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FC Barcelona or Real Madrid: What's love got to do with it?

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To say that footballers are capricious would be to state the obvious. Most players are predictable (with respect to professional choices) in that they are usually looking for the following:

  1)  Money. Raking in the moolah is all well and good but you won't be blamed if you mistake the numbers for the population of Fiji.

  2)  Trophies. This excuse is usually used as a cover up for money, although I'll admit there are players who rate trophies higher than their bank balances (rightly so!).

  3)  Playing time. Quite a few players are willing to exchange bench roles in top clubs for lower tier clubs if it means they get more time on the pitch. Francesc Fabregas is an exception to the rule (or is he? it depends on how you look at it I guess) wherein he chose F.C Barcelona even though his role would be less significant than the one he had in Arsenal F.C.

Although I'm in no position to judge them, claiming to be a fan of a club and then joining their rivals can be open to criticism by certain corners of the football loving world and understandably so. To us (the fans), there can only be one club. Personally, as I have stated a million times, I am and always will be a Culé. Now that isn't to say I don't enjoy watching other teams play. Clubs like Arsenal, Villarreal C.F. are known for their attractive football and are a great joy to watch to those of us who love the beautiful game, however, for me football starts and ends with Barca and all other clubs are secondary. But not even in my worst nightmares, will I admit to enjoying a Madrid game unless it involves them getting thrashed.

However there are certain footballers, starting off as fans themselves, who are known for their loyalty to their clubs. In the case of Barca, that number is (in my opinion) a lot more nowadays mainly because of that famous youth system FC Barcelona has. The Blaugrana like to cultivate talent, in return they are rewarded with the players loyalty. In the minds of the fans, players like Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Victor Valdes, Lionel Messi, Pedro Rodriguez and Sergio Busquets constitute the very essence of the club that we love. Can anyone actually imagine Puyol a.k.a Captain Catalonia in a jersey other than that of Barca's? After all, the source of his strength, determination and will (virtues that make him a fan favourite and a legend) is the pride of wearing the blue and maroon shirt of FC Barcelona. Miguel Nadal said it perfectly when he stated "Carles plays with maturity, has great positional sense, and above all, has pride in his shirt".

Xavi, once said something along the lines of, 'Barca is a family business now', which says it all. Earlier in his career, Xavi had considered moving to another club because he didn't think he could fulfill the expectations of the fans living up to Pep Guardiola's legacy. However, that wasn't about wanting to leave because he was unhappy but rather because of the fear of disappointing so many people which is something everyone can empathize with. Nowadays, there is another midfielder (long referred to as Xavi's successor), who, with some help from the overly enthusiastic mass media, has come to represent Catalonia and Barca. Yes, you have guessed it, it’s Cesc Fabregas. FC Barcelona’s new no. 4, being Catalan and an integral part of the generation of 87' was seen as the prodigal son who was expected to return and take his rightful place on the throne which is Barca's midfield (with due respect to fellow La Masia graduate, Thiago Alcantara).

But the circumstances under which Cesc returned to Catalunya are strange, to say the least. There were rumors of our hated rival (and now hated by most people I think) Real Madrid C.F trying to hijack the deal  a big money offer for his services and thus get one over the Blaugrana. Cesc, to his credit, had by then made it abundantly clear that he would leave the Gunners for Barca and Barca only. Hypothetically, if Fabregas had moved to Real Madrid, his transfer, and the subsequent reactions, would have turned out worse than the Luis Figo episode! The Clasico would have been the Spanish Civil War all over again and a pig's head (with a topping of whiskey bottles) would have been the least of his worries.

Continuing on this line of thought, I wanted to write about some players who claimed to be fans of Barca and yet when Darth Vader (Florentino Perez, President of Real Madrid) came calling, they willingly joined the dark side and changed their stance on "which is the best club in the world". I apologise for the Star Wars lingo but I couldn't resist. I must mention that not all the following players are currently playing for Madrid. Some have moved on to other clubs and some are hoping to join the all whites soon.

Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior commonly known as just Neymar is fast entering my list of "Will he or won't he?". There have been rumours circulating about a potential move to Madrid and from everything that can be gathered in the news, his father, agent and the president of Santos (his current employers) have hinted at a move in the summer of 2012. Although the evidence points in the direction of Real Madrid, the player himself recently stated his admiration for Barca by saying "Barcelona are beyond any comment. You cannot compare them with any team. They have Lionel Messi." Makes you wonder doesn't it?

Robson de Souza, ring a bell? Most of you know him as Robinho. From 2005 to 2008 the Brazilian International plied his trade for Real Madrid, making 101 appearances in the process. Robinho was supposed to be Pele's heir. The legend himself said so, but then again, how many times have we heard about a 'new Maradona' or a 'new Pele' right? Well Robinho's time in Madrid wasn't exactly what most fans expected. After moving to Manchester City on the 1st of September, 2008 and flopping (again), there were rumours floating around of a return to Spain, specifically to Barca. Considering he played for our eternal rivals, this is what Robinho had to say about Barca: "The only thing I can say is that Barcelona are a great team and everybody would love to play for them." Here is the link.

Rafael Van der Vaart: After about 48 hours of research (all in vain), looking for a quote by Van der Vaart claiming to be a Culé, Safe to say, by then I was close to tears and willing to pull my hair out. But this particular player was important to really help you (the reader) understand. Unlike the other players in this list (except one), Van der Vaart claimed to be partial to Barca and what the club stands for. VdV even stated, for what can only be seen as a mistake in retrospect, that his grandmother is a big Barcelona fan, and he has never denied that he feels very close to the club's colours. Really Rafael?

Next on my list *drum roll*, Mesut Ozil: The epitome of hypocrisy? The star of my list! Ozil who was probably Madrid's best piece of business over the last couple of years really messed things up for himself. His suffering from 'foot-in-mouth' disease can really be a problem. Considering his recent contribution to the El Clasico fight a.k.a The bar brawl of the century and the fact that he now refuses to talk to the media about his verbal exchange with David Villa, I think Ozil was reminded by his Zen-buddhist coach about what happened the last time he talked about Barca or one of its players.

All of you have to check this link out!

Ozil (then employed by Werder Bremen) goes on to talk about his true love for F.C. Barcelona and I quote "I have been a fan of Barcelona ever since I was a little boy" and scarier still, "I can't describe what it is, but the team just fascinates me. They have always had world-class players such as Rivaldo and (Luis) Figo in their team." Maybe Mesut plans to be the anti-Figo and move to Barca? I wouldn't bet on it.

My point? Most football players are and will henceforth be about the money. Honestly, it's hard to blame them for it, after all money makes the world go round. It speaks all languages including Catalan and Spanish. Also, when you think about the shelf (?) life of a footballer, one can understand that they want to make the best of their opportunites. Strike while the iron is hot and all that jazz, but why in God's name don't they just stop talking. How do these stars, who I assume are fans just like us, switch their allegiance to a rival faster than you can say the word "EH?". It makes me think, deep and profound thoughts about this sport that I'm obsessed about. I don't doubt the greatness of my club but it is a scary thought when you see players choose 'the enemy' and sell their very expensive souls (feet and everything!) to a club like Madrid. Don't get me wrong, the all whites have a great history (according to some). Personally, I'm not so sure about the whole 'supporting Francisco Franco' (the spanish dictator) part of it. If that isn't enough, playing for por que Mourinho? Seriously?!

If you had asked me (two days ago) which out of those four I would like to see in Barca? I would have said "Besides Ozil, I wouldn't want to see any of them in my team. The other three, either aren't talented enough or don't have the right personality". But now I'm beginning to think I'm a terrible judge of character. I could say something dramatic like "I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemies" but I'd be lying because I'm glad Madrid have/had them, nothing good can come out of it. Now, let us all pray, "God, forgive me all my sins, now could you please make sure Ibraflop is sold to Real Madrid? Amen".

Inder M


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