Barcelona’s dark side is at last exposed

The ban issued by FIFA yesterday states that Barcelona did not make things well when signing talented youngsters. In fact, although FIFA prohibits to sign under 16 years old players within the clubs country and under 18 international players, the club has always be proud about his ability to recruit talented children. “La Masia”, a kind of college where children life, learn and play football, has been always praised as the true reason for the professional team’s success.

Barcelona violated the Spanish legislation thanks to a very simple trick. If it is prohibited to take a child out of his family and environment, they give a new job to his parents and thus the family has a reason to move to Barcelona. There is no more illegality.

However, many players, like Iniesta, lived alone in “La Masia” and have admitted that although the effort was worthy, they used to feel alone, cry and miss their parents.
It seems that Barcelona has been using this trick also with players from all around the world, including some Korean players, whose case has become the “casus belli” for FIFA to act against Barcelona and hand a transfer ban.

Taking a child out of his city or country with the promise to become a football star is quite questionable. And also illegal, but very few times football institutions or justice interfere in those cases.

At last they have decided to stop this practises, but press and people from Barcelona argue a persecution against the team.

The team that brought football into perfection and was admired worldwide, with children from all around the world changing their Manchester United, Real Madrid or Milan t-shirt for the ones with the number Messi, is not as honest and clean as people thought.

First justice accused mega star Leo Messi of tax fraud. The player did not seem to be very eager to pay taxes in the country that has make him multimillionaire since he came to Barcelona (oh, surprise), as a 13 years old children.

Then former team’s president Sandro Rosell lied and cheated claiming that Neymar’s signing cost was 57.1m of Euros. That number was not only a lie (it cost around 90m Euros) for Barcelona supporters but also hide a 9.1m euro tax fraud. And the player’s father earned around 40 millions in the transaction.

That case showed the dark practises used by Barcelona at financial issued and both with the bad treatment that two seriously ill players like Pete Mickael,and Eric Abidal received, being ejected in a bad manner with a very few recognition, make clear how things are made lately in the team.

Barcelona is not that fair, clean and honorable club that many defended as an example for the others. Barcelona is a club like many others, with his bright side and also a dark side. Although supporters prefer to blind their eyes and blame Madrid, press or FIFA it is clear that things are not being done as it should be lately in Barcelona and some are starting to claim elections to try to change the course of latter events.


Carles Puyol: a hero in the shadows

Rights: Tony Garriga/EPA

In football, as in other many team sports, some collect the glory that has been sowed by many. Pep Guardiola’s super-team made history by winning everything and playing a football that had never seen before. Ultra offensive systems, keeping ball possession throughout the match and heading always towards the rivals goal were the DNA of that team. Xavi, Iniesta and above all Messi were praised as responsible of that wonderful style, covered by individual awards and venerated by press and sport fans.

But the most offensive team ever remembered had never succeeded if the defence did not have such level. And that team was able to play that way because defenders where at least as outstanding as attackers and Carles Puyol have much to do with that. There is no doubt looking at his achievements that he is one of the best defenders of football history. 6 Spanish Leagues, 3 Champions Leagues, 2 Cups, a European Championship and, above all, a World Championship where a header goal of him allowed Spain to beat Germany are his career’s highlights. But he was more than just an outstanding player playing for winner teams.

Puyol has been the most intense player ever seen on the pitch. He always focused on detail, trying to correct mistakes and wrong positions and, above all, never loosing his intensity, his hunger for winning more and more and never surrendering in adverse situations. He was a true leader, that ruled in the dress room by a exemplary behaviour.

He never let Barcelona fall into snub towards the rival. If a teammate celebrated a goal in a depreciative manner, he came to him, running, and stopped the situation. You can not remember a bad behaviour from him; he never looked down on a rival and always used effort, hard work and fair play for success. Even to overcome the uncountable injuries that punished him during his long career.

