Featured image via GQ
Real Madrid and Barcelona share a rivalry second to none. It’s true, of all the football rivalries hosted in the world nothing matches the intensity and the passion of an El Classico. These two teams are unique by way of their ownership. Their adoring fans, most of whom are shareholders, have a say in the appointment of the president of the club. They have always been competitive with one another. This season though, tells a different story. Quite clearly if Barcelona are inferior to Madrid for the time being. It speaks volumes when someone as fiercely competitive as Gerard Pique admits inferiority. In reality, Barcelona have been second to Real Madrid for a while now and the transfer of Neymar to Paris just did not help their cause.
Over the past decade these teams have had very competitive squads, a BBC for Barcelona’s MSN, Modric for Barcelona’s Iniesta, Kroos for Rakitic, Ramos for Pique and so on. This year though, a big chunk of that MSN was taken away from Barcelona, leaving them with a Herculean task of replacing football’s hottest property in Neymar. Barcelona are one of the most elite clubs, how could they lose their star man? The answer lies within the shoddy transfer policies of the Barcelona management.
Barcelona have a strange policy of having all their players on release clauses. These clauses were put in place at a time when it was unimaginable that clubs would pay over 100 million Euros for a football player. Even if one could not foresee the current market, it is absolutely reckless on Barcelona’s part to even give other clubs such a chance to pick players from the team. The problem for Barcelona with release clauses is that once a club puts an offer, meeting that release clause on the table, Barcelona have no legal right to reject the offer. The best they could do is to try and convince the player to stay morally. This is what led to Neymar being stolen by PSG at 222 million Euros, his release clause. There are even rumours that Man City could activate Leo Messi’s release clause.
There needs to be some sort of a restructuring done in the Barca board or the club could risk facing anarchy from the fans pretty soon. This is not how one of Football’s most elite clubs should be managed. Recently Neymar said that he was not angry but just disappointed with the Barcelona board. Their former president Joan Laporta branded current Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu as a disgrace for his involvement in the inefficient administration of the club .Tax authorities accused Barcelona of fraud when they had initially signed Neymar back in 2013. Barcelona claimed to have paid 57.1 million Euros for him whereas the tax authorities later revealed that Barcelona had actually paid 86.2 million Euros for him. Barcelona had to admit it. Such sloppy business deals were unbecoming of a club of the stature of Barcelona. Lionel Messi was also convicted of tax fraud later and was handed a 21 month prison sentence without jail time. Despite this not being directly linked to Barcelona, they could’ve been careful about their star man’s financial dealings.
Barcelona, in 2015 had the highest wage bill of all at 340 million euros a year. Compared to Madrid(289 million), Chelsea(284 million) and Man city (276 million) it does seem quite high. They need to find a better way to manage their wages.
Their choice of splashing 40 million euros on Paulinho was rather bemusing as well. He is a 29 year old midfielder who last played in China, who does not offer much creatively , having miserably failed in Tottenham , the question rises what did the Barcelona board actually think of while approving this signing ? Their recent setbacks in their pursuit of Coutinho and Dembele have clearly put them in a situation of panic. With Iniesta considering his options and Suarez out for a month, testing times lie ahead for Barcelona. Their new manager, Ernesto Valverede will not be cut any slack this season as Barcelona had a below par season last year with Luis Enrique. Their current season could not have gotten off to a worse start as they were beaten comprehensively by Real Madrid 5-1 over two legs in the Super Copa. The first leg defeat would have hurt more as it was at Camp Nou and Madrid were not even required to call upon their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo’s services.
Over to the other side of that coin now, Real Madrid. If you are a Real Madrid fan, the last two years have been paradise. Back to back Champions Leagues, a La Liga, Neymar leaving Barcelona and Pique admitting that Barcelona are inferior. In all fairness, Madrid are the best side in world football at the moment. A lot of this is down to the way they are managed. One would credit Rafa Nadal for his role in Madrid signing Marco Asensio but apart from that, a lot of the management is down to Florentino Perez. That man has brought the club back to it’s years of domination. Regardless of manager changes, Madrid seem to be able to cope from Ancelotti to Benitez and now to Zidane. His ruthless no nonsense method of managing Madrid has reaped rewards.
He has managed to fend of interest for Gareth Bale for almost 3 years now from Manchester United. To fend of United for a player that they are really interested in is very impressive by itself. He managed to keep Ronaldo in Madrid regardless of his tantrums which this year, almost escalated to him wanting to leave.
One would criticise him for not keeping Casillas till the end of his career and his inability to replace him with David De Gea but no one would bet against him swooping in on the highly rated Spanish keeper in the coming years.
The handling of James Rodriguez is commendable as well. He is a real talent and loaning him away while keeping the option of taking him back provided he rediscovers his old form could turn out to be a masterstroke. The one problem that would need addressing now would be to replace Alvaro Morata with another capable forward.
These off the field dealings have a huge impact on the way teams play on the pitch. The players need to be in the best mental as well as physical shape while playing. Some of the uncertainties and tax frauds at Barcelona seem to have gotten the better of them in the last two years. Whereas Madrid seem to be in a brilliant shape as a team and a club.
These two teams are often a yardstick for one another, they both judge themselves based on each other’s performances and it will be interesting to see how Barcelona cope with all their issues both on and off the field this season.