La Liga Review 2010/2011: Spain goes Clásico Crazy

APRILIn April, football fans either wanted to clap their hands and bark like drunken sea lions in giddy excitement or tear their hair out in boredom and frustration. This was all because of the playing of three-quarters of the “Rally of Clásicos”, a narrative so dominant in Spain that nobody would have noticed if the King had worn a dress for a month and called for a ham boycott.

The first prickly contest which was a 1-1 draw in la Liga at the Santiago Bernabeu set the bar for the tone of the remainder of the games at the lowest possible level with disputed refereeing decisions and Pepe deployed as an unguided missile in the Madrid midfield.

Whilst the result was seen as a great top-hat throwing success in Madrid – especially in comparison with the 5-0 from November – it was snoot city in Barcelona with the local press spitting that their opponents gave a “lesson in miserable football” and that Madrid’s spoiling tactics were “a mortal sin” after all the money that had been spent on the squad.

The two sides met four days later in Mestalla for the Copa del Rey final, a match that Sport's Lluís Mascaró described breathlessly as “a final battle between good and evil. Between education and big-city tricks. Between love and hate. Barça cannot fail us.”

Unfortunately for Lluís, Barça did just that with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring a winner for Madrid in injury time to give Florentino a cup-shaped life raft to cling to over the summer. However, the Sport writer took the defeat with dignity by decreeing that “nobody talk about the end of a cycle. May no one from the Taliban media cavern say the blaugrana project is over.”

The third clash between this pair of feuding football teams was the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, a 2-0 win for Barça in Madrid during which the only entertaining moment of a tiresome affair was José Mourinho losing the plot, continually squeaking "Why!?" in the post-match press conference.

Unhappy at Pepe’s inevitable red card, the Special One claimed that he would have been ashamed at winning the 2009 Champions League because of the “scandal at Stamford Bridge” and that “if they win this one, it will be after a scandal at the Bernabeu”.

The Barça v Madrid animosity wasn’t the only bit of inter-club scrapping in April with Getafe and Zaragoza having a bit of a tiff too. Ahead of a key relegation clash, Getafe president Angel Torres understandably complained that their opponents owed €2.8m for the 2009 transfer of Ikechukwu Uche and that the club would go through the courts if necessary to get the money back.

“I’m tired of la Liga being ruined by clubs who don’t pay their debts,” complained Torres, who announced a partnership with the Royal Emirates Group later on in the month to supposedly give the club a sounder financial footing.

Zaragoza’s response was to shrug, scratch their nose and show empty pockets Charlie Chaplin-style. And cheat as well, let’s not forget, in a 2-1 defeat for Getafe at la Romareda during a match in which balls were thrown onto the pitch from the stands and the Zaragoza bench when Getafe were in possession. “There were nearly six balls on the pitch, even the ref could have dribbled one,” fumed Michel.

Atlético Madrid club president Enrique Cerezo responded to angry supporters – who had taken to copying a certain English club by showing their unhappiness at the club’s current owners by wearing yellow and green scarves – by huffing to a question on the matter that the fans must be “demonstrating against the owners of Manchester United, not Atlético Madrid.”

Although it was Spain’s Big Two who hogged the headlines in Spain, perhaps the biggest story that did not receive the full attention that it deserved was the relationship between Osasuna midfielder Javad Nekounam and a famous Spanish department store.

“Corte Inglés take a lot of my money,” explained the Iranian international on a store that aren't by any means fancy-pants rip-off merchants staffed by sullen misery-guts. “Half of Corte Inglés in Pamplona is mine. If someone wants to find Nekounam then go there. If I could, I’d go every day.”