Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Quote Of The Day

The difference between Madrid and Barcelona is the difference between an antelope and a lion. And I don't remember a single documentary where the antelope wins.

Marca's Roberto Palomar. Having watched El Clasico between Barcelona and Madrid on Sunday, I'm inclined to agree with him. Not the whole antelope-and-lion bit, but the not-winning bit. Barca are now seven points behind a very solid looking Madrid, still yet to play at the Bernabeu. They put in a pitiful performance on Sunday night, they really did. Iniesta was the only bright spot - other than that, too many people had too quiet games: Eto'o, Deco, Xavi to name just three.

And then there's Ronaldinho. I think it's become clear that him and Barca must part ways. I say this with a somewhat-but-not-completely heavy heart. Most will understand by ambivalence. On the one hand, he is still young, and there is the feeling that the right manager, someone who would light a fire under his ass, could get him nearing the heights of his 2004-2006 form, still fresh in the minds of Barca fans. On the other hand, however, he looks increasingly overweight and not committed enough (hmm, I haven't typed those words on this blog with respect to anyone else, have I?), and I'm not sure I would want someone like that on my team, irrespective of the manager.

I don't think anything will happen in January, even if Milan or Chelsea (the two most interested suitors) come in with an outlandish offer. I think the club will give Rijkaard a chance to steady the ship, to see if he can get this La Liga campaign kick-started after the new year and still put in a solid performance in Europe. I also think that after his play against Real, nobody will complain if Ronaldinho is on the bench the rest of the year, unless his training and practicing habits change. This will allow Rijkaard to play the team he wants, and see how good that team can be. A Barca with Ronaldinho out, Messi fit and Eto'o and Yaya Toure back from the African Nations Cup will still be a massive contender in Europe, though as I said earlier, I think the 1-0 loss to Madrid at home has effectively ended the La Liga campaign. At the end of the season, the club will see where it's at and will in all likelihood let Rijkaard walk and sell Ronaldinho for an exorbitantly overpriced fee.

By the way, just a word about Madrid: they are an excellent team. They are very much for real, and they along with Man United are my new favorites for the Champions League (with Arsenal, Barca and Inter my second tier candidates). They are very different from years past and have a very steely look to them both in the middle of the park and up front. Not that Real ever really fly under the radar, but I feel people have sort of forgotten about them this season, and I have no idea why. They never really gave Barca a chance on Sunday and thoroughly outclassed them. It didn't even look particularly competitive, which was the worrying thing for me personally.

Please come back, Messi.

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