Monday, July 31, 2006

A Tour of Spain

A Weekend Round up

Today - an alphabetical tour of a busy weekend but before that, a quick note from George in Canada on Sevilla’s recent troubles. As always either hit the comment icon or email here with your thoughts.

“Why? Why why why? Such a glorious season last year, the UEFA Cup, beating top teams in La Liga, confidence at an all time high and now this ...corruption, internal struggles and player strife.
Welcome to the "Big Time" Sevilla :( “ - George.

Athletic Bilbao’s squad have returned from two weeks of mountain trekking in the French Alps where they tried to the rancour of Javier Clemente’s departure. Manager, Felix Sarriugarte was said to have been delighted with his squad’s ability to hike up hills, point sticks and gaze into the middle distance wistfully, like catalogue models. This week, his side will travel to Holland - where, worryingly, there are no hills - to take part in a mini tournament against Middlesbrough and Cologne. At this point we will see how useful the rambling expeditions have been aside from giving the players shapely calves.

Atletico Madrid have been roundly slated by the papers after a dreadful 0-0 draw with German minnows, Dynamo Dresden. “Atletico shipwrecked by little Dynamo”, proclaimed AS who have been expecting instant results from Javier Aguirre’s 37 million euro spend. “At times we made life difficult for ourselves and gave away too many balls,” complained the Mexican coach - a familiar refrain over the years. Elsewhere, Mista has completed his move and has been presented to the press and fans. The former Valencia striker also seems to have the ability to communicate with the dead, as well as not score many goals - “My Gran, who now rests in peace, was an Atletico fan. She has been watching from heaven and is proud of me”, proclaimed the new signing who will be battling Kezman over the next season for a prime spot on the bench.

Barcelona’s reserve team enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 victory over Danish tiddlers, Aarhus, in the first of their pre-season friendlies. Goals from ‘new Messi’ dos Santos and ‘new Larsson’ Gudjohnsen were enough to overcome their lowly opponents. Afterwards, the Icelandic striker said he was still so very excited and unable to hide it - “I feel like a kid who has started a new school”, beamed the former Chelsea player who later went on to complain that Puyol had stolen his lunch money. The club’s management are still looking to offload Saviola before the season starts with Hamburg being the latest in a long line of potential buyers willing to cough up a king’s ransom for one of the finest divers in Europe.

There is trouble brewing at Betis - again - with the news that on loan striker Ricardo Oliveira does not fancy a return to Spain on the completion of his spell at Sao Paolo. “I hope Betis can be convinced to let me stay here”, confessed the Brazilian striker whose side are on the brink of a South American cup final. Unfortunately, this is something that cuts little ice with new club president Pepe Leon, “he will not have permission from Betis to stay on. He must be back here for August 12th.” It’s not difficult to see why such a stance is being taken by his club. After being carried off injured in last October’s CL clash with Chelsea, the side badly missed his goals and currently have less striking options than a one armed boxer.

Even more problems for Deportivo’s creakingly large squad. Diego Tristan looks like staying on, after no one came forward wanting his striking services, last week. He now faces a return to training with a manager he has one of two issues with, despite his claims - “I have no problem with Caparros. It was him who wanted to me to leave”. Midfield general Juan Carlos Valeron has re-injured his left knee which forced him to miss the end of the last season. He now faces a four month lay off - a fate which may also be shared by defender Jorge Andrade who has returned to Portugal for more work on his own ongoing knee problems. Big-haired full back Fabricio Coloccini has finally arrived at the team’s training camp - one week late - saying there was a ‘misunderstanding’ of the date he was expected.

Espanyol lost a friendly to Villarreal 1-0 and have managed to have nearly all of their best players out injured, even before the season has started. Quite a feat. Ivan de la Peña, Luis Garcia, Walter Pandiani and Fredson are all facing sessions on the treatment table.

Getafe beat Segovia 3-2 in a friendly and are currently trying to give run outs to all ten of their new signings, all of whom are being forced to wear sticky backed name badges.

Bizarre goings on at Nastic in their friendly match with Italian side Catania. With the match ending 0-0, a penalty shoot out was held - but ended rather quickly when the opposition goalkeeper walked off in a huff after the referee had ordered ‘Nastic to retake the first penalty twice.

Levante have managed the very handy signing off former Roma defender Tomassi...Mallorca are said to be interested to taking Ibagaza off Atletico’s hands.

Osasuna’s Iranian midfielder Nekounam had finally arrived in Pamplona after work permit issues delayed his departure from Tehran. Last seasons’s fourth placed team have been drawn against Hamburg in a tricky looking Champion’s league qualifying tie.

Racing Santander is the place to go if you fancy some time off work and an appendectomy. Former manager Juan Roman Lopez Caro was first to be struck with the affliction last month and now Antonio Tomas. Omar Bravo’s move from Chivas of Mexico is still up in the air.

Real Madrid could only manage a 0-0 draw against Fulham in their mountain retreat of Irdning. The main bad news for the club - aside from the result - was the stretchering off of Toni Cassano who had been impressive in the side’s other friendlies. Austrian autograph hunters were buoyed by the appearance of David Beckham after his summer holidays. RVN has also arrived in the camp to be reunited with his bestest friend. Roberto Carlos looks like being the first big name depature of the Capello regime with a possible move to Fenebahce, this week. Back in Madrid, police were called to the Bernabeu for a second time to investigate the growing number of postal voting discrepancies being found from the club’s June’s presidential ballot.

Real Sociedad completed their tour of England with a 0-0 draw at WBA - meaning that the side failed to score a single goal in any of their three friendlies against the likes of Doncaster and Hudderfield.

Sevilla have gone very quiet since news broke that their president was facing fraud charges and the very public protest from the club captains over the manager’s training methods. Juande Ramos’ only comment has been to say that he still looking for a striker to complete the squad for the new season.

Valencia have given up on signing Benfica’s Simao. The move had appeared to have been done and dusted, when just one hour before his presentation, both the Portuguese club and player demanded more money causing the transfer to fall through. “Valencia do not seem to appreciate his true value,” sniffed the Benfica president as they returned home empty handed. To cheer themselves up, the club went on to beat English club, Charlton Athletic 3-1. Only being one day from a bust up, almighty hoo-hah is now looming between president Soler and Ayala over the renewal of the defender's contract.

Villarreal have signed central defender Leandro Somozo but may well be facing the season without Spanish international Marcus Senna, who has been linked with a move to Man Utd.

Zaragoza are feeling very pleased themselves with their improbable four season ten million euro signing of Pablo Aimar from Valencia.


All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sevilla's Sinking Summer

La Liga Legal

At beginning of the week, life was going swimmingly down in steamy Sevilla. The club were still basking in the glory their UEFA Cup victory and fifth placed league finish. A talented squad of players from twelve different countries was being assembled. Their star man, Daniel Alves, looked like staying put and the club’s search for a new striker was ongoing.

Just a few days later and things are not looking so rosy in Sevilla’s garden. The club are to be reported to UEFA by Cagliari for tapping up one of their players. There has been a very public protest by senior squad members on the training regime but most importantly all, Sevilla president, Jose Maria del Nido has been hit with corruption charges. Some would say inevitably.

On Monday, football365 were kind enough to publish an article suggesting that del Nido’s connections to the participants in a high profile corruption trial in Marbella were a little to close to comfort. In his capacity as a lawyer, del Nido was the legal defence of one of the chief names in the case, former mayor Julian Muñoz.

In the past, the Sevilla president had also served as Jesus Gill’s advocate. Gill was another former mayor of Marbella and also ex-president of Atletico Madrid. And the dodgiest man in Spain.

It seems that del Nido’s insistence on mixing with such a crowd has landed him trouble. On Thursday, the ‘Fiscalia Anticorrupcion’ charged Sevilla’s head honcho with a number of fraud charges which relate to ‘legal services’ offered to the Marbella town council since 1999.

Prosecutors allege that del Nido’s legal firm had invoiced and been paid fees worth 6.7 million euros from taxpayer’s money over four years - ‘wholly disproportionate figures’ according to the prosecutors.

By coincidence, the men in charge of the Marbella town council at the time, with the power to sign off on any invoices were Julian Muñoz and Jesus Gil - del Nido’s current and ex-clients. The Sevilla president was unwilling to discuss the issue with reporters yesterday claiming that he had followed the rules of the local ‘Colegia de Abogadas de Malaga’.

Unsurprisingly, the club web site chose to ignore the whole issue and report del Nido’s visit to a Sevilla’s members club. The site also reminded its readers in the article than del Nido has met the Pope and also quoted gushing praise from a local cardinal on the wonders of the club.

Interestingly, the web site also chose not to report the other startling news concerning the club on Wednesday. The site of Sevilla’s three captains walking off the training pitch with their mouths sealed up with tape. Apparently Javi Navarro, David and Marti were protesting to manager Juande Ramos at the severity of the pre season training which they felt was a little too much.

