La Liga: Real Madrid and Barcelona prepare to do battle
As the 2012/13 season kicks off, the big two prepare for another fight to the death for every trophy but Barça will do so with a new coach that José Mourinho knows all too well. Meanwhile, Qatari-owned Málaga experience cashflow problems.
By Halima Ali
“I should not have done what I did, obviously not,” said José Mourinho. “The person who messed up there was me,” he added, referring to the moment when he casually strolled over to then FC Barcelona assistant coach Tito Vilanova at the Camp Nou and poked him in the eye.
The incident has been brought up countless times over the past year but as the opening of 2012/13 season approaches, the Real Madrid manager seems to be attempting to calm the waters as the man he once assaulted is now head coach at Barcelona.
The two men start the season at different stages. Mourinho, is now beginning his third year at the helm of the capital club where many a manager before him did not even last a whole season. Vilanova meanwhile, is heralding the dawn of a new era at Barça and has huge shoes to fill as he is taking over following the departure of Pep Guardiola – the man who guided the Catalan side to 13 trophies since taking charge in the summer of 2008.
There remain uncertainties about the new man in charge but the coach has been buoyed by news that David Villa looks set to return having played some minutes in Barcelona’s 2-0 pre-season friendly win over Dinamo Bucharest at the weekend. The 30-year-old fractured his tibia in the Club World Cup last December ruling him out for the remainder of the domestic season and Spain’s historic Euro 2012 campaign.
His return to the pitch on Saturday was rather unexpected as he only began full training two weeks ago but it is welcome news at the Camp Nou, where his goal-scoring prowess was sorely missed last season as the Blaugrana conceded their Liga title to the eternal enemy Real Madrid.
Meanwhile, in the Spanish capital – with the league kicking off two weeks earlier than usual –Mourinho is attempting to wrap up transfer proceedings that leave the fate of Ricardo Kaká, Nuri Şahin and the possible arrival of Luka Modrić still up in the air.
The Brazilian, who was one of the new Galácticos brought in by Madrid president FlorentinoPérez along with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, has failed to produce at the Santiago Bernabéu and the transfer saga surrounding him has rumbled on all summer with AC Milan seemingly unwilling to pay the asking price.
The same could be said of the Modrić deal, with his club Tottenham Hotspur attempting to get a higher transfer fee by playing a waiting game. Another player who looks set to go elsewhere is Turkish international Şahin, who has failed to get any playing time under Mourinho and has been expected to go on loan to a Premier League club for several weeks, with Liverpool his latest suitors.
The reigning Spanish champions are aiming to go one better this season and have set their sights firmly on winning the UEFA Champions League as well as retaining their league title, but as is so often the case, Barcelona stand in their way.
Under their new manager who will bring renewed ideas and motivation, there is a desire at Barça to claw back their dominance of recent years over Los Merengues. They will get the chance to strike an early blow with the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup between the two sides taking place next week at the Camp Nou. This time, without the eye poking.
Meanwhile, further south, the sheen has worn off the project in Málaga. Despite their fourth-placed finish last season seeing the club qualify for the Champions League play-offs which take place later this month, Los Boquerones appear to be in trouble.
Over the summer, it emerged that several players including Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Santi Cazorla and Salomón Rondón were not paid their full wages, and the latter two have since been sold to Arsenal and Rubin Kazan respectively.
Coach Manuel Pellegrini has said he convinced some of the players not to launch legal action against the club and insists he remains committed to qualification to Europe’s premier football competition and looking ahead with Málaga.
However, rumours continue to swirl that the Qatari owners who hoped to create a team capable of challenging the duopoly of the big two – Real Madrid and Barcelona – may be looking to sell the club.
Whatever the outcome, La Liga season 2012/13 is certain to captivate, entertain and surprise, just as it does season after season.
Next: Exchange rates in holding pattern as markets await central bank action
Previous: Spain’s reluctance to request aid weighs on the euro
Published: Aug 16 2012
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=6640
You can follow any responses to this entry via RSS 2.0
Tags: barcelona, football, la liga, Mourinho, Real Madrid, soccer, spanish league, sport