be put through again.

Marks - 6 / 10

Getafe: 9th, 54 points

While it is true that Barca won the cup and league double this season and Osasuna made it through to the Champions League, team of the season for many, this year, was Getafe. From the southern Madrid industrial base, Getafe more than exceeded their initial season goal of mere survival to come fairly close to challenging for a top six place, at the end of the campaign.

The three key reasons for their success is their down to earth and practical president Angel Torres, his trusted manager, Bernd Schuster and a hard working and resilient squad of players.

However, repeating this season’s remarkable 9th places finish will be tough as their success has drawn the interest of a number of other clubs. Their player of the year, Pernia has already moved onto Atletico Madrid and the club are also expected to lose star striker, Riki.

On the bright side for Getafe, if there is one thing that Bernd Schuster knows how to do, it is dig up rough diamonds from Spain’s lower leagues and give them a bit of a polish. Let’s see if he can find some more, for next season.

Marks: 8 / 10


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