Here we go again, yet another Clasico is on the horizon. This time FC Barcelona and Real Madrid will square off in the two-legged Supercopa, with the first game to be contested at the Santiago Bernabeu. Heading into the tie, FC Barcelona’s central defense is stretched to the maximum to say at least. Carles Puyol remains an absentee, Gerard Pique is doubtful and Andreu Fontas…well, he is Fontas. I don’t know who dislikes Fontas more, Jose or I? When asked what he thinks of the La Masia graduate, Jose was as blunt as always, "I think Fontas is a terrible defender as Sabrina highlighted in her piece, Pep would be suicidal to select him." Paul Udani, our FC Barcelona B expert, on the other hand seems to be more diplomatic and willing to give the youngster the benefit of the doubt, "He's young, and I'm being nice about that. He's still not good (not Milito bad though) but there's still a chance he will improve. I'd rather not send him out there against Madrid though. He'd be better suited to learn when we're facing a lower-table side."
For some unknown reason, one that definitely eludes me, Pep Guardiola remains steadfast in his conviction that central defense is the one area that doesn’t need any reinforcements. Even resident chief-instigator, Sabrina says "I’m disappointed that Barca did not sign a defender but am happy with the promotion of Thiago Alcantara. Madrid signed a few quality players and did very good business in the window."
So far the only notable, albeit high-profile, transfer of summer 2011 is Chile international, Alexis Sanchez. With Carles Puyol already in the twilight of his career, one would’ve assumed that finding a suitable replacement for Capain Catalunya is the top priority for Pep Guardiola. Unfortunately, it is not. FC Barcelona’s golden boy and the higher-ups at the club consider strengthening the central midfield area a more pressing issue.
Let that sink in.
FC Barcelona’s midfield is stacked, if not overloaded already. Even the most ardent critic of FC Barcelona will concede that the Catalans have the finest midfield in the world. So is there any reasonable explanation why the three Stooges (Pep, Zubizaretta & Rosell) are so intent on signing Arsenal FC skipper, Cesc Fabregas?
Speaking of Fabregas, I asked the Blaugranes staff who they’d buy with the money earmarked for his transfer and they unanimously replied – a central defender, at least one. Our resident La Liga columnist, Michael Doran says: "Barcelona is short at center half, so that is certainly where I would be looking. Probably, I would look to break into the Dortmund pairing of the two best young centre backs on the continent – Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic. Either one would be a brilliant buy, with Hummels probably the slightly better player and more suited to Barcelona's preference of center backs who can play like midfielders with the ball at their feet. If any cash was left over, without many holes in the team, I would look to add a veteran presence up front - perhaps a Diego Forlan or a Freddy Kanoute. Forlan is still a quality player and showed as much in the Copa America, but it seems his bridges with Atletico have already been burned. I'm sure he would jump at the chance to add to his medal collection and aid the development of Barcelona's youngsters."
I used to poke fun at Real Madrid’s Galactico transfer policy under Florentino Perez. But it seems as if the roles have been reversed since Mr. Perez has been reinstated as Madrid president. Gone are the days where selling Real Madrid merchandise was more important than building a competitive and balanced squad.
Meanwhile FC Barcelona continues to chase Cesc Fabregas* who is rated at around £40m (€45m) by his current employers Arsenal FC. Although he is definitely world-class, he spends an awful lot of time off the pitch on the treatment table. It appears as if the roles are reversed this time. Florentino Perez and Real Madrid acquire players that enhance the squad in depth and quality, whereas Sandro Rosell and FC Barcelona are hell-bent on adding another expensive (Catalan) superstar the squad doesn’t need.
In contrast, Barça did not devote any money to a glaring weakness (their lack of depth at CB, especially in light of Puyol and Piqué's injuries, and what seems like a failed la Masia callup in Fontás), and instead allotted €37 million to buy a semi-redundant--albeit supremely talented--backup player in Aléxis Sánchez (after they allowed quite a few promising, young and cheap la Masia graduates that played that same position to leave for greener pastures), while purchasing** (for €45 million) the rights to another redundant player—Cesc Fábregas, who will become a very talked-about backup, first to Xavi, then possibly to Thiago Alcántara. This will ultimately cost the culé's about €80 million (not counting money coming in to the club from player sales).
To complete the Barca Blaugranes/Managing Madrid assault on the Supercopa Clasico, I even appeared on their podcast. During my little tenure behind enemy lines, staunch Blaugranes members Shehryar and Jose already started the Clasico coverage on BB.
Football back in the day was a major influence on the people of Spain, and hence the two clubs became a symbol of republicanism and federalism for the supporters of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. In 1953, the tensions were fueled up by a young Argentine by the name of Alfredo Di Stefano, who later went on to become a legend at Real Madrid, and disputed by many as the greatest footballer ever.
Whereas Shehryar revisited the past, Jose addressed the "dirty" aspect of El Clasico itself.
More so when we speak of such a traditional rivalry as is Barcelona vs. Real, it generates an atmosphere of having to win at all cost. Having to win at all cost means anything and everything goes, if you have to injure someone, do it. If you have to cheat, do it. If the fans aren't pleased, they are the loosing teams fans because yours are happy you won. If you win, even in controversy, the victory is all that matters. The tragic part about all this is that it's acceptable because the fans accept it.
As far as predictions go – I’m sticking to my guns and original forecast on the MM podcast, FC Barcelona will lose the Supercopa. I honestly don’t believe it’s a season-defining game and wouldn’t read that much into any outcome, good or bad.
"I see it as a preseason two legged friendly game. OK, so the winner gets a trophy, but you get a trophy for winning the Copa Catalunya too. It would be great to win the Supercopa, against Real Madrid no less, but these two games will mean nothing as to how the long, grueling season will play out," says Bostjan. A sentiment shared by Arron, "Unless there is an easy win for Barca or Madrid, I can't see this being too important for either side."
But as history has taught us, it’s never just another Clasico.
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