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Clasico of clasicos

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David Bond | 10:27 UK time, Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Madrid

Football has many great rivalries. But few can match Real Madrid against Barcelona for historical and political significance or glamour and star appeal.

And on the eve of this clasico of clasicos in Madrid, the unique pressures involved were neatly illustrated by the extraordinary verbal spat between the two coaches.

Barcelona's normally unflappable manager Pep Guardiola finally cracked after his Real Madrid counterpart Jose Mourinho accused him of unfairly criticising referees.

The Bernabeu's press room gasped in amazement as Guardiola, who was still a player when Mourinho worked as an assistant at Barcelona in the 1990s, let rip, swearing twice on live Spanish television, in a highly personal retaliation.

"In the press room he is the ******** chief. He is the ******** man. I try not to play the game off the pitch. He's much better than me at it. I represent an institution that believes this is not the best way to do things."

Great theatre though all this was - and the papers here this morning have devoted pages and pages to the row - there is of course far more to this match.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will lead a stellar cast of footballing stars at the Bernabeu

First there's the history. Rightly or wrongly, Barcelona supporters see Real Madrid as the establishment club. A view which dates back to the days of the Franco dictatorship when Barcelona became so closely attached with Catalonia's struggle for independence.

That spirit still lives on today, even if the historical barriers are fading with time and seem less significant following Spain's victory in last summer's World Cup - a victory achieved with no less than seven players from the Catalan club.

Then there is the unprecedented series of el clasicos - four matches between the two clubs inside just 18 days. The first League game 10 days ago was a draw but then, last Wednesday, Real ended Barca's recent dominance by winning the final of the Copa Del Rey.

Now the biggest prize of all is at stake - a place in the Champions League final at Wembley next month.

The two squads boast some of the biggest names in world football, fronted by Cristiano Ronaldo for Madrid and Lionel Messi for Barcelona. But there is also Alonso versus Xavi. Mesut Ozil against David Villa.

And the game won't even feature the scorer of Spain's World Cup winning goal, Andres Iniesta, who is injured, or Brazil's Kaka, who is likely to be on the bench for Madrid.

The teams are the result of a transfer arms race which, despite their status as the world's richest clubs, has left them facing severe financial problems.

This might surprise those who hold Barca and Madrid up as the role models for club ownership and management. Both are socios, or mutuals, run by their thousands of members.

No Abramovich or Glazer family here. If the fans don't like the board or the president they can vote to get rid of them. And rather than paying off debts run up to acquire the club the focus is entirely on the development of the club and the team.

Even David Cameron's coalition government has made fan ownership of clubs a policy aim and many supporters groups argue the Spanish system is a better model.

But the democratic nature of these clubs can create political instability and there is concern over debt. Real have net debts of almost £290m while Barcelona are in the red to the tune of £380m.

Both had to raise new funds from banks last year just to meet their spiralling costs and Barcelona's vice president Javier Faus told me in an interview last week that Barcelona were now in a new age of austerity with spending on players limited to £35m a year.

Despite all that they remain hugely valuable clubs - thanks mainly to the fact they, unlike English Premier League teams, are able to sell their television rights individually.

Nothing too democratic about that and there will be plenty of people involved in the English game who will argue that the fairer distribution of media revenues has contributed to the overall global success of the Premier League.

And yet the strength of these two clubs and the success of the national team are still seen as an immense cause for national pride at a time when the Spanish economy is under such intense pressure in the Eurozone crisis.

In between winding up Guardiola, Mourinho described Wednesday's game as a "match beyond this world". So often big games like this fail to match the hype.

But that won't stop Spain coming to a halt tonight or more than 500m people around the world tuning in to see the latest instalment in this unique story.

Real Madrid and Barcelona - the key facts (all 2010 figures):

Real:

Value of club (Forbes): $1.4bn

Revenue: 442.3m Euros

Debts: 326m Euros

Profits: 24m Euros

Value of TV deal: 114m Euros a year

Members: 80,000

Barcelona:

Value of club (Forbes): $975m

Revenue: 415.4m Euros

Debts: 430m Euros

Loss: 80m Euros

Value of TV deal: 178m Euros (Real and Barca are worth 50% of the Spanish football TV market)

Members: 170,000

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Can't wait for it! Hope it wont be a too cagey affair though

  • Comment number 2.

    I find it amazing how the media have played this .. making Madrid the favourites ..
    You guys seem to have forgotten tha Barca whipped R.M 5-0 at the Nuo Camp .

    Yes Pep has lost his cool but trust me with the players hes got on the pitch he doesnt need to do much to get them to win. They have won big games/trophies before and will knw how to handle Madrid .. Forget what Pep or J.M say to the press ..

  • Comment number 3.

    The teams are the result of a transfer arms race which, despite their status as the world's richest clubs, has left them facing severe financial problems.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'm not sure I agree that there has been this transfer arms race. Real Madrid have spent a lot more money than Barcelona in recent years on signings like Ronaldo, Benzema and Alonso. Although Barcelona made a huge mistake paying far too much for Ibrahimovic, they haven't spent near what Real have spent. Barcelona's debt therefore surprises me.

  • Comment number 4.

    hope it isnt as one-sided as last night! who will replace Iniesta?

  • Comment number 5.

    Take it to a new level ? That depends on Mourinho really.

    2 teams playing positive skilful football to a degree our so called Premier teams can only dream of, yes, that would be taking football to a new level but come on when has a Mourinho team enthralled you ? Dont hold your breathe

  • Comment number 6.

    Will be a much better game I think because the referee will not be spanish so Real can't behave like they have in the last 2 games or they will end up with 8 men. I predict a 6-1 win to Barca over the 2 legs.

  • Comment number 7.

    Hope Barcelona put the pretenders to the test! Pep Guardiola is class and hope he will be our next manager!

