Sunday, October 30, 2011

When Spain used to get the nose broken

July 9, 1994. Spain got defeated in the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup against Italy and, once more, the dreams of the Spanish people faded away and the image of the game were the tears of Luis Enrique showing his broken nose to the referee. The game was in the extra time and in the last desperate attack of the Spanish NT looking for the draw, Mauro Tassotti hit with the elbow Luis Enrique's nose inside the box in what could have been a last minute penalty to send the match to the extra time. But the Hungarian referee Sandor Puhl did not see the action and Spain had to pack the luggage.

This World Cup was seen in Spain with certain illusion. The Spanish NT had not been able to play the Euro 1992, the last big continental tournament missed by this team. The Quinta del Buitre had been the core of the Spanish team since the World Cup 1986, but the failure in the qualifiers for the Euro 92 and the success of a young generation of players in the Olympic Games of Barcelona 92, made the new coach, Javier Clemente, change the face of this team. Players like Luis Enrique, Albert Ferrer, "Pitu" Abelardo, Jorge Otero, Josep Guardiola or Santi Cañizares entered in the squad to refresh the team. Aside the "gold generation", Clemente did not hesitate to trust in other young players like Julen Guerrero and Sergi.

Luis Enrique, Guardiola, Ferrer and Abelardo among others in Barcelona'92

The expectatives were high. The new and talented faces were a good reason to believe in this team. The prestige of the veterans was pretty high too. Some of them had been shining with Barcelona in the recent years in the so called "Dream Team". We refer to players like Andoni Zubizarreta, Andoni Goikoetxea or Jose Mari Bakero, along with other talented players of the Spanish football like Fernando Hierro, Miquel Angel Nadal or Rafa Alkorta. Among them, the main pieces of quality were in the boots of the Atlético Madrid player, José Luis Caminero.

However, the debate around the team was the day by day. While the overall opinion considered that the Spanish team had enough talent to play the nice and passing football proposed by the Quinta del Buitre and the Dream Team in the previous nine years in La Liga, Javier Clemente was part of the old school of Basque football, more direct football friendly. While the general opinion made a bet for a more aesthetic style, Javier Clemente built the team from the back and his lineups used to have usual central backs like Nadal or Hierro (even both at the same time) protecting the midfield. As a consequence of it, usual demands of the fans for this position, like Josep Guardiola, were usually out of the first XI.

In one way or another, the first steps of the Spanish team during the World Cup were not bad. Despite the initial bad game against South Korea and the unexpected 2-2. Spain grew during the tournament and showed a nice image against Germany (1-1) and Bolivia (3-1). The extraordinary victory on the Swiss team (3-0) made the fans believe in the possibilities of this team. In the quarter finals, Roberto Baggio's Italy was the rival. Since 1986 and the defeat of Spain against Belgium in the penalties, there was a growing sense of curse among the Spanish fans. Now there was a good chance to finish with it. Spain was a rising team and Italy had disappointed so far. Italy had qualified as one of the best third in the group stage and needed an extra time to eliminate Nigeria in the Round of 16. Italy seemed to be far from their best version.

The game was tight, intense and beautiful. Spain probably played the best game of the entire tournament. The initial goal of Dino Baggio and the power of the Italian team did not make the Spanish team surrender. In the early minutes of the second half, Caminero tied the game and Spain played their best minutes of the tournament. There is an action that is kept in the retinas of the Spanish people. At some point of the second half, in the decisive moments of the match, a long ball left the striker Julio Salinas alone... it was him and the semifinals of a World Cup, between them, Gianluca Pagliuca. Julio Salinas was famous for making difficult the easiest things and easy the impossible... but this was too easy. Salinas had lots of options, but chose the worse to kick the ball on Pagliuca's legs. Just a few minutes later, Roberto Baggio found himself in a similar situation, but the legendary Italian forward dribbled Zubizarreta with class to score the final 2-1 for Italy.

And it is true. It was a penalty on Luis Enrique. Tassotti elbowed the nose of the Spanish forward, but the referee did not see the action. Anger, frustration, sadness... This action just reinforced the feeling of the curse. It was a way to put into an image the feelings of many people. The day after, the covers of the Spanish newspapers reflected Luis Enrique showing his broken nose to the referee in a useless and desperate situation. Useless, desperate and cursed. But Spain was out.

Many years passed since then. Spain kept failing in more or less similar situations for years and years. In the summer of 2008, Spain faced Italy in the penalties of the Euro. Once more, Spain played one of their best games in the tournament, but the constant attacks were useless and the match reached the penalties. The so called "curse of the quarter finals" was in everyone's heads. Everyone's heads. When Cesc Fàbregas scored the winning goal of the penalties, Spain broke that invisible wall. Spain was in the semifinals, but the most important, Spain broke the curse forever. When the semifinals game started, Spain knew that they had no limits. Since then, Spain has won an Euro and a World Cup.

One of the images of this weekend has been the nice gesture of Luis Enrique and Mauro Tassotti shaking hands in the last AS Roma-AC Milan. The broken nose of Luis Enrique is not a symbol anymore and, if it is, it is the symbol of past times. Now this picture of Tassotti and Luis Enrique shaking hands only make people recall that there was a time when Spain used to get the nose broken in the big tournaments. Today, Spain is the World champion.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

History of the Spanish football: 1928-1929, FC Barcelona win the first Liga and RCD Espanyol's first Copa

Previous chapter: History of Spanish football (VII): 1926-1928, the professional football and Samitier's Golden Era

The precedents

At the end of the 1927-1928 season, given the failure of the two league attempts, the clubs and the RFEF knew that they had to reach an agreement for the good of everyone. In June 1928, in the facilities of Real Madrid, the representatives of the clubs that had formed the "Liga Máximalista" and the "Liga Mínima" meet to agree the creation of a league that satisfies everyone. Members of the following clubs assisted: Celta de Vigo, Deportivo de la Coruña, Sporting de Gijón, Real Oviedo, Racing Santander, Gimnástica Torrelavega, Athletic Club, Arenas Club, CD Alavés, FC Barcelona, RCD Español, CD Europa, SD Iberia, Real Unión Irún, Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Athletic Madrid, Valencia FC, Real Murcia, Sevilla FC and Real Madrid FC.

The debate was held with normality, studying several formats of competition, although none of them received the overall approval. In order to find a definitive solution, an executive commission formed by representatives of Real Madrid, Athletic Madrid, FC Barcelona, RCD Español, Iberia SD, Real Sociedad, Athletic Club, Real Unión and Sevilla FC was named to find a solution. This executive commission held new meetings at the end of June, once the last Copa final had been played. This commission presented a proposal about the creation of the Campeonato Nacional de Liga (from now on, Liga). The proposal was the creation of a first division (Primera División) formed by 8 teams, the six historic Copa winners (Athletic Club, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Real Unión, Real Sociedad and Arenas Club) plus Athletic Madrid and RCD Español, considered two of the oldest clubs in Spain. The second division (Segunda División) would be formed by Sevilla FC, Sporting Gijón, Real Oviedo, RC Celta, RC Deportivo, Racing Santander, CD Alaves, CA Osasuna, Iberia SD, CD Europa, Racing Madrid and Valencia FC. In the early days of July, the proposal was rejected in the National Assembly by the excluded teams and for those who bet for a bigger league (the historic winners did not want to accept more than 8 teams). The disagreements still existed and the Basque clubs threat to break the negotiations to create their own Copa tournament, the clubs of Galicia also threat to enter in the Portuguese league, while others protested since they considered Real Sociedad should not be considered direct heir of the Club Ciclista that won the Copa of 1909.