Even more interestingly, Navarro rang a reporter soon after to say that the gesture meant nothing, “there are internal issues and we don’t want them publicised”. He perhaps should have considered this before wandering past press photographers with duct tape glued to his face.

Any Sevilla fans out there disturbed by these goings on? Or is it just another normal day? email here with your thoughts.

More Dodgy Business

‘AS’ are still digging away at the Real Madrid presidential election postal vote scandal and have found more cases of members having been listed as having voted - even though they didn’t - and others voting multiple times.

The uncertainty that this potential scandal could cause to the club forced a meeting with Ramon Calderon and the the electoral committee. Having declared last week that Calderon was the ‘provisional’ president until further investigations were completed, the council has backtracked decided to award him the full status of president, because of the ‘risks that could be derived from from the status of provisionality in important negotiations and operations currently in play”.

On the football front, after weeks of endless speculation it looks like Real Madrid have given RVN new stabling for the next three years. The Dutchman - only the third to have played for the club - is set to sign today on a three year contract.


Villarreal have taken leave of their senses and are inexplicably after Real’s central defender Pavon....Valencia are desperately trying to offload expensive wasters, Kluivert, Fiore and di Vaio...Atletico Madrid drew their first pre season friendly against Cottbus 1-1 with Aguero scoring for the rojiblancos....Celta drew 1-1 with Paris S.G and Mallorca lost 2-1 to Maccabi Haifi.

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All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bye Bye to the Barca Board

LaPorta to Order “Films and Sh*t from Amazon” To Pass the Summer

For the next few weeks, Barca president, Joan Laporta will have considerably more time on his hands to indulge in his other non footballing hobbies of avoiding elections, removing his trousers at airport security checks, clearing buffets and appointing card carrying Francoists to his staff (Alejandro Echevarr).

Wednesday was the day that Laporta and his board presented their resignations and stepped down to allow new presidential elections to take place in early September. However, it seems that the whole exercise could be a complete waste of time.

Laporta is certainly not a man without enemies - including his former Vice president - but even they are not dumb enough to run against a man who has delivered two league titles and the Champions League to the club, despite his more disagreeable authoritarian leanings that have aggravated so many.

It appears none of the five potential candidates are going to stand in September, although they do have until the end of August to present themselves. If this is the case, then Laporta may well be standing alone in the ballot, which would then lead directly to his appointment. It seems that his critics will be happy just to have brought Laporta down a peg or two having ignored the electoral statutes.

In the meantime Snr Xavier Sala I Martin has stepped into the presidential hot seat and this is where La Liga Loca must thank and also apologise to John who took the time to write in and give a bit more background on Martin. Unfortunately, due to incompetence from this blogger, the comment is lost, but still remembered.

Martin is one of Spain’s - and the world’s - most respected economists, a Cambridge graduate, a Yale professor, a man who gives up his time to advise developing countries and and someone who is line for a Nobel prize, one day. And also a hardcore Catalonian, it seems. You can see him in action here

It remains to be seen the impact to Spanish football of a club having a worldly, english speaking, brilliantly intelligent, humanitarian academic as president.

It will be interesting to find out.


It’s Quick, It’s Easy, It’s Quotes

“If Torres leaves, the club isn’t going to die” - So says Atletico’s Kezman, last week. The reply being - “yes it would - especially with you as their only striker”

“It would be an honour to go to England, where people love their football” - Villarreal’s Juan Pablo Sorin, still under the assumption that Bolton is a suburb of London.

“There’s no way, I would play in Scotland, or Northern Europe. It is far too cold for me” - Mitten wearing Diego Tristan explains why he still cannot find a new club.

“Now I want to win the Champions League and play alongside Raul” - Despite the two goals being incompatible, Fabio Cannavaro gets the arse kissing in, nice and early.

“The press have signed ten, the club, just three.” Real Madrid’s Raul Bravo comments on all the transfer speculation, before heading of to batter Thomas Gravesen for calling him a second rate footballer.

“I want to be much more open, much more cheerful” - Valencia manager Quique Sanchez Flores just wants to be loved.

“I am a Madrista and I hold this club dearly in my heart” - Roberto ‘I need new challenges’ Carlos embarks on a U-turn that even Ashley Cole would think vulgar.

“We can go for all six titles!” - Samuel Eto’o, fresh from his seven months of holidays is feeling fairly confident. The six in play are - Spain super cup, Euro super cup,Copa del Rey, La Liga, Champions League and World Cup Championship.

“It will be difficult to repeat the achievements of last year” - Barca’s revolutionary Oleguer - fresh from anti-globalisation protest, probably - is not so optimistic.

“If we start well, it would be better for the mood of the team and the squad” - Sevilla’s Escudo - future management material, surely.

“We must think better than just the UEFA cup!” - Andres d’Alessandre is a little bit over excited at the thought of his move to Zaragoza, the Portsmouth of Spain. Without the sea. Or urban violence.

“What is the name of the new president?” - Marca quiz question to Juliano Belletti, Barca full back”
“Sola, something?” - Belletti.

“Calderon, Mijatovic and Baldini are behaving like bandits” - AC Milan Vice President, Adriano Galliano is less than impressed by Real’s increasingly desperate attempts to sign Kaka.

Real Madrid Election Skulduggery Shock

Apologies to those looking for football news today, but there is more fun to be had poking around the ashes of the Real Madrid election bonfire. In a rare piece of investigative journalism ‘AS’ have been digging around to see what has happened to all the postal votes - all 10,511 of them - that were discounted by a judge as being too dodgy to include in the final count.

Their investigations has been inspired by some ‘socios’ who also wanted to know. Unsurprisingly, it seems that the decision taken by the judge may have been right.

An investigator has found a number of ‘discrepancies’ amongst the postal votes, with a number of members now being accused of having sent in multiple ballots with forged signatures.

One socio accused of this crime was Luis Fontanet who was listed as having voted twice. He believes the only explanation for how this could have happened was when he was invited to a free day out at a Madrid amusement park by an electoral candidate and his membership and national id details were taken down ‘for a mailing list’ by a helper.

‘AS’ later comments that this was not the only report of this taking place. Interestingly, it fails to mention that the candidate who invited Real Madrid members to the park was Juan Palacios - the man who came in second. And only just.

Actual Football News...

‘Nastic look set to save Aussie striker John Aloisi from a season in the second with Alaves by bringing him to Tarragon.

Depor’s disappearing Argentinean Coloccini has called the club to apologise for his four day absence and confirm he is on his way back.

Sevilla are now after Monaco striker, Javier Chavanton. They have also stopped off in Marbella for a game of football, beating the local side 4-0 while their president continues to defend the town’s former mayor in his corruption case.

Ian Harte’s Levante - as they shall be known - have signed Cameroonian striker, Meyong Ze from the Portuguese league, where he was top striker last season.

Real Madrid’s Ruben was shouted at by Capello after throwing the ball away during a hissy fit during training. He was then told to fetch it.

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All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Deportivo's Donkey Derby

Diego Tristan greets the press

A Bit too Much Fun, in the Sun

This week, Marca’s coverage of Deportivo La Coruña in their Canary Islands training retreat took a big step over the line marked ´gushing` and into a whole new territory called ´homo-erotic’. For a few days, the paper has been stuffed full of photos of footballers frolicking the sea, playing tug of war and building sand castles - (the last part is not quite true).

It would seem that shots of players feeding each other grapes whilst dressed in togas is just around the corner. So have Depor found their very own Shangri-La on a volcanic rock in the Atlantic Ocean? The answer is a resounding no.

Last season - and the one before that - Deportivo were rotten. The team was disinterested, shambolic and listless. Manger, Joaquin Caparros was at loggerheads with the president at the direction the impoverished club should go in and this disquiet filtered through to the club’s supposed big name players.

Somehow, Caparros decided to stay at the club and has embarked on a programme to reinvigorate the team with some younger faces - 10, so far - “we are rebuilding from the beginning”, he said, yesterday.

However, the overall quality of the new recruits is not especially high. New strikers Riki (Getafe) and Bodipo (Alaves) are not going to scare too many defences (accept maybe Sociedad’s), whilst other new names brought in from the likes of Sporting and Barcelona B will be new to the top flight and take some time to adapt.

Unfortunately, this is not Caparros´ biggest worry right now. The Depor coach’s plan to clear out a whole stack of garbage to make room for the newbies has not quite gone to plan. Despite wanting a squad of just 22, Depor currently have up to 30 first team players galavanting in their Canary Islands camp.