  • Comment number 8.

    oh yeh...has anyone got a link to Pep losing it?
    would love to see that! shame i dont understand spanish but im sure i'll get the drift

  • Comment number 9.

    @ five-star-reds

    yeah and the Barca players will all get sent off for their theatrics and whining too so it should all even out...

  • Comment number 10.

    barcelona to win with goals from xavi, villa and pedro. Messi to get an assist or 2

  • Comment number 11.

    Barca would not be the team they are now without messi as they showed in the world Cup with Spain starting with 7 Barcans upfront, because he is the catalyst to providing the attacking football they are famous for. In the past too foreign players have always occupied the role of messi.

    Even at the WC Spain in my opinion did not deserve to be the champions due to the type of football they displayed. There was no attacking intent in them without Messi and Torres injured in all WC matches other than the final and was summed up in their opening game loss against Switzerland. Germany and Netherlands deserved it as they played controlled, disciplined, technical and attacking football throughout which was fully displayed in the way the two teams ripped through the unbeaten Argentinians and Brazilians respectively.
    Still for all Mourinho and Pep are world class coaches with two world class teams and I would be expecting a swashbuckling game of football tonight.

  • Comment number 12.

    Mourinho specialises in creating adversity, he motivates his players with an us versus them attitude.

    Guardiola should really have remained quiet, I expected him to and surprised he didn't. Maybe the Copa Del Rey defeat has damaged his ego slightly.

    Without this fuel, Mourinho is lost. In his first season at Inter, they dropped out of the Champions League without much fuss. The next season he used the fact that people were deeming him and his team a failure to win it.

    He plays it like a dream. The 5-0 defeat he suffered has turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him and his side this season.

  • Comment number 13.

    It's not going to be an easy game for Barca. Real Madrid has the psychological edge now. And with the absence of Iniesta who is going to orchestrate all those Tiki Takka passes? I see a 2-1 win to Real. Won't hold my breath though!

  • Comment number 14.

    @GreekRooneyGod7

    Every team does it, including Madrid, so it probably won't even itself out.

    @RichAbey

    Did you even watch the world cup? Spain deserved to win it, they were the only team who didnt change the way they played throughout the whol tounament, Holland and Germany were getting praised for playing flowing attacking football, they play Spain and what happens? They change the way they play and get beat. Spain won the world cup and the Euros and will probably win the nexy Euros aswell.

  • Comment number 15.

    7. At 12:18pm 27th Apr 2011, Montegooner wrote:
    Hope Barcelona put the pretenders to the test! Pep Guardiola is class and hope he will be our next manager!

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Is Pep Guardiola really that good. i mean how hard can it be to manage Barcalona?
    the team picks itself....do you honestly think he could do well at Arsenal bearing in mind the relative lack of transfer funds and recent history of crumbling under pressure?

    im not having a pop at Arsenal who are, on their day, excellent but Pep is used to established world class players...Arsenal dont have many of those

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    @16

    you are right. Man U should not have won 2-0 last night. 6-0 would have been a much better reflection on the game

  • Comment number 18.

    Germany or Holland deserved to win the world cup even though Spain beat both of them and, despite 1-0 scoreline, fairly comprehensively outplayed both of them. Great logic!

    I think the 5-0 game this season created a distorted view of the gap between the two teams. Barca were supreme that night and, for me, are certainly still the better of the two. RM have found a formula that works better at stifling Barca and have said for a while I fear they will come out on top in this tie. I hope I am wrong and I am comforted by the fact that if Barca click into gear, I am more than confident they are too good for any other team, although the loss of Iniesta is a blow.

  • Comment number 19.

    Hoping it'll be a open game and both attacking. Mourinho knows he messed up when they got smashed 5-0 but he's learnt and I think he'll win this 2-0 then lose 1-0 at Nou Camp. As long as its open and attacking I'm happy, and whoever wins I hope they batter Mancs if they are to get to the final.

  • Comment number 20.

    i think that the winnner of this game wont just go to wembley but i think that they will end up winning it as well both teams are far superier to man utd

  • Comment number 21.

    I don't think too much can be made of what Guardiola said, swearing on Spanish TV isn't as big a thing as it would be in England. But it does point to the fact that he is not the cool mastermind that he is often made out to be.
    I think he realises that Madrid have improved and the 5-0 was something of a freak result (Barca at their best and Madrid very poor). The problem he has is that he doesn't seem to have a plan B to Madrid's superb attacking defence and has been playing with a patched up defence against a very fast counter attack. The last two matches have been excellent and have shown once again that Barcelona can be beaten but you still have to ride your luck, defend like superstars and take your chances. This is going to be very tight over the two legs and it is an advantage that Bracelona will play the 2nd leg at home.
    I think Madrid have to go to Barcelona without letting in a goal, 0-0 or 1-0 and they will go through. But if Barcelona score tonight I think Barca will go through.

    Hoping for a Madrid win though.

  • Comment number 22.

    snadge wrote:
    7. At 12:18pm 27th Apr 2011, Montegooner wrote:
    Hope Barcelona put the pretenders to the test! Pep Guardiola is class and hope he will be our next manager!

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Is Pep Guardiola really that good. i mean how hard can it be to manage Barcalona?
    the team picks itself....do you honestly think he could do well at Arsenal bearing in mind the relative lack of transfer funds and recent history of crumbling under pressure?

    im not having a pop at Arsenal who are, on their day, excellent but Pep is used to established world class players...Arsenal dont have many of those

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    Pep would be excellent for Arsenal, and yes he is that good, when he has won a pot full of trophies in all a couple of seasons. He would love our club, stadium and fans; and importantly Arsene's Arsenal try to play a similar way to Peps team and so it would be an ideal signing. However he will only come when Arsene decides his way has come to fruition and takes a boardroom role.

    Yes, thanks for saying your not having a pop and then have one one, but Arsenal have world class players, two of which just played in the world cup final.