The discussions were eternal and new debates were held in September and October. Finally, at the end of November, when the regional tournaments and the Copa had already started, the Extraordinary National Assembly agreed the creation of a league of 10 teams: the six Copa winners, previously mentioned, plus three finalists: CD Europa, RCD Español and Athletic Madrid. The 10th team would be the winner of an intensive previous tournament that  had to be played by the Segunda División teams: Sevilla FC, Racing Santander, Valencia FC, RC Celta, RC Deportivo, Sporting Gijón, Iberia SD, CD Alavés and Real Betis. Since the winner of this tournament would not end up playing in Segunda, Racing Madrid would occupy the vacant in Segunda División.

The teams

Athletic Club

The Basque club was managed by Máximo Royo, who replaced, the Hungarian coach Lippo Hertzka. At that point, the president De la Sota and the manager Royo decided to start a deep renewal and their most important players were the goalkeeper Blasco (19 years old), the midfielder Garizurieta (20 years old) or the forwards Unamuno (19),  De la Fuente (21) and Chirri II (19). Their last biggest achievement in the national level was the Copa victory of 1923, although they still had won the last regional tournament in 1928. Athletic Club was the most successful club ever in the Spanish football, although their recent seasons had been disappointing, compared with their golden era in the previous decade, so they were not a clear favorite to win the titles that had to be played this season. The youth of the team made unpredictable their performance in the season that had to start.

FC Barcelona

The culés were considered the best team of the moment. In the previous years, the club managed by Romà Forns had won three of the last four Copas and their dictatorship in the regional level was a fact. The Catalans had a very strong squad with very important players. mixing veteran players and promising names, like the legendary goalie Platko (30 years old), the German defender Walter (28), the mids Castillo (20) and Guzmán (27), or the forwards Piera (25), Sastre (22) or Parera (21). Among them, the forward Josep Samitier (26) was not only the star of the team, but also the best player of those years. The recent titles and the quality of the squad made everyone consider Barcelona the biggest favorite for this new season.

Real Madrid FC

The madridistas had been living their worst years in terms of results. In the Copa del Rey, their only achievement had been a final in 1924 and Athletic Madrid had emerged as big rival in the regional tournaments. In this situation, the club decides to make a radical change in their approach and, with the resignation of José Berraondo, the club signs the former barcelonista and madridista player José Quirante and starts a race to sign important players. As a consequence of it, players like the promising striker Jaime Lazcano (19 years old) and the veteran Juan Urquizu (27), sign from Osasuna; the young Gaspar Rubio (21) signs from Levante; and the club "steals" from their local rival, the Athletic Madrid star, Triana (26), a player of the so called "the Athletic Madrid of the lords", as a consequence of the internal institutional problems of this club, which caused some delay in the payments. Aside this signings, the veteran players José M. Peña (33), who had signed from Arenas Club in 1926, and the icon Monjardín (25) were the references of the team. All these signings made the fans dream for a better season.

Jaime Lazcano in Real Madrid

Real Unión Irún

The irundarras had been living their best years, winning 5 regional titles and 2 Copas (aside another final) in the 1920s. The core of the team had very recognizable names like the midfielders René Petit (29 years old) and Francisco Gamborena (27), the goalkeeper Emery (23) and the young forwards Garmendia (23) and Luis Regueiro (20). Most of the team was quite veteran and, with the arrival of professionalism, the club mainly focused in keeping the team instead of signing players, since the club did not enjoy the economic resources of other clubs of Spain that were getting reinforced. Despite the recent titles, the feeling around this team is that Real Unión was formed by quality players, but their peak time had passed in most of them.

Real Sociedad

The team managed by Benito Díaz since 1926, as player-coach, had just lost the Copa final against the legendary Barcelona of Samitier. The great star of the team was Paco Bienzobas, a 19 year old striker that had showed his potential in the last couple of seasons despite his young age. But the rest of the team was a solid block of young players that was also the core of the Spanish team in the Olympic games of Amsterdam 1928, with players like the forwards Yurrita (24), Mariscal (24), "Cholín" (22) and "Kiriki" (21); the goalkeeper Izaguirre (22), the defender Ilundain (20) or the mid Marculeta (21). With this young but competitive squad and the precedents of the team, Real Sociedad was considered one of the best teams of the moment and a clear contender for any title.

Arenas Club

The areneros were another humble club. Located in Getxo, in the Gran Bilbao comarca (although they played their games at Ibaiondo in the same Bilbao city), this club has raised as the big rival of Athletic Club during the last decades in the regional tournament and had reached two Copa finals in recent editions (1925 and 1927). The unquestionable stars was their forwards Yermo (25) and Gurruchaga (20), along with other traditionals of the team, like the defender Llantada (21) and the veterans like the goalie Jauregui (32) or Vallana (31), although these two players were not usual anymore. Arenas did not have the economic power of their rivals, so their players were mainly local. Arenas Club was considered a good team, but did not count as one of the big favorites to win the league.

Español's José Padrón

RCD Español

The pericos had been a club in trouble during the last decade. While Barcelona's popularity grew, Español struggled to find the economic resources. As a consequence of it, despite having very important players like the myth Ricardo Zamora (27 years old), the great young forward Padrón (22), or the veteran defender Saprissa (27), the club had been forced to tour through other countries of the World while playing the regional tournaments with the reserves. The reason of it was the World-wide fame of the goalkeeper Zamora and the need of finding money for the club. The president Genaro De la Riva, despite the talent of the team, had put the priorities in the survival of the club, while Barcelona and Europa grew over them in the official tournaments. The team was considered to have very important players of recognition, although the lack of references in official tournaments made them be a mistery. For this season, the most important event was the signing of the former Barcelona player and coach, Jack Greenwell.

Athletic Madrid

Under the presidency of Juan Urquijo, the club had reached the Copa final of 1926 and had been the winner of the last regional tournament (1928). The team was considered to have some great talents like the forwards Luis Olaso (28), Vicente Palacios and Cosme (24). The president Urquijo signed Fred Pentland from Oviedo to drive the team again, trying to repeat the success of 1926. However, the club had financial problems and, as a consequence of them, the forward Triana had left the team to join Real Madrid in a painful event for the club. Despite the talents in the team, the departure of some of the "Lords" of Athletic Madrid had weakened the team and was not considered one of the main challengers for the title.

