The Pinto dilemma
Posted on January 18, 2012 2:40 pm
When the referee blows his whistle to kick start the Clasico tonight, 21 of the 22 players will be the usual suspects. It is difficult to expect a surprise when two teams know each other so much and when the whole world seems to know them from head to toe. There will be, however, one unusual name: Jose Manuel Pinto, Barça’s usual reserve goalkeeper.
Pep Guardiola is a man of iron loyalties. Since Pinto arrived at the Catalan team, he named him the Copa del Rey starting ‘keeper, and has kept his promise to the letter even in the most difficult of circumstances. Before last year’s Final, Guardiola announced that two men would be on the pitch no matter what. The first one was Lionel Messi, the second, this 36-year veteran reserve ‘keeper from Cadiz.
At that time, the decision caused controversy, and with Real Madrid at Barça’s doorstep again, doubts resurface. It is clear that Pinto is far from Valdés in quality terms. The latter is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, fundamental for Barça’s system of building play from the back and the current deputy in the Spanish National team. Instead, the former is a journeyman, a consistent but not brilliant ‘keeper with a bizarre style and a chulo image.
But despite this, Barcelona should not worry. Guardiola is far from stupid as everyone is quite aware by now. The reason why he has kept his promise towards Pinto is because he knows that the most important thing for the team is the one in which the deputy can compete with the starter: the ability to play the ball with his feet. The rest is not so important. Even in the most complicated matches, the Catalans receive very few shots on goal, and Pinto has made very few mistakes when he has been on the pitch with the Blaugrana shirt (or the rather awful black ‘keeper one from last season). And, ultimately, we must not forget that in the last Clásico, Barcelona were able to overcome from a monumental error of their goalkeeper who, by the way, was not José Manuel Pinto…