La Liga Matchday 17: Winners and Losers
Posted on December 21, 2011 5:41 pm
“Real Madrid Campeón de Invierno!” “Real Madrid, the team with more points in 2011!” Marca hasn’t ceased to remind us that the Merengues still matter in the league, even though their fans are still sulking from the defeat to Barcelona 10 days ago. Anyway, the victory against Sevilla makes clear that Jose Mourinho’s side is stronger than ever and that if “the best team in history” (also Marca dixit) wants to win the league for the third consecutive time, they will have to sweat blood.
José Callejón: When Real Madrid decided to get their canterano back from Espanyol it seemed that his destiny was sealed: like all the Canales or Pedro Leons before him, a season on the bench and then sent packing somewhere else. At the White House the players that succeed are those with a big name or a big pair of balls. In the absence of the former, Callejón has shown a great deal of the latter. Each time he enters the pitch, he makes a difference and the team definitely plays better with him. I’m quite convinced that, in the second half of the season, he will end up as a regular starter taking the place of the disappointing Özil and Kaka.
Pepe Mel: I don’t know what happens this season but when a coach is ready to throw in the towel, his team wakes up magically and saves his head. It happened to Manolo Preciado, Luis García, Philippe Montanier and now Pepe Mel. Betis won their first four games, then spent nine without a win, and now have two victories wins much stronger opposition. Mel is a good coach and has taken Betis to a spot that reflects the quality of the squad, a sign that patience is sometimes a good counselor.
Getafe: Several weeks ago I told you about Luis Garcia, the coach who promoted Levante to the First Division then dumped them to sign with Getafe, with which he was dead last after eight games, while his former team dominated the league. But Garcia and his Azulones also straightened the road thanks to their historic and surprising victory against Barcelona a few weeks ago. Since then they have got six of the next nine points and are already in the quiet zone of the table.
Javier Aguirre: It is true that the president of Zaragoza, Agapito Iglesias, has made a mess with the team, but the Mexican coach decisions have not helped much. Last weekend they were getting a draw from San Mamés and were one man up. A chance to get much-needed three points? Not for Aguirre, who decided to park the bus to defend the result. The consequence was exactly what you’d expected, a goal for Athletic in injury time and another defeat for Zaragoza, who has now only got a point in their last nine games.
Neymar: I know he doesn’t playin the Spanish league, but the media here has talked about him so much that we feel that we know him better than our closest friends. After the impressive demonstration of Barcelona against Santos, it is clear that the striker is not good enough yet to play in either the Catalans or Real Madrid and that his decision to stay in Brazil was, for the moment, the right one. He has great potential, and seems to have his head firmly on his shoulders, but he still lacks quality. Oh, and of course, whoever pays 50 million euros for him must be completely crazy.
José María del Nido: Sevilla president was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to 7 years in prison. Del Nido appealed the ruling and will probably, somehow, remain free and continue to lead his team. Anyway, this is further evidence of the type of chairmen that abound in the Spanish league.
And the petro-dollars?: Malaga probably played their worst game since the catastrophe against Real Madrid and quite deservedly lost in Valencia. For the first time in many weeks, the Boquerones are outside the European places and it seems clear that it will take even more petro-dollars to fulfill the dreams of their ambitious owner and demanding fans.
Degree of competitiveness of the league: 0%. When the Real Madrid put six away goals past the best defensive team outside the Top 2, we are ready to shelve the tag “Liga de las Estrellas” and brand it, instead, with the more adequate “Liga de mierda”.
The phrase of the week: “In any other league we would win easily” that was the praise that Jose Mourinho reserved to Barcelona. Although the Spanish media insisted on criticizing the Portuguese, this time, for once, there was no reason to.