Review of the season: Pep & Zlatan fall out as Madrid move for Özil


The month began as most do in la Liga - with a big, stinky controversy fishier than a Valencia pavement café which was only cast aside by the Spanish press when José Mourinho said something particularly outrageous and offensive.

This particular bit of dodgy business focussed on Hércules - one of the more colourful clubs in la Primera last season - with reports suggesting particular members of the Alicante side may have ‘encouraged’ opposition teams to perhaps not try as hard as they might during the club’s promotion campaign from la Segunda the previous season. 

An Alicante judge investigating potential criminal acts in one of the mafia’s most beloved of business enterprises, rubbish collection, came across a taped phone call of Hércules owner, Enrique Ortiz, reportedly chatting with a buddy about one particular rigged match against Córdoba.

At this point, it is definitely worth noting that everyone at Hércules, including Córdoba and the players involved in the match in question, denied any such skullduggery. The claims could not be backed-up with hard evidence, prompting the Spanish FA and Spanish League to archive the investigation through lack of evidence, with the judge unable to hand over the apparently incriminating recording as it formed part of a completely separate investigation.

Another motivating factor for a spot of head-burying for Spain’s football big wigs must have been the chaos that would have ensued had Hércules been found guilty, with a reorganisation of the promotion and relegation places in la Segunda required just days before the start of the Spanish season, or even midway through it.

Barcelona also found themselves in a bit of a pickle, with Pep Guardiola keen to offload his madcap man-mountain, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Having become another player that the Barça boss had no ‘feeling’ for - we'll call it a bout of Eto’o-itis - the month's back pages were dominated by talk of what the Dream Boys would do with their expensive Swede.

"If you're under my roof, you live by my rules!!!"

‘Nothing’ was the initial reaction from Zlatan’s agent, Mino Raiola, who moaned on the August 18 that he was “tired of the speculation” over his client. This attitude changed days later when the forward was dropped for a Spanish Super Cup clash with Sevilla, forcing a loan deal with AC Milan with a view to his eventual purchase.

It was at that point the yummy nastiness began, with Zlatan complaining that his manager barely had any contact with him. “If I have only spoken to him twice in the last six months, it’s for a reason,” confirmed Pep. “I’d go into a room, he’d leave it. I don’t know if he was afraid of me,” fumed Zlatan who is still unaware that pretty much every one in the world pees their pants every time the giant, martial arts-loving, short tempered old rogue comes into view. Especially after he has been dropped for a key match...

The month began badly within the Forces of Mordor, with permanently crocked Kaká in trouble for failing to report his knee-knack to Real Madrid before going on holiday. There was even a school of thought that he should have sat out the World Cup in South Africa to recover from his rather uncomfortable-sounding groin issues.

José Mourinho then began a familiar refrain that would eventually lead to a huge falling-out and the eventual sacking of Director General, Jorge Valdano. “Real Madrid can’t play 10 months of competition with two strikers,” complained the manager, who was just starting to grow tired of Karim Benzema’s somewhat lackadaisical attitude to training.

With Kaká showing no signs of being fully fit ever again, Madrid turned to Werder Bremen’s Mesut Özil, a forward who Mundo Deportivo took great delight in pointing out had confessed the previous year that he had “been a fan of Barcelona ever since I was a little boy."

The ever reliable Luis Fabiano proved once again to all doubters that he was committed to the Sevilla cause by revealing that “I think my future is with Sevilla, the truth is that I’ve not had one thought about leaving this year.” That changed seven months later when the forward legged it back to Brazil and Sao Paolo.

Atlético Madrid began the campaign with the usual high spirits and a rotund Diego Costa who moaned that “I suffered a lot losing the weight I put on.” The Rojiblancos even lead the table after the first round of matches after a 4-0 win over Sporting, a weekend of games that saw Dull Deportivo’s first of eight goalless draws and an opening day 0-0 for Real Madrid at Mallorca.

It was at this point that AS editor, Alfredo Relaño, clearly decided to curse the Vicente Calderón club with the soothing opinion that “they start the year at peace, with a team people like and accept. They are good up front and safe at the back.”

It was a situation that was to last just a couple more weeks once September came around...