The biggest name in this group of undesirables is Diego Tristan, who they are desperate to offload - so much so that he not being allowed to train in case he injures himself. But, it seems that no one is that keen on his signature. Other footballers that the club would like to be shot of are Scaloni, Duscher, Victor and Munitis. Especially, for the cash some of them could bring in.

Another headache for Caparros is the non appearance of big haired, Argentinean defender Coloccini, who has yet to return from holidays and has not been in contact with the club.

It is still too early to say whether Depor are going to have another tough time of it next season, but with too many trouble making players hanging around and mixing with inexperienced youngsters, it is not looking good for the squad. Despite the photos.

The Italian Influx

After weeks of endless speculation, the imports from the ‘Scudetto’ have finally starting to reach Spanish shores with both Barca and Real Madrid being able to present their shiny new cut price trinkets to the press.

Cannavaro arrived in the capital over the weekend to sign his contract and mumble a few pleasantries - “one part of my heart will always be in Torino, another is already in Madrid.” Quite lucky that misfit Fernando Morientes does not follow the same ethos or there would be bits of him scattered all over Europe.

The Italian captain was also photographed taking part in what must have been the most half hearted medical ever, with the defender in his jeans, grinning and giving a thumbs up from a bed where someone had stuck a few wires to his chest for affect. Perhaps it is the same team who did Woodgate’s all those years ago?

This sat nicely in contrast to Thuram’s check up over in Barcelona where the poor man looked like he was being put through astronaut training. The french full back was stuck on a running machine with an oxygen mask fixed to his face and all manner of leads and tubes feeding into his body.

The addition of Thuram and Zambrotta to Barca’s squad looks like being the end of their transfer dabblings, this summer. However, they may have gained a new striker with the returning Saviola being included in their tour party to North America. The club are still trying to find a buyer for the Argentinean international but cannot find anyone to pay his ludicrously high wages.

Real Madrid, on the other hand, are far from finished in the market. The deal for RVN seems to be dead and buried after the club could not agree a fee with Man Utd. AS are desperately trying to promote a possible, bankruptcy inducing swoop for Kaka by digging out a year old quote from the Brazilian to substantiate their whole scoop that he is desperate for a move to the Bernabeu - “the style of play in Italy is too tactical, too rigid”,

The club’s main problem now is an apparent revolt from the ‘cantera’ or youth team - most of whose players are now older than the first teamers. And Capello. With manager after manager overlooking them and opportunities in the first team harder to come by than a helpful shop assistant, mutiny is in the ranks. “Every year they tell us there will be chances, but it’s always the same”, complained Alvaro Arbeloa, who quickly earned himself a transfer to Depor with such talk.

Others are expected to follow the defender and the path taken by striker Roberto Soldado, who was farmed out to Osasuna on loan, for a season.

Meanwhile, Real’s reserve team squad defeated a team of goat herders (yes, really) in Irdning 10-2, with Toni Cassano managing to grab four against the plucky part timers. Tougher tests await with a trip to the US to take on Salt Lake City and DC United in early August, now that the remaining members of the first team squad are starting to return from their summer hols.

Barcelona have jetted off to Denmark for a few days, after waiting for Samuel Eto’o to finish his extra long holiday. Taken along with the team is the ‘new Messi’, Giovani dos Santos. Another name for the future apparently.

In Other News....

Espanyol have clearly not been watching the news in Marbella on how to do a property deal the Spanish way. The club announced a six month delay to the start of the work on their new out of town stadium after admitting that they were still waiting for all the right permits to come through. A veritable first in this country.

Fernando Torres has taken a look at the world outside his gated mansion in Madrid and decided that he does not fancy it, just yet. “Some big clubs came for me and they have not made me change my mind”, he claimed today. The under-ambitious striker did hint that this could well be his last year at the club, though. Especially, if a repeat of the last few seasons is occurs.

Meanwhile, his club have announced that they are on the brink of their 27th singing of the season, with a 5 million euro swoop for Valencia’s unfortunately named - but quite apt -striker, Mista. This fuels rumours that Valencia are building a transfer fund to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to the club, although Aimar would have to be off loaded as well. Lord knows where Atletico are getting their money. Best not to ask.

Real Sociedad have gained one player and lost another. Striker Darko Kovacevic has returned to action after a six month absence, but defender Jeremie Brechet has decided to erase the memories of last season with a loan move to Sochaux, in the French league.

Racing Santander are trying to tie up the signings of Mexicans Borghetti and Omar Bravo. If completed, they are set to sign a pay per view deal with a Mexican tv channel who are willing to fork out cash to watch another season of their special brand of comedy mid table shenanigans.

Joaquin looks set to stay at Betis and has released a statement saying he has no intention of leaving. Especially as the club receive did not receive a single bid for him.

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All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Summer of Love?

Temper, Temper

Dearie me. Whilst it’s true that temperatures are in the early forties across much of Spain, it's little excuse for the general grumpiness that has beset the game, over the past few days.

Barcelona kicked off the proceedings in fine style last week when an unamused club member took the club to a tribunal body and forced current president, Joan Laporta, to call new elections in September on a legal technicality regarding the length of his tenure. Possibly as a way to pass the time to the start of the new season, in five weeks.

Laporta is due to step down in a huff from the club on Wednesday and will not be back in charge until he his officially re-elected. Or not, as the case may be.

In the meantime, Barca will be in the hands of Xavier Sala - a comedy tie wearing, lime green jacketed, Harvard economics professor who happens to sit on the board. You couldn’t make it up, sometimes.

Down in sultry Sevilla, a war of words is sure to been have started at Real Betis when one former president, Hugo Galera accused the outgoing Manuel Ruis de Lopera of using ‘mafia techniques’ to run the club and then compared him to Hitler. The footballing world awaits the reply. A horse’s head perhaps.

In Real Madrid, losing and ever so slightly bitter and twisted presidential candidate, Villar Mir, has still not given up the ghost of his ‘stolen’ election victory. He has persuaded the club’s electoral board to declare Ramon Calderon as the ‘provisional president’ - with a final decision to be made on his status in a good eight months time.

Up in the idyllic heights of the Real’s Austrian training camp and fresh from pummelling Plymouth 1-0, Thomas Gravesen took one step nearer to a very quick transfer to anywhere. The Dane, who has been in a foul mood for the past few weeks, picked a fight with team-mate, Raul Bravo, by comparing him to a second division player. It seems that his time at Leeds, will never be forgotten by some.

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo has lost his rag at reporters continually asking whether Fernando Torres - now sporting a shaved head - will be sold to Manchester Utd or Inter, “I’m really tired of this, Torres will carry on playing at Atletico. I’m sure of it”.

On a Barca theme, thanks to Pete for the following great question...

"If Laporta's reign actually 'ended' at the end of June 2006 as per the current court case (and apparnetly he has now stood down), what implications does this have on the recent transfers of Gudjohnsen, Thuram and Zambrotta? As technically they were signed when Laporta was in charge, but shouldnt have been? Unless he had no involvement in the transfers and they were managed by Txixi?"

I have not seen anything in the papers about the validity of the signings. I imagine, ultimately the club can interpret (or change) the rules how they see fit, so would allow the transfers to go through. Not even they would be mad enough to undermine these deals. Maybe.

As always, to contact the blog with anything, either click on comments or email here

In Other News....

In a series of weekend friendlies, Real Sociedad contrived to lose 1-0 to mighty Doncaster Rovers. Celta drew 1-1 with Panathinaikos - a match which saw the debut of George Lucas. Betis beat Chicana 7-0, a score line that looks paltry compared to the 15-0 thumping Mallorca handed out to Siegsdorf. Osasuna could only draw 0-0 to Dunfermline, but Espanyol fared better with a 0-5 victory over Peralad, a result nearly matched by Sevilla with a 0-4 win over Pilas.

Villarreal’s European odyssey ended significantly earlier than last year’s, after they were dumped out of the Intertoto cup by Maribor. A second leg 1-1 draw was not enough to see them through against their feisty Slovenian opponents. Although, they did manage to get three men sent off.

Valencia have finally captured Asier Del Horno from Chelsea for a whopping 7.5 million euros. The left back has signed for six years and will pick up nearly 2 million euros annually. Not bad. Meanwhile, the club are still trying to offload Pablo Aimar, much against the wishes of the fans. But that has never stopped them before.

Real Madrid have sent striker Soldado out on loan to Osasuna for a year

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All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bernabeu Bargain Hunt

Shopper’s Paradise

When the Real Madrid reserve team players - currently in their Austrian retreat - were told the news of the signings of Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson, any smiles and jigs of delight may well have been a little forced. After all, these two new arrivals and anymore to come will almost certainly herald a clear out of rubbish and damaged goods that can only be compared to the aftermath of when La Liga Loca invited a group of Finns to a house party.

