Of Health and Wealth [Updated]

On Sunday, 5th-ranked Villarreal CF will travel 300 kilometers north from the small city of Vila-real to take on top-of-the-table FC Barcelona. It will be a very high-profile match, all the more given that 2 and a half hours after its conclusion, joint leaders Real Madrid will be in Andalucia to face Sevilla. The orgy of football that will make up this weekend before the international break and buildup to El Clasico isn’t, however, the focus of this piece. When The Yellow Submarine meets Barça, a city of just over 51,000 will play be represented in a stadium that can hold nearly twice that many spectators and that is what’s interesting. We’ve heard these stats before, of course, but they’re worth repeating within the context of a few conversations that I’ve had recently.

The gist of these conversations is whether or not La Liga is a healthy league and, indeed, what it even means to talk about healthy leagues. First, take a moment to read Diana Uzum’s breakdown of Barça’s finances over on Grup14 and then take a sip of water. Then read those numbers again because they’re outlandish. Villarreal’s managing director, Fernando Roig Negueroles (the son of owner and chairman Fernando Roig Alfonso), recently gave an interview (here in Spanish and discussed here in English) in which he put Villarreal’s first team budget at somewhere between €56 and €60 million out of a total operating budget of €80 million. Compared with Barça’s numbers, they are piddling, but, obviously, comparing Barça to basically any other club’s revenue is going to make that other club seem a podunk outfit lucky to play in the same league as the Catalans.

Yet that’s kind of the whole point: when Atleti won the league in 2013-14, the third largest budget in La Liga pulled off a truly shocking result. And Villarreal, for all of its (deserved) reputation as solid outfit capable of deep runs into the Champions League, is not even close to Atleti’s standards. Barça will make €140 million off of TV rights alone in the coming year—that’s more than double Villarreal’s entire first team budget, a team which is absolutely giddy about receiving an extra €10 million from TV rights once the more equitable distribution deal takes effect. Here’s another way of looking at it, from The Daily Mail: “In the 2013-14 season Cardiff earned less than any other Premier League club, £64m and yet still made more than twice as much as La Liga winners Atletico Madrid in Spain who earned £31m from television revenue.”

Besides simple monetary realities, there’s a sporting aspect to consider as well: the league winners over the last 15 years have included just 4 teams, with Valencia winning twice (but none since 2004) and Atleti managing a solitary title. Not since 2001-02 have the top 2 teams not included either Barcelona or Real Madrid (and not since 1969-70 have both been out of the top 3). Narrow the scope to the last 10 years and only 3 teams have won the title. This is hardly a competitive league, at the very least.

So there’s incredibly unequal economic realities in La Liga, but what of the five teams that made the Champions League group stage? Doesn’t that count for something? Spain’s UEFA coefficient is through the freakin’ roof compared to other nations, more than 19 points better than the next ranked national association (Germany), which represents 27% of that nation’s total points. It’s a beatdown of epic proportions, so doesn’t that mean Spain may be economically unequal, but still sportingly very strong relative to its neighbors?

Well, in a word, yes. Because the coefficients are basically an average of an association’s teams’ results over the last 5 years, deep runs into the Champions League by a single team can bolster an association’s overall coefficient, such as what Germany has seen recently through Bayern Munich, but Spain has done one better. Qualification for the group stages is a big deal for the national associations, but that’s not nearly enough to maintain a high coefficient (just ask England). Last season, Barcelona’s club coefficient (which differs slightly from the score used for the overall coefficient, but not sufficiently for us to worry about it too much for our limited purposes) was 38.042, exactly 5 points higher than Real Madrid’s 33.042 (bolstered as it was by a 6-0-0 group stage) and more than 5 points higher than Champions League runner up Juventus. Obviously the bullies of Spain’s big 2 made up a huge portion of the overall coefficient, but 4th and 7th ranked teams in the coefficient list were also Spanish: Sevilla and Atleti.

The year before, RM and Atleti finished 1st and 2nd in the Champions League as well as the club coefficient. Barcelona were 5th, Valencia 8th and Sevilla 9th. Obviously, the Europa League is a big factor in this, but the health of a league cannot be measured simply by the Champions League alone. Incidentally, in 2011-12, a year in which Chelsea won and Bayern Munich were runners up, the top 3 clubs in terms of coefficient were RM, Barça, and Atleti. Maybe that shock at Atleti’s title win was a bit off. Comparing Spain to Scotland, as various commenters have attempted over the years in order to belittle La Liga, is merely a lazy argument. Look no further than Sevilla’s habit of winning Europa Leagues and you’ll find quite a few fans of great leagues around the world grimacing silently in envy. I may not be a personal fan of the Europa League (I’ve compared it many times to the NIT of football), but it is certainly an important barometer for the depth of a league.