  • Comment number 23.

    There is no bigger pleasure than being a United fan, watching a Real Madrid v Barcelona semi final, after yesterday's United performance in Germany and seeing both clubs trying to outmuscle the other one, in the knowledge that one of the two will be at Wembley on May 28th.

  • Comment number 24.

    At 12:29pm 27th Apr 2011, RichAbey wrote
    There was no attacking intent in them without Messi and Torres injured in all WC matches other than the final and was summed up in their opening game loss against Switzerland.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    since when did messi play for spain????????????

  • Comment number 25.

    "And rather than paying off debts run up to acquire the club the focus is entirely on the development of the club and the team.

    In Real's case, this is made a lot easier by the support of the local government who would never let the club go bust. In fact a few years ago, they bought Real's training ground from them for a ridiculous way above market value price, before renting it back to the club for peanuts. Merely a 'legal' way to financially prop up the club.

    So comparing this system to England is very unfair, as this could never happen in England.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm not sure I agree that there has been this transfer arms race. Real Madrid have spent a lot more money than Barcelona in recent years on signings like Ronaldo, Benzema and Alonso. Although Barcelona made a huge mistake paying far too much for Ibrahimovic, they haven't spent near what Real have spent. Barcelona's debt therefore surprises me.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    It doesn't surprise me. This season, Barcelona spent €71.5m on Villa, Mascherano, Adriano and Afellay. All of those who left were free transfers, except Touré and Chygrynskiy, the latter leaving for a €10m loss after about ten appearances.

    In recent seasons, Barcelona have spent heavily. Gudjohnsen cost them €15m, Milito cost €20m, Alves €32m, Keita €14m, and Abidal €15m. They also bought Keirrison for €16m (who hasn't appeared for them yet), Caceres for €16.5m and Henrique for €10m. Touré aside, I can't think of any massive sales that Barcelona have made, with a lot of purchases who haven't made the grade leaving for free or a loss (think Henry, Hleb will likely go for nothing or a huge loss). Smaller purchases have also been made, such as Piqué at €6m and Maxwell at €4.5m.

    This idea that Barcelona don't buy is ludicrous. They recruit just as much as other teams and spend as well.

  • Comment number 27.

    I would like all the British admirers of Real Madrid and Barcelona to have a look at the TV earnings of the Spanish giants, in comparison to the rest of Spanish football and, especially, to the TV deals the English top four sign, to help the entire football system in England gain out of their success.

    And if they feel they have to, to say thank you Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool (they have been top four for 20 years).

  • Comment number 28.

    @ 11

    If Germany and the Netherlands deserved to win the World Cup more than Spain, maybe they shouldn't have both...lost to Spain, right?

  • Comment number 29.

    I cant stand Sky commentators frothing at the mouth whenever Barcelona get hold of the ball. Its unnecessary. HALA MADRID!

  • Comment number 30.

    @Football_UK. Heresy i tell you. That will never happen. most fans don't look at the positive things the top 4 do for the league. They'll rather bash them and say how the gap is widening between them and the other sides

  • Comment number 31.

    If Madrid win tonight, it seems certain to me that the delightful anti football will be Madrid's main tactic next week, so hoping for a Barca win in order to prevent next week being a bore!

  • Comment number 32.

    Hoping for a madrid win, would love to see Ronaldo face his old club

  • Comment number 33.

    @ 30, elondonred,

    tell me about it :)
    Even if the closer parity of the Premiership top sides makes up for a much more interesting league.

    It's so easy to close the eyes to the fact that Real Madrid sent a weakened team at the weekend to play the 3rd team on the table in their home and beat them 6-3, with comfort. I suppose it's far more interesting than seeing top Premiership sides not daring to send weakened teams in important matches because they might have the United experience at West Ham or the Arsenal experience at Wigan.

  • Comment number 34.

    It is not a great system that means that Barca and Madrid get to do their own deals but then I think they would argue that they have much larger fan bases then any clubs in England, for example.
    There are a massive amount of people who live away from Madrid or Barca who are Madrid or Barca fans and want to see those matches each week. So they would deserve a bigger share, I think they would argue. England is not quite like that. Spain is also larger and more difficult to get across and so a large amount of Madrid or Barca fans who live in Andalusia of Extremadura (and loads or people in those regions are Madrid or Barca, not anything else) wont go to matches but will watch them on TV. That is different to Man U, for example, who have fans that can live in the south and travel up to Manchester reasonably quickly and easily.
    The Madrid matches for the later stages of the Champions league are put on local TV in Andalusia and Extremadura for example. There must be a need for it or they wouldn't bother.

  • Comment number 35.

    It seems funny how alot of people are saying that the winners of tonights game will win the champions league as they are superior to Man U. I think both spanish teams would take ferdinand, vidic and evra over who they have and Real would probably take Hernandez for their stikers and Barca would have Nani for Pedro. I also think Rooney is back to his best and he would have Real and Barca worried the same as if they were playing Messi or Ronaldo.
    Whoever gets to the final Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney are that good if one of them puts on a masterclass then they can single handedly win the game for their team.

  • Comment number 36.

    @ 22, Montegooner,

    You forget a tiny, little detail: Barcelona didn't really need a manager to win those trophies.

    Guardiola has no experience in different kinds of approach to football, apart from the Barcelona way, with Xavi, Messi, Iniesta in their prime.

    Plus, he messed up in the Ibrahimovich deal - Murinho ripped him off and he realised nothing on that.

  • Comment number 37.

    Pep would be excellent for Arsenal, and yes he is that good, when he has won a pot full of trophies in all a couple of seasons. He would love our club, stadium and fans; and importantly Arsene's Arsenal try to play a similar way to Peps team and so it would be an ideal signing. However he will only come when Arsene decides his way has come to fruition and takes a boardroom role.

