Tag Archives: la liga

Surrendering the Moral High Ground

Until recently, Barcelona was not only the most successful team in European soccer; it was also thesuarez barca most virtuous. UNICEF’s logo was emblazoned on its jerseys. Its coach, Pep Guardiola, won admirers simply for not being Jose Mourinho. In 2011, longtime captain Carlos Puyol let his teammate Eric Abidal, who had been treated for cancer, lift the Champions League trophy at Wembley.

But as Barcelona’s dominance has eroded – last season, the team didn’t win a single trophy – the club has gradually surrendered its moral high ground. I don’t need to remind you that Luis Suarez made his Barca debut on Monday. Or that a Qatari airline now sponsors the team’s jerseys. Or that Lionel Messi may have committed tax fraud.

Earlier today, FIFA upheld the two-year transfer ban it imposed on Barcelona in April. Apparently, while we reveled in the talents of homegrown stars like Xavi and Iniesta, Barca was illegally importing underage players to its academy. I am thoroughly disillusioned.

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The Very Best Of Friends

It’s La Liga’s winter vacation, and Lionel Messi hasn’t scored a goal in more than two weeks. Which, after Messi’sbarca real era-defining, award-winning, 91-goal 2012, comes as a bit of a relief. He’s good, but enough already. Messi’s Barcelona is undefeated in the league, and with two Champions League titles, four La Liga championships and the odd Official FIFA Triumph[1] under its belt, the team is arguably (because these things are always arguable) the greatest of modern times.

At this point, the ins and outs of Barcelona’s recent history are common knowledge: how homegrown players like Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Puyol, Valdes, Pedro, Busquets and Messi gelled in Barca’s legendary academy; how Zlatan Ibrahimovich, one of the most talented players of his generation, simply couldn’t adjust to Barca’s selfless passing style and eventually fell out with Pep Guardiola (supposedly the nicest man in football, so the joke was definitely on Zlatan); how Spain, a perennial underachiever for most of its history, suddenly became world and European champions, thanks mostly to the same homegrown players (minus Messi) who boarded together as kids. It’s impossible to understand the last five years of football history without first understanding Barcelona. Since 2008, virtually everything that’s happened on the European football scene has happened because of Guardiola-era Barca.

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The Premier League Continues To Excel At Its Own Kind Of Magic

It wasn’t tiki-taka. Geometric precision may have been lacking, but the Premier League’s latest serving beats the rest in spice. As tactical and ideological trends emanating from Catalonia continue to dictate the musings of football’s intelligentsia, the English game remains resolute and stubborn.

Never mind the intricate little noises coming from Spain and the revolutionaries in Italy, here we refuse to conform. Here penalties are better in the stands, strikers when they’re missing and artisans when flat on their faces.

Here the populace care not for immaculate technicians. It is in its parochialism that the Premier League has once again usurped the rest, claimed lost ground in a perpetual battle for perfection. The decline of an overwhelmingly cosmopolitan outpost, coupled with an influx of English talent to the country’s most recent European adventurers has seen the league regain a superiority once considered inherent.

The difference is in the drama. As Tony Evans succinctly put it on Twitter, “football is more poetry than maths.” In search of poetic meaning, hunters had not to look far, the story of Fernando Torres might as well have been penned by Thespis or Aeschylus, such was the distinctness of its tragedy; redemption wiped away by a moment of the utmost horror. Someone high up there clearly owns a Manchester United scarf.

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