CD Europa's Carles Bestit
CD Europa

The humble club of Barcelona was located in the Gràcia district of the city. Despite they did not have the economic power of their biggest rivals, FC Barcelona and RCD Español, the club had raised as power in the Catalan football in the 1920s, winning a Campionat de Catalunya and reaching a Copa final in the year 1923. In these years, CD Europa had been the second team of Catalonia in terms of results and counted on players like the forwards Bestit (20) and Cros (27) as main reference of the team. Their humble status made them focus in the permanence in Primera División. The coach was the Austrian Karl Heinlein and the squad probably was the most veteran team in Primera División.

Racing Santander

Racing Santander had to win the knock-out tournament to decide the last member of Primera División. The club's star was the Irish coach Patrick O'Connell, who had driven the team to a long list of regional titles and, the most important, to Primera División, leaving behind important teams like Valencia, Real Betis and Sevilla FC. The team was the most humble of the tournament and their players did not have the fame of others. In this team, the main references were the winger Santi Zubieta (18), the midfielder Larrinaga (17) and the powerful striker Óscar (25).

Copa del Rey

With the creation of the Liga, the Copa del Rey changed the format to become a pure knock-out tournament again. Since the discussions to create the new tournament were long, the Assembly of the RFEF decided to advance the regional competitions in order to play the tournament before the first games of La Liga. As it had always happened since 1913, the participants of the competition had to get their ticket in their regional tournaments. New regional tournaments appeared while Catalonia, Madrid, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa got new places, so also the third team of these competitions were allowed to play the tournament. These were the participants:

In the pure draw, the big clash is the one between Arenas Club and Real Unión, two historical clubs of the tournament. Arenas Club is superior in both legs and advanced to the following round. This round did not have big surprises among the giants. Still it was remarkable the victory of Racing Ferror on the winner of the Bizkaia tournament, Alavés, who counted on players like Ciriaco or Quincoces. Aside these games, it is important to highlight the victory of Valencia on Europa and the defeat of Sporting Gijón against RCD Español.

The press of those years considered that the first leg of the Round of 16 was conclusive in its results. The clash between Barcelona and Real Sociedad in Les Corts was the most interesting clash and also the most shocking result. The "replay" of the final 1928 was not a revenge for Real Sociedad, who got trashed by a brilliant Barcelona (6-0). Another big clash was the one between Arenas Club and RCD Español. The pericos and the areneros gave the fans of Getxo a big show, but a disappointing result, since the 4-6 seemed almost definitive with the 2nd leg to be played in Sarrià, Español's home .At the same time, the media considered surprising the victory of a declining Racing Madrid on Valencia at Mestalla (1-3). The valencianistas were considered a team that was growing and this result exposed the ché team, who got defeated by a Racing Madrid that played with more heart than football anyway. The two giants of Madrid did not have problems to defeat their rivals easily. So Athletic Madrid won 2-3 away in Gimnástica Torrelavega's home and Real Madrid crushed Logroño in Chamartín (8-0). The victory of the Valencian champions, Castellón, on Elche (5-0) was not a surprise either. The victory of Sevilla in the tough stadium of Osasuna (0-1) was interpreted as a symbol of the recovery of the sevillistas, while Athletic Club could only tie in Ferrol, although this result was good enough to face the next round.

In the second leg, the result only came to confirm what was seen in the first leg. Considering the initial results, no big surprises happened. RCD Español confirmed the superiority shown in Ibaiondo to end up eliminating Arenas Club from the competition (3-1). Real Madrid crushed Logroño in the away game too (0-5), while Athletic Madrid showed problems to advance against a fighting Gimnástica Torrelavega (1-1). Athletic Club was very superior in San Mamés and clear any kind of doubt on them (4-0). Castellón was also victorious in Elche (0-2) and Sevilla's football convinced in the 4-2 triumph on Osasuna. In a muddy Atotxa, the game between Real Sociedad and Barcelona was preceded by a hostile atmosphere against the culés as a consequence of their recent clashes, but the result of the first leg was impossible to overcome (0-0). In Madrid, the team of the Chamberí district, Racing Madrid, ended up surprising Valencia FC (2-1) and the valencianistas got eliminated from the competition after the euphoria created in the city for their victory on Europa.

Quarter finals - Jan 6, 1929 - Jan 13, 1929

In this round, the favorites did not fail either. The most interesting game was the derby of Madrid, between the team of Chamberí, Racing, and the one of Chamartín, Real Madrid. The madridistas were the clear favorites and they did not miss their chance to buy their ticket to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey with a brillian 1-3. At the same time, in Sarrià, Español confirmed that their regional title (the first since 1918), won with the team remaining unbeaten, had not been an anecdote. The pericos crushed Athletic Madrid with a clear 5-1 that left the team of the capital of Spain without options, while Español rose as one of the main favorites to win the title. FC Barcelona did not fail in Seville either. The 0-1 in the capital of Andalusia was not as definitive result, but Barcelona had never lost in Les Corts in this competition. More problems had Athletic in Castellón, but the Basque team achieved an 1-1 draw that was a positive result to face the 2nd leg at home.

In the second leg, the favorites did not fail. The press considered that Barcelona's victory on Sevilla (2-0) had been fair, but discreet. At the same time, Athletic suffered too much against a dangerous Castellón, who put things more difficult than it had been predicted (2-1). In the Metropolitano, Athletic Madrid wanted to impress their fans and they surely did against an Español that was defeated for the first time in the entire season (4-2). In Chamartín, the madridistas showed their clear superiority (6-2) against a weak Racing Madrid that had gone further than it had been guessed at the beginning of the tournament. The good results and nice style showed by Real Madrid impressed the press, who started to label them as one of the favorites for the final victory after lots of years of disappointing results. The only teams missed by the press were Europa and Alavés, who had been considered stronger than they finally showed.

Semifinals - Jan 20, 1929 - Jan 27, 1929

The semifinals were the key moment. Finally, four classics of the competition met. As it was tradition, the clubs of Catalonia, Madrid and the Basque country showed up as the strongest. The first semifinal was played between Real Madrid and Athletic Club. Both clubs were looking for the glory lost in the recent years. Real Madrid had been struggling without a final since 1924 and without a title since 1918. Athletic Club, the club with more Copas, had also been 6 years without a national title. The first leg was played in Chamartín, Real Madrid's home. Real Madrid was considered the favorite by the press, given their great form and results, while Athletic had some absences to face this game. Real Madrid won 3-1 as it was predicted, but the madridistas suffered too much in the last moments of the game, when Athletic scored their only goal and threatened Madrid's goal with chances that were not converted.

In Sarrià, Español and Barcelona played the first Copa derby in years. The pericos were the favorites given their amazing superiority in the regional title, while Romà Forns' team had not reached the level shown in the previous season. The matched was marked by the injury of Guzmán, who left Barça with ten men since the minute 5. Playing against ten, Español owned the game in every sense, while Barcelona could only defend their goal in the best possible way. Español got a good 2-0, but still not definitive with the 2nd leg in sight to be played in Les Corts.

