Barça is the greatest team of the decade! shouts the El Mundo Deportivo headline today. What they mean, of course, is that Barça is the greatest Spanish team of the decade. According to the Centro de Investigaciones de Historia y Estadística del Fútbol Español (CIHEFE). And also that we’re talking about overall, not in the league, where that honor goes to Real Madrid. And also not the Copa del Rey, where Sevilla is king.
But wait, didn’t Barça win 4 league titles? And Real Madrid got 4 as well, no? Oh, it’s based on a system of incomprehensible lunacy? Of course. the CIHEFE (which I’m pronouncing as “YES CHIEF” despite the spelling) is part of the IFFHS, which ranks Atleti (6th) in front of RM (8th) and puts Liverpool 5th. Fifth. You read that right, folks. Come in 7th in the Premier League and you’re obviously better than–and here I’m just grabbing the names of completely random clubs–Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City, and Aston Villa? Liverpool had 2 wins in the Champions League last year, both 1-0 wins over Hungary doormats Debrecen. Both Fiorentina and Lyon beat Liverpool. Where are they ranked? 67th and 19th, respectively. Wait, didn’t Lyon get to the semis of the Champions League by beating Real Madrid and Bordeaux. Confused? Good.
Scene: Two men sit in an office in the late afternoon sunlight. One is behind a desk, the other seated in front of him. A large plate glass window overlooks the Camp Nou. The Barcelona crest on a side wall is being polished by a third man, a workman.
Sandro Rosell: [holding up a copy of MD] We’re the greatest team of the decade!
Pep Guardiola: Don’t you think that’s meaningless?
Rosell: How could it be meaningless? Barça is now undeniably the best team of the last 10 years. And I should point out that I made this possible.
Rosell: Indeed. I dare you to deny it! [pauses for a moment] Ha! See? You can’t do it because it’s true.
Guardiola: These newspapers are just finding crap to print.
Rosell: But it says Barça is first!
Guardiola: Right. And that means what, exactly?
Rosell: That…that we have the best coefficient! [beams with pride]
Guardiola: Yeah, we’ve got what [looks at the article in question] 1,630 points over the last 10 years. Where do they even get these numbers from? Look, Depor is 4th! They’re in 15th place and haven’t finished in the top 3 since 2004. They finished 10th last year and were lucky to do even that!
Rosell: But we’re first?
Guardiola: Look here. Hey guy [calls to workman] who are the 4 best teams in Spain?
Workman: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Villarreal, and Oviedo.
Rosell: Oviedo? They still have a team?
Guardiola: See, Depor isn’t in there.
Rosell: How can Oviedo, who I’ve never even heard of, be one of the best teams in Spain? They’re not on this list at all!
Workman: [shrugs] You asked, I told you. [returns to polishing the crest]
Guardiola: [reciting from memory] Real Oviedo are currently 17th in Segunda B group 2 with 13 points from 12 matches and [pause] 14 goals scored and [taps temple several times] ah, there it is, 13 goals against. They just lost 1-2 against SD Lemona this weekend.
Rosell: That was…amazing? Also could be completely made up?
Guardiola: Our good sir makes a great point. Ask a perico who is best and they’ll give the same list.
Rosell: Espanyol fans think Oviedo is amazing?
Guardiola: You should have your brain checked for holes.
Rosell: But come on–Oviedo? They’re worse than…than…
Rosell: Bless you.
Workman: The crest is shined, sir. Should I shine the bronzed copy of Benvingut al mon real you keep hidden in your desk drawer or should I come back to do that after hours like usual?
Guardiola: You shine a copy of your own book?
Rosell: He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Workman: It’s right next to the autographed picture of you being nutmegged by Ronaldinho that you had me frame for you.
Rosell: Quiet, man!
Workman: I don’t know why you don’t put that picture up on the wall. It would go well next to the picture of the pretty woman I found in the other drawer.
Rosell: Wait, what woman?
Guardiola: Quiet, man!
Rosell: [opens a drawer and pulls out a picture of a woman] Who the hell is this?
[door opens and a man peaks his head in]
Dani Alves: Why do you have a picture of my wife!?
Guardiola: Well I’ve got to get going.
Rosell: Wait, what? OH GOD.
Workman: There are like a bunch of those in his house.
Alves: [snarls incomprehensible rage and charges Rosell]
[Guardiola side steps the charge and slips through the open door. Alves hurls himself over the desk between himself and Rosell, catching the latter off guard and sending him through the window behind the desk. The two fall to the ground several floors below.]
Rosell: Aaak, come off it, man, it’s not my picture. [Alves detaches his jaws from Rosell’s neck]
Alves: Whose was it?
Rosell: Uh, uh, Laporta’s. I didn’t have time to clean out the desk yet with all the debts and loans and please don’t kill me.
Alves: [snarls incomprehensible rage and races off into the dwindling sunlight]
Rosell: I can’t believe I wanted this job. [lays head on pavement and sobs quietly]
Guardiola: [standing over Rosell] Oh yeah, I wanted to mention that I’d like to get Ibrahim Afellay during January.
Rosell: Well, I’ll have to think about it.
Guardiola: Indeed, please take all the time here you’d like. [glances around, the dusk is settling in stronger now] Just remember, the best club of the last decade wouldn’t have a pack of lions running loose on its property. Toodles.
Rosell: Of course not. The best club of the decade would–wait, why would you even say that?
[Guardiola gets in his car and drives away. Rosell sits up, still a little dazed from the fall that has somehow not injured him significantly. He hears a coughing off to the side and turns, but sees nothing in the darkness that is now almost total]
Rosell: Who’s there? Piqué? Are you playing more tricks on me? I told you last time, I don’t like finding Bojan in my trunk, even if he is waiting patiently to be let out.
[There is another cough, this one closer. A street light flickers on above Rosell’s head and he sees shapes moving in the dark just beyond the glow.]
Rosell: Haha, good one guys, you’re crawling around on all fours pretending to be animals.
[He curls into a tiny ball and whimpers as the lions pad slowly into the light].
Pending the result of the Sevilla-Valencia match this afternoon, Real Sociedad is provisionally in 6th place with 16 points. They’re 2 ahead of Atleti, Mallorca, and Sevilla and 8 points out of relegation. Espanyol is in 4th (4th!) despite 4 losses. They’re just 1 point ahead of Valencia, though, and would be overtaken and dropped into the Europa League spots if it Valencia win or draw today.
Real Madrid, Villarreal, and Espanyol are all 5-0-0 at home, with Villarreal having just given up their first goal at the Madrigal in a 4-1 spanking of Athletic Bilbao. Only Barcelona are 5-0-0 on the road.
Also, you should check out an NYT discussion of Barça that gets most things right and approaches the subject in a fairly straight-forward and objective manner.