A sideways look at Spanish football
It’s a good job La Liga Loca is a fine physical specimen with cat-like reflexes, or it might not have been one of the few gossip-spreading muck-rakers to have witnessed José Mourinho stick his bottom lip out and give up on the pursuit of Barcelona, even before the Catalan club had picked up another three points against the ever-generous Atlético Madrid at the Camp Nou.
The customary routine in such post-match matters is to allow the press to actually get to the press conference, rather than try to beat them to it. Indeed, the customary routine is to allow the visiting manager to have his say first, the notion being that they most likely have to make a long journey home, and the earlier the start the better. But on Saturday night, the white-flag-waving Portuguese coach was admitting that the jig was up while everyone else in the room was still unpacking their laptops. That certainly irked AS editor Alfredo Relaño, who in Tuesday morning's edition grumbled that it was “a discourtesy against the visiting team.”
Given there are unlikely to be any sightings of Mourinho until Friday's pre-Málaga presser - and even then, it could well be Aitor Karanka turning up in his stead - the Madrid papers will be stringing out this particular goldmine of a story for as long as possible.
Don't pout, Jose...
If Mourinho's surrender was Monday's big story, Tuesday was centred on Florentino Pérez's remarks at a charity event that “as a principle, Real Madrid never gives up”. Heck, even Carles Puyol waded in to stick up for his rivals, saying that “if there’s a team that doesn’t give up, it’s Real Madrid.” Indeed, a kind and considering Camp Nou crowd were backing Mourinho too, with chants of “Mourinho we love you, Mourinho please stay.”
However, it isn’t just the Spanish media who like to keep things rumbling along for as long as possible, but also the Spanish league. Round 16 of la Primera began on Friday night and finished four days later with the completion of Celta Vigo against Betis, a match which ended up as 1-0 win in Galicia for the Sevilla side. The victory sees Betis in fifth, level on 28 points with Málaga, something that tickled Pepe Mel pink. “The absolute priority is to stay up, so it’s wonderful to be where we are with such young players. It’s a dream to be there, and we must hold on to this and not let the dream go.” Beautiful.
There were no happy faces in la Coruña though, with Deportivo only managing a goalless draw against the visiting Valladolid, leaving the team rock bottom of the table with just two victories from 16. “The team has improved but we didn’t win,” sighed coach, José Luis Oltra, whose players had to suffer some of the team’s Ultras hanging around outside the stadium to give them their small pieces of mind on the state of affairs at the club.
Just to make matters a touch more confusing, there’s a delayed first leg, last 16 Copa del Rey match on Tuesday night between third tier Basque side Eibar and Málaga, who will be resting eight first-teamers in preparation for the visit of Real Madrid on Saturday, a match which looks like turning into a whopper of a game of football.
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