And what about the championship results compared to other leagues? 4 in 15 years, you said. Well, England, often touted as a parity-driven league, has had exactly that as well: 4 in 15 years. They even have nearly identical titles per team: Manchester United and Barça have 7, RM has 5, Chelsea 4, Manchester City and Arsenal and Valencia have 2, and Atleti has 1. Swap just one of those victories from RM to Atleti and you have exactly the same results.

  • Germany, then: 5 teams have won since 2000-01 and that doesn’t look likely to change given Bayern Munich’s lead at the top already.
  • Italy: 4 teams have won in the last 15 years.
  • The Netherlands: 4 teams (and only 5 since 1964-65!).
  • Scotland: 2, but you knew that (what you might not have known is that no one other than Celtic or Rangers has won since Aberdeen in 1984-85 when they were managed by Alex Ferguson).
  • France: 7 teams have topped Ligue 1 on the final day in the last 15 years and that includes a stretch where Lyon won 7 titles in a row. PSG has won 3 on the trot and doesn’t look like relinquishing its hold on the trophy this year, but between 2007-08 and 2012-13, 6 teams won a title over those 6 seasons. PSG’s financial power has turned that league from a space where Montpellier, Lille, and Bordeaux can win into a new Bundesliga: exciting once you overlook the points monopoly going on at the top.

Most people compare leagues to the Bundesliga, where tickets are hard to come by due to massive attendance rates (the local first division club here where I’m based, Eintracht Frankfurt, routinely sells out, as does the second division team, FSV), but there’s hardly any sporting difference between Spain and Germany. They are dominated by massive clubs that have put together winning tactics off the field and which translate into on-the-field capabilities. The difference is financial: the German Football Association, according to this article, hands down transfer limits to clubs with financial difficulties in order to maintain the solvency of the clubs and the league as a whole; there are no such safeguards in Spain and spending is what the owners are willing to invest. Malaga came and went, their sudden blaze of wealth adding a wrinkle to one season and a lot of FIFA video games (such and such has been purchased by a wealthy owner, look out!), but the league just kind of shrugged.

Furthermore, there are suggestions that the Bundesliga is hardly the beautiful oasis of proper football and finance that it is held up to be. There is a lot of grumbling from Bundesliga clubs themselves about the financial restrictions and Hannover has apparently threatened to take legal action over it. Still, the idea that the Bundesliga doesn’t offer enough in European competition save for Bayern Munich forgets that as recently as 2012-13, the Champions League final was a match between 2 German teams. Yes, this year has included a rather quick exit from the group stage for Borussia Monchengladbach and threatens to dump both Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen (notably these last 2 teams were called out by the Bleacher Report article linked above as the only Bundesliga teams able to circumvent fan ownership requirements), but it would not be shocking to see all 3 remaining German teams make it to the knockout stage. Beyond that, probably just Bayern Munich, but that is a testament to the depth of the Champions League, not necessarily the strength or weakness of the Bundesliga. Sevilla, for instance, is virtually eliminated from the same group as Monchengladbach because it’s a really tough group. Leverkusen sits with Barcelona and Roma, so that can help explain that as well (incidentally, I should learn on Monday if I get tickets to the Leverkusen match on December 9). The other Spanish teams, though, are in 2nd or better in their groups after 4 matches and we could very well see 4 Spanish teams qualify for the Round of 16 (RM has already qualified, Barça are nearly assured of it, Atleti are 3 points above 3rd and Valencia are 2 points above 3rd).

All of this, these words, is to suggest that despite its financial troubles, La Liga is a very deep and talented league. Teams are going bust in Spain and that is not a good thing for the long-term future of the league or the association as a whole, but it is not an immediate problem that requires sudden, radical shifts or financial controls. I remain a fierce advocate for equitable distribution of TV money, but also recognize that such financial changes can be neither instant fixes nor considered panaceas. Spanish football’s financial woes are no doubt outgrowths of its greater economic problems and as that Euro Area slowly recovers from its recession (or depression, as it may be), there should be greater and greater sets of funds available for improving the infrastructure that once put the Spanish national team at the top of the world. The Bundesliga’s popularity and the German national team’s current success is part of that infrastructure here in Germany and it is something that Spain would do well to learn lessons from. The popular movements to save clubs such as Real Oviedo are beautiful outpourings of local pride and global solidarity and the continued contributions of such “smaller” clubs to the greater footballing community are essential parts of a healthy league.