Due to the child in a sweet shop transfer policy of past managers, the Real squad is a little overgrown with at least 17 players for each position. In order shift some dead wood and raise revenue to pay for the stabling of RVN from Man Utd, a footballing car boot sale may be necessary, one Sunday morning. Interestingly, there are quite a few bargains to be had.

Jonathan Woodgate - durable, solid and unbreakable. All words that do not describe the defender. Every report in the sports papers currently details in glowing terms the great shape he is in and how his injury worries are over. A sure sign the club are looking for buyers. Yours for 8 million euros.

Raul Bravo - ex Leeds superstar defender. Very fast, occasionally good and another one the club are touting as being in excellent form. 3 million euro or nearest offer.

Roberto Soldado, Javier Portillo - former reserve team strikers with limited experience in the Primera. One was ok in Belgium, on loan. Special double deal - 4 million euros each, 7 for the pair. Two interested buyers so far (Celta Vigo, Getafe).

Pablo Garcia - tough tackling, headless chicken, Janis Joplin impersonator for sale. Arrived from Osasuna. Kicked people. Got injured and disappeared from squad - 3 million euros.

Thomas Gravesen - tough tackling, headless chicken, Uncle Fester impersonator for sale. Arrived from Everton. Kicked people. Got injured and disappeared from squad. Currently found arguing and fighting with trainers and players in Alpine retreat. Quick sale required. - 5 million euros.

Francisco Pavon - almost ‘turkey’ in English and but definitely on the football field. Scapegoat for Perez’s failed policy of packing the side with Galacticos and ‘pavones’. Would make good guard dog. 500,000 euros.

Carlos Diogo - Found at back of cupboard but still intact with original packaging. Minimal payment required.

On standby - Michel Salgado, Roberto Carlos, Ivan Helguera, Ronaldo.

Arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Election Fever Sweeps Spain

With the Real Madrid election circus only just leaving town, it seems that Barcelona have been forced kicking and screaming to setting up their very own version, in just 40 days time. And it is fairly tricky to explain why.

Technically, the life-cycle of a Barcelona presidency is four years. As current big cheese with a girl’s name, Joan Laporta, came to power on the 22 June 2003, an election was not due until the summer of next year. However, a fan disagreed with this particular interpretation of events and went to a judge to prove a point.

The Barca ‘socio’ - who clearly has too much time on his hands - argued that Laporta took over the club a full eight days before the previous cycle was due to end on June 30 2003 - a technicality that meant his eight days in charge of the side should be counted as a year, from 2002.

Remarkably, the judge agreed with this argument and ruled that the current Barca Junta had broken the statutes of the club and has ordered them to organise a poll. Laporta, a lawyer himself, argued that it was necessary to take over the club a week before the end of the previous incumbent’s cycle as the side was in a desperate mess. An opinion that did not hold water with the Catalan Sports Tribunal.

It is also a story that, interestingly, fails to appear on the Barcelona official web site - a continuation of Spanish clubs’ North Korea style policy of completely ignoring stories they do not like.

The election itself should be a fairly routine affair but with enough dirty laundry being aired to provide at least some entertainment. Three men are expected to battle Laporta - who, to be fair, has delivered two league titles and a Champions League to the club in his three year tenure.

Confusingly, all have the initials J.M: Joan Majo, Josep Minguella and Jordi Medina are the chosen ones who will need to come up with some fairly creative reasons as to why the club will be better in their hands.

Laporta has even received the backing of the man he defeated in 2003, Joan Gaspart - “I sincerely hope that Laporta wins, not because I like him as a person, but he’s done a great job.”

Aside from the politics, Barca appeared to have been listening to growing concerns in regards to their lack of transfer policy and will be picking up Zambrotta and Thuram for 19 million euros to enforce their slightly weak full back positions.

Thanks to Andy and George for their views on the Barca transfer question. As always, to contact the blog with anything email here
“I decided to weigh in on if Barca fans are worried about Barca being slow to reinforce the squad. One of the things that Rijkaard tends to emphasise is the atmosphere in the
dressing room. Barcelona is one of the most united squads around and I think that this is highly valued by the coach.

He always tends to emphasise that players must have the correct mentality and sacrifice for each other on the pitch. Another factor is that Rijkaard as promoted approximately 20 players from the Barca B squad since he began his tenure as coach. Showing is Ajax roots, internal player development is a major part of the coach's method in developing the team.

For these reasons, people will notice that Barcelona always tends to go slow in the transfer market.
However I do think we may see them make a move this summer. I heard that they may be in major talks with Juve over Zambrotta, Thuram and Trezeguet.

Whatever they do, you can be assured that Rijkaard will move to preserve his dressing room atmosphere.”


“As for Barca, I don’t know why they haven’t made more of a splash, perhaps they figured that all the other teams would waste money on making unnecessary moves and they would take the high road? They’ve already achieved two successive Liga titles, a Champion’s League title … I mean what else could they want? The Spanish Super Cup?”

In Other News...

Big girl’s blouse Diego Tristan has turned down a proposed move to Celtic because of the inclement weather in Northern Europe. “There is no chance of me playing in Scotland. It’s just too cold for me”. The 30 yr old warm weather wuss is now looking to move to the sunnier climes of Sporting Lisbon.

Bernd Schuster, manager of Getafe, has kicked off the new season with some stirring words to inspire his much changed squad - “our only obligation this year is to stay up again”. Unfortunately, the memo did not reach new goal keeping signing Abbodanzieri who claimed that the club were the new Villarreal - a side soon to be kicked out of the Intertoto cup in the first round.

Valencia forward, Francisco Rufete, has completed his move to Espanyol on a free transfer having been released by his former club.

Barcelona have allowed defender Rodri to join Deportivo.

Villarreal’s Sorin has been liked with Spurs -”I would be proud to play in England, where they love good football”.

Sevilla are now targeting Lyon and France striker Sydney Govou.

Differing fortunes for La Liga’s clubs in their pre season friendlies - Real Zaragoza beat U13 girls team Boltonaña 14-0, Celta were beaten 2-0 by Spurs and Osasuna were defeated by the same score by Hearts.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

From Bilbao to Belgrade

A Match Made in Hell

You don’t need to have a Masters in International Relations to realise that the world is currently on its merry way to hell in a hard cart. However, an extraordinary announcement took place yesterday means that we may be reaching our ultimate destination, a little sooner than expected.

It would not be controversial to suggest that the Serbian football team has a bit of an image problem. Certainly, there were few tears shed by the neutral after their disastrous group stage exit in the World Cup. However, it is not entirely their fault - it cannot not be easy to represent a country that recently attempted the genocide of its neighbours and still win friends.

When former manager, Ilija Petkovic, resigned earlier this month the opportunity had come for the Serbian federation to pick a new man to cool down the nationalist tensions which so often blight the team and focus on the football. Someone to make friends. A diplomat. A man of the world.

Instead, they chose Javier Clemente - Spanish football’s, perhaps Spain’s most argumentative man - as the new leader of the ‘Beli Orlovi’.

The new Serbian coach was only in the news a few days ago, having been fired from Athletic Bilbao for criticising the club president on a radio station. This is a mere drop in the ocean for a man who is rarely out of the footballing news.

To be fair to Clemente, he has had his fair share of footballing success. In the Eighties he won La Liga twice with Bilbao and also the Copa del Rey. He also managed the national team for six years - along with stints at Espanyol (3 times), Betis, Atletico Madrid, Sociedad, Marseille and Tenerife.

But that is not all. In his time, the new Serbian coach has also being renowned for arguing with players, presidents and journalists everywhere he has been. He once spat at a fan, implied that Samuel Eto’o was a monkey and referred to Andalusia as being a different country. Heaven knows what damage he will do with Serbia’s still delicate standing with its neighbours.

Clemente has been brought in on a two year deal worth 1,400,000 euros. His task will be to ensure qualification to the 2008 European Championships, win over sceptical fans and avoid triggering any regional conflicts.

If he manages two out of three, it will be good going.

Rumblings at the Nou Camp

There appear to be murmurings of discontent at Barcelona concerning Frank Rijkaard and Txiki Begiristain’s decision not to significantly increase the size of his squad for next season with a few transfers - proving you really cannot please all of the people all of the time.

First up to express some disquiet was club legend and big mouth, Johan Cruyff, who suggested that Barca would be standing still without more reinforcements other than Eidur Gudjohnsen newly arrived from Chelsea.

More recently, the normally Barca mad ‘Sport’ has been hinting that it would be hard to battle for the six trophies that the club are up for this season, with a squad which could be badly stretched by injuries.

While it is true that the first 14 or so are as good as anyone’s in Europe, there are stress points in the side which may need to be addressed, especially in the striking and full back department - the latter is perhaps the cause of why the club is so heavily linked with Juve’s Lillian Thuram.