He will leave Barcelona at the end of the season and the story of this terrific player at the top level will see his end. Puyol is and example of what a professional athlete must be for everything described above and although in a few years to come people will remember Messi’s and Iniesta’s Barcelona, the most fanatic fans of football will record that the one that protected the back of those players was an extraordinary defender that played for Barcelona during 15 years and felt the t-shirt probably more than anyone before.

The bright side of Walcott’s injury

Theo Walcott’s injury, that will take him out of the pitch for almost 6 months, may seem a terrific new for the Gunners. And in fact it is, as comparing him with his fellows he has some skills that few of the other attacking players have (like speed or ability to use spaces, as he is the only pure winger of the team). But in Wenger’s hands is to turn this problem into an opportunity.

Walcott’s injury time could allow to change positions thay may benefit the team’s play. For example, Cazorla would play as right winger and Wilsherse on the left. This way Ramsey, Cazorla, Ozil and Wilshere could be on the pitch altogether, something that has still never happened. Which team in the world could put on the pitch four so skilled and technical players? Just a few and none of them in the England.

Walcott’s injury could also give an opportunity to one of the most promising youngsters of the team: Serge Gnabry. The German has always demonstrated to be a raw talent and the manager has never hidden his hopes on this player. However, Walcott has been a king of  “cap” for him and with the gunners out of the Capital One Cup, the German did not seem to have many chances to shine this season, as the team is fighting for 3 tittles and Wenger prefers more experimented players as Walcott or Rosicky in his position.

That way Gnabry will play more and if he is that world class players that he seems he will consolidate as an important player for big games, and not only a substitution for the last 10 minutes.

The other bright side of Walcott’s injury is that Wenger will probably need to sign a new player, as many of the Arsenal fans wish. They are sick to death of seeing how other Premier League clubs sign high profile players while Arsenal signed worse ones due to budget adjustments.

For the first time in many years Wenger has big money to spend and if he needs a player, he will sign a world class one. No more Gervinho or André Santos. Next signing will be more like Ozil than like those ones. And provided that Bendtner is also injured, the manager knows that the only way to keep on fighting for titles is to spend money and sign players that would allow Arsenal to make a step forward.

Walcott will be ruled out for the season, but his absence will open new opportunities for his team and I bid that Gunners will not miss him as much as it is thought.

Another question is to know if at 24 and being at the top of his professional career he will comeback and be the same good player, as this kind of injuries are so complicated for football players. But Wilshere went through this and he is now againt on his best.

England will also be harmed by Walcott’s absence, as he will need a miracle to be fit for the World Cup and Roy Hogdson’s team cannot substitute him by signing any player.

His image celebrating Arsenal’s win against Tottenham is an evidende that we will always look on the bright side of life. That is what he did on the stretcher and what Arsenal fans should do now.

A minute’s silence for Thatcher is out of place


The recent passing of Margareth Thatcher has create a debate about whether she deserves a minute’s silence or not in this weekend Premier League football matches. Wigan’s chairman requested a tribute for Baroness Thatcher at his side’s FA Cup semi-final against Millwall on Saturday but the idea was rejected. The FA, as institution, will not honour the former Prime Minister, but teams, as individuals, are allowed to keep a minute’s silence if they wish.

The fact is that with such a controversial personality been honoured, both loved and hated at the same rate, it is easy to imagine that the detractors would probably whistle during the minute’s silence. A demonstration of respect could, this way, turn into a demonstration of hate or any kind of negative feelings that have nothing to do with a football match.

But I want to go further. Why should a football field, or even other sport field or stadium, pay tribute to a politician? Does that personality have anything to do with sport? Did she represent  the values of sport? The answer is no. In our modern society it is usual to use big gatherings of people for political purpouses, making an ideological use of crowded places. I could understand a football field paying tribute to a recently dead legend of sport, but to a politician? What is the real sense of that?

Sport represents equality and, in some way, unity. Every person is equal when joining a football team, they are valued for their sport talent not for any other feature that  society uses to separate and discriminate human beings, as ethnic origin, religion or purchasing power. In this sense, politics mean division: the ones who think one way against the others. Perhaps in England and some cultures politic parties are just rivals, but in other countries, like Spain or Italy, we can consider them enemies, as they come from a non-democratic history. And thus de division is even greater.