In the second leg, in Les Corts, the press wondered what Barcelona could do against Español in their stadium. Since the first minutes of the game, Barcelona looked for the goal to enter in the game and they did it, but before half time, Español was able to draw. The remaining 45 minutes did not have story. A frustrated Barcelona crashed against Español's defense and the game turned ugly, as it was often in these derbies. But the 1-1 was the final result. Español, who had triumphed in the regional tournament, had defeated Barcelona in the Copa too and reached the final of Valencia.

In San Mamés, Real Madrid achieved a historical victory. The 1-4 could only confirm that Real Madrid was the team of the moment. The tournament of the madridistas had been almost perfect, but this was the kind of prestigious victory that imposed respect in the rivals. Athletic actually dominated all the first half, but they could not score the goal they needed, which mainly showed the efficiency of the merengue defense. In the second half, Real Madrid crushed Athletic at home and getting the admiration of everyone. The madridistas were in the final of Mestalla.

Final - Feb 3, 1929

The final was played in Mestalla, packed with 25,000 fans, lots of them travelling from Barcelona (4,000) and Madrid (8,000). Real Madrid and RCD Español were playing a historical final that broke the domination of FC Barcelona and the Basque clubs. There was not a clear favorite for this game. RCD Español had triumphed in the Campionat de Catalunya, with a magnificent defense led by Ricardo Zamora and Saprissa, while the leader of their attack was the fantastic José Padrón. Jack Greenwell had built an impressive squad, just as he had done with FC Barcelona some years ago. In Real Madrid, José Quirante was the opposite, a young and inexperienced coach, but definitely a talent that had made the club live great moments after years of disappointing results. This final was marked by the unusual heavy rain that fell on Valencia that left the state of the pitch in awful conditions. It passed to history as the "final del agua" (the water final).

The muddy state of the pitch forced both teams, who were technically gifted, to play direct football instead of their usual passing style. The rain and the mud turned the game ugly since the first minute and the physical contact was usual. Only 3 minutes had passed, Quesada blocked Broto inside the madridista box and the referee awarded the penalty. González shot the penalty, but the madridista Cobo stopped it. After this penalty and during all the first half, Real Madrid was superior, but just as Cobo had been great stopping the penalty, Ricardo Zamora was also essential to keep the clean sheet for Español. At half time, the result was 0-0.

Español in the final of Mestalla 1929

In the second half, Real Madrid kept attacking Zamora's goal, but in a lost counter-attack, Vantolrà made a fantastic individual actions and found Tena, who shot to the left upper corner of Cobo's goal. In the minute 10 of the second half, Español took the lead. This goal did not stop Real Madrid, who kept looking for the goal. An important incident happened only ten minutes later, in the 65'. As a consequence of a fight, the referee Pelayo Serrano sent off three players: the españolistas Broto and Tena and the madridista Rubio. With one man less, Real Madrid's attack got more constant, but the pass of minutes also made them take risks. And it was Padrón who found Bosch, who was alone and executed Cobo to score the second for Español. With 20 minutes to go, Español was two goals up and one man down. Real Madrid, knowing this superiority, kept insisting on Zamora's goal and five minutes later, the striker Lazcano put Madrid in the game again with his 2-1. Real Madrid's attacks got furious, but Zamora emerged as the hero for Español. In the last minute, the madridistas protested a penalty in Español's box and the incident ends up in a new brawl and two other players were sent off too, the madridista Triana and the españolista González. RCD Español ended up resisting, with Zamora as hero, while the madridistas disappointed, especially their attack, very inefficient in this rainy afternoon. It was a historical day for RCD Español, Jack Greenwell had taken them to their first Copa title in history.

La Liga

Only one week after the Copa final, the first edition of La Liga started. The preview of the press before La Liga exposed the state of euphoria in Español, who had triumphed in the regional tournament and in the Copa. The madridistas were disappointed with the result and, as Español, worried about the absences in the first Liga game due to the ban on the players who had been sent off in the Copa final, but they were definitely rated highly before La Liga had to start. The two Basque teams, Athletic and Real Sociedad, were considered to have good options in this race and they had to face each other in their debut in the game of the week, according to the press, while there were doubts on Barcelona, given their recent form.

In the first week, Español defeated Real Unión, despite the multiple absences in their initial XI. The pericos had to overcome a 1-2 in the last 20 minutes to win the game. At the same time, Real Madrid defeated Europa with a clear 5-0, although the local team had more problems than the scoreboard suggest, since all the goals were scored in the second half. Lazcano scored four goals for the madridistas. In Atotxa, Athletic had to tie the initial goal of Real Sociedad for a fair draw in the Basque derby that left a better taste for the visitors. The surprising result was the victory of Athletic Madrid against Arenas Club in Getxo with unexpected superiority. The week was closed with an a victory of Barcelona in Satander against Racing, achieved in the second half, but only assured in the last minutes of the game, with a great Parera leading the team.

Just a week later, the most attractive game was the visit of Real Madrid to Les Corts. A more efficient than beautiful Real Madrid defeated Barcelona at home and the absences in the starting lineup of the Catalans did not stop the first rumors of a possible replacement in the blaugrana management. The two goals of Morera made impossible the late attempt of comeback by Barcelona. Español had a complex visit to San Mamés, a defeat was possible, but the 9-0 was a heavy humiliation that was strongly criticized in the press. Carmelo and Lafuente scored a hat-track each. Real Sociedad showed their strength in their visit to the Metropolitano, only needing the first half to crush the local team, while Arenas disappointed in their visit to Europa's home, where the striker Cros showed up as great star scoring four goals. Real Unión achieved an expected victory on Racing, although they had to overcome the initial goal of the visitors in the second half. These results gave Real Madrid the leading position, as they were the only team to win the two initial games..

Samitier and Obiols stop Lazcano in the first Barça-Madrid in La Liga

In the third week, Real Madrid kept their leading position with a new victory, this time in the derby against Athletic Madrid. It had to be Triana, former Athletic icon, who scored the two goals of Real Madrid to overcome the initial 0-1 and defeat their neighbors. The reviews still considered the madridistas more efficient than powerful and convincing in their performances. Español showed a great image against Europa though and the press saw the Copa winner in their game. In just 20 minutes, the pericos had solved the game with three goals. Athletic kept impressing everyone with their amazing attacking power with another hat-trick by Lafuente, this time in Santander. Barcelona was crushed in their visit to Real Sociedad in a pathetic first half of the Catalans. The Basque team showed a convincing image against a poor Barcelona. Arenas and Real Unión tied in a disappointing game too.