Are any Barca fans worried? email here

The Transfer Soap Operas

Even Marca have realised that this summer’s transfer market is turning into a ‘culebron’ or soap opera. Although not quite as bad as the ones favoured in Spain which are scarily similar to the Fast Show’s ‘tetetete Chrissy Waddle, Boutrus Boutrus Ghali’ variety.

And definitely not as bad as the game shows. Just the other night, one four hour affair featuring soon to be married couples performing tasks such as removing the bra’s of models without taking off their tops and being quizzed on the names of towns whilst sitting in a car next to a snow machine. It is either genius or madness.

The two biggest transfers seem to be in the air still. Despite the Real Madrid web site proudly declaring the fact yesterday, RVN’s (as he will now be known) move is close, but a few million euro from being completed. Aside from that Pedja Mijatovic - the Real sporting director - is said to be in Italy meeting with clubs with a few to picking up a few scraps from the Juve table.

At Atletico, it seems unlikely that anything is going to take place with any potential Fernando Torres move until he finishes his holidays this weekend. However, the mulletted one has reportedly told boss, Javier Aguirre, that the club cannot necessarily count on his services next season despite Atletico’s management claiming that any Torres move would be the choice of the player and not the management - “If he ends up going, it would be because he wants to”, claimed club President Enrique Cerezo.

In Other News...

Real Madrid - or rather the reserve team - have arrived in their Alpine training camp in Austria where they are due to hang around for a couple of weeks of yodelling, thigh slapping and other such stereotypical activities. They are also playing Plymouth Argyle (or Clymout Arguile if you are Marca) as part of a deal for the club allowing them to take over their training facilities when the Spanish outfit failed to reserve in time. The initial week is said to be a chance for the new management to decide which of the fringe players will be allowed to stay or shipped out.

Osasuna’s transfer of Iranian midfielder Nekouman has been put on hold after paperwork issues in Iran have meant that the player has not yet been able to jet off to Spain.

Still smarting from the global criticism that met the latest Star Wars trilogy, George Lucas has taking the surprising move of signing with Celta Vigo where is to start a new career at right back.

Valencia have been reminding a fairly disinterested world that striker and sometimes hobbit Pablo Aimar is still up for sale and can be picked up for a reasonable 10 million euros. So far only Real Zaragoza have sniffed the air.

Sevilla are set to be reported to FIFA by Cagliari after their rather clumsy attempts to lure their star striker, Suazo, to Spain.

Ronaldo has infuriated Fabio Capello - not a good idea - by choosing to have a knee operation in Brazil against the club’s wishes. The striker is now unlikely to be able to start training until 14 August and can expect ‘a special welcome’ on his return to Madrid, according to his manager. Incidentally - the two to finish in front of Woody in weekend’s 3000 training run were Raul Bravo and Arbeloa from the reserve team.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Pablo's Honey

Image from Marca

Atletico Ace Sweet-talks Support

Man Utd’s diving dilettante, Cristiano Ronaldo, is not the only World Cup star dreading the start of the new season. Joining the Portuguese midfielder in expecting a hostile reception from his home fans is Atletico Madrid’s Pablo Ibañez.

Last month, the Spanish centre back had committed one of the most heinous crimes possible for a ‘rojiblanco’ - he tried to join Real Madrid. On Saturday, it was time for the disloyal defender to face the music and attempt some serious damage limitation.

Pablo’s problems started while he was away on World Cup duty with the national team. Instead of focussing on avoiding the traditional early exit, the centre back had allowed himself to be dragged into Real Madrid’s all-consuming presidential elections.

Ibañez had foolishly accepted an offer he could not refuse to join Real from one of the leading candidates. Unfortunately, the deal was with Juan Palacios, who promptly lost to Ramon Calderon in the subsequent poll. Not only was the accord not worth a hill of beans to the winner, but it had been made public by Palacios as a way to tempt a few votes in his direction.

It was only after Pablo was verbally abused by irate fans during a pre season training session, that he realised it was high time that he begged for forgiveness from the Atletico support. “It really doesn’t look good,” he confessed, “Real are our eternal rivals and our fans do not deserve what I did”.

It would appear the the reason for the lapse in judgement for Pablo was not the allure of Champions League football nor the chance of a league title, but instead, old fashioned cash - “they came to be with a really, really good offer and I accepted it”, revealed the trembling traitor.

Rather like Ronaldo - who was also cajoled into backing the bid of Villar Mir, another losing Real Madrid candidate - Pablo will have to do an awful lot to regain the trust of a notoriously fickle support. And it is something the Spanish international is aware of - “I have apologised, but where I have to do it now is on the pitch”. He is going to be a busy man.

Any irate Atletico fans out there? Can he ever be forgiven? - either sent a comment or email La Liga Loca with your thoughts.

Elsewhere in the world of Atletico, Mateja Kezman looks like hanging around for at least one more season of missing sitters and swearing at fans despite incomprehensible interest from Benfica, Fiorentina, Lokomotiv Moscow and Hamburg.

Using the rule of thumb in Spanish football where on should believe the exact opposite to what has just been said, club president, Angel Gil Martin, has signalled the imminent transfer of Fernando Torres to Manchester United - “I have no doubt at all that Torres will be staying with us”.


Sevilla’s Big Spender

Never one to shy away from the media spotlight for too long, Sevilla president and Ferengi look alike Jose Maria del Nido, is back in the bragging business. Still on a dizzy high from his club’s UEFA cup triumph and a fifth placed finish last season, del Nido has claimed that the club’s biggest ever purchase is about to take place.

“We are looking at two players”, confirmed Sevilla’s big cheese, “one of them will be coming very soon”. Del Nido also revealed that the two targets are both strikers, with the eventual chosen one being a direct replacement for the now departed Saviola and a back up for Freddie Kanoute - who was a complete waste of space last season.

The duo that the club are reported to be looking at is the Argentinean tank, Carlos Tevez and Cagliari’s Honduran striker Suaza, “the fastest striker in Italian football” according to Monchi - Sevilla’s director of football.

One way the club have found to finance the move which could cost between 12 and 16 million euros is to produce five separate club shirts for the next season - three to be worn during league and cup matches, one in the UEFA cup and one in the Super cup against Barcelona and all of which look awful. Any desperate fan wishing to collect all five will need to find around two hundred and fifty euros.

Daniel Alves’ transfer to Liverpool looks to be off after the two sides failed to agree a fee for the Brazilian full back - “we demanded a specific figure from day one and Alves will not leave for a penny less than this amount”, revealed del Nido.


Mallorca Pick Worst Stadium Name, Ever

Even more surprising to La Liga Loca than stumbling across atrocious 80’s mismatched flatmates sitcom, ‘Perfect Strangers’ on Spain’s god awful new tv station, La Sexta, was the news that Mallorca’s home will now be sponsored by ‘Ono’ - a communications firm.

Mallorca’s ‘Oh no’ stadium is the first example of a La Liga club taking the corporate dollar and renaming a ground, formerly known as the ‘Son Moix’. However, by following the path forged by the likes of Arsenal, PSV and Bolton, the Balearic battlers will be pocketing a useful 3.5 million euros over four years.

It is a handy sum that should help Gregorio Manzano with his mission next season to stay up after a dangerous flirt with relegation last time round.

La Liga Loca applauds and supports such forward thinking partnerships. Anyone interested in aligning synergies and being associated with the world’s finest blog for a very reasonable sum, please email here and mark ‘Microsoft’s La Liga Loca’.

Real Madrid Round Up

According to AS, this weekend, World cup winning Fabio Cannavaro is on his way to Madrid after a call made to Ramon Calderon from Fabio Capello was overheard. The Real manager reportedly said to his president, “calm down, ‘presi’, the Italian captain is coming to us.”

However, if you believe Marca, their rivals may be a little premature with their exclusive. They claim that it will be a cold day in hell before Juventus sell any of their players Real and more especially Capello - the man who walked out on the Italian champions even before the match fixing trials had started.

“He deserted the ship and now he wants come back and fish here”, fumed Juve’s big wig Jean Claude Blanc, mixing his metaphors in his fury. Should the Italians back down from their threat to sell their jewels to anyone but Real, then joining Cannavaro in the Bernabeu in a triple deal could be Gianluca Zambrotta and Emerson.

Back in the Spanish capital, training continued in earnest for the club’s non-internationals back with a 3,000 run being the latest of cruel punishments inflicted upon the squad. It was a race lost by some distance by the returning striker Javier Portillo and Guti who appears to have enjoyed his free summer a little too much. Better news for England fans was the performance of Woodgate who managed a laudable third spot.

Ronaldo has had an operation on his right knee - any excuse to stay longer in Brazil - and is expected to link up with his club in two weeks, when he can expect to enjoy a lot of running.


In Other News....