Margareth Thatcher, as many other political personalities, does not represent those sport values of fraternity and there is no sense about paying tribute for her. Even when supporters of two different teams tend to discuss and row there is always something that joins those supporters who  strongly hate the rivals colors: the love for football and sport, and it’s values. They are rivals, no enemies. Unfortunately, Thatcher created many enemies during his mandate.

I always  thought that mixing politics and sport is disgusting. Politicians have many times tried to use crowded gatherings to support their interests, but sport does not deserve to be stained by their vile deed, giving ideological meanings to social meetings that represent just love for sport. Minute’s silence for Margareth Thatcher are out of place in football stadiums and if any club decides to pay her tribute I would not understand people critizing the ones that decide to boo, as it would be a democratic expression of their feeling towards someone that, probably, did not benefit them during his mandate. An it is their right to express their disagreement.

The fourth position trophy

Photograph: EFE

The winner will not get a trophy to exhibit in the club’s museum. “We are the champions” will not sound in a crowded celebration and the club’s name will not appear in the list of winners of any championship or cup and remain there for the history of football. But from now on three teams will struggle for something more important than any title: the future. Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea need to get the last Champion’s position each of them for different worrying reasons. But for all of them the 4th position will mean more than a FA Cup or a Capital One Cup.

Arsenal seems to have improved their finances and for the first time in some years Arsene Wenger is going to manage a big amount of money to bring the team back to the winner’s way. However, to sign up “top” players is essential be playing de Champions League. It would be hardly improbable for any of the best players to accept signing for a club that misses the greatest team competition of the world. Not getting the forth position could bring the Gunners to a paradoxical situation: they will have the money to sign top players, but those players would be ready to lower their status by playing the Europa League instead of the Champions League. And that doesn’t seem much probable, so achieving the unique still remaining objective for the season is the only chance for Arsenal to overcome their mediocrity.

Eight years has already passed since Arsenal won a trophy last. If they are unable to sign good players, their lack of tittles will continue and another problem will be added: it will be difficult even to compete for the Champions League positions. Arsenal could suffer the same cycle of decline like Liverpool: without playing CL it is more difficult to convince top players to join the club and without good players it is impossible to reach the fourth position in such a competitive league as the Premier.

In the case of Tottenham, the situation is similar, as they have a Top 3 player in Europe right now, which will be improbable for them to keep if the team is not playing CL. Of course, I am talking about Gareth Bale, one of the best players of the world for which many of the greatest teams in Europe will bid in summer. But Bale has just played the Champions League once when Tottenham lost abruptly by 5-0 aggregate against Real Madrid in 2010/2011 season’s quarter-finals.


Such a gifted player is thought to compete not only for doing a good performance in the world’s best competition, but to try to win it. Above all because Bale was born in Wales and his only opportunity to shine playing international competitions must be with a team, as his national team will hardly clasificate  for the World Cup or the Eurocup. So he will not wait any longer to get the European glory and if Tottenham fails in obtaining the Champions League place, it will be complicated for them to retain their best player.

For Chelsea, the up-to-date European champion, not getting the fourth place would be a complete disaster. They own some of the best players of the world and their massive budget do not let room for doubt: Champions League is a must for them. The situation in Stanford Bridges’s team is stormy. With Rafa Benítez complaining about the supporters’ attitude and Abramovich’s decision of calling him “interim manager”, if Arsenal gets closer in the classification the players and the supporters will agitate the environment and that could be really harmful for the blues.

They are still playing for the FA Cup and Europe League tittles and that factor is thought to be always dangerous, as it will not be easy for the players to keep the concentration on league matches.

Photograogh: Getty Images

Tottenham has 54 points, Chelsea 52 and Arsenal 47. But the Gunners will just play league games until the end of the season and the coming matches seem much easier: in the remaining 10 matches, they will only face Everton and United as the hardest games.