The fourth weekend did not changed things much. Real Madrid struggled to beat Real Sociedad in Chamartín, but the madridistas kept the perfect sheet with another victory. The madridistas were still criticized for their football, but their results were out of question. Their two early goals were almost balanced by the goal of Bienzobas and the constant attack of Real Sociedad in the last half an hour. Español and Athletic were also growing in the standings, with two easy victories at home against weaker rivals, like Racing and Europa respectively. There was also a surprising victory of Athletic Madrid in Irún. The shock was in Barcelona, since the culés did not see the light with another disappointing result, a draw against a weak Arenas Club, with a brilliant Yermo for the Basques.

Yermo (Arenas Club) scores in Sarrià against Zamora (Español)

The results of the fifth week had the first big impact in the standings. Real Madrid reinforced their position in the top of the standings with a predictable victory against Racing. Once again Real Madrid had to overcome an initial bad result with a good second half. While the madridistas had won everything, the racinguistas collected five defeats in a row. Real Madrid increased their gap up to three points on their main rivals. Athletic was defeated in Arenas' home, in what it was the surprise of the weekend, although the goals of Yermo were not surprising anymore. Español achieved an important draw in Atotxa against Real Sociedad in the last minutes of the game, but they also lost track with Real Madrid. Athletic Madrid achieved another easy victory on a unrecognizable Barcelona, who were in deep crisis and got destroyed by the press. Europa and Real Unión tied in an useless draw for both of them.

After a weekend used for an international game between Spain and Portugal in Seville (5-0), the first after the failure in Amsterdam 1928, with the Spanish team mainly formed by españolistas and madridistas, La Liga returned with the sixth matchday. In Sarrià, a very important game had to be played. The "invincible" madridistas visited the Copa winner. Revenge or comeback? The answer of Español was solid, a 4-0 against Real Madrid was considered as a recovery of Español, who started to appear as a serious threat for Real Madrid. The madridistas, who had not been playing in a brilliant way, saw how their efficiency disappeared against the pericos. Athletic Club did not take advantage of it, since they disappointed with a new defeat, this time in Irún, against Real Unión. The irundarras led by Regueiro in attack, destroyed Athletic in a magnificent first half for a final 6-3. Arenas Club continued with their good run of results with a convincing victory against Real Sociedad, with the brilliant Yermo in top form scoring two more goals. Barcelona found some oxygen in an easy victory on the weak Europa. Despite this result, Barcelona replaced their coach, Romà Forns, to sign James Bellamy from the Italian Brescia. Athletic Madrid grew in the standings with their victory on the weak Racing Santander.

The 7th week turned out to be very positive for Real Madrid. The madridistas recovered their three point gap on their rivals with a victory on Real Unión with two goals by Gaspar Rubio. As it was usual in the Liga season, the madridistas were more efficient than convincing in their football, but their results were unquestionable. The main doubts on their future were their following visits to the always tough Northern stadiums. But their rivals were very irregular. Español was surprised by Arenas in Sarrià with a goal of Gurruchaga when the match was about to finish. Their previous victory against Real Madrid became an anecdote with this new defeat, while Arenas started to appear as unexpected challenger, showing their good state of form. Athletic Club recovered from their bad results with a huge 5-1 victory against a Barcelona that was totally out of track, despite the arrival of the new coach. Unamuno and Lafuente toyed with the Catalans in the second half. Athletic Madrid disappointed in their visit to Europa, while Real Sociedad crushed a poor Racing with their sublime attack: Bienzobas, "Cholín" and "Kiriki".

The 8th week left some interesting results that caused a "traffic jam" on top. Arenas Club highlighted their good form with a victory on the leader, Real Madrid. The madridistas had some important absences and, despite their great effort, in one of their best games of the season, were defeated by the impulse of Arenas Club, who won their fourth game in a row. The madridistas saw their advantage cut by Athletic Club, who defeated a declining Athletic Madrid. This week had two important derbies. One of them in Gipuzkoa, where Real Sociedad confirmed their good state of form in an away victory on a disappointing Real Unión in a passionate derby. Real Sociedad overcame the 2-0 at half time, with one man less on the pitch due and a great Bienzobas. In Les Corts, the classic of the Catalan football was won by Barcelona in a pride victory. In the tight game, not exempt from polemics, as the words of the perico coach Jack Greenwell showed, was conquered by Barcelona in the second half with a late goal scored by Sastre. Racing Santander won their first game of the season against Europa.

The first round of the league was closed after a break for an international match of Spain. The Spanish team defeated (8-1) France in Zaragoza, with madridistas and españolistas still forming the core of the team. The ninth week of football had some important results. The leader Real Madrid got the visit of Athletic in Chamartín, the two top teams of La Liga so far. Real Madrid crushed Athletic (5-1) in a sublime game of the local team with Lazcano and Gaspar Rubio in top form. The madridistas closed the first half of the league with a solid top position, based on their regularity and their efficiency. With this defeat, Athletic kept their irregular line of results and, once more, failed to haunt the top position. Arenas Club insisted in their good moment with a tight victory on Racing. Real Sociedad failed against the weak Europa, showing an irregularity that was punishing them constantly. Español hailed their injuries of the derby with a victory on Athletic Madrid, who kept falling. Barcelona achieved their first away victory of the season with their triumph in Irún, who were not the team of the past, in a great second half of the Catalans. At this point, Real Madrid was a solid leader and Arenas Club was their main threat given their form. Athletic Club, Real Sociedad, Español and Barcelona followed them from some distance, given their constant irregularity.

The second round of La Liga was opened with a 10th week of football that had important events in the standings. In Barcelona, Real Madrid got surprising crushed by Bestit's Europa. The europeos made a fantastic first half to destroy Real Madrid. Once more, Bestit was the main reference of Europa, scoring four goals. With this result, the madridistas lost their gap on Arenas Club. The areneros triumphed against Athletic Madrid. The Basque team shared the top position and points with Real Madrid. The irregularity of Real Madrid and the constant rise of Arenas made the Basques feel positive about their future. The other main rivals of Madrid took advantage of the situation to cut distances. So Athletic Club defeated Real Sociedad in San Mamés in an intense Basque derby, scoring three goals in the second half to overcome the 1-2 at half time, while Barcelona had it easy with Racing Santander, with Arocha in top form. Español failed in their visit against the weak Real Unión, wasting a good opportunity to grow in the standings and evidencing they were not the team that had impressed everyone in the regional tournament and the Copa.

The 11th week had some delayed games, so it started with Arenas looking for an at least eventual top position. And they achieved a draw that actually gave them the lead in the standings, but the 1-1 at Ibaoindo, Arenas' home, against the weaker Europa could only be seen as a failure in a key moment. Bestit ruined Yermo's party in the last minutes of the game. After 6 victories in a row, their good run stopped in the most unexpected moment. In Sarrià, Español and Athletic played a decisive game, especially for the local team. The team of Jack Greenwell and Ricardo Zamora did not fail to achieve an important and convincing victory on Athletic to keep surviving in La Liga with a hat-trick by Gallart. Three days later, the week was closed. Barcelona visited Chamartín in a decisive game for the culés. Since James Bellamy took the team, the recovery of the team was evident, but they needed to confirm their good state against Real Madrid. The madridistas were affected by many injuries and ended up noticing them. Barcelona took their revenge and defeated their rivals in Chamartín with a goal scored by Sastre in the last minutes of the match to confirm that they were surprisingly back in the race for the title. For the first time in the entire season, Real Madrid was not the leader of La Liga. At the same time, Real Sociedad missed their chance to enter in this race with a draw against a broken Athletic Madrid.

