A sideways look at Spanish football
La Liga Loca is planning a film of the last five months of Carles Puyol’s life. To do so, we will need a bit of money from FourFourTwo’s coffers, a lease on Brian May’s hair and Bruce Willis under strict instructions to play the sort of beaten up, down-on-his-luck, tough cookie, Last Boy Scout character the American dined out on in the 90s after such a promising comic start with Moonlighting.
In this near half-year spell, the Barça defender has largely been responsible for the club’s entire medical bill - the rest has been to pay for the endless requests from Sergi Busquets for plasters to help sooth his “hurties”. In May, it was knee surgery. Soon after recovering from that at the start of the new season, Puyol managed to get his cheekbone dented in a dust-up against Osasuna. A fortnight later, the perm-haired hero landed badly in the Coliseum in a clash against Getafe and was expected to be out for six weeks thus missing Sunday’s Clásico.
However, after what LLL likes to imagine was a quick nip of whisky and a wise-cracking drag on a cigarette, Puyol was back for Barcelona’s Champions League clash against Benfica and lead a considerably more secure (and Song-less) back line alongside Javier Mascherano, just in time for Sunday’s visit of Real Madrid, which would have been a little fraught without the team’s fearless footballer to steady the ship.
But then Puyol hurled himself at the ball at a corner and landed heavily on his left arm to leave it looking horribly out of shape. With the kind of reaction of immense agony that Busquets and Cesc Fabregas display when a butterfly lands on their heads, Puyol was stretchered off and is set to be out for up to two months - or four or five days, perhaps - with what is thought to be a dislocated shoulder.
The vibe in the Catalan capital the morning after was ‘what a shame’ with a solid display ruined by more misery for Puyol. “Smiles and tears,” read Wednesday’s headline in Mundo Deportivo with a supportive Sport cheerfully yelling, “Forza Puyol!”
The positive news from the Benfica win, though - aside from a clean sheet - was goals for Cesc Fabregas and Alexis. The former had been grumbling about wanting to play more, while the latter recently admitted that he would only give himself (generously) five out of ten for the season.
However, a stubborn streak in Tito Vilanova meant that both players got the chance to continue to prove themselves. “The more debate there is over them, the more I’m going to play them,” advised the Barça boss, kicking off a cunning plan in Marca to blast headlines about Cristian Tello and Alex Song being the worst players ever to have set foot on a football pitch. Yet another cunning plan as Sunday’s Clásico creeps ever closer, a match that will be missing Barcelona’s battered and bruised battler.
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