A sideways look at Spanish football
La Liga Loca is just imagining the immensity of the frightful kerfuffle. A few minutes after the end of Sunday’s clash between Levante and Real Madrid - one that was both fiery and soggy - there was an almighty noise in the tunnel outside the dressing rooms at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium. There must have been an identical conversation in both of them. “Goodness gracious, what is the manner of that hullabaloo?”
“Oh, it’s just Pepe and Sergio Ballesteros duking it out. Fancy, trying to break it up?”
“My giddy aunt, prevent a scrap between someone with a history of hot-headedness and an eight-foot, 16-stone beast of a man with nothing to lose? I should think not, sir.”
But it’s the fight after the fight that’s talk of the Madrid papers on Tuesday, with the rumbling fall-out from a Madrid victory that left Cristiano Ronaldo with just the one barely functioning eye. To be more accurate, the big talking point is identifying who started the fight after the fight. Unsurprisingly, the answer to that riddle all depends on what side of the great la Liga divide you stand.
What we know for sure is that Pepe and Ballesteros had a bit of set-to after the match, with a few others getting involved for good measure. The referee’s report calmly states that “players, coaches and staff from both teams and security were trying to break up two people who were having a discussion in a provocative and threatening manner.”
The Pepe camp claims the hulking Levante defender went towards the medical room in which Ronaldo was being treated, looking for a bit of post-match afters. Pepe saw this and intervened. Punches were then thrown, apparently. “He’s always the same,” announced Sergio Ramos when things had died down a little. “If (Ballesteros) wants to punch people then he should become a boxer.”
The Pepe-is-innocent story is also backed up by Real Madrid on an institutional level, in the form of a straight-laced 'official communication'.
“At the end of the game, the attitude and behaviour of the players, technical team and members of the travel party were correct and irreproachable at all times,” read the statement, rejecting any accusations that Pepe deserved to be sent to the naughty step.
Unsurprisingly, the Ballesteros-is-innocent camp claim Pepe was all with the taunting and dancing after the match, and took the opportunity to let out some aggression on the Levante man as he innocently popped in to check on Ronaldo’s health. “I’ve never attacked anyone in my life, let alone Pepe,” declared Ballesteros. “I went to see how Cristiano was.”
The centre-back also said that David Navarro didn’t mean to nearly decapitate the Real Madrid man, who was forced to pull out of international action this week. “I spoke to him and at no moment did he see that Ronaldo was there, it could have happened in any game,” claimed the Levante captain.
However, the always imaginative Lluís Mascaró, writing in Barcelona based Sport, has managed to find a third potential culprit in the shenanigans. The title of his entry in Monday’s edition may give a clue as to who that could be - “Madrid, the most hated team in the world.”
“Madrid are received as the enemy in the majority of football grounds. The fault of the situation is, without doubt, Mourinho, with his strategy of stirring things up.”
LLL is forced to wonder if the Madrid manager has a handy left-hook. Would have been useful on Sunday night...
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