Chelsea and Tottenham will play against each other, which will give Arsenal a good chance to regain some points. Also, both teams will face Liverpool and Everton, who  have European wishes, and they probably lose points in those games. We must take into account too that both Chelsea and Tottenham are trying to win the FA Cup and the Europe League, which be a factor of distraction in the home competition that will give the Gunners a chance, although being 5 points behind, to get the so needed Champions League position. In any case, it will be hard for the three of them and allevery of the 10 remaining matches will be played as finals.

Operación Puerto, a cover-up operation

It’s true that what is been judged in the famous trial OP is a crime against public health. But considering that about 200 athletes (and not only cyclists, as Eufemiano Fuentes admitted) have been involved, at least that’s the number of blood bags that where found when Fuentes where arrested, its seems that the trial should go far beyond whether Fuentes put at risk his patients health or not.

Doping was not a crime when the OP was released, but it’s clear that many athletes doped during that time and so few have been punished for it. Spanish politicians claim that there is no a doping problem in the country, but new revelations don’t let room for doubt: while other countries hunt their cheaters and don’t take into consideration whether they are big stars or not, Spain protects the athletes and avoids to reveal wide doping scandals.

Among the witnesses of the trial no Spanish rider (Beloki, Unai Osa, Nozal, Vicioso, Marcos Serrano …) has ever admitted taking drugs, except Jesús Manzano, whose testimony to the newspaper “AS” encourage the Police to start an investigation. But the foreign riders testimony was quite different. Jorg Jaschke and Tyler Hamilton claimed that Eufemiano Fuentes supply them with performance enhancing drugs and made them blood transfusions in his office. Both of them and Jesús Manzano stated that Eufemiano created a doping web comparable with the one that, as USADA has revealed, helped Armstrong in his sport success. On the contrary, Spanish rider Vicioso stated that Fuentes provided him only with painkillers and Serrano told the panel that he used the doctor as a translator, due to his language skills in Italian. All the Spanish witnesses repeated the same motto: “No, never”. They are lying.

Isidro Nozal (

At this point, the question is: ¿why isn’t the Spanish justice able to uncover all the truth of the OP? ¿what’s wrong with a society that when a positive case is revealed prefers to cover his eyes and turn his back? Provided that USADA’s Reasoned Decision states that US Postal and many other teams used to come to Spain for his training camps because doping and prohibited substances control was looser than in other countries, ¿why doesn’t Spanish government investigate and try to reveal whether Spain is the paradise of dopers or not?

Spanish political and economical situation is catastrophic and sport is the only aspect in which Spain has been a world power recently. Revealing that apart from the main cycling riders, most of the big athletes, tennis players and football teams have been involved in Operación Puerto and other doping web cases would be an enormous punch in the face for the Spanish society. That’s why in Spain a cover-up strategy has been chosen to avoid bigger damages. The media has tried to focus the doping problems into cycling and making people think that only riders doped and that the teams involved in OP disappeared, pretend that the doping scandals where solved.

When Real Sociedad football team’s initials appeared in Eufemiano’s papers, readily media tried to cover-up the case blaming a rowing team that had a doping scandal in the past. Real Sociedad former president, Iñaki Badiola, stated that a due diligence revealed that the club paid medicines with dirty money that didn’t appear in the official documents of the club and El País corroborated that the quantity of the money spent by the team and the one that appeared in Eufemiano’s document matched. Of course, now one talks about doping scandals in football and almost no one knows that FC Barcelona tried to sign up Eufemiano about 10 years ago, that Athletic de Bilbao’s player Carlos Gurpegui tested positive due to the team’s doctor Sabino Padilla’s experiments with young players and that Dr. Del Moral, banned by USADA for his involvement in Armstrong’s doping system was the former doctor of Valencia CF and the tennis player David Ferrer.

