Whatever happened to the good ol times? Remember a day when the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid was contested on the pitch, not in the media the next day? That was the pre-Jose Mourinho era; a long-forgotten past, that seem buried in the annals of time. Nowadays, the Clasico is just a drawn-out prelude to a WWE-like Battle Royal.
What has this (football) event come to? The super-human efforts of Lionel Messi to score three goals and set up another two – despite zero minutes of pre-season action – are over-shadowed by the petulant antics of the Real Madrid manager. The long-awaited debut of Cesc Fabregas would have been a mere footnote if not for the reckless scissor challenge of Marcelo; such is the focus on "The Special One".
Observers note that the actions of Mourinho are a good way to deflect the criticism away from the team, and their performance, but it still has to suit the Setubal-born coach. During the (in)famous Manita victory in November, Real Madrid took one heck of a beating. Outclassed on the day, the team needed a lift, perhaps someone to take the blame, or at least create another headline, but Mourinho declined.
On that fateful night he sat back and watched. There were no orders, no "micro-managing" based on the run of play, but complete dejection, as "The Special One" distanced himself from the footballing lesson being taught out on the pitch.
If only Wednesday night could have been the same.
Instead of talking about an improved Real Madrid side, and a fine volley from Lionel Messi, the world is left to deliberate on Jose Mourinho. Just a quick thought: Who actually remembers David Villa’s world-class goal from the first leg? Like the rest, it has been cast into the shadows by one man.
Finally, (or for the millionth time depending on your stance) the Barcelona players said enough was enough, and called Jose out on his shenanigans, with Pep Guardiola noting that "one day this will end very badly".
As if it hasn’t already.
Though most tellingly, Gerard Pique said that "Jose Mourinho is destroying Spanish Football" and Madridistas are in uproar. Accusations of diving from the Barcelona players are (correctly) levelled, and a general sense of unease is created between the two sets of teams, all while the greater problem is ignored.
Pique is right, Spanish football is being destroyed, but he does not mean the league. What about the Spanish National team?
The World Cup final was won by Spain with seven starters from FC Barcelona, and three from Real Madrid. Assuming everyone knows the rules of football, that’s near-total influence on the National team. It has worked to such an effect, that Spain are considered favourites for the upcoming UEFA European Championship where they would become the first-ever team to retain the title, and surely cement their place as one of the all-time great sides.
It is a pivotal year for Spain, and Gerard Pique is noting that all this time the players spend fighting with one and other is taking/has taken its effect.
Sergio Ramos punched Carles Puyol back in November, before pushing Xavi. Iker Casillas accused Cesc Fabregas of "throwing himself to the floor as they [the Barcelona players] do".
According to El Mundo Deportivo, Casillas tried to call Xavi and apologise for his behaviour during the Clasico, but could not reach him; read into that what you will. The cracks are beginning to show in the Spanish camaraderie, and there is only one factor that has changed since the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and that is Jose Mourinho’s approach to El Clasico.
If there is not action, a game that has been wallowing in the gutter for the past year will soon descend into the abyss, perhaps dragging the Spanish National team with it.
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