La Liga Review 2010/11: Jose settles for Karim as Málaga find a hero
If the culÃÂ© collectiveÃ¢ÂÂs sense of self-worth had drooped a little thanks to DecemberÃ¢ÂÂs announcement that Barcelona would be jumping into bed with the Qatar Foundation and leaving UNICEF as sloppy seconds, then it perked up in the new year when Leo Messi won the 2010 FIFA Ballon dÃ¢ÂÂOr, with AndrÃÂ©s Iniesta and Xavi joining him to help BarÃÂ§a dominate the podium.
And boy was this moment of mid-season glory milked by the Catalan press until the udders had fallen off, with J.M Artells writing in Mundo Deportivo that Ã¢ÂÂJanuary 10 will be a sacred date in the culÃÂ© calendar.Ã¢ÂÂ
The month got even better for Barcelona when Real Madrid dropped points in a draw against AlmerÃÂa and a defeat to Osasuna, leaving the league title as the Catalan side's to lose.
Of course, JosÃÂ© Mourinho managed to find handy scapegoats for his scorn. Against AlmerÃÂa, it was the man-in-the-middle, PÃÂ©rez Lasa, with Mourinho scoffing that Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm not going to complain about the referee. IÃ¢ÂÂve known him since 1996 and the SeÃÂ±or Lasa of 2011 is exactly the same.Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs well informed as I wasnÃ¢ÂÂt in la Primera in 1996,Ã¢ÂÂ replied the referee, whose first top flight match didnÃ¢ÂÂt come until 1997.
MourinhoÃ¢ÂÂs morale-boosting moans about the limited talents of a certain French international striker were also a dominant theme of the month, with the Madrid manager shrugging that Ã¢ÂÂif I only have Karim, I play Karim" after being informed that Gonzalo HiguaÃÂn could be out for the rest of the campaign and that a replacement may not be arriving.
The Special OneÃ¢ÂÂs ire was also turned in the direction of MadridÃ¢ÂÂs Director General, Jorge Valdano, who noted after the AlmerÃÂa match that Ã¢ÂÂthere was a number nine on the bench, if thereÃ¢ÂÂs something this team is lacking, it isnÃ¢ÂÂt goals.Ã¢ÂÂ His underling did not take too kindly to this crime of subordination committed during a TV interview and warned that Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm too old for little messages being passed through the press.Ã¢ÂÂ
With the title race all but over, the Copa del Rey suddenly took on renewed importance for Madrid - less so for Barcelona - with both teams hacking their way through a quick rush of rounds to put themselves on the brink of a meeting in the final.
Talk began over the possibility of starting game at midday on a Sunday to attract the Asian market. It was a move that AtlÃÂ©tico Madrid manager, Quique SÃÂ¡nchez Flores, approved off, noting that Ã¢ÂÂyou donÃ¢ÂÂt know who football is planned for in Spain, certainly not the fans.Ã¢ÂÂ
The January transfer window allowed clubs the chance to make moves that would either lift them towards the Europe places or save their backsides from the trapdoor. MÃÂ¡laga were very much in the latter camp, with Julio Baptista arriving from Roma and going on to play a huge role in the clubÃ¢ÂÂs survival fight. AtlÃÂ©tico thought they had pulled off a coup of their own when announcing Kun AgÃÂ¼ero had extended his contract until 2014. But perhaps the most pertinent aspect of the deal was the fact that the forwardÃ¢ÂÂs buy-out clause had been reduced from Ã¢ÂÂ¬60 million to Ã¢ÂÂ¬45 million, making the ArgentineanÃ¢ÂÂs end-of-season revelation that he wanted to leave less of a surprise.
Up in Santander, Racing launched head-first into what turned out to be a terrible bit of business - and one that could have been avoided with a simple bit of Googling - when the clubÃ¢ÂÂs owners let Indian businessman, Ahsan Ali Syed, buy a majority stake in the institution. Or to put it correctly, make a down payment on the club seeing as the rest of whatÃ¢ÂÂs owed has yet to arrive, with the cheque presumably still in the post...
The heart-warming story of the season began in January, with Levante losing 1-0 to city rivals Valencia thanks to Juan Mata's suspiciously offside looking goal, leaving the club in the deepest of trouble and coach Luis GarcÃÂa in despair. Ã¢ÂÂI donÃ¢ÂÂt want to train on Monday, I donÃ¢ÂÂt feel like it,Ã¢ÂÂ complained the manager who has since jumped ship to Getafe. Fortunately he did, and just two weeks later, he had began to launch the mother of all survival campaigns.