 Only one week later, the 12th matchday started with surprising results. Arenas Club, who had reached the top only 3 days before, was destroyed in the Gal Stadium by Real Unión. After the good run of results, Arenas Club started to fail in the key moments and this time it was against a Real Unión who were struggling to achieve good results. The 7-1 was extremely harmful for Arenas though. At the same time, Athletic Club could not pass from a poor 0-0 draw at home against Racing in a huge error at this point of the season. Previously, Español had defeated Europa in a Catalan derby that was fully dominated by the pericos. With this result, Español seemed ready to compete for the top position looking for a historical treble. The rest of matches were delayed 3 weeks, because the RFEF had organized a historical friendly game against England.

For the first time ever, the Spanish NT met the inventors of football. It was in the Stadium Metropolitano, in Madrid. The Spanish NT formed with Zamora (RCD Español); Quesada (Real Madrid), Quincoces (CD Alavés); Prats (Real Madrid), Peña (Real Madrid), Marculeta (Real Sociedad); Lazcano (Real Madrid), Gpiburu (FC Barcelona), Gaspar Rubio (Real Madrid), Padrón (Español), Bosch (Español). The Spanish NT won the game (4-3) with two late goals scored by Gaspar Rubio and Goiburu. It was the first defeat of the English NT out of British Islands in history.

The 13rd week had some games delayed, but Real Madrid played to recover the first position in Atotxa. In an extraordinary balanced and tight game, Real Madrid ended up losing a game that they had in their pocket with ten minutes to go, in goals scored by Marculeta and "Cholín", which costed them the two points. With this defeat, the madridistas made evident their bad moment, the worst in the entire season, as Real Sociedad grew in the standings in a late effort to fight for the title. Athletic Madrid defeated Real Unión, although none of them was a challenger for the title. The rest of games were delayed as Español rose as eventual leader.

The 14th week was the one of normality after some delayed games. As the key moments arrived, the emotion grew and the errors were paid. Español got surprised at home against Real Sociedad, who due to a goal of the great Bienozbas, resisted to surrender in La Liga. At the same time, Real Madrid's poor form was more worrying and evident than ever and they tied at home against the weak Racing Santander. Arenas took advantage of all these results to climb to the top again, even if it was just in an eventual way, given the delayed games. Bellamy's Barcelona was the other team that was favored by the results and, for the first time in the entire season, a title was a very likely possibility. Their 4-0 victory on Athletic Madrid with a magnificent Samitier was the reason of it.

Español 1929

All the delayed games (except the Arenas-Barcelona) were played in a mid-week journey. In the derby of the capital, Real Madrid solved their game against a sinking Athletic Madrid, recovering the top position of the standings. A top position that was not really effective. Barcelona and Arenas were with one game in hand and, since there were four teams on top with 17 points (Real Madrid, Barcelona, Arenas and Español), any result in the clash between Catalans and Basques would have changed this position. This delayed game was postponed until the end of June. In fact, Español missed their chance to reach the top with a disappointing draw against Racing in Santander. Athletic Club were just two points away from the top, but their draw in Europa's home was a serious error in this race.

La Liga entered in the last month of competition and, definitely, June opened with good news for Real Madrid in a perfect 15th week for them. The madridistas had to receive the visit of a rising Español in Chamartín in a clash that was decisive in the race for the title. In a key moment, the press highlighted the great game of Real Madrid against Español and their striker, the rising star Gaspar Rubio, emerged to put Zamora's Español in problems to fight for the title. This result was even more positive considering the draw of Barcelona against Europa in the new stadium of Montjuïc, which had opened for the International Exposition 1929, where the game was hosted. In this Catalan derby, Barcelona disappointed and lost a point that could be essential in the race for La Liga. But Arenas definitely damaged their chances with their defeat in Atotxa in their Basque derby against Real Sociedad in a very tight game. With all these results, Athletic also recovered some of their chances with a home victory against Real Unión.

Arenas Club 1929
Given this situation with three weeks to go, Barcelona and Arenas had one game in hand to be played in Ibaigondo. Real Madrid's fixtures were tough, with two visits to the Basque country to face Real Unión and their direct rival, Athletic, in a game of big rivalry, and also receive Arenas in Chamartín. Aside the delayed game, Barcelona had to be visited by Athletic and Real Unión at Les Corts and had to play their chances in Montjuïc, where Español played the last games of this season. In the case of Athletic, aside these games against Barcelona and Madrid, they also had to face Athletic Madrid. Español had to play against Arenas and Athletic Madrid away and Barcelona at home. Arenas, the last challenger, had to play games against direct rivals like Español in Sarrià, Madrid at home, Athletic Madrid away and Barcelona at home. The tight standings were as it stands:

The last three weeks started and there was nothing decided, but the 16th week had to start to clarify things and it surely did. In a direct clash for the title, in a classic in Les Corts, Barcelona confirmed their great form with an important victory against Athletic based on 20 fantastic minutes of the second half with Samitier showing up in the important moments. As Barcelona kept their options in La Liga, Athletic saw how their chances started to vanish in Catalan lands. At the same time, in the other direct clash for the title, Arenas Club finished with the Treble dream of Español in the first 45 minutes of the game, with a 3-0 that allowed the Basque team to be a definitive option for the last games. Real Madrid did not fail to keep their position on top with a hard-working victory in Real Unión's home, saving a very complicated away match. Real Madrid (21 points), Barcelona (20) and Arenas (19), the last two with a match between themselves in hand, were the only options.

The 17th week had to have consequences. Arenas visited Chamartín and Barcelona had to visit Español in the eventual home of the pericos at Montjuïc. In Barcelona, as the culés were fighting for the title, Español's main goal was to avoid this fact. The game was very tight in the first half and Platko saved Barcelona (and the title chances) in a penalty shot by Saprissa. The second half started with a fast goal of Español that really left Barcelona in trouble, but the blaugranas were able to save a point in the last minutes of the game with a goal scored by Sastre. At the same time, in Chamartín, and considering the result of Barcelona, Real Madrid gave a great step forward in the title race with another convincing victory in a key moment of the season and, this time, against Arenas. The goal of the captain Quesada in the first half and Triana in the last moments of the game left Arenas out of the title race. These results left only Real Madrid and Barcelona with options, although Real Madrid had the title in their hands. The 2 point difference was not definitive 100% even with a madridista victory in the not-so-easy stadium of San Mamés, but the goal difference was so favorable to Real Madrid that this eventual victory would leave Barcelona without chances, unless a miracle had to happen.