One final note: when Villarreal comes calling on Sunday, their owner, the aforementioned Fernando Roig Alfonso, will come to town with his millions, earned as the minority stakeholder in the Mercadona supermarket company. His brother is the majority shareholder and CEO. There is, it turns out, money to invest in Spanish football and the health of Villarreal CF is a further good sign for the league. But they’re still in a 2-horse race. Or maybe 3.

[Update: After completing this and publishing, @DianaKristinne pointed me towards an article outlining La Liga’s salary controls for the coming year. It’s worth a look and should be noted that it only reinforces my view that La Liga, while seemingly an asylum run by its inmates, is also putting in place measures to maintain its long-term health.

Naturally, this being a league that can’t even put fixtures in place more than a few weeks out from kickoff, this doesn’t mean all measures have been accomplished in a smooth, orderly fashion, but certainly it’s worth noting that there’s a sliding scale that seems to be measured on a case-by-case basis. Whether these will be adequate measures to deal with the large amount of debt in the league isn’t quite clear to me at this point, but it should become clearer over the coming years.

If Spain slides in the coefficients, it will be worth looking at these numbers compared to quality in the Europa League sides and the 4th placed Champions League side. Large squads are difficult to maintain without large budgets, of course, and coupled with deep runs into the Copa del Rey (a tournament that has 2 legs in each tie rather than 1 leg like many other domestic cups), this can be very taxing on small market teams with lower salary thresholds. It could, of course, temper managerial expectations and force teams to basically ditch certain competitions in order to maintain some sort of squad depth (a triplete is basically a triathlon where your opponents in one event don’t have to compete with you the rest of the events), but that is only speculation.]

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

26 Comments

  1. lovell
    November 6, 2015

    Fantastic read.
    Hope neymars ‘fine form’ comes through against Villarreal.
    At this rate he could pip Suarez to the third Balon d’or spot.
    Just when we thought iniestas return meant some bench time for alves . Rakitic too. How unlucky can one team get?.
    Anyone think we should try a mascherano – busquets – iniesta midfield ? ??
    At least so SR20 could slot in at full back , alves is being a waste , yet again.

  2. luisthebeast
    November 6, 2015

    Suarez will not be in the top 3.He was the best player in the world in 2014 but yep we know what happened.Leo Ney and the free kicks master(Not Willian).Football became a sport that someone who cant dribble for some people is a great player.Whatever.About the post my opinion is that like Italy in 90s England in 70s and 80s now Spain clubs have European glory.But that is not what make a championship wealth and health.If we take us and madrid out of La Liga,La Liga is dead.If we take city and united out of PL,there are Liverpool,Arsenal,Chelsea,Spurs e.t.c.England will always have the most viewed championship in the world.

    • Jim
      November 7, 2015

      It’s an interesting thought, Louis. Would you be sure at the moment a lineup of the EPL clubs you mention would be sure to beat AM, Sevilla, Valencia, Villarral and AB on a home and away basis ? I’m pretty sure the Spanish clubs would take their equivalents from any other European league so that’s not it.

      I agree that the EPL marketing is great and the product exciting but some of that may be down to competition brought about by the top teams not being as good as in Spain, historical reasons of times when they did dominate and a bit of help from the most dominant TV channels in beaming them around the world. It can’t be crowds as last I looked there were only two EPL clubs in the top ten European attendances.

      It strikes me Spain would be better off hiring Kxevin to promote the league as through various social media he probably does a better job of it than TV or the authorities. Sky didn’t even renew Revista and now has some awful highlights show which I never watch.

      An interesting topic.

    • ciaran
      November 7, 2015

      Luis, I think team v team, La Liga is ahead of the EPL by quite some distance but if you are talking about the number of fans that those clubs have then I understand what you are trying to say. There’s a reason that La Liga is top of the coefficient tables for the past few years and the EPL is in danger of losing a CL spot.

  3. Jim
    November 7, 2015

    Btw, just flicking through Barcastuff and came across Deulofeu’s latest assist. One of the best through passes into virtually no space I think I’ve ever seen. https://streamable.com/rh7j

    He’s always been an interesting guy for me. I see what people are saying about his defensive duties but having watched two full Everton games recently it’s not as bad as made out and to me seems to be improving. He does the running but still doesn’t seem to sniff danger. At the other end his dribbling isn’t hugely effective but I’ve been bowled over by the quality of balls he delivers to Lukaku. His recent assists have been world class when you’re used to Dani’s efforts.