    Yes, thanks for saying your not having a pop and then have one one, but Arsenal have world class players, two of which just played in the world cup final.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    2 world class players compared to Barcalona is hardly a comparison is it? Sorry but neither of those two would make the barca side.
    its not hard to win a pot full of trophies when you have the worlds best eleven to pick every week.
    Arsenal try and play like Barca....the key word is 'try'.
    Pep would have to go from a team of nearly 100% world class players to a team with 2.
    It may work though, i was just merely questioning whether we can really know if Pep if a genuine world class manager.
    Why do Arsenal fans get so tetchy whenever anyones questions anything about their club???
    you ae no where near being anything like Barca....

  • Comment number 38.

    @ 34, porkchopexpress,

    Your argument doesn't really add up.

    United are rumoured to have some 300m fans around the globe and Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool do have their fair share, too.

    What you don't say, really, is that Barcelona and Real Madrid have most of the pie for themselves and, besides this being a fact, they still manage to have loads of debt, all with the eulogies of Mr Platini and ignoring the growth of Spanish football as a whole.

  • Comment number 39.

    Football UK

    Isnt it true that Moratti handles all the Inter transfers? Likewise with Barcelona. Their sporting director handles transfers?

  • Comment number 40.

    few handbags being thrown round here like

  • Comment number 41.

    @ 39, wasifraza,

    I wasn't flying Murinho's flag.
    My point was that, on the Ibrahimovich acquisition, Guardiola was conned big time.
    SAF, Ancelotti, Wenger, Dalglish, Murinho (increase the list at will) would never fall for that, having to hand in E'too in the process.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm not talking globally, I'm talking nationally.

    I don't really say it as I'm not overly bothered about the debt issue but I think Real made a 24 million profit and I don't know about Barcelona and I'm too lazy to google it.

    Should be a great match though eh? Hala Madrid and all that!

  • Comment number 43.

    @ 42, porkchopexpress,

    I'm expecting a cracker of a game.
    Especially, after last night, I'm sure every United fan will double-enjoy these last two Classico encounters.

  • Comment number 44.

    la liga was probably a step too far for Mourinho in his first season, Barca have their strongest ever team and he had to work with a below average and out of sorts Madrid.
    However, Mourinho learned more about Barca after the 5-0 victory than they did about Madrid. he has proven he can beat Barca with any team at any time once he has had time to prepare his team mentally and physically.
    In the Copa classico Madrid should have won by two or three and it was sickening to watch Barca begging for favours from the ref. after they had lost out on 50/50 balls. Mourinho has all his men working hard and tracking back, this didn't sit well with Barca who wanted space and weren't given time either.
    Guardiola knows BArca are expected to win this to prove they are a great team, but it must still rankle him to know that Barca couldn't beat Chelsea over two legs two years ago and needed a highly controversial string of decisions or lack of them to deny Chelsea aclear cut victory. Ironic that Barca are now questioning the selection of the ref, do they feel he should automatically be in their favour.
    They relly showed their class when they turned on the sprinklers on the Inter players last season, I'm sorry to say they are bad losers and inevitably lose their cool, a bit like United in England.
    Mourinho should make history for the good of the game. He is a bigger legend than Messi or Ronaldo combined

  • Comment number 45.

    @ 36: an utterly naive argument. Going by your logic, there is nothing to prove he's not a good manager either then, is there?

    There is however, the matter of being the first manager to win 6 titles in one year. All down to the players? Then what's happened to them in the last 2 classicos? Or is it only Pep's fault when they don't win? But how can that be if you don't need a manager to win trophies, as you claim?

    If you're going solely on the Ibra deal, you could say that about any manager. Is Ferguson a poor manager because it didn't work out with Veron?

    It's an illogical argument. I am surprised that the club don't just fire him and save themselves money on the salary!

  • Comment number 46.

    The only way i see madrid winning is if they can nulify the threat that messi poses. With Iniesta missing i can see madrid winning if barca play their usual high line.

  • Comment number 47.

    Im am so angry that Iniesta got himself injured.As it is Barca is already short of players with injuries.I am afraid it will cost them the UCl this year.I hope they can prove me wrong to CRUSh this Arrogant Mourinho's pride

  • Comment number 48.

    @47 I dont think mourinho is as arrogant as the media makes him out to be. He's a master of psychology and i think pep's conference played into his hands

  • Comment number 49.

    Football_UK

    You must be in fine fettle today. United cruising towards Premiership and CL Final, Barca and Real Madrid preparing to murder each other (meaning you'll probably face an even weaker side than the one that faced Valencia, due to injuries and suspensions), and to top it all off, David Bond give you the perfect opportunity to lecture us on your favourite subjects - Spanish TV deals and the gap between 2nd and 3rd in la liga. I'd hate to watch an el classico with you - "Of course, SummersIron, you do realise that magnificent interchange between Villa and Alves would never have come about but for the unfair TV deal in Spain, which allowed Barcelona to pay their transfer fees and wages."
    I know you'll be in far too good a mood to take this in anything other than the good, jokey spirit in which it is intended, so I worry not about offending you. :)

  • Comment number 50.

    @ 45, stevie_bhoy,

    You have to take things into perspective.
    You have a team that has grown together, with 3 of the world's best 4 players, by a distance (in my opinion). This team is bound to win trophies.

    I didn't say Guardiola is a poor manager - I don't care.
    What I said is he's an inexperienced manager.
    Do you have an argument on that?

    As for the Veron acquisition, SAF didn't give a wagon of cash + Van Nistelroy.
    You have to keep perspective when you come to such examples.
    Also, SAF has built a number of successful sides. He's bound to have the odd banana slice. Even Murinho had it at Chelsea. So what?

    The point is, when Murinho advertises Ibrahimovich as the best player in the world and you see everybody laughing, you have to take a hint and not pay a train of cash plus E'Too.
    Do you agree or disagree on this?

