Are Zaragoza cheats, or just clever?

Relations between Zaragoza and Getafe were frosty even before Monday night’s fiery relegation battle in La Romareda.

The visiting club president, Angel Torres, had been more than vocal in threatening to have Zaragoza thrown out of the Spanish top flight for failing to meet a transfer installment for former Getafe striker Ikechukwu Uche, who was sold to the Aragonese team for €2.8 million in the summer of 2009.

The failure to pay this installment worth €950,000, along with the inability of Zaragoza president, Agapito Iglesias, to answer Torres’s ten calls concerning the money, left the Getafe bigwig understandably peeved as it prevented him from making his own payments to club staff in time.

“This is fraud in every aspect of the law,” claimed Torres who has reportedly threatened to get his money back either through an official compliant to the Spanish League (LFP) or through the courts.

Taking the first path is an absolute waste of time, considering it isn’t considered a big deal in Spain for clubs to go into administration or have outstanding debts to other sides - despite these being issues frowned upon by UEFA, as Mallorca found to their cost when they were chucked out of this season’s Europa League. Besides, the LFP is run by a collection of buffoons as the debacle of the recent ‘strike’ threat showed.

That thought may have gone through Torres’ mind on Monday as his former striker, Uche, charged through on goal to pass the ball out to Nicolás Bertolo for Zaragoza’s winner in a 2-1 victory over Getafe that sees Zaragoza now sitting just one point behind the visitors, who have still managed just the single league win in 2011.

Zaragoza were profiteering on Monday night in two respects - by taking advantage of the apparently freebie Uche in the game and by depriving their opponents of both the player and the financial means of replacing him.

But there was more skullduggery to come in the match, with no small amount of blatant cheating from Zaragoza. As Getafe pressed for an equaliser in the final minutes, extra balls suddenly appeared on the pitch. Therefore, every time the visitors pressed, the game had to be stopped, interrupting Getafe’s flow, somewhat.

“There were nearly six balls on the pitch, even the referee could have dribbled one,” fumed Getafe manager, Míchel, who cut an understandably livid figure on the touchline.

Zaragoza manager, Javier Aguirre, claimed he felt “ashamed” by what had happened. “I apologise publicly in my name and that of Real Zaragoza as I don’t like it. I’m a defender of fair play.”

Sadly not everyone on his team shares such noble values as at least one of the extra balls introduced onto the pitch was rolled out by someone sitting on the Zaragoza bench, an action that has brought out the sabre-rattling Daily Mail reader in LLL, with the blog calling for Zaragoza to have the three points gained on Monday night taken away from them, perhaps with a further 15 point deduction on top of that for good measure. And that’s before dealing with the fact that their star striker shouldn’t have been out on the pitch in the first place on moral grounds. 

But that’s the way things seem to run in the Spanish game, which favours ‘los listos’ over the ‘los buenos’ - the ‘clever’ over the ‘good’.

You want to fix matches to stay up or win promotion? No problem! All cases will be ‘archived’ by the FA and LFP as with the evidence and accusations against Hércules.

No intention of paying for players you sign from other teams, leaving them in the lurch as with Mallorca’s purchase of Ariz Aduriz from Athletic Bilbao? Don’t sweat! There is nothing in the statutes preventing you from doing this. In fact, it’s almost the done thing.

Want to chuck extra balls on to the pitch? No biggies. Just apologise and everyone else will just forget about it. After all, it’s not as if it happened to anyone important is it?