Champions League set for Messi-Ronaldo Groundhog Day
Oh dear. Oh dearie dear. Oh dearie dearie dear.
The future does not look a bright one for LLL, or indeed anyone who runs a comb through the unruly mop of hair that is the Spanish press.
The headlines every other week for the next five years or so are going to be: “Cristiano Ronaldo, the greatest goalscorer in Champions League history!” “Leo Messi, the greatest goalscorer in Champions League history!”
That is until one of them finally gives up the game completely, or joins Manchester United. Perhaps that should be '...and joins Manchester United'.
Leo Messi is now tied on 71 goals with Raúl of the mighty New York Cosmos after a brace against Ajax, and is likely to be swapping the lead on a fairly regular and fairly tedious basis with Ronaldo, who is still wedged on 70 after Liverpool failed to do their duty and roll over at the feet and head of a near-unstoppable force.
Messi’s achievement of eking ahead of Ronaldo in the Champions League goalscoring charts, along with Luis Suárez yet to get off the mark in a proper game for Barcelona, also grab Thursday’s headlines.
And so is the matter of Gerard Piqué being left on the bench in Amsterdam (better than being in the stands), with Marc Bartra being preferred at the back.
“This does not smell good,” frets Francesc Aguilar in Mundo Deportivo, concerned that the decision to exile Piqué is personal rather than technical. “The topic of Piqué needs to be fixed so he does not become the Casillas of Barca. It would be absurd and counterproductive for the team.” LLL would suggest that this particular Catalan crisis ship has already set sail.
Tuesday’s victories for Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid made it a trio of wins for La Liga clubs in the Champions League, but unfortunately Athletic Bilbao could not put on a show in San Mamés and fell to Porto, beaten 2-0 to see the Basque side eliminated from the competition and then some. “It’s a tough blow to be knocked out already,” admitted Ernesto Valverde, the Athletic boss. “We have to fight to be third now.”
Villarreal and Sevilla are in action on Thursday night against Zurich and Standard Liege respectively, to leave the true winners in La Liga as Valencia after another week of European football – the one group of footballers that get to put their feet up for seven days and grow worry lines merely over domestic affairs, rather than racing around Europe in a frenzy of record breaking.