Barça loosen their belts as Catalan press poke fun at Madrid’s mess

If you thought the wonderful world of Barcelona was feeling tingly and tangly last week after the frenzied French kissing of Leo Messi by Sepp Blatter at the FIFA awards - figuratively speaking, of course - that’s just one wrinkle on Manuel Pellegrini’s face compared the little fluffy cloud the Camp Nou collective are living on now.

Real Madrid’s stodgy draw away to Almería - where Pep’s Dream Boys banged in eight, you'll remember - has given Barça the chance to loosen their belt a tad - oh, how Ronaldinho would have enjoyed that sensation - kick back with a cool one and enjoy what the Barcelona media are portraying to be the civil war in Mordor.

Comfortable at the top of the table, holding a 5-0 advantage over Betis in this week’s Copa del Rey and facing the visit of Racing Santander at the Camp Nou on Saturday - about as frightening a prospect as an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch - it’s time for some series fun-poking from the Catalan press at Real Madrid’s expense.

Sport write that José Mourinho is a permanent fixture on the presidential naughty step due to his constant attacks on referees as well as his public complaints about the hopelessness of Karim Benzema and the Madrid youth academy. The spat with Jorge Valdano that is currently being fought out through the papers certainly isn’t helping the Madrid president’s mood, either, writes Josep María Casanovas.

“Florentino Pérez is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Neither he nor the fans will tolerate another year without trophies,” chuckles the Sport journalist without too much sympathy really.

Even the Madrid camp is getting skittish with AS reporting that Florentino Pérez is ordering an end to the quest for a reinforcement striker if Ruud Van Nistelrooy doesn’t return to the Spanish capital after a year of Bundesliga fun.

Mou: Feeling the pressure at Real for the first time...

Meanwhile Marca and Real Madrid have joined forces, if you can imagine such a thing, and deployed a ‘move along, nothing to see here’ strategy involving a drawn-out three day interview with the club’s great figurehead, a man who is admired, loved and cheered by nearly every pavement-blocking Spaniard in the land - Iker Casillas.

Not really. It’s with Cristiano Ronaldo. Of course.

Naturally, the first day of a spread that’s bigger than Maniche’s buffett largely sees questions related to Marca’s massive obsession - aside from the loveliness of José Mourinho...or the loveliness of Cristiano Ronaldo, come to think of it - with the hurling of a cat’s bag of questions at the forward concerning Spanish refereeing and the extent that Real Madrid are on the bad side of it.

“I think it’s ok,” says Ronaldo diplomatically, “but the game is stopped too much. In general I like it, but blowing for so many fouls doesn’t help the spectacle.”

‘Well said’, applauds LLL, although Cristiano’s words might have had carried more weight if himself and Angel di María weren’t responsible for most of the stoppages in the first place with their theatrical tumbles.

Unsurprisingly Marca approves of Ronaldo’s stance and the entire concept of the Portuguese player, in fact, with Tuesday’s editorial gushing that “CR7’s ambition should be the flag for Real Madrid. The player has become a leader on and off the pitch.” It’s praise that should have Casillas supergluing the captain’s armband to himself lest something unfortunate happen...sorry, LLL interrupted...Marca haven’t quite finished with their speech.

“The club have signed a moral leader who is not shirking his responsibility in these current difficult times.” Unlike Ronaldo’s manager, perhaps, who seems to be increasingly out of favour at Real Madrid as the days go by.