Monday, May 25, 2015

Xavi's Adéu & Depor's Great Escape, Ancelotti sacked

BARÇA'S GREATEST MIDFIELDER BOWS OUT AFTER 17 YEARS, GOOD NEWS IN GALICIA AND REAL MADRID DISMISS CARLO ANCELOTTI



The Spanish Week in Review


Tiki-taka legend Xavi Hernandez lifted the La Liga trophy and waved goodbye to the Camp Nou on Saturday.

Championship celebrations mixed with melancholic tributes to a man who had spent 17 years a player for the blaugrana and 24 years in total on their books. It was indeed the end of an era for probably the club's greatest ever midfielder.

93,000 fans transformed the Camp Nou into a the biggest farewell imaginable, a sea of blue and maroon confetti and gigantic Xavi and 'Campions' banners.

All of Luis Enrique's players donned number six shirts at the end to salute their illustrious colleague's final league game and gave him the bumps, although there are still the finals of the Copa del Rey (in Barcelona) and the Champions League to play, as Xavi reminded them in his swansong address.

Despite telling the fans they had made him "the happiest person in the world", Xavi himself seemed subdued if not a little sad as he shed a tear or two.. In truth he has not looked happy this season with his substitute cameos, following on from his bitter farewell to la selección in Brazil last summer.

The magic triangle of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta is now history, replaced by the attacking trident of Messi, Neymar and Suarez. He is no longer the fulcrum of the team, his buzzing around the middle replaced by the box-to-box Ivan Rakitic. Aged 35 it seems the right time to call it a day for Barça.

Xavi has won more trophies than any Spanish footballer, bagging a full set of La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, World Club Cup, European Championship and World Cup.

505 appearances and 58 goals for Barça, 133 caps and 12 goals for Spain, Xavi never won the Ballon D'Or / FIFA World Player of the Year but did pick up World Soccer's Player of the Year in 2010 and was player of the tournament at Euro 2008.

* Amid all the celebration of Barcelona's title triumph, Luis Enrique's role was again underplayed by the media. Despite forging a winning side which recently has looked near unbeatable, the Asturian's lack of aura compared to Pep Guardiola entails a relative lack of admiration. If Enrique wins the treble, he surely must be accorded more respect than he has garnered hitherto.

* The Xavi Adéu  masked what was a near-miraculous escape from relegation for Deportivo La Coruña, who came away with an unlikely 2:2 draw to save themselves and send Eibar down instead.

With nothing but pride to play for and allowing reserves Douglas, Masip and Sergi Roberto a run-out as well as Thomas Vermaelen his debut, Barcelona had ambled into a 2-0 lead after an hour thanks to a Lionel Messi brace.

With Eibar racing into a 3-0 lead at home to Cordoba after 33 minutes, the Galicians looked dead certs for the Liga Adelante.

But Lucas Perez raised hopes with a 67th minute strike and five minutes later Salomou thumped in a loose ball to make survival reality again.

At the final whistle, La Coruña's staff poured onto the pitch for five minutes of merited ecstasy before the Xavi 'despedida' (farewell) took flight.

Deportivo and Granada both escape the drop having finished on equal points to Eibar but with a better head-to-head record. Joining Cordoba and Eibar in the second division are Almeria, who ended their season losing 3-2 at home to Valencia.

Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 at Granada to confirm third place. Valencia and Sevilla both won to finish 4th and 5th respectively.

Spain has an arsenal of teams in next year's European competitions:

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid go into the Champions League group stages, with Valencia starting in the qualifying round and Sevilla joining them if they win the Europa League final this week. Five Spanish clubs in the Champions League next season looks distinctly possible.

As it stands, Sevilla will join Athletic Bilbao and Villareal in the Europa League.

Sevilla travel to Warsaw for the Europa League final on Wednesday against Dnipro of Ukraine.

Real Madrid's season ended in bizarre fashion as they came back from 2-1 and then 3-2 down at home to Getafe to win 7-3. As the visitors took the lead, Carlo Ancelotti and Iker Casillas were once more subjected to some booing, before a second-half blitz made the scoreline look like a comfy win.

Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed another hat-trick to win the Pichichi trophy, Real's only silverware this season. James Rodriguez, Chicharito, Jese and Marcelo added the others. Norwegian 16 year-old Martin Odegaard finally made his debut, replacing Ronaldo for the last half hour.

Gareth Bale was not in the 16, leading to more speculation about his future. His omission was officially down to injury but also coincided with the visit to Madrid of his agent Jonathan Barnett, who had complained about him not getting the ball enough.

Ancelotti's future was the major talking point post-match with everyone wondering if he would sink or swim. In midweek, news emerged from Germany that Jurgen Klopp had been offered the Real job, but few in Spain took it at face value.

Rafael Benitez seemed a more likely replacement. Emilio Butragueno had refused to confirm Ancelotti had a job next season on more than one occasion, keeping the rumour mill alive, but Real's hierarchy usually talk in vague equivocation.

Cristiano, James, Toni Kroos, Marcelo and Luka Modric all voiced support for their Italian boss but on Monday the news emerged Ancelotti had indeed been fired. CEO Florentino Perez only stated that the club "needed a new impulse" as explanation.

Despite winning the Champions League last season, Real's failure to bring home silverware this year has done for the Italian. The decision was clearly taken following the semi-final loss to Juventus.

Ancelotti leaves with his head held high however, and he was popular with fans as well as players. Losing the league by two points and exiting the semi-finals of the Champions League are no disgrace, yet gargantuan standards are expected by Florentino Perez.

Real had a ropey March and lost the lead in La Primera after losing the clasico at the Camp Nou. Record signing Gareth Bale has been off-kilter too many times while the aggregate loss to Juve showed a team which had run out of ideas when up against a strong defensive unit.

When given the chance, Isco has impressed and James Rodriguez has had a good first season, which has been somewhat overlooked given Bale's travails. Karim Benzema has been a dangerous presence up front.

When Real lost James as well as Luka Modric, for key spells in the season, they suffered, as Toni Kroos has not been able to influence in the same way as the Colombian and the Croatian.

Despite Ronaldo's huge goal haul, the Portuguese has looked isolated in too many key games. Once more Real have looked the sum of their parts at times.

* It has been far from a vintage season, but with only two points the winning margin, the second clasico of the campaign, which Barcelona won, proved decisive.

* Barcelona look unstoppable this season but their reserves, Barcelona B, are rock-bottom of the Liga Adelante and barring a miracle, are headed to the third tier. Perhaps their famous academy is not all it has been cracked up to be after all.

* The new Barça shirt featuring hoops instead of stripes has been given the thumbs-down by the blaugrana faithful. 57% of Mundo Deportivo readers and 73% of Sport's disliked it .

* Sami Khedira fired a parting shot at Real Madrid, claiming he was deliberately overlooked this season by powers-that-be above Carlo Ancelotti. The 28 year-old World Cup winner made only 11 appearances this season, eight of them as a substitute.

* Real Betis will play in La Primera next season after clinching promotion from the Liga Adelante. Pepe Mel's side are six points clear with one game to play. The Seville side will be joined by Girona or Sporting Gijon plus the winner of the second division playoffs.

La Primera (LIGA BBVA): End of Season Statistics:

PICHICHI trophy (top scorer)

1) Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 48
2) Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 43
3) Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid) 22
    Neymar (Barcelona) 22
5) Carlos Bacca (Sevilla) 20
6) Bueno (Rayo Vallecano) 18
7) Aduriz (Athletic Bilbao) 18
8) Luis Suarez (Barcelona) 16
9) Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) 15
10) Jonathas (Elche) 14

Others: Gareth Bale 13, James Rodriguez 13, Mario Mandzukic 12, Carlos Vela 9.

