While Barça prepare to conquer 'the world' at the Club World Cup, there's more unrest stirring at the Bernabeu, writes Tim Stannard...
For a worrying moment, La Liga Loca thought that it had spent five days completely asleep and missing a rather important story. Not for the first time. Although in that case, the blog had not been asleep but had still missed a rather important story involving faked moon landings and Andrés Iniesta... or something like that.
Flipping through the pages of Marca on a Wednesday morning, there was a coffee dribble of concern when the blog read a match preview of Real Madrid’s second-leg Copa del Rey clash with Cádiz, when the general belief held by LLL was that this game was never going to take place due to that whole Denis the Mennace incident.
In the end, it was only Marca having a josh and a jape about the ghost game by revealing exclusively that Zinedine Zidane was going to be watching the match from an office in the Santiago Bernabeu, ready to take over the post-match press conference in case Rafa Benitez was to become the fourth premature managerial ejection of the Second Era of Florentino after Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.
AS have pointed out that Zizou was ready to take over if necessary, but would prefer to do it over the summer
To be fair, though, the comedy element to the preview was just matching what Wednesday’s front cover was yelling anyway. “Ready” went the banner with a picture of Zizou, currently running Real Madrid’s second team, Castilla. The paper had spent Tuesday going through a player-by-player list on why everyone was underperforming, and was continuing the theme the following day, claiming that Rafa the Gaffer might have his Christmas and New Year freed up a little despite previous public support from King Floro.
Marca aren't alone in this theme, with AS having also spent the week pointing out how this team are miles behind the Madrid of Carlo Ancelotti at the same point last season – nine points and 23 goals – and that Zizou was ready to take over if necessary, but would prefer to do it over the summer if the big cheese’s patience lasted that long.
“Even with great results, it would be difficult for the supporters to like Benitez,” wrote the sympathetic Alfredo Relano in Wednesday’s edition, a day after the paper trumped their annual awards ceremony which chooses the best ‘ASES’ of the year. That never fails to amuse LLL.
The paper also features a story from La Repubblica that King Floro had approached Roma’s Rudi Garcia last summer, ahead of Benitez, but had a polite ‘no’ in return from the Frenchman.
An awful lot of fretting over Rafa's future is down to the fact that Madrid aren't playing midweek and no one is particularly interested in the Copa del Rey at this particular moment, unless a second-string battle between Rayo and Getafe happens to float anyone’s boat. Papers gotta be sold and pages clicked.
Over in Japan
Barcelona are the other main distraction, over in Japan ready to play their semi-final in the notorious season killer, the Club World Cup. Sadly, River Plate failed to ruin a large chunk of FIFA’s fun by squeaking past Hiroshima, and will now wait to see if Barça can overcome Guangzhou, a club where Robinho and Luiz Felipe Scolari have apparently been hiding.
Gerard Pique was shoved up to face the press on Wednesday, so naturally this being La Liga Loca, the thrust of the questioning was about why the defender had referred to Alvaro Arbeloa as an unemotional bleep word that can be found within the name of a town in north Lincolnshire, whose football club is managed by Mark Robins. “Nope,” was the gist of the Barça man, who said that he'd been misinterpreted when calling out the Real Madrid man, in what was a play on words in Spanish.
Hmmm. Time now to see if Pique was a big recipient of an award for being a bit of an AS.