Villarreal’s season has started tremendously badly with a 2-1 home defeat to Maribor in the first leg of their Intertoto cup clash. “When we could, we didn’t want to...when we wanted to, we couldn’t”, said Manuel Pellegrini as some way of explanation for a lacklustre performance that saw the debut of all their summer signings, Nihat, Pires and Cani.

Valencia’s six million euro deal with Chelsea for Asier del Horno could well be hijacked by the fullback’s former club, Athletic Bilbao, although a season of Champions League football rather than a grim mid table scrap should be enough to tempt the basque international with a move to the Mestalla.

Bad news for La Liga Loca but good news for Getafe is the 1.5 million euro signing of Argentinean and Boca Juniors goal keeper Roberto Abbodanzieri.

A very, very out of shape looking Diego Tristan has been refused permission to train with Deportivo - a side he technically still plays for. Instead, the club are looking to offload him, this week, to either Benfica, Sporting Lisbon or Celtic. Or anyone really.

Celta Vigo are considering a bid for Real Madrid centre back and not that bad actually Alvaro Mejia.

Juan Roman Lopez Caro has finally arrived at his new club Levante after a week long diversion to a Madrid hospital and the removal of his appendix.

Samuel Eto’o has had the longest holiday in history - not counting those of teachers - after his request for an extra week’s rest was granted, taking his summer vacation to a whopping 75 days.

Espanyol are set to sign Athletic Bilbao defender, Jesus Maria Lacruz whilst striker Walter Pandiani claims that he will score 18 goals next season ....

Atletico Madrid to consider a second attempt to sign Portuguese midfielder Maniche from Dinamo Moscow.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Are Osasuna the New Betis?

Spend, Spend, Spend !

The entertainment to be had watching foolhardy tourists being impaled by their bovine pursuers in the annual Pamplona bull running festival has proved to be a handy distraction for the fans of Osasuna. Had they instead started to contemplate the footballing year ahead for their team, they would definitely not have had as much fun.

Despite last year's glorious Champions League qualification campaign being fresh in the memory, a lot has changed for Osasuna in the intervening months. And all for the worse. Firstly, their masochistic Mexican manager Javier Aguirre - the main reason for their success - left the club in May to take over at Atletico Madrid.

Secondly, the squad has been hit by a host of departures - with rumours of more to come. The club’s ‘next big thing’ superstar Javi Martinez was shipped out to Athletic Bilbao. The ever dependable Moha and Valverde have gone to Espanyol. Worst of all, Ludovic Delporte - perhaps their best player last season - is set to rejoin his old boss at the Calderon. If midfield lynchpin Raul Garcia also leaves, then the club are doomed.

This has left the squad as threadbare as Alan Shearer’s trophy cabinet, with just Hector Font on a free from Villarreal and Iranian midfielder Nekounam joining the party. The club has now been rocked by news that international striker Webo has been hospitalised with malaria of all things, caught on his holidays to the Cameroon. It is not known how long he will need to recover, but probably much of the pre season.

Whilst it is true that Osasuna have never been the richest of clubs - they have spent just 200,000 euros in two years - they are going to have the splash the cash a little this time round. Especially, if they want to repeat their heroics of last season as well as sustain a Champions League campaign.

If they decide not too, it is possible that Osasuna will ‘do a Betis’ and find themselves stuck in a season long relegation battle where they could find themselves as squished as an inebriated bull runner.


More Thrills and Spills in Barcelona

Following on from the stunning revelation yesterday that Barcelona will be travelling a grand distance of 25,000km on their summer tour, the club announced today the exciting news of a new sponsorship deal with Tiger Beer, ‘Asia’s most important brand’. Stay tuned for more news in the weeks to come...

Thanks to Andy for the following on the action packed champions...

"Stability is one of the keys to Barca's success. Rijkaard does not crave confusion nor media attention.
They also keep a close eye on the dollars they spend, preferring to develop home-grown talent like: Bojan Krkic, Giovanni Dos Santos and Jeffren Suarez.

A club should not be a media circus. The players need stability and calm and this is what Barca provides.
This is also why Deco can say no Real Madrid when they recently offered him a ton of cash to follow in the footsteps of Figo.
Now that Rijkaard has spent three years carefully building his squad, he is not about to squander his hard work in a fit of sensationalism.

Real Madrid should learn about constancy of purpose. Maybe if they had let Lux see out the season they would have also bourne the results of his hard work. Still it amazes me that Madrid continues to finish among the top clubs.
I suppose the conglomeration of talent on the pitch does account for something. Just not titles."

The Pain Begins at Real Madrid

Within a few hours of the club’s first pre season training session, Real Madrid’s players had a fairly clear idea of the kind of treatment that will be coming their way over the upcoming campaign under the new regime.

Having trotted around the playing field for ten minutes or so, some of the squad had taken refuge from the sun under a covered bench, only for Capello to run over and order them back onto the field for some more punishment. It is no wonder that Roberto Carlos has made clear his intentions to move the fluffier surroundings of Chelsea where he can enjoy blasting balls at a whole new set of fans.

With the club’s internationals not due to return till later in the month, the session was a chance for some of the side’s forgotten - and very transferable players - to show off to the new men in charge.

Unfortunately, the only thing that Antonio Cassano had to show off was an even bigger waist line. Somehow, the misfit Italian had managed to return from holiday even heavier than before and was singled out for some extra special training.

On the transfer front, Ruud Van Nistelrooy looks like he will be joining the team where he can renew his very handy footballing relationship with David Beckham, who himself looks set to resign for the club until 2009. Ronaldo is likely to be lingering both on and off the pitch until 2008 after declaring that he wants to remain at the club until the end of his contract.


In Other News...

Newcomers ‘Nastic continue their recent transfer activity with the addition of central midfielder Alejandro Campano from Mallorca. This follows on from the signings of the superbly named Bizzarri and Mingo.

Eternally grumpy Valencia president Juan Soler has told Villarreal to stay away from Ayala, “he’s not for sale’, he declared whilst criticising the neighbouring club for interfering in the Argentinean’s ongoing contract talks. Because Valencia would never do that. Especially not with Diego Forlan, last month.

Getafe have given up on Argentina’s Arrab...., Arbuearrb...and decided to sign up Chivas and Mexico international keeper Oswaldo Sanchez.

Espanyol are trying to tempt Sunderland’s Julien Arca from a less than tempting year in the Championship with a move to the city of Barcelona.

Second division Alaves uberlord Dmitry Piterman has declared that his days of running every aspect of the club are over, “I have learned from mistakes. I have seen the importance of delegating”, he shouted by megaphone as his airship hovered above the club training ground.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Boring, Boring, Barca

Here we are now, entertain us...
The summer months in Spain can be a little dull sometimes. With people preferring to abandon the heat of the city to spend their days sitting in traffic jams instead as they head for the sanctuary of their ubiquitous ‘pueblos’ or villages, not a lot happens, elsewhere.

This week’s news headlines are dominated by familiar themes - the heat and more strikes by Iberia’s pilots. One interesting story to pop up, though, has been the startling (for the Spanish) fact that the introduction of a new penalty points system designed to punish drunken and dangerous driving has reduced road deaths by upto 40% in the first week. Funny that.

So, with the World Cup now over and another 6 weeks-ish remaining before the kick off of the new La Liga season, the nation is looking to its football clubs to do the decent thing and provide some entertainment to pass the time. As ever, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately, Barca refuse to do so.

The close season has been another quiet one for the league and European champions. As the club sit in quiet contentment after another great year, barely a peep has been heard from Barca since ‘that night in Paris’. Their only transfer activity so far has been the astute signing of Gudjohnsen from Chelsea and the departure of the very rubbish Maxi Lopez to Mallorca. Apart from that, diddly squat.

The club are even refusing to pick at the soon to be dead carcass of Juventus and have only been involved in tenuous links with Zambrotta and Thuram as they look to improve their slightly dodgy fullback situation.

Barca’s web site today leads with the fascinating news that the side are to travel 25,823km on their pre season global tour of Mexico, USA and Denmark. And that’s all. Unless Frank Rijkaard decides to take the streets of El Born with on ‘Falling Down’ style rampage, no much else is expected to be heard from the club for the next couple of months.

Real Madrid circus yet to pack up

Even ‘Marca’ have realised that things have gone rumour crazy at Real Madrid - despite their writers being the source of much of them. The paper has listed thirty three players linked with the soon to big spending club. In fact, they have even set up a system where you to, dear reader, can register yourself and be added to Capello’s hit list.
Marca's hit list

So far the main targets seem to be the veteran figures of Zambrotta and Cannavaro - combined age of 62. There were stories continuing to float around concerning Cesc and a swap deal for Baptista and Robinho, but the news of the midfielder’s new contract at Arsenal have put these to bed.