Athletic's Lafuente
The last week was passionate, but did not solve anything yet. Real Madrid visited San Mamés looking for a victory that would almost give them the title, but everything went in the wrong direction for them very soon. Only after three minutes, Athletic was able to score, putting La Liga upside down. Real Madrid's behavior was good and the team fought for the goal to draw. But in the second half, Athletic scored the second and the madridistas Rubio and Lazcano, who had been brilliant through all the tournament, failed to appear in this important day. In Les Corts, Barcelona knew that their title chances passed through two victories and this is what they looked for since the very first second. Barcelona crushed Real Unión in an easy game and the result of San Mamés was considered as positive. Tied in points and with a match in hand, La Liga was in Barcelona's hands to be won or lost one week later in Ibaiondo, Arenas' home. 

In this game, played in Ibaiondo, Barcelona needed one point. As it was predicted, Madrid was better in the goal difference and Barcelona needed to tie or win the match to win the title. As it had been proven during the season, Ibaiondo was not an easy visit and Barcelona had to suffer. At half time, the result was a tight 0-0 that left things open to any possible option. In the second half, Arenas was playing better, but Parera ended up giving the lead to Barcelona after 20 minutes. Only a few minutes later, the same Parera scored the second and the last minutes did not change anything. Barcelona won the game in Ibaiondo (0-2) and, as a consequence, the title: FC Barcelona was the first Liga champion.

This was the most usual formation of the champion:

In Segunda División, the season developed along with the Primera División games. As in Primera División, the fight for the promotion place was very tight during all the season and the balanced level of all teams made the fight very beautiful. Sevilla FC was the team that ended up winning the first Segunda División season earning their right to play the promotion games against Racing Santander, who were the bottom team in Primera División. The first promotion game was played in Sevilla and the local team won with a short advantage (2-1). However, Racing Santander were able to overcome this result in the second leg (2-0) to keep their position in Primera División one more season. In the bottom part of the standings, the historical RC Celta got relegated to Segunda B along with Racing Madrid, who were really struggling to survive with very important financial problems.

Spain also presented a candidature to organize the first FIFA World Cup in the year 1930, which had to be decided in the Barcelona meeting of 1929. Along with Spain, other countries like Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Uruguay also presented their bids. At the end, Uruguay's bid included the construction of a big central stadium and the return of expenses for all the visitors and the rest of the participants withdrew. Uruguay, who were the World champions de facto, since they had won in the last Olympic games, were the first nation to organize a World Cup.


At the end of the season, the Catalan football was victorious. RCD Español had won their first Copa del Rey in history, while FC Barcelona won the first Liga ever. In this season, FC Barcelona was not the solid and unbeatable team of the previous campaigns. As a result of it, RCD Español won their first regional title in a long time and extended their superiority on their eternal rivals with a new victory in the Copa del Rey. These two teams probably had the most relevant players of those years, the goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora and Josep Samitier, rivals and good friends too. 

La Liga was a relative success. In the first games, due to the long discussions, the fans did not live the attraction of the new event. While the heartbreaking games of the Copa were still rated highly, given the tradition of the competition, La Liga needed time to reach the heart of the fans. At the end, given the passionate moments of the last weeks and the prestige of the teams, the attendances grew and, despite all the problems, it was a big success.

As Barcelona won the title, confirming that they were the best team of the moment, they also showed signals of decline, while new threats appeared in the horizon. The young and competitive Real Madrid and Athletic grew in this season and seemed determined to live good moments again. Arenas Club, Real Sociedad and Español, more humble than the three giants, were the nicest surprises, while Europa, Real Unión and Athletic Madrid were veteran teams with a glorious past, but uncertain future. At the end, Racing Santander kept their position in Primera División too, since they defeated Sevilla in a promotion final. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From Granada to Udine: How to make money in football

Granada CF has always been a humble club. The club of Andalusia has always been a humble club which, even though it enjoyed some more or less successful periods in Primera División during the 40s, 50s and 70s, has always been a so called equipo ascensor, that is "elevator team". One of these clubs that jump from one division to another. Something changed in 2009, when Quique Pina convinced Giampaolo Pozzo, Udinese's owner, to buy shares of the club.

Who is Quique Pina? Quique Pina is a former player of Tercera División teams that had a dream: to have his own football club. In the year 1999, Quique Pina starts from scratch, founding Ciudad de Murcia, a club located in the city of Murcia. The club starts in the lowest division, the Group B of the Territorial Preferente, with four divisions over them. Quique Pina started to show his talent to find interesting players that help the team to get promotions. In only one year, Ciudad de Murcia reached the Tercera División. Quique Pina is able to convince a former Primera División player like Idiakez and other clubs of the province to help to build a squad via loan agreements. The results can not be better and the team promotes to Segunda División B, the Spanish third division. Pina kept reaching similar agreements and in a matter of two years, the club reached the Segunda División. This promotion was significant, since the Segunda División B is not a joke anymore. B teams of the Primera División clubs and historical teams of the Spanish football play in this national division.

Enrique Pina

Ciudad de Murcia only needed two years to promote to Segunda División, leaving in their way historic clubs of the region, like Cartagena FC, and meeting the traditional club of the city, Real Murcia. In this 2004, the situation was weird, Real Murcia holds the love of the local fans, it has been representing the city since 1919 and, suddenly, a new club without fan base and tradition was sharing stadium and division with them. With Real Murcia in serious financial and economic trouble, Ciudad de Murcia becomes a real threat for the traditional club of the region. In these years, the goal is to stay in this division, but they do it wisely. Players like Dani Güiza are signed from important clubs like FC Barcelona to get a name and be sold for important figures in just two years. After two years in Segunda, Quique Pina built a team to promote to Primera División and, in the following two seasons, the team ended up in fourth position, very near the promotion.

In the year 2007, a change in the rules of football allows to sell the position of a club in a certain division. This is the beginning of the contacts of Quique Pina with the city of Granada. Pina sold the club to a Granada businessmen and the club, without fan base (the usual image of the Nueva Condomina was a stadium full of empty seats), changes its name to Granada 74. Without Quique Pina and without the support of the city (in a similar case, this Granada 74 was an experiment, while the love of the city was for Granada CF), the team does not have a future and gets relegated.

Gino Pozzo

The relationship between Quique Pina and the Pozzo family comes from long ago. Gino Pozzo, Giampaolo's son, is a football agent and met Quique Pina in an operation. As a consequence of it, their relationship started and, in these years, Ciudad de Murcia and the Pozzo family reached eventual agreements. Once Pina had left Ciudad de Murcia, he also joined the game of the football market. In the summer of 2007, as an example of it, Pina gives the Pozzo family the chance to sign a couple of Chile players, Alexis Sanchez and Mauricio Isla, at a very good price. The results are so good for both sides, that the contacts grow.

In 2009, Gino Pozzo, who lives in Barcelona, and Quique Pina started to work together in the ownership of a Spanish club. The Pozzo family offered 4M euros to buy RCD Espanyol, although the operation does not work. In the same summer, Lorenzo Sanz, former Real Madrid president, sells his ownership in the historical Granada CF and the Pozzo family sees their chance to put a feet in the Spanish land. The Pozzo's buy Granada CF, placed in Segunda B, to clear their debt. As a result of this operation, Quique Pina gets named administrator of the club.