Marta Donínguez, involved in Galgo and Puerto cases (El País)

And I could continue linking banned and dubious doctors with some of the most successful episodes of Spanish sport, but I think that there is a case that reveals more than any other at what rate Spanish authorities don’t want to hunt down dopers: Marta Dominguez, involved in both Operación Galgo and Operación Puerto, who worked with Fuentes since she was 22 years old and has developed a successful sport career probably thanks to doping, is now a senator for the governments party PP and earns her living with public money.

Politicians, justice and media are trying to cover-up any evidence of doping scandals in Spain. Many athletes where involved in Eufemiano’s doping system and only few of them have been punished. In fact, some riders as Alberto Contador, Luís León Sánchez or Joaquím Rodríguez rode for ONCE team, whose director Manolo Sainz is being also judged, but they didn’t ever appear neither in the press nor in the trial, although there is no evidence that they didn’t took part in the doping web when all they team mates did. High profile athletes seem an untouchable target for the sport authorities and the only Spanish rider who was suspended due to his connection with OP was Alejandro Valverde. Curiously, he was not banned by any Spanish authority: the Italian Olympic Committee did it.

Which one is the best, Premier League or Spanish Liga BBVA?

Many times football fanatics have wondered which one is the best professional football league of the world. Take into account some different aspects of the football, i’ll try to expose why I think that the Premier League is better than the Liga BBVA.

1. The teams
There is no doubt that the two best teams of the world play in Spain. Barcelona and Madrid have demonstrated during the years to be among the best clubs and nowadays their monster budgets allow them to sign up the world greater players. Anyway, there is a deep difference between the two main teams and the others. It is usually said that there are two leagues in Spain: Madrid-Barcelona league to get the championship and the other one, to get the third place. Valencia’s economic problems and Atletico de Madrid’s irregularity during last years has become the Spanish league a copy of the former Scottish one, with only two teams in the real fight for the title and both of them hardly ever loosing a game.
In the other side, England has more candidates for the title. The foreign investment to Manchester City and Chealsea opened the contest to more teams, not only the usual favourites Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. Also, teams like Tottenham or Everton, although not been in the challenge for the trophy, are able to get point from the best teams fields. English league is more equal and the results use to be tight when the teams named above face each other. Spanish league, although, is decided when Madrid and Barcelona play each other.

The two great teams are so powerful becouse of their gains, utterly bigger because of the unfair distribution of the TV rights. In Spain, Madrid and Barcelona earn 140 million € each, as the third earns 42 millions and the last aproximately 12 millions. In England, the team wich wins more money for the TV rights earns 68 millions a year and the last, 44. This is howTV rights money are the foundation of Madrid and Barcelonas economic strenght, that makes the difference wider with the other teams in Spain, as they have more money to sign up better players. In Engalnd the distribution is more fair.

2. Calendar and schedules

Here is the great difference between both leagues. Spanish leagues organisation is a wide disaster. Schedules are set only 10 days before the games are to be played and the TV companies have the whole authority to establish when the games are played. That is because the games are played one by one, with no two games at the same time and playing games on Monday at 9pm or Saturdays at 10pm. Many supporters considerate that they are mistreated by those ones who role the Spanish football.

Furthermore, Spanish league stops for Christmas, when most of the people are on holiday and more children are allowed to attempt a football match. In England, the Boxing Day crowds the stadiums with families and teams play more games than usual for Christmas. With no doubt, England wins the organisational comparison.

3. Attendance and stadiums

This point is closely associated to the point before. In England it is usual to see al the fields crowded. In Spain, it’s more than unusual to see one with the full-attendance. Only Camp Nou and Bernabéu use to be full and many stadiums (Getafe, Mallorca, Vigo, Zaragoza…) hardly ever reach to half-attendance. The reasons are the schedules and the prize. In fact, it’s almost impossible to attend to a match paying less than 50€.
Empty stadiums don’t give a good image of the Spanish league and yet Spanish supporters are not as fond on cheering and singing as the English.

Now, you can comment below and argue which one is the best football league of the world.