Most goals scored by a team:

1) Real Madrid 118
2) Barcelona 110
3) Sevilla 71
4) Valencia 70
5) Atletico Madrid 67

ZAMORA trophy (best goalkeeper by goals conceded ratio)

1) Claudio Bravo (Barcelona)
2) Diego Alves (Valencia)
3) Sergio Asenjo (Villareal)
4) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
5) Gorka Iraizoz (Athletic Bilbao)

Completed Passes:

1) Roberto Trashorras (Rayo Vallecano) 2264
2) Toni Kroos (Real Madrid) 2241
3) Sergio Busquets (Barcelona) 2056
4) Dani Alves (Barcelona) 1992
5) Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 1998

Tackles Won:

1) Aymeric Laporte (Athletic Bilbao) 399
2) Andreu Fontas (Celta Vigo) 398
3) Sidnei Da Silva (Deportivo La Coruna) 379
4) Gustavo Cabral (Celta Vigo) 376
5) Nicolas Otamendi (Valencia) 351

Most Assists:

1) Lionel Messi (Barcelona) 17
2) Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) 14
3) James Rodriguez (Real Madrid) 13
4) Nolito (Celta Vigo) 12
5) Koke (Atletico Madrid) 10

DISCIPLINARY CHARTS

Most Bookings:

1) Espanyol - 110 yellows, 4 reds
2) Celta Vigo - 113 yellow cards, 1 red
3) Sevilla - 111 yellow cards, 1 red
4) Atletico Madrid - 106 yellows, 5 reds
5) Granada & Rayo Vallecano - 107 yellows, 2 reds

Most red cards:

1) Almeria 11
2) Cordoba 9
    Valencia 9
4) Malaga 8
5) Rayo Vallecano 6

Players:

1) Victor Sanchez (Espanyol) 17 yellows
2) Alberto Lopo (Deportivo La Coruña) 14 yellows, 1 red
3) Raul Baena (Rayo Vallecano) 14 yellows, 1 red
4) Dani Parejo (Valencia) 13 yellows, 1 red
5) Sebastian Dubarbier (Almeria) 11 yellows, 2 reds

Most Fouls:

1) Espanyol 612
2) Sevilla 599
3) Celta Vigo 576
    Elche 576
5) Malaga 563

* UEFA issued their La Liga XI of the season: Bravo, Alves, Pique (all Barcelona), Otamedi, Gaya, Parejo (all Valencia), Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Krychowiak (Sevilla), Messi (Barcelona), Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Griezmann (Atletico Madrid)

* This week's transfer rumours

Unai Emery is second behind Rafael Benitez in the race to replace Ancelotti. Milan are also after the Sevilla manager.

Inter are hunting Barcelona's Spanish international attacker Pedro.

David de Gea looks odds-on now to leave Man Utd for Real Madrid with Keylor Navas possibly as part exchange.

PSG have offered £88 million for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Juventus are favourites to sign Real's Sami Khedira.

Liverpool were linked again with Real Madrid midfielder Asier Illaramendi

Atletico Madrid are tracking Colombian U-20 winger Jeison Lucumi of America de Cali.

Diego Simeone's side are also looking at Celta Vigo's Nolito and Aston Villa's Christian Benteke.

Tottenham are interested in Celta's Danish midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli

Valencia's Nicolas Otamendi is headed for the exit door. Man Utd are said to be mulling over a £36 million offer for the Argentinian.

Real, perhaps inevitably, were linked with the Anfield wantaway Raheem Sterling.

Barcelona, improbably, were linked with Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey as a Xavi replacement.

Chicharito is attracting the attention of Inter, who are on the lookout for a new striker.

Dani Alves has said Barcelona do not rate him, and could be on his way to Man Utd.

Carlo Ancelotti has said no to Milan but could be offered the West Ham job after Sam Allardyce and the Hammers went their separate ways. The Italian had previously said he would take a year off and get treatment for a back injury.

Watord want former Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores to take over at Vicarage Road.

Chelsea and Man City want Barça's Alex Song, who has been on loan at West Ham this season.

THIS WEEK'S BIG GAMES

Wed 27th May EUROPA LEAGUE final

Dnipro Dnipropretrovsk v Sevilla  19:45 GMT

Sat 30th May COPA DEL REY final

Athletic Bilbao v Barcelona   20:30 GMT

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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