Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Madrid cabron

New years resolutions are such bullshit. "I'm going to get fit this year" "I'm going to start my novel" If you were actually resolved to do it there wouldn't be any grand declarations of intent, you'd just do it. To that end I'm not going to say anything about my lack of blogging in the last month, I'm just gonna get on with. And my there is much to get on with; el Clasico, Albert Jorquera's injury and the possible signing of Canizares , Santi Ezquerro's impending departure, 'dinho's fall from grace, Rijkaard's future and the Champions League draw. As Delia Smith would say, "let's be 'aving ye!"

White Christmas

Watching el Clasico in my dreadfully hungover state (yes I know it was on at six in the evening, I was in a bad way) was a painful experience, and not just because I felt like I'd just been kicked in the stomach. Barça were incredibly poor, their passing wasn't as crisp or an incisive as it needed to be, they were slow and ponderous going forward, shaky in defense and no one bar Iniesta and Bojan, who came on for the last ten minutes showed any zip or guile. It was as if all the air had been let out of the team. That said, and to give Madrid credit they put in a very good away performance; strong at the back, breaking up the midfield well and scoring a fabulous breakaway gol. Diarra, Pepe (all €30 million of him) and Canna did a top job of stopping Barça playing and when called upon, Superman Iker Casillas did what he always does.

Madrid are now seven points clear of a Barcelona team, who, should they continue to play like they did on the 23rd, have absolutely no chance of catching them. Sid Lowe, The Guardian's La Liga columnist has said more than once this season that Madrid, while not setting the world alight, have no discernible weaknesses while Barça have them in abundance. As much as I'd love to see this blaugrana side roar back after the Christmas break I just don't see it happening.

Watching Ronaldinho huff and puff, continually give the ball away and play like he'd been given a dose of Adriano before the kick off was distressing. His overly-elaborate play and lack of pace completely slows the team down. Lightening quick counter-attacks become laboured and frequently break down. The pass is never played, he's always trying to beat three or four players and score some wondergol like it was two seasons ago. Having sat out the Valencia game and been on the bench against Espanyol after a string of hopeless performances, el clasico was probably 'dinho's last chance to convince Rijkaard, the cules and the board to keep him at the club. And he ballsed it up in remarkably mundane fashion.

So where to for 'dinho and when? Milan seems to be his most likely destination, they're definitely making all the right noises. Whether this will be as soon as the next few weeks or will in fact happen in the summer is hard to say. Given that 'dinho has lined out for Barça in the Champions League he could only play for Milan in Serie A which is something of a lost cause for them, having fallen to 12th place (albeit with games in hand) after the derby defeat to Inter. That and the fact that a transfer of this magnitude (probably something in the region of €25 million) takes time to negotiate we'll all have to put up with that look of exasperation when he loses the ball, his lack of fitness and all round uselessness now that he seems to have given up until the summer.

January Sales

Not hanging around that long and on the first plane out of BCN will be the long suffering Santi Ezquerro. Having been out in the cold since his move from Bilbao he finally seems to be on his way, either to the Premiership, where Bolton, Everton and 'boro are all reportedly interested in him, or to bonnie Scotland (both Celtic and Hearts are keen). Santi is better than all that lot but at this stage of his career he needs to be playing and after wasting away on the bench at the Camp Nou for two-and-a-half years now I think it's a case of 'anywhere will do'. Ideally he'd sign a short term contract, put in some decent performances and a good team would come along for him in the summer. I have a lot of time for Santi and was a big admirer of him at Athletic. If he goes I wish him well.

At the other end of the pitch Barça are will be signing a new golkeeper on the back of Albert Jorquera's ruptured ankle ligaments. He sustained the injury playing for Catalunya against the Basque Country over the Christmas break. He'll be out for at least six months. His most likely replacement is another Santi, Santiago Canizares. Cast out by Ronald Koeman (along with David Albelda and Miguel Angulo) he's looking for a new club and would be available on either a free transfer or on loan. At 38 Santi is very much nearing the end of his career and from what I've seen of him in the past two seasons he's nothing like the 'keeper he was five years ago when Valencia were beating all around them and had the tightest defense in La Liga but as a short-term fix he's a good bet. All being well he's not likely to see much action anyway with Valdes in pretty good form thus far.

That will in all likelihood be the sum total of the ins and outs in January unless Marc Crosas is loaned out to Sociedad. I can't see anyone else leaving or coming in and that includes Frank Rijkaard, who will stay until the summer.

Glasgow kiss

Finally, before I go to bed, a word about the blaugrana's next opponents in the Champions League. Next to Fenerbache I don't think they could have gotten an easier draw. Celtic, while stubborn at home, are absolutely hopeless away and Barça ought give them a good going over. More on that closer to the time. G'night now.

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