La Liga’s 10-Step Road to Recovery

The game in Spain is going through a decidedly bipolar phase in its existence.

Its debt-ridden clubs owe a good 700m Euro to the tax man and zillions more to each other. The league champions were made into a laughing stock by Liverpool and its clubs barely made a dent in the UEFA Cup.

But at the same time, La Liga boasts the laudable likes of Casillas, Iniesta, Villa, Silva, Robben, Cygan and Xavi. And Guti’s moustache.

The last round of matches, alone, produced cracking encounters such Athletic 2-5 Real Madrid, Atlético 3-2 Villarreal, Espanyol 3-3 Madrid and... er... Betis 0-0 Osasuna.

It could be kicking the all-pace-and-no-precision Premier League’s booty around the car park of world football. Instead, La Primera is a mere clunking clown’s car compared to the sleek, sex machine found in England.

So, it’s high time the blog asks the big question of how La Liga can bring the good times back and reclaim its rightful place on the throne of thrills.

Step One: Violent Death

Everyone involved in running Spanish football - and the blog means everyone - should be rounded up with cattle prods, herded bleating into pens and then fed to crocodiles. Harsh, perhaps, but necessary.

"Bagsy having Maniche"

Step Two: A New Start

The Old Guard’s replacements should be recruited from the world of business, marketing, sport, finance and communications - heck, some of them may even have kicked a football once.

They should be made aware of the big wide world outside Spain with exile to all four corners of the globe to find out how grown-ups run their leagues.

The Spanish addiction to enchufe or patronage should be forbidden on pain of thumbscrews. There must be no repeat of January’s events when, RFEF head, Angel Villar gave a powerful post to disgraced Madrid bigwig Ramon Calderón because he “always helps friends.”

Step Three: Headbanging

The two heads of the feuding TV companies that ‘share’ the rights to La Liga should have their faces thrust into the pile of gnawed, gnarly bones left over from Step One – and be told that they will be next unless they sort their differences in under 10 minutes.

For too long, a squabble that few understand nor care about has ruined the image of Spanish football in a very literal sense. Because of blackouts and bans, scores of countries around the world are missing out on their Spanish football fix.

The most recent of these was Argentina, denied by rights issues the chance to see Atlético vs Barcelona and thus Messi vs Kun.

Because of petty politics and points-scoring, the warring companies have been engaging in Mutually Assured Destruction of their product - a product that is being pulverised by the Premier League.

Many may mock the English game's deliberations on the 39th match, but at least it shows strategic thinking and global awareness.

Two high-quality shows are produced every week for the international market by the PL featuring goals, features and interviews. For foreign fans, La Primera produces naff all except constant grief.

Step Four: Kill Your Idols

The antics of club presidents may be comedy gold for the likes of La Liga Loca, but they are stunting the growth of most clubs in Spain.

Sides being led by egotistical Goliaths heaving in hair gel and possessing a serious sense of self-preservation means too many awful business decisions are made and too many good managers are sacked too soon.

How are Betis ever going to get better with an owner who is currently being investigated for siphoning money out of the club and has a bust of his image taking up a seat in the De Lopera stadium?

Or Atlético, whose president narrowly avoided prison for cooking the club’s books? Or Real Madrid, who have had five presidents in three years? What's required right now are technocrats that are rarely seen and almost never heard.

Step Five: Support the supporter

Watching football should a fun, fruity experience. It shouldn’t involve getting home at 1am in the morning. On a Wednesday. For a home game.

But that’s what frequently happens in Spain, a country addicted to matches starting on one day and finishing on another.

La Liga Loca calls on those in Step Two to ban all kick-offs after 9pm and arrange fixtures more than seven days in advance THAT MAY NOT BE CHANGED THE DAY BEFORE THE MATCH to help those crazy fans who perhaps fancy travelling to see their team.

"I'm going straight to work after, y'see"

Step Six: Retrain referees

“I would like to know why games are refereed in one way in Europe and another in La Liga,” commented Athletic boss Joaquín Caparrós after their 2-5 defeat to Real Madrid - a loss that included eight yellow cards and three reds for his side and many fouls that would have been waved on in England.

The answer to Caparrós’ query is that Spanish referees are the most irritating, power-crazed, officious, whistle-blowing wastrels in the world.

With their nannying and non-stop, er, stopping, the men in black appear to see Primera games as a chance to bully and boss rather than help the flow of a game that stopped being physical in nature some time ago.

Step Seven: Falling Footballers

In a direct link with Step Six, La Loca Loca calls on the players of La Liga to stop giving excuses to referees to whistle and holler by constantly going to ground at any given opportunity.

It ruins games for spectators who pay your wages (no offence Valencia), ruins your fitness levels and just makes you plain silly in Europe - and the blog is looking at you, Real Madrid - when you sit on your backsides waving frantically at foreign referees who are immune to your dastardly cheaty ways.

Yes, you, sunbeam

Step Eight: Stop the Press

The blog is vaguely aware of a proverb about killing the cow that gives you cheese, or something. So it is only half-heartedly calling on the Spanish sports dailies to stop their crazy ways and grow up.

Instead of spending every waking hour crawling up Madrid or Barcelona’s behinds, campaigning to get Florentino Pérez elected or making up ludicrous stories about Steven Gerrard going to the Bernabeu, try some unbiased, sensible shoe-wearing reporting.

The latest edition of Marca is a case in point.

It is filled with a story on why Raúl should be back in the Spain squad, a column about how a brilliant Real Madrid are unbeaten in 2009 (in La Liga) and a letters page from readers with the titles, “Iker is a sporting example,” “[Athletic coach] Caparrós’ teams are too violent,” and “Real Madrid are more solid than Barcelona.”

Step Nine: Sort out the Copa del Rey

At the moment, it's a laughable contest where the little teams are weeded out at an early stage with ties that are played over two legs, meaning that giant-killing shocks are suffered only by those who are particularly inept.

For years, fans, players and the media have been calling for a competition modelled on the FA Cup – but all pleas have fallen on very deaf ears.

Step Ten: Copy Villarreal

If running through Steps One to Nine looks a little bit like hard work and would possibly involve going to prison, then all La Liga needs to do is simply follow Villarreal’s model.

It’s a big club from a tiny town that has a rarely-heard-from owner and a manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who has been in his job for five seasons.

The team invests enormously in its youth system and global scouting network and generally buys low and sells high.

And this is why they are back in the last eight of the Champions League once again – and why pretty much everyone in Spain has big love for them.

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