Last night, the world looked on as the biggest club clash on the planet offered up what was sure to be an enthralling spectacle. After 90 minutes, many were left scratching their heads as to what they had just witnessed. What a shocking display.
There is something rotten happening in Spain. Something poisonous. A mold that has festered its way into the foundations of La Liga’s two giants to such an extent that it has become ingrained in their very identities.
Last night saw some of the greatest players that have ever graced this earth engage in such a level of histrionics that it descended into farce. There is no sugar coating it, what Real Madrid and Barcelona are currently presenting to the world on a weekly basis is cheating.
Recent years have seen Barcelona raise their level to such an extent that during the four year spell from 2008-2012, they amassed what was arguably the greatest footballing side of all time. However, such glory often comes at a cost and in Barcelona’s case, it seemed to be their integrity.
It has been cited on numerous occasions just how easily Barcelona players will hit the deck. A light touch on the shoulder, the faintest contact with a calf… anything is enough. The most deplorable aspect of their approach however is in their clear and intentional efforts to have opposition players sent off.
Barcelona fans may claim that this is unfair or simply untrue but an objective search of the words; “Barcelona” and “Cheats” returns over 45,000 results on YouTube. A quick look at the first result leaves little room for argument and Barcelona supporters are only worsening the problem in any attempts at justification. If it is ever to be stopped, such behavior should be condemned.
In the closing 30 minutes last night, the game lost itself in a barrage of flying tackles, dives and general histrionics. As the game crumbled into chaos, Cristiano Ronaldo took the ball into his possession deep in his own half and attempted to skip past Javier Mascherano. He was cynically taken out and as the former Liverpool man walked away, Ronaldo raised his legs, tripping Mascherano in the process.
The Barcelona man tumbled to the floor as if it had just been speared from behind, Ronaldo was disgusted and decided to give him a tug on the ear to convey his disapproval. Cue the Argentinian rolling around holding his face in writhing agony.
Whether Ronaldo’s trip and ear pull was worse than Mascherano’s foul and play-acting is irrelevant. What is relevant is that this is now common place. In a game that is supposed to be about skill and technique, this is the norm.
The problem with the two power houses in La Liga is perhaps linked with the fragile nature of the managerial positions. A trophyless season at the Camp Nou or the Bernabeu will often result in a coach’s sacking. Carlo Ancelotti won the Champions League last season and had been on a 22 game winning streak which only ended in January. Now, he is being highly muted for the sack.
Luis Enrique was rumoured to have fallen out with Lionel Messi just two months ago and considering the Argentinian’s importance to the Catalan club, Enrique’s job was reportedly on the line.
When the man in charge is subject to such pressure, when livelihoods and reputations are at stake, winning at all costs becomes the only ojective. And anarchy awaits.
Many credit the Spanish league as the illustration of how the game should be played, a perfect representation of the idealistic “beautiful game”. If this is the case, if what was witnessed in the Camp Nou last night is the embodiment of the purest form of the game, then thanks, but no thanks. I’d rather watch Stevenage and Shrewsbury duke it out. At least there you can find some integrity.