Elsewhere, there is no further news on the transfers of Robben, Diarra and Van Nistelrooy, but the new president, Ramon Calderon has promised seven signings - and needs to produce them quickly before pre season training gets started.

Barcelona based ‘Sport’ has suggested that the club will need to fork out at least 200 million euros over the next few weeks to pay for all of the players are looking to sign. They also suggest that Capello must have been up to his elbows in Italy’s corruption scandals and should be investigated. They may have a point.


In Other News....

It gets worse and worse for Athletic Bilbao. The new manager Felix Sarriugarte had taken over the club for the first training session, where he was welcomed by open arms by the players, it would appear, “people here are in a very good mood and will work as hard as possible in the preseason”, he exclaimed. Unfortunately, the next day saw this apparent wonderful ambiance turn sour again with Julen Guerrero’s tearful announcement of his retirement, after 14 seasons and 372 matches for the club. “It’s best for the club if I go,” he stammered in between sobs.

Getafe have unveiled their 8th new signing of the season with centre forward David Sousa jumping onboard the good ship Schuster from Valladolid

Villarreal have offered Valencia’s Fabien Ayala a two year deal in an attempt to tempt him away from the Mestalla, where he has only been handed a one year extension to his contract.

Levante are boldly going back into La Liga with the signing of former Newcastle moaner, Laurent Robert. The Valencia based club have also been linked with Villa’s Mellberg and Germany’s Nowotny - last seen hacking away at the Portugul midfield during the World Cup’s play off match.

Deportivo are still trying to offload Diego Tristan with Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and Celtic hovering around.


Footballer’s Lies...

“Thank you for letting me play for one of the great Spanish teams” - Zaragoza’s new signing, Sergio, does well to stop an attack of the giggles as he signs from his new club.

“I am not as tough as people say” - Fabio Capello. Ronaldo certainly hopes not.

“It’s a great opportunity for me. I couldn’t let it pass” - Real Sociedad’s new signing Diego Rivas on his move from Getafe, a club that finished significantly higher than his new team, last season.

“Nothing would make me happier than to wear the white shirt again” - Jonathan Woodgate’s agent had a quiet summer, then.

“I haven’t been out much and have made my own food. I like sea food, but it is not easy to get it here” - Tennis player Rafa Nadal on his lonely time in London - a city without fish it would seem.

“If I stay here at Betis, there will be no reason to doubt me” Occasional winger Joaquin ‘s summer transfer plans look set to crash and burn.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Bedlam in Bilbao as Clemente Departs

Javier Clemente leaves as he arrives - controversially

Zinedine Zidane’s poorly timed but nevertheless fantastic rib shattering ramming of evil Marco Materazzi was not the only thing to raise a few eyebrows this weekend. In the Basque country a whirlwind of weirdness has been raging with a number of victims already claimed and possibly more to come.

When La Liga Loca dropped in on Athletic Bilbao at the end of last week, the club had yet again found itself in turmoil, with manager Javier Clemente’s future in severe doubt - and not for the first time. Clemente problems had started after he had very publicly criticised the club’s leadership during an interview with a local radio station. His main complaint was that a number of players were being signed by the president without the input of Clemente himself - not an unreasonable point, considering he would be responsible for their results.

Club president, Fernando Lamikiz, has reportedly been desperate for some time to rid himself of his troublesome coach and claimed that he had lost 10 kilos, last season, due to the stress of dealing with Clemente. Unfortunately, it has not been a sentiment shared by his board who decided - but only just - to renew the coach's contract at the start of the close season.

However, the radio interview had given Lamikiz the ammunition he finally required. An emergency meeting of the board was called on Thursday evening and just a few short hours later, the manager was told to pack his bags.

“It’s a huge surprise and disappointment for me” said Clemente of his dismissal, the reason for which he is still unsure of, “ I was given no explanation at the meeting I had with Lamikiz. However, the president did say it was nothing to do with the comments I made the other day”.

Bilbao’s president, on the other hand, could not have been happier, “the comments by Clemente was the drop that filled the glass”, he declared, as he stared into the middle distance in calm contentment.

The club were expected to make former Espanyol coach, Miguel Angel Lotina, their new coach, but perhaps fearing his reputation for speaking his mind, the club have appointed Felix Sarriugorte - a former player, ‘B’ team coach and now ‘yes man’ as Clemente’s successor. All of Clemente’s back room team have been relieved of their posts in a Kremlin style purge.

One final note to end the stormy tale has been the resignation on Monday morning of Bilbao’s vice president, Jose Miguel Lanzagorta, although he has yet to give reasons for his sudden decision. For now.

The future is uncertain for Clemente. He is undoubtedly an experienced and successful coach but has been afflicted with the tendency to irritate all those around them and talk rubbish - something La Liga Loca can sympathise with.

To end his reign, here are some of his high - and low lights which best reflect a complicated fellow.

"This is an unusual Scotland side because they have good players."

"People who spit are just the same as those have come down from trees."

"Yes, I am a racist, but only against idiots and morons"

"I wouldn’t want to work at a big team like Chelsea, where it’s public relations all the time...keeping everyone happy and not upsetting anyone"

"It was always going to be a bit of a show with me here, but they called and here I am"

Nothing Happens at Real Madrid

With the World Cup finished and Nadal’s Wimbledon adventure over, the Spanish sporting press now have little to occupy them aside from making up stories concerning Real Madrid’s transfer targets. Expect a lot of them over the next few weeks.

With Sergeant Capello still to rearrange his stationary drawer and oil the office trap door, the club have already been linked with every semi-available player in Europe - especially as new president, Ramon Calderon, is reported to have up to 100 million euros to spend.

At the top of the manager’s list is said be the World Cup winning names of Zambrotta and Cannavaro, followed by Diarra, Van Nistelrooy (and Cesc - although hopes are fading fast). One name not being mentioned is Man Utd’s diving diva, Cristiano Ronaldo, with Real’s sporting director, Pedja Mijatovic cooling the rumours of an imminent move - “He’s a great footballer, but I have a sporting project and my priorities”.

Calderon has said that he will let his new managerial team get on with the job and rebuild the squad without interference, “neither I nor the board will get in the way with in his work”, promised the billionaire - not the first time such a vow has been made by a Spanish club president.

Elsewhere at the club, poor Thomas Gravesen looks set to be taking his stare of bewilderment to another club next season after being told that his services are no longer required. Meanwhile, Woodgate, has returned from yet another injury set back to claim he is fit and ready to start pre season training.


In Other News...

Osasuna - who are looking worryingly weak at the moment - have brought in Iranian midfielder Javad Nekouman from the Emirates. Also arriving at the club is another midfielder, Hector Font, on a free from Villarreal.

Barcelona have requested that the dates of their Supercup double match with Espanyol be moved from August 17th and 20th, pointing out that it coincides with the date set aside for international friendlies. Excellent work again from the Spanish federation.

Real Sociedad have signed Getafe midfielder Diego Rivas - the man who committed the most fouls in La Liga last season. Meanwhile Madrid’s second side have brought in Uruguayan left midfielder, Juan Albin, from Nacional de Montevideo.

Atletico Madrid are set to start negotiations with Manchester United for the transfer of Fernando Torres. A reported offer of 36 million euros has been turned down by Atletico who are holding out for over 40 million. So they can buy more rubbish.

Diego Forlan has used his one lucky Golden Boot winning season as a bargaining chip to agree a new with Villarreal which sees him pocked 3 million euros a year - the same as Riquelme.

Deportivo’s out of contract player, Victor, has packed his knapsack and headed to England to find a new club - both West Ham and Bolton are leading the chase for the good but not great midfielder.

Newly installed Espanyol manager, Erneste Valverde, is already under pressure for having made no signings for the club that only just avoided relegation last season thanks to a last minute goal.

Sevilla have signed Real Madrid Castilla keeper David Coberno, whilst Spain’s U21 goalie, Miguel Angel Moya has renewed his contract with Mallorca until 2011. Or someone good buys him.

All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca 2006

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lopez Caro's Grand Day Out

Eurosport images

Former Real Coach Racing to Hospital

It would be fair to say that Juan Roman Lopez Caro was already having a fairly unusual year, even before one of his internal organs ruptured, yesterday.

In November of 2005 he was snatched from the pleasant obscurity of a position coaching Real Madrid’s ‘B’ team and hurled into the maelstrom when asked by a desperate president to step into the newly vacated managerial shoes of Wanderley Luxmburgo.

In the subsequent eight months of sheer hell, Lopez Caro had to put up with feuding players, boardroom chaos and constant barracking from his own employers who openly speculated on his own successor and criticised his methods. However, he still did a fine job in steering the strife torn club to second place in the league.

Unsurprisingly the poor man aged at least 20 years in just eight months and exited the club in June, without so much as a thank you and a box of Maltesers.