    So now he’s holding down a regular place in a good Everton side, his assists total is growing and his defensive frailties, while still there, he seems to be trying to work on. Just maybe those who wrote him off may have to think again or at least judge Neymar,Messi CR7, Bale and countless other forwards by the same defensive standards. However, still very early days but Everton games are creeping up on my TV watching calendar.

    • ciaran
      November 7, 2015

      Deulofeu looks just about as dangerous as any player in the premiership with the ball at his feet. He’s beating people when they get close and whipping in great crosses when they stand off him. He’s being double teamed most of the time now but still.
      Every time he gets the ball it looks like something is going to happen.
      I hope that his consistency improves but the consistent game time is the single most important thing to him now.
      If he gets to a point where he is as dangerous as Neymar and Messi then his work rate can stay as is but other than that I would like to see him bust a gut to get back more often although he does it more than he used to.

  4. luisthebeast
    November 7, 2015

    Ciaran and Jim i agree that Spanish teams are better now!I speak about marketing and we all agree that England sell their product better than anyone!If Barca was an english team i am sure we could find a shirt sponsor for 100+m!And i dont really like to watch English teams playing,but i really admire the fans and the atmosphere they create!Btw in Barca we had great players like Gary Lineker Mark Hughes and Steve Archibarld from Great Britain!And a great person coach for just one season,Sir Bobby Robson!In 96-97 season when we won almost everything and we deserved La Liga but we were unlucky!As a person he was my favourite coach as years i am a fan of Barca!

  5. luisthebeast
    November 7, 2015

    Is it just me or it s so boring that Bayern thrashed one poor German team and people are so excited??I mean yeah they are a great team and all that but when Guardiola became their coach,they were the best team in the world and played amazing football in CL.Some Barca fans try to make us believe that Pep made a miracle!And a lot of people laugh now at Mourinio but he won a CL with Porto and Inter and he made Chelsea a big team in England and Europe.He was right when he said that he never would move to Bundesliga.A true great coach cant proove nothing coaching Bayern.I would wait Pep go to coach Roma or Spurs and then we will know how good is!

    • georgjorge
      November 8, 2015

      It’s less the thrashing of one team but of every team in the league they’ve played so far (save for Frankfurt where they drew). They are quite impressive, and I don’t really buy into the “Bundesliga is made up of bad teams anyway” opinion – I mean, Barca itself has had problems against teams like Malaga or Las Palmas who surely are not that much better than the average Bundesliga team.

      Laughing at Mourinho is something I’ll do happily as well. It’s not that he isn’t capable overall but that he is an egomaniac who takes trash-talking to a whole new level. It’s fun to watch when these kind of people can’t even get remotely near the top of the table with one of the most expensive teams in the league.

    • raj
      November 8, 2015

      LUISTHEBEAST, what are you gonna say next? Ask Messi to play for a Stoke City or BATE and prove his worth?

      It seems irresponsible to judge a person based on what he hasn’t done!
      Would you bash Pep if he were winning with a Barca team now? In fact, why are you not trashing Luis Enrique? Barca team already had world champions before he came.

  6. Jim
    November 8, 2015

    Very early start today but an interesting game for me to see what is in LE’s mind. Main question is whether he is going to continue to build a CB partnership with Pique and Matthieu or keep rotation going which I don’t think serves us well in the long run although I would like to see TV get a bit more time at some point to gain match fitness. Defence could well be tested for the first time in a few games today. However, the bigger answer will come against RM if the defence plays well today and he decides to put Masche back in because he’s not resting Busi that game and he has shown a reluctance to leave Masche out so far.

    In midfield it probably picks itself with Busi who needs rest badly and is unlikely to get it in the NT break with a game against England looming. Iniesta was superb on his return so this is good to get matches under his belt. More of a challenge today for SR I reckon. He has played well this season and is the poster boy for what confidence can do for you. I’m still on the fence about whether this is an outstanding run of form or whether he has it longer term but I prefer him by miles to Rakitic who really needs to step up and take some responsibility on the ball. SR is willing to put his foot on it, run with it and find attacking options. With Villareal probably looking to put us under a fair bit of pressure I’d love to see Samper under pressure at some point in the midfield but with great players around him. However, that’s not gonna happen.