    I didn't say G

  • Comment number 51.

    with a patched up defence and no Iniesta this should be a victory for Real

  • Comment number 52.

    snadge wrote -

    2 world class players compared to Barcalona is hardly a comparison is it? Sorry but neither of those two would make the barca side.
    its not hard to win a pot full of trophies when you have the worlds best eleven to pick every week.
    Arsenal try and play like Barca....the key word is 'try'.
    Pep would have to go from a team of nearly 100% world class players to a team with 2.
    It may work though, i was just merely questioning whether we can really know if Pep if a genuine world class manager.
    Why do Arsenal fans get so tetchy whenever anyones questions anything about their club???
    you ae no where near being anything like Barca....

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we have a very good squad, which needs a few additions to be challenging again next year. I'm not naming names but we have many world class players in the team - including England Internationals!

    Why are you so obsessed with Barca? I've only mentioned we try to play like them and you've gone off on a rant. I personally don't think Pep has the worlds best 11 at Barca, even if a team has ever existed of a first 11 best players in the world? but what I am saying is that Pep would love Arsenal and his chance to build a team he wants, into the best.

  • Comment number 53.

    @ Montegooner,

    Your team is 2-3 players short of being a great side, with threat up front and good defending + excellent passing game. Still, your master has to decide to take the steps to improve your team.

  • Comment number 54.

    Football_UK -

    Pep has only been in management for a couple of years and has already won many coveted trophies, to say he is not good is just a nonsense. How many seasons did it take red nose to win a trophy with Man u?

    By the way Man u were awesome last night, and hats off to that performance. I thought Schaclke were a better team though. You've bounced back from that other semi final...

  • Comment number 55.

    Anyone see Fergie literally hugging referees and opposition players after the match? Haha.

  • Comment number 56.

    11. At 12:29pm 27th Apr 2011, RichAbey wrote:

    "Germany and Netherlands deserved it as they played controlled, disciplined, technical and attacking football throughout which was fully displayed in the way the two teams ripped through the unbeaten Argentinians and Brazilians respectively."

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    Not quite sure what this post has to do with this blog, but I'll answer it anyway.

    What World Cup Final did you watch? I must have missed the one where the Netherlands played in an "attacking" or "disciplined" manner. They kicked anything that moved - 7 yellow cards + Heitinga sent off - and were lucky to finish with 10 men! Doesn't seem particularly "disciplined" to me.

    On Barca vs Real, I'd love to see Barca win it, I love the way they play football. I suspect Madrid will shut up shop, kick, scratch and bite, and look to win it on the counter or at set pieces... and I think they just might do it!


  • Comment number 57.

    @ Montegooner,

    I'm the last to claim I can play the "manager game", but imagine:

    Arsenal sell Fabregas, who wants to go back home and have Ramsey in his place.
    Imagine to use the cash and another £35m and get Sneijder to guide the midfield, with his strength, passing, shooting and leadership.

    Imagine acquiring someone at the front like E'too or Tevez or (add your preference) and have RVP, that someone, plus Walcott, plus even Bendtner as an impact player when a tall attacker is required.

    Imagine you buy someone like Jagelka or Cahill, to have three excellent central defenders (for when one is out injured, plus for competition in places) and still have Koncielny available.

    Arsenal are automatically a better team, with the same way of playing, with better defense and more threat up front.

    Any feedback?

  • Comment number 58.

    'Man U didn't deserve to beat Schalke 04.' Only a pathological hater of Man U can say that. Either you didn't watch the game, or you were just bitterly disappointed Man U was in the limelight and not Chelsea. The game was a one-way traffic. They could've put 10 past the Schalke goalkeeper, but Neuer was at his best. Even as the Schalke coach admited, Man U were at a different level. How didn't Man U deserve to win? With Real Madrid in the final (I hope), it'll be good to see Ronaldo face the team that turned him into a star. Against either Barcelona or Real Madrid, I see Man U laughing all the way to the bank!

  • Comment number 59.

    @ 55, Mr Chelsea,

    If it wasn't for Neuer, the score line would have been closer to your prediction, yesterday. I wouldn't be surprised if SAF needed changing his underwear after the game out of pure joy.

  • Comment number 60.

    footballuk

    I think Fergie couldnt believe his luck at how much of a stroll it was. However though. One goal from Schalke in the return leg and you never know.

  • Comment number 61.

    @ 60, Mr Chelsea,

    I tend to always be a bit cautious but I really can't see a threat from this team except if SAF fields his weakest starting XI.

    To be honest, I couldn't believe that the team I was watching ripped the European Champions apart. My mind kept going to what difference Murinho made to them. Because Schalke were really poorer than Stoke, Bolton, Newcastle, Fulham, etc.

    The other thought was related to an impression that the Premiership is really better value than Bundesliga.

  • Comment number 62.

    @60

    One goal...then another...and no reply from United...even then its a draw...

  • Comment number 63.

    Football UK -

    We need some additions to our team thats obvious, and the players you have named would be nice; but its not down to these blogs, or what we write about this or that player, its only down to one man - Arsene Wenger.

    He has tried his best effort to produce a team without the big star signings and win everything under the sun; in order to prove an important point in todays game when a footballer can cost a club in excess of 50 million. However he has failed in this valiant attempt, as our players have proved time and again that they are too young, naive and have little winning experience to go the step further.

    I hope we do make some signings to improve our team for next season, and if we should fail again, I would be happy if Senor Pep would come in and make a winning team.

  • Comment number 64.

    Yes some United players would get in to the Barcelona or Real Madrid teams, but at the moment collectively as they are both better sides than United. Nani for Pedro? That must be a joke though right?