Happily, Lopez Caro was offered the job at Racing Santander, a quiet club in the north of Spain where very little would ever have been expected of him. A handy place to unwind a little. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way.

After a number of signings such as Gonzalo Colsa were made by the club’s board and reportedly not approved by Lopez Caro himself - sound like another club? - the new coach quit his post after just thirty three days and headed off to Valencia to sign with newly promoted Levante, a team currently without a manager.

Leaving behind a fuming club president, Francisco Pernia - ‘I’m p*ssed off. This is a very painful situation for our club”, Lopez Caro started his journey to the east coast city - until his appendix exploded, that is.

Happily, his emergency operation in a Madrid hospital was a success and he is expected to continue his journey and sign a one year contract with his new employers in a few days.

Santander meantime, seemingly addicted to Real Madrid managers, have signed up Miguel Angel Portugal, ex coach of Castilla - the reserve team and former side of Lopez Caro. Let’s hope he has more luck than his predecessor.


Sergeant Capello Arrives in Town

The scenes of bedlam at Madrid airport’s hellish Terminal 4 could only mean one thing. Either the two hour wait for the luggage to arrive was over, or Real Madrid’s saviour had arrived in town. This time it was the latter.

‘Sergeant’ Capello - as ‘Marca’ have now taken to calling him - has come to the club on a three year deal and with a scary reputation for discipline. Something that will surely influence Roberto Carlos and his internal debate on whether to stay on at the club.

‘AS’ has reported admiringly that Capello does not allow talking on the team coach, personally decides the room arrangements at away hotels, bans card games and refuses entry to the dressing room to anyone not a player or coach.

Despite not being unveiled to the fans until today, Capello and his side kick, Pedrag Mijatovic, have started the back room clear out. Kicked into touch have been Benito Flore and Emilio Butragueño - a man who spent five years very much out of his depth.
Franco Baldini, former sporting director at Roma, has joined the team for the next season.

Castilla, Real’s reserve team, will be run by ‘Michel’, a former player and until recently the manager of Rayo Vallecano where he spent a season wearing some very natty sweaters.

On the playing side, the club have already been warned to stay away from Arjen Robben and the same may well happen to Cesc Fabregas unless an enormous wad of cash is handed to Arsenal along with Julio Baptista, who has been coveted by Arsene Wenger for some time.

As for the existing players, those expected to be booted out of the club sharpish are Diogo, poor Pavon, Woodgate, Pablo Garcia and Gravesen. Beckham looks set to sign a new contract after strong backing from the new president - “he is a player of the highest quality, he’s magnificent”, dribbled Calderon, yesterday, “he is also an important part of our commercial activities”, he added with a nod to honesty


Big Mouth Strikes Again

Crisis talks are to be held in Bilbao to discuss the future of mad manager, Javier Clemente. Despite having his contract renewed with the Basque club after saving them from relegation, last season, the controversial coach has again managed to upset the club board and president Lamikiz, in particular.

The trouble arose on Monday with the presentation of Bilbao’s new superstar whizkid, 17yr old Javi Martinez - ‘ the pearl of Tajonar’. Great news for the permanently troubled club it would seem.

But no. Clemente claimed to have had no say in the 6 million euro signing and, as always, was more than happy to share his displeasure with the world, “the club are simply signing whoever they want and I don’t like it”, he grumbled.

An emergency board meeting has been called to discuss Clemente’s future with speculation that former Espanyol coach, Miguel Angel Lotina, may be called in to take over should Clemente be handed his P45.

In Other News....

The future of Atletico Madrid midfielder Maxi Rodriguez is still up in the air. The player who probably managed to score as many goals in the World Cup as he did for his team, last season, has arrived back in Argentina but is unsure of his immediate future.

“I don’t know if I will carry on at Atletico or not. I’m very happy there though and would like to stay”. Meanwhile manager Javier Aguirre looks set to raid his old club and offer Osasuna 2.5 million euro for left winger - in the footballing sense - Ludovic Delporte. Should it be completed, it would be the club’s 6th signing after Aguero, Pernia, Seitaridis, Costinha and Ze Castro.

Over in a very quiet Barcelona the only transfer gossip is the possible move for out of contract and currently wowing them in Germany, Lilian Thuram, 34. Rijkaard is still trying to offload Saviola with Arsenal current favourites to house the slippery striker.

Real Betis have been offered 16 million euros, Antonio Barragon, Dudek and Zenden by Liverpool in a bid to secure the services of Joaquin, despite La Liga Loca considering Luis Garcia to be a better player.

Getafe have been shopping and picked up Manuel del Moral from Atletico and Javi Casquera from Racing Santander. They are still chasing impossible to spell Argentine keeper Arranbu, Arraz....,’el pato’.


All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Calderon in the Cauldron

Image courtesy of Marca

For the latest on the Real Madrid elections - please copy and paste the link below for a piece with Football365

La Liga Latest

With the World Cup pushed to the back pages of the sporting press - somewhere between Nadal’s Wimbledon adventure and the Motor GP - La Liga is back. Coming up, all you need to know.

Athletic Bilbao have been busy bees in the transfer market and picked up Javi Martinez - Osasuna’s 17yr old midfielder. This carries on a fine tradition of the Basque club of making sporadic raids their Pamplona neighbours like drunken Vikings. Over the years Lacruz, Exposito, Orbaiz and Tiki have been bundled into sacks and carried over the Navarre border. Bilbao have also purchased defender Josu Sariegi from Alaves (oh dear), Igor Gabilondo from Real Sociedad and Alex Garcia from Racing Santander.

Atletico Madrid have slapped a 30 million euro price tag on their international defender Pablo Ibañez’ head - not literally of course, although that is an idea for Sepp Blatter - after interest from a number of Real Madrid’s candidates. The price for anyone else is 10 million. The club look like they may have a fight on their hands to keep Maxi Rodriguez after an impressive World Cup performance has brought the attentions of Milan, Inter and Roma. There is no further news on the Torres to whoever front - Atletico are refusing to talk to anyone offering under 35 million euros.

Barcelona’s Messi has returned to the city claiming to know nothing about a move to Real Madrid, that was proposed by Villar Mir. In the meantime, the club are still trying to offload Saviola, with Panathanaikos and Espanyol currently leading the chase - although his whopping wages are a distinct put off.

La Liga Loca welcomes three new clubs into La Liga Loca’s fold - Recreativo from Huelva who won the Segunda, last season. They are joined by Gimnastic of Tarragona and Levante who return to the top flight after one traumatic season out.

Gimnastic seem to be having trouble attracting reinforcements to the club but have picked up ‘keeper Bizarri from Valladolid, David Generelo from Real Zaragoza and have been pleading with Espanyol for some loanees.

Deportivo are trying to sign Liverpool youth player Antonio Barragan but face a fight with Betis. They are also in the hunt for the midfielder Fredson from Espanyol.

Valencia have waved good-bye to Fabio Aurelio who was out of contract with the club. The left fullback or winger - depending on his mood - is expected to sign a four year deal with Liverpool and hopes to battle his way to the Brazilian team. Especially now that Roberto Carlos has retired, at last.

Villarreal are already back in training with their new faces - Pires, Nihat and Cani. All are preparing for an exciting Intertoto cup run which kicks off against Maribor of Slovenia on 15th July.

Spain's Demise

Many thanks to Andy Andrews for the following on La Seleccion's disappointing showing...

"Just like in club ball Spain allowed a little bit of politics and euphoriato seep inand prevent them from advancing further the world cup.Successful World Cup teams require gritty midfield performance in order toperform well.Contrary to popular opinion the beautiful game is not necessary to advancein the knockout stages.

Ugly and tough midfield battles usually win the day. Just ask Brazil. With plenty of sexy options they usually field the no nonsense Emerson and Ze Roberto behind Ronaldinho. With Juninho or Gilberto Silva thrown in for extra defensive steel.
Brazil knows that they need to grind out the win with these players. Spain seems to have missed the memo and fell in love with their prolific goalscoring ways.

They believed Villa would always find the net and forgot to muscle up the middle. So the ever talented Fabregas is rated over the hard tackling Albelda. And the icon that is Raul starts over the in form and ever reliable Iniesta. It is the equivalent of Brazil starting Robinho and Argentina starting Messi.

These countries know better though, and their respective boy wonders, have to wait till the 2nd half to see the ball.
To be fair, apparently Holland did not get the memo either. And now we have the gritty Portugal on the shoulders of Maniche and Deco in the quarter final. Both Spain and Real Madrid need to understand that these Cup competitions are not built on glamour.

You need the utility men. You need the muscleheads. Just as Madrid suffersfor no Makelele. Spain suffers for disrespecting Albelda and its other world class utility men who warmed the bench that day"


All blog content copyright of La Liga Loca, 2006