    Up front we are only a Neymar / Suarez injury away from real problems in the Clasico but can’t afford to ease off against today’s opponents. Munir is fast running out of chances in the first team but like SR maybe all he needs is a bit of luck to get confidence going. I’d like to see him keen to have shots at goal rather than just looking for his colleagues because he has a decent shot on him.

    It would be good to get an early goal but it’s even more important not to lose one and end up chasing.

  7. Jim
    November 8, 2015

    Well I hope we travel better than Man City who I’ve just been watching. They were all a yard slow in the first half. Important to start at right pace.

  8. Jim
    November 8, 2015

    Wow. Spiky first half. We have a lot of Mr Angrys out there and will have to watch our step. In particular a yellow for either Iniesta or Matthieu and they’re out of the Clasico. You can bet Villareal are also aware of that.

    Villareal playing a very physical game, looking to rile our ball players and it’s working to an extent. Loads back behind the ball and looking to hit on the counter.

    Still trying to get my head round our break where Matthieu had a shot. His only other option was Pique in the middle !!! Only at Barca . . .

    • November 9, 2015

      Oh Jim, that was an incredible moment, watching our 2 CB’s in the opposition box trying to complete a counter. Wonderful it was. I must say, I thought about you the very moment.

      Also loved some of those incredible passing between Iniesta and Busquets. Excellent second half it was. A typical Brazilian goal by Neymar too.

  9. Jim
    November 8, 2015

    2-0 now three yellow cards off please !

  10. Davour
    November 8, 2015

    Pretty good game, overall – great 2nd half. Feels like the team is finding better stability. Defence solid enough, bar Dani who had something of a stinker, overcomplicating things too often. Probably had a negative impact on SR’s game, too. I had the feeling Munir took a step forward today. Managed some nice little moves, felt more assured, and did very well in the penalty-situation. A long way to go, but there is something to him that Sandro lacks, no doubt.

    Neymar? Let’s just say he is making life without Messi a tad more colourful… will be tremendously interesting to see how the team – and Ney – responds to Messi’s return.

  11. Tata2
    November 8, 2015

    I watched the Stoke vs Chelsea game and found out that Chelsea’s problems haven’t been that they havent been playing well, they played with a lot of intensity but they are unable to create something and finish in the final third. Watching Pedro( who should have stayed on and Hazard substituted in his place) and Fabregas conjure up nothing when it really mattered against parked buses made me wanna say good riddance. And oh! Chelsea fans want hazard sold in january, Yea! cules you will never walk alone. LE has done an outstanding work with this team. He has created that win-any how and any-ways mentality in the team. We get results whether we are playing well or not, whether the squad is injury stricken or not. We just always find a way to win no matter the circumstances. We may not be pretty every time but we just do enough to get the job done. I am really disturbed about what Messi’s return will do to Neymar’s new role

  12. georgjorge
    November 8, 2015

    Got to love Sevilla and Unai Emery: Losing relatively easy matchups, but taking full points away from both Barca and M*drid. I really hope they win the Europa League a third time this year (doesn’t look too good for Champions League). I was only watching the last fifteen minutes of their game – M*drid had to put everything forward and score two but Sevilla passed the ball around as if they were 2011 Barca, they just couldn’t get it.

    Top of the league – and with a great match against Villareal too!

    This was the first game in a long time that Munir seemed to do well in. I still have high hopes for him. Neymar continues to sparkle, Iniesta made some magic as well….ready for the Clásico!

  13. Jim
    November 8, 2015

    Well, for me that gets the award for performance of the season so far. A gutsy, feisty, lung busting effort from everyone yet at times some magnificent passing out of trouble and some great goals. Clever defending, Iniesta controlling the play and Neymar revelling in his new confidence. Add Suarez’ non stop running, beautiful movement and Busi’s sheer class plus no red cards / injuries and this was a good afternoon.

    Just rewatching it now to see if I’m getting excited over nothing.

  14. Tommy11
    November 8, 2015

    It was a wonderful weekend of football!!! Our darling duo put Villarreal to the sword despite the ref’s evident dislike for our team. Good to see Sevilla put behind them a rough midweek to inflict defeat on EE- I was largely disappointed in Celta for losing 3-1 to them when they just demolished us weeks before. I really hope Sevilla will go ahead to win the europa league. It’s also great to have a 3-point lead over our arch rivals going into the international break and the classico. Great talent and return from our SN- 26 goals btw them, topping the scoring chats. Irrespective of what the critics say, we are in a good position considering that squad has been faced with one thousand zillion injuries. Now, may the football gods smile on these players as they embark on international breaks- no injuries!!!!!