Udinese & Granada

With the financial help of the Pozzo family and the good eye of Enrique Pina in the lowest divisions, Granada only takes one year to return to Segunda División. It was last summer when the links of Granada and Udinese get more obvious. With the club in Segunda División, Gino and Giampaolo Pozzo consider that Granada would be the perfect test ground of young players with potential to grow in competitive football. Udinese, who are fighting for big goals in the Serie A, have a very competitive squad and the young talented players who are not ready to play with the first team need minutes to grow. Granada is their destination. Players like Alex Geijo, Nyom, Dani Benitez, Jaime Romero and others join the club as platform to grow and as test for them in competitive football. The deal can not be better. As the players gain value with their fantastic performances, the club takes advantage of the support of a top European club to be a power in Segunda División. Only one year again. One year is what Granada needed to return to Primera División for the first time since 1976, 25 years later.

The formula of Quique Pina and the Pozzo family work. Their good eye in football allowed them to but cheap and sell with big revenues, while their clubs remain healthy and successful. While football is a ruin business in all the World, Pina and Pozzo show how things are done in the financial and sport aspects, proving that it is possible to mix success and business.

Tonight, Granada CF receive the visit of FC Barcelona in their home, Los Cármenes, and Udinese Calcio is the leader of Serie A.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons of a 1-6

A derby is not a normal game. A city or a region or even a country gets divided in two sides. Football gets more tribal than ever, it is you or the neighbor. The game crosses the usual lines of sport to become a social event, especially in the local derbies, where the rival neighbor lives next door. The fans of both teams get mixed in their work places, pubs or even in the same family in a more or less healthy banter. This is why yesterday was a terrible day to be a Manchester United fan. Manchester City, their eternal enemy, crushed them at home in a historical 1-6 and the Theater of Dreams was the one of nightmares... the worst nightmare.

This game was interesting to watch for several reasons. First of all, it was the derby of the city of Manchester and this is enough to know that we are talking about a different game. But this time we were in front the most attractive Manchester derby ever. Manchester City was the leader, two points ahead United, who played at home to assault the first position. We were talking about two giants. Manchester United has been the team of the Premiership in the last couple of decades. In this time, Alex Ferguson has built an empire and has written the most memorable era in the history of the club. On the other hand, Manchester City was (still is) a rising power. Since the Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan has the ownership of the club, he did not hesitate to spend whatever it takes to be the best team on Earth. They are still to prove that they can actually be the best, but things were working smoothly so far, since the team was leading the table of the Premier League with iron hand, not showing weaknesses in their football. All this mix made this game something really interesting.

Dzeko says six

What no one really expected was the 1-6 at the end of the match. Any victory (or defeat, it depends on your perspective) in a derby has a special effect. The winners get a dose of euphoria, while the losers get a painful slap in the face. But a beating of this kind crosses the usual lines, which are already exaggerated, of the usual feelings after a derby. This 1-6 will not be the result of one more derby, but a historical one, something that both sides will remember, each one in their own particular way. Alex Ferguson described the day as his "worst-ever day"... and Alex Ferguson is old enough to have lots of bad days, despite he has usually enjoyed more happy days. For the Manchester City fans, this result will be written in golden letters in their history, the chase of DVDs of the game has already started for sure and the years will pass and the City fans who watched this game will tell their children and grand-children about it: "The day we won 1-6 at Old Trafford".

Which kind of effect is supposed to have a 1-6? It is evident that this is the kind of result that has consequences. From the City point of view, it definitely is a turning point in their history. The petrol-money has given them the chance to build a super-team, but a collection of stars does not guarantee titles. In fact, they did not win a title yet, but this victory is so powerful, so noisy and so special that now they really have good reasons to believe that their dream is closer to be reality. It is evident that this result does not close the English league. There are lots of games to be played yet and the five point gap is not definitive. But something has changed. Until yesterday, Manchester City was one of the favorites to win the title. At this point, no one would hesistate to say that City is THE favorite to win the Premier League, not forgetting that the Champions League is a possibility too. This change is the minds of City fans and rivals is not irrelevant.

Balotelli, eccentric and brilliant

From the United point of view, this result is a shock. Manchester United is used to mistreat rivals, especially in recent times. During the last two decades, United is the owner of the Premier League and, even in the worst moments of this period, they have always been the reference, the rival to beat. But this time United was the mistreated team. When you are so used to win, a defeat is always painful... but this kind of beating is a torture. This result will have consequences. It does not matter how well United has been doing so far, this 1-6 sets a "before" and an "after". At this point, the United players, staff and fans will probably be wondering what has happened and how it actually happened. This result will mark the season of United or, at least, the following dates. This result will haunt them as a ghost during the entire year and it will not disappear. The following games will show us how Manchester United digested this terrible defeat. This digestion is a must, the result evidences a problem that requires solutions. It is impossible to know if the solutions are in hand or if they will have to be found at the end of the year. We are talking about the current winner of the competition and the runner-up of the Champions League.

In each case, the emotions must be focused in the right direction. The euphoria is dangerous for City. The title is not in hand, there are lots of games to be played, there are lots of moments of suffering to be suffered and, probably, lots of moments of joy to live too, but the league is only won when the maths say so. The 1-6 can only be good news, but Mancini's job is to put the team's feet on the ground. There are many precedents of failure celebrations.

Face-palm Rooney in the Theater of Nightmares

Depression is United's danger. The result is emotional, but Alex Ferguson must throw all the feelings to the garbage to build a bubble to isolate the team from the hostile environment. Emotions must turn into rationality. Nine matches have been played so far, so twenty-nine are yet to be played including one in City's home. United is only five point down, not an impossible distance to overcome in just a few weeks. And this is when history is a useful tool. Alex Ferguson and his boys must sit down, get calm and take a look to what they have done in recent years. It is not that we are talking about a veteran team without a future, but a collection of important players that are in their best age and their previous achievements are good and high enough to make a reference on the pride of the team. The 1-6 must be an accident, not a turning point, not the end of a cycle. As we said in a previous entry, if there is a word to define Alex Ferguson, that is competitiveness. Manchester United must use this game to learn. It is not time to regret, but time to compete, as their coach always did.

In one way or another, it has been the result of the weekend. A historical one in a year of historic results in the Premier League. This 1-6 is a result that has shocked the entire World, a memorable day for Manchester City and their fans, while the rest of the World look at them in a mix of envy, admiration and a certain dose of surprise. This result has made me turn my view to them. Until yesterday, a team that was a collection of individuals with an average coach, Roberto Mancini, and now a reference in Europe. Everyone will talk about them seriously now... but I also believe that, if there is a team and a coach that can actually turn a 1-6 into something positive that can only be Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson. We will see.

1-6, a historic result