Why Barça are losing the Madridista mind games

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Football is one of the few sports that both the ‘anglosajón’ English and Spaniards both share a big love for.

Of the other candidates, motor racing only became popular when the brooding figure of Fernando Alonso entered the scene, although you’d think that it’d been massive for decades when considering the coverage the sport receives on a daily basis.

Rugby is growing in popularity, although mainly among the Land Rover driving brigade, while boxing is largely overlooked, what with the complete lack of a bull being slaughtered at the end of the bout.

Well it wouldn't it be a proper sport without a bull, would it?

The one game which remains a complete mystery in Spain is cricket. And that’s a shame for those in Catalunya, especially as the concept of a straight bat would be quite handy right now.

For the millions in Barcelona who stood by and enjoyed the dramatic demise of, former Madrid president, Ramón Calderón with a bit of a chuckle, the payback has begun in earnest.

The formerly maverick Marca has now returned to its wicked ways by causing mischief and mayhem on behalf of the Madridista cause. And it's working.

Merrily joined by AS in the latest footballing fun and games, the paper has begun claiming that all the big guns of world football will surely be gathering at Castle Greyskull this summer.

The fact that their ‘stories’ surround presidential elections whose date has yet to be confirmed and potential candidates who (takes deep breath) have yet to join the race or make any declaration on what their theoretical intents would be if they were to, is by-the-by.

Besides, what are little things like facts and figures when the fun of upsetting the likes of Milan, Arsenal, Manchester United and - most importantly of all - Barcelona seems to be the raison d’etre for such trouble-making titillation?

Marca and AS’ less-than-opaque support for Florentino Perez currently has both papers scouring the world for anyone who may be an acquaintance of the figure described by Marca on Monday as a ‘Goliath’ to give their opinions on what he may or not do, should he decide to run. Which he has yet to do.

And that’s why the latter picked up on an interview with Arrigo Sacchi - a sporting director under Perez - to boast that Ronaldo, Kaká and Messi would all be coming to the Bernabeu in moves that not even the craftiest of real estate deals would be able to fund.

“Kaká to play for Real Madrid?” was Marca’s lead on Saturday in the Madridista tag team of rumour mongering. “Never” was Silvio Berlusconi’s reply.

The paper then started to suggest that Perez would be bringing Messi over from Barcelona, were he to run for the presidency, citing the infamous case of Luis Figo’s betrayal of Barcelona as precedent.

Figo endures frosty reception from Barca fans

“The figure of the ex-president has such power that in Barcelona there isn’t a press conference where the Figo case doesn’t come up,” wrote the paper’s editorial over the weekend.

Marca may be correct that the ridiculous notion of the Messi move is brought up in every press conference, but that's because it’s their journalists who are no doubt stirring the you-know-what in the Catalan capital.

On Friday, Joan Laporta responded to the Messi stories by saying that he hoped that “Madrid can maintain” the policy of peace and good relations between the two clubs.

Unfortunately, this was the wrong approach for Laporta to have taken.

This was a time when a simple straight bat was required to knock the ridiculous rumours back to Madrid where they came from.

By even bothering to respond to the stories, Laporta gave the Madridista press cause to sense blood. They were emboldened still further when, Catalan daily, Sport assured its readers that “Messi will not be another Figo case.”

But so spooked were Barcelona that Laporta spoke, once again, after Saturday’s victory over Numancia to attack what he saw as ‘a campaign to destabilise’ the club by unscrupulous rivals.

They even dragged Messi himself in front of the cameras for a television interview where he declared that he ‘felt at home’ at Barcelona and had no intention of leaving.

"I'm staying OK. Now can I go outside and play?" 

The Catalan club should not even be entertaining the idea of joining in the latest Madridista mud fight.

Whenever the inevitable questions come up in the daily Camp Nou press conferences, the interviewee should whistle, blow raspberries or speak in tongues in response - anything but give what is a complete non-story yet more mileage.

But instead, it seems that Barcelona will continue to be the footballing equivalent of Phil Tufnell by haplessly swinging away at the Madridista googlies, when a more moderate, ‘anglosajón’ approach is perhaps required.

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