The Argentine winger has been strongly linked with a move away from Madrid, but will the latest molehill/mountain saga help see him out the door? FFT's Spanish expert Tim Stannard reports...
It’s been quite a while since something completely daft and frivolous took hold in the footballing talking shops of Spain - Ballon d’Or bickering aside - so it’s a big pat on the back for Angel di María, who got tongues a’wagging over a two second sleight-of-hand on Monday night.
Having been substituted in the second half, the peaky-faced Argentinean was trudging off the Santiago Bernabéu pitch to a chorus of boos and whistles from fans unhappy that Real Madrid were struggling to put away a spirited Celta Vigo side. That, combined with the fact Di María has built up a reputation of late for being a whining want-away - heavily linked with Arsenal - was behind a gesture in reply from the footballer that was either a tactical adjustment downstairs or a poo-sticks to you, Real Madrid fans.
Di María himself claimed that a bit of groin grab was merely the footballer making himself “comfortable.” Talking later on to Argentinean radio station Fox Sports Radio, the winger explained the molehill/mountain incident, musing that “perhaps the Spanish press don’t like me as I don’t give interviews.”
The timing of that particular below the floorboards fumble and a sly look in the player’s eye at the time have most thinking that Di María’s claims of innocence are poppycock. No pun intended.
“I think he was making himself too comfortable,” noted Osasuna’s Patxi Puñal, when quizzed on the incident as he went about his evening. At least Sergio Ramos was able to see the funny side having sent a Happy Three Kings message to Twitter followers, coincidentally posed next to a Michael Jackson poster, in mid-crotch grab. Which is why the Real Madrid footballer is still a complete genius of a human being as well as a defender “who was beaten in the air by both Valencia’s smallest and tallest player” in a recent clash - an observation from a LLL colleague.
Another figure in trouble for obscenity is the notoriously potty-mouthed Espanyol manager, Javier Aguirre, who is a mild-mannered charmer off the pitch but an x-rated Tarantino-esque swear monster on it. The Mexican was sent off for the umpteenth time in his career for abuse hurled at a referee during last weekend’s defeat to Osasuna. Yet, rather than claim his innocence, Aguirre admitted he was guilty as charged and should in theory be punished for the same crime every week.
“I called him ‘a son of a b****’, [and many other unrepeatable things - LLL] but it’s something I say 10 or 12 times a game. I should have been sent off 162 times in this league,” joked Aguirre, who potentially faces a four-match touchline ban, which would see the manager missing out on next weekend’s visit of Real Madrid.
But of course, that game is very much in the background at the epic encounter brewing at the Vicente Calderón next Saturday between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona. Despite both teams being in Copa del Rey action before that clash, the two coaches involved have been busy denying that the cup has been cast aside in terms of focus. “Believe me or not, but I swear I am not thinking about Barcelona, only about Valencia,” claimed Diego Simeone ahead of Tuesday’s last 16 first leg clash in Mestalla which produced a 1-1 draw between the teams.
Barça’s own game is against Getafe in the Coliseum, the venue for many a strange result over the years including an opening 20 minutes just before Christmas that saw the home team two goals up. “We need to repeat the last 70 minutes of that game,” noted Tata Martino on a five-goal comeback.
Although the Copa is not yet in its interesting stages, the game should produce the return of Leo Messi after last being seen limping out of a clash against Betis on November 10. The Argentinean will then be making a return trip to Capital City a few days later for a considerably bigger test than Luis García’s side.