    The other strain of conversation questioning Guardiolas ability as a manager. It seems to have left everyones mind the absolute mess the team were when Rijkaard left (I know they still won a champions league). The players were all fat or unfit and didnt play anything like the kind of football Barcelona play now. Yeah Guardiola didnt mastermind this style of play and the credit for that goes to Cruyff for what he did as manager at Barcelona when he changed the way the youth teams play and train from the earliest possible age, but Guardiola has brought the TEAM together and has created the bond and sense of family that the players feel towards each other. Yeah anyone can put the 11 out on the pitch, but not anyone can get them to consistently perform the way they do week in week out.

  • Comment number 65.

    @62, GreekRooneyGod7,

    I don't think Schalke have a prayer in Old Trafford.
    They are really weak in fast paced football.

    Who is that Papadopoulos?

  • Comment number 66.

    52. At 14:09pm 27th Apr 2011, Montegooner wrote:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we have a very good squad, which needs a few additions to be challenging again next year. I'm not naming names but we have many world class players in the team - including England Internationals!

    Why are you so obsessed with Barca? I've only mentioned we try to play like them and you've gone off on a rant. I personally don't think Pep has the worlds best 11 at Barca, even if a team has ever existed of a first 11 best players in the world? but what I am saying is that Pep would love Arsenal and his chance to build a team he wants, into the best.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I actually agree with most of what you said. Arsenal are so close to being a great side. as already said 2-3 qulaity players should do it. TBH you should have won the league this year really!

    anyway, i just found it a bit strange that you assume Pep Guardiola would be a success. i personally think he would be a risk.

    nah im not obsessed with Barca (think they are a bit overrated) and was loving it when Arsenal beat them at the Emirates this year. that was an awesome performance. Shame about the total shocker you had at the camp nou but still least you can say you beat them once which aint bad at all.

    Anyway, back to tonights game... im not sure who i want to win.
    i despise all this Barca gushing that goes on but Real Madrid are a bit negative at times.

  • Comment number 67.

    @ Montegooner,

    I may love seeing you failing against United, but I do wish Mr Wenger changes something in the summer.

    A strong Arsenal side is good for the Premiership, from many different view points.
    We all need a strong Arsenal in the Premiership and it is fun seeing you distructing European opposition, to say the least.

    Arsenal are not far from the end product. It's rather final touches than make workload.

  • Comment number 68.

    @ 65 Football_UK

    Yeah Shalke shouldn't stand a chance. They have to win by 2 goals at Old Trafford of all places and that isn't really going to happen is it.

    Papadopoulos is one for the future. He is only just 19 but has loads of potential. Maybe at OT one day...

  • Comment number 69.

    Last night's game was a disgrace to the UEFA Champions League. Hope today's game is gonna be different. Who replaces Iniesta? Thiago or Afellay. Barca's bench is weak compared to Real's and the latter might just edge it yet again.

  • Comment number 70.

    I sure that tonight will be great day for football fans!!! Forza Real

  • Comment number 71.

    Mourinho is not a great manager by any stretch of the imagination. His greatest asset is the mind games he plays and sadly Guardiola has fallen for it. If i had a magic wand, i would wish both teams to be banished as they have the Liga from interesting to boring two horse race year after year. I hope for the sake of the Liga and the other clubs, we will see competition for the title from and not limited to the following: Valencia, Sevilla, Villareal, Atletico Madrid and Deportivo

  • Comment number 72.

    Can't really see either legs being anywhere near classics between these two sides. For one reason only - Mourinho and his anti-football tactics he plays against Barca.

    I watched the Copa Del Ray final and to be honest couldnt believe what I was seeing!
    Pass-pass-foul. Pass-pass-foul. And every time there was a foul no fewer than 15 players would surround the ref!!

    I'm hoping with it being a European tie, with a non-spanish ref the same thing wont happen. Having said that I still think it will be a dull tie.

    On the debt issue - its no big secret, Madrid are bank rolled by the Spanish King. A big fan, I believe. No-one challenged the current Madrid president when the last club elections took place, once voted in he went on the famous spending spree that brought in Ronaldo, Alonso, Benzema, Ozil, Di Maria, Carvalho, Kaka and Arbaloa. Stating at the time it was with money he had made in the construction industry. Mmm. Good one!

    Barca boo-booed big time in the deal that saw Ibra sign and Eto'o go the other way.
    Inter must still be laughing! In fact I'd like to meet the person who negotiated the deal for Inter and shake him by the hand. I hope he was given the freedom of the city and made a life time member of the club because its the least he deserves.

  • Comment number 73.

    35. At 13:37pm 27th Apr 2011, Fergyknowsbest wrote:

    Whoever gets to the final Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney are that good if one of them puts on a masterclass then they can single handedly win the game for their team.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Please! Dont put Rooney in the same bracket as Messi and Ronaldo!

    Rooney is good. But the other two are world class!!

  • Comment number 74.

    i was surprised in the copa del rey that in the 2nd half as real tired and barca started to dominate that mourinho did not use his 2 subs. i thought kaka should have come on. i'm not a big fan of adebayor either.

    the loss of iniesta is a huge blow for barca. the loss of any one of messi, xavi, iniesta, or alves changes the strength of barca greater than the loss of any single player for real.

    i would not be surprised to see real win by 2 goals or more today

  • Comment number 75.

    Football_UK, you actually said "Barcelona didn't really need a manager to win those trophies", the point was nothing to do with experience - do try and keep it relevant, as you would say.

    As for Ferguson, the perspective is clear. He paid £28m for Veron when he was clearly past his best, over 10 years ago. Does that mean he's a poor manager, or does that mean that he signed a top player who just didn't fit into the team for one reason or another?

    Anyway, part of me hopes that Madrid win, so that the final is competitive!

  • Comment number 76.

    @ 75, stevie_bhoy,

    Well, they didn't really need a manager. Did they?
    They put him to manage the first team, from being a club coach, when Messi, Xavi and Iniesta were all three of age, together.

