Espanyol not ready to make nice

The roots of the existential animosity between Espanyol and Barcelona are now lost in the mists of time, but ready to be uncovered by Simon Schama in a 37-part BBC series.

Precambrian anthropologists claim that the feuding and feistiness between the two clubs stems from a heady cocktail of Javier Saviola, some flares, hooligans, a mouldy vol-au-vent, a urinal splashback incident and one member of the pugilistic pair keeping the duvet of Catalan pride all to themselves.

Spanish football clubs tend to be a humourless, pompous lot staffed and stuffed by red-faced, rotund, blustery men in their sixties.

These buffet-loving board members have the finest of times, trotting round Spain meeting their fellow trough-guzzlers and congratulating each other on their cunning tactic of paying for their fodder by ignoring the whole concept of taxes.

So when one side turns down the chance of some free grub, you know that something serious is going on.

That’s what happens every time Espanyol and Barcelona meet, with the former constantly refusing offers to break bread and quaff Cava with their big city brothers.

“It’s like a child’s tantrum,” sighed the King of Catalunya, Joan Laporta, on the latest buffet-snub from the Pericos - strong words indeed from a gentleman who is all too familiar with the ancient art of hurling toys from prams.

The Barcelona president had his own little spat over the weekend as the party who headed off to Abu Dhabi to become the bestest club in the world required a scheduled stopover in Turkey.

Despite Laporta calling the Spanish PM to force the airline to change its route, just two days before the trip, the Barcelona-supporting José Luis Zapatero told Joan that it was a little out of his jurisdiction.

And that he was a tad busy with Spain’s collapsing economy.

“This wouldn’t have happened to a Spanish team,” grumbled Laporta, a man who is apparently quite happy to change the nationality of his club when it is convenient for him to do so.

The Barcelona president then had to face the consequences of his insult fired at Espanyol.

The cantankerous bigwig running the Pericos, Daniel Sánchez-Llibre, decided to hold fire until after Saturday’s controversial encounter to let loose at his Catalan counterpart.

“He’s insufferable,” blasted Sánchez-Llibre on Spanish radio, before going on to share his thoughts on Xavi’s wind-assisted tumble.

“Why not just give Barça 70 points at the start of the season and let the rest of us play for another league?”

La Liga Loca suspects that this would not be the most helpful of solutions for Espanyol, as they would probably be completely crap in that league, too.

The Barcelona-loving press are as desperate as can be to change the local narrative of the week to the Club World Cup, with Sport’s editorial closing the topic by writing that whenever an opposition shirt is grabbed in the box, it is a penalty.

However, Espanyol are still as mad as hell and definitely not letting it lie.

“I put my hand out to know where Xavi was, nothing more,” claimed Raúl Baena, the man who cruelly brought the Barcelona chap crashing to the floor with the most cynical of assaults.

The midfielder also denies having spoken to Xavi about his brutal battering, something that the Barça player claimed after Sunday’s game as way of a feeble excuse for his fall.

“At no moment did I speak to Xavi and tell him that it was a penalty.”

While this debate will be floating around Barcelona for a few more days, the topic in the Spanish capital is what to do about Pepe during his unfortunate season-long absence.

According to Tuesday’s Marca, the solution is an easy one – with Roberto Carlos’ big beaming face on the front cover with the way-past-his-best Brazilian shouting that “I can be Pepe’s replacement!”

With barely a day gone since the news of the Portuguese pin-head’s knee-knack was revealed, the former Madridista leapt two-footed into Pepe’s grave - the thump could be heard all the way from Turkey - with Roberto Carlos claiming that he was “upset when he saw what happened to him.”

So upset, it seems that he was straight on the phone to Marca to tell them that “if Real Madrid called, I would go right now,” despite his verbal agreement to join Corinthians once his inconvenient contract with Fenerbahce is terminated.

The arrival of Roberto Carlos would lead to Sergio Ramos moving into central defence - a change that the defender claimed he wouldn’t be keen on - and Arbeloa to the right.

But the transfer does sound like the perfect solution for Real Madrid if what they are after is a contract-breaking, opportunistic has-been whose word is as useful as a StairMaster in Maniche’s mansion. More to read...

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