    On a side note, Chelsea lost, again. Mourinho’s seventh league loss this season- I really can’t help but laugh at the special losing one. Fun times, people!

  15. Barcathegreatestever
    November 8, 2015

    Oops there it is! All Barca for the 3 finalists! ESPN at a loss for words lol. Their wonder bread boy doing nada. 5 goals against a defense probably paid not to show up and nothing before or since.

    • Davour
      November 9, 2015

      It is absolutely hilarious that CR named Neymar as “maybe” a great talent (after a four others)! Maybe? Talent? I really hope that he was unsure whether he (Ney) could be called “a talent”, for really, by now Neymar is a superstar, far better than CR himself at this moment (and probably altogether from now on). Humor.

  16. Kd
    November 9, 2015

    Jim I kno you have a habit of watching re runs of the games. So, plz do let us know if you found something interesting which we missed from the Villarreal game.
    I feel we score a lot of goals after the break. Are there any stats doing the round somewhere which tell us if its true or what are the percentages like?
    Also if I was a “Ghanian Shaman” I would be worried that someone has cursed Munir (and even Sandro). The lad does everything but score. Another header or two went begging last night with the goal at Munir’s mercy. What the hell!! Its just NOT going in. Wretched luck (“Poor luck” went outta the window sometime back). I hope he gets a goal in the Classico. And any idea when Keylor Navas is back from his injury. It seems he has single handedly kept EE in the reckoning. One match against a more than decent team that he doesn’t play in, and voila!! hehe.. Hope he is out of the Classico. And Ronaldo also doesn’t seem to be on song.
    Oh and I love the mentality Enrique has instilled in the team. We just keep winning without doing too much or playing as swashbuckling as Bayern.
    Apart from the SN duo kudos to Pique for that “yellow card” tackle. Well done.

    • Jim
      November 9, 2015

      Not much I didn’t see or feel first time round, KD.

      I’m not surprised we rolled them over second half as our passing was not only sharp but pretty clever first half and it must have been hell trying to shut us down. Teams which come out to press us need something to keep them going in the form of a goal or us resorting to long ball. If we can keep it moving as sharply as we did and bring or pass it out from the back as cleverly as we did they are on a loser.

      Things I liked :

      Bravo great again and his passing improving match by match ( although he’ll never strike the ball as well as TS)
      I know I’ve been pushing for it but I hope everyone can see the potential in our current CB partnership. With Matthieu in the back four we actually have a pretty pacy back four ! Both he and Pique started that breakaway level with or well behind six of our team and look how it ended. Pique isn’t slow. He is slow turning.
      Busi is playing as well as I ever remember him – and further forward where I had my doubts. Again, in time I’d love to see him, Ini and Samper make up our midfield. It could be as good as the Xavi days !
      One of my abiding memories will be the warmth of the Neymar / Syarez celebrations. You can’t fake that. Add Messi and the personal warmth between three of the top forwards in the world is staggering to me. This level of player tends to have to be quite self contained.

      Quibbles – there are none really. Munir isn’t adding a lot but one look at his knackered face at the end tells you how much it means to him so good on him.
      Crowd – there’s something wrong when their volume on their independence chants is much louder than their support for the team.
      Im not sure why but we were cards waiting to happen on Sunday. I love him dearly but Ini needed to spend a bit more time laying it down to his team mates than spending his time in the ref’s ear.
      Finally, I’ll spend all day lauding Pique’s technical and positional skills but when Suarez ran through solo one on one I was screaming to bring him down. Even I winced at the result !

      So, no, all good for me. I’d love Busi to get some rest with the NT but if you’re Spain who do you put in ? Pique’s chances are also slim with Ramos being out whereas Ini could do with the match fitness. A call out for LE. I thought we’d struggle without Messi but he’s got us through that period well. If he now goes on to play Pique/ Matthieu for the Clasico I may even have to revise my prediction of no big trophies and an exit for him. 🙂 Not holding my breath, though.

  17. Tata2
    November 9, 2015

    Right now Neymar is better than CR no point debating that. If CR comes second in the balon d’or then it will be because of his reputation or some fifa conspiracies

  18. Jim
    November 9, 2015

    Wow! Just wow ! Way to go. WADA anti doping commission. Russia to be suspended from Olympics ???

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