    What experience does he have from other approaches to football?
    All he experienced was passing game, as a coach and as a manager, even now as we exchange postings.
    What teams has he built? He was given one and he works with it, when it comes to the core of the team.
    What elements has he changed to the Barcelona game? None.

    It's not far from that famous comment Allardyce had made about being given a team of this calibre and he would win trophies.

    I can't understand your argument really.
    Can you show me what attributes Guardiola brought to the game?
    Don't take me wrong. I like him as a character and as a football person.
    Just, when it comes to managing a club, poor Hughes has much more experience than him. Prove me wrong.

    As for the Veron transfer, I like your cheek trying to nullify SAF's ability in building honours winning teams. I'm not even bothered to discuss it.
    Watch again yesterday's match on the highlights. With a pint of bitter :)

    Manchester United would find it interest to compare their team against Ronaldo's Real Madrid. They would also like the opportunity to correct a wrong of the other, recent final. After all, they don't hide from bad results but have a proven history in correcting past errors.

  • Comment number 77.

    72. At 15:04pm 27th Apr 2011, Zeemo wrote:
    Can't really see either legs being anywhere near classics between these two sides. For one reason only - Mourinho and his anti-football tactics he plays against Barca.

    --------------

    how is not giving barca time on the ball anti-football?

    that's what barca do. they pressure. win the ball back. don't give you time.

    barca are a great team no doubt. one of the greatest teams. however the way some people go on about them is gross.

    against chelsea it was criminal the lengths to prevent a repeat of chelsea v man u. again this year against arsenal it was very harsh red card. then iniesta getting a pass when he should have been banned.

    the bias towards barca is anti-football if you ask me

  • Comment number 78.

    @75

    He signed Veron in the summer of 2001 - less than 10 years ago. At that point Veron was arguably in his peak. He was the key man in the historics Lazio scudetto crowning just over a year before.

    Fact remains that Veron was never suited to the English game of 2001-2004 when he played in it.

    Personally, I never believed that when he was at his best he could hurt you much anyway, he was always a puller of strings type player, picking holes and creating space rather than beating players and scoring goals.

    But there is no doubt Man Utd signed him right in the peak of his career - he was going to be the key man for a much fancied Argentina in World Cup 2002.

    Much revered in Argentina, latterly he went on to inspire Estudiantes to great things and was a key part in Argentinas qualification to 2010 - albeit a stuttering one.

  • Comment number 79.

    Looking forward to this should be an interesting tie, think Mr Mourinho has got Pep a bit rattled.

    Nice to see the usual Liverpool supporting Barca fanboys out in force, still hoping that Barca can stop United chipping away at their European cup record. Bless...

  • Comment number 80.

    david bond you are clueless. messi is the most overrated player ever to play the game, he's just a white jermaine jenas. in barcelona they call messi the argentinian seamus coleman. jose is tactically inept, couldn't outwit a toddler in a chess match. the game will be won by the sheer raw ability of fernando gago and pedro leon.

  • Comment number 81.

    @ Football UK - Your points about barcelona not needing a manager is one of the most ignorant i have ever read, they are one of the most hardworking teams in Europe, also the reason they let ETo'O go on the cheap was that he was effecting the ethos of the team with his bad attitude, so i doubt for one minute Pep has regrets about his departure. Its one thing to be successful like mourinho, but to do it with the guile, skill and beauty that barca do is a different planet altogether...

    Also anyone who claims Holland played flowing attacking football in the WC are full of it, they played uber defensive and conseravitley. and were dire to watch.

  • Comment number 82.

    75. As for Ferguson, the perspective is clear. He paid £28m for Veron when he was clearly past his best, over 10 years ago. Does that mean he's a poor manager, or does that mean that he signed a top player who just didn't fit into the team for one reason or another?

    ______________________________________________________________________

    Veron was at his peak, he was just a poor fit for the Premiership and that United side.

  • Comment number 83.

    Plus everyone knows why Veron, Blanc and Van Nistelrooy were brought in in 2001 - to add competition as well as quality to a squad that had seemingly stagnated by easing to the title in 2000 and 2001 and living off the Success of 1999.

    George Best stated how the attitude after 1968 was "we'd done what we'd set out to achieve" and the majority were seemingly happy to have won in '68 but had no desire to do it over and over again.

    1999 could easily have mirrored this sentiment.

  • Comment number 84.

    Ferguson bought Veron but also bought Cantona for peanuts, not to mention the well known recent signings, also, for relevant peanuts.
    Wenger bought Jeffers but also brought Fabregas, Nasri, Szczesny, etc.
    Rafa bought whever he bought but also bought Torres.
    Murinho built successful teams in a number of clubs but also bought Gallas at Chelsea and got rid of him right away.
    Real Madrid let Makelele go to Chelsea (and became a pantomime from a top club in the process) because they didn't know the value to them Makelele was.

    What I can't understand is where the point is.
    None of them bought any of the flops they bought, giving away a train of cash, plus a key player. Just, in Guardiola's case, he hasn't made an amount of successful signings to have something in his defense. Simply, because he's still an inexperienced manager. It's not a crime when his managing career started in 2008. Still, it's a fact.

  • Comment number 85.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 86.

    I have it good authority that SAF is stepping down this summer. So am looking at these next 2 legs as the job interview for Jose to be invited to take over OT.

  • Comment number 87.

    77. At 16:11pm 27th Apr 2011, roger wrote:

    72. At 15:04pm 27th Apr 2011, Zeemo wrote:
    Can't really see either legs being anywhere near classics between these two sides. For one reason only - Mourinho and his anti-football tactics he plays against Barca.

    --------------

    how is not giving barca time on the ball anti-football?

    that's what barca do. they pressure. win the ball back. don't give you time.

    barca are a great team no doubt. one of the greatest teams. however the way some people go on about them is gross.

    against chelsea it was criminal the lengths to prevent a repeat of chelsea v man u. again this year against arsenal it was very harsh red card. then iniesta getting a pass when he should have been banned.

    the bias towards barca is anti-football if you ask me
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    Yes, sending off Abidal really was biased towards Barc!
    'Lets make them play with 10 men so they can score a goal in the last min and win on away goals!'.

    When I said anti-footaball I meant foul after foul after foul.
    Some of the things Arbaloa and Ramos got up to made it hard to believe that these guys are all international team mates and world cup winners!

  • Comment number 88.

    plus, why should iniesta have got a ban?

    ramos and i think alonso did the same for madrid who only got fined.

  • Comment number 89.

    @84

    Gallas was at Chelsea long before Mourinho arrived in 2004.

    Guardiola has also made one of the best signings of recent years - Gerard Pique. Not many of Spain's world cup winning squad were picked up for the small change Barca paid for him. Has been sensational already and scarily has his best years well ahead of him.

  • Comment number 90.

    80. At 16:14pm 27th Apr 2011, lukenadal wrote:

    david bond you are clueless. messi is the most overrated player ever to play the game, he's just a white jermaine jenas. in barcelona they call messi the argentinian seamus coleman. jose is tactically inept, couldn't outwit a toddler in a chess match. the game will be won by the sheer raw ability of fernando gago and pedro leon.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    You been smoking some of the good stuff?
    Or just been out in the sun too long?

    lol..

  • Comment number 91.

    @football UK

    Your analysis is quite simplistic, he brought a number of key palyers form the Barcelona 'B' team which he managed. If the team could manage itself, why was it in a state of Free-fall the year before under RijKaard. The fact is in the season of 2007/2008 barca finished 3rd, 18 pts behind Madrid....the next season he won La liga with 9pts to spare, the Copa Del Rey, and the champions League....not bad for what you describe in almost 'football manager-esque' manner as a ready made team..Their work ethic is second to none...anyone who cannot appreciate the difference Pep has made to Barcelona should learn more about the game..

  • Comment number 92.

    84. At 16:20pm 27th Apr 2011, Football_UK wrote:

    ...Murinho built successful teams in a number of clubs but also bought Gallas at Chelsea and got rid of him right away...
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Gallas was already there when Mourinho arrived. Plus he was openly gutted when Gallas left as part of the Cashley deal. He wanted Cashley and to keep Gallas as well.

  • Comment number 93.

    84. Ferguson bought Veron but also bought Cantona for peanuts, not to mention the well known recent signings, also, for relevant peanuts.
    Wenger bought Jeffers but also brought Fabregas, Nasri, Szczesny, etc.
    Rafa bought whever he bought but also bought Torres.
    Murinho built successful teams in a number of clubs but also bought Gallas at Chelsea and got rid of him right away.
    Real Madrid let Makelele go to Chelsea (and became a pantomime from a top club in the process) because they didn't know the value to them Makelele was.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Mourinho didn't buy Gallas, and Cantona was signed for £1.2m which isn't peanuts when the British transfer record at the time was £5.5m for Gascoigne to Lazio.

  • Comment number 94.

    93. At 16:53pm 27th Apr 2011, Ten_Thousand_Fists wrote:

    Mourinho didn't buy Gallas, and Cantona was signed for £1.2m which isn't peanuts when the British transfer record at the time was £5.5m for Gascoigne to Lazio.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Considering what he went on to achieve with Utd I'd say it was peanuts. Still a fifth if the Gazza fee and way, way down on the list of most expensive signings!

  • Comment number 95.

    85. At 16:29pm 27th Apr 2011, Mr Chelsea wrote:

    Anyone see the Guardiola press conference?

    Looks like he's finally lost his marbles. Is there anyone Mourinho cant wind up? Haha.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Not seen it but have read about it. Did he really swear?
    That Mourinho fella knows a trick or two!
    Didnt he hide in a towel basket once when serving a ban a chelsea in order to sneak into the dressing room at half time to do a team talk?

    Genius!

  • Comment number 96.

    zeemo, i think it is you who has been smoking pot. a blind man could see that xavi gives the ball away far too often and is just a poor mans lee dixon. ronaldo would be better if he was faster as he often lacks that yard of pace, however, makes up for it with his teamwork and ungreedy nature. iniesta being injured is no big deal as seydou 'best player to walk the earth' keita will fill in. fergie is a useless manager, never wins anything, although he takes defeats well.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ 93, Ten_Thousand_Fists,

    What SAF had paid Leeds for Cantona was "something for the sake of a deal" because Leeds wanted to get rid of him. If you insist Cantona cost United a fortune, go have a cold shower and come back, mate.

  • Comment number 98.

    tomeffccan you sir, are a fool. jiri jarosik changed the way englidh football was looked upon and should be seen as the cataylst behind englands rise in the game. if the national football team had 11 jiri jarosiks we would have walked the world cup, probably beating spain by 3 or 4 goals...perhaps ross turnbull would also make the side but other than that the likes of drogba and robben will be laughed at by the gods of football such as jiri.

  • Comment number 99.

    96. At 17:06pm 27th Apr 2011, lukenadal wrote:

    zeemo, i think it is you who has been smoking pot. a blind man could see that xavi gives the ball away far too often and is just a poor mans lee dixon. ronaldo would be better if he was faster as he often lacks that yard of pace, however, makes up for it with his teamwork and ungreedy nature. iniesta being injured is no big deal as seydou 'best player to walk the earth' keita will fill in. fergie is a useless manager, never wins anything, although he takes defeats well.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Now I know you're havin a laugh!! Lol.......
    You really that bored?
    Anyway, back to school next week and good luck with your g.c.s.e's my son.

  • Comment number 100.

    "Whoever gets to the final Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney are that good if one of them puts on a masterclass then they can single handedly win the game for their team."

    Here we go again. Rooney has a couple of good games and suddenly hes as good as Messi